I woke up Thursday morning and reached straight for my iPhone, almost habitually, ready to run through my usual morning routine of checking the weather, emails and missed texts from my parents or friends. However, something quite surprised me when I opened up my phone. At the bottom of my phone was the icon for the Weather app and a nice ‘Good morning, Adielle’ message from Siri. It was as though Siri could read my mind and knew exactly what I wanted to do before I even got to doing it.
And that is in fact what the iOS 9 update has brought to the iPhone—proactive suggestions that know what you want before you do. By learning its user’s usual habits, iOS 9 is able to predict which apps would be most likely used at a particular time of day. For example, if one usually likes to listen to music on their morning commute, iOS 9 will suggest the Music app if you plug in your headphones. The Siri Suggestions screen, which appears when you swipe left, offers easy access to contacts that you talk to often and apps that you use frequently. It also provides a ‘Nearby’ option, suggesting restaurants, bars, parking garages and more that are close by to your location and that continually changes depending on the time of day. The point of this is to provide a sort of personal assistant in the form of a device that is with you and can help you at all times of the day and no matter where you are.
Google has long preceded this invention of proactive suggestions with Google Now on the Android. Google Now is more advanced than Apple’s proactive suggestions since Apple takes a less provocative approach, by only tapping into user information that is provided on the phone itself, whereas Google uses information on the cloud, using all information it contains from your Gmail account, Google Calendar, and even Google searches.
Seems almost like it’s out of a Sci-Fi movie but it’s become a normal reality for most smartphone users. Of course, this brings into account many questions about people’s privacy in the technological world today and proves to be a very sensitive issue. It is vital that people are able to trust such companies with their private information and it plays a huge role in whether or not something like Google Now, or even Apple’s proactive suggestions, will be viewed positively or not.
For some, this feature makes using smartphones all the better. Providing quick and easy information that is actually relevant for what you need at that very moment can prove to be very helpful in most situations. In his article, The Amazing “Google Now” — When Google Searches Before You Think To , Danny Sullivan talks of how Google Now was able to already have the euro-dollar exchange rate up on the home screen when he arrived in Munich, or that it learned which sports team he was a fan of and was able to bring up their scores for recent games, explaining how helpful and useful the program can be.
However, for many other people, these predictive searches just seem creepy, like machines-will-soon-know-too-much-about-us creepy. It makes people worry just how much information large companies like Google have about users in the cloud and what they can do with all that information, apart from the helpful directions to the airport when it knows what time your flight is, or providing the list of movie screenings on Friday, when it knows that’s the day you usually go to the movie theatre.It makes you question just how much of your habitual life is private anymore and what will come next in this technological transformation? Only time will tell.
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