In Harald Neidhardt's just-released book Lifestyle of Mobility, a hundred industry movers-and-shakers predict the future of mobile applications. Indeed, Neidhardt declares that the post-PC era is already upon us.
Neidhardt has the tech cred to make that statement. He's the founder of MLove, which is both a mobility "lifestyle" Web site and a series of South-by-Southwest-like "ConFestivals."
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Neidhardt will put some meat behind his mobility message at DESIGN West, in his session Future of Mobile: Lifestyle of Mobility on Thursday, April 25 at 8:00 AM. The mobility tipping point is upon us because current devices now house arrays of MEMS sensors. This opens up possibilities for "empathetic" electronics, which adapt their functions to users and their local environment.
"I think there are tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs designing new mobile devices with embedded 'empathy' systems and apps that fuse relevant local and immersive sensor data," said Neidhardt.
According to Neidhardt, the first wave of mobility was borne by the telecommunications giants, from AT&T (U.S.) to NTT (Japan), which built walled gardens around their wireless devices and associated services. The second wave rose as a result of the iPhone, which initiated the app-economy that is also enjoyed today by Google's Android, Amazon's Kindle and Microsoft's Windows Phone along with tablets from the Apple iPad to Samsung's Galaxy Tab.
Mobility apps are being integrated into nearly every consumer field, from health to automotive to games to music to retail and lifestyle electronics.
The third wave washing over us now is integrating mobility into every other nook and cranny of electronics by virtue of the inclusion of wireless connectivity and MEMS sensors. Connected homes, connected automobiles ,and connected tools of every type are leveraging ubiquitous sensors and processors to add smarts to everything we do. Thus the smartphone is becoming the remote control of our lives by virtue of apps that use its touchscreen as their human interface.
"In the third wave of mobility, products of every type are being mobilized," said Neidhardt. "Mobility is no longer just for communications, but is becoming an integral part of nearly every new product. You can see that in cars with better integration to iPhone services and apps like music streaming or my favorite, the Smart eBike and eScooter--the first real crossover products where industries collide."
Neidhardt cites the eBike as a shining example of the third wave, because it takes a common device that has nothing to do with the electronics industry--biking--and pioneers a new market by making the smartphone its remote control with dedicated apps that display battery level, speed and odometer readings. There are also an unlimited number of "empathetic" add-on apps, which adapt to user's environments. These include calorie counters that track a user's weight and exercise goals, route trackers that know the way home, and a thousand other apps that engineers have yet to invent.
Neidhardt also promises to speculate in his session about a coming fourth wave that will integrate artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, biotechnology and smart nano-materials into mobility applications.
"Over the next decade, our current post-PC era will be pushed aside by the Internet of Things when the size of a smartphone will be reduced to the size of a blood cell, and the AI capacity of IBM's Watson will be downsized to the size of a smartphone," said Neidhardt. "Connectivity will be so cheap that single purpose devices will come in all shapes and formats, and the components of today's smartphones will be disassembled and moved closer to our skin and body while the display becomes head-mounted."
Session info: Future of Mobile: Lifestyle of Mobility session on Thursday, April 25 at 8:00 AM .
Conference Home Page: Design West 2013 (April 22-25, San Jose, Calif.)
Harald Neidhardt's book Lifestyle of Mobility