The Rise of Mobility : And The Disappearing Mobile Phone (Part 1)

The Rise Of Mobile

I recently rediscovered a chart mapping digital interactivity that I created over a decade ago.  Back then we called it the “Multiple Digital Channel” Map.

I thought it might be interesting to dust it off and re-map it against where we are now, 13 years later. Drawing from a point in the past (1999) to where we are now – and continuing this line into the future – we get a rough idea about where we might be headed in the next 10-15 years.

It gives us three eras in the rise of connected mobility.  I’ve called them: extra-connectivity (without), inter-connectivity (between) and itra-connectivity (within).  Read on and see why.

The Digital Channel Map 1999 : Extra-Connectivity

Multiple Digital Channels

Way back in 1999, along with a few other lucky people, I was part of a mobile research and futurist team at Back then, just before the crash, it was a world leading interactive design agency.

We’d seen Internet adoption rise incredibly fast in the late 90’s in developed countries. A rapid evolution in the way that we all communicate was clearly underway.  Our task was to advise clients such as British Airways, Orange, General Motors and T-Mobile about what might be coming next.

Client teams in the London office, where we were based, were working on a range of new interactive “channels” including: early interactive TV on Satellite and Cable TV platforms (now the “red” button on UK remotes), and early stage mobile Internet technology, including WAP portals.  We came up with the term “Multiple Digital Channels” to describe the way that we believed the Internet would be accessed via different digital touch-points as  everything became connected.

To provide some context, at the time, the Nokia 7110 was the first consumer WAP phone, with very simple and very slow mobile web browsing.  None-the-less, the sight of pre-launch versions in the hands of Nokia employees at industry conferences was enough to cause gasps of wonder (and stifled envy).

Why the wonder?  We’ll, it was becoming clear that mobile devices would soon be a principle “digital connector”, capable of moving to and between all of the other other digital devices and Internet touch points in our lives;  the deliverer of ubiquitous attachment to the grid; to information, knowledge and each other.

The Map

So, in 1999 I attempted to chart future interactivity between digital devices on a chart (see below).   It maps the state of play, in 1999, for digitally connected devices and what we could now call the “initially connected” people who used them. Back then devices were still “extra-connected” i.e. connected to the web but not to each other (with the exception of the PDA). Almost all access was via a PC.

We expected, in 1999, that the items in grey would become internet connected in the next decade.  The items in black were considered either available, or imminent arrivals as concept models were being demonstrated (not a guarantee of a product launch though, as we’ll see!).   Items at the edge on the diagram were viewed as being static (e.g. a fridge).  Items in the middle, mobile, the ultimate being a “mobile” phone – which we figured would start to interconnect with all the other devices as it was the one device that was personal and could be carried everywhere.

Looking at it now, it still provides a very good framework for where we are now, 13 years later.  However, in terms of forecasting, we did miss a few things.

What we got wrong?


Some devices have evolved.  Others simply haven’t become connected for the mass market yet. For example:

  • Tablets such as the iPad didn’t exist (outside of the movies)
  • Fixed Phones evolving to become video enabled internet terminals (an imagined mix of Minitel and the Space Odyssey video phone) simply never took off, while Pay phones continue to disappear.
  • Connected “white goods” have yet to become widely available  (e.g. the “Net Fridge” which is still “coming soon” )
  • Gaming Consoles  (think xBox, PS2 etc) and connected TV’s are now arriving in earnest in 2012.
  • In Car Entertainment is still on-it’s-way (ahem)
  • In-flight WiFi is now finally gaining popularity and I understand that the next generation of In Flight Entertainment (IFE)  is likely to involve WiFi & internet enabled tablets.
  • As for Music players and Cameras? Well, see point 3 below.


The second thing that we didn’t foresee (and which is obvious in hindsight) was the slow arrival of  the supporting infrastructure (3G) to enable all of this to happen.   In early 2000 we provided mobile content consultancy to Orange Telecom.  Their Network Engineering team briefed us that  90% of the UK population would have mobile broadband (3G) coverage by the end of 2002 – mid-2003, worst case.  Today in 2012, ten years later, delivery of ubiquitous mobile broadband coverage is still a contentious issue.

All of this is hardly surprising.  Networks cost billions of dollars to purchase and years to roll out.  It’s not a trivial endeavor to bathe billions of people in wireless broadband coverage.  On the plus side we’re now passing the tipping point and approaching mass global population coverage for mobile data. This is a big, big deal and I’ll come back to it in a minute to explain why.


Finally, for me, the biggest thing we missed is the shift from a plethora of separate specialised digital devices to a convergence of functionalities on a single device – the mobile/cell phone.   As well as interacting with other connected devices, the last decade has seen the mobile “phone” gobbling up, adopting and absorbing multiple attributes of other devices.  Through the 2000’s this new mobile device has merged with and mastered:

  • The PDA: replacing the Palm Pilot (launched 1997) and the iPaq (1998)
  • Music Players: The first portable MP3 player, Creative’s DAP launched at the same time as Siemens first mobile with an MP3 player (both in 2001)
  • Cameras: Gradually appeared and improved from Sharp & Kyocera (1997) to Nokia’s first true camera replacement (2002). Meanwhile, cameras are only now starting to become internet connected 0 see Samsung pic below (launched last month).
  • e-mail and messaging: RIM Blackberry 5810 (launched 2002)
  • Gaming devices: Nokia N-Gage (2003)

Through most of the 2000’s the industry slowly bundled all of these attributes together in a wide variety of weird and wonderful form factors through multiple iterations.  The arrival of the iPhone, and crucially the App Store, from Apple in 2007/2008, although not adding anything “new” in terms of functionally, finally brought all this together (device, connectivity, functionality, content ecosystem)  in a user friendly way. One single device designed holistically rather than as separate bolt-on elements. Enter the era of device “Inter-Connectivity”

Tomorrow On Monday I’ll post the map updated for 2012, showing today’s world of  “InterConnectivity”.


Beyond Mobile And Multi-Screens: What’s Next?

Right this second, you’re more connected than any other human before you. Thousands of people, facts, thoughts and things become accessible to you as you read each of these words.

Big deal? Well, I guess we’re all aware that we’re living through an era loosely termed as the “Information Age“.

Each day sees a plethora of different articles and posts published which, in equal measures, document and examine, celebrate and angst about the possible cultural, social and political changes that we’re possibly about to experience.

Well, I recently rediscovered a chart that I created back in 1999 with the intention of mapping the rise of our emerging digital interactivity. With a little updating, it helps to break through the clutter and provide us with a rough “you are here” view (I’ll post more about the “Multiple Digital Channel” map in the next couple of days).

Looking at it again now we can also get an idea of where we’ll probably be in another 15 years.  It looks like we’re just about at the “end-of-the-beginning”. And there’s much more to come.

The Three Phases Of Connecting:

There are 3 broad phases in the rise of our ongoing connectedness:

1. Where We’ve Been: Extra-connecting (1990 to early 2000’s). Think:

  • desktop computers & early laptops connect to the internet individually as “extra” add-on functionality via dial-up modems and early broadband
  • computer use is primarily corporate and initially immobile (desktops and servers)
  • 1st & 2nd Generation mobile phones move from being corporate productivity tools to become consumer communication devices
  • emergence of early mobile computers: PDA’s (Personal Data Assistants)
  • e-mail and Instant Messaging becoming pervasive at work and home

2. Where We Are: Inter-connecting (early 2000’s to mid-2010’s). Think:

  • Internet connectivity starts to be viewed as a utility 
  • Inter-connectivity of devices gradually becomes pervasive (multiple screens)
  • personal device (phone) form & functionality goes through rapid evolution, settling on a single large rectangular screen form factor (content is king)
  • smarter devices start to interact – enabling mass social interaction (Social Media)
  • everyone becomes connected: being always-on, connected and available is the expected norm
  • more peripheral electronics (white goods, TV’s) start to become extra and inter-connected

3. Where We’re Going: Intra-connecting (mid-2010’s to 2030 and beyond). Think:

  • persistent ambient connectivity – where we are seamlessly and deeply intra-connected within our environment and with others when we choose to be (we hope)
  • devices become more personal and proliferate:
    • devices become wearable e.g. screens in spectacles evolve into contact lens screens
    • bio-implant devices gradually become acceptable:
      • initially for health monitoring and maintenance (e.g. blood sugar & blood pressure: monitoring, analysis, alerts, preemptive advice)
      • then increasingly to enhance performance (e.g. memory,  well being  analysissituation awareness etc.)
  • the Internet of Things – everything becomes connected, tagged and recognisable:

These three phases are far from finite. They’re a work in progress. They flow into each other organically as people adopt and discard new behaviours, in turn further evolving the underlying technology.

“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed” – William Gibson

Importantly, access to these technologies and new capabilities depends on your culture, context and access to cash. If we truly believe in creating a meritocratic world where everybody has an equal chance to progress, concerns regarding a growing global digital divide will also need to be addressed.

“If you understood everything I said, you’d be me”

― Miles Davis

For many, a greater concern will be the ways in which our sense of self and identity evolve as social pressure grows to be perpetually connected and visible to the “hive“.

Viewed together, the changes will doubtless be profound. Yet as we live through them, what once seemed like science fiction very quickly becomes normal and even unremarkable. How cool is e-mail these days?

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.” 
― William Shakespeare

Knowing as we do, in very broad terms, what’s coming, we might just have a rare and, as a race, unique opportunity to get ahead of ourselves.

I’ll be exploring and expanding on this theme with posts in the next few weeks – and will update this post with cross links as I do so.

If you have any thoughts please feel free to share.

Is A Facebook Friend A Friend?

Jeff Pulver (exec-producer for Twittamentary) posted an interesting question on his blog last week: What is a Facebook Friend.

It’s a good question, and something that most people will have a slightly different answer to.  Facebook is undoubtedly the dominant Social Network for the moment, although we’re now seeing the rise of more specialist sites such as Quora or Pinterest.  When these are added to niche sites such as tripadvisor, yelp or (for Singapore) hungrygowhere, users start to have a plethora of different online personas – just as we all do in real life: work, home, in-laws house, beach, doctors-surgery, football-match, kids headmasters office, etc. etc.

My thoughts on a few popular sites below:

Hi Jeff, Nice post. For me, a FB friend is someone who I’ve shared a positive experience with in the past. It could be In-real-life or virtual, although it’s generally takes more time and interaction to build a virtual positive experience to balance the interpersonal queues that are missing versus real life (at least for now).

A Twitter connection is more about exploring interests together – which can form the basis for new friendships. It’s therefore more forward looking, if you will.

The catch all and least personal is LinkedIn – which, for me, represents a wide spectrum of contacts, from close ex-colleagues to someone I exchanged a business card with or have interacted with on a LinkedIn Group.

Finally there’s Pinterest “friends” – and I’m still working out what they are… Any thoughts? :-)

Are Mobile Operators missing a trick with 4G?

TelecomPaper posted an article last week about Vodafone’s roll out of FemtoCells in European Markets (Femtos are small mobile broadband (3G/4G) “base transmitters” that provide additional, very localised coverage – in a home or office). The major benefit for Mobile Operators is that they connect into their mobile network via a standard home or office broadband link – so the purchaser picks up the cost of the broadband link.  TelecomPaper questioned if this consumers wouldn’t think this is infact a bit of a con, as they pay full Mobile Telco voice tariffs for a service which piggybacks on the consumers own broadband connection.

Which makes me think, Operators are missing a trick here. As simultaneously, a major issue that has Operators scratching their heads about as mobile broadband explodes, is how to provide hugely better and faster access to mobile broadband with 4G coverage.  A consensus is forming around deployment of “small cells” in congested areas. An issue is getting the rights to install the cells.

Surely, combining the two would make sense?  Mobile Operators could provide an option to make the Femto multi-use and reduce the price to the consumer in a fair exchange of value.  In areas of high 3G/4G usage they could even offer the devices for free.

The fill article can be viewed here.

My comment:

Good read, there are some interesting parallel developments. The mobile phone is gradually replacing the fixed phone as the main residential phone, meanwhile a femto is effectively a “small cell”. There may be benefits to operators beyond viewing it as as a home coverage device. By making it “public” the returns would (on average) be higher per device, thereby underwriting the HW cost. The price to the customer could then be significantly reduced. It might even be worth Operators offering Femtos at cost in areas with low coverage (rural) or, better still, high demand (city high-streets) as part of a wider roll out plan for LTE. This might be especially valuable for operators on higher LTE frequencies with weak indoor penetration. As for WiFi issues, smart phones automatically prioritise WiFi access over 3/4G, the issue Femto fixes for the user is the ability to make and receive traditional calls & SMS. It may even be worth Operators considering bundling a WiFi router with the Femto.

This isn’t a new idea.  In the UK British Telecom do the same with their WiFi Routers, although sadly not with consumers permission.  Doing something similar with Femtos – but with pricing built into the offering should benefit everyone.

Twittamentary and the TwittaWall

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As Twittamentary is a crowd sourced documentary, the the Twitter Wall at IRL screenings has become an integral part of the live Twittamentary experience.

It initially provided a prompt to remind the audience that the use of phones to tweet while watching is strictly encouraged. We’re all so conditioned to turning phones off (or at least putting them on silent) in the Cinema that this reminder has often been essential in encouraging live interaction (or “twitteraction”) during screenings.
This was a very important aspect of our plans to experiment with crowd sourcing at every possible stage in the creative process. Through 2011, this twitter wall feedback from the rough-cut, or “beta”, screenings provided input into the next cut of the film. We did 15 of these beta screenings and 15 iterative new cuts between each screening to create the final crowd sourced edit.
I’m just finishing Seth Godins “We Are All Weird” in which he writes:
The biggest cultural shift that the Internet has amplified is the ability to make an impact on our own culture
It’s a keen insight, and one which the Twitter Wall highlights in its role as a creative conduit. It’s enabled the audience members at those 15 early screenings to become intimately involved in the film making process. This goes way beyond the traditional movie studio “rough-cut” screening process, where a couple of different edits will be shown to test the films ending and fineness the chances of a big opening weekend. In Twittamentary, the twitter feedback really did help create the final cut. Themes were added, cut, expanded and made more concise. All blended seamlessly (we hope) with Siok’s expert curation skills.
However, as cool as this is, for me, the Twitter wall provides an additional deeper element to the documentary movie experience.
The Twitter Wall makes the social, and sociable, aspect of the film entirely visible and completes the interactive experience. It makes transparent the realtime connections that the audience members make with each other and with the cast while they watch them on screen.
This interaction with the cast breaks a constraint that all traditional documentaries are bound by: time. As soon as the footage of a documentary is captured it becomes dated. Naturally, the greater the time between the footage being shot and the screening, the more dated it becomes. With Twittamentary, this is important as the original footage was shot in 2010, a couple of years before the movie was finally released. However, very often during screenings a cast member will respond to a tweet from the audience with an up to the minute update on their story or share an, in-hindsight, insight.
A traditional, static, one way, documentary becomes a real-time, interactive experience where the cast joins the audience at the screening via twitter while they watch.
A living, interactive, real-time, documentary.  Now that’s Social Media.

Minds Connected

I guess like most of us, I’m increasingly consuming media (books, videos, music) simultaneously in batches which creates a sort of blended content cocktail of juxtaposed ideas. For example I’m currently reading books by Noam Chomsky, Andrew Keen, Seth Godin and Charles Dickens.

The interesting part comes when I have quiet, free thinking time and I find myself pondering the contents of all the content that I’m consuming together as one input; identifying salient points, counter points, contradictions and connections between the works (more on these books as thought bubbles surface).

So last night I watched a couple of videos and fittingly the connection is: minds connecting

Yesterday a friend posted the following video of Hedy Schleifer at last months TEDxTelAviv conference. Deeply experienced in helping people with their relationships, she discusses the way that humans connect, and mis-connect, at a sub-conscious level. She explains three invisible connectors: The relational Space – the space between two individuals. The bridge between these worlds – over and through the relational space. The encounter “human essence to human essence” – a pure interaction between our true selves.

The Power of Connection – Hedy Schleifer at TEDxTelAviv

Although this all initially sounded a little “California wellness” (to my cynical English ears) this is, in fact, a fantastic talk. Hedy grounds her talk in recent NeuroScience theories of “the Brain Bridge” where “two limbic systems resonate together” and the discovery of mirror neurons. This biological mechanism creates fundamental and core common human traits enabling “Compassion, empathy and deep understanding of the other”. A wonderful example of psychological observation joining seamlessly with our advancing (although still very rudimentary) biological understanding of how the mind works (check out the work of the Social Brain Lab for more info).

Mirror neurons fire in unison when two minds are in unison, or connected at a “human essence” level as Hedy puts it. New neural pathways are created, the relationship blooms and individual consciousness is raised. What stops this happening is either mind subconsciously cluttering the “relational space” with preconceptions, fears and anxieties – which amplify over time. The solution is to seek to build an empathetic bridge between “our true selves”. It is “in truly being with each other that our true essence becomes revealed” to ourselves and others. If we focus on connection and understanding, relationships and people blossom. Note: a “like” on FB is in no way a true and deep connection.

Last night I also chanced upon Don Tapscotts excellent talk at 2012 TEDGlobal, which was released yesterday. Don explains his thinking about the 4 principles of the Open World that are “transforming civilisation”: Collaboration “social media becoming social production”; Transparency “sunlight is the best disinfectant”; Sharing – “giving up assets” & impending changes to the way intellectual property works; Empowerment – “The distribution of knowledge & decentralisation of power”.

Don Tapscott: Four principles for the open world

For me the most interesting part of the talk starts at around the 12 mins 30 second point. Don summaries the way that humanity’s method of sharing information has evolved at two critical points: the onset of the printing press and then of the Internet. Before the printing press, distribution of knowledge was hand written, strictly limited and closely guarded by a fraction of a percent of humanity. The arrival of the printing press provided a mechanism for mass distribution, however it was still a one-way transfer of heavily edited and curated knowledge, from the powerful to the “great unwashed” masses. It culminated in the Industrial world order of the 20th Century.

It should, by now, be becoming clear to just about everyone, that this new Internet age journey that we’re all embarking on, marks a seismic transformation in how humanity will develop and grow.

For the first time the Internet enables all of humanity to create, share and re-create knowledge. Instead of simply calling it the Internet or information age Don refers to this as an “Age of Networked Intelligence” where he hopes there will be a recognition that all our “interests lie with the collective” the growth and well being of all rather than just a few. He wonders if we could create some kind of “collective consciousness in the world”. He finishes with a video of Starlings in “Murmuration” (original clip is shown below) where they collaborate in a kind of subconscious communal flow to fend off predators, share food sources, find a roosting area etc. I love the fact that it involves simple and small birds, the last descendants of the Dinosaurs with whom, however, we humans share a similar central “lizard” brain. Maybe this behavior is innate to us all?

Amazing starlings murmuration

So what’s the connection?

Well, this reference to an “age of networked intelligence” struck a chord for me with Hedy’s talk.

On the one hand humanity is now on the cusp of understanding the biological mechanics of the mind and discovering how empathy, sharing and the growth of joined consciousnesses work at an individual, biological level.

Simultaneously, with the Internet we’re rapidly building, populating and evolving the physical infrastructure that will enable an embryonic, real-time, collective human intelligence.

In the next decade, with most of our planets people gaining internet access for the first time via smart-phones, this will evolve to become a global collective intelligence for all humanity.

This raises huge questions for individuals, societies and Industrial era organisations that we are only just starting to grapple with, let alone find answers for.

This is surely the most important issue of our time. If we all get it right, many of our current, industrial era, ills will dissolve like ice cubes in the sun. If we get it wrong, it could all go very wrong indeed. Most probably through authoritairan countermoves to protect the industrial, top-down, status quo. It starts with the curated group-think (an example being heavily opinionated and polarised news media) and explicit emotional contagion.

What is certain, is that how we all chose to build and grow this collective intelligence will effect the next eon of human development.

Remembering every individuals need for personal interconnection, for real and deep relationships and for common understanding will allow people, and our nascent collective intelligence, to grow and blossom.

It’s certainly a good place for each of us to start.

Twittamentary: a social-media experiment in the media of movies

Twittamentary will be available to download at from tomorrow and on other sites such as very shortly.

Getting Twittamentary to its “theatrical premier” has been an amazing, fun and thought provoking project to work on. Director Tan Siok Siok invited me to join her as Producer back in February last year when we met over a coffee.

At that point the movie was still in rough cut form and Siok had started showing it to audiences to help her work out what the projects evolution could and should be. I watched the movie at a screening at Hackerspace in Singapore the next evening and was hooked.

The documentary presents Sioks personal and genuine exploration of “what Twitter is”. Something of particular intrigue to her and her as a Beijing resident where Twitter sits on the wrong side of the Great Firewall of China. As Twitter is a “social network” it soon becomes clear that Twitter is and will always be whatever it’s users, or tweeps, want it to be. Where they find value is where the networks purpose and value lives, or dies.

Through our conversations it became clear that the natural next step should be to extend this ethos into the evolution of the movie. Through 2011 we ran fifteen “beta” screenings across 3 continents including Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, SF, NY, Chicago London, Singapore, KL and Beijing.

After each beta screening we captured the live audience twitter conversation. This input was used in creating a new iteration of the movie. Characters & scenes were added, expanded, edited and cut, iteration by iteration, as a flowing, organic crowd-sourcing experiment.

By the end of the year the movie had evolved through fifteen of these iterations, carefully and skilfully curated by Siok. And all done whilst she simultaneously managed and grew her start-up business in Beijing – quite an amazing feat, I’m sure you’ll agree!

The movie completed post production in Beijing and LA at the end of February 2012 and has been screened at various festivals and community screenings including: the Cinequest (Silicon Valley) Film Festival, Oldenburg Film Festival, Urban Tribes Film Festival and fringe screenings at festivals like SxSW (with pop-up screenings for crowds at SxSW from the back of a FedEx truck being the most crazy – and fun – to date).

This week will see it’s theatrical premier in New York City at the 42nd street AMC on Tuesday at 8pm. It’s being screened as part of the 140conf, Founded and curated by Executive Producer @JeffPulver (and yes, pizza will be served!).

So what’s next?

Well, as mentioned, the movie will be available for download via the website and various blogs this week and will be available on other sites such as Amazon over the next few weeks.

We’re using Distrify to help us with blogger and web distribution, Distrify provide a very exciting set of tools for independent movie makers and we’ll post further updates about how this as distribution progresses.

Requests for community screenings continue to flow and we have a number already confirmed for July and August in Europe, Asia and the Americas including our first in India, Indonesia and Latin America.

We’ve also received enquiries about purchase of TV screening rights from media companies in countries such as Israel, Australia, NewZealand and Singapore. We’ve held back on these to date to avoid any confusion with (the frankly archaic) Geographical exclusivity requirements before we had made the movie available for download online.

Case Study
The “making of Twittamentary” has also been made into a case study by Michael Netley (@communicateasia) , Corporate Communications professor at Singapore Management University. The case study has been made available, free of charge, to graduate and post graduate institutions via the website and will be used as teaching material at various educational institutions around the world from next semester. It’s being translated into Spanish by a faculty of the university of Madrid. Later this month Michael will start on a “b” case study about distribution of the movie. More news on this as we have it.

Lessons Of..
We’ll be putting together some “lessons from Twittamentary” using clips from the movie. Twittamentary is becoming a popular teaching & insight tool for corporate, media and government organisations. The use of social media is becoming so pervasive, so quickly, that it’s easy to forget just how nascent and embryonic the whole ecosystem is. And how much and how fast we, as massed humanity, are evolving the way that we communicate and interact. These notes will be made”open” for people to edit, use and customise as they require.

‘Open Sourcing” Twittamentary
In the past month or so we’ve seen audio and video content from Twittamentary starting to be reused and repurposed in different ways. For example DJ’s in Singapore are working on mashups of audio clips in new trance and house tunes. It’s wonderful to see this happening and we’ll be making more of the raw audio, video and soundtrack content available on web over the next month or so.

If you have any other suggestions, we’re all ears, please tweet us!