At a keynote event during this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Qualcomm Chairman and CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs talked about how mobile technology could be used to connect non-phone, non-tablet devices and objects to the Internet. This concept is generally referred to as the "Internet of Things," or, as Dr. Jacobs says, "the Internet of Everything."
In this future where everything is Web-connected, mobile phones will serve as the hub, or the remote control, for all the things around you. It will operate as your 6th sense for the machine-to-machine network of devices.
Mobile Phone is Hub of Internet of Things
Dr. Jacobs began his talk by looking back on the history of mobile. "Ten years ago, voice was killer app," he said. Now voice is less and less important, while data is increasingly so. People expect data everyone - more than phones, tablets, and e-readers - "going forward, everything is going to be connected."
And in this new network, where inanimate objects are Internet-enabled, your mobile phone will sit in the center of this Web of things. It will help you orchestrate the interactions of the things around you and provide real-time access to all sorts of info, including the people you meet, the places you go and the content that's available there.
The phone is the key to authenticating with these connected devices and taking their content with you, wherever you go.
But in order to support this emerging machine-to-machine environment (M2M), there are several things that will be needed. First, there needs to be peer-to-peer support between devices. You should be able to discover the objects in a room with devices that are operating at a very low power level. This technology should even be down to the physical layer of device, he said, and the interactions it enables shouldn't need to hop on the cellular data network to occur - they should bypass it.
That means that modern devices will need to support multiple radios in addition to the cellular radio. They should also have a local radio, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, satellite, NFC (near field communication), etc. End users won't care how it works - they just expect the phone to connect to the fastest connection available to them at the present time.
In this multi-radio environment, radios will become embedded into all sorts of devices, consumer electronics and otherwise. This will lead to an explosion of data on the network. For operators, that means they'll need to figure out how to make their networks run more efficiently to accommodate the data traffic.
By 2014, said Dr. Jacobs, 70% of all consumer electronics devices will be connected to the Internet.
Another facet of the development of this Web of things will be the creation of devices with increased capabilities. Devices will have multi-core processors, multi-mode radios, 3D capture and play abilities and other sensors. Augmented reality will come into play, too - that is, looking through your phone's camera, you can "see" a data layer over top the "real" world.
Mobile Sensors & Health
One of the major areas of development in this Internet of Things is in wireless health . By 2014, there will be greater than 400 million wearable wireless sensors shipped. Just like the Internet helps you feel more connected with other people, these wearable devices will help you feel more connected to your healthcare professional. You will have a sense that you're being looked after. There's an economic incentive here too - the management of chromic disease accounts for three quarters of health care costs, Dr. Jacobs said. Your phone will act as the hub for the wireless sensors around you, connecting you to this information about your health.
Initially, emerging markets may see developments in wireless health first, simply because of need, but these developments will come to more developed markets as well.
At the end of the speech, Dr. Jacobs said that it's an exciting time in the mobile industry - it's as exciting as the beginning of the mobile Internet itself. We can't help but agree.
Disclosure: The author's travel, hotel and conferences expenses were paid for by Qualcomm. They did not request this coverage, it's just interesting.