Domestic Robot Smog – a progress report

Anne Eisenberg writes an informative article in last Sunday’s New York Times entitled Preflight Turbulence for Commercial Drones. She reminds us that drone airspace rules are supposed to be in place by 2015, and that will change our near-ground environment as the commercial use of drones begins to blossom: farming monitors, real estate tours, bridge and highway inspection, construction survey and mine mapping are some of the applications Eisenberg lists. The price point of drones will be so low commercially- in some cases $15,000 or less- that we may see far more airborne activity than ever before, and this can upturn the way your neighborhood walk sounds and looks. But two other application directions that Eisenberg mentions move from robot smog over to true, personal intrusion: government surveillance and consumer behavior monitoring. On the law enforcement side, our government has not yet constructed rules and limits around drone use; and at the commercial level, drones offer a whole new efficiency for mining your walking patterns and contextual location information, fusing your smartphone and browser activities with physical-world movements. Companies will collect this data because, treated correctly, it will have marketing value, and its acquisition and subsequent sale to dozens of companies will mean ever-greater amounts of behavior information treated as economic currency.  

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