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30 Mobile Trends in Libraries

The Mobile World Congress just finished in Barcelona. This post from Emergic summarizes the “Trends from Mobile World Congress” that were bandied about here.
I was interested in this because I was communicating with an author of a new book which is loosely based on the First International M-libraries conference which was held in the UK in November 2007. It was hosted jointly with Athabasca University and attracted more than 100 delegates from 25 countries. The conference outline can be seen here The next conference will be in Canada in Spring 2009. The book is due out in the summer. Sounds like something to look forward to.
So I tried my hand at thinking about mobile devices (basically cel phones, digital smart phones, iPods, Touch, etc.) and what that would mean to libraries and our host institutions and communities.
Here are my predictions for the next 5-10 years of mobile. It’s not complete or comprehensive but it’s what’s on the top of my mind, such as it is:
1. Voice will not be the dominant form of electronically mediated communication in the future. It will stay static as new forms – even beyond texting and SMS take over. Jetson style videophones are already here (including my new one).
2. Mobile will have a large component of asynchronous voice messaging including threaded discussions using v-mail technologies. Timed v-mail as well as mobile v-blogging will be common.
3. Mobile devices will be most individuals’ primary electronic device used for their calendar, voice and e-mail, small scale video, learning, surfing, search, GIS, etc. – basically most everything. This moves the virtual world from home or office-based computing to truly personal computing.
4. GIS features will be key to the growth of mobile applications. 3D maps of your local area, context sensitive ads and coupons, smart mobs, political rallies, etc. will all come to popular consciousness. Search and local apps will be GIS sensitive.
5. Search on the mobile will be the fastest growing app in the next five years. It is already a major feature of Apple iPhones (as I noted on this blog recently) and other digital phone companies are well advised to catch up.
6. Your called and calling numbers history as well as your nicknames and directory on your mobile will start to support social networking apps. Downloading your social networking lists will be seamless from Plaxo, LinkedIn, Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, e-mail, etc. The contact-sensitive phone (hinted at where you customize ringtones to your family or work colleagues) will become very powerful and personalized.
7. Social networking apps will be huge on the mobile but not for a few years in the western world. When it hits this will be huge since humans are social beings and social is infinitely more sticky than content.
8. iPhone style phones will dominate more quickly than predicted. The fact that apps on the phone are appearing on Apple phones fifty times more than regular phones tells us something. Your business phone may be different for security reasons.
9. Mobiles will support multiple networks including the telephone’s digital network but also your home wireless network (like Apple’s Touch does today) or campus wireless grid.
10. Gaming on the mobile is just the tip of the iceberg, As ringtones taught folks how to download, games are the killer commercial app to start. Learning apps will follow with e-learning on mobiles being very popular. Globally this will be critical to filling the skills gap.
11. Mobile phones will leap laptops and PC’s in the developing world as the main form. Recharging will be by solar.
12. The Open Handset Alliance / Android is a really big deal. It will ultimately tie to OpenSocial and massive international ad networks and social data capturers. This will be the platform for many major mobile developments.
13. eCommerce on the phone through OpenID and your provider’s billing system will be common within five years. Micropayments may finally have a business case.
14. All of the world will be ahead of the U.S. for 5 more years and then the consumer monster will awaken ‘size large’.
15. Publishers and service providers who have already adapted to XML are better prepared for a mobile world.
16. Mobile dominance will decrease the use of PDF’s and Flash (yay).
17. OPACs will develop GIS sensitivity and be able to communicate with users through their mobiles for holds, fines, late notices, alerts, etc.
18. In the short term the biggest markets are China, Indonesia and India.
19. Video on the mobile will be huge. Photos already are.
20. The transition from surveys based on homebase landlines to individually oriented phones will be complete. If anything has been learned by the pollsters in the current US election it is that they were really off on the role of mobiles in the new generation and that their polls of landlines in homes were off by a major factor. The scramble to catch up with the voter behaviors is fun to watch.
21. The ability for a phone to read barcodes or RFIDs and search for a better price will rock the retail industry as price comparison sites go wild.
22. Mobile and auction are a perfect fit (think what Skype and eBay could do if they thought it through!) If you’re buying something in a retail mall and you can find it used or at a better price through the web or auction site, the market shifts rapidly.
23. Tagging and usage tracking on mobiles will be an important strategy for websites and ads that depend on web based revenue.
24. Some apps that will be popular are those that block unwanted mobile texting, ads, begging calls, etc. Mobile spam, phishing, etc. will be an issue. Hopefully it can be thought through before this environment gets too big. Surely we can learn from the past here.
25. Plans will need to catch-up with users. Carrying two phones to cover voice and texting cost-effectively is not a good practice if the communication provider wants to capture search and ecommerce revenue and beyond. Suppliers will need to catch up with more creative plans.
26. The early beneficiaries of ecommerce on digital mobiles will be products that do not require delivery – like advice, music, movies, ringtones, ebooks, storyhours, audioboooks, podcasts, radio, alerts, financial transactions like stocks/insurance, and more.
27. Cloud computing and apps like Google Docs and Zoho hint at greater funcionality and access to personal or collaboration files than previously dreamed.
28. Privacy and copyright regimes get more complex and complicated. Duh!
29. Some apps may be mandated or popularized through certain events. For example compare the number of mobile apps at the last two Olympics with teh next two. Athletes will be able to blog this time, events can be podcast and webcast or YouTubed. What will we see in these experiments. Also, mobile alerts – as sadly had to be used in the recent Northern Illinois University shootings will become in serious demand. Similar apps for weather, hurricane and earthquake warnings will drive adoption. Social needs like Amber Alerts or other safety warnings can drive community adoption.
30. The world will get smaller. Much much smaller, again.
There are a few places to watch for the changes to be piloted or the seeds being planted. One place is the 2008 Summer and 2010 Winter Olympics. Another is the 2008 US presidential election (polls, convention management, communication, fundraising, etc.). If you’re not too tired after that this is one place to watch for major mergers and acquisitions. The satellite band auction and the players there as well as following the device manufacturers offerings especially outside of North America. Then watching teens and young adults never hurts either or early adopters in the GenX, Boomer and Senior demographics.
It’s interesting to think about the future, eh? Sometimes staying optimistic is a challenge but its not too hard.

Posted on: February 18, 2008, 8:59 pm Category: Uncategorized