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Stop talking about mobile, it’s not important

My latest presentation is apparently a polemic.

That’s what my colleague said yesterday, when I said that my
new presentation has three themes:

  • Mobile is irrelevant;
  • Money is meaningless; and
  • Capitalism is dead.

I wondered what she meant by polemic, so checked out the definitions online and Wikipedia
defines it quite well: a polemic is “a
contentious argument that is
intended to establish the truth of a specific belief and the falsity of the
contrary belief. Polemics are mostly seen in arguments about very controversial

Oh goody.

I also found another definition I prefer from Merriam-Webster
which is that a polemic is “an aggressive controversialist”.

Even better. 

So why am I presenting these themes, and how can I justify
such radical statements?

If you read the blog regularly you will already know the
answer, but if you haven’t caught my latest drift then here is the first of three
parts discussing the new truth of technology, money and capitalism.

First, mobile is irrelevant.

Surprisingly, everyone thinks mobile is the hot space today,
which it is.  But it won’t be in the
future.  Very rapidly, the device focused
dialogue will move on to the internet of things as everything gets intel inside.

This is the major disruption on the technology landscape I
talked about in my 2013 outlook, and here are the facts:

  • The volume of internet traffic doubles every 18
    months and is currently running at around two zetabytes, which is a trillion
    gigabytes, and most of it is video
  • The actual size of the internet doubles every
    5.32 years
  • By 2020, there will be 50 billion devices
    connected to the internet, compared with 17 billion today
  • By 2020, there will be 6.58 devices per person
    using the internet, compared with 2.5 today
  • Nanotech is already here, with computers and
    cameras at sub-1mm sizes
  • Over 100,000 telephone masts are being built
    every year
  • The number of wifi units shipped has quadrupled
    in the last five years
  • Under IPv6, everyone on the planet can have up
    to 52 thousand trillion trillion web addresses

Stats are sourced from an excellent slideshare presentation
on the internet of things (although you may have a better source (let me know).

So what?

Well, this year’s CES showed it well and so, rather than
rewriting TIME’s article that articulated the outcome well, there’s what  TIME
Magazine reported
about the show:

Two things stood out
to me as major themes at CES this year.

The Internet of Things on Display

We have talked about
the concept of the Internet of Things for several years now. The Internet of
Things is the idea that the vast majority of our electronics will be connected
to the Internet and/or other nearby devices.

A refrigerator, for
example, may have a touch screen on the door and be connected to the Internet,
allowing you to remotely access information — things like inventory,
temperature, whether or not you have what you need to make a certain recipe.
Another example is the Nest thermostat, which is a connected thermostat that allows you to remotely manage your
thermostat from your smartphone, tablet or PC. The high-level view of the
Internet of Things is a world where nearly every electronic device we own will be
connected to something.

In years past, this
idea was just an idea — something we said was coming. This year, however, was
the first year when I could actually say the Internet of Things was on display.
I saw examples of nearly every type of electronics device — from coffee makers,
ovens, fridges, cars, clocks, stereos, exercise equipment, and my personal
favorite: an LED lightbulb with a wireless speaker built in. All of these devices were connected
to the Internet and allowed you to interact with them, store data, access data
and more. This was the first year I could see the Internet of Things becoming
reality, and it is very exciting for us industry observers.

I’m half-joking but I
can’t wait for the year when we see a connected toilet and companion app.

Hardware with Software Accessories

The reality of the
Internet of Things coming to fruition brings with it perhaps one of the most
interesting developments: the role of software. What become increasingly
evident with all the connected devices I saw and played with at CES was that
nearly all of them were made significantly more usable and valuable through the
use of companion apps for smartphones or tablets.

Some I have spoken
with position devices such as connected watches or even the Nest thermostat as
accessories to your smartphone. The logic is that because your smartphone is
the terminal that all these devices leverage to really make them smart, then
the phone must have the more important role. This is true to some degree,
because there is no point of having all these connected devices if the
experiences are limited to the hardware itself. However, I would still position
the hardware as the stand-alone device adding value, while the app on your
smartphone is actually the accessory.

At CES, this hardware-software
model was on full display in the area of smart health and personal sensors. I
wrote a column on this subject last year,
and I believe the smart health industry is about to launch into the
stratosphere if this year’s CES was any indication. On the show floor, the
pavilion for the smart/connected health area was the biggest I have ever seen
it: Several dozen vendors were there showing off the latest in smart health.
Every single smart health and body sensor product I got a demo of or gathered info
on had a companion app that ran on a smartphone, making the hardware more than
just hardware.

This is the world we
are headed toward. Because of the unrivaled momentum and rapid worldwide
adoption of devices like smartphones and tablets, we have smart devices with us
at all times. They perfectly function as the platform to drive the interaction
with the hardware around us.

All hardware will be
made smarter through not just the use of connected chipsets and next-generation
parts, but rather through the applications that add to their value.

The net:net (or internet:net) of all of this is that banks
and all firms will soon be focused upon wireless transaction processing through
the net.

In other words rather than mobile payments and mobile
banking., we should be talking about wireless payments and wireless banking.

Tomorrow's blog will talk a little bit more about why money is (still) meaningless.


This is part one of a three part series:


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  1. Mobile is only “irrelevant” in the same sense that electricity/power grid is: ie now ubiquitous and a sine qua non. Necessary yes, but no longer sufficient.
    Re connected toilets – not sure but think they already exist in Japan. And they are definitely coming: key health sensor (“peeing in a cup” daily) 😉

  2. Understand where you (we!) are going Chris, the IoT is here and now; while agreeing on replacing “mobile” with “wireless”, I doubt I will ever be paying for anything from a wifi enabled lightbulb or my home surveillance camera: not quite secure …nor enough regulated :)). Looking forward to be reading on meaningless money 🙂

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