Research firm Gartner has identified eight mobile technologies that will evolve significantly through 2009 and 2010, impacting short-term mobile strategies and policies.
â€œAll mobile strategies embed assumptions about technology evolution so itâ€™s important to identify the technologies that will evolve quickly in the life span of each strategy,â€ said Nick Jones, vice president and analyst at Gartner. â€œThe eight mobile technologies that we have pinpointed as ones to watch in 2009 and 2010 will have broad effects and, as such, are likely to pose issues to be addressed by short-term strategies and policies.â€
Bluetooth 3.0 specification will be released in 2009 (at which point its feature set will be frozen), with devices starting to arrive around 2010. Bluetooth 3.0 will likely include features such as ultra-low-power mode that will enable new devices, such as peripherals and sensors, and new applications, such as health monitoring.
Bluetooth originated as a set of protocols operating over a single wireless bearer technology. Bluetooth 3.0 is intended to support three bearers: â€˜classicâ€™ Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ultrawideband (UWB). It’s possible that more bearers will be supported in the future. Wi-Fi is likely to be a more important supplementary bearer than UWB in the short term, because of its broad availability. Wi-Fi will allow high-end phones to rapidly transfer large volumes of data.
Mobile User Interfaces (UIs)
UIs have a major effect on device usability and supportability. They will also be an area of intense competition in 2009 and 2010, with manufacturers using UIs to differentiate their handsets and platforms. New and more-diverse UIs will complicate the development and support of business-to-employee (B2E) and business-to-consumer (B2C) applications.
Organisations should expect more user demands for support of specific device models driven by interface preferences. Companies should also expect consumer interfaces to drive new expectations of application behavior and performance. Better interfaces will make the mobile Web more accessible on small devices, and will be a better channel to customers and employees.
Location awareness makes mobile applications more powerful and useful; in the future, location will be a key component of contextual applications. Location sensing will also enhance systems, such as mobile presence and mobile social networking.
The growing maturity of on-campus location sensing using Wi-Fi opens up a range of new applications exploiting the location of equipment or people. Organisations delivering business or consumer applications should explore the potential of location sensing; however, exploiting it may create new privacy and security challenges.
802.11n boosts Wi-Fi data rates to between 100 Mbps and 300 Mbps, and the multiple-input, multiple-output technology used by 802.11n offers the potential for better coverage in some situations. 802.11n is likely to be a long-lived standard that will define Wi-Fi performance for several years.
High-speed Wi-Fi is desirable to stream media around the home and office. From an organisational perspective, 802.11n is disruptive; it’s complex to configure, and is a “rip and replace” technology that requires new access points, new client wireless interfaces, new backbone networks and a new power over Ethernet standard.
However, 802.11n is the first Wi-Fi technology to offer performance on a par with the 100 Mbps Ethernet commonly used for wired connections to office PCs. It is, therefore, an enabler for the all-wireless office, and should be considered by companies equipping new offices or replacing older 802.11a/b/g systems in 2009 and 2010.
Displays constrain many characteristics of both mobile devices and applications. During 2009 and 2010, several new display technologies will impact the marketplace, including active pixel displays, passive displays and pico projectors.
Pico projectors enable new mobile use cases (for example, instant presentations projected on a desktop to display information in a brief, face-to-face sales meeting). Battery life improvements are welcome for any user. Good off-axis viewing enables images and information to be shared more easily. Passive displays in devices, such as e-book readers, offer new ways to distribute and consume documents. Display technology will also become an important differentiator and a user selection criterion.
Mobile Web and widgets
The mobile Web is emerging as a low-cost way to deliver simple mobile applications to a range of devices. It has some limitations that will not be addressed by 2010 (for example, there will be no universal standards for browser access to handset services, such as the camera or GPS).
However, the mobile Web offers a compelling total cost of ownership (TCO) advantage over thick-client applications. Widgets (small mobile Web applets) are supported by many mobile browsers, and provide a way to stream simple feeds to handsets and small screens. Mobile Web applications will be a part of most B2C mobile strategies. Thin-client applications are also emerging as a practical solution to on-campus enterprise applications using Wi-Fi or cellular connections.
Wireless broadband exploded in 2008, driven by the availability of technologies such as high-speed downlink packet access and high-speed uplink packet access, combined with attractive pricing from cellular operators.
The performance of high-speed packet access (HSPA) provides a megabit or two of bandwidth in uplink and downlink directions, and often more. In many regions, HSPA provides adequate connectivity to replace Wi-Fi “hot spots,” and the availability of mature chipsets enables organisations to purchase laptops with built-in cellular modules that provide superior performance to add-on cards or dongles.
Near Field Communication (NFC)
NFC provides a simple and secure way for handsets to communicate over distances of a centimeter or two. NFC is emerging as a leading standard for applications such as mobile payment, with successful trials conducted in several countries. It also has wider applications, such as “touch to exchange information” (for example, to transfer an image from a handset to a digital photo frame, or for a handset to pick up a virtual discount voucher).
Gartner does not expect much of the NFC payment or other activities to become common, even by 2010, in mature markets, such as Western Europe and the US. NFC is likely to become important sooner in emerging markets, with some deployments starting by 2010.