Mobile Homes in a Digital World

This week’s reading assignment went mobile, and the flow of the reading both overwhelmed and amazed me, but also gave me a few things to ponder, as usual. Let’s snowball all the information we got this week. Ready?

I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll say it again: my brain and numbers don’t often mix well. Knowing that, you should have seen me slogging my way through Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2011-2016. It was a good thing there was fascinating information. 2011 was the fourth year in a row that global mobile usage doubled, the first year mobile traffic exceeded 50 percent, and also the first time mobile video exceeded 50 percent. Mobile access is now as common as its non-mobile computing counterpart.

But here’s the kicker: by the end of the year, it is predicted that the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population. The population of the WORLD, not just the first world, or the tech world. The world world. Think about that, and then say it with me, “Wow!”

Bring that knowledge into the second reading, a primer on QR codes and their use to support causes. Though QR codes have not typically been a very popular subject among my classmates (myself included), how can you argue using QR codes knowing there are so many mobile devices available to link those users to online information for your cause? It cannot hurt to put a QR code on everything you distribute relating to your cause if you’re trying to raise awareness. Numbers may make my head spin, but I’m not sure I can be unclear on this one.

Okay, let’s take both of these lessons into the next article about Apsalar. Apsalar creates and customizes mobile apps, by analyzing and re-targeting the app according to usage of the app. Consider this (keeping in mind the creepiness we’ve been feeling the last several weeks):

An app maker can target users based on how much they spend, their location, their lifetime value, their engagement level, whether they use iOS or Android, or custom events like whether they got past Level 5 or opened a shopping chart.

So we’ve taken these mobile users, directed them toward specific information about our cause (maybe our own app), and can now track and re-target their usage of the app to keep them in our grasp. Now, let’s get really customized and really tracked.

For the final article, we read “How smartphones are changing the face of mobile and participatory healthcare: an overview, with example from eCAALYX” and get another paradigm shift. We keep talking about the creepiness of all this information being used to track us, but now we’re presented with scenarios where it might be a good thing. The article discusses the rise in the use of apps, relating that in 2009 300 million apps were downloaded, but just two years later the number had jumped to 5 billion. This rise in the number of mobile devices and the ways in which people are using apps is creating a significant global cultural shift in communication.

In the field of medicine, mobile device apps are allowing for easier data collection by providing an uninterrupted data stream and availability for remote healthcare in developing nations through portability. So take it a step further, and doctors and patients can benefit from remote monitoring systems. In essence, doctors and other medical experts can track a patient at all times via mobile devices. The implications for diabetes and heart disease patients alone is incredible, but there are hundreds of medical conditions that can be monitored via mobile device – with or without patients inputting data. Also, there may be opportunities for patient health behavior modification through mobile tracking. How amazing is that: a stream of biomedical data, GPS tracking for location in case of emergency, and instant communication with professionals?

Is this sort of data transmission or data gathering too personal (think HIPAA), or do the benefits outweigh the invasion? How about for the customization of apps based on your personal information or usage? How do they compare?

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7 thoughts on “Mobile Homes in a Digital World

  1. Shannan, the data gathered via medical apps are indeed invasive and personal but I think when users sign up they understand that and weight out whether it’s worth it. Of course, health usually takes precedence over privacy or security issues. But I wonder though, technology is not full proof and often faulty at times. What happens when there is a network outage? A power failure? Or something that makes the app and devices not work correctly? What happens then? What if the patient’s health deteriorates in that time and the data is not sent over in time? I don’t know that people should rely on this apps to heavily. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, the people using medical apps like the ones in the CAALYX reading are pretty sick. Do they really need more radiation in their life via a phone or devices that will be on their body all day long? Probably not. What are the long term consequences of this?

  2. Wow your post was very good and in depth! You brought out a great idea for development, GPS tracking in case of emergencies. I think this could potentially be great for our parents’ generation as they age and need assistance. I think for our grandparents it might be a bit complicated because many of them do not own cell phones or smart phones. As for customization of apps, I personally like how it can be made easier for me based on my personal preferences but I know many people see it as an invasion of privacy.

  3. It seems to me–and I’m going to speak in generalizations here for simplicity’s sake–that there is an overwhelming consensus, at least in America, that tracking is bad. Americans do not want to be watched, tracked, recorded, listened in on, or noticed. We have HIPAA laws, we have Do Not Call, we have Do Not Track. We are, collectively, big fans of the Fourth Amendment. We expect people, and especially the government, to leave us alone.

    And yet we have this overwhelming national narcissism. Coupled with the idealization of celebrity, and given access to the Internet, which allows us to broadcast anything we want to the entire world… We have no problem giving our information away. We give our contact information to apps and services in exchange for new ways to reach people, or to share our lives, or to make our lives easier. We save our credit card information on e-commerce sites to save time in the course of making purchases in the future. We broadcast what we’re doing, where we are, and who we’re with, either to preserve those memories or to prove to anyone who might be watching that we lead exciting lives.

    And despite all that sharing, people still get upset when they start to get an inkling of just how much information the apps they use and the companies they buy from are collecting, even though companies and organizations have been tracking them on some level for years (ever received buckets of “traffic school” ads after a traffic ticket? or solicitations from colleges you’ve never contacted? or mail and calls from political candidates?).

    My point is: I’m not sure there IS such a thing as “too personal” anymore. People share so much about themselves already that anyone paying attention could find some way to take advantage of that information. I think, if people don’t want to be tracked, their only real option is not to put their data out there. Don’t use apps, don’t share on Facebook, don’t check in to that restaurant. Don’t give those companies anything to track.

    Unfortunately, no man is an island, and all that jazz. It’s very difficult indeed for most people to stay completely disconnected. Some people actively choose to live that way, and that’s fine for them. For the rest of us, I think we’re just going to have to accept that our information is the price we pay for the benefits these technologies offer us.

    • You are so right. We are so persnickety about other people getting access to our personal info, and then we put it all out there. Our information is going to be the price we pay, and I think that is going to completely redefine what is personal information, if thee is anything left.

    • While I don’t think we like to be tracked in abstract terms, we also don’t seem to check too closely when we are. Not to use South Park as an example of how the world works, but they did do an episode about this and Apple as it relates to the movie the Human Centipede. No one reads the license agreements.

  4. Great post! I was unsure of which part to comment on, haha. I dont know why I’m so excited about the medical field using mobile devices but I am. How convenient and awesome is it that someone with a chronic disease can be monitored as well as track their symptoms with a device they can share with their physician?

  5. I think the medical information — especially the records idea Amanda mentioned in class — is perfect for a personalized app. In terms of keeping that information private, I think maybe app users will have to decide when treatment takes priority over the risk of private information being shared.

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