Next Generation Smartphone Services and Consumer Privacy

The rapid uptake of the next generation of smartphone hardware is providing the platform for new and innovative services. A modern smartphone ships with a complex array of sensors that are capable of pinpointing the phone's location, tracking the rate at which it is moving, and taking high quality digital images of its environment.

Deployment of these phones along with improvements in Internet connectivity and ready availability of cloud computing resources provide ingredients for a period of rapid innovation. 

For example, services are being developed that use the capabilities of this hardware to change the way we search and the way we can choose to monitor and treat a range of medical ailments.

Sensors included in smartphones have significant biomedical applications and could lead to a change to the way health services are delivered.  The latest issue of the MIT technology review includes an article, The Measured Life, that discusses the technology and approaches behind this change. Early adopters are using sensors, including those in modern smartphones to monitor sleep patterns, and attributes such as blood pressure and heart rate on a real-time basis. Looking forward, self-monitoring by consumers could play an important role in a fundamental transformation of health services. The Economist’s Schumpeter Column discusses the importance of such technology to the future of health care in the UK.

The wave of innovation flowing from smartphones will be beneficial to society, but leading technology providers must recognise the need to ensure that the information that is collected from phones and aggregated in cloud services is managed responsibly, and in a transparent and easily-understood manner.

It is with transparency in mind that we recently announced that we would share the relevant sections of the software code we use to collect information for the location-based services provided through Windows Phone 7. The source code clearly describes both the type and amount of data we collect so that it can be independently reviewed by interested parties. This announcement is part of our commitment to consumer privacy in Windows Phone 7.

By Dr Mark Rees, National Technology Officer, Microsoft New Zealand

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