UV radiation levels will be high, the smartwatch we have been testing warned at noon of Sinulog Sa Kabataan Sa Lalawigan last Saturday. The data was processed by AccuWeather and detected by the weather app integrated into my wife’s phone and from there, pushed into the smartwatch she was wearing.
That bit of information influenced how we went about going from one place to another in downtown Cebu City to cover the Sinulog: staying on the shade and I being amenable to carrying an umbrella. I made a mental note of bringing sunblock.
That piece of weather alert illustrates the mind-boggling processing capabilities we have in today’s world of cloud technology and increasing mobility.
In the cloud, on the go
The ultraviolet or UV index alerts people on the levels of solar radiation. AccuWeather, a global company that specializes in weather information, explains that “many factors go in to calculating the index for a particular area on a given day, including the elevation of the location, cloud coverage for that day, the amount of ozone in the atmosphere over that area and skin’s sensitivity to UV radiation.” The scale, the company said, runs from 0 to 10 with 0 denoting the lowest risk of exposure that happens at night.
The notification we got last Saturday was triggered by a phone setting in Asus ZenUI for weather alerts every time the UV index reaches level 8. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says in its website that a UV index reading of 8 to 10 “means very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure.”
The EPA warns people to “take extra precautions because unprotected skin and eyes will be damaged and can burn quickly.” Among its recommendations are for people to minimize sun exposure, seek shade when outdoors and wear protective clothing, wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every two hours, watch out for bright surfaces like sand and water, which reflect UV and increase exposure.
Weather, traffic, news
AccuWeather crunches the complex data points that come with weather forecasting and then unleashes a torrent of publicly-available data that are rendered into bite-size, actionable and easy to understand alerts on mobile devices like the one we received. The system knew where we were and served that timely and contextual reminder.
And that’s just the weather. Such complex and mobile systems already exist for traffic with Waze and for our daily lives, Google Now. Waze takes crowd-sourcing into the mix, getting data from phones running it to calculate traffic speed, improve map layouts and learn about road and turn directions.
Google Now, for me, is indispensable. Throughout the day, it sends alerts on what the system deems are things I should know like when to leave for an appointment, taking into account where I am and the traffic conditions of the roads leading to that place. It also serves weather and news information.
And systems like these will get even more powerful, fueled by the steadfast march to faster and cheaper processing determined by Moore’s Law.
I recently got access into Wordsmith, the platform that writes earnings stories for the Associated Press (AP) and sports recaps for Yahoo!. The system is surprisingly accessible to configure. With the service, you’re setting up your own digital wordsmith, a robot-writing system that devours such data as sports scores, sales reports and earnings figures and turns out AP-quality news reports in the time it takes you to say “rewrite.” And all these without having to invest millions in a data center and a team to configure algorithms.
These systems already tackle health issues, with automated heart rate monitoring and physical activities tracking. Google Fit, for examples, tracks how many steps you take in a day and whether it is by walking or running.
Bargains alert, ambient news
It is starting to cover commerce. We’ll be intelligently alerted of bargains, taking into account where we are and the things we are considering buying. It will definitely cover tourism and history, our startup has projects that tackle this and we have a nascent system for information delivery.
Platforms now include news but this will be much more encompassing in the next few years. News platforms will take into account not just our personal data but will be embedded into our daily lives as a constant stream of information we get in our multiple devices throughout the day as we go about working or traveling. It’s like having a newsroom producing content just for you, a Bloomberg terminal in your watch.
It will be a redefined “news,” with a new set of Ws and H, who you are is determined by data accessible via social media accounts, where you are is determined by GPS, what is grabbed by publicly accessible data feeds, when are data nuggets from online and mobile calendars and why and how are connections of historical data stitched into a narrative through meta information.