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Shifting toward The Internet Of Things - building capabilities for mobile

DEMO Mobile 2013 - Exhibition floor
DEMO Mobile 2013 - Exhibition floorMichal Lenchner

Today, mobile devices are THE trend. Not too long ago, the laptop was our 'mobile' device, relatively heavy and carried in a bulky shoulder bag. Over time, mobile devices have gotten smaller, cheaper and more powerful. Nowadays we have several device options, such as smart phones, tablets, or a PDA-type (personal digital assistant) tool, all operate with a touch screen rather than a keyboard. We also have different connectivity methods, like cellular networks (4G or 3G) and wireless networks (Wi-Fi), with direct Internet connections. These devices come with various levels of processing power and depending on their function, offerings, and price - users choose their mobile tools.

According to Wireless Intelligence (October 2012) there were 6.6 billion mobile subscriptions in 2012 globally. About 10 percent of these are inactive, bringing the total down to 5.9 billion. Currently, the estimated number of unique mobile users worldwide is 3.2 billion.

As we move from the web era to the mobile era, businesses realign their models: instead of taking desktop applications and adapting them to mobile devices, now companies are ‘thinking mobile’. Smart phones, tablets, PDAs, and even smart watches, are shifting to become the main personal computing tools. In the near future, the typical PC will be used more as a back engine for heavier computing and specific applications, and less than of a personal device.

The DEMO Mobile conference this week focused on the latest mobile innovations and trends for consumer, enterprise, social, and the commerce domains, exploring applications, user experience, operating systems, interfaces and hardware. At the event, twenty pre-selected startups with the best new mobile technologies launched their products. The DEMO team selected these innovations based on design, originality and market potential.

The Internet Of Things lets us connect products, services, and social media across the business Ecosystem. The concept of pervasive computing is gaining traction and can revolutionize the work place, where a Human-Centered Design (HCD) drives interdisciplinary collaboration cross functionally, involving software developers, engineers, user experience (UX) and people-computer interaction experts, human behavior scientists and visual designers. Advances in mobile technology allow pervasive computing models - i.e. the design of smart connected technology products with information-rich services - to evolve and enter the market.

For example, one of the startups that caught my attention was Eye Tribe, which introduced one of the emerging app-types in the mobile world and, perhaps, a game changer. Eye Tribe tracks minute movements of the eye pupils. By tracking the human eye at micro accuracy, the app enables control of the mobile device and knows where the user is looking, at any second. Initially, such technology was developed for the disabled, but it has commercial potential and many uses across industries. How does it work? The technology enables the user to scroll the screen up or down by rolling the eyes up or down. Based on eye movement and focus, the app tracks changes and highlights navigation icons or tabs the person looks at. It also enables hands-free login.

Eye detection and face ‘reading’ software has medical and rehabilitation aspects, but can also be used in gaming and many business applications on desktop computers, phones and tablets. In fact, at their booth, Eye Tribe demonstrated a couple of games that were designed to respond to eye movement versus use of fingers over a touch screen, the typical gaming mode in smart mobile devices. With pervasive technology, the arcade-type game had a much faster reaction time than moving a finger over the screen. Other utilizations may be in display advertising, where marketers will have visibility to what engages users and for how long, beyond clicks, which are the typical measure today: if the user looks at an advertisement (or a banner ad) that is flushed on the screen, technology like Eye Tribe’s can track that. This type of app presents a scary notion: it knows exactly where you look at on the screen, tracks the data, and captures a lot of information about you!

Is this a nice to have feature, or are customers really looking for this? Will it promote privacy issues? Time will tell.

Having a smart phone in our pocket actually means having a small computer handy. This fact helps proliferate the concept of a 'Push Button’ applications for mobile devices, where a user literally 'touches' a button on the screen and gets something happen right away. Examples include ordering a car ride (Uber) or ‘fetching’ a service provider to do a task (Exec) like house cleaning or package delivery. These compelling mobile apps are very convenient and create market engagement by allowing new type of services for users. Push Button apps use the concept of a remote control (your phone) to get the action or task done in real life.

As an investor, Vinod Khosla said that in emerging markets and with new technologies we cannot pretend we know what will happen and how exactly customers are going to use the new offering. Khosla, a successful businessman, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems and served as its first CEO and Chairman in the early 1980s. Later, he became a general partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and in 2004 he founded Khosla Ventures, which focuses on venture investments in various technology sectors and mainly in clean technology. A strong supporter of Cleantech he is often quoted: "If it doesn't scale, it doesn't matter. Most of what we talk about today—hybrid, biodiesel, ethanol, solar photovoltaics, geothermal—I believe are irrelevant to the scale of the problem”

Khosla spoke with Erick Schonfeld, the Executive Producer of DEMO. He said that we must allow and plan for experimentation; we need to allow innovation to flow and evolve, without putting restrictions of ROI (return of investment) time frames. Using this approach in many of his investments, Khosla had successful results. The idea is to enable agility for entrepreneurs and allow exploratory approach, creating room for opportunities to emerge. Per Khosla, CEOs need to focus on the vision of their companies by building great execution teams to run all the aspects of the business. He talked about attitudes of founders and the difference between building a small revenue company and a billion dollar business: the company becomes the people it hires, therefore planning and executing while aspiring to become a large company carries a different attitude than sufficing with one product or a narrow family of products. With all the shifts in computing, what does it take to create a new category? Khosla believes that attitude plays a key role.

When it comes to mobile marketplaces, there are a lot of emerging applications in healthcare, which will transform the health industry, shifting some functions from the doctor's office to your mobile device. Khosla demonstrated a cell phone case with a heart monitor embedded in the plastic. The sensor tracks the heart rate of the user and helps detect abnormalities. Another example is a breath analyzer on a mobile device, which can help detect early stages of some diseases.

Products that feed the emotional lead of humans are also a growing sector in mobile technology. Khosla predicted that mobile-based products and apps that interface with human emotions are an emerging area, where innovations and new ideas will evolve.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

1. Eye Tribe – Mobile Eye Control – targets the $ 250 billion mobile device markets globally.

Founders are Sune Alstrup Johansen (CEO) and Martin Tall (CTO) of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Website: www.theyetribe.com

2. Pervasive ComputingMAYA Design Inc. is a technology design firm and innovation laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. MAYA helps companies design more usable and useful technology products, as well as information-rich services and environments. It has established a pervasive computing practice to help companies design smart connected products, environments, and services (From Wikipedia.org)

Product at DEMO: MakerSwarm, an authoring technology that enables collaboration among swarms of connected products, empowering users to build tools directly on their mobile devices in minutes.

Website: www.maya.com

3. Wireless Intelligence - Global mobile penetration - subscriber versus connections.

Click here for the report, which is based on research in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

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