THE BLOG

Carson, My Trusted PDM (a Story From 2020)

17/09/2014 12:23 BST | Updated 16/11/2014 10:59 GMT

It is 5:23am. The alarm just went off. It has been a short night - the season 16 finale of Downton Abbey was on TV last night and I went to bed late. But I have a train to catch this morning and I'd better not miss it - I am starting a new job and I am due for orientation and training at headquarters.

Of course, Carson knows all this. He also knows precisely my sleep patterns, how long I need to shower and get dressed, real-time traffic conditions to the train station and how the weather will affect them, and so he has adjusted my wake up time to optimise my rest - and make sure I don't miss my train. And, having duly reminded me to fill the coffee machine last night, he has started a fresh pot that I will be able to sip while I browse the news clippings he selected for me.

The taxi shows up at my door exactly one minute after Carson intimated me to leave the house (and to not forget my raincoat). Carson was - of course - tracking its arrival in real-time. I get to the train station mumbling about these seven minutes I have to spare but Carson is notifying me that my train is departing from platform J - the farthest one, which takes six minutes to reach.

So typical of state-operated monopolies, the railway company is not really connected. I thus need to dutifully order breakfast from the steward. At least airlines know what I want to eat before I board... but thankfully Carson is able to scan the QR codes on the menu and knows my calorie intake. I would hate to have to enter this manually, or - even worse - to not have the treadmill in the hotel gym tonight adjust automatically to what I need to burn! Of course when I am home it's so much easier, the fridge and the pantry have all these sensors that measure which items are consumed. Not only does it enable Carson to restock in real-time, I also get suggestions for meals based both on what I like and what's available.

Did I already mention I was starting a new job today? I need to let my network know! This is something I handle myself, Carson doesn't help me there. It's fairly complicated: I have my professional network to think about, my friends, my family. I also need to make sure my profile remains up to date. 15 years ago, that would have meant updating at least fuve profiles, post statuses or updates to as many networks. Thankfully, they have all merged over the years and The Network knows that my relatives do not need the same type of information as my former colleagues or work acquaintances.

In the past, starting a new job would have entailed spending hours with HR and admin, filling out a stack of paperwork for payroll, healthcare, traveller profile, and more. Thankfully, all I need to do today is authorise them to request this information (and only this information!) from Carson. Not only is this faster, it also ensures that the information is always up to date for whoever needs it (and is authorised to get it - guess what, my insurance company does not get access).

Carson is my PDM - my Personal Data Manager. Unlike Carson, the trusted butler of Downton Abbey, it does not bring me coffee in the morning, nor does it iron my shirts. But it turns on the coffee machine at the exact right time and makes sure I am home when the laundry is delivered.

Carson manages all my personal data, and all the services that are connected. What used to be called the "quantified self" has dramatically expanded with the rise of connected objects. Today, everything in my home, in my office, in public spaces, has an IP address that carries either a RFID tag or a QR code, or is wirelessly connected to the internet. Everywhere I go, everything I do, every food I eat, every person I meet, Carson knows about it. Carson makes decisions based on my historical patterns, expected behaviour, and external factors. It books my train ticket when I need to go to headquarters, orders the taxi and makes sure I wake up. It orders groceries for that dinner I am hosting next week, taking into account the food allergies and preferences of my guests.

Is Carson software, device, app, service? It does not matter. Carson is in the cloud. It's always there when I need it. And it knows everything about me.

Well, not everything... I still have this bottle of 25-year-old Cognac from my great-uncle that is not connected. Carson doesn't know when I have a sip from it. And it probably goes bananas when it does not understand why my sleep pattern changes, or why I have gained a pound... but that's my personal space!