The Future of Mobile – Part 2
In part one, I talked about mobile being primarily about opening up more information channels – both data flowing away from the user and data flowing to the user. To me, this means more sensors picking up information about you and the world around you. And it also means more information coming back to you – which means we need more ways to help you deal with that increased flow.
I also mentioned haptic inputs to let you consume more information without having to look at a screen or listen to a speaker. But one of the key things that will be necessary is some way to limit the amount and urgency of information coming to you. No matter how many ways you have to take in data, your mind will never adapt to the ever increasing speed of data creation. (For illustration, here’s a cool tweet of an infographic showing 90% of the data in the world was created in the last two years.)
So basically, you are going to need a lot of help picking out the stuff that is really important for you right now and delivering it at the right time with the right urgency. What this really means is that a lot of what “mobile” will be in the next ten years will be solved by systems far away from your phone. You see this already today when you say “OK Google” or have a chat with Siri or Cortana. In ten years, anyone who has significant mobile technology will have incredible intelligence working proactively for them across cloud-based services. This is also the reason why mobile as a data-gathering channel is so critical. As your intelligent assistants become more knowledgeable about your current state, they can choose more wisely what data is appropriate and urgent. If you’re talking to a customer, and an open support case for that customer was just resolved, it’s probably worth it for one of your mobile devices to let you know.
As we ask these intelligent systems to make our lives easier, we’re going to need to share a lot more details about our lives. Over the next ten years, one of the most complicated things about mobile will be just what information is available to what systems. I think it’s likely that many users will end up having something like multiple identities. For a lot of people, I expect there will be some simple “common standard’ of data that is shared with their public identity and common rules about how this data is handled. But it’s going to take a lot of work to get to this point. It’s also likely that a few big players (Apple, Google, Facebook, and maybe Microsoft) will establish themselves as trusted keepers of your identity. This is likely to be one of the most interesting areas of development, but I think the majority of users will find the benefits of having this kind of power working for you to be worth some level of trust in one or more providers.
So in my mobile future, people have a lot of sensors relaying back data to a lot of systems working hard to make life better for them and sending back the most timely and relevant information possible. There’s just one more thing needed for my mobile future – power. With tons of smart devices running all the time, there will be the need for a lot of power that is transported by humans. Cleaner and more efficient energy generation and lighter and more environmentally-friendly power storage are two of the bigger technical challenges going forward. Mobile will add pressure to these challenges. In the short term, and possibly all the way out until ten years from now, the need for power is likely to be met by clever distribution of power storage that you can carry comfortably between the power storage built into your mobile devices and power storage you carry as part of your clothing (maybe a belt or shoes). This is going to be combined by increasing prevalence of safe, yet fast, wireless charging. I look forward to the days when every airport charges your mobile power storage without requiring everyone to herd around a handful of power outlets.
So there’s my future of mobile: a lot more data flowing, a lot more intelligence working on your behalf, a lot of interesting trust decisions, and a lot of power being consumed. For some of you, perhaps that doesn’t seem like much of a stretch in ten years. For me, my kids serve as a daily reminder that mobile has completely altered their reality in the last ten years. So I expect the next ten years will be a similar magnitude of change.