The Broader Picture
For yesterday’s update, I wrote a piece building on a twitter thread from long-time hearables’ industry expert, Carl Thomas. During Carl’s initial twitter thread, he referenced an iconic line from the TV show, Halt and Catch Fire, where the main character shares his vision of personal computers in the early 80’s, “computer’s aren’t THE thing, they’re what give you access to THE thing.” Carl referenced this line, as it’s an apt way to think about hearables – they’re not THE thing, they’re what gives you access to THE thing. So the question then becomes, what exactly is THE thing?
However the I believe the TRUE benefit of #wearables over and above the computers in our pockets is their constant physical contact to the body.
This is an obvious statement, but bare with me…
— Carl Thomas (@carlosdajackal) June 10, 2019
In yesterday’s update, I concluded that #VoiceFirst is the most plausible candidate to be the more grandiose use case for hearables, and like any good twitter discussion, Carl pushed back and argued a slightly different vision for the future. I want to use today’s update to shed a light on Carl’s vision that he laid out in this follow up thread, not only because it’s a truly fascinating view on what’s to come, but because this is what I designed Future Ear Radio for. To aggregate really interesting ideas, articles, tweets, podcasts from large publications and publishers, but also from the various communities of experts contained in each of the fields that Future Ear covers so that we can all learn from each other.
“Seismic shifts in human behavior brought about by technology seem to happen when trends collide.” This line of thinking is actually the basis for this blog and is the sub-header of the website, “Connecting the trends converging around the ear.” I love his example too, as WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) and easy-to-use web hosting platforms, in conjunction with the rising penetration rate of high-speed DSL, collided and created an explosion of user-created web content. It had suddenly become significantly easier (new tools) and faster (high-speed DSL) to publish content on the internet, to the point where anyone could become a publisher. This was the backbone that spurred on social networking.
We’ve all heard of Big Data – the macro-data that companies desire to help them make smarter business decisions. The flip side, would be “Small Data”, which is each user’s personal data (the first time I heard this term was from Brian Roemmele at the 2018 Alexa conference). This is what makes Google and Facebook so valuable – we’ve collectively shared so much of our small data with each company whenever we’ve revealed the motivation behind our purchasing decisions through our searches, likes, shares and other online behavior. But, what are users getting in return? Better targeted ads? Duplex on the web?
So as Carl is suggesting here, one impending collision that might have interesting ripple effects, is microphone-equipped and biometric sensor-laden wearables (wrist or ear-worn), plus the emergence of blockchain-based, tokenized ecosystems. Rather than sharing all of your personal data with these companies for no perceived trade-off, what if we were able to be paid for all our most-valuable data?
As Carl says, this might all seem far-fetched, but is it really so unrealistic to think that companies wouldn’t pay for this data? While few alternatives to Google and Facebook exist today, that isn’t guaranteed for tomorrow, and the advertising business model of each company is almost entirely dependent on our small data today. People are already seeming to become increasingly weary of sharing more and more data with these tech giants, so a platform that is underpinned by a, “transparent, permissioned, and reversible,” ledger system might stand as an appealing alternative with more perceived value in exchange for our data.
The fact of the matter is that the transformation our in-the-ear devices are undergoing from rudimentary “dumb” devices into smart little ear-computers is going to open multiple doors that were previously locked. What lies on the other side of those doors might include a conduit to a new user interface to communicate with technology, a home for smart assistants to operate on our behalf, a personal data-collector to farm our data to be sold on the blockchain, or a combination of all these and more. Just as it was hard to predict all the byproducts that stemmed from the colliding trends during the beginning of the internet or the advent of mobile, it’s tough to know what will stem from all of today’s innovations as they begin to crash together.
-Thanks for Reading-