Why Smart Phones Really Are the Future

As smart phones finally live up to expectations, they're becoming an even more integral part of our lives.

Smart phone | BCBusiness
“The future is coming at us very quickly,” says Brent Holliday. And that future holds more reliance on smart phones with more functionality.

As smart phones finally live up to expectations, they’re becoming an even more integral part of our lives.

It was the Finns who recognized it first. And the Japanese. But mostly the Finns. In 2002 I was at the Banff Venture Forum and met a contingent of Finnish VCs and executives from Nokia. One of the speakers from Nokia stated a few interesting facts about Finland. Finland had 102 per cent cell phone penetration among adults. That is not a typo – over 20 per cent of the adult population had two phones. More than 2.5 billion SMS messages were sent annually over the network in a country of 5 million people. In 2002, I had never seen or sent a text message and the Finns had already figured out “sexting.” But the penny really dropped when the speaker talked about the importance of the cell phone to the average Finn. He said that when you leave the house you really only need three things: your keys, your wallet and your phone. In fact, he cited a then-recent Finnish study that concluded that the phone was the most important thing not to be left behind. This was 2002 and I was just realizing how important that device was becoming to me.

Fast forward to the current era of the smart phone, essentially a small marvel of a computer with a touch screen, serious storage, a high-quality camera and a few radios (phone, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth to name a few). The smart phone, so named because it can run downloaded applications like a computer, has just passed a key inflection point. Smart phones and tablets combined to outsell all PCs, laptops and netbooks in Q4 2010. 

Apps are driving the current use of smart phones and tablets. I see more than 50 per cent of the travellers on the Canada Line every day either social networking, playing games or reading e-books on their devices. The consumption power of these devices is amazing: we can consume digital content, including books, music, video and games, at an even greater rate with smart phones and tablets because they are with us all the time. I see a big spike in chiropractic revenue as we all crook our necks to watch, read or play even more than we do now.

There is a new buzzword about companies that make applications or provide services in the smart phone market: LoMoSo, which stands for local, mobile and social. Thousands of startups and established companies are looking to make us even more attached to these phones, including many B.C. companies. RewardLoop makes loyalty cards disappear into your smart phone and effectively runs local loyalty programs end-to-end. Gamestring enables games running on your PC or in the cloud to play on your smart phone while your friends on a social network watch in real time. Tingle is a mobile online dating app that uses local information and anonymous chat to bring singles together – which is very, very social.

The future is coming at us very quickly, thanks to the rapid development cycle of smart phones and a dramatic evolution in network data speeds. You may have become used to sharing pictures instantly, chatting on Facebook in real time and flinging Angry Birds. But the latest wireless network (known as LTE, or 4G, for long-term evolution, or fourth generation) will enable Skype on a phone, make video conferencing actually look smooth, and streaming TV flawless. Most importantly in my mind, it will open the cloud to any device anywhere. In 3G, you can’t really run enterprise software applications like Salesforce.com. In 4G, you will. In 3G, you can’t play a multiplayer graphic-intensive game like World of Warcraft. In 4G, you will. 

As your mind spins with the possibilities of a fast connected smart phone or tablet, add the Near Field Communications (NFC) chip to the mix. This is a secure, authenticated “key” built into the device that is unique to you.  No more fobs for entering your condo or work anymore. Another great use for NFC is “Tap and Go” payment. Google and others are making the software side of your smart phone wallet while NFC allows the hardware side to happen. With NFC, in real time, your phone will make payments to merchants and to your friends and handle all your loyalty rewards and coupons.

Yes, the Finns were ahead of their time. Or maybe we were just way behind. But it turns out the Finnish speaker in 2002 was wrong and the Finnish people were right: You don’t need your keys, your wallet and your phone when you leave home. All you need is the phone.