Smartphone of the not-too-distant future, your personal assistant

Smartphone of the not-too-distant future, your personal assistant

Summary: Features like Google Now and other location-based apps are ushering us into the era of the super smartphone. Couple that functionality with the ability to learn what each user does with the phone and a new dawn of usefulness is nigh.

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The alarm gently wakes you as it does every morning with a song from your music collection. Not just any song, it keeps track of what you listen to and varies the morning wakeup song every day. This forgotten tune from the past sets a nostalgic tone for the day.

The coffee has been programmed to be ready when you amble into the kitchen, phone in hand. While the brew drips into your cup, your smartphone presents your email inbox in the order that benefits you best based on your past interactions. You glance through the messages and quickly zoom in to the handful that really matter.

Sipping your coffee your phone presents to you the four news stories that it knows you want to see based on your past interest. Tapping on one brings the full story to the screen, and in a few minutes you are informed enough to start your day in earnest.

Heading out for the day the phone presents your schedule on an easy-to-digest screen. Seeing what's in store allows you to get your head around what's coming.

Walking down the street your phone presents the public transit schedules and routes for the nearest stops that will get you to your office. Sitting on the bus your phone pops up the most recent email thread dealing with the subject of your first meeting in the office. You step into the office already briefed on the project to be covered in the meeting.

Later in the morning your phone notifies you that based on current traffic conditions you better head out to the client meeting across town to make it on time. You leave for the meeting and once again the transit schedules are presented to make sure you get there with the least fuss.

On the train to the meeting your phone pops up the latest proposal you sent to the client and you review the proposal en route. You walk into the client's office fully briefed on the upcoming discussion.

The meeting goes well and lunch time is approaching. You have planned to take the client to lunch someplace nearby, and your phone steps in as expected and recommends three restaurants close-by. It indicates that this client once mentioned in an email that he really likes selection #2.

You suggest this spot to the client who is obviously impressed you know the area and remember that he likes that particular place.

Lunch went well and as nice as the visit progresses with the client your phone notifies you it's time to head out to your next meeting. You schedule a future meeting with the current client and easily enter it into the phone's schedule as pertinent fields are already filled in with the current client's information.

You head out after shaking hands and leave for the rest of your day. Everything goes wonderfully, with your phone chiming in with helpful information when needed without distracting you unnecessarily.

Back in your office late in the day you get a text message from your brother stating his flight has been slightly delayed but he'll be in at 7pm. His arrival is on your calendar so your phone offers to move it for you which you approve.

The phone also reminds you that your brother once mentioned in an email that he wanted to try that new steak place the next time he was in town. It asks if you want to make a reservation for 8:30 given his arrival time and expected travel time to the restaurant. You approve it and the phone makes the reservation via text message.

The evening with your brother goes swimmingly, a pleasant end to a nice day. As the time to go home approaches, your phone pops up an offer to call you a cab. You tap your OK and continue clowning around with your brother.

Soon you head home and at day's end you pop the phone into the dock on the night stand. It's served you well today and stands in the dock charging to be ready to wake you tomorrow.

This is not far-fetched as Google Now and other location-based apps are doing bits of this already. Some people don't want their phone "watching" them and that's OK. Me, I want my phone to provide as much assistance to me as possible. I'm all for my phone learning how to do that by my actions over time. I'm ready for my smartphone to get me.


Time for the next big jump in mobile tech

I'm ready for a smartphone that "gets me"

The bustling, boring world of smartphones


Topics: Smartphones, Mobility

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  • Siri and Microsoft Bob will need to pay Google for this privilege

    Since Google/Motorola holds the patents for those functions (more or less), some sort of financial arrangement will need to take place for tech companies other than Google to offer these services in the future.

    But I'm sure those financial arrangements will take place. Intelligent Digital Assistants are the future and any mobile tech company not offering those features will not be a part of that future landscape.
    • All three of these companies hold patents on ifferent ways to do

      these things. MS and Apple have had videos showing how they expect them to work since before google was formed and theyve been patenting different pieces of putting it together continuously ever since. They can all do them without infrinng on each other.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Windows Phone

        Is already ahead in this one, because many of those functions are already integrated in useful ways. The big difference between today's phone, and James' pipe dr....err, I mean...pleasant dream, is that today the phone is primarily passive. You can set an alarm, you can input all your appointments and it will remind. It might (depending on where you live) be able to provide transit info, etc. You can call up notes about the client, etc.

        This dream, which is nice, if maybe a little intrusive is that it is active, not passive. It suggests things. It watches traffic and lets you know you may need to leave early. It suggests. It remembers and suggests...

        This goes a step beyond what has been available up to now, and I think that the company that does this best/first will carve out a nice little niche. How big a niche that is depends on people, and how quickly it can be turned off and on.

        Back when I carried a PDA, I called it my brain, and I use my phone the same way. Notes, in the phone. If it is not on the calendar on my phone, I forget about it. This is just an extension of that, a sort of digital Jeeves (I was watching an episode last night).

        I wonder how long it will take?
    • Socratis Said

      Socratis once said "the moment that ink was discovered, memory fainted"
      Let Google do everything for you and no new knowledge will be processed, nothing will be learned!
      enjoy the easy route!
  • Now if only we could come up with a name for this amazing device...

    I know... how about PERSONAL DIGITAL ASSISTANT!
  • Time for a new view on form factor

    James, your ideas are exactly where the vendor community want to take the technology. IMHO, the form factor needs to be altered slightly. Like you, I want an intelligent assistant. I want to connect my intelligent assistant (IA) to my car and have it provide all of my driving preferences; personal car, rental car or wife's car. Plug in my IA and it adjusts the car to me. Get to the office and I plug my IA into my computer and it supplements the capabilities of my desktop/laptop. Synchronization happens automatically so that data needed for IA functions is maintained and updated as I go through my work day.

    Head to a meeting, I pull out my IA device and slide it into my tablet. My tablet now gives me easy access to all the data and synchronizes just like my desktop.

    Go out to lunch, I take only my IA device. It recommends eating location based on location and preferences. Past experiences are reflected in the current choices offered.

    ToDo lists trigger alarms if I happen to travel within a defined range of the location for the activity. GPS is pre-loaded with the location if I decide to accept the suggestion.

    "Siri-like" services are available for initiating and responding to all forms of communication.

    I arrive back home and plug my AI device ino a home receiver and the stereo starts up or the TV comes to life on a specific channel based on my arrival time. HVAC settings reflect my preferences as well.

    For me, that IA device is my smarter-phone. Galazy S-III is the closest in form factor today. Thin, powerful (get the quad-core CPU), expandable and useful stand-alone. Dock it into various devices and the "associated" Android apps synchronize and share info as well as capture events that become enhanced preferences. Essentially, it learns to adapt as my preferences change or new services becoem available.

    That's the world as I envision it. The real challenge is making such a world valuable to all the vendors who need to play well together. Standards can be hard to develop without an elephant in the room.
    • Plug In?????

      You lost me there.

      Not really, but that was the one glaring problem (sort of) in your scenario. The connection to the PC or tablet should be wireless and automated. Not so much that they should have only one brain, but they should act like there is only one brain.

      The wireless Google concept comes close, as you go around and touch your phone to everything else you use, your PC, your tablet, your HVAC system, your TV, etc., etc. Once they all are linked, then the phone can start everything once it is within range.
  • I don't think so

    "A heart attack! Siri, call me an ambulance."

    "All right. From now on I will call you An Ambulance."
  • Just dont make it free

    I want to pay for these services, not have BigTechCompany have a right to whatever they damn well please with my every thought, notion, communication, action. You think you have useless 'spam' now? Wait until the world finds out about your every interest and life detail. I want a 'EULA' with my phone company/hardware provider/service provide explicitly say what they can and cant do with my information, with predefined penalaties backed by law for any transgressions.
    • Good idea, won't happen

      We'll be lucky if they give us the option to pay for it and stop all the tracking and ad pushing, but I am betting it won't happen. They will make so much from the data collected that you won't be able to pay them enough to do it the way you want. Plus, even if they do, it won't be a single reasonable payment, it will be a large monthly fee for the service, that most of us will gladly trade the better idea you have in order to avoid a charge of $10 for each device the phone hooks to, every month.

      The present trend of businesses is to nickel and dime us to death, and it will continue here, if your phone carrier has anything to say about.

      Of course, if Google does it, then it will be free, and there will be no choice, because they don't want to process all those small payments, when they can sell your data for a far fewer number of really large payments from advertisers.
  • Ummm, wait a minute...

    If memory serves, you go through handsets like no-one's business. I can only assume that all this data would need to be tied into your Google (or Apple or MS) identity and populate the new handset when you activate it. Another nice feature that maybe worth adding. Seriously, nice vision of the future. Let's just hope that Apple, Google and Microsoft can realise this dream but ALSO respect your privacy by using the data for YOUR benefit alone.
  • Your "personal assistant", will not really be that personal, and it will be

    a remote system somewhere, listening, monitoring, snooping in, on your every move and your every word and your every action that you take, and it will be kept, in that remote site, which will be highly impersonal and ready to be mined by the remote site's owner, to tell you where to go, and where to take your brother or client to dinner. Nothing is "personal"
    when some other entity is involved in being your "assistant".

    But, it's quite okay, as long as you get through your day without a hitch and as smoothly as possible. Your personal data and your personal habits and your every interaction with family and friends and business relations won't matter, as long as your personal assistant doesn't tell you who is really managing your day and who is snooping in on you.
  • MSF8 is the 1st step

    That is what Microsoft will evolve through M8. Just look at their next automobile platform and its electronic personal assistants are almost here. I really hope that MSF brings the Courier to reality with those functions.
  • The Next Quantum Leap in Device Convenience

    I was asked the other day to describe the next generation of technology and how it would change our daily routines. I suspect the question came up after having viewed an interview with Intel’s “futurist” and their thoughts about technology.

    When I look at my daily routine, I start with the common thread. “What do all my activities have in common and what makes each unique?”

    From what I can tell, the only things that are common among all my activities are my physical body and my communication skills. Thus, a device or service needs to always be available to enhance both of these regardless of what I am doing.

    So let’s take a look at the other things that this new generation of technology needs to do to meet my ever-changing activity list.

    I wake up in the morning. My device knows my preference for my desired wake-up time and then adjusts for early appointments or flights. Rules I set handle the 80% and I manually adjust the settings for the other 20%. As soon as I turn off the alarm, my device notifies me if I have any e-mails that have arrived overnight from designated senders I consider important. When my device knows I am sleeping, it mutes the ringer except for calls or messages from people I have tagged as vital.

    I am always asked if I want to hear the messages and I can “snooze” the offer until a later time, cancel the offer or accept the offer.

    I tell my device to create my morning setup: The setup consists of which lights I want on, what TV or radio channel I want to hear, the HVAC temp I want and if I want the blinds opened. Everything is WiFi enabled so this is not a challenge. I get ready to head out the door and I tell my device to switch to “work” mode and things shut off and the thermostat changes.

    NFC in my device followed by a voice recognition match unlock my car. I place my device in the dashboard cradle and immediately my seating preferences, mirror settings, radio settings and temp controls are all set to my preferences as stored on my device. Both telephony and data services while driving are based on extending the functions of my device once connected. Antenna boosters help avoid dropped calls and lost data. GPS is device based with the in-dash head unit providing the viewing screen. In fact, I can access and control all the functions of my device from the head unit. AM/FM will be car radio supplied but downloaded music is played from my device through the amplifiers in my car’s audio system.

    Voice recognition is used to allow me to be notified of important incoming communications as well as the ability to engage in outgoing communication activities.

    As I arrive at work, NFC allows me clear all building security systems and reach my office. Once at my desk, I “dock” my device and it quickly synchronizes designated data files with the company storage systems. Phone preferences and all messaging preferences are in place on my device and imposed on my desktop equipment via the “dock”.

    Attending a meeting, I “undock” my device from my desk and dock it with my tablet. Once again, the device becomes an extension if not the “CPU” of the device to which it is docked.

    If I go out for a lunch meeting or to visit a client, my device will offer me GPS maps if it knows I am going to a location I have not been to before. As it has my detailed calendar, I can call the party I am meeting or confirm the reservation through a voice request.

    During any appointment, the device changes notification modes reflecting my knowledge of manners and etiquette. If I travel near a location associated with an item on my ToDo list, I am asked if I want to stop to handle the task. GPS instructions are offered if I decide to tackle the task list item.

    At the end of the day, I return home and reverse many of the steps. As my home is filled with “docks” in a variety of types and locations, I can move my device as I move about the house. Voice commands are always available to adjust the entertainment system and environmental systems.

    All of what I have described can be done today but it isn’t being done for a variety of reasons. Cost is probably the largest obstacle. There is such a wide variety of devices in one’s home that can be automated but the cost of the automation is extreme. WiFi thermostats are readily available. WiFi to IRD controls are available for almost every entertainment device so that part is covered. Blinds are easy. Even the “docks” are available today. It’s the manufacturing scale that will not allow the prices to come down to a highly consumable level.

    Automotive connectivity is a bit of a tough nut. Detroit likes the revenue it generates from selling added electronics. I am not sure what it will take to establish a standard for “automotive personalization” that would allow me to personalize a rental car as easily as my personal car but that is what needs to happen. I can easily see that each car manufacturer would design their own software apps thus a traveler would need to carry around the application for each car manufacturer and possible model in order to have a clean experience.

    The rest of the model comes down having enough horsepower in the device that it can perform the speech and logic functions I have described. The device also needs to fit in the palm of my hand.

    If this sounds like today’s smartphone extended in all sorts of useful ways, you are on the right track. It may well be that the “brain” is something that is placed into the smartphone just as it is connected to the desktop, car or tablet computer. If the devices into which the “brain” is connected provides all the input and output services, the smartphone becomes just another type of dock for the “removable brain.” It may also be that the “brain” docks in a devices that docks in yet another device thus my smartphone docks in my car with the “brain” docked in the Smartphone. That removable brain fits in my pocket, is fully encrypted and has plenty of storage for all my important data beyond just my preferences. Upgrading the “brain” becomes rather easy so long as the form factor remains stable.

    The balance of the requirements come down to intelligence to know how to connect to all the communication and data services of the “dock” to which it is connected.

    That’s my idea of what the next generation of technology will bring to us. The technology is already lining up behind a few key barriers. When those barriers come down, our daily habit patterns will undergo a dramatic shift. I am looking forward to that shift.
    • the problem you have there is the horsepower...

      Everything runs on a machine in your house and through wifi or cell service, the phone is just the client to your home "server" all your music is streamed from your home computer, movies, and pictures. profile settings are carried on your phone and sync periodically to the "server" (the server could be any desktop system, this allows the upgradability required) a client app would run on your work computer and tablet to allow communication of the profile from your phone.

      Personally I would require a fingerprint scanner to be built into the phone, in case of theft or loss. requiring scanning at predetermined intervals to allow continued use of the automation.

      By keeping the data stored at home, you would only have to trust your home network security for protection, and an encrypted wireless connection to your home (similar to a vpn conneciton from the phone to the "server"). Having your data stored at home would decrease hacking threats, as it would be a lot of work to gather data from single repositories than hacking one central database. The "server" install OS would be designed by the application's vendor, and configured exclusively for this support function to minimize security holes. The phone would carry a minimal app setup allowing basic functionality on the local level in case of connectivity loss. for example all data relevant for the next 48 hours only, your top 50 favorite songs, the 3 new movies your purchased last week and have not watched yet, your security and passcodes for websites and devices you normally use on the days of the week that occur in the next 48 hours or match any other logical pattern of use on those days. And of course text to speech of your most commonly used terms, as the full database would be stored at home, as it can get quite massive and the power of the mobile device might not be sufficiently able to sift through the database in a reasonable amount of time.

      again, all docking would be nfc/BT/wifi not physical connections.
  • Any way to quantify...

    how much of the interaction between you and your future PDA is actually private? Much of what you describe can't be anonomized vis. the net, even if the communication channels themselves use encryption, because the feds will be able to demand access to it based on the Patriot Act. Then there are all the ways Google & others can us BI and various operating characteristics of your phone to predict what you will do next, buy next, want next, etc.

    In other words, there is a "privacy price" for all that cool technology, and it isn't clear how those who don't want to pay the price will stay private, other than completely disconnecting.
  • The idea ...

    .... that we still call these things phones, or smart phones, will soon disappear. As it is the ability to make and receive phone calls on the device is almost secondary to its other functions.

    The Personal Mobile Device (PMD) as I call it, will, in the not to distant future be all things to all people and the fact that it started off its evolutionary genesis as a mobile phone will be all but forgotten.
    Scarface Claw
    • sounds like this

      They really arent phones as it is.
    • Nods

      I do more texting than calling, among other things. I read more email on it than texts.
  • It's not far fetched at all

    If you omit that coffee thing and few other SF actions, the smart phone is already exactly that. You can do it all, it's just a bit more manual, as you have to check calendar by yourself and bring up proper info and documents. But besides that, the story is not that far off.