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Nick Bennett

Strategy Director

The future of Mobile

Think back to June 29th 2007 - I’m sure it will be a date that will not mean much to you but it was the launch of the very first iPhone. Some 18 months later, the first android-powered handset was rolled out and from there on in the two juggernauts have locked horns ever since.

This isn’t another blog about how we should all be leveraging the power of mobile and ‘the internet in your pocket’ - that was yesterday’s revolution. The future is way more exciting.

Many developments, re-imaginations, and updates later - the power of the mobile phone in our everyday existence has never been stronger. And we know that is only going to increase. The entire marketplace is a vast difference from where we were those 8/9 years ago, with marketplace creations, suiting for every taste and requirement.

The advancement of the technology infrastructure around it has also been vast, with the connected networks enabling more features/benefits and increasingly impressive speeds to allow users to get instantaneous responses from their handsets whatever the need.

The last 6 months and most likely the next 12 months will see the rise around Virtual Reality (VR) with more development being centred around how your handset can transform you into another world when paired with other technologies. This will become the norm in the homeplace, the future outside of that though remains unclear.

One major area that we fully expect to see evolve rapidly is around that of Maps. Much has been made of the difference between Apple and Google’s versions. The flexibility and customisation around your personal searches will only increase - being served up relevant information, points of interest and advice at any given time.

As Android and Apple both change the terms of you using their software, they at the same time start tracking your every move - the ability for your phone to really ‘know you’ is not that distant away. We often refer to mobile as second-screen, but for many the next few years will see a transition to it becoming their first screen.

Our dependency levels on phones will only increase, especially as they become more familiar toward our traits - the change of people functioning naturally in a digitally enhanced environment is creating a certain level of ambient intelligence that gives phone operators and manufacturers a strikingly high amount of access (and dare we say it - power - to your personal world).

The evolution of mapping though will not stop at that of the maps but will increase around the rise of the Internet of Things - as more gadgets and technologies access the same networks and real-time updates get quicker and more insightful. Perhaps one of the most interesting potential mapping innovations could come out Google's Project Tango. This is a real-time 3D mapping technology that uses phones with two cameras on recreate your view in 3D - a bit like Microsoft's Kinect. This technology could be used not just to create cool-looking 3D maps (imagine a 3D Streetview you could zoom around like Grand Theft Auto), but could have practical applications too such as helping the blind and partially sighted navigate more easily - all using the power of your phone.

The role of messaging through your device will also evolve at a rapid rate. We already have a plethora of options in Hangouts, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Skype to name a few - Google will almost certainly feel the pinch here and push toward a universal system that covers off all areas of communication (with web access also provided). At the centre of this could be Slack (Google has a large stake and thus vested interest) that could be used as the centralized element of Cloud-based messaging, but time will tell.

Paying through phone or wearable tech is now mainstream - it really has come of force and we believe that only the surface has been scratched. Your phone will replace your wallet in the next 10 years and more than likely your key’s to house and car but that is a whole other story (more on that below!)

The main removal in years to come will be the automated process of taking payment when you enter a building or train carriage. As more handsets / wearable devices are produced with NFC functionality this will become a constant part of our existence. Fingerprint recognition in both Android and iOS is already available (albeit not mainstream) and this will provide a barrier of login credential risk to ease the process of purchasing through your device. The big area of doubt that remains with this is the security of said systems. Despite multiple encryptions, there will always be an appetite for certain individuals to try and break and interfere with models that are created and so though the benefits are multiple - it is easy to understand why we should perhaps proceed with caution.

One counterpoint of those concerned with this is the rise in behavioural biometrics - your phone understanding your behaviour and building up a profile of behaviour. This will range from how you drive, message, call - everything you do will be anaylsed remotely and a profile be formed based upon that. From a security perspective, trying to replicate this will apparently be ‘near impossible’.

From a digital marketing perspective, what will be most interesting is that we will get a better understanding on a granular level of how that individual interacts with a website - allowing for much more dynamic customisation options that are tailored to just you.

One final that deserves more attention is around Hardware Innovation. The rise of flexible screens is very likely, which would also potentially enable for screens to stretched too.

A particular area that is getting lots of buzz is what has been called ‘lifi’. These are wireless signals sent using visible light: having a bulb flicker slightly dim and brighten many thousand times a second, data can be transmitted 100 times faster than wifi according to the scientists that pioneered it.

Our use of phone’s in the cars and home through connected technology will become mainstream. Be it dashboard's or controlling thermostats - the mobile will rule king and be at the centre of all activity in our lives.

Perhaps then the danger of the next 3 years is actually that of the unforeseen. As Amazon showed in 2014, their status took a little beating as they introduced the FirePhone and just perhaps learnt that rather than their own phones - it instead will focus on existing manufacturers to use its software and services, such as the Amazon App Store rather than Google Play - meaning that Google won't get a penny. A bit of healthy competition is not necessarily a bad thing!

Whatever may happen in the time ahead, the future is one that is amazingly exciting. If developers can get the multiple platforms into a state where we don’t require constant updates then that excitement increase furthers as more time will be spent on actual developments and not just housekeeping. The mobile phone is here to stay, just be ready for how much potential it has, something that we could not have envisioned those 8 years ago.