By Jay McBain, Co-Founder, ChannelEyes
I was thinking this morning about the evolution of mobile technology. What if we compared it to the evolution of the PC?
Is it safe to say that we are now in about 1985?
I think so, and here is my case...
In 1985, the PC market was turning 10 years old, give or take. The Altair 8800 kicked off the microcomputer revolution in 1975 with the ability of an average hobbyist to buy, build, and program the device. The Apple I single board hit the market the following year with a flurry of newcomers until IBM ignited the market into business mainstream in 1981.
By 1985, we had Compaq kicking things into high gear, Apple announced the Mac, and IBM, Intel and Microsoft partnered to give us the x86 based WinTel spec that is more-or-less with us today.
Many people forget that the PC era was kicked off in the consumer world, and it took seven years to start to take hold in the business world. Sound familiar?
Compare to Mobile Technology
In 2013, the smartphone also turns 10 years old, give or take.
You could easily debate what ignited the smartphone market (as we know it today) – Symbian in 2000, BlackBerry in 2002, Palm in 2002, Android in 2003? Regardless, we are about a decade into this interesting journey.
If you look at the evolution of the market and at BYOD trends in the workplace, it is apparent that, like PC’s, this started in the consumer world and it has taken about seven years to transform business. The rapid advances in mobile technology are remarkable, but like the PC of 1985, we are just at the cusp of figuring out what the future may look like.
Much like PC’s that were built full of slots, bays and ports, today’s phones have technologies such as GPS, motion sensors, high-end cameras and multiple connectivity options. In the end, these are enablement technologies – not solutions within themselves.
It is safe to say that in 1985 very few people could see the power of networking PCs together, driving the Internet explosion 10 years later. Very few also saw the expansion into gaming, digital music, digital video, digital photography, graphic design, content, and hundreds more disruptive technologies that would push away the industrial revolution and thrust us into the knowledge era.
This was enabled by slots, bays, ports, and a TON of innovation.
Prediction: Mobile technology will move us past the knowledge era in record time. A new era, built around contextual knowledge and social behavior, will take flight within the next five years.
As mobile devices continue to proliferate, and the new "surface" computing model emerges (imagine every wall, counter, car dashboard, table, desk, etc.), the way we interact with the technology will also change. If you haven’t seen the two “Corning Day Made of Glass” videos yet on YouTube – stop what you are doing, and go watch!
Technology that understands where you are, what you are doing and applies it to what it has learned about you over time, will drive the first generation of AI. I am not talking science fiction, as sentient new life-forms, but devices that are a (natural) extension of you. (Look up Kurzweil and Vinge on the topic of Singularity if you want to blow your mind.)
The human-centric side of mobility is rapidly progressing – this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we saw augmented reality via Google Glasses sent to third-party developers for release in 2014. We also saw a new product by Leap Motion bringing Minority Report style gestures to your computing experience. Add to ongoing advances in touch and voice, dealing with future technology will be second nature.
Prediction: Within 10 years, we will have more than 100 different communication vehicles to monitor/manage between your personal and professional social circles.
Communication is also getting an overhaul. People complain today of dozens of new and disparate social networking constructs interrupting them throughout the day. The bad news is that this will continue to expand as new networks are built around natural human connections – whether that is geographic, interests, politics, demographics or anything else.
The good news is that technology (as a natural extension of you) will know your preferences based on your current situation and apply the appropriate response.
Prediction: Within five years, communication will be completely disintermediated between sender and receiver.
With these 100 communication vehicles transmitting across every surface device, how will people find work/life/personal balance?
Technology (likely hardware) will provide the hub that controls information flow based on context:
Example 1: You are fishing during a workday, and your boss calls. Because it is between 9am-5pm, and you have given your boss “access” during that time, the call will be routed to your fish finder. Why? Because you have given the access, the fish finder knows that it is the best device to interact with you at the moment (being waterproof, sporting a high visibility screen in the sun and running off the boat battery is how it made that determination).
Example 2: You are sleeping in the middle of the night, and your best friend texts. Because you had given 24/7 access to your friend (and perhaps now reconsidering), the technology realizes you are sleeping and routes the text to your clock radio. The radio gently wakes you up and reads the text aloud. You respond via voice and it is converted back to text for the recipient. Neither party care how the communication was initiated and responded because of the disintermediation of sender to receiver.
That is how 100 communication vehicles are managed – you actually don’t care. The technology serves you the right information, at the right time, via the right medium. Bring on the next 100 networks and the 100 after that!
If you are an investor, the fight for control of this “hub” is on – check out Facebook’s press releases over the past few weeks. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter and others are competing for this future as well. Stay tuned.
Prediction: The average person (in first-world countries) will own more than 100 computing devices.
I made a prediction a few years ago about 25 devices and significantly understated the future. Every device that works on electrical power today has someone thinking about adding Wi-Fi. This ranges from things that make sense such as bathroom scales, lamps and DVRs to things that sound ridiculous like toothbrushes. It gets even more interesting when you think about things that don’t run on electricity today – how do our lives change when EVERYTHING is connected to the internet?
Interestingly, the adoption curve of this future is on a sliding linear scale to age demographic.
You may lament the loss of privacy and personal freedoms, question how security will be managed, or even worry what if all this tracking power fell in the wrong hands. However, it is coming and it will be how our children and grandchildren work and play; by the way, there were similar concerns in 1975, 85, 95 and 2005.
I will finish with one possible business scenario. Think about something as simple as a deal registration program. It is a task that is universally panned because of its complexity, time consumption and mistrust.
What if your mobile device filled in the information for you based on context? It knows you and your business details, what customer you are at (GPS), what products you are replacing (camera) – all in real-time. Perhaps you can use voice or gestures to fill in the last couple of questions, but now a negative experience can be a positive and profitable one.
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