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The Image is in Control

As most of you know, I spend a lot of my time tracking the trends in the worlds of telecom, IT and media technologies. I recently had a conversation with a friend that really drove home the relevance and importance of today’s apps-driven economy, and I thought I’d share it with you.

A new iPhone user, she had recently downloaded a compelling app that had been recommended to her. The app takes control of the PC’s Webcam and converts the home PC into a security system by using the webcam to detect motion in the home whenever no one is supposed to be there. “All I had to do was orient the webcam so that it had a view of the house’s main living area, and the application would theoretically do the rest.” Little did she know.

Several weeks later, her husband was on a business trip in California (they live in Atlanta); she was in Germany. “I was in a business meeting, when suddenly my iPhone started vibrating,” she explains. “Thinking I had a message, I pulled out the phone, but instead of looking at my e-mail interface, I was staring into the faces of three guys who were diligently trying to pry open the sliding glass door in my back yard. In fact, while one of them was trying to get the pry bar into the door jamb, the other two had their faces pressed against the glass, looking directly into the webcam.”

She quickly left the meeting and called the Atlanta police. “This is where the story gets pretty funny,” she laughs. “I told the officer who answered the phone that I wasn’t hoe, but that they needed to dispatch a car to my house because three guys were trying to break in. When they asked me how I knew that, having told them that I wasn’t home, I explained that I was watching a video of them on my iPhone. They were fine with that until I made the mistake of telling them that I was in Germany, at which point they hung up on me, thinking I was a crank caller.” instead of calling back to the police, she called her next-door neighbor and explained the situation, asking her to call the police and tell them that her neighbor’s house was being burglarized. She did, and based on the recorded video that the webcam captured, they caught the three thieves later that day. Cost of the app? 99 cents.

The story goes on; within a week, my friend had told the story to the app developer, who told it to Apple, who in turn told it to the media, and within days the calls were coming in for my friend and her husband to appear on various programs, including at least one major national news show.

This is a classic example of the power shift that is the subject of my newest book, “Giving Up Control: Strategies for Success in the User-Generated Economy.” Notice that there was no requirement for the services offered by a professional security company like ADT or Burns, yet my friend was instantly notified of the intrusion threat, in spite of the fact that she was several thousand miles and any number of time zones away from her home. And because the application begins to record what it is seeing the instant it is activated by movement, it also provides a record of what it’s seeing, clearly valuable to law enforcement. Yet another example of visual media changing the world. What’s not to love? 

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