What Mobile Phones Will Look Like In 20 Years From Now

When I started in journalism, thirty plus years ago, there were no computers, or the Internet. We used to write our stories initially with a pen and notebook and then on typewriters back in the office using carbon copy paper. It wasn’t quite the Stone Age, although there was a person called the stone sub whose job it was to make the last minute changes to hot metal used to print a newspaper. When I think about the past, I get a little misty eyed. It makes me nostalgic. There was a certain romance in the way newspapers used to be written, created and printed which I kind of miss. But you can’t stop progress. Then came computers, email and mobile phones. In the case of mobile phones, we’ve discovered we can’t live without them. They’ve undergone their own revolution. In the 30 years since the first mobile phone was offered for sale, we’ve seen it morph from a wallet busting brick, into a super slim computer that can do virtually anything we want from entertaining us to saying what we should be doing next. But what interests me is where to from here? What if we could see into the future? What is the next generation, and several generations after that, mobile phone going to look like? What are the innovations already being played with by engineers and scientists in Hi Tech laboratories around the world? Is the future of the device set to change at warp speed? So, somewhat ambitiously, I thought I would try and answer those questions. I did some digging and this is what I came up with by way of research and the best guesses on where mobile phone technology is heading. To make it easier, I’ve divided the technological predictions from the next two years, all the way through to the next 20.

Let’s begin with the next 1 to 2 years.

Mobiles were truly ugly when they were first introduced but at least they could withstand rough treatment. In recent years there’s been a tradeoff in mobile phone design, with resilience winning out in favour of artistic beauty. But the future will witness yet another transformation with the introduction of unbreakable mobile phones. Weatherproof handsets are already proving to be a surprise hit with consumers who want their mobile device to be made of tougher stuff. Manufacturers will be looking to use the latest materials, including scratch and shatterproof infused glass, as well as liquid metal for cases, to make them virtually indestructible and, able to bounce back to their original shape after being dented.

Modular mobile phones will hit the market where customers can buy a handset made from features they pick and choose to be included. There’s already a project under way that will allow consumers to decide what their custom handset can do and what it will look like so they can create a phone that perfectly fits their needs. For example, if there’s a phone that has a great camera, but you don’t need the other stuff, this modular approach would allow you to have the best of everything or cherry pick the bits that are important to you. Expect to see the pick ‘n’ mix smartphones shift the goalposts in the immediate future.

In 3 to 5 years, with smartphone screens getting bigger, and people spending more time on mobiles than any other device, expect to see super high resolution, cinema quality displays on handsets. This will be a quantum leap from the monochrome, one line displays of the 90s. We will be looking at full 4K screens, that’s four times the resolution of High Definition, right in the palm of your hand. This feast for the eyes is only just reaching our television living rooms today but mobile makers are already eyeing it up for pocket size gadgets. It’s unlikely that mobile sizes will continue to grow at this stage with around five inches or 12 centimetres fast becoming the optimum size. But within three years, stunning 4K screen will be the de rigueur. And If you think 4G browsing on your phone is pretty fast today, just wait a few years and you’ll be falbbergasted. The next generation wireless mobile network will be at warp speed by comparison, quick enough to download a high def movie in just 30 seconds. It will also make storage size obsolete as everything from your apps including entertainment could be accessed from the storage cloud within the blink of an eye. The infrastructure for this technology is being prepared for release in 2020.

The camera will also evolve in our smartphones to do far more than just your standard selfie. It will have 3D technology using wide angle lenses and sensors so you will be able to map your surroundings, that will mean you can actually walk around inside your photos. Mobile cameras will understand and process the space around you and then remodel it into a 3D image. For example, you could revisit old birthday party pictures, explore old holiday photos, or take a look around hotels, houses for sale or eBay items in great detail. The technology is currently being tested in mobile handsets.

In 6 to 10 years, the fabled foldable mobile phone, which has been talked about almost as long as the flying car will become a reality. This remarkable innovation will be brought about by breakthroughs in material technology — in particular a super thin, super strong and conductive wonder material called Graphene. There are already mobile phones on the market that have a slight bend in them and manufacturers are showing off these flexible devices at tech shows, but within ten years we could see mobiles that can change shape to suit our needs and roll up right into our pocket. There wouldn’t be a need for both a tablet and a mobile, or for you to decide what screen size to choose— imagine being able to unravel a screen that adapts to different sizes? You can make it bigger for browsing the internet or smaller if you just want to make a phone call. Mobile manufacturers are keen on this flexible, wrappable, mouldable, unbreakable mobile device and research labs like the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada have already begun producing a prototype. Batteries last about as long as a sneeze these days but in the Hi Tech future, our devices could run for 20 years on a single charge. A team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have developed a titanium dioxide gel that stores lithium ions in its nanostructure which makes it the Holy Grail as far an everlasting battery is concerned. But that is not the only development in battery technology. There’s a team in South Korea looking to transform the heat that’s generated from our bodies into electricity to power mobile phones. There’s also the idea of piezoelectricity, which converts movement into energy so we could walk and charge our mobile phone at the same time. Believe it or not researchers in California have created a tattoo that generates electricity from human sweat. So if you will pardon the pun we won’t have to sweat the future of a mobile phone’s power supply.

In 10 to 15 years those holographic floating displays that used to be the stuff of science fiction movies, will burst out of our mobile devices. Researchers are working on a 3D screen that materialises into thin air which we can move and manipulate. It’s already being developed by a startup company called Ostendo Technologies. Their ‘Quantum Photonic Imager’ is a mini projector that can beam a high resolution image into the open. That technology could be fine tuned so that we’re fully interactive with the floating screen — we could watch sport being played in front of us, get inside maps and play games in a 3D space created for us. Wearable technology is even trying to remove the necessity of carrying a phone and in future years the physical handset could disappear altogether. Just as the smartphone managed to overwhelm the hardware of developments like Sat Nav, MP3 players, wallets, and to some degree watches and compact cameras,the new smart watches and smart glasses will be operated by spoken command and they will become the primary communication device. The screen would be projected in front of the glasses in a Heads Up Display or through a pill sized holographic projector that would unfurl in midair. It would spell the end of the selfie. What a shame.

Finally, in 20 to 30 years we’ll look back and be highly amused at how we once had to actually hold a mobile phone to operate it. Going way beyond wearables, is a smart contact lens that could offer a device free experience to display messages, web pages, directions and video literally right in front of your eye. A lens with basic computer circuitry is currently being tested, which includes sensors that will provide important medical alerts such as when a diabetic reaches dangerous glucose levels. With nanotechnology having the potential to build robots the size of blood cells, the prospect of developing computing components small enough to fit on a contact lens is a distinct possibility. As the memory of clunky, manual mobile handsets morph into a world of invisible communication devices, plugged straight into our bodies, we will also see highly sophisticated operating systems that we can talk to as if they were another human being. Artificial Intelligence with built in personal assistants which become intuitive, knowing what we like, where we’ve been and what we’re doing.

If our mobiles can already work out and tell us when to leave work in order to catch our usual train home while reminding us to say happy birthday to an office colleague  and warning us about the number of calories there are in a biscuit even before we’ve eaten it, how hard can it be to imagine what else it will be able to do? Forget about asking Siri if it’s going to rain, you can have a full blown conversation, if you want to, about the state of the weather all over the world.

A computer has already been designed to dominate the television game show Jeopardy,  providing complex human like answers to questions. Some, like me, might find all of this terrifying but techno geeks, I’m sure, can’t wait. As one wag suggested, Artificial Intelligence is coming so you better get your small talk ready or you will run out of things to say.

Want To Get A Good Night’s Sleep? Then Turn Off The Computer, The iPhone And The iPad

Bedrooms used to be places of rest and recreation. In fact whatever you did in them, was going to do you some good. But that is no longer the case. More and more of us are falling victim to temptation of a different kind. We’re taking laptops, phones and other electronic devices to bed with us. And there can only be one outcome: a bad night’s sleep.

A survey of fifteen hundred people, conducted by an organization called The Sleep Health Foundation, found that almost half of them regularly looked at electronic devices in the bedroom. It means that people are not switching off figuratively and literally before going to bed particularly if they are using the device for work. The problem with these devices is they emit a blue light that, when held closely to your face, prevents your body clock from operating as it should because it stops the release of the hormone, melatonin, which signals oncoming sleep.

And falling asleep in front of the TV, even if its on the other side of the room, is just as bad because it prevents the body from self soothing so you can wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep.

Worldwide research suggests people are getting less sleep than they used to. One survey found that people were having, on average, an hour less sleep a night than they needed – about 7.3 hours when they should be getting 8.25.

There are serious health consequences to be had from not getting enough sleep. If people are poor sleepers, or they regularly have fragmented sleep, then they run a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Having less than 7 hours sleep a night, has even been linked, in some studies, with a greater chance of being overweight or obese. But while the health effects of poor sleep are serious, sleep experts say they don’t want to worry people, especially if it scares them out of a good night’s sleep. Going to bed, worrying that you are not getting enough sleep is both ridiculous and completely the wrong thing to do.

Instead, sleep experts recommend making sure that we implement a one or two-hour buffer before going to bed to allow our bodies to wind down. According to The Sleep Health Foundation survey this is something only two-thirds of the respondents did. Which is not good.

Other tips included having a warm shower before going to bed, which allows the body to cool down more rapidly, and is yet another signal that it’s time to go to sleep.

And for the party animals who like to stay up late at night ( and I live with one) there’s bad news: playing games in front of the computer or binging on booze can actually change the way your body produces melatonin, which can catastrophically disrupt sleep patterns. Just staying in bed for longer in the morning is not the answer. According to the sleep experts, that sleep-in after a late night is actually counterproductive.  A body clock’s cycle does not quite line up with a 24-hour day. Instead, it, stretches closer to 25. This has the effect of giving us a natural incentive to want to stay up later, which is something a sleep-in only exacerbates.

On the weekends we should all try not to sleep in for more than one hour later than when we usually get up in the morning. Otherwise, by the time you get to Sunday night, your body clock might be suffering from the equivalent of jet lag. Your body is behaving as if it is physically on some other time zone, which just perpetuates the cycle of poor sleep patterns.

So, if you happen to be a family with two laptops, two smartphones, a PC, an iPad, an iPod and an assortment of old phones that your younger children use to play games on, then, according to the sleep experts, you need to establish strict rules such as a ban on using technology in their bedrooms at bedtime. 

Here are the four best tips for getting a good night’s sleep according to the experts:

1.Go to bed at a regular time, and allow wind-down time before you do.

2. Limit alcohol consumption and coffee after 2pm

3. Keep clocks out of view

4. Get up early and go out into the sun, ( a big ask in the northern hemisphere at this time of year, I know, because you don’t get much) which will help set your melatonin cycle.

Sweet dreams.

Are Smart Phones Turning Us Into Dummies?

Sometimes I like to observe human behavior. I find it kind of fun watching what other people do and how they behave. But I am also a bit weird.

One thing I’ve noticed quite recently is that it doesn’t seem to matter what people are doing, travelling on public transport, going to the pub, sitting having a meal or enjoying time with friends, everybody is totally preoccupied with their smartphones.

They’re looking at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, video games, emails, listening to music or just surfing the net. Clearly all of these smartphones, provide endless distraction and entertainment.

But what are these devices doing for human interaction? Because it means people are not talking to each other.

They are not verbally sharing opinions, discussing ideas or having a debate.

They have stopped communicating with human beings and replaced them with a machine.

Here is a question that is too obvious, but I’ll ask it anyway. Is this a good thing? Could it be affecting how we think?

A British neuroscientist called Baroness Susan Greenfield doesn’t think this is a good thing at all. She also says it’s affecting our brains.

Now I am going to add a disclaimer.

I am not endorsing Susan Greenfield or her neuroscience. In fact a number of her peers think she espouses a load of old rubbish. The London Guardian newspaper described a book she wrote as a “poorly researched diatribe.”

But what I do think is that what she is saying is worth a discussion. So let’s have one.

Susan Greenfield says modern technology is changing the wiring in our brains. For example she says a lot of people equate Facebook friends in the same way that they might regard a close friend they have known all of their life.

She says social media gives us opportunities to share, connect and present points of view. But it takes away real human empathy. In fact she says the 21st Century human mindset seems to be characterised by short attention span, sensationalism, and making the mistake of equating information given to us by search engines with real knowledge and wisdom.

Greenfield says the human brain is perfectly designed to adapt to its environment. And because technology creates a vastly changed social environment, it must follow that our brains may also be changing in an unprecedented way.

Here is something that she says that is definitely out there but interesting.

Greenfield argues that young people are developing in a world where relationships are being made and lost online. That means they never get the chance to rehearse important social skills. For example, when people normally meet someone they have in interest in getting to know, they want to talk about themselves, and nature has given us body language cues so that our interactions keep us reasonably safe and secure and we don’t make fools of ourselves, generally speaking.

But words, the primary source of communication in social media networks comprise only ten percent of the impact we have on people when we meet them. As a result, young people are more likely to behave inappropriately and insult each other on line because they don’t have those visual clues as a point of reference. If they tell someone they hate them to their face they are unlikely to repeat it because they can see the offence and the hurt it can cause. But people interacting on social media don’t have that handbrake. I am not saying I agree with this but it’s interesting.

Before we had the internet, a young person who might have been bullied at school had an escape when they went home. But with social media and smartphones the bullying follows you everywhere and can be unrelenting 24/7.

Greenfield claims there is scientific data to show that when young people were deprived of access to smartphones even for just five days their interpersonal skills improved.

Our connectedness to social media means we spend less time thinking and reflecting and more time reacting. She says if young people switched off their devices they would have a stronger sense of personal identity instead of one that is constantly defined by the approval of others.

It doesn’t mean being anti-technology but it does mean acknowledging there is more to life than looking at a smartphone, a tablet or a computer screen.

On that point I agree with her.

Is There A Right To Privacy?

This is an important topic because it affects everyone. I’m talking about the right to privacy. The way life as we know it is heading (maybe it’s already there and I haven’t noticed) you can’t call privacy a right anymore. It is a right that doesn’t exist in much the same way that the notion of privacy doesn’t exist. Neither ‘right’ nor’ privacy’ exist in the same sentence especially if you happen to be famous or well known. And that is very troubling.

Here’s an example of what I mean. A woman and her new partner, celebrities for want of a better word as a result of a television reality show, left a café hand in hand. It was Sunday morning and breakfast time.

Their behaviour was nothing out of the ordinary apart from the fact that up until recently both of them were in previous relationships that each of them ended, so the two of them could be together.

But no need for anyone to be judgmental. This kind of thing happens all the time so no big deal. But what happened next was a big deal.

Ten meters from where they were walking was a paparazzi, a photographer who makes his money from taking pictures of celebrities in unguarded moments like this. He was armed with a digital SLR camera and a zoom lens the size of a stretched limo and he was firing a succession of shots aimed at them.

Clearly this couple, a man and a woman, as far as the photographer was concerned, could not be said to be entitled to walk down the street, in quiet enjoyment on a Sunday morning. And that is the point.

Really, I suppose the question that should be asked is what did they expect?

If your face is on TV, on airport bookshelves, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and the backs of buses then you must accept that you are fair game. You can’t assume or presume you have anywhere to hide.

Nor should you think you have a right to expect that you can or should.

But is that right? Of course it isn’t. But let’s face it. You don’t need to be a celebrity to end up having issues over privacy.

We live in a share-happy world. Many of us choose to play out our lives online, on smart phones, tablets and in social media. In order to get anywhere either socially or professionally we are told we must have multiple social media accounts that need to be maintained regularly. If search engines look hard enough they can uncover practically every detail about personal histories real or imagined. So is it any wonder that under those circumstances, the notion of privacy is completely redundant?

A more important question might be, do people really want privacy anymore? Because if they do they certainly have a funny way of showing it.

Look at the 21st century phenomena. Mirrored selfies uploaded to Instagram, badly considered tweets that come back to haunt us, smartphone applications that can access our information such as name, age, gender, user ID, shopping preferences, list of friends. We give companies vital information to target us with very specific advertisements. Even photographs of where we live can be found online, there for all the world to see.

It’s certainly there for criminals to see as well. How much easier have we made it for them to plot entry and exit points so they can break in to our homes and steal our property? Think Google Maps streetview.

All of us are exposed. It’s happening every day of our lives. What used to be done in private is now public. Voluntary or involuntary. It doesn’t seem to matter.

But that development also comes with some disturbing consequences.

The recent hacking of very private photos of a number of Hollywood actors is a salient reminder of how much privacy we can no longer take for granted. We have handed over powerful tools to those who might want to do us harm.

The sad death of a twenty-one-year-old Queensland woman is a classic example of what I am talking about. She was bombarded with a barrage of abusive text messages from an estranged boyfriend in the weeks before she took her own life. The magistrate who sentenced her boyfriend to two months jail said the hundreds of text messages amounted to a campaign of “gratuitous harassment” that constituted domestic violence.

Experts say smartphones give abusive partners sophisticated new ways to track, harass and control. And that presents a major challenge to domestic violence campaigners.

According to a Domestic Violence Resource Centre in Victoria a survey they did from last year, showed that more than 80 per cent of domestic violence workers reported that smartphones and social media were being used to stalk victims.

Meanwhile, Women’s Legal Services NSW report that smartphones were a factor in about 80 per cent of  cases involving family law, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Libby Davies, the chief executive officer of antiviolence campaign White Ribbon, said harassment via text was “absolutely” on the rise in Australia and there was a growing prevalence of men using tracking apps and spyware on their partners’ phones to “infringe their freedoms.”

She said controlling partners loaded these apps on to their partners’ phones without their knowledge so they could track their movements and know immediately where they were at any point in the day.

Other apps were being used to remotely monitor their partners’ texts, phone calls, emails and web browsing history.

Women’s Services Network chairwoman Julie Oberin told a Senate inquiry earlier this month that she noticed technology was making the response to domestic violence more difficult.

She said women who were placed in safe houses in regional Victoria were later discovered by their former partners through a smartphone global positioning system (GPS).

The Women’s Services Network also relayed an example of how a woman was sent videos of herself in her lounge room by a former partner who had hacked into her smart TV.

Online youth mental health service provider ReachOut.com reports that one in five young people have been the victim of bullying and harassment from text messages.

A spokesperson said  If you ” look at this statistic alongside partner violence statistics, it paints a very concerning picture, especially for people under 25.”

There is no way that  these developments could be said to be positive or desirable.

In fact the opposite is the case.

We are making it easier for people to do us harm. Nothing smartphone about that.