The next wave of mobile devices will change media creation and consumption – and therefore, economics – by autonomously delivering unprecedented levels of personally relevant information to consumers after capturing such disparate digital data as home energy consumption, individual vital signs and even the amount of milk left in the refrigerator.
Thanks to increasingly intelligent artificial-intelligence algorithms, the active and passive digital breadcrumbs you generate each day will be mixed with Big Data collected over time – your demographics, location, credit rating, upcoming airline reservations, music preferences, Amazon purchases and last oil change – to deliver precisely targeted information on entirely new platforms ranging from eyewear to underwear.
The next mobile wave, which will make today’s info- and ad-delivery infrastructure look as clunky as the cellphones once powered by briefcase-sized batteries, will include such heavily hyped products as Google Glass and what, until further notice, we’ll call the iWatch. Following closely behind them in the marketplace, any number of nascent mobile devices will monitor everything from your weight-lifting ergonomics to the barometric pressure in your office.
Becoming commercially available in the near future, Google’s high-tech spectacles will, among other things, let you make calls, take pictures, search for information, exchange email and manage your calendar. At the same time, a steady flow of maps, traffic alerts, headlines, stock prices, social-network updates, advertising and other useful information will flash before your eyes. Because the glasses will be controlled with voice commands, you won’t have to take your hands off the wheel or out of your pocket to fumble for your phone.
Although the latest Android phone from Samsung still has to be plucked from your pocket, you can control it with a number of touch-free gestures. In one neat trick, the articles on the phone’s screen automatically scroll up and down by following the motion of your head as you read. Analysts believe this system is a precursor to the day when the phone actually follows your eyes, so it knows what you are reading and, of course, how long you lingered on the BMW ad.
While the long-rumored iWatch has yet to materialize from Apple (assuming it ever does), a number of early movers in the smartwatch space are delivering much of the same functionality planned for Google Glass. In addition to communications capabilities far surpassing those imagined by Dick Tracy’s Two-Way Wrist Radio, many smartwatches are packed with biosensors to monitor the full range of your vital signs.
Seeking to measure fitness in a more intimate fashion, Under Armor is developing workout clothes that monitor heart rate, speed, calories burned and other metrics that you can plot and ponder over time. Who cares? Well, a separate application called My Fitness Plan reported in May that its traffic in six months increased tenfold to 53 million hits a month.
Apart from devices you might wear, wireless data-grabbing gizmos will be available at every turn in your life. Samsung is shipping a smart refrigerator that tracks the contents to update your shopping list, as well as suggesting recipes for whatever may be spoiling inside. The Nest home energy system not only regulates the environment according to your living patterns (dialing down the heat when you sleep late on Sunday) but also delivers detailed data energy use so you can manage the household budget. Kia offers an iPhone app that provides maintenance alerts and makes service appointments – and, best of all, remembers where you parked the car.
Beyond the devices you elect to acquire on your own, your movements are tracked by a growing array of sensors in public spaces. International travelers are required to remove their hats when entering the Hong Kong airport so overhead meters can detect individuals with high fevers (who then are detained by health inspectors in surgical masks). Because the Golden Gate Bridge has stopped collecting cash tolls, you can't get into San Francisco without paying with a wireless transponder – or having a photo of your license plate snapped by the police.
As systems for collecting, storing, collating, analyzing and acting on these various streams of data get better – and they will – the next mobile wave will enable intensely personal media experiences that are the polar opposite of the traditional formats – and business models – that depend on attracting large audiences for one-size-fits-all content and advertising.
Metrics-driven marketers are bound to seize on the myriad ways the new technologies will efficiently target the right offer to the right customer at exactly the right place and time.
Publishers planning to play in the next mobile wave need to begin thinking about this stuff now.
Alan D. Mutter is a former newspaper editor and Silicon valley CEO who today consults with media companies on strategic technology development. He blogs at Reflections of Newsosaur (newsosaur.blogspot.com).