There are about seven billion people living on this planet. According to a UN report, six billion of us have access to a mobile phone. So how has this development changed the way we interact with the world around us?
And of those six billion, just over half subscribe to some kind of mobile service - which means they have access to mobile data. With this access comes connectivity - both to the internet, and to a range of applications and services that affect almost every facet of our lives.
The rate at which mobile devices have been adopted in the last two decades has been incredible. It has fundamentally changed how we - as a species - live our lives; importantly, it will continue to do so for years to come. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.
Although the widespread adoption of mobile technology can be looked at as a single phenomenon, it’s actually made up of several different kinds of behaviour. Most significantly, the way people use their mobile devices is very different depending on whether they live in a developed or emerging economy.
For example, typically, those living in a developed market use mobile to make their everyday lives easier - using services such as accurate GPS mapping, safe online banking and the ubiquitous recommendation engine for everything from movies to meals out.
However, in emerging economies, mobile technology becomes an even more valuable asset - in fact, it can actually be life-changing. For many consumers in these markets, mobiles are their only connected devices and therefore offer new access to important resources - such as education, health advice, and cost-saving and business opportunities. In other words, mobiles offer the chance for people to live healthier lives, earn a higher income and create better living conditions for themselves.
Let’s take a look at a couple of case studies from both of these kinds of markets to understand more fully how mobile technology is changing the lives of consumers.
Mobile phones improving lives in emerging economies
Mobile devices - and their applications - are being used widely in emerging economies to deliver medical information, gather and analyse data and even provide clinical services. In this way, what’s becoming known as Mobile Health - mHealth for short - offers basic healthcare services to patients that might otherwise go untreated.
It seems obvious when you think about it, but access to mobile technologies is growing much faster than access to traditional health care services. Given this, mHealth represents an affordable and efficient way to bring certain kinds of healthcare to large numbers of people - many of whom are vulnerable to easily-prevented and/or treatable illness.
An initiative in India called Swasthya Samvedana Sena is using mobile devices to improve maternal health. Across the county, healthcare workers are using tablets or similar to educate pregnant women and new mothers on everything from contraception to labour, and government services to postnatal care.
Automation becomes mainstream in developed markets
In those parts of the world where basic needs like healthcare are more widely and easily accessible, mobile technology is being used for very different ends. The automation of tasks in the home through mobile devices is one major example of this. As you might expect, there’s a lot of growth in this area at the moment - who doesn’t want to control their lights, TV and cooker from their mobile device?
Of course, we’ve had machines performing tasks for us in the home for years now - everything from automatic lighting to clothes washing. The facet that mobile adds is a layer of management that optimises our interaction with these various machines - so that they run as efficiently as possible, and in ways that complement and enhance our lives.
One of the biggest attractions of the automated home is the potential cost savings it can bring to a household’s bills. One example of this is a product that has taking the market by storm; Nest is a super-sleek smart thermostat that consumers can easily and intuitively control from their smartphone - whether they’re at home, at work, or somewhere in between.
And what’s more, its sophisticated automation technology is designed to learn from a homeowner’s habits so it can predict when you need to turn the heating or cooling on or off.
Some automation services are going beyond simply optimising the machines we already have in our homes. For example, there’s now an app that will remotely monitor and water your plants. Or how about a mobile controlled security device that lets you check you remembered to double lock the front door, and can even unlock it with a pin number?
The future of mobile is an exciting and fast-changing one. As more and more of the world gains access to connected tech, we’ll see innovative applications become mainstream. And, as consumers, our interaction with the world around us will be increasingly complemented by the device in our pocket.