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Gundars Kaupins: How sensors could support Boise’s tourist industry

An out-of-town visitor rides a bike on the Greenbelt and approaches the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. A sensor nearby alerts the biker’s cellphone that this monument is 15 seconds away. The biker stops to view an app that provides an audio summary of the parts of the monument the bicyclist walks by.

As the bicyclist wanders north of the memorial, the app states that the Boise Public Library is nearby. Just touch the “Library” icon to find out more.

The bicyclist finds a Greenbelt health app and continues down the trail. Every tenth of a mile, the app checks the bicyclist’s heartbeat and temperature.

Is this fantasy? No. In our increasingly technological world, such virtual tourism will become more common. For example, Santander, Spain, already has 18,000 sensors to show visitors tourist attractions nearby.

Who needs to Google “Boise + top restaurants”? Boise-related apps can provide one-stop online travel services to find restaurants. While there’s nothing new or exciting about that, future apps can reserve a table, show the menu, set the table lighting and load the tablet on the table with Boise tourist information based on your preferences. Parking at the ramp nearby can be reserved.

These stories are about the Tourist Internet of Things in which every Boise monument, Julia Davis Park picnic table, Bogus Basin weather monitor, street lamp and restaurant table can be connected to the Internet to inform tourists about Boise benefits. Even people can be linked. Through radio frequency identification tags (RFIDs), amusement parks can detect how many people are lined up for certain rides.

Just think of being in Nampa on a business trip. You will be staying in a hotel in Boise. From Nampa, you can set your Boise hotel room’s temperature, make coffee, get the shower ready, turn on the TV to your favorite channel and open the blinds at the time you desire. Just hope no one is sleeping in the room when the TV turns on and the blinds open.

The open blinds can be a problem for hotels that lose control of their rooms and a problem for tourists who might lose privacy. Sensors can not only spot your location but can potentially lead you to tourist spots you prefer based on data you provided in the cloud. Sensors can see your face to determine gender, age, race and other characteristics that are associated with different tourist spots. How would you like a front desk clerk to know all about you by using Google Glass or viewing a nearby computer screen? Your face could instantly be read by sensors and your identity determined.

The easiest ways to keep the sensors from running (or ruining) your life would be to switch your notification status and location off, turn off your cellphone and (an original thought) not have it with you. The latter might be like trying to swim without water.

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