When the Apple iPhone debuted seven years ago it signaled a shift in mobile computing and communications, ushering in the age of the smartphone. In 2014 we may realize a similarly important shift, where our smartphone truly becomes a digital hub for our devices and lifestyle.
In truth, the shift began to emerge 24-36 months ago.
When Apple introduced Siri in the fall of 2011, we were promised an intelligent digital assistant that would allow for conversational interaction with our applications. Siri may not have lived up to the promise of replacing an assistant, but the functionality holds significant promise as a speech recognition engine and audio interface.
In 2012 your smartphone began to collect and store data from a variety of sensor-based devices like the Jawbone Up or FitBit, essentially regulating your smartphone to a storage device and dumb terminal. It was difficult to expect more as third party manufacturers were limited by battery life, connectivity, and in some cases the OS.
As our expectations continue to mature, so has the technology.
Last fall Apple released the iPhone 5S that introduced the M7 coprocessor which was designed to collect and measure motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. This new processor proved that moving these tasks away from the primary CPU allowed for a more energy efficient way to collect and process data.
As the industry continues to improve the capacity and management of battery life we will see an increase in opportunity and ability to actively collect and monitor data through our smartphone.
The market for wearable devices will continue to grow in 2014. We will see the public release of Google Glass and if we are to believe the rumors about Apple’s next revision to iOS, the iPhone 6 will integrate very closely to the long-rumored iWatch.
The emergence of so many smart devices, wearables and data hungry applications suggests the future of the smartphone will be a lot less about communications and much more about managing your data and lifestyle.
What should we expect?
Imagine your smartphone as the primary interface to your location, where your home or office reacts to your presence. This is already possible to some extent. Products like the Philips Hue will respond to your arrival or departure.
But there are other opportunities as well. It may be as simple as your calendar would be updated to reflect that you are working from home or as complex as your desktop environment travelling with you from location to location and computer to computer.
Improving the interface.
Both Apple and Google has mobile operating systems that can be voice controlled. Perhaps we are only months away from seeing Siri control our TV through our phones. And what if it didn’t stop there? What if Siri could control the other smart devices in our home?
It wouldn’t be difficult to realize a Star Trek like experience where a simple Bluetooth enabled device could be pinned to our shirts and paired with our phones to listen for simple voice commands. As a separate device it would have its own power and help limit the drain on your smartphone’s battery.
Monitoring our bodies and our lives.
Even more functionality is on the horizon. Wearable devices like the Pebble have already demonstrated the opportunity for us to glance at incoming data. The future iWatch could become an important tool for collecting health related data and even alerting people to health hazards or an impending health event like a heart attack.
What would be possible if our smartphone was able to actively monitor our environments and ambient noise to pick out other important triggers or information?
Protecting our privacy and data.
With the many security breaches we’ve seen in 2013, and will continue to see, it is time to ask who do you trust with your data? What if your smartphone because the hub and interface for storing, securing and sharing your personal profile.
Browsing behaviors, personal profiles, connections, credit cards, health records. All of this and more could be stored on your device, securely and locally. Doing so would put the consumer back in control.
A common language.
What we need more than anything is a common and open language for interfacing with these smart devices and what is to come next. Services like IFTTT give us the opportunity to create some simple tasks around many of these smart devices but that isn’t enough.
We should expect that these companies begin to provide a common language and interface to the devices they create so we all have the opportunity to access the data they collect and manage the ecosystems we create.
Looking at 2014 and beyond.
What do you expect from you next smartphone? What do you think the future holds for smart devices and wearable technologies?
I believe the smartphone will continue to be reinvented as we see an increase in computing power, capacity, battery life and most importantly – functionality.
This means the smartphone as a device will become less about interpersonal communication and more about becoming a digital hub that will manage all of your smart and Internet-enabled devices. We will see continued growth as our smartphones become an extension of our digital self and our lifestyle.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below.