Thursday, June 12, 2008

Who Said Microsoft Were Control Freaks?

Imagine entering a theatre or cinema and your phone being automatically reconfigured to vibrate or on entering a Hospital the device is effectively switched off, or in galleries and museums or at a pop concert the video and photography is disabled. Microsoft has filed for a patent (patent application 2008/125,102) on technology it feels could address such situations by what it refers to as a "digital manners policy," or DMP.

The patent abstract states:

The present invention includes methods and technologies for defining and administering device manners policy ("DMP"), propagating DMP, reception and recognition of, and compliance with DMP. Such policy may be used to communicate to various mobile and other devices the "manners" with which compliance is expected or required. Similar to some of the social manners honoured among people, such as with "no smoking" or "employees only" zones, "no swimming" or "no flash photography" areas, and scenarios for "please wash your hands" or "no talking out loud", devices may recognize and comply with analogous "device manners" policy.

DMP-equipped devices would be enabled to receive and apply DMP "instructions" from a short-ranged and/or physically restricted broadcast device.

There is often a long wait between patent and deployment and this one obviously has many hurdles to jump both in terms of interoperability, device adoption and not least privacy. It is frightening that the technology in theory exists to switch the lights off just as we are all just being switched on. Social responsibilities and manners are one thing but this could be a nightmare in the hands of overzealous or misguided people.

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