The Mobile Future – Now, and Then

Posted by Taylor Haney on Wed, May 8, 2013

Continuing on with our mobile guest blog series for this month we had a great post from Tim Dunn, Director of Mobile, at Roundarch Isobar. Tim takes a look into the past and future and provides great insight into where mobile is headed. If you are interested in being a guest blogger please contact me at taylor [at] mitx [dot] org.

Tim Dunn   MITX blog postTim Dunn is the Director of Mobile at Roundarch Isobar. Roundarch Isobar, ranked the 15th largest digital agency in the world by AdAge, creates applications and digitally-centered marketing campaigns for the web, mobile devices and social media. With a focus on experience design, Roundarch Isobar conceives, designs and develops marketing campaigns as well as digital solutions like wearable computing, data visualization and mobile applications. Clients include adidas, General Motors and Coca-Cola.  While Tim has specialized in mobile for over 13 years, he now works across broad digital marketing strategy, and is interested in interactions, UX, media and marketing theory and innovation of almost any description. Twitter handles: @timmcdunn, @roundarchisobar

A few years ago, I was commissioned by the UK Government to write an extensive paper on the ‘Future of Mobile’. The piece was targeted at three areas of e-Government – NHS Choices, Directgov and Business Link, each of whom had at that point begun to progress services to mobile users.

It’s natural that whenever you look back over old work, particularly future-gazing work, you find it riddled with holes. I find the piece now quite lacking in my normal now habitual strong opinions, and equivocal of fading mobile players where normally I would be more harsh.  It’s very light on mobile media, the confluence of mobile and social. It doesn’t mention Twitter or second-screen (much), doesn’t deliver all that much on consumer insights, and so on.

But what would happen if I had to write this piece again today?

The ‘future of mobile’, if there is one, is much less clear now than it was then. I feel right now that mobile is struggling to find new innovations, and this is nowhere more clear than at Apple, as I wrote (or occasionally ranted) at the launch of the iPhone 5.

So is mobile now at a point of maturity where there’s nothing much more to come? Right now I think we are all pretty much aware that you can shop, view ads, book flights, play games, receive messages, make payments, watch TV etc. with your mobile.

But are we really just polishing the smartphone model, to make it slightly bigger, and faster? 4G and 5” screens are all very well, but they don’t make your head spin with excitement, and it’s partially this that is driving my work these days towards broader digital strategy and marketing theory.

Mobile   Now, and Then1


If pushed, though, what might be some of the key trends for the Future of Mobile 2013, beyond merely bigger, faster, more?

I welcome your ideas below the line, but as a starter for 10, perhaps we would be looking at:

  • Natural interfaces – the growth of new intuitive ways to control the device, such as eye-scrolling and gesture recognition.
  • Socio-economic dimorphism of mobile adoption and behavior based on geography and class. Will we see 4G simply extend and deepen the rural ‘not-spots’ we already see in broadband coverage? And will open OS smartphones truly enable digital participation regardless of earnings?
  • ID – I really don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of this. Smartphones should be able to carry secure and inviolable credentials such as passports and driving licenses, but I don’t see much work in the field. Also, we should surely be able to scan or verify ID without the need for peripherals such as Square? Surely mobile will be able to deliver the vision of people like Dick Hardt as shown in this bravura performance from 2006.
  • Enterprise – at Roundarch Isobar we do huge amounts of work in the Enterprise space that would be mind-boggling to my European colleagues. But I still think there’s a long way to go in B2B and B2E, specifically with BYOD in mind. Microsoft is providing leading thinking in this space.
  • Location – this might seem like an old chestnut now, but the fact that mobile is, well, mobile, has not been mined to anything like its full potential. The capabilities have been very much held back by lack of physical infrastructure and lack of standardization, but payment and vouchering should now be on the up as business gears up to match consumer behavior in the converged world.
  • Connected Devices – with the smartphone packing the same processing power that a mainframe could deliver not so long ago, your phone is likely to be the center of your own local cloud services before long with anything from your watch to your soccer team to (whisper it) your fridge hanging off it for processing power and network functions.
  • More New Devices – while wearable technology has always been a dream experienced by people who take Star Trek too seriously, Google’s commitment and steady progress with Glass means that mobile interaction will break out of the ‘just-the-smartphone’ model. Multiple mobile devices will engender another layer of context and use-case for us to deal with.

Let me know what you think and I hope you enjoy The Future of Mobile Technology (from the past).