The Washington Post

Beyond the ‘two revolutions’

A person with an iPad takes a photograph of a large flag as demonstrators with 'Occupy Wall Street' occupy Zuccotti Park on Sept. 30 in New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

In his Sunday column, Thomas Friedman outlined “two revolutions” occurring in the United States — one on Wall Street, the other in Silicon Valley:

While Wall Street is being rattled by a social revolution, Silicon Valley is being by transformed by another technology revolution — one that is taking the world from connected to hyperconnected and individuals from empowered to superempowered. It is the biggest leap forward in the I.T. revolution since the mainframe computer was replaced by desktops and the Web. It is going to change everything about how companies and societies operate.

But what if there was a point at which the two revolutions converged?

Friedman writes that the I.T. revolution is fueled by a “convergence of social media,” cheap wireless access, the proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones, and the transfer of data to “the cloud.” The ability to transfer data to and from the cloud using a mobile device, writes Friedman, makes mobile phones and tablets “incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks.”

The cloud is not the only thing that stands to empower these devices and, by extension, their users. A change in the approach to device security and responsiveness is a field of technological innovation that could change the I.T. landscape as well. On Wednesday, we caught up with Intel’s Chief Technology Officer and Director of Intel Labs, Justin Rattner, who discussed an innovation from the device-side of the equation. What if, when you picked up your mobile device, it could automatically know you were the one picking up that device and no one else?

This isn’t retinal scanning, and it’s not finger-print recognition. Rather, it’s the reading of a person’s unique micro-tremors. “They’re just like fingerprints,” said Rattner during an interview at The Brookings Institution . “Nobody’s tremors look the same.”

This would allow you to serve as a mobile device’s human pin number. Imagine being able pick up a tablet device in a store — much like you would a shopping cart — and, once you come in contact with the device, having it display your available holiday gift budget adjusted for annual savings, shopping list, and in-store deals. Then, using all of that cloud-stored data, imagine if that tablet could create a series of lists so you can see what you can buy within your budget while still meeting some, if not all, of the pie-in-the-sky demands of your children’s “Dear Santa”-list. It may seem like science fiction, but this reality may not be far off, and it involves more than creating a new social network or two.

The ability to personalize any mobile device with access to the cloud at any time is a fascinating concept, in light of both the I.T. and Wall Street revolutions as Friedman has outlined them. After all, if users could have real-time access to their financial data at point-of-sale, that could, in turn, empower them to save more. And, if we all saved more, that could increase the national savings rate, which could help catalyze a national, and perhaps even global, economic rebound. It may be a long series of what-ifs, but the end result is something Wall Street, its occupiers and Silicon Valley could all celebrate.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Intel’s Rattner on what’s next in tablet technology

Wadhwa | We need innovators to fill the black holes

Creating jobs in the Arab world

Basulto | Is the U.S. economy overweight?

Emi Kolawole is the editor-in-residence at Stanford University's, where she works on media experimentation and design.



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