Trends in mobile technology: the next decade

Mobile devices will change hugely over the next 10 years
Mobile devices will change hugely over the next 10 years

Mobile technology is constantly changing, so we asked personal media company Tigerspike to put together its views on how the devices we use will change over the coming decade.

2013 - Proliferation of mobile devices

The average UK family now has 10 personal media devices according to recent research from Microsoft. Each person has a proliferation of different devices connected to the Internet from Smart TV's to smartphones, e-readers, gaming consoles as well as tablets. Consumers are increasingly able to 'Bring their own devices' to work, meaning more freedom to work remotely.

2014 - 95% of e-commerce websites will have an iPad presence

Conversion to sales rates on tablets are three times greater on tablets than on smartphones according to research from Adobe. 2014 will be the year when companies will really start to differentiate between smartphone and tablets experiences.

2015 - Tablets outsell desktop and notebook PCs combined

Sales of tablets have grown exponentially ever since the iPad was introduced in 2010. Tablets will increasingly be used in workplaces and in education, two of the largest PC markets with some governments equipping all secondary children with this equipment for free.

PC sales have declined for the past six consecutive quarters, at an annualised rate of 10%, which is unprecedented in the history of the PC market, according to data from IDC and Gartner.

2016 - Your smartphone will have a screen that lets you feel textures

Electrovibration technology will feature in everyday touchscreen devices by 2016, making it possible for your smartphone or tablet to deliver electrostatic charges to fingers, which has the effect of tricking your brain into thinking it is feeling a texture. Disney has recently shown off some advanced implantations of such technology from its research labs, and Finnish company Senseg expects to commercialise its electrovibration technology in 2014. Apple has today already filed a number of patents that relate to electrovibration technology.

2017 - Nearly half of first-time computer purchases for the workplace will be a tablet or ultra-mobile PC

Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP in April 2014, making many systems that are still fit for purpose obsolete overnight. Tablets and ultra-mobile PCs will increasingly be the device of choice with 2017 being the tipping point.

Windows 8.1 and Intel's power-efficient 4th generation Haswell processors are driving take-up of Windows tablets and ultra-mobile PCs in the workplace as a replacement to laptops in the cases where iPad has not already done so.

2018 - Speech-to-speech translation will enable real-time, multi-language conference calls

Microsoft demonstrated impressive speech-to-speech translation in 2012, although we are likely still a few years away from real-time multi-language conference calls becoming a commercial reality. IBM has recently said it will open its Watson supercomputing platform to third party developers, which will enable natural language processing features to be built into apps. Consider that security and emergency services can pay up to £20 per minute for real-time telephone translation services, and the money saving potential of this technology becomes clear.

2019 - Every office will have a 3D printer

3D printing is an emerging technology, but why we all need one is not yet obvious. Just as it was not obvious when the PC was introduced in the 1970's why you needed one there was soon one on every desk. The same will happen with 3D printing by 2019. Boeing recently announced that it plans to use 3D printers to create parts for jet engines, where the complex retooling of plant machinery required to build certain parts can lead to an 18-month lead time. In the medical world, a doctor was recently able to practice the separation of conjoined twins by 3D printing a copy of the twins' vascular system prior to surgery to practice on. We will all have a 3D printer soon.

2020 - 80% of health insurance premiums will be calculated by analysing data collected by wearable health monitors

2013 has seen a steep rise in the popularity of wearable activity trackers like Fitbit and Nike Fuelband, but these devices are just the beginning. As the devices become smaller (even taking the form of tattoos), cheaper and more widely adopted, and as organisations become able to process the vast quantities of data shared by these devices, health insurance companies will be able to offer cheaper healthcare plans to individuals that are willing to share their data with them. We expect the smartphone to become the 'hub' that will connect these devices to the Internet and to each other.

2021 - 30 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, most of them mobile products

The rise of the Internet-of-Things and Machine-to-Machine communication will accelerate from where we are today and lead to an estimated 30 billion unique 'devices' being connected to the Internet by 2021. Sensors will become increasingly miniaturised and disposable, to the point where they will be in your clothes and your jewellery. You will throw more computing devices into the laundry in a single week than you have used in your lifetime so far. Data collected by wearable devices will drive 5% of sales from Fortune 1000 companies by 2021.

2022 - You will use your body as an input surface

This is currently an emerging technology, but with interesting implications for user interface design. Known as 'bioacoustic sensing', this technology essentially uses highly sensitive acoustic sensors on your body, which listen for the sound of your finger touching your skin. This allows the skin to be used as a finger surface, whereby you could dial a phone number onto your hand, for example, or use your forearm as a scrolling interface. Tap near your wrist to scroll up, tap near your elbow to scroll down.

2023 - You will be able to control your smartphone with your mind

Devices that make use of electroencephalography (EEG) technology to measure brain waves are already available, such as the EPOC Emotive Headset and the Muse Headband, however these devices are still far away from mainstream adoption. Once the technology has become so miniaturised that it can take the form of a small patch worn behind the ear, instead of the headset format of today, we expect smart devices of 2023 to be reading our brainwaves and allowing interaction with computers through thought alone.

  • Tigerspike is a personal media company that has created apps for Westfield, American Express, the Economist and the Sydney Opera House.