It's been more than 25 years since Gordon Gecko waved around a brick-sized Motorola Dynatec 8000X cellphone in the movie Wall Street. Then, it was the ultimate symbol of wealth and exclusivity. Now, more people around the world have access to a mobile phone than a toothbrush. Within three years, two billion global citizens will join the Internet for the first time--without ever seeing a PC. And, by the end of this decade, more than 50 billion devices--far beyond our "phones"--will connect and communicate via the web, much of them wirelessly.
It's no secret we live in a wireless world, and we've only just begun to witness its transformative impact. Last week, I led a conversation on mobile-fueled creative disruption at the Milken Institute's Global Conference. The annual gathering brings together corporate leaders, lawmakers and innovators of all stripe to contemplate solutions to the world's most pressing challenges--from the economic crisis in Europe, to global climate change, to the quality of education and health care here at home.
Our conversation included representatives from household names like Facebook and Cisco to up-and-comers that are shaping the next wave of mobile innovation. Among the insights:
- 80% of U.S. physicians use a wireless device in their professional capacity, and 60% do so during patient visits, according to Epocrates. The company and its technology, now part of Athenahealth, helped avoid 27 million drug errors last year alone.
- Facebook now openly declares itself a mobile company. How does a company with 1 billion users continue the creative disruption? By going after the most coveted digital real estate in the world--the home screen of your mobile device--via Facebook Home.
- What ARE all those connected devices that make up "The Internet of Things"? Smart money says many will come from products like Supermechanical's Twine, which allows consumers to easily connect their homes or offices, from the dog's water bowl to the office front door. The start-up is an innovator in terms of how it funded its venture, too; raising money from prospective customers via Kickstarter.
- Can today's Internet accommodate all the connectivity? In some respects, yes. According to Cisco, the latest and greatest Internet Protocol version - IPv6 - can accommodate trillions of URLs for every star in the universe. On the other hand, with mobile data traffic doubling year-over-year, significant progress is needed now to make more wireless spectrum capacity available to keep pace with consumer and business demand.
Our rapidly connected lives present amazing opportunities that will disrupt existing systems and blaze trails to groundbreaking solutions. The mobile web is unquestionably a key catalyst.
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Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future (www.mobilefuture.org), has been founding CEO of leading technology, media, and research companies, including Public Insight, Snocap, and Atmedica Worldwide. He served in the Clinton Administration as a Director on the National Security Council.