About eight years ago, Steve Jobs unveiled the world’s first iPhone. And sparked a revolution. Today, smartphones are everywhere, and the physical and digital worlds are rapidly converging. There’s greater convenience ahead for users, but tougher times for conventional businesses, and more complexity for IT departments.
Good news: users of mobile devices may soon live half a year longer than non-users. That's according to the market research firm Gartner.
This increased life expectancy will be made possible by new wearables – like the Microsoft Band, Samsung’s smartwatch and the Apple Watch, which are due to go on sale in early 2015. These devices will monitor vital signs like heart rate and body temperature and raise the alarm if something goes awry. They will soon also be able transmit these readings directly to medical professionals, thereby further increasing life expectancy in the industrialized world.
Starting in 2015, day-to-day life for mobile device users will be more convenient as well as healthier. Mobile payment, for example, appears to be poised to take off, thanks to Apple Pay. With this app, payment is a simple matter of tapping a couple of keys on your iPhone, waiving it near a payment terminal and – voilà! – you’re done. No more queues at the cash desk. According to the market researchers at Gartner, the global volume of sales processed via mobile payment could top the USD 700 billion mark by 2017. That’s almost triple 2013 levels.
"Many consumers will simply leave their wallets at home and pay using their cell phones,"
Kempf notes that some German supermarkets, public transport operators and museums already offer mobile payment. He believes mobile payment will eventually become mainstream alongside conventional online banking.
These examples illustrate the great transformative power of ubiquitous Internet access. By combining digital markets with physical logistics services, the mobile trend is giving rise to new business models that can threaten the existence of long-established industries. One example of this is the taxi service Uber. With the Uber app, users can use their mobile phones to arrange rides in hire cars and private cars for a lot cheaper than a conventional taxi. Another example is Zalora, Southeast Asia’s leading online fashion retailer. Zalora combines an online and mobile presence with its own physical logistics operation. This paradigm shift towards the online world is happening very fast and poses a major challenge to conventional business mindsets. Germany's outspoken Internet entrepreneur Oliver Samwer put the matter a little more bluntly at the Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit in Paris this June when he quipped that the online shift was happening "at the speed of a F1 race car" and that anyone who wants to see the future should talk to a 15-year-old because teenagers live their whole lives on their smartphones.
The mobile trend is certainly cause for concern for conventional businesses. Here's what the facts tell us: businesses that integrate the Internet and mobile technologies into their strategies are more successful than the rest of the economy. That’s the conclusion of a joint study by BITKOM, the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln) and Google. Stefan Hentschel, Industry Leader Technology at Google Germany, explains: "The Internet is a turbocharger for the German economy. Massive opportunities are there for the taking for businesses that embrace digital transformation."
The fact that users are perpetually immersed in computing power and permanently online is not making life any easier for IT developers. That’s because there is a steady proliferation of different platforms and IT architectures. Commenting on this phenomenon at the Gartner ITxpo in Orlando in October, Gartner Vice President and Gartner Fellow David Cearley noted that, in 2015, the focus of development would shift more towards usability design and the contexts in which apps are used.
This complex and growing muddle of devices and apps is also a headache for corporate IT departments, as employees bring their own smartphones and tablets to work or install apps on company devices without permission. So, not surprisingly, the fight against shadow IT will in 2015 continue to be top of the agenda with many of the world's CIOs. Did Steve Jobs foresee these far-reaching consequences when he presented the first iPhone to the world?