The Internet of everything
The CEOs of Qualcomm, Nokia, RIM and NTT Docomo were brought together during last week's Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, for a panel discussion to offer a 360-degree view of the future of consumer electronics.
“Looking back 10 years ago, a phone was just a phone and voice was the killer app. A phone is now more than just a device to talk on, it is a device to compute with,” said Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm.
“Really what we believe going forward is that everything is going to be connected. People talk about the Internet of things, but soon it will be the Internet of everything. Our key vision is that the phone will sit in the centre of this Web of connectivity. It will essentially be your remote control for your environment,” said Jacobs, opening the discussion.
Mobile sixth sense
Jacobs offered Qualcomm's view on how this convergence will happen. “Peer-to-peer (P2P) will be of critical importance. In an increasingly complex environment, if we are going to be able to connect with the things around us, it will have to be as simple as possible.”
Jacobs envisages a notion of proximity-based P2P connectivity, whereby a user will be able to enter a room and his or her phone will automatically detect all the forms of connectivity, and will be able to connect to the correct device at the right time.
In terms of how the user interface for this new connectivity will work, Jacobs said augmented reality is to play a key role.
“Imagine your phone being able to recognise a photo frame on the wall, connecting to it and bringing up a menu to allow you to drag and drop new images from your phone into the frame.
“We're really at the beginning of this journey, and your phone will be your sixth sense to detect what is around you,” said Jacobs.
Jim Balsillie, CEO of RIM, spoke of the importance of alignment between mobile operators and consumer electronics developers. He offered two examples of where consumer electronics and carriers work together to offer “transformative experiences” to consumers. These examples were the tablet and carrier billing.
[EMBEDDED]“BlackBerry is the only wireless platform that allows carriers to participate directly in the app ecosystem.”
Balsillie also demonstrated the capabilities of the new BlackBerry Playbook to illustrate integration of services.
Age of convergence
Ryuji Yamada, CEO of Japanese mobile service provider NTT Docomo, said its data outputs are set to overtake voice outputs by March.
“We plan to drive our future growth by increasing Docomo's data output. This goes hand-in-hand with the rapid expansion of Japan's machine-to-machine market.”
Yamada added that Docomo is “aggressively” promoting the adoption of smartphones to increase data outputs, and investing in LTE infrastructure to cope with increase in data usage.
“In the near future, we will see the arrival of the age of convergence - between mobile devices and various other like tools. We believe we can offer many new services by adding mobile connectivity to information appliances such as industrial equipment, automobiles and many other tools.”
In the real world
Offering some concrete examples of the types of convergence users will be seeing much more of in the future, Yamada described a number of convergence technologies already offered by Docomo.
In terms of convergence with industrial equipment, Yamada used the example of vending machines that have wireless connectivity, and more specifically cigarette vending machines that have age authentication abilities in order to stop minors from buying cigarettes.
Docomo, Nissan and AT&T's joint project, “Nissan Connect”, won the Global Mobile Awards 2011 prize for the “Best Mobile Innovation for Automotive and Transport”. The telematics service includes an information control centre that communicates with the car navigation system via the onboard Telematics Communication Unit. This allows drivers to monitor traffic and even avoid congested routes.
“We also receive many requests for online security,” said Yamada, explaining that Docomo has added wireless connectivity to on-site construction vehicles. This connectivity allows for automatic reports of engine starts and activity to be sent directly to the owners.
“In the coming decade, we aspire to become a comprehensive service provider centred around mobile communications,” said Yamada.
Summing up what each CEO sees as the next big thing in consumer electronics, Jacobs reiterated that the phone will be the centre of the Web of connectivity. Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia, said the key development will be connecting people in developing countries with the “evolution of society”.
Balsillie, on the other hand, predicted growth in business-to-business (B2B) services. “Consumer electronics have been radically transformed in the last decade, but business has not. The B2B area of mobility will be bringing a lot more to the table.”
Yamada concluded by saying that with the increased convergence of services, the key will be how good a company is at blending those services.