Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Virtual Butler Paco Will Handle

What will your virtual butler look like ?
When I worked at AT&T, we use to wow customers and media at our Bell Laboratories facilities in Holmdel, New Jersey with futuristic Jetsons-type technology like Intelligent Network Agents or "virtual butlers", who users could create much like an avatar. Since I supported AT&T's small business communications services in the Hispanic market, my demonstrator virtual butler was named "Paco". Understanding all of the customer's preferences, Paco could pre-order an approved amount of inventory from a preferred supplier, send out an automatic notice on a sales promotion to customers and even order Mother's Day flowers to be delivered by a florist more than 3,000 miles away. No, he couldn't "beam me up" like Scotty, but could service almost every other call to action I needed using an intelligent broadband network. Of course, the vision in those days was that we'd all be accessing Paco via our desktop computers. What seemed like science fiction then has just arrived in the new age of Mobile 3.0 communications. The average mobile consumer may not have yet noticed, but the world changed this month when mobile chipmaker Qualcomm shipped a new contextual awareness platform for mobile phones. The strategists at Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google did notice. While the first mobile was the standard cell phone and Apple brought us the iPhone touch screen environment, the third era will deliver a mobile that saves us from clicking on the screen because it knows us so well. Whether you'll hold in your hand like a smart phone, or wear on your face, like Google Glasses, our Mobile 3.0 unit will


"talk" to every sensor in our phone, leveraging the compass, GPS, accelerometer, temperature sensor and everything else. It won't just recognize these elements, but it will start to make sense of the data to know if we are walking, running, skiing, shopping, working at school or work. And thanks to the WiFi and Bluetooth radios, it can even know you are riding in your spouse's car, not driving your own. Why is this radically important? If your virtual butler knows you're in the kitchen, vs. sitting on the terrace or getting ready to watch your favorite sports event, it will automatically understand that you're in a food context and provide you with recipes or ways to track your nutrition with healthy living guides. And our 3.0 units will know you really well. We already tell social networking platforms like Facebook what we like and like to do. So our mobile phones will know that when I'm on the way to run a household errand, it will send me contextual data that will make my life better. For instance, I also have picking up my dry cleaning on my to do list, so it will alert me that based on my route, it makes sense for me to pick up those drycleaned items on this trip. It might also tell me that my favorite sports collectibles store is just a mile away from the Home Depot I plan to visit, just in case I want to have some fun browsing some of my favorite baseball memoribilia. It's not outrageous to think that brands that already know so much about you are scrambling to launch contextual devices. After all, Facebook already knows what you read, watch and listen to. And Amazon knows what you read, watch, and buy. Start thinking about what your virtual butler will look like. The era of intelligent network agents and the "virtual good life" is here!

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