Understanding mood is the next task for the Internet of Things

Vocal intonation, a kind of vocal pitch, can be used to find out what you really think of things. And could be the next step in the Internet of Things.

Eye looking at data and analytics
Credit: Thinkstock

A few years ago, I can remember the disbelief from friends of the rapidly appearing slew of free internet services being bandied around. Facebook was free. Google Maps was free. "How can that be?" We all thought. "Why don't the sites cost anything?"

The smart ones delved in a bit deeper and found the answer: analytics.

We all know the answer now. It took a few years, but pretty much the entire world now knows that the answer is simply that free isn't free. There's no such thing as a free lunch. We are in fact selling our souls for free Facebook and its ilk.

Trade

That unfettered gift bag of online collectanea is provided through a trade: you give the online service insight into your behavior, which it can sell, and it'll give you free stuff, to keep you performing more behavioral actions. In other words, analytics.

Analytics, of the kind used on the Internet, hasn't really changed all that much since the inception of the web. It's become more sophisticated, but the majority of it still only really tracks behavior. That might be about to change, though.

Emotional analytics

Some think that the next step in marketing analytics is to try to track emotions better. Understanding moods and attitudes provides insight into personality, and that could be a next dimension in marketing.

Behavior is one dimension, but what people are feeling when, before, or after they do something could be considered a second dimension, and it could be useful.

Vocal intonation

Israel-based Beyond Verbal reckons that the way to do this is through tracking vocal intonation. Not merely monitoring what people say, as some are approaching emotions analytics.

Vocal intonation is the rise and fall of the voice in speaking. It's a kind of pitch.

Beyond Verbal says that by decoding intonation, rather than taking what people say at face value, you don't need to bother to try to understand the words people write, or what they say, because what's more important is how people say things.

It sees core uses for its product as being market research – such as what people really think of a concept, brand and product – and wellness, like spotting how people feel during a fitness regimen.

Security could be another vertical.

Clearly, if it works, it has broad uses in deciphering what people really think when they say something. "Have a nice day," is an example it uses.

IoT

And in fact one could see multiple Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Just about any tech you currently talk at, like say Google Now or Windows' Cortana, could be used to not only find out what you say you want, but also want you really want.

Mood could also be communicated like that too. Bryan T. Biniak, ex-Nokia and now of Microsoft, sees the future connected car as something that should monitor mood.

He said, in a talk that I attended and wrote about, unrelated to Beyond Verbal and emotion analytics, that Microsoft's connected car should advise family members of the mood of the driver at the same time that it advised them of a time of arrival, for example.

You could see Beyond Verbal's ideas fitting right in, if consumers accept the idea.

However, that's not a certainty. The Economist recently wrote, about Beyond Verbal's likelihood of getting accepted, that "people are bound to be repelled by the prospect of companies and devices tracking their emotions."

A good idea?

However, acceptance might not be the biggest problem emotion analytics faces. A future exchange with your smartphone voice control might go something like this:

"Hey smartphone, how long will it take me to get to the store and pick up the milk?" Answer: "Be honest with yourself, buddy, the football game is on at the bar."

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