Anticipatory Systems – Smart Phone Penetration Expands This Field

Anticipatory systems as we define them are artificial intelligence computer constructs designed to predict events and then anticipate how the user might wish to act.  These are not strictly “predictive systems” which may forecast an event or a condition (for example a stock price), since predictive systems do not suggest an action.

Anticipatory systems in some form have been used for some time, and one of the best examples is in the systems management field.  Software monitors servers, networks and loads, identifies conditions that might require action (for example predictive disk failure), and alerts the server managers that such a problem has occurred.

The wide penetration of smart phones has expanded this opportunity immensely and true anticipatory systems are beginning to emerge.  The best example to date is Google Now – available on most Android phones.  Using locational information and search history, Google Now can show a user information relevant to them at a given point in time, such as the weather, calendar related events, travel time to or from work, current stock quotes and local shopping locations.

We suggest that this is just the beginning.  Let’s take a scenario.  You have a flight booked to leave your home airport at 2pm.  Your phone knows this from a calendar entry.  It monitors travel time to the airport, and alerts you when to leave and suggests best routes as you travel.  In the meanwhile, it checks you in to your flight, and prepares your boarding information as you approach the airport.  When you arrive, it suggests where to park and advises you which gate to go to and how long the security lines are.  It also suggest where to buy a snack before you board the plane.

None of this is science fiction, and most elements of this story are available right now in bits and pieces.  Integrating these disparate information sources will be a significant new opportunity within mobile software.

Are scenarios like the above a bit creepy? No problem, you can turn it all off and miss your flight!

For the mathematically minded, a fascinating book on the subject is: “Anticipatory Systems:  Philosophical, Mathematical, and Methodological Foundations” by Robert Rosen.




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