I’ve watched Sci-Fi movies and read Sci-Fi books for the past forty years and what continues to amaze me is how reality imitates art. I’m a huge fan of Gene Roddenberry (i.e. Star Trek creator) and have often marveled at how some of Gene’s most creative ideas have made their way into new technology. Ideas that have help to re-shape our world. Star Trek communicators became Motorola flip phones, digital clipboards turned into iPads and tricorders turned into MRIs. The creative brilliance of visionaries such as Roddenberry, Jobs, and other geeks has help to shape technology through artistic innovation and the competitive desire to be the first. The first person to think of that big idea. The first to “go where no man has gone before”.
I believe mobile technology is at the precipitous of this level of innovation. Media Post recently posted an article indicating that new smartphone activations following Christmas grew by 140% over last year during the same time period. Google and Apple are at the forefront of this growth with their iOS and Android systems. These two giants are well positioned to lead the world into a new age – the Mobile Age. This age will without a doubt be filled with creative inspirations that will transform our lifestyle. The following is a list of the things I envision will come out of the Mobile Age. Call it my list of mobile ideas that will change the way we interact in the future.
1. Social Identification – For those who are a little more advanced in age you may remember the day of the Phone Bar. Each table in the bar had a phone on it and if you saw an person across the room that you wanted to meet you picked up the phone and called their table.
The modern version of this social ice breaker will involve the mobile phone. With the help of geo-location and NFC technology people will be able to share their profiles at social gatherings in a advanced version of mobile “mate-matching” that allows you to screen your potential suitor before you say “hello”. No more chatting about the weather or those awkward “getting-to-know” moments where you search for the words. You’ll be able to “scan’em” “keep’em”, or “can’em”. The whole dynamic of social interaction will be pushed forward using social pattern matching. If you’re in range of a potential match your mobile device will alert you and provide some background. If you decide to interact you’ll be able to initiate the conversation knowing the recipients interests and eliminating that socially awkward behavior that happens when you try to find a common ground for discussion. Companies such as Lavalife and eHarmony will thrive on this technology which will make it easier to find that perfect person. Most of it already exists online now in social chat rooms. Mobile will take the person out from behind the computer and place them back into the physical social environment.
2. Social Erasing – There is always the issue of privacy when talking about social networks. Although I think the Internet Generation (Gen M) don’t see this as a big issue, the time may come where they’ll need a social erasing service that cleans up their online profile. They may want a persona for their professional life that’s somewhat different than the one they share with friends. Online profiles will become a page in a personal catalogue (e.g. Facebook) that people will use to assess their friends, business acquaintances and social circles. We’ll review, group and categorize personas so that we can communicate with them accordingly. Having the right online persona for the right situation will be important when it comes to lifestyle and business in the future.
As a result the business of “online social erasing” will thrive as personas get changed to meet new needs and as people look to re-invent themselves. We will reach a point where each person will have an inventory of personal profiles designed to address a different type of life experience. These personas will be integrated into our mobile devices and will act as a virtual business card that we will transmit based on our location needs, our preferences and our social circles. When we want to change them we’ll use a Social Erasing service to adjust the information stored across the Internet. I know it sounds a bit covert, but given the rate at we’re dumping information on to the web it’s only a matter of time before we’ll need a junk collector to tidy up our mess.
3. Social Networks will connect to Professional Services – Social networks will eventually be connected to professional services. You will be able to subscribe to a service offering and in turn that service will use your real-time profile information to monitor your status and notify you if there is a need to act.
A mobile device is a 24/7 accessory that most people monitor every minute of the day. If this device were capable of monitoring its owner it could easily forward information to a service on a regular basis. A great example of how this may work is rooted in the healthcare industry.
As our population ages there is a growing need to visit the doctor for regular checkups. Mobile innovation will eventually allow doctors to monitor patient health in real-time. People will connect their health profiles to a health system that will monitor their personal health goals. This system may also help to reduce doctor visits and inform them when their is a need for immediate assistance. For the elderly this could be a mobile “help button” that they push when they are in crisis. By monitoring health profiles early responders will know patient information prior to arrival making treatment faster and more effective.
This type of mobile technology may become an absolute necessity as our aging population grows and the cost of healthcare skyrockets we will need a way to increase healthcare efficiency.
4. Mobile Retail – Mobile is set to transform the retail shopping business. If I were a retailer in 2011 I would be taking a hard look at the fix roof retail side of my business. Just like Twitter and the Internet changed the newspaper business, online shopping is steadily transforming retail. More and more people are becoming comfortable with e-commerce and as a result are spending less time in shopping malls.
Do I think fix roof retail will disappear? No, much like the printed newspaper there will always be an audience for a “retail experience”. But that experience will be much different with the addition of mobile NFC technology. Mobile devices will speed up the retail process allowing users to buy in the moment, whenever the urge to do so arises. They may see someone wearing a pair of shoes they like or they may be watching their favourite show and see a new shirt they want. Mobile technology will allow them to search, click and buy at the point when the need or desire happens. No more wandering around a mall looking for what they want in every store. Much like information today, buying products and services will eventually move to instantaneous fulfillment.
5. Virtual Business Meetings – Mobile holograms will allow us to meet anywhere in the world without having to step on a plane. Mobile technology will be capable of creating synthetic environments where we will get together with other virtual personas eliminating the need for business travel. A telephone booth will become a virtual portal where we will be able to enter and participate in a virtual interaction. This will reduce our carbon footprint, increase productivity and efficiency while allowing us to spend more time doing the things we love to do. Another Gene Roddenberry vision straight from the “Holo-deck” of the USS Enterprise. It’s likely not going to happen in 2012, but it’s certainly a possibility in 5-10 years time.