As we start 2015, we are entering the 2nd half of the smartphone era. We’re beginning to see a post-smartphone vision emerge with the smartphone as the centre of a network of sensors. These sensors will be embedded in wristbands, clothing, and everyday items such as locks, lights and thermostats. We are seeing technology brands articulate their vision for their mobile platforms moving beyond smartphones and tablets, into a range of other devices including wearable technologies, cars and household objects. By 2020, a clear picture of the post-smartphone era will have emerged; an era Frost & Sullivan calls the ‘Blended Reality Era’.
Truly ‘smart’ devices
Despite the fevered focus on smartwatches and new wearable devices, the game-changing innovation has already arrived. They are already in smartphones and manufacturers are embedding them in all new products. The sensorization of the world is already happening and the smartphone will be the beating heart of it all.
By 2020, the smartphone will connect with the wristband, fridge and car making the Internet of Things even more valuable to consumers. Sensors will collect data and send it back to a smartphone for visualisation, automation and insight. App-based services will offer automation; if your mattress senses reduced pressure then it will tell the coffee machine to brew a coffee, or if the front door closes, it will turn all lights and appliances onto energy-saving mode. The possibilities are as boundless as the imagination.
From reactive to predictive healthcare
Smartphones, wristbands, and smart clothing will collect real-time healthcare data. The sharing of this data will sit at the core of the privacy-versus-value debate. Sensors will measure glucose levels, blood pressure, and respiratory rate giving a real-time record of personal health. With more data we can expect faster and more accurate diagnosis. Third-party health and wellness analytics companies, insurance providers and government agencies will want access. If these providers can win the trust of their customers, we will be able to improve personal and societal health outcomes. But if data privacy and security processes are not robust and trust is not gained, society at large will suffer. We have the opportunity to move from a reactive healthcare system to a predictive, preventative, personalised and participatory system. The smart shirt that identifies raised stress levels and plays relaxing music whilst brewing a green tea. The fridge that notifies the user when they are lacking potassium in their diet and suggests a meal of kale and chicken.
Healthcare will not just be something we receive when we are ill. It will be something we take part in daily.
Augmented Reality Eyewear
Augmented reality (AR) is the most exciting use case for an eye-mounted wearable device. The ability to layer digital information on the physical world in real time is unique to a wearable device. An extension of ‘glanceable’ notifications, AR has the potential to be the ‘killer app’ for wearable devices. AR wearables will sit near the eye to be effective, either as with Google Glass or a pair of glasses or with smart contact lenses. The advancements of location-based technologies, display and connectivity technologies will continue to drive adoption.
In 2020 eyewear will be standard equipment for soldiers, surgeons, police and customer service reps. The ability to live-stream and layer on relevant information in real-time such as a patient’s health record, a criminal record, or purchasing history is valuable. Eyewear further reduces the friction of using digital information and will save hours of labour-intensive work.
By 2020, the smartphone will be the central hub in the personal internet of things, connecting with wearables, household objects, and vehicles. Sensors will quantify, and mobile and cloud apps will automate everyday tasks. Sensors, displays and augmented reality services will bring a digital layer to the physical world, quantifying it for efficiency and optimisation. We are in the very early stages of making our environment intelligent. The media coverage may focus on new phones and watches, but the real advances are happening quietly behind the scenes in software. Computing is moving from something that we do, to something that just happens around us. Innovation is continuing unabated in the technology industry. It has just moved from tangible shiny consumer electronics to intangible pieces of code. We are at the very early stages of the Blended Reality Era, by the end of it computing power will be as ubiquitous as electric power. Electric power fundamentally reshaped the global economy. Ubiquitous computing will do the same.