Now’s The Time

I’d like to highlight a blogpost by Adobe staffer Mihai Corlan this week, “Unlocking the true potential of smartphones”… not for its answers, but for its questions.

Mihai starts by noting that “my first four computers were less powerful than the current smartphone I’m using these days”, and goes on to describe some things he’d like to do with it… controlling his television, house temperature, managing his music system, collaborating on to-do lists.

It makes sense. You’re carrying around a few ounces of electronics anyway. It should be able to communicate with other devices around you… should be, quite literally, “a control panel to the world”. It seems an inevitable future.

But it’s under-discussed. All the recent techblog psychodrama is just distraction. The reality is that there are entire new classes of affordable devices arriving this year. And unlike PCs or The Internet, these devices will be both globally adopted, and explosively adopted. The world in three years will be quite different from today.

We need to imagine now how people will want to use these personal, always-handy communication devices. A decade or two ago some sages surmised the potential of The Web, but even with its relatively slow growth we were all surprised by what we discovered we could do. Mobile potential was even more fragmented, but early adopters like Japan and Korea showed the potential, while texting showed the universal popularity. The next year will blow past those previous disruptions.

Please, take a minute, read Mihai’s post, see what problems he’s trying to address. Then visualize such scenarios in your own life, how such devices might be used, how they should be used.

We’re at a unique point in time right now — we can see the disruptive change ahead, even though we cannot readily see its form. But it’s too easy to turn away and let it fall upon us. I believe that the more we visualize and choose among possible futures now, the more quickly things will improve for everyone.

What kind of application would you use to control this, for instance…?

2 Responses to Now’s The Time

  1. One possible way to proceed would be to define into Unicode a portable interpretable object code. This would enable software to be transferred from device to device using Unicode characters, whilst not using markup techniques and whilst containing the software within a sandbox environment. I have started some research on this possibility.
    At present, research is using some codepoints in the plane 15 Private Use Area of Unicode.
    Researching, developing and implementing the idea is only in its early stages at present and I am unaware, at the time of writing this note, as to whether anyone has produced a working demonstration. Yet such a portable interpretable object code formally encoded into regular Unicode could provide a stable, manufacturer-independent standard for moving software from device to device and then running the software in the receiving device.
    The formal encoding process of Unicode would allow the best possible system to be produced.
    William Overington
    14 July 2010

  2. Greg Gavutis says:

    At the moment, the presence of IR on phones seems to be the sure-fire way to connect to many electronics items (since they all have remotes). Seems very old-school but I think that’s the reality today.
    What will the next standard be to let devices ‘talk’ to one another this freely? It’s easy to say IP, but to what extent can we count on companies ‘agreeing’ on an open spec? HDMI (which also carries some possibilities for sending control data, though I’m not too familiar with the specifics) is another case where a new standard is being rolled out- albeit in the name of copyright protection and controlling content distribution. Could it be useful for all home systems (controlling lights, etc.)? The thought of the MPAA having the power to shut off critical systems in the house is a little scary however… 😉
    I think some of the location-based service apps I’m hearing about are great, and wonder if GPS resolution will become even more fine-grained in the future. Imagine if just by keeping your phone in your pocket, your house knew which room you were in- and could predicatively turn on lights in the next room at night as you walked towards it- or adjusted climate control for rooms with ‘active’ phones in them (not sure how to determine if someone left it lying on a desk)- or opened your garage door automatically when you pulled in the driveway.