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Sometimes ignorance is bliss

Sometimes ignorance is bliss

At the current rate of change, today's smart phones are going to look pretty dumb a few years from now. Today, we wonder how we ever survived without mobile phones but it isn't that long ago that hardly anybody had them. And yet, before long, we will be remembering the time when most people didn't have access to mobile email.

Advances in technology are going to open up a whole new world of communications that will undoubtedly bring many benefits. However, there are also a few potential problems that will need to be addressed along the way. One of these will be retaining a balance between our working and personal lives.

While BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile devices have mobilised the workforce in ways previously unimaginable, they are also largely to blame for blurring the boundaries of the working day. The concept of working anytime from anywhere is great but you won't find too many members of staff that look forward to providing a sales quotation last thing at night or over the weekend.

Whether they like it or not, such responses are increasingly being demanded in our 'always on' society. Telling your boss where to get off is not generally regarded as a wise career move and it is difficult to 'get on' if you are not willing to play the game. Things are only going to get worse because you won't be able to pull faces once video calling becomes standard.

Another development that worries me is the rise of mobile advertising. Today it is still quite infrequent, untargeted and only mildly irritating. Occasionally, my operator will send me a message that alerts me to a new game or mobile TV offering that I could do without but it's hardly the end of the world.

In reality, though, this is the thin end of the wedge. I was reading last week about a couple of startups in the US that claim to be working on ads that are so useful that they won't be annoying. Oh really.

Mobile Posse is offering 'idle screen ad insertion' which sees users targeted with advertisements such as discount coupons on their phones. Today, you would need to download a small application before being bombarded with offers for hair extensions and French manicures but how long will it be before they are embedded in our handsets?

Another startup, Acuity, has a similar service but ads can be delivered based on the recipient's location. Again, you need to download a small Java application before accessing the service.

Admittedly, this could be really useful but my concern is that the useful content will eventually be drowned out by a tidal wave of useless and unwanted information. Acuity's model is user-friendly because it can set parameters about the type of adverts they receive but I am not convinced our privacy will be so well respected when the model goes mainstream. I can see a dangerous world where your mobile phone beeps a special offer notification at almost every store you pass.

Spam is the plague of email but I worr y we will soon be battling Spam 2.0. Knowing that your favourite store has a sale on is all well and good but sometimes ignorance is bliss.


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