Author: Kevin Phillips
The sci-fi living of the future, as predicted at the end of the 20th century, has been seeping into our everyday lives. Some of the most far-fetched fantasies – smart, personalised technology integrated into our clothes, accessories and our homes – are very nearly mainstream. The intelligent environment is here.
Since the dawn of science fiction the future has been defined as one where computers, people and the spaces in which they live combine in harmony to the benefit of mankind.
Automatic doors, personalised food and drink dispensers, and computer-integrated living and working spaces that react to a person’s presence as they go about their lives was the future anticipated by the end of the 20th century… described as the intelligent environment.
That, coupled with jump suits, spaceship commuting, video phones and androids was to be the expected world in which we should now be living. But, by the year 2001, instead of a ‘space odyssey’, we had the Dot Com crash and the rise of war by terror.
Despite living in the age of technology, are we any closer to living in the sci-fi world of an intelligent environment?
Instead of shiny jump suits we have animal onesies, and we aspire to work from home rather than on another world. Video phones are closer to reality, as long as you have the bandwidth needed, but as for an android, well, ask any ten year old what the word means to them and they will describe an operating system.
So, were our predictions all just a lot of nonsense?
Smartphones are leading the way
I didn’t realise it until recently, but in fact, the dawn of the intelligent environment has been creeping up on us all along: home computers, the internet, GPS satellites, Wi-Fi, lasers, targeted advertising, flat-screen TVs, face recognition and the smartphone.
All of these and many more stand out as great individual innovations that have found their way into our daily lives, particularly smartphones, which many have adopted with near obsession. So in fact, time has shown us that some of the most innovative sci-fi predictions have come true.
The concept of the intelligent environment, rather than explode upon us within a few decades of the prediction has been seeping in to our everyday lives for over a generation, without us even noticing.
Leading the way recently has been the smartphone, now able to pin-point our location, find services nearby that we need, transmit data within a local radius to engage other devices, and deliver personalised content, music and video based on our personal taste.
But of course it is not stopping there.
It will not be long before we are all wearing technology. I’m probably not going to rush out and buy the next Google Glass when it is released, but it will only be a few short years before I go into the opticians and choose my next prescription glasses in a pair of designer smart frames. Same for a watch, and perhaps same for a pair of shoes. Every shop will have unique beacons sending out waves of information that our smart-ware will detect, process and deliver personalised content.
Our homes will become ‘beaconised’, recognising us when we approach, automatically unlock, set the perfect lighting and start our favourite background music. I expect that even the walls of a room will change colour and the pictures to render differently depending on my mood or who else is with me at the time.
Take a moment to think about it. Are we really so far away from living in intelligent environments?
Image © Andrey Kiselev – Fotolia.com