I've heard friends and family complain about how reliant they feel on their smartphone: "I have so many emails to read" or "I'm too distracted by all of these app notifications." These sentiments suggest that the device itself is adding extra distraction to users' daily lives when, in actuality, it is within our own control to balance our interactions between the physical and digital world. I envision a world where our smartphone is central to our lives in a non-obtrusive and intelligent way. Our smartphones can offer innovative opportunities for improving how we react to our environment, and I believe it is increasingly becoming an asset -- not a hindrance -- to maintaining a healthier relationship with our work, our friends, and the world around us. As our smartphone becomes even smarter, mobile technology should actually take the burden out of our daily lives.
Mobile Gives Us a Sixth Sense
Emerging mobile technologies are becoming an extension of the end-user, enabling new experiences and allowing mobile devices to be even more intelligent and efficient so as to work with your life, instead of distracting you from it. As more and more of our world becomes part of the wireless network, I see the mobile phone becoming a central command station for everything around us.
This future of the smartphone will create a "digital sixth sense," allowing us to fuse our digital and physical worlds to tap into new domains. Already wireless technology brings us information that we can't physically reach, but the digital sixth sense will introduce new ways to interact with the world naturally and effortlessly. Collapsing time, space and distance, the digital sixth sense ultimately creates seamless experiences that positively affect how we work, learn and play. It focuses on improving the way we handle day-to-day tasks, providing peace of mind and relieving stress. One way to achieve this is through "context aware" platforms that enable mobile applications to deliver more timely, personalized, and relevant content to users.
Context Awareness is King
Context awareness technology has incredible potential to impact our daily lives. As an example, a mom who is shopping enters a supermarket and is automatically notified by her smartphone of the items she needs to purchase, as well as in-store coupons that are specifically relevant to her family. Later, she goes to the gym and her phone automatically pulls up and plays her "workout playlist." She also could learn that her kids are staying late at school and be reminded to pick them up at 4 p.m. instead of 3 p.m. As a working mom myself, the possibility of my phone helping to plan my daily routine, manage my kids' active schedules, and keep me on top of household demands would alleviate stress in my life. In these scenarios, the device is giving the user relevant information because it sensed the user's location.
Context awareness can be used to build tools that solve a wide range of problems. It could be that your phone knows the time you depart for work each day and the route you drive. The digital sixth sense discovers that there's a car accident that has caused road delays and immediately sends you a notification and an alternate route to work. Suppose you attend a conference for work. Wouldn't it be convenient if right when you entered the venue, your smartphone told you where to pick up your badge and conference brochure?
Context awareness adapts to the user's interests and preferences so only the most important data will flash across the screen. The technology makes the phone smarter about you and becomes an ally which is ever more important in our technology-overloaded lives.
Connecting Homes, Lives, Objects
Today's innovators are looking to find a way to integrate wireless technology and connect tools, products and people in varying industries. With mobile technology at the center, we'll be able to monitor our homes, our health, and our cars so that we can take immediate action when necessary. If we leave the house and forget to turn off our lights or forget to close the garage door, we could fix that with our phone. We could program our thermostats from our office, lock our car doors from inside the mall, track our pets, or program our favorite television show to be recorded on the train home. What was previously a source of worry or stress can now be less burdensome due to the smartphone.
There are amazing things happening due to wireless technology -- healthcare, education, public safety are all are benefitting from mobile innovations on a large scale. But on a smaller scale, we can use the computing power of the phone to make smaller scale improvements in our daily lives. Whether it's monitoring appliances, cars, homes, or those who we love most, we can have peace of mind in knowing that what was previously "unknown" is now at our fingertips.
Peggy Johnson is executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., and president of global market development where she is responsible for commercializing new business opportunities and developing strategic relationships for the company. She oversees Qualcomm Labs, a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. that serves as an incubator focused on launching new businesses and products, and also serves as a member of Qualcomm's executive committee.