Thanks to the rapid rise of smartphones, the internet now comes with us through every step of our daily journeys. Here's where technology will take us next.
The smartphone changed everything. It's hard even to remember a time when we did not have Google waiting on the nightstand to answer a burning question about who starred as the judge in "Night Court." (It was Harry Anderson.)
We now see the long-awaited "year of mobile" gliding away from us in the rear-view mirror. Whoops! It happened in 2007.
That was the year the first iPhone hit the market, and the tectonic plates of media creation and consumption started grinding together. Suddenly, every iPhone owner had a supercomputer in her pocket as powerful as the machines that guided Apollo 11 to the surface of the moon in 1969. Wave after wave of iPhones arrived, soon followed by lookalike Android phones from Samsung and others.
Together phone, iPod, camera, video camera, GPS, accelerometer, email, web, texting, and chronic 24/7/365 access to social media platforms combined to accelerate our behavior, ratchet up our impatience, as well as democratize access to information, distribution, and each other. From the smartphone crucible came disruptive new companies: Uber and Lyft changed how to get a ride, and Airbnb changed how to get a place to stay. Other companies built innovation into existing products, like Fandango selling movie tickets directly on the handset.
In the laptop era, we internet users "went online," stepping into another world like the Pevensie kids stumbling into Narnia. With smartphones, the internet comes with us through every step of our daily journeys. Now everything is about to change yet again across four overlapping dimensions: the four horsemen of the Dotpocalypse.
Cloud computing is the most familiar of the horsemen (for example, Dropbox). Whereas 10 years ago an entrepreneur would have needed to invest in an expensive server to start a business, with Amazon Web Services you just have to start a pay-as-you-go account. Netflix runs on AWS. Every device will shrink significantly over the course of the next decade.
What Napster and iTunes did for, or to, the music business, 3D printing will do to the majority of manufacturing. Today 3D printing is a gimmick or a toy, but in a decade you'll make fewer trips to the store to buy things you can just as easily make at home -- like printing a photo today. You'll never again have to borrow the mechanic's loaner car because a part has to be shipped to the shop -- the mechanic will just print the part.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) makes everything in your house, car, and office into a data point. Far beyond the smart fridge that tells you when to buy milk, IoT makes access to the information you need about your home, work, and family as accessible, taggable, and searchable as digital information is today. Think of it as Evernote for your whole life. "Mom, where did I leave my baseball mitt?" is a question that no kid will ever ask again.
Finally, wearable computers take the smartphone to the next logical extreme, making intimate both the creation and display of information. With biometrics, wearables empower us to track our movements, location, and health, and also link us to other people. Then, on-body display and heads-up display move information from the world directly into our lines of sight.
For marketers, the next wave of changes in how we navigate our daily lives will make everything both harder and more exciting as new opportunities to connect with our customers come into focus.
Brad Berens is principal, Big Digital Idea Consulting.
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"Businessman hand working with a cloud computing diagram" image via Shutterstock.