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2012. The Road To Augmented Reality
Prophecy - Signs
Monday, January 02, 2012
Ed DeShields

If you’ve got your eye on a new cell phone purchase in 2012, chances are, it will be equipped with a technology called Near Field Communication (NFC).  NFC is technology’s next giant leap forward.

It’s not too risky to say that your cell phone is going to replace your computer and your Internet service.  You’ll know it the moment you activate an NFC-enabled device.  From it will emerge a new generation officially known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

To describe IoT is to understand that every object around us will take on its own digital description and geospatial location – added or edited by anyone.  Know a good burger joint?  Just write it up, give it a geo-location by pointing your camera at it, snap and upload.  That image just became a Thing on the IoT.

All objects will eventually make it on the IoT.  Your shoes, the sweater you bought at Target and the money in your pocket will soon have embedded in them digital transmitters called radio frequency identification devices, or RFIDs.   Want to drop a few Euros on dinner in Rome?  The RFID receiver will verify the bill is not counterfeit, when it was printed and who owned in throughout its lifecycle.  Money laundering won’t be possible.  Every bill’s chain of custody can be tracked and the moment some undesirable character tries to pass money, it is electronically rendered worthless.

RFIDs are tiny.  They’re about the half the size of a grain of rice.  They need no power supply to be stimulated to transmit their signals to receivers equipped to catch, and respond to, their NFC signal.  The most common receivers and transmitters will be – you guessed it -- roving cell phones canvassing every square inch of the planet carried by their human owners.

Objects will make themselves recognizable and communicate information about themselves.  Cell phones with NFC will access information, collect and analyze it and share it with other objects.   A toaster won’t be simply a device to toast bread, but Ed’s toaster, a device with which he has toasted 221 pieces of bread since deployed; 56% having been wheat bread.  Ed’s toaster is located with an Internet location geocoded to Ed’s kitchen counter located in a single-family residence Ed has owned since 1997 – and so forth.   The toaster’s manufacturer, General Electric, can see Ed’s toaster via the Internet of Things and monitor its use from its corporate headquarters in New York.  When Ed’s neighbor drives by, Ed’s toaster presents an Icon on his neighbor’s cell camera image.  If the neighbor is curious he could request Ed’s toaster history (provided Ed allows it).

Last month my electric utility provider installed a Smart Meter at my home.  My power usage, conservation efforts and when I’m using it, is known real time by the utility.  If they want to meter me back, in the event of a power crunch, they can selectively brown me out from the power plant.  NFC allows my cell phone to monitor information about how much power my pool pump is consuming.  My cell phone can turn on my lights, my television and adjust my thermostat before I arrive home after a long day at the office.  Each device becomes a member of the Internet of Things.

Now you have the first half of the big picture.

Your next cell phone will be equipped to communicate with the people you know and to the objects that surround you.

As we enter 2012, there are about 1.5 billion PCs and 1 billion mobile phones that can be connected to the Internet.   In 5 years there will be 100 billion devices, and objects, connected to the Internet and Internet of Things.  Most will be sensors.

Your interface to read these sensors will be your cell phone via an almost unimaginable technology called Augmented Reality, or AR for short.   WikiTude, Facebook and Google will be transformed allowing you to use your cell camera to enter a world of objects, augmented by informational icons.  To enter this world you simply look through your camera lens and all the images have search links about that object superimposed on your live camera image.   (visit http://www.wikitude.com/myworld or search for the words Augmented Reality applications to learn more).

Imagine walking down the street while walking your dog.   Along the way, you open your cell phone to camera mode.  As you move along, your camera view receives NFC transmission icons, or bubbles, and places them over your neighbor’s image overlaying his Facebook status, education history and his Friends list and Newsfeed.  Similarly, Starbuck’s senses your NFC broadcast and sends you a text advertising its double latte special because it knows you’ve spent $42.60 on similar products in the last twelve months.  You lift your camera, point it towards Starbucks and it calculates you have a 7-minute wait with 4 customers waiting for their lattes.  Any number of other people, locations or other objects you pass transfer a sea of NFC signals about that object.

If this sounds like science fiction, think again.  It’s already available or being tested in China, South Africa, Germany, France, Britain and two dozen other countries.  ATT, Verizon, MasterCard, Visa and Spain-based Telefónica are shipping units as fast as they can become available.  Facebook, Google, WikiTude and dozens of start-up software companies are providing the cell phone apps.

We have improved our possibilities for relating to each other beyond the limits of direct physical relations.  We can go beyond the anthropological limit of 150 people with whom we can keep in direct contact.  The Internet of Things will make it possible for objects to get information about their position in the world, to interact with other objects and to have access to comparative information for data gathered in their vicinity.

With this unbridled power of IoT and Augmented Reality there is a real threat that this new capability could destabilize governments, or worse, governments could usurp the freedoms of people if they tried to own control over it.

Welcome to 2012.  It’s going to be an interesting year ahead.

About Ed DeShields

Last article: In Plain Sight 

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