Recently, some of you told us in a survey that you wanted to learn more about the bloggers at giffgaff. Sadia started off with her introductory blog post last week – now it’s my turn and you can learn a bit more about me.
So I’m Ken, a long time guest blogger here at giffgaff. You might know me from my regular Tuesday evening blog posts where I compare the latest devices, mobile apps and technologies. I first got into blogging back in 2005 – since, I’ve been writing on the internet for almost ten years.
Here at giffgaff, I’ve been guest blogging for the past 4 years (you can find my first blog post here from May 2011). In those past 4 years, I’ve written some 200 blog posts: a total of 395,993 words according to Microsoft Office!
In this article, I wanted to share a bit more about me and my background. I’ll discuss the things that inspire me and why I’m hugely excited about the future of mobile. Along the way, I’ll share some of my favourite articles and some of the topics I’ve really enjoyed writing about over the past 4 years.
It was around a decade ago when I first became interested in mobile technology.
Back at university, I was previously studying physics. It was a real tour through the Universe: we looked at everything from the super-small to the super-large (from quantum mechanics to general relativity, cosmology and black holes). In particular, I was especially interested in astronomy and solar physics (back in 2013, I shared some of my favourite astronomy apps here on the giffgaff blog).
At University, I studied physics as my degree. I had a particular interest in astronomy and solar physics.
Around the same time, the first smartphones were released on the market. They set off a chain of events that have now gone on to totally transform the world around us. From how we access our money to how we hail a taxi, from the way we learn to the way we communicate, it’s difficult to think of a task or industry that hasn’t yet been affected by the mobile revolution.
The mobile industry & the forefront of technology
At university, the thing that struck me again and again was how the latest developments in science and technology were all being used in the mobile industry.
Take general relativity: Einstein’s equations for explaining the cosmos. Not only does general relativity explain the physics of a black hole, it’s also necessary for technology such as GPS to operate. Without the equations of general relativity built in to your smartphone, it wouldn’t be possible to use GPS navigation. You also wouldn’t be able to use any other app based on GPS (e.g. hailing a taxi from your smartphone or finding nearby restaurants). On a smaller scale, quantum mechanics and solid state physics explains a lot of concepts such as the difference between LCD and AMOLED displays.
It was this observation that inspired me to start writing about mobile technology. Never before in history, has any industry taken so many scientific developments and applied them to the everyday lives of so many consumers in such a meaningful way.
I was fascinated that Physics could be found so many places in the mobile industry: from the equations of GPS positioning to the physics of how mobile displays work.
Going on from that, the thing that really inspired me about mobile technology is how it totally democratised the process of innovation.
In 2011, in my first blog post for giffgaff, I wrote about the ways you could get involved in mobile. From building your own apps to making your own smartphone accessories, from running your own mobile network to starting your own mobile business, the barriers to actually doing something and making a difference are tiny in the mobile industry.
How mobile technology democratises innovation
Just ten years ago, it was incredibly difficult to build your own product. Typically, you would have needed to build your own bespoke piece of hardware. This would have meant starting a supply chain: finding a supplier for your components, a manufacturer and distributor. It would have meant finding a retailer with shelf-space for your product: no mean feat for a new and untested product. With such a long and complex route from idea to market, only the largest of corporations with the deepest of pockets are able to launch new products and services in the market.
The transformative change in the past 10 years has been the launch of the smartphone as a new platform for building products and services. The smartphone is essentially a commodity piece of hardware with high-speed connectivity and lots of multi-purpose sensors (e.g. GPS, compass, accelerometer, camera, microphone, barometer, heart rate monitor, pedometer, temperature sensor, NFC and more). It’s easy to build on the smartphone by making your own apps: there’s no longer any need to make your own bespoke hardware.
With mobile technology, everyone now has the ability to create innovative new apps that can possibly change the world.
Anyone can now build an app and possibly change the world
Nowadays, anyone with a laptop can easily build their own apps and services: just write code, push it to the app store, get feedback from your users and iterate on your product. Whether it’s a teenager in their bedroom or a hobbyist programmer, there’s now an open platform on which anyone can innovate with almost no financial risk and a quick route to market.
In the past 10 years, the apps industry has grown to be worth some $40 billion globally. Around 100 million apps are downloaded every day from users in all corners of the world. The pace of innovation has been absolutely incredible with thousands of new apps released every day.
The thing I’ve really loved about blogging at giffgaff is being right there on the front-line reporting on developments in mobile technology.
Mobile technology is changing our lives in more ways than we expect
Since I started writing for giffgaff, there have been all kinds of exciting developments in science and technology which have gradually made their way onto new mobile devices. Every day, we’ve seen new and exciting applications which have tried to solve our daily problems in a new or different way. Some of these new applications have gone on to transform entire industries. It’s been a hugely exciting time in the mobile industry and the pace of innovation will only grow stronger and stronger.
Before I finish this blog post, I want to cover some technologies and applications which I’m incredibly excited about for the next 10 years.
The Universal Translator: Mobile phones and universal communication
In 2013, I wrote a blog post on how today’s mobile technology compares to the technology imagined in Star Trek. For me, it was a real highlight in terms of articles to research (being a little bit of a Trekkie myself). The thing which really astonished me was how far technology had come and how much of science-fiction was now closer to science-fact.
For me, the Star Trek Universal Translator is still the technology I really want to see. Essentially, it’s a real-time translator between two languages so any two people anywhere in the world could have a conversation regardless of the languages they speak.
Today, voice recognition and real-time translation have certainly both improved a great deal. Microsoft now has built-in translation for voice calls and video calls made via Skype. Similarly, Google Translate has a ‘conversation mode’ built in to their iPhone and Android apps. It hasn’t quite reached the point where it’s perfect but it has the potential to make our world feel a lot smaller and better connected.
The latest version of Skype offers real-time translation during voice calls and video calls.
Mobile Health: Living healthier lives with a smartphone
Another area which really excites me is the intersection between mobile and health. The question is how mobile technology can encourage us to live healthier and better lives. The area is sometimes known as mobile health (MHealth) and it’s a real hotbed for research and innovation.
I first wrote about mobile healthcare in 2012. We looked at some apps from the NHS to measure you drinks consumption and to help you quit smoking. We also looked at smartphone applications to monitor your heart rate and stress levels. In subsequent blog posts, I investigated fitness applications and applications that can help you sleep better.
I firmly believe there are numerous ways in which mobile technology can nudge us to live more healthy and active lifestyles. For instance, a simple pedometer on your phone which tells you the number of steps you’ve taken so far that day can be hugely effectively is encouraging people to exercise more.
Going forward, there’s an infinite number of possibilities when health information is processed as big data. For instance, an outbreak of flu can already be predicted with crowdsourced information. With wearable technology such as smart watches, the volume of health information will increase in the future. For anyone who is able to analyse the data in a clever way, I think MHealth technology is an exciting place to be.
With MHealth, smartphones can help us to live healthier lives.
The Internet of Things: Connected Devices & The Smart Home
The third thing which really excites me is the internet of things and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. I first wrote about it on the blog back in March 2012.
Since then, more and more devices have been getting connected online. You can now control a number of devices and home appliances using nothing more than an app on your smartphone. Going forward, there are literally thousands of usecases, each of which can transform the way we live our lives. It’s another example of how mobile technology will play a key role in the years to come.
The internet of things and connected appliances will drastically change how we live our lives in the future.
Mobile phones & their role in economic development
The fourth thing which really stands out in making me exciting about the future of mobile is the role of mobile technology in developing countries.
In the UK, we take a lot of our public infrastructure for granted. There’s a bank on almost every high street, a school in almost every village and a doctors surgery in almost every town. Generally, it’s fairly easy for us to access these services and we regularly rely on them in all parts of our daily life.
Unfortunately, in many other countries around the world, the public infrastructure isn’t quite as good. For instance, for people in some countries, the nearest bank could be a day’s drive away. Without easy access to banking facilities, it’s much more difficult for the local population when paying for goods and when saving money for a rainy day. With mobile technology, banking facilities can now easily be offered to a large area of people simply by installing a mobile phone mast. Mobile banking can then be conducted through either a set of text messages or a smartphone application. It’s the same for healthcare and education: the services can all be offered at low cost with mobile technology.
It’s been shown that mobile phones closely link with economic growth and development. In the next few years as a billion more people get online, mobile technology is set to transform many more lives for people around the world.
Mobile technology plays a hugely important role in economic development around the world.
In this article, I’ve shared a few thoughts on why mobile technology inspires and excites me. For me, mobile lives right at the forefront of cutting-edge science and technology. It’s a place where anyone can develop innovative ideas and products and it’s an industry that’s rapidly changing the world around it. It’s why I’m hugely passionate about mobile technology and it’s why I hope to be able to share some of my enthusiasm with you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. What is it that really excites you about mobile technology? Which parts of the mobile industry do you want to learn more about? Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
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