16 May, 2015

Wearables and the coffee shop experience

I heard an interesting article last week on Radio 4's Today programme about so-called 'wearables' -- wearable technology such as smart watches. This article covered the uses to which such wearable devices can be put -- transferring our personal data to other devices in order to make our lives easier, for instance. The example given, which really made my ears prick up, was that your smart watch might be used to transfer your personal beverage preferences to the computer at your local coffee shop, with the result that your coffee would be ready and waiting for you on your arrival. No need to queue. No need to take time to decide whether or not you'd like to try the coffee of the week.  No need whatsoever to speak to another human being. Simply grab and go -- in the most literal sense.

The general gist of the Today programme discussion covered the ethics and data protection aspects of such practice -- is it safe or desirable for people's personal data to be transmitted in this way? Research showed that opinion on this issue is divided, with, perhaps predictably, the very young (those already most comfortable with mobile devices, social media, etc.) voicing the least concern.

But my interest lay in the social -- or lack of social -- aspects of such practice in relation to the coffee shop experience. I actively enjoy going into a coffee shop, standing in a queue, observing the people around me, interacting with the barista to order my coffee (pass the time of day, have a joke...). I can't imagine anything worse than grabbing my coffee and leaving without any social interaction whatsoever.

Am I unusual in this, I wonder? Or am I one of many set-in-their-ways, middle-aged people who feel just the same? (And, as a largely irrelevant aside, who takes a word like 'wearables' seriously anyway?!)

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