The virtual ball and chain
What's the connection between British ex-cons and you? The Independent says that the British government is planning to implant microchips on ex-convicts to track their whereabouts in real time. "The tags, labelled 'spychips' by privacy campaigners, are already used around the world to keep track of dogs, cats, cattle and airport luggage, but there is no record of the technology being used to monitor offenders in the community." Well there's always a first time. There's no record in the database like the first record. So much for the ex-cons. Now what about you?
When the word "first time" is mentioned, Patents are involved. Just today the Times Online reports that Microsoft has filed a patent application "for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism." It's not quite as restrictive as the microchip the ex-cons wear and ever so much more professional. When you heard the expression "chained to your desk" did you ever think someday it would be more than a figure of speech?
The system is "capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence". It would "allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state."
The Patent Application says the goal of the system is to provide:
A unique monitoring system and method is provided that involves monitoring user activity in order to facilitate managing and optimizing the utilization of various system resources. In particular, the system can monitor user activity, detect when users need assistance with their specific activities, and identify at least one other user that can assist them. Assistance can be in the form of answering questions, providing guidance to the user as the user completes the activity, or completing the activity such as in the case of taking on an assigned activity. In addition, the system can aggregate activity data across users and/or devices. As a result, problems with activity templates or activities themselves can be more readily identified, user performance can be readily compared, and users can communicate and exchange information regarding similar activity experiences. Furthermore, synchronicity and time-sensitive scheduling of activities between users can be facilitated and improved overall.
That means you will soon hear voices from god, with the little "g" not the big "g", acknowledging what you think and offering advice. The little "g" will be upgraded to the big "g" in the next software release.