This could the system for anybody who has hit ‘send’ and instantly regretted it. From office gossip gone wrong, to important information going missing, we’ve all been there. You get that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach, and you know that you have cocked up – perhaps big time. If any of the above resonates, then the new email system from American giants AT&T could be just the one for you. They’re developed an email system that can literally ‘self-destruct’ emails – even after they’ve been read.
What we’re referring to is nothing more than a patent application at the moment, but once developed and released, the system could totally redefine the way that emails work, and in doing so, could redefine the workplace.
The core aim is to produce a system that keeps the original sender of the email in control over its distribution, after it has been sent.
This opens up a raft of new features for the sender, such as the ability to insert a lifespan on the email. If the sender chooses, the email can simply disappear after a set time elapses.
The sender will also gain a whole new level of control over the forwarding of their content. For the first time, the original sender will be able to block the forwarding of an email to specific people.
The business applications are nearly endless, and this could change the fear that many companies have around the medium. Lets take a hypothetical example. Apple could be creating a brand new product which is still very much cloak and dagger. An example could be their iWatch, which if rumour has it, is finally coming after all.
Apple is a global company, which utilises a whole raft of manufacturers, assemblers and part suppliers from every corner of the globe. As such, we can safely assume that email is a heavily used communication tool out of Cupertino. The problem is, Apple is a notoriously secretive organisation. They obsess about secrecy and work hard to ensure that no solid news breaks prior to a release. Email, with its ability to be forwarded around is thus a major problem. There are rival organisations, or even journalists who would pay handsomely for information relating to a query that Apple may have made around, say, a specific new material or component for their iWatch.
With this system from AT&T, Apple could maintain control over their email enquiring about the new material or component. They could even set the email to ‘self-destruct’ after the supplier has read it or responded to it. Sure there are work arounds, for one the vendor could forward your email before he replies. However, again with this system, the original sender would know this, and would see who had received the email. Apple could also have blocked the email from being forwarded on to certain known interested parties.
There are downsides though. For one, this system would only work if both companies were using the AT&T email system. Naturally, a dominant player like Apple could demand the use of such a system, if they choose. They do, after all have a huge amount of power over their suppliers.
The bigger downsides seem to be the ease that some of the old-fashioned tricks may work with this. The patent, having been studied, does not show how AT&T are able to stop a simple screenshot from stealing the data.
So for now, this work in progress seems to be an interesting idea and concept, but could be lacking in execution. I would welcome it if it worked though…