Today’s Technology is Getting Smarter

Smart technology is watching us, helping us, and getting smarter because of us.

July 18, 2012

Most people agree our technology is getting smarter—but most don’t realize just how smart.

Sure, they know their smart phones have GPS capability and their smart appliances can improve efficiency, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Smart technology is around us every day. From surveillance cameras to clothing, today’s smart technology is watching us, helping us, and getting smarter because of us.

Smart video

Let’s look at in-store surveillance cameras. In the past, the video quality of those cameras was poor. Most of us can remember watching the nightly news and seeing blurry footage of a robbery and not being able to make anything out.

Today we have two things taking place that alleviate that scenario:

  1. Software that can clean up video footage so we can see the detail; and
  2. Inexpensive cameras that can replace those old, bigger cameras, and that can give us full 1080P HD video resolution at a low cost.

Now you might be thinking, “So, what? That just means the police will be able to better identify who was robbing a store.”

Actually, it’s a much bigger deal than that. With today’s smart technology, companies are tapping into these video streams and, using high-speed computer analytics, are doing shopping analyses within the store based on the security camera footage.

In other words, security cameras can expose a wealth of sales and marketing data.

We can see customer movements, what products they stop in front of, and how often they stop in front of them. We can see if that display at the end of the counter is working or not.

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineAt the end of each evening, we can get a report on all the traffic patterns in the store without having to watch all the video because it’s all automated. The report can show where delays take place in the store, where the lines build up, where people spend most of their, where people aren’t going in the store, what products are the hottest, and which aisles are being browsed and for how long.

And that’s just information from inside the store! When you take the camera outside, its uses are even more amazing.

Smart audio

Increasingly, we’re using cameras outside to analyze traffic patterns and to look at high-crime areas. The nation that’s most advanced in this practice is Great Britain. It has cameras all over its cities and towns, capturing people’s lives around the clock and using high-speed analytics to analyze traffic flows, people movement, crime, and so on.

But it doesn’t stop at video footage—there’s also audio. That means after a video has been recorded, an audio zoom can be performed, allowing conversations to be overheard.

You might think, “Who is going to listen to all of those conversations?” The answer: No one.

Because it’s digital audio, you can search the audio content for keywords and pull up the conversations that are specific to the phrases you’re searching for.

This is already happening in Great Britain. Will it be used only there, or will other countries, including our own, start using this smart technology in the future?

The answer is, of course, that we’ll be using this technology here and in other countries as well. So while seeing is believing, seeing and hearing something is undeniable.

NEXT: Smart tech you can wear

Smart technology you can wear

Smart technology isn’t always about something you hold in your hand or a device you intentionally manipulate. Now, even the clothes you wear can have a technological component.

For example, the “Helmet Hero” allows users to mount a small, high-definition camera on a bicycle, ski, or motorcycle helmet and capture video or still photography. Thanks to an SD card, you can record up to 2½ hours on a single charge.

In addition, because technology gives us the ability to make things smaller and smaller, you can create high-quality video or still camera pictures from a very small lens that’s clipped to or embedded in your sunglasses, and then upload it directly to Facebook or other social media platforms.

While this might sound great, the newest wearable technology goes still further. Adidas, for example, has created an “intelligent football boot” that can upload performance data, including your maximum speed, minimum speed, the number of sprints you took, the distance you took for each sprint, the distance you went at a high-intensity level, etc.

In other words, it has created a true training device that keeps track of your entire training regimen. Adidas started with football, but it will surely spread to other sports.

Going even further, the U.S. military has developed smart underwear. It looks just like normal underwear, but it has micro sensors that can monitor respiration, heart rate, body posture, and skin temperature

Now we can really see what’s happening with troops in the field. And because all of the data can be transmitted wirelessly, we can monitor the well-being of all troops in real time. If someone has a problem or has been wounded, we already have body monitors on them in their underwear.

The next generation of smart

Here’s the really exciting part of all this: You may remember the old Star Trek television series, where “U.S.S. Enterprise” crew members wore a little piece of jewelry on their shirts that they would touch to communicate with others.

If you think about Apple’s Siri, you’ll see that we’re actually beyond that piece of science fiction right now. With Siri, we have an ultra-intelligent electronic agent with us at all times. Currently, we need the smart phone to use Siri, but soon we won’t.

Imagine wearing a piece of jewelry that you touch to activate. You might say, “Read my voicemails,” and then respond to them.

You can do that now with Siri, so why not just make it a piece of jewelry rather than a phone? We don’t need to have a whole phone with a touch screen to do this.

Imagine walking around hands-free and running your day: “What’s my next appointment? Write an email. Read my messages. Where is the nearest Starbucks?”

When you have no screen and use voice input only, you could, in reality, have a device small enough to be a Star Trek-like communicator—only better.

Smartness at your fingertips

As our processing power, bandwidth, and storage continue to expand, we will see more smart technologies in our lives. From cameras to clothes, the wealth of information that can be gleaned, stored, and transmitted will grow exponentially, giving us access to new and usable knowledge that can enhance both business and life.

The key question for you is: How can you and your company work smarter with these and other types of smart technologies?

DANIEL BURRUS is founder/CEO of Burrus Research Associates, Hartland, Wis., and a noted technology forecaster and business strategist. He’s the author of six books, including “Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible” and “Technotrends.” Contact him at 800-827-6770.