Creepy and Awful or Creepy and Awesome?

Apple made an interesting purchase today:

In a reported $20 million acquisition deal, Apple has bought the “indoor GPS” company WiFiSLAM, according to the Wall Street Journal Digits blog.

The startup, founded by Stanford CS grad & former Google coding intern Joseph Huang, offered a way to let smartphones find their location indoors to an accuracy of less than 10 feet (2.5 m) using the ambient WiFi signals in the environment.


The privacy freaks are going to freak out about this, and I almost don’t blame them. But then I thought of one of my major beefs with having multiple screens, and how Apple’s acquisition could fix it.

A text message comes to me from my wife, who’s also an iOS/OSX user. I happen to have my iPad on my lap, so it pops up in iMessage. I read it and reply. Then I need to make a phone call, and there’s iMessage telling me I have a message from my wife — the one I already read and replied to. Later, when I open my laptop, it pops up yet again in the Notification Center. The next morning when I go back down to the studio to work, that same message is still showing up on my desktop.

And then there’s the noise — the noise, noise noise NOISE! — of all those devices pinging at me to get my attention for that message. There’s a reason I keep everything but my desktop muted all the time, and that’s it.

It’s the same thing with Twitter, where I have to tell each device or computer to mark all those dang DMs as read already. First world problem, I know — but that doesn’t make it any less of a nuisance.


But what if there’s a bit of code in the OS which, using WiFiSLAM or Bluetooth or some combination of things, can tell which device I’m closest to, and then makes that device, and only that device, ding or flash? And then, once I’ve responded Pavlovianly to the stimulus, then reaches out to all the other devices, and tells them to shut up and mark everything read?

What would that be worth? About $20 million, apparently.

ONE MORE THING: Privacy is dead. I still fight my little rearguard actions by installing Do Not Track Plus and staying away from “free” internet services where I’m the product, and all the rest. But I understand in my brain (if not my heart) that privacy is dead.

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