Many like to complain about the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of gadgets and technological advances, but I’m going to stand up for the consumer tech we use every day and its potential to save lives.
One common complaint against technology developments is that many don’t enrich our lives. Instead, they’re accused of turning our kids into a generation of ‘screenagers’ who do nothing but move from one device to the next.
Now, while I feel this complaint has some fair grounding, I’d like to sing the praises of modern consumer tech and its ability to not only enrich our lives, but to actually save them.
Predicting disaster through what we type
Firstly, Google claims that it’s able to predict virus outbreaks quicker than the America Centres for Disease Control. This is made possible by monitoring trends in its search engine, so that as soon as searches for cold and flu remedies begin to rise, Google’s able to say where and when an epidemic will break out, allowing action to be taken.
But it’s not just Google that monitors collective typing, Twitter does too. On 23 August this year an earthquake in Virginia had been tweeted around 40,000 times within a minute of its occurrence, which was long before the US Geographical Society recognised that there had indeed been an earthquake.
This speedy and direct delivery of information can pass on warnings far more effectively than more established channels of communication.
The drive towards internet-connection
The fact that so many of us now walk around with web-connected mobile phones in our pockets allows us to receive and send warnings quicker than ever before. Intel reckons that by 2015 there will be around 15 billion internet-connected devices, which is more than two each for the world’s seven billion strong population.
But it won’t just be the mobiles in our pockets that are ‘smart’, as ATMs, vending machines and check-outs will all become connected.
The need for all these connected devices might not always seem apparent, and I’ve also wondered what the point of an internet-enabled car could possibly be. But when it comes to life-saving, a ‘smart’ car has great potential.
A web-connected car could share real-time and relevant information about the specific driving conditions with other cars nearby. These could be accidents, pockets of fog and even ice patches – conditions that can only be known accurately if you’re at a certain place and time on the road. This would be far superior and faster than any single news channel’s broadcast.
So, I fully embrace the notion of having a home and garage full of smart appliances. Not only would I feel safer if my car could warn me about dangerous driving conditions on the road ahead, I’d be grateful if my web-connected medicine cabinet could let me know whether or not I needed to stock up on Lemsip.