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Mobile Forecast: 2016 Promises Major Advances for Info on the Go
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Posted On January 12, 2016
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In a VentureBeat article, Slava Gomzin examines the major reasons why these mobile payment systems haven’t caught on yet. “Now I am even more convinced that systems like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay, which just pretend to be new technology but in fact are complicated (and therefore unreliable) superstructures based on multiple old mechanisms, must eventually be superseded by completely new things. For example, Bitcoin or future cryptocurrency technology based on the Bitcoin concept but supported and enhanced by the banking and payment industries would be good candidates for universal payment systems for several reasons.” Among these are the fact that cyptocurrencies are open source protocols and are not tied to a single corporate brand; they are really a “totally new, revolutionary technology” that needs time and testing to build user confidence; and systems such as bitcoin are “much more secure [because] it is based on strong cryptography and does not have a single point of failure in its implementation.”

Mobile Is Becoming a Key Research and Learning Tool

“[T]echnology is outpacing the development of ethical standards to guide the evaluation of study risks and benefits,” notes University of California–San Diego researcher Camille Nebeker. Her group is developing the Connected and Open Research Ethics (CORE) project, which intends to “weigh the ethical considerations for research involving mobile health platforms. …”

Brookings’ Darrell M. West writes in “Connected Learning: How Mobile Technology Can Improve Education” that “mobile technology is a way to transform learning. It is a catalyst for creating impactful change in the current system and crucial to student development in the areas of critical-thinking and collaborative learning.”

In a recent issue of Science, University of Washington researchers conclude that “an individual’s past history of mobile phone use can be used to infer his or her socioeconomic status … [and in aggregate can] accurately reconstruct the distribution of wealth of an entire nation or to infer the asset distribution of microregions composed of just a few households.”

However, United Nations research finds that “the growing use of mobile dating apps by young gay men is a major factor in a new HIV epidemic among teenagers in Asia,” uncovering a “surge of HIV infections” among 10–19-year-olds. These findings point to the need for information professionals and researchers to create pathways for getting mobile metadata in order to move this important research forward.

Mobile Is Even Good for the Earth

Mobile’s advantages extend far beyond convenience, according to the “GeSI Mobile Carbon Impact” report. Mobile technology has saved an estimated 180 million tons of carbon emissions a year in the U.S. and Europe due to its ability to connect devices and share information through the Internet of Things (IoT)—using such methods as smart meters, cloud-based services, call conferencing, and smart logistics.

The Carbon Trust’s Andie Stephens writes, “Mobile is going to have a key role to play in helping to tackle climate change. But the impact the technology is having today is just a fraction of its full potential. Given the urgency of the challenge the world faces then there is a clear case to accelerate the adoption of the various mechanisms through which mobile can help to cut carbon. It should also help promote green growth in the developing world, helping emerging economies to leapfrog over the need for certain types of high carbon infrastructure.”

A Very Positive Forecast

During the recent holiday season, mobile-based shopping set new records. VentureBeat notes, “Mobile commerce is exploding, driving a flurry of innovations in mobile payments processing. Driven by new global markets, rapid consumer adoption of tablets and smartphones, and significant evolutions in secure mobile payments, mobile commerce now accounts for 7 percent of all e-commerce sales, roughly a 7x increase since 2010. That will rise to more than 50 percent in the next three years.”

KPCB reports that 2015 was the year in which percentage of time spent online with mobile digital media in the U.S. surpassed desktop usage (51% versus 42%). The amount of time spent per day with digital media continues to increase, reaching 5.6 hours in 2015. A 2015 study from eMarketer on mobile ad budgets shows that desktop environments still dominate ad space; however, this is expected to shift in the next 3 years.

Walmart.com reports that nearly half of its post-Thanksgiving holiday orders came from mobile devices. Google reports that it is seeing more searches from mobile than desktop. comScore finds that the majority of digital media today is consumed through mobile apps.

Among the emerging devices with search capabilities are smart TVs, smart watches, and smart wristbands, according to GlobalWebIndex. Optimizing search techniques for these devices will be a significant future challenge.

The Future: The Universal Browser

Google’s recent Chrome update is intended to “save even more data—up to 70 percent!—by removing most images when loading a page on a slow connection. After the page has loaded, you can tap to show all images or just the individual ones you want, making the web faster and cheaper to access on slow connections.” Called Data Saver mode, many believe it will significantly decrease mobile data consumption, making mobile that much more valuable to consumers.

Google’s new technology, Accelerated Mobile Pages, provides an optimization technique that requires developers to use a set of predetermined rules and restrictions to make it easier for apps to load quickly and overcome some of the frustrations experienced when using them. For example, no third-party or developer-written JavaScript may be used, along with no external style sheets. Additionally, Google is attempting to create a universal browser in its Google X labs that has the potential to be a true mobile-first browser.

Although Apple has the lion’s share of the market—having taken 78.3% of the Thanksgiving 2015 mobile online shopping market—its iOS approach is seen as a major hindrance to the development of a fully functional mobile platform. “The fact that Apple—and grudgingly Android and even more grudgingly Windows—has a segregated digital portal of mobile apps (many clunky, forever updating, getting lost in folders and soon forgotten after the impulse download),” says Impact Mobile, Inc. president and CEO Gary Schwartz, seems to be an “accepted evil.”

He continues, “Apple does not want to give up its content control to the universal browser—which would be an attack on its Big Data and differentiation and thus loosen its walled-garden hold on its customers.” However, Google “has gone to great lengths to get its app community to ‘index’ its content to be searchable and allow for deep links. Google now can search inside the app for deals and news. … Initially, the streaming data will not be optimized but as developers see this as an opportunity to become more searchable and more accessible without mandating the multi-megabyte initial download to the phone, they will design for cloud functionality.” Schwartz sees this as an evolution, but key to moving to a mobile-specific browser environment.

Microsoft insists that Windows 10’s Edge browser provides a universal solution, although the company’s approach to Windows’ versioning leaves many disgruntled. Apple believes it can retool a solution; however, reviewers appear to disagree with that assumption. Today, most software companies are optimizing their existing web browsers to work in a mobile environment, but the specific functionality and requirements for mobile in a global marketplace necessitate a more expansive reconfiguration. Perhaps this issue will be addressed in the coming year.

Search Engine Land’s Jim Yu notes, “Mobile has taken the world by storm, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. The year 2016 will see even more mobile growth as people recognize the convenience of using these devices to access the web and participate in mobile commerce.” That seems to be a very safe prediction as more of the world uses mobile to engage with others, shop, and learn.


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Nancy K. Herther is American studies, anthropology, Asian American studies, and sociology librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Twin Cities campus.

Email Nancy K. Herther

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