One of the smartest guys I know covering the world of mobile is Chetan Sharma, head of Chetan Sharma Consulting. I had a chance to speak at an event with him a few years ago and was highly impressed with his knowledge and perspective on all things mobile.
I recently received a promotional note from him about his Mobile Future Forward event, which will be held on September 10 in Seattle. I have not had a chance to attend these conferences in the past but have heard from others that it is one of the best and most important conferences on mobile, covering all types of key issues and opportunities in mobility, which clearly is driving the next major technology boom around the world.
In his opening note to potential attendees, Chetan made a statement that pretty much sums up the future of mobile: He said, “It is very clear to us that we are entering the ‘Connected Intelligence’ era. These two operative words are going to define the next phase of human evolution and are going to dramatically change every industry vertical from the ground up. Welcome to the Golden Age of Mobile.”
Chetan is right on the money with this perspective. Connected intelligence in mobile devices will be the next major force behind mobile innovation, and it appears that the mobile industry sees this vision and is preparing to drive it in this direction. Chetan believes that technology evolves in 50-year cycles. In a call with him last week, he pointed out that these cycles can be seen when it comes to steam engines, electricity, cars and more. During those 50-year cycles, the core technology is established and innovative products are created while the underling technology becomes the backbone for even more innovation as the years go by.
He says that the PC innovation part started in the mid-1970s and that we are approaching the 42nd year of this cycle. During that time, PCs, tablets and smartphones have been created and the backbone technology has been laid to drive even greater innovation. He expects that the next big wave will come with connected intelligence devices using IP networks and new wireless technologies that will, in context, drive a whole new ranges of products and services. He also pointed out that “we could be entering a new space that takes advantage of the technology from the last cycle and drives great smart mobile applications and new innovations for the next 10 years.”
One other key point he made during our conversation is that while connectivity is a key element, he says that “intelligence that emanates from the data that can be programmed is what is different now.” This gives new meaning to connectivity, and “connectivity with intelligence will define the next wave of computing.”
One important example he gave is how sensors will impact mobile healthcare applications and make them smarter. Examples such as Fitbit, Nike Fuel, Misfit’s Shine and Jawbone’s UP all use sensors to capture things like steps taken, calories burned and sleep patterns. Some even monitor miles walked or run and feed that data back to mobile devices for analysis. The next step will be to provide feedback and analysis of this data on mobile devices in real time.
Another example I often use for this deals with blood testing meters for diabetics. The technology is here for a meter to have WI-FI built in, with each meter reading being uploaded to a mobile device or directly to a doctor or diabetic nurse to allow them to monitor these tests and adjust medical treatment as needed. According to Chetan, this next wave will in essence be “connecting the dots with intelligence.”
Our own research has determined that there is another component to this vision that is equally important. I call them mobile anticipation engines. As Chetan points out, smart mobile devices that become more intelligent will be at the core of this next mobile computing wave. However, if you add anticipation engines to this intelligence mix, you add a powerful new value proposition to all mobile platforms.
A simple example of how an anticipation engine works: when the device can comb through the data and is programmed to find things in context and, as Mr. Sharma points out, “connects the dots.” Using my calendar, GPS coordinates, and knowledge of my restaurant preferences through something like Open Table, my mobile device could anticipate that at noon this day I have a lunch appointment and suggest restaurants to go to, offering to book a reservation for me. Or, my mobile device knows that I have a meeting in an hour when I’m 30 minutes away from the office and scans the roadways to see if there are any traffic issues before auto-programming the fastest way to get there. The route would be sent to my mobile device and to my car’s smart navigation system, too.
Another example of a device anticipating needs would be when traveling. I could enter a trip into my calendar and then the mobile device would use pre-set preferences to go out and book car rental, hotel and a flight automatically. It would then send me a potential itinerary that I could either modify or just sign off on. Or I could note a dinner at home with my boss, and it would suggest recipes that I could make, taking into account any food allergies of my guests, cuisine preferences or other factors preprogrammed into a contextual data bank. Who knows what other products and services will come out of connected intelligence, anticipation engines and next-generation of technologies that will drive our mobile future.
The last 10 years, especially, have given us the underlying technology in wireless connectivity, low-voltage processors, HD touchscreens and device innovation that really sets us up for what will be the next major phase of mobile.
If you begin thinking about the future of mobile as one that includes advanced high-speed connectivity, intelligence and anticipation engines that connect the digital dots of our lifestyles, and that will be defined by new types of applications and services, I think you can see why Mr. Sharma says, “Welcome to the Golden Age of Mobile.”
Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every Monday on TIME Tech.