Digital Physical

The Convergence of Real World Environments and Digital Platforms

 

How will technology impact our interactions with the physical environment? What are the possible futures that will be created as a result of this? One such technology, called “Bluetooth Low Energy,” promises to reinvent the way we receive and navigate data on our smartphones. Bluetooth Low Energy, or “BLE,” is a faster, more autonomous version of traditional Bluetooth technology.

BLE utilizes extra hardware in the form of small devices called beacons. These beacons are strategically placed in particular locations within an environment. The beacons then send information to Bluetooth enabled smartphones that come within range of the beacon.

Beacons are currently being manufactured by a number of third party companies. In 2014, 8% of retail stores in the U.S. were equipped with BLE technology. By the end of 2015 it is estimated that 32% of retail locations will utilize BLE and by the end of 2016 that figure is estimated to jump to 85%. Market research is basically suggesting that BLE technology will be soon be essential for businesses.

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This is a graphic illustration of the capabilities of BLE. Its range is more limited than traditional Bluetooth, however it is much a much faster method of communication between devices and it consumes far less battery life.

This technology will essentially streamline content to users directly. Facebook and Google interconnectivity will be integrated into the information that is communicated by physical places. So reviews, your friends’ opinions, etc. will all be instantly available. The internet is currently a vast, rich resource of information, but currently actual “searching” is still required on the user’s behalf to obtain information. What if information was relevantly and readily forwarded to the user when they needed it?

BLE

This is a ten point system outlining the intended benefits of such technology:

1- A merging infrastructure between digital and physical forms

2- A socially aware platform

3- The extension of the internet’s resources

4- A means of encouraging technological usability

5- Connecting subject back to context

6- Democratizing physical space

7- Making knowledge more accessible

8- Increasing the efficiency of the obtaining of information

9- Mobile, transitory access

10- A physical manifestation of the surrounding environment

 

“Social dreaming” is a broad term because of its implication of a better life. While problems of information delivery may not be immediately apparent, there are better ways of ensuring the process of its access. In addition, BLE technologies are answering a problem of cultural disconnect and imbalance between mankind and the physical world.

The proximal nature of BLE generates a renewed interest for society to rediscover tangible physical surroundings. As a result of this, architecture will undergo a shift in design for digital and physical interaction. All physical spaces will be represented by beacon communication. An unprecedented network of mapped of physical places will exist in digital form. Personal interests will be understood by the internet and BLE technologies so that the most relevant information is communicated to you. The connection between subject and environment will be strengthened because of this advance. Possibilities in education, science, and corporate environments and countless other areas will be expanded.

For example, in the education sector this will be used to improve the possibilities of student learning. Connectivity between locations of home and school will allow greater analytics for student progression and learning style. Education will become more personalized and fitted for the individual student.

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In addition BLE technology will become an important step towards technological autonomy. With technology becoming more efficient, the integration of beacons into physical environments is a benchmark toward technological singularity. With the internet’s application to the physical world, machines and computers better understand real world information systems. In the far future, this will lead to an advancement in artificial intelligence, eventually resulting in the autonomous production of machines to fully serve and outlast mankind.

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Developed countries will all begin utilizing the possibilities of Bluetooth Low Energy. The economic benefits of such technologies will be recognized by developed governments and political policies will be established with regards to personal privacy. Due to the nature of the technology, no mandates on advertising will be made- if the communicated information is undesirable to the user, the user will close or block that specific source.

This even more democratized format of information will affect politics worldwide. The U.S. government will attempt to further place limitations on such technology because it is more concerned with physical environments. There are serious security issues that must be addressed by an evolved Department of Defense. Methods used by this agency must not cause public controversy and unease. The administered defense will be achieved by means of encryption defense rather than public surveillance.

In contrast, this technology could have a far more negative impact than originally intended. The advertising qualities of beacon technology could run rampant after the technology becomes widely accepted. Rather than renewing human interest in their immediate surroundings, BLE may force society to become further engrained in technological dependency. This dependency would increase resource consumption and ignorance of climate change. Rather than reconnecting society to physical environments, the technology may lead individuals to be more isolated and inept at social interaction. In complete contrast, succeeding generations that grow up around this technology could be less likely to genuinely care for the people and places around them.

BLE technology could be used as a monetizing scheme by the government as a source of tax revenue. By imposing new physically integrated technological policies the U.S. government may continue to monitor the digital lives and data of its citizens.

Other scenarios include the possibility that BLE does nothing to significantly advance culture. And by this I mean that it may become another superficially novel technology that does not truly alter human lifestyles in a positive way. Rather, it could be dispersed into the vast ocean of trivial technological advancements in the 21st century. It may acquire some worth as a technology but could fail to register within culture as a vital component to life. In addition, the technology could possibly be culturally effective, but it may not increase sustainability.

Ultimately the world must and will decide the worth of data streaming to internet users. Will it lead to a more specialized internet that can adapt to the needs of its users- creating a new form of digital to physical interaction? Or will this technology be exploited as a means of power and control for the businesses and governments who assemble it?

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