Thursday, October 16, 2014

Could Cellphone Beacons Ruin Our Lives

As humans, we follow Pavlovian tendencies.  And with our mobile phones, it seems that every buzz or ring causes us to quickly stop what we do to look at our phones.  In some cases we even look at our phones when it is someone else's phone that is ringing.  But the worse problem is when we look down at our phone and end up tripping or running into something.  Embarrassing when we are walking, deadly when we are driving.

So the NY Times article on beacons may at first seem promising, it poses problems too.  "Beacons, tiny low-powered radio transmitters that send signals to phones just feet away, have quickly become a new front in the advertising industry’s chase to find you whenever, and exactly wherever, you are."  In a store, they can alert you to coupons and specials, notify you to new information, offer rewards, and other one-on-one engagements.  But they also cause us to look down at our phones and not around us in the space we are occupying.  We may think we can be good multi-taskers, but we end up not seeing what may be right in front of us. 

In some cases, beacons can create some unique opportunities; but, overused can become a big problem.  Used properly, "They could enrich museum experiences, deliver the right recipe in the grocery store aisle, take us on interactive tours of cities and towns, let us quickly and easily check in to hotels or even pay at the gas pump."  Misused and we will walk into other people, crash into a  cart, trip and fall, or simply be so busy looking down that we fail to see the world we are living in.  Unfortunately, I doubt that restraint will be used and we will need to become even more careful as we navigate around so many people looking down at their cell phones.