A recently-granted Apple patent seems to lay out some of Cupertino's thinking about the future of Siri and the Internet of Things: and it's spooky.
Essentially, Apple sees the device you carry as acting as the interface between wetware like you and me, and the Internet of Things, represented by sensors in the home or office.
According to Patently Apple, which has undertaken the daunting task of unpacking the claims in US Patent 8,677,377, Apple's aim is to make Siri – or something like it – not just something Theodore Twombly falls in love with, but the centre of the household.
That's no light task. Apple's patent attorneys were hard at work on this one, doing their best to obfuscate the rendering of the patent claims:
"1. A method for building an automated assistant, the method comprising: interfacing a service-oriented architecture comprising a plurality of services to an execution environment comprising an active ontology, wherein the active ontology models a domain and comprises a logical arrangement of a plurality of active processing elements, wherein each active processing element is configured to receive at least one fact relating to the modeled domain and to perform at least one action responsive to at least one received fact; and registering at least one of the plurality of services for use in the domain, by specifying at least one of: one or more active processing elements that the at least one of the plurality of services can accept; and one or more active processing elements that the at least one of the plurality of services cannot accept; wherein: at least one of said interfacing and said registering is performed using a processor; and the active ontology filters requests for services to the at least one of the plurality of services in accordance with the one or more active processing elements specified by the at least one of the plurality of services."
However, this image from the patent helps:
Siri knows where you are
It suggests not only that Siri would act as a reminder that you need to take medications – a perfectly mundane notion really – but that it would be interfaced with sensors throughout the home. Hence the assistant's knowledge that the user is in the kitchen or sitting at the dining table, or in the bathroom.
The assistant – described as an “active ontology” in the patent – “is also in communication with a plurality of sensors ... that are distributed throughout the modelled domain and are adapted to convey observed facts relating to the user's behaviour (e.g., "the user is in the kitchen"; "the user is in the dining room"; "the user is in the bathroom"; etc.) to the higher-level concepts ... for appropriate processing.”
And in some not-too-distant future, if the world ever spawns another Edward Snowden, we'll find that NSA spooks didn't just record your phone calls, e-mails, social media use and browsing, they'll also have built an even bigger data centre to analyse your movements in your home. ®