In the September 14, 2009 issue of Business Week, Stephen Baker and Arik Hesseldahl pen an interesting article about Lifelogs. The bulk of the article is about Gordon Bell, a 75-year-old computer science legend who works for Microsoft Research in Silicon Valley, California (yes, the Gordon Bell of Digital Equipment Corp and Carnegie Mellon fame, and who as Chair of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Cross Agency Committee probably had a lot more to do with the creation of the internet than former Senator and Vice President Al Gore). Gordon Bell is also the creator of Bell’s Law, a much more esoteric computer science law dealing with classes of computers than Moore’s Law, but which uses Moore’s Law relating to computational power of computer chips to explain how classes of computers are formed every ten years and how former classes of computers evolve and/or die.
For the past ten years, Gordon Bell has been creating a Lifelog of, what else, his life. He wears a camera called a SenseCam which takes photos every few minutes or whenever the light changes indicating that the wearer has moved into a new area. Bell also takes pictures himself and records his phone conversations. He maps the area where he walks and scans all papers that he encounters that are worth saving. He has recently co-authored a book with Jim Gemmell about his experiences entitled Total Recall: How the e-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything. Bell argues that with the digitization of phone calls (cell phones), pictures (digital cameras, still and video), the internet, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, that a lot of people are digitizing parts of their life, just not in a collective organized fashion.
Baker and Hesseldahl go on to describe a few of the commercial products available on the market for Lifelogging. Zeo is a personal sleep coach that records the quality of your sleep each night and gives you tips for improving it ($399). Bodybugg is a device that counts calories consumed and energy burned and is worn on an armband to keep it convenient. Data is uploaded to the web daily. Livescribe is a digital pen that turns notes and sketches into image files. It can also record meetings and lectures ($149-199). Scansnap scanners by Fujitsu are scanners that digitize documents and make them searchable through text recognition software ($300-1500). Evernote is a free service that lets you store and tag just about anything that can be digitized into a system that they claim lets you find any content in less than five minutes. The basic service is free with a 40MB per month upload limit. Premium service is $45 per year with a 500MB per month upload limit. Evernote has 1.5 million users already.
The authors conclude the article with a few benefits and detriments of becoming a Lifelogger. Data privacy concerns are at the top of the detriments list whether it might be the courts for criminal proceedings or parties to a civil lawsuit where one party could produce a tape of a cocktail party conversation.
Baker and Hesseldahl also note that large corporations are using digital tools like these to record actions of workers to use for training others how to do certain jobs.
I enjoy reading about technologies like these and how different people utilize them. Some of these would be useful for educators. Imagine the learning opportunities available if one of the professors in APUS’ Emergency and Disaster Management department wore a Sensecam during a rescue operation in a hurricane or other natural disaster. Obviously, there will be privacy concerns of other parties, and Bell’s book suggests that there will have to be protocols. Nonetheless, I am intrigued and while I’m not about to become a Lifelogger anytime soon, I might investigate the scanner and the Evernote service.