Considering this week’s lecture topics, focusing on the mobile lifestyle, and my recent accidental incapacitation of my notebook computer, I wanted to write about my observations, expectations and wishes regarding the future for the digital consumer. Some of the areas mentioned here will already be far ahead in development or may already exist, while other are hopefully more conceptual. This text will focus on augmented reality, cloud services, mobile content and personal databases.
As mentioned in Eleni’s post, this kind of applications are in the near future. Morris Packer highlighted Layar during his guest lecture and I agree that this can be huge. Imagine the ability for app developers to integrate these features, making it possible for a retail chain to let you, by aiming your phone at a store, see any available, customized offers, current stock of particular items, opening hours and make it possible to book time with a personal shopping assistant. The contextualized web is just around the corner. Twitter, Bing and Google, to mention a famous few, are currently experimenting with locations in searches and tagging. This will provide a rich data set for augmented reality apps to tap into. This is the closest we’ve come to a collective intelligence yet; imagine noticing a crowd gathering 20-something meters away. You simply swipe over it with your mobile internet device running a Twitter application, and immediately you can see a public tweet from a person in the crowd, saying what has happened. This will be commonplace.
The most annoying thing with turning my computer in for repair was being without my personal data: my bookmarks, RSS feeds, documents, PDFs, calendar, music etc. However, my despair was lessened by the fact that some of this was stored not on my computer, but in the cloud. For example, Spotify had my favourite playlists. This incident actually made me move from NewsFire to Google Reader for my RSS feeds.
What I believe will happen in the near future in this field, is about storing and syncing. You will have all your personalized data (annotated PDFs, documents, presentations, playlists etc) in cloud services with access from any device. At home, you write and read from your computer. On the train, you look at your own or your co-workers presentation on your mobile phone (or maybe iPad?) and at work, it doesn’t matter what computer or device you use; you can access your personalized application as long as you have an internet access. There is no longer a need for multiple copies, everything is instead always with you in the cloud. This will be spurred on, and will in turn drive, development of the infrastructure for internet access. Wires are a thing of the past.
As already mentioned, all your own data will be independent of space; you can always access it. Furthermore, newspaper articles, music and communication will to a greater extent follow you wherever you are. The change from today I think we’ll see, is increased possibilities to use the content: you will quickly be able to share through Twitter or Facebook what you find interesting on the subway; what is presented in the newspaper app is dependent not only on your own preferences, but also on friends’ recommendations. As everything turns mobile, it simultaneously turns social.
Location will yet again play a part. When you’re in a new neighbourhood, or if you just feel like doing something different after work, you will be able to scan the areas events with your mobile device. Furthermore, services like Aardvark adds to this. Conversations, driven not only by shared interests, but shared locations, will increase and be facilitated.
The above-mentioned areas are not at all new to the world. But they are fascinating. Something that I however think is currently underestimated, is personal databases. Software is constantly making consumers more knowledgeable and it clever applications of it makes it possible for ordinary people to accomplish increasingly complex tasks. Today, young kids create webpages and upload professional looking videos to Youtube.
However, everyone wants to do movies. For some reason, the same sexiness is not connected with databases. Despite this, and aided by Google’s success in this field, I believe that data is moving toward a bright future. Many of us already sync or calendars across devices and sometimes even with their friends or spoused, but imagine to add more to that. Your whole household, including you kitchen appliances and cupboards, could (with the help of barcode readers and devices) keep a shared shopping list updated; you could tag all newspaper articles you read on your device so that you can return whenever you want to in order to get that quote; and all contract workers you’ve ever hired are saved and rate in your database. Of course, you’re synced with all your friends, so that you hire the right guy and pays just as much as you need. Data will be information, as part of conversations. And in order for data to mean anything, either we as consumers must learn some statistics or have programmers do it convenient for us. As Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, was quoted in the Economist this week: “… the job of a statistician will be the ‘sexiest’ around”.
Briefly, what I expect the future to give me, is the ability to constant access my files and data. Throughout my day, I have dashboards on my devices keeping me updated on what is happening with my e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, friends, house, stocks and all other areas of interest. Devices will exist to access, aggregate, manipulate and create data anywhere. I would like to end this post by opening up for a look further into the future. What are the creative applications of technology and software we can think of today? What are the main concepts that businesses and/or developers should be aware of? And most importantly, what could we perform more efficiently without technology? The answers to these questions will create profitable offers for companies.