Context aware computing knows who and where you are

Intel’s chief technology officer Justin Rattner kicked off his keynote at IDF on Wednesday by saying that so-called context aware computing “will constantly learn about you and your life and probably what you’re feeling.”

This is a scary message and although much later he said that security safeguards were built into this technology we all know how safe technology isn’t.

Lama Nackman – we think her first name is Lama but she wasn’t wearing Kargyupta garb, was described by Rattner as the “goddess of context aware computing” said that the tech was based on a mixture of accelerometers, GPS location, and other sensors.

She showed off a demonstration of sensing Rattner’s gait using an ECG feed linked to his right and left legs, and also a demo of Rattner wielding a remote control which senses the preferences of the person that’s holding it, and remembers those preferences. You know, this could be really dangerous stuff.

Rattner said that hard sensing could detect when you’re sitting, walking, commuting, whether it was dark or light, whether you were indoors or outdoors and where you are. By using the grandly named Activity Fusion Algorithm, this could link to device activities, calendars, browsing, and horror of horrors social networking.

And how are you protected if you choose to share all these things on a cloud network? He said a user is in complete control and can choose to share this data with others.

OK – so here’s the scene. You’ve had 10 pints of lager, you’re with your girlfriend, and you foolishly decide to share your status with your Defacebook pals. After they see you lurch across the floor of a cheap motel in Sensorville, they notice that you seem to share the contents of your stomach with the cheap carpet. After you stagger to your feet, they notice that you seem to have changed your position from the vertical to the horizontal, and your gait is kind of up and down, while an avatar seems to be assisting you with your strange Rabelaisian two backed human activities.

All of this tech stuff is entirely do-able, but we can’t help thinking that whether it should be done is a different matter altogether. It’s a little too much Big Brothery for us. And of course, Intel and Google are collaborating like mad and no-one knows what they’re up to in their labs.  But if they can push the boundaries, of course they will.