Ubiquitous Ubiquity – A Possible Mobile Technology Trend to Watch

The future is unpredictable, but that doesn't mean that you can't prepare for it.

The future is unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for it.

While you develop and deploy your mobile efforts, are you considering the far future for mobile technology?  Or possibly that in a few years all your development struggles today will look like cave drawings.  Sometimes future casting is just an exercise in time wasting.  This may be one of those days.  There are other times when it gives you something to really plan for with your early efforts.  Today may be one of those days, too.

The sharable future

Everyone has been talking about the shareable economy.  The trend from ownership to license.  That we don’t need to own a car, just the right to have one when we need it.  This has led to really great innovations.  Zipcar allows you to size your transportation budget to what you really need.  Pandora and Spotify bring your music investment down to what you want when you want it, not buying it to have it all the time.  How many times have you listened to that Tiffany album in the last year.

What prompted this missive is a blog post that casts its eyes towards the 10 year future and what it means to personal technology.  The author looks at what is happening today and extrapolates into the mobile space and comes to very interesting thoughts.  What happens when our tech is shareable.  Not in the rental sense, but in the sense that we don’t own our tech anymore.

Logging in, instead of taking it out

Imagine the future that the Aaron Wilson proposes.  You wake up, scan into your bathroom mirror as you are getting ready.  The mirror presents what you need at the moment in a manner applicable to the mirror.  You get your mail, the weather for the day and your schedule.  Leave the bathroom and start your drive to work.

You get to the coffee shop and as you wait for your latte, you scan into the coffee table.  You get your user space and the ability to get some early work done, check voice mails, etc.  Then you get to work, pick up a work tablet as you walk into the building.  That work tablet was someone else’s yesterday, but today it’s yours.

Let’s deconstruct that future.  In this future your apps are not on any device you own, they are out there in the cloud.  You don’t own any device (ok, you own the mirror, but it is just a presentation layer).  You merely scan into the device that is available.  When you leave, it becomes available to the next person.

Lessons from the car?

I look at this future and my first cry is that you can’t take my phone away from me.  It is my thing.  I identify with it.  I put a skin on it.  I have a special case for it.  It is mine.  All mine.

Step back from that and think about the car.  There was a time when people identified with their car.  It was their thing.  They ordered it special.  They put a stereo that they liked in it.  They had nice seat covers put in it just for themselves.  They put bumper stickers over it to show who they were.  They could never drive just any car.

Yet, today we have companies like Zipcar that are succeeding in breaking this.  There are others, and other models that take the car out of our transportation and get back to what’s important.  Getting from point A to point B.  Even today those that own a car are moving away from the car being an extension of themselves to a tool to get around.

This trend is taking a long time, and I think will take quite a bit longer.  What we can learn from this is that there are some people who will welcome this.  Is there a lesson that we can learn from this to apply to this shareable device future?

What is the lesson?

I think the lesson here is that this is one possible future.  It is just one possible future.  I think another future is the embedding of our mobile technology into the human body.  Possibly there will be some hybrid.  The lesson is that the future will surprise us and unless we think really wildly it will always surprise us.  When future-casting, try to surprise yourself, imagine the future and then think about the technology needed to get there.

In this possible future, we are already there.  All the pieces are there.  Cloud computing allows our tech identity to run independent of our device.  Advanced biometrics allows a secure login of an individual user.  Adaptive design makes it possible to have an effective user interface on a 4 inch screen also work on a 21 inch screen.  The price of production and deployment is the one thing that stands in the way.

What can you learn that helps today?

Let’s assume that this is the future.  That in 10-15 years we will not own an individual phone.  That we will check them out as we need them.  That the device itself is merely a presentation layer to the services that we subscribe to.

Your challenge is to imagine your products and offerings and user experience (UX) in this world.  Could your UX work in this world?  How does it scale up and down?  Do you make one experience available on a desktop that is not mirrored on a mobile?

There lies what you need to learn.  You need to have one UX that works across all platforms.  The only exception is where a specific platform offers something no other does.  However, your development should be modular enough that you can bolt in that device-specific code and go.

The best way to accomplish this is to think mobile first these days.  Mobile is the preferred channel for most of your users.  By developing for mobile you are faced with expanding from the small to the large, which in my opinion is easier than contracting from the large to the small.  While I can scroll around on your desktop site on my phone, stop making it so hard.

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