Friday, September 07, 2007

Mobile Phone Projections—what will the mobile phone look like in 5 years?

Last week I blogged on the current state of the mobile phone and declared it the platform for “innovation attention.” This week, I look ahead and at what may come to the mobile phone next.

Up first is IBM. No stranger to strange fiction, IBM proposes five trends for the mobile phone:
1. Remote healthcare prognosis
2. Real-time speech translation
3. 3-D internet
4. Micromanaging the Environment
5. Mind-reading phones

The first, remote healthcare, means your mobile phone will provide access to healthcare. In fact, it already does, in a limited way. Implanted pacemakers wirelessly communicate through your telephone to send updated information to the patient’s doctor. This will only increase with the addition of glucose monitoring for diabetics, blood pressure monitoring, and more. This trend is well underway now. UCLA has an Telehealth initiative focusing on this area.

Real-time speech translation is already underway. With the spread of mobile phones and the need to communicate with others throughout the globe, translations will become more important.

IBM predicts the use of 3-D visualization, but I’m a little skeptical of this one as it’s been touted before (remember the “virtual reality” buzz of the early 90’s?) It’s a technology looking for a problem to solve.

The last bullet, “mind-reading phones” basically means the phone “learns” from your usage and location and can start to make simple decisions for you. If you’re near the grocery store, the phone may pop up a message with your “grocery list” on it.

There are issues that must be resolved to realize the full potential of the mobile phone. The biggest obstacle is network standards. Standards such as WiMax and Super 3G are vying for the top spot, currently.

One of the most intriguing ideas out there is the concept of an “Open Mobile Phone” or rather a phone that runs open source to allow the user to modify it to whatever he wants. OpenMoko proposes developing a Linux-based phone which they call Neo1973 (Neo stands for “new”, and 1973 was the year the first mobile phone call was made). Users can then customize the phone’s code to do whatever they want. Current phones are too “fixed-function” and so developers give up trying to get their task done because the screen is too small, the memory too limited, the keyset too disabling. But what if you had a “blank slate” of a phone that let you build your own application? What would you build?

Best regards,
Hall T.


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