One of the things that technology has been enabling us to do lately is to track all sorts of things. The way technology has evolved and the emergence of smartphones has made us become impatient people who always want to be aware of what is happening around us.
We can now track packages, friends, news, prices, messages, the status of applications, transportation, physical activity and even the pizza we ordered from Domino’s. Since these things are available for us to know, we have grown increasingly impatient, always waiting for notifications and immediate feedback.
The first part of this blog post will explore current methods for tracking things. The second part will focus on the ultimate form of tracking: Face ++, a face recognition software used to track humans.
What we track now
In the past, people did not have the means to know the whereabouts of their friends at all times or whether someone received and read their letter or whether their application was being processed by the university they applied to. Thanks to technology, we are able to track all those things and more. Here are some examples:
1. Tracking Packages
This is probably the form of tracking that has been around the longest. When we order something online, we tend to want to know when our package is going to arrive. Thanks to scanning technology, we can track all the towns and cities it passes through before it gets to its final destination.
2. Tracking Friends
There are multiple apps on our smartphones that allow us to track the location and activities of our friends and acquaintances:
- The ‘Find my Friends’ app for iPhones is specifically designed to track friends and family so you can know their whereabouts in case there is an emergency or you need to find them urgently.
- Snapchat and Instagram stories allow you to know what your friends are doing if they decide to post on their stories and use geotags to show their location.
- The Snap Map shows where your contacts’ Bitmojis are since the last time they opened the app (if they are not on ‘ghost’ mode).
3. Tracking News
There are many news apps that allow us to track stories. I like how the News app for iPhones sends me notifications now and then of important things that are happening around me.
4. Tracking Prices
Now there are apps and websites that enable us to track the price of something and get notifications when the price drops or gets higher. I like to use ‘Hopper’ or Google Flights to track the price of flights over time because I get notifications every time it fluctuates in any direction.
5. Tracking Messages and Online Activity
When we used text messages (I mean SMS texts) many years ago, we never knew whether the message was received or read. Now, Facebook and WhatsApp allow us to see who receives and reads our messages and how long ago they were online in the app
Texting is very different now than a few years ago because texts go unanswered for hours, days and even weeks if they are not super urgent.
6. Tracking the Status of Applications
When we send in an application for a school, a job or for immigration forms, we can usually check the status of such application online. In the past, you would usually get a letter or a phone call notifying you of the result, without knowing the different stages of your application (e.g. received, processing, processed, accepted, denied etc.).
7. Tracking Transportation
Many cities offer real-time tracking for their trains and buses. A good example is the Rider app that we use for the BC Comm Ave and Newton Buses. This is very useful because it tells us when our bus or train will be arriving and we can plan accordingly (although there are always glitches in these systems).
8. Tracking Physical Activity and Food Intake
Thanks to all the apps available out there, we can track steps, sleep, running distance, calories eaten, calories burned etc. on a daily basis. I personally don’t own a Fitbit but I do like to use the Health app of my iPhone to track my steps and sleep. I do have a friend who has a Fitbit and when she doesn’t hit 12,000 steps, she’ll start walking around to achieve her goal.
9. Tracking Food
Domino’s and other fast food chains enable users to see the progress of the food they’ve ordered. The Domino’s tracker even tells you the names of the people involved in the process!
The future: tracking whoever, whenever, wherever?
Now that we have covered the main ways in which things can be tracked now, I want to bring your attention to a new software that has been developed by a startup in China called Face++.
Face++ ‘s face recognition software is the ultimate definition of tracking in China. For those of you who are familiar with the book ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggers, it is very similar to the world Mae lives in.
This software is already being used in China to authorize payments, provide access to buildings and to track down criminals. Once your face is scanned by one of many surveillances cameras, it can be added to a database where it is stored until it is needed to make a transaction or to grant you access to a building.
It is basically impossible for someone to pretend to be someone else by using a picture or because there is a “liveliness” test that requires the person to move and speak while the app is scanning them.
Local Chinese governments are using this type of facial recognition technology to track down suspected criminals by using video surveillance cameras which are present in many areas of the country. Right now, China has 170 million surveillance cameras placed around the country but it aims to have 570 million by 2020.
This type of technology can be used in China because the country has a very specific view towards surveillance and privacy. Unlike other countries, China has a large and centralized database of people’s ID cards so it is easier for them to track people down.
Do you think this type of tracking is too much? Or will other countries follow China’s example to keep their citizens safer?