Signals from a mobile future
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.