The rate at which technology is progressing has an effect on us all, even those who don't particularly care for the newest developments.
It is predicted that within the next 15 years, the vast majority of the world will be connected to the Internet via their smartphones. Wi-Fi networks are being established in even the poorest countries to get everyone online. In a world where everyone is online the possibilities are endless, but so are the threats.
The invasiveness permitted by the digital world cannot be underestimated. One of the effects of the apps era is that we are virtually carrying our friends and acquaintances around with us in our pockets. Through various applications, you can see exactly where they are, what they are doing, how they are feeling, what they like. In the wrong hands, that information is incredibly valuable to people who want to target others for their own nefarious purposes.
When people know where you are, then they also know where you are not. If you are away on a long holiday, criminals could use this information to target your house.
But more than just monitoring you on social media, criminals are also targeting more sensitive information on your phone, such as your banking details. In 2012, global online shopping exceeded US$1 trillion for the first time. Online has proven itself as a reliable shopping channel to access anything from anywhere in the world. A subsequent report has found that online shopping is migrating from personal computers to mobile phones.
However, new technology also offers new ways to keep safe. In a country like South Africa, mobile technology has the ability to offer an extra barrier against many of the country's social ills, including hijackings, violent crime and assault. Because we have unique challenges in our country, there is an opportunity to create unique solutions to meet these challenges with the introduction of appropriate applications.
Humans often do not recognise that they are entering a hazardous situation before it is too late. Applications that use certain algorithms can be turned into early warning mechanisms. The data is there; all that is needed is a device to mine that data and turn it into useful information.
For instance, your smartphone could identify that you are alone, you are away from where you usually are, you are an a high-risk area, it picks up from your smart watch that your heart rate is elevated, and you say a safe word. All these elements combine to create an alert and your app sends a message to the police and lets them know where you are and that there is a distress.
This is just one example of technology that is already with us, applied in a new way to keep you safe.
Greg Forbes is the managing director and founder of Lion's Wing Brand Communications (www.lionswing.co.za). His experience includes almost every industry within the broader marketing and communications sector, from public affairs, investor relations and journalism, to media relations, digital communications, media strategy and advertising. You can email Greg at , follow him on Twitter at @Greg_Forbes or call him on +27 (0) 11 027 0780.
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