That smartphone you carry around is a box full of sensors.
Those sensors are just sitting there doing nothing, or performing mundane tasks like giving you turn-by-turn directions or turning off your screen when you're yakking on the phone.
But what if you could use phone sensors to their full potential?
Tiny instruments inside your phone can tell where you are on the surface of the planet. Sensors can also detect and identify nearby Wi-Fi routers and Bluetooth devices. They can measure light and sound, as well as motion, direction and "attitude" (the position of the phone -- which way it's facing). They can tell if something is near the phone or not. Some phones can detect ambient temperature and other environmental facts.
Smart software with access to all the data gathered by these sensors, combined with an Internet full of information, could figure out all kinds of things about you.
Everybody knows that big companies like Google, Apple and Facebook want to harvest cellphone-generated data and use it to serve up virtual personal assistants with a side order of contextual advertising.
This vision of the future puts your phone's sensor data in the hands of megacorporations. But what if you were in control of it?
What is the quantified fife?
The "quantified self" movement uses technology to measure your biology, for the most part -- your heart rate, sleeping patterns, physical and mental performance and other data.
The problem with the "quantified self" is that many people don't want to think of themselves as, or treat themselves like, machines.
The "lifelogging" movement is about capturing everything that happens to you, mostly with a camera, for a literally photographic memory, as well as capturing your communication with others.
The problem with "lifelogging" is that in order to capture your life, you have to photograph and index conversations with everyone you encounter, which feels like an invasion of their privacy.
The quantified life is similar to both the "quantified self" notion and "lifelogging" in that it involves the use of technology to gather highly individual data in order to improve your life.
But instead of hacking your body and monitoring your vital signs, sleep patterns and brain waves as those in the quantified self movement advocate, and instead of taking pictures of everything you look at, as some lifelogging fans do, the quantified life approach simply involves the passive gathering of cellphone data in the background and then using algorithms to make sense of it all.
A free new app lets you quantify your life
A Silicon Valley startup called Alohar Mobile offers a free iOS and Android app called Placeme that's designed to gather available phone sensor data and upload it to the company's cloud-based servers.