2007.03.05

Our devices are dumb. They are not very aware of each other, and they should be.

I was thinking about this after I got home from BarCampMadison, where we talked about storage solutions. The thing that really trigged it was that for about 3 minutes, I thought I lost my digital camera. While you freak out for a minute about losing an object, you also freak out (probably much worse) about losing the data.

What would be nice is a way for devices to talk to each other, and be able to sync and backup data without user intervention. So, I carry around a digital camera, a mobile phone, an iPod, and a laptop. What if the camera could easily communicate with the other devices and say “Hey, I have 30 new photos, who can store these for me?” The laptop might respond “I’m the primary device, I have all the digital photos, give them to me” and then some wireless magic (wifi, bluetooth) would be used to do the right thing.

No laptop present? Perhaps the iPod could say “I’ve got 10 gigs of free space, give me the photos, and I will give them to the master when I get in range and connect.” No iPod? The mobile phone could be the storage device. Meanwhile the phone is talking to the other devices and asking them to sync/backup the new data it has, “Hey iPod, store these new phone numbers I got in the last 4 hours.” And on and on…

The idea is really to spread your data far and wide. We talked about this a lot at BarCampMadison. The situation will only get worse as our digital lives create more and more bits we have to deal with. Those bits need to be saved, and synchornized, and backed up. Doesn’t it seem silly that I need to manually tell my computer to sync with my phone every morning? Shouldn’t they be smart enough to do that when they get in close range of each other? Yes, there can be conflicts in the data, but do all the easy stuff first, then ask me to resolve conflicts. Syncing the iPod is nice, but in the future I hope having to physically plug in a device to have that happen seems just silly. (Sure, today we have issues with wireless communication, large amounts of data, and battery life, but those are all problems we can solve.)

We have automated backup solutions for our regular computers, but these mobile devices we carry are getting more and more important, and holding more and more data, and we need to make sure we don’t just lose it all to the bit bucket.


4 Responses to “Dumb Devices Storing Data”

  1. mike dunnNo Gravatar says:

    Right on pete – today its all about divergent file types, comm protocols and manual mundane processes instead of logical automated integration of “our” data…

    I like the idea of spreading the data across multiple storage devices that are w/ you at all times but also the concept of a device w/ wifi automatically sync’g and backing up any new important data to some safe repository in the cloud – simply by being in range and authenticating – now that’s a service I’d signup for…

  2. DustinNo Gravatar says:

    I had a nice watch for a while that came with GPS and a heart rate monitor. After going for a run, I’d come home and walk into the computer room and a blue light would turn on, and the computer automatically downloaded all the info from my watch via BlueTooth. On the screen I would get a graph of my run based on time, speed and heart rate.

    Very slick application.

    And since it’s an application, someone would have to write it. If HP did this, they’d probably only want to work with HP products. Buy an HP laptop, HP camera, and HP MP3 player. Same with Apple, etc. Hopefully for consumers there’d be an open format. That way we could choose to buy what we want. Hey, open format worked for IM, right ? :)

    Then there’s the issue of setting up your products. Unlike wireless routers that come out of the box broadcasting a default SSIS without encryption, you’d have to identify your universe for each item. You wouldn’t want someone walking by you to download all the nudie pics you took of your girlfriend on your digital camera.

    Also, if these devices were constantly polling each other, waiting for that next picture to distribute between them, wouldn’t we become a walking talking RFID magnets? Tracked by the government, muggers, and market droids. And unlike RFID’s we get the added bonus of getting hacked, because you just know the first version of this will allow SQL injection!

    Nice post. Fun thinking about it.

  3. TeganNo Gravatar says:

    I know for a simple fact that this is where we’ll wind up (unless delayed over-long by asteroids, weapons of mass destruction, EMP-repeaters and such). As the user, it’s going to be a matter of simply having all of my data available to me whenever I want it, and wherever I am (at least anywhere that’s “smart” – i.e. wired-up) – all my data available to me in “the data-cloud” – I won’t need to know or care where or how it’s stored.

    This is where we’re headed; in many ways, we’re already seeing the pieces being developed and pulled together. MIT’s OLPC project is building laptops without hard-drives at all – don’t need ‘em. Some digital cameras will already talk to your laptop. More and more services that were installed on the hard-drive are now available over the web; more and more programs and services are providing automatic syncing of data to remote storage.

    I can’t wait! When all my data’s “just there,” in a cloud around me, and I can share exactly the bits I want to share with exactly the others I want to have it, think of the games we can play, and think of the good we can do!

  4. @Tegan, I definitely care where my data is. I want some in the cloud, but I want some elsewhere, where no one by myself can access it. I sort of want my own cloud, or data store that is mine, and mine alone. :)

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