A recent feature story on the Microsoft press website describes the near-future as a world of embedded microchips recording everything we do and consume and then reporting that data to intelligent systems for analysis. A world where there are no surprise trends or unexpected markets; a world where the collective behavior of all of us is predicted by statistical analysis.
I don't know about you, but I am not absolutely sure that is a good thing. The Microsoft version makes it sound wonderful; a reality that should be welcomed and embraced. But, in many ways, the whole scenario sounds like the opening to a science fiction novel in which machines enslave the human race.
RealityThe reality is somewhere in between enslavement and embedded-everything bliss. There is no doubt that embedded microchips are going to be everywhere and put into everything -- you can see the IDC trends for yourself in Figure A.
Embedded systems shipments are on the rise, Oct. 27, 2011.
The crux of the Microsoft version of the story is explained in this excerpt:
It's a very real place where smart devices share their experiences wirelessly with large data warehouses, and software then connects that data in logical ways to portray the hidden patterns and trends that allow organizations to see business intelligence faster than ever before -- from individual buying habits, to oil consumption by region, to the epidemiology of diseases across continents.
The relevant questions yet to be answered fully are who controls the data collected by those embedded systems and what analysis will be conducted by those in control? Intelligent systems will undoubtedly make at least some aspects of our daily lives better, but what cost are we are willing to pay for those conveniences? Are you comfortable with your life being dissected, analyzed, and used as an everyday part of business intelligence? Does anonymity make such data collection a nonissue?
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.