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If there is one domain that is responsible for a great number of innovations in the workplace over the past years, it is undoubtedly mobile technology. More and more machines are communicating with each other wirelessly. So now that Smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly popular, what more can we expect in the future? Jo Caudron, media-guru, consultant and founder of Dear Media and Jo De Boeck, CTO at Imec answer our three questions about the future. From the supposed end of the desktop computer to the Smartphone that measures your sugar levels.
Technology in itself is not the big obstacle.Jo De Boeck: CTO Imec
Jo De Boeck is the CTO at Imec, a worldwide name in chip technology. He considers mobile technology to be responsible for an undercurrent in technical innovation. In doing so, he refers to the fledgling industry of mobile applications for mobile devices, and the whole trend of Cloud Computing, where applications are provided from a distance. “The development in the post-PC era is very close to the needs and demands of the client. This was much less the case with the PC.”
What does the ‘post-digital era’ have to offer us and the business world? What can we, for example, expect from our Smartphones?
Jo De Boeck: “You may notice a sort of double innovation. On the one hand, there is what’s happening on the level of the devices themselves. Because with a Smartphone, you can do a lot more than call or SMS. Devices can, for example, register movement, odours, speed or temperatures. But besides this, there is also an innovation in the environment itself. For example, an iPhone knows where you are and allows you to programme your television or digital recorder, and this is because your environment is becoming more intelligent. The great power is now in the link between your mobile phone platform and your environment. Fifteen years ago a mobile phone was for sending messages, while today, it’s to receive apps and in the future, to react to our environment and our bodies. With Imec, we are running tests where a visit to the bathroom allows it to do a sort of medical check-up. Your device connects and communicates with data that is stored somewhere in the Cloud.”
Will it become our digital equivalent of a wallet or medical assistant?
Jo De Boeck: “That is perfectly possible. The big evolution is the way that this can all take place automatically. That your mobile device can function as a sort of interface with the outside world. You can, for example, have appropriate advertisements for your weekly shopping sent to your device. Or measure your blood-sugar using your telephone. Moreover, the medical and care sector is one of those domains where we, at Imec, have made great efforts. In that area, with the ageing of the population, there are great challenges. And the technological advances in that area can also be used for other sectors such as industry and home automation.”
What still holds us back in this evolution?
Jo De Boeck: “There are of course technical challenges. And here I’m talking about sensors that need to manage a great deal of computing with relatively little power. That is food for thought for engineers, but policy makers also have their responsibilities. Privacy will become an important issue. Because of course you don’t want all your details to be publicised. But at the same time, legislation has to allow all these technical and necessary innovations to be brought to fruition.”
The revolution starts at the office.
Jo Caudron, New Media consultant at Dear Media
Jo Caudron, a consultant in new media, does not see the PC disappearing any time soon. “There is still a lot more to come. We are standing at the beginning of a mobile revolution.”
We are in the post-PC era. Portable devices like Smartphones and tablets have seized power. Are the days of the personal computer numbered?
Jo Caudron: “Even in the long term, I don’t see the desktop computer disappearing. But the dominance of the computer as the centre of all digital activity certainly belongs to the past. It held the position for 25 years. Mind you, for traditional office use, with a great deal of data-input, the computer is still lord and master. But, for data consumption, for instance, even professionally, a tablet is rather more appropriate. And if you want information whenever and wherever, mobile devices like Smartphones are coming up roses. It is the combination of all these devices that, if you ask me, will prevail. Devices from PC to tablet and Smartphone will be used far more in relation to the context.”
At the moment, there is an increasing number of devices like tablets and Smartphones. What can we expect in the future?
Jo Caudron: “In the coming years, we will see a raft of devices appear on the market which are just variants of what we already have. Tablets or Smartphones with other screen formats for example. Or hybrid devices that can be used as tablets as well as desktop computers. If you look at the patents that a company like Apple has, you’ll see that they’re thinking in the direction of such hybrid devices. But for more intensive use, computer power prevails and then the desktop computer is still the preference. You notice that through the years there has been a change in the way we use computers. The desktop PC looks, just because of the need for computing power, like the server of yesterday, the laptop is the desktop of yesterday and the tablet, because of its portability, is now the laptop of yesterday.”
More and more employees use their own devices for professional reasons. Is the ‘Bring your own Device’ or ‘BYOD’ trend a temporary phenomenon?
Jo Caudron: “I don’t think so. When I speak to companies, and these include some of the big boys like D’ieteren and Colruyt, I see a lot of laptops and Smartphones that are private property. More and more employees are using their own equipment. They often think it’s strange that their employers have not provided it and that they need to help themselves. At most companies, office workers are more advanced in adopting new technology than their management. They often introduce the new devices and possibilities in organisations. The revolution therefore begins on the work floor. A lot of companies have not yet come so far that they can see this. The first step is to recognise the trend and to subsequently put guidelines into place. This is even if they only apply to a limited part of your personnel. For example, you can buy tablets just for your salespeople. BYOD does not need to apply to your entire organisation.”