Recently I was asked to talk about the future of mobile technology and consumer experiences for some internal meetings. As I prepared and began to envision the future, I couldn’t help but think of the integral role mobile devices have in our lives today.
The ability to use my Droid 3 to make a phone call is a commodity. I’ve come to rely on my device for much more: as my clock, alarm, memory keeper via pictures and videos, my productivity machine via email and calendars and, most importantly, my guide via many location based apps for directions, restaurants, businesses, where my friends are, what they are doing, and so on.
From a technology perspective, it has every sensor you can imagine now. Just five years ago, fitting a 5MP camera on a mobile device was a huge task. Nokia recently announced a 41MP camera in a smartphone. Things have shrunk a lot. We now have gyros, accelerometers, light sensors, GPS, cameras, WiFI, and Bluetooth to name a few all packed into one device.
Mobile devices already seem so advanced. But there is much more to come. As we look to the future, I believe these are the four technologies that will play a major role in mobile devices:
As I thought more about the concept of the device serving as“my guide,” which is what it is really becoming, of the four mentioned above, I think Augmented Reality (AR) is the one I’m most excited about. AR has been around for a few years now with simple point of interest information, but its true potential lies in how it uses the other sensors mentioned above and the web to present and collect data. Here are some of the interesting examples that I believe will transform consumers’ experiences with AR:
Health Care - My child’s pediatrician goes to remote regions of the world all the time to provide free services. Imagine if he had the ability to get information about diseases or be able to diagnose basic skin diseases by simply pointing his smartphone. This would certainly improve his productivity but now he can provide some smartphones to his colleagues there and in turn help more of the needy. In Addition, using this to also record information with the Center for Disease Control would be add an interesting way to start collecting data as well.
Insurance – A few years ago, my car got damaged just like this image by a un-insured driver. I had to go through a bunch of paper work. It would have been great if I could have just pointing my smartphone to the car. It knew where I was based on the GPS, discover what areas of the car are damaged and the average cost to repair them. I could have taken some pictures, put in a audio report / video and a claim would be filed right away because it knows who you are, your license information and your insurance information through mobile wallet. It would have also told me what I owed etc if I was going to be covered by the faulted party or not.
At a dealership, imagine you can accessorize your car with all the options and get an instant quote from your insurance company. The insurance company has all the data and standard rates for the different cars. Its putting that information together with your profile and coming up with a number for you. It would allow us to reduce the buying cycle of getting a new car.
Retail – We are starting to see malls have a screen where you can see the different dresses on you at specific stores. But what if you could use your device to look at how all the accessories could fit together for you. Point the smartphone and start looking at the options, story behind the product and interacting with it to see how it works. As you look at an item with the device, you can now capture that and find a list of stores in the area that has them in stock with the pricing as well as any promotions / coupons available for the product.
Manufacturing – The ability to get information on fixing parts or troubleshooting or identifying defective parts causing issues on a line can help productivity. You can use AR to keep track of inventory and visualize the floor.
All of these examples are very exciting, but as we look at what AR can bring to the table, it means that there is a lot of data that the user can get bombarded with and make the experience unusable. Which brings me to what I believe is going to be key about mobile technology in the future: We need to develop simple user experiences by filtering the right contextual information from the sea of data to only what that specific consumer is doing, where they are and what they are looking at.