Men’s clothing has always had lots of pockets. We carry our keys, wallets and, these days, our mobile phones in them. More recently, there’s been a few more digital gadgets in these pockets: music players, cameras, a wireless email device and the odd smartcard or two.
Some folks have rationalized these gadgets into a fewer number of more capable devices. The phones with camera, music player & wireless email capabilities, the so-called smartphones, are really getting around. Phones that you can watch television on are beginning to become popular. Phones with GPS navigation facilities are starting to emerge. There are many more of these sorts of things to come, like Apple’s iPhone.
More and more, these pocket devices talk to your car. Many cars come with a wireless link to a phone so you don’t have to plug and unplug it every time you get in and out. An iPod-integration kit can let you control you pocket music player from you car audio system. Some cars allow a whole raft of devices to be plugged in at once and are fully incorporated into a vehicle-based voice-recognition system.
Some cars even have a digital wireless key which recognizes you as you approach, opens the door and adjusts the seat, mirrors and sometimes the steering wheel to you personal settings. Some pocket devices, like smartcards and proximity cards, talk to things like building security systems, credit card machines and to your PC. Many television set-top boxes have smartcards in them. These digital identity & access control devices provide strong security with convenience.
Some of the payment-card people are taking things one step further. Points-of-sale are fitted with a proximity reader that lets you pay for things in a shop by putting a card close by. Some furniture manufacturers are going in another direction, letting you change the battery in a range of handheld devices by placing them on an area of a desk or table without plugging them in. Both these things present the ultimate convenience of being able to do things without appearing to have done anything at all.
Almost all these handheld devices get services from some network or another – the phone network or the Internet, the electronics payment network or the electricity network. Some plug into a cradle that attaches to you PC which in turn plugs into the Internet. Increasingly these networks are becoming wireless, high-speed and available in a growing number of places.
In the not too-distant future, a pocket device will become so capable that it will be your portable electronic life – a wallet, keys, phone, HD (video) camera, email, payment and all-round useful thing. The challenges are to make them as easy-to-use as their everyday components are. Advances in touch-based interfaces will be helped by better voice-recognition. If it knows who and where you are, services on the network can help it become much more useful. Security & privacy of the device itself will be helped by incorporating strong biometric authentication & authorization technologies.
In a world of many billions of these kinds of devices, the provision of services over the networks will change dramatically. Nokia has some great concept videos of how this might look on YouTube. It’ll encourage many service providers across and between industries and governments to re-focus on customers’ wants & needs rather than their own views of how to provide goods and services. It will also take social networking to the next level.
This kind of collaboration and cooperation is the next productivity and convenience revolution. It will save so many people from moving from place to place so much, which has to be good for the planet. It will empower a younger generation to have influence over an older generation, which has to be good for the future. It will also speed things up without making everyone feel so frantically rushed and tired all the time. That’s got to be good for us all.