Trends in the Time of COVID19: Mobile Technology

For the past 8 years, I have been tracking trends that would affect business as we know it. Generally I was focused on a decade or two in the future, but with COVID19 acting as an accelerant, the future is now for work, communities and transportation. This is why I am reviewing past #Futureofwork trends and where we are now in the time of COVID19. 

In the Spring of 2013, it was all about mobile technology. We ditched our Blackberries® and flip phones for the iphone 3G, yet most of us weren’t using it to its fullest extent. My predictions included the end of the doorbell and the watch. I was clearly wrong about the latter (not envisioning them to become mobile device themselves), but when was the last time you rang a doorbell v. texting someone upon your arrival?

In 2013 I focused on how mobile technology affected spatial relations:

  • It meant we could live in smaller spaces without books, stereos, TVs, and as a result in 2013 we started seeing the development of new micro-units. Many of which were running up against outdated zoning regulations.
  • It gave more people access to the internet (middle and lower-income families could afford a phone v. a home computer).
  • We were witnessing the beginning of the end of traditional retailers. Those that survived the Great Recession either had e-commerce strategies or were starting to explore them. E-commerce got a boost from mobile and we began seeing new retail strategies like direct-to-consumer, retail within retail, and pop-up stores.
  • Those of us who embraced mobile technology started to see a change in our needs for office space. Those of us watching younger generations, felt that if people can work remotely, they will.

Fast forward to today and mobile technology has helped facilitate the trends listed above. But, it is also developing in more ways than we could have imagined in 2013. Here’s a spotlight of a few mobile technology trends and how COVID19 is accelerating them.

1.  Artificial Intelligence. Mobile technology has ushered in everyday use of AI through Alexa, Siri and other personal assistant apps. COVID19 has accelerated our need for voice activated technology and we can expect this trend to increase at a quicker pace than originally anticipated.

2. Tracking. In 2013, we loved the idea that mobile technology allowed us to work from anywhere and that no one knew where we were. The irony today, is that they serve as tracking and tracing devices. As long as we have our phone, someone, or something knows where we are at all times. The adoption of tracing apps due to COVID19 has accelerated our acceptance of surveillance via our mobile technology.

3. Augmented Realty. AR was not widely available in 2013. At that time, we were mostly talking about virtual reality. I’ve always felt AR was the bigger trend as you don’t need special equipment, making it’s easier for all to adopt. Pokémon Go was the application that ultimately lead to the mass adoption of AR in 2016. Today, you have apps like Ikea’s incorporating AR into their online shopping app. With the increase in online shopping and doing business online due to COVID19 we will see more AR applications on our phones and tablets.

4. Wearable technologies. If there’s one thing that moves forward the adoption of new technology, it’s health and safety. The Fitbit moved the adoption of wearables along quickly and I expect temperature checks will eventually do the same for other wearables.

5. The internet of things. Mobile devices in the past have been used to connect with other mobile devices but now we are connected to our home security, our cars, and picture frames, etc. We will continue to see connected devices interact seamlessly as increased surveillance and community monitoring comes into play. 

6. Mobile payments. While they were definitely around in 2013, it wasn’t until Venmo mainstreamed the ability to pass money instantaneously that we felt truly comfortable with mobile payments. With COVID19, mobile shopping and the idea of touchless payments is making cash seem like a much less attractive alternative.

7. Mobile security. If you are not using 2-step verification for all your apps, it’s time to start. With mobile phones running your banking while being connected to the internet of things, cyber security is even more important than ever.

8. Biometrics. Whether it’s voice, eye, facial or fingerprint recognition, we will continue to see the increase in biometric access and identification. COVID19 will likely increase the pace of integration of such security going forward.

9. 5G. This is the 800 lb gorilla and it’s coming. Unfortunately, most devices will have to be upgraded to use it; and it’s not a cost-effective solution to bring broadband to rural areas. COVID19 has showed how important it is to have equitable access to broadband / internet for work and school. And 5G will not improve that as it will be limited to denser, more urban areas. And in fact could increase the inequities in both work and schooling.

10. Cutting cable wires. Tired of complaining about Comcast, AT&T and whoever is your carrier of choice (or lack of choice)? Hopefully, as we become more dependent on videos for entertainment, we can expect more competition and more direct to consumer innovation that could bring costs down plus provide the customization that we have come to expect in our consumption of data.

Diane Danielson is the founder of the Future Proof Research Collaborative and has always been interested in the future of work, communities and transportation and works with companies who seek to “Future Proof” their businesses.

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