10 Nov 2009
By Justin Milne

Signals from a mobile future

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Think about this idea for a second. 

In 20 years mobile phones will be 1,000 times more powerful than today. 

That’s a prediction based on Moore’s Law which, since 1965, has correctly predicted that the power of computing will double every two years or the cost will halve. Add to that idea the increases in bandwidth we can expect as we move to LTE and beyond, plus the incredible improvements we have become used to seeing in device design and navigation, and you have an extremely exciting prospect. But not just exciting, a prospect that has the real potential to radically change people’s lives. 

In developing nations we have already seen the mobile phone become a “get out of poverty card” as one banker has called it. 

Farmers in African countries, India and China, for instance, are using their phones to subscribe to weather forecasts, so they know when to plant crops, and to connect to futures markets.  In Ghana a new mobile application helps people verify that drugs are genuine and not dangerous black market substitutes.  In Syria the UN is distributing food vouchers to 130,000 Iranian refugees by mobile. It turns out they all have one.  By 2012, just three years away, it’s estimated that 1.7 billion people will have a mobile phone but not a bank account. 

In the developed world, that mobile phone in your pocket, on your desk, or by your bed during the night is morphing into something more valuable and crucial than your wallet.  It’s becoming a way of navigating, watching videos, being “present” with your friends, doing business and more.  In future, it will morph again into what experts call “augmented reality”. 

For example, imagine walking down a street in Beijing. You point your phone camera at an interesting building. Depending on your preferences, it will provide you with huge amounts of information drawn from multiple databases.  Maybe you’ll learn the building was built as an embassy in 1894.  And that it changed hands two years ago for $6M.  And that it’s now a restaurant with a four star rating and the mains average $40.  Perhaps you’d like to see the menu? Or read a review?  This is augmented reality. 

Think about the applications for house hunting.  You will point your phone at a house and see the last sale prices, development plans, zoning and floor plans.  You will see it not only on your phone but, if you’d prefer, have it projected onto your glasses. 

Watch here for more on augmented reality.

With an aging population the implications of the 1,000 times more powerful mobile for health become interesting. With your phone, you could monitor your health with an appropriate device attached to your body or even implanted.  The results could be passed down the phone and then back to a hospital for action. Instructions could then be sent back to the phone and then to the implant which could even release drugs. 

Around the world people are going mobile at an amazing rate. China adds 20 million new mobile users (about the population of Australia) every eight weeks. Mobile phones are getting more powerful, applications more useful, and users more inventive.  This combination of changes means the mobile internet will be vital in helping solve today’s big problems.  History will quite possibly judge it as the most positive and consequential invention of our age.


Posts: 1


  1. Grahame Barclay says:

    Does the WORLD understand MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS FULLY. Are we moving too quick. Is there MASSIVE problems just around the corner or are they there now, but we cannot identify them at present. Here I am talking about RADIO WAVES being transmitted from very close to your head and brain etc.
    Is there studies being done to do analysis on the affect these devices are having. Many young ones today have a mobile up to their ear almost all the time.
    We MUST ACT NOW not REACT when it has happened.
    How will you take to a whole generation with massive health problems of a cancer type etc due to lake of testing of mobile devices because you wanted some quick profit.

  2. Jess says:

    This is really great, but seeing as though Telstra struggle to get the basics right (ie. my mobile phone has inexplicably been unable to make calls for 2 weeks now), I have little faith that they will be capable of making th most of new technologies.

    Before getting into lofty ideas about world-changing technology, maybe you should concentrate on enabling people to make a simple call.

  3. coxie says:

    As I don’t have a mobile, let alone need one, I shall be blissfully oblivious to the 1,000 times increase in irrelevant, useless data that I see as crippling the moronic minds of those with such devices, regardless of any electromagnetic generated deseases that have yet to manifest themselves, which I have no doubt, whatsoever, will arise before my demise; and, that’s not too far away.

  4. Neil K Wilson says:

    Once the use of the word ‘mobile’ is properly replaced by ‘wireless’, consumers will truly demand more dynamic services and drive more innovation development to bring in converged reality. SIM cards (should they still exist) in multiple CE devices and services that seamlessly tie them together are when the world of LTE & beyond takes shape.

    When concepts like my fridge with connectivity to either 3G or to my WIFI home gateway with a camera and software to allow me to read food barcodes as I put them in, then catalogues food so I can integrate with my online grocery store that automatically re-orders when required and bills my eWallet … that’s when things will get exciting! Cracking the home gateway and taking communications beyond Phones & PC’s is definitely the next frontier.

    Can’t wait to see what my son’s world will look like in 20 years when he is 22!

  5. Paul says:

    Couldnt agree more with this Justin. Considering the considerable advances in the home computer, Next generation micro devices such as phones etc have a large place in making the future a more instant and connected environment.

    If you consider that from around 94, when I was playing games on a computer, we were astounded by moving bitmap pictures, and things like “Doom” were breathtaking in their graphics and sound.

    Now, instead of low-res digital imagery, I play something that actually looks real.

    (I know the game analogy is off topic, but it highlights the massive change.. blotchy pictures to something that looks like real life)

    Can’t wait to see what the future brings.

    I’ve loved the more technological devices since I first got to show off my old P900 to friends.

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