Mobile devices: We're glued to them. We need them. It's an addiction that has been on its way for a decade or more. Eighty-four percent of people in one survey said that they could not go a single day without their cellphones, often checking their phones before they swing their feet out of bed. I can't walk from my office to my car without checking to see if I missed anything.
Back in the day, communicating on a device outside of a wall phone was unique, cool and novel. Then you could text message. Those first phones were powerful in their own way, in their own time. Then touch and the user interface came to mobile and taught us that communications technology had no ceiling and anything was possible.
Fast forward to today. The proliferation of new devices, with new capabilities, has reshaped our everyday life. No longer do we use these devices for simple phone calls (or even simple texting!), but to join a conference, screen a video, watch a movie or sporting event, check stocks and the weather. When I ride the D.C. Metro, I am astounded by the number of devices being used in a train system devoid of reliable cellular service. Some are watching movies, but most are checking email, editing a document or connecting in a way that was previously unfathomable five years ago.
What lies ahead? According to a recent report, global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012 -- 12 times the size of the global Internet in 2000. That's only expected to increase exponentially -- 66 percent annually until at least 2017.
The increase in mobile data usage is largely being fueled by video with mobile video traffic exceeding more than 50 percent for the first time. (You weren't thinking video when you bought your first "car phone" were you?) While much of that increase can be attributed to the adoption of consumer-driven streaming video and entertainment, enterprises are beginning to use video en masse as well. Business video use has had its obstacles: difficult to set up, complex to use, no one to connect to.
Today, video streaming and conferencing are at the same tipping point basic mobile was a decade ago. The pieces are finally coming together. Much like the closed nature of the old cell phone plan (think euphemistic "friends & family") gave way to the open & unlimited plan, thanks to competition and user desire, communicating via video across networks is becoming far more seamless.
This means the very nature of business will change as all meetings effectively become face-to-(video) face because communication is the centerpiece of how we do business globally. Figures vary greatly but it is generally accepted that between 60-90 percent of all communication is non-verbal. Imagine how business will transform when every encounter includes this 60-90 percent of additional rich context. It's just what your phone was waiting for!
What might this future look like? What could we do tomorrow that we can't do today? Often chastised for being behind the curve on technology adoption, the federal government might best be able to answer that question: under the gloom and doom of sequestration comes a call for increased video use. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA) believes using video today could cut travel costs tomorrow. By shaving 50 percent of government travel by 2017, Congressman Fitzpatrick sees savings of nearly $5 billion annually. Given Washington could see that much savings, shouldn't the private sector follow suit?
The year 2017 called and it wants to see us now.