Friday, July 11, 2008

MIT Professor predicts the future

Hollywood could learn a lot from ex-MIT professor Philip Greenspun.

In 1997, Greenspun wrote a book (actually two), that predicted how important data mobility would be in all facets of business. Here's a lengthy excerpt from one chapter:

The late Ken Phillips, a professor at New York University, figured this out in the late 1970s when he set up a massive computer network for Citibank. He would ask folks what they thought AT&T's most valuable asset was. People would try to estimate the cost of undersea cables versus the fiber links that crisscross the continent. Ken laughed.

"AT&T gives you long distance service so they know which companies you call and how long you spend on the phone with each one. AT&T gives you a credit card so they know what you buy. AT&T owns Cellular One so, if you have a cell phone, they know where you drive and where you walk. By combining these data, AT&T can go to a travel agency and say ‘For $100 each, we can give you the names of people who drive by your office every day, who've called airline 800 numbers more than three times in the last month, who have not called any other travel agencies, and who have spent more than $10,000 on travel in the last year.'"

Ken was ahead of his time.
Indeed he was.

Corporations call this mix-and-matching of data "business intelligence."

Omnifocus just released task management software that uses the iPhone's built-in GPS tracking to show you tasks relevant to where you are. Near the grocery store? Don't forget to pick up these items on your shopping list. Near the bank? Don't forget to make that deposit.

How can filmmakers, both Hollywood studios and indie producers, use such technology? How about by letting people know when they are near the site of a screening? How about letting people know when they are near the location where you filmed a scene? How about observing the geographic traffic patterns of your target audience to determine the best venue for a screening? I don't know. There are probably lots of cool ideas that I can't even imagine. Remember Minority Report's constant retinal scans and personalized advertising? Spooky.

Greenspun would say that this technology is long overdue, and set to take personalization to new levels. What do you think? Post a comment below, and share your ideas!

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