The era of ubiquitous computing is already upon us

Published on
February 26, 2014

In 2014, smartphones will most likely eclipse PCs in terms of the number of devices in use around the world.

The basic numbers tell the story. In 2013 IDC predicted that 314 million PCs (counting both desktops and laptops) would be shipped, down from 349 million in 2012. That is a 10% shortfall year-over-year, the biggest single year drop in PC history.

Smartphones, on the other hand, were predicted to eclipse one billion shipments. IDC shows smartphone shipment growth of 39.3% year-over-year with little sign of slowing down. According to projections from mobile analyst Ben Evans, the number of smartphones in use around the world will pass that of PCs sometime in the second quarter.

We now face the reality that we are all connected, wherever we go, by the powerful computers in our pockets. At some point this ceases to be a “mobile” phenomenon. Instead of “mobile shopping,” it just becomes “shopping”… through whatever computer happens to be close at hand.

And it’s not just smartphones.  Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “the Internet of Things”? This phrase has come to describe the growing number of once “dumb” objects that are now wirelessly internet connected and growing smarter by the day.  From TVs to cars, watches to glasses, even door locks, water bottles, heating systems and light bulbs.

It’s not just for the consumer world either.  It’s things like smarter power grids, personalised retail experiences and the ability to control the infrastructure of an entire building with a smartphone app.

Will 2014 see the release of an Apple iWatch or an Apple TV? Who knows. What we do know is that interfaces are about to propagate like mad as the Internet of Things develops. From Pebble to Glass, Nest to Fitbit we can expect to see a continued rise of devices going far beyond just mobile screens.  We are beginning to live in a world of interfaces and connected data. Each physical object begins to contribute data and draw upon the data provided by other objects.

So where does all this take us? Hopefully it means we’ll be able to get the right data to the right device at the right time to the right person (or even to the right machine) to be able to make the right decisions. That is the power of ubiquitous computing.

Rowland’s Powered By Rowland initiative is designed to get the right information to the right people at the right time.