Sunday, February 21, 2016

Reality Mining

      Reality mining is a new technology being worked on by a team of people headed by MIT professor of media arts, Sandy Pentland.  His hope for this new form of technology is to monitor people's behaviors in order to predict future occurrences such as disease, behavior, etc.  Only time and people's willingness to jump on board will tell how successful this innovation will truly be.
      Pentland explains how his whole project will work.  He will use sensitivity devices within smartphones such as motion sensors, microphone, etc. in order to monitor people's behaviors at particular times.  In my opinion, this is a bit unnerving in a way.  Having someone I don't know being able to track my phone calls and every move I make is uncomfortable.  Right now due to legal obligations, reality mining is not yet widespread, but as time progresses this could be a serious player in everyday life.  Pentland states that his biggest goal is to influence the healthcare world.  This being said, the technology being worked on can use tendency data to predict or track a disease.  For example, it can track a difference in a person's gait to predict Parkinson's disease.  It can also use voice monitoring to help diagnose mental diseases like depression.  I think this could be a really good thing for the world.  Not only can this technology monitor a disease, but it eventually can also determine the source and why the disease entered the person in the first place.  On paper, reality mining can actually put an end to terminal diseases like cancer and ALS.  This technology will solely be used through cellular devices.  A person can purchase this reality mining software in order to allow this technology to run its course.  I think it is a fascinating concept, but still leaves many questions unanswered.
      One large question this article did not address was privacy.  I don't feel comfortable knowing everything in my phone can be monitored.  I would want to know more about what particular things are being monitored and how i can suppress certain things from the software.  Secondly, the article does not address a smartphone's ability to actually carry out these tasks.  According to an MIT forum, modern day cellphones do not have the data capacity to carry out every function Pentland intends them to.  We are still a while away from this technology becoming a serious thing due to these restrictions.  Finally I would like to know a bit more about how the software uses data in order to monitor my behavior.  I would like to know a bit more from the IT side.  I think reality mining has much promise, but also has many issues that need to be addressed first.



  1. Matt, I found this very interesting because I had never heard of reality mining before reading your article. Like you said, I find it a little disturbing that reality mining puts someone on a 24/7 watch. As time goes on, I feel that reality mining will have some hoops to jump through, but its overall success may be possible. Reality mining used for medical studies and practices seem legitimate, but have you considered its uses for businesses? I couldn’t help but think that reality mining could be an asset for the marketing world. Barring privacy barriers, companies could use something like reality mining to determine consumer behaviors. By studying the movements and responses of consumers, companies are able to improve their products based off of a non-verbal exchange. Marketing is becoming more personalized every year, and this could possibly set it over the edge.

  2. Matthew, this is a great article on behavior monitoring that I found very intriguing. I agree with you in the sense that this technology can be very uncomfortable since with the sensors someone can have the ability to sense your behaviors without your knowledge. I was wondering if this technology could be enabled or disabled by the user. I thought it was great that the purpose for this is going to go mainly for healthcare. When I read this I thought that if the technology could be enabled or disabled by someone who wants the benefits of the technology would be the best solution. I think this is definitely the technology of the future but at the moment I agree, I would not feel comfortable with this enabled on my phone.


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