I’d like to offer a nostalgic epitaph for the recently dethroned monarch of technological obsession: mobile computing.
Dear Mobile: your ascension was long in the making and well deserving of the attention once you achieved your zenith. You were born of the seeds of Guglielmo Marconi and Karl Braun‘s respective work in wireless communication and the insight of Gordon Moore’s famous eponymous observation about integrated circuit engineering. You were greatly strengthened by the touch screen developments pioneered by Frank Beck & Bent Stumpe, with some early experimentation from musicians like Huge Le Caine and Bob Moog. Once the material costs fell sufficiently and the network infrastructure was reasonable, you became so common so quickly that people lost sight of the miracle you brought: we now can carry devices that allow us to bend time and space and to read people’s thoughts* from wherever we are.
It was the wide deployment of consumer grade speech recognition that ended your reign. Of course, Mobile, you haven’t actually left us. Like all things that pass, you have been subsumed into something even greater. Every sunset is a part of another sunrise.
Whether we are ready or not, computing is now in the era of UBIQUITY.
There are cameras everywhere. There are microphones everywhere. There are touch panels everywhere. There are microprocessors everywhere. In some nations, this fact has sadly been imposed by a totalitarian regimes; in other places it has – for better or worse – been imposed by the choices of consumers. Some of these nodes stay in one place and some move about, but antennas and cables and satellites intertwine them all into an infinitely larger essence. QR codes that link the physical world to the digital world visibly now are now abundant. The cost of NFC – which creates that link invisibly – continues to drop and adoption continues to rise. Social media platforms capture the not just the voice of the people, but every thought people are willing to publicly record…and many people are way more willing to share way more thoughts than one might have expected not too long ago . (*Jumping back to the earlier asterisk: have you ever considered when you use social media, you are literally “reading people’s thoughts”? Or that looking at digital photos & videos of past events is, in a sense, bending time and making a telephone call is bending space? Eat your heart out, Arthur C. Clarke.)
Behind it all – interpreting the images, making the waveforms into words, tracking the touches, digesting the data – is the massive and ever-expanding computational power of the cloud. The conceptual boundary between online and offline has been erased. In fact, the physical “lines” where signals are “on” or “off” (i.e., the “wires” referred to in “wireless”) have faded from general experience and common memory. It is now nearly impossible to distinguish between what is and isn’t part of a computer.
People have been talking about the business opportunities and personal consequences of these converging trends for decades. It is here. I’ll be discussing these realities further in upcoming posts. (Yes, SAP friends, I am working on one about ubiquity & in-memory computing.) In the meantime, look around you and think about how you could make money the exabytes of data being collected about other people. Look around again and consider that everyone else is thinking about how to make money off all the data that is being collected about you. In the world of ubiquitous computing, the doors are everywhere and they swing in all directions.
Forget the future. Welcome to the present.
Ian McCullough is an independent product development and operations consultant for consumer-facing businesses. He has successfully deployed cloud-based solutions (including SAP Business ByDesign) at the companies he works with. For more information, you can visit his LinkedIn profile. The opinions presented in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of SAP or its agents.
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