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Special report: Personal technology


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Technological and cultural trends continue to blur the boundaries between our work, home and social lives. This Economist Group project, sponsored by Microsoft, helps you understand how approaches to work are evolving over time and explains how you can respond to maximise both your own and your company's performance. The programme will run until March 2012 and new content will be uploaded to the site every month. Now that you have registered, you can return here whenever you like and you will also be emailed whenever new content is posted on the site.

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Special reports from The Economist on the future of work and the technological trends shaping our working lives.

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Special report: Personal technology

  1. 1. SPECIAL REPORT PER S O NAL TECH N O LO GY October 8th 2011Beyond the PC
  2. 2. SPECIAL REPORT PERSONAL TECHNOLOG Y Beyond the PC Mobile digital gadgets are overshadowing the personal computer, says Martin Giles. Their impact will be far-reaching IF YOU HAVE a phone, these days even space is within reach. Last year Luke Geissbühler and his son, who live in Brooklyn, popped a high-de - nition video camera and an Apple iPhone into a sturdy protective box with a hole for the camera’s lens. They attached the box to a weather bal- loon, which they released about 50 miles (80km) outside New York City, after getting the approval of the authorities. The balloon soared into the stratosphere and eventually burst. A parachute brought it to the ground. By tracking the iPhone’s inbuilt global positioning system, the Geissbüh- lers were able to retrieve the box and the video of their mission , which shows the curvature of the planet clearly. The results can be seen at The iPhone and other smartphones are proving extremely useful on Earth too. These devices, which let people download and install applications, or apps , from online stores run by phonemakers, tele- coms companies and others, are starting to displace ordinary mobile phones in many countries. Ofcom, Britain’s telecoms regulator, recently reported that CONTENTS more than one in four adults there uses a smart- phone. Nielsen, a market-research rm, reckons the 3 Consumerisation devices make up the majority of mobile-phone pur- The power of many chases in America. Emerging markets are embracing 5 Apps on tap them as well: in Indonesia, BlackBerry handsets The beauty of bite-sized made by Canada’s Research in Motion (RIM) have software become a status symbol among the country’s fast- growing middle class. 6 Personal technology at Sales of tablet computers, though still small, are work also growing rapidly. Since Apple’s iPad arrived last IT’s Arab spring year, a host of rivals have appeared, such as RIM’s 8 Adapting personal IT for Playbook, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Sony’s Tablet. business All eyes are now on Amazon’s Kindle Fire. With The consumer-industrial smartphones, which seem to be surgically attached to the hand of every complex teenager and many an adult, tablets have opened up a new dimension to mobile computing that is seducing consumers. Morgan Stanley, an in- 9 Droid wars vestment bank, believes that in 2011 combined shipments of smart- Smartphones are invading phones and tablets will overtake those of personal computers (PCs). battle elds The revolution is mobile 11 Ubiquitous computing Up close This marks a turning-point in the world of personal technology. For around 30 years PCs in various forms have been people’s main comput- 13 Technology and society ing devices. Indeed, they were the rst machines truly to democratise Here comes anyware computing power, boosting personal productivity and giving people ac- cess, via the internet, to a host of services from their homes and o ces. Now the rise of smartphones and tablet computers threatens to erode the PC’s dominance, prompting talk that a post-PC era is nally dawning.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS PCs are not about to disappear. Forecasters expect 350m-360m of them to be sold this year and the market is likely to keep growing, if slow-In addition to those quoted in this ly. With their keyboards, big screens and connectivity to the web, PCs arespecial report, the author is still ideal for many tasks, including the writing of this article. And theyparticularly grateful to Vala Afshar,Ron Deibert, Rob Faris, Jeanne continue to evolve, cheap, light ultrabooks being the latest in a long line A list of sources is atHarris, Dan Hayes, Carl Howe, Ralf of innovations. Even so, the Wintel era dominated by PCs using Micro-, Steve Koenig, Brendon Lynch, soft’s Windows operating system and Intel’s microchips is drawing to aMichael Morgan, Michael Nelson, An audio interview with close. The recent news that HP, the world’s largest computer-maker, is the author is atAlex Pentland, Markus Pohl, RobRogers, Sarah Rotman Epps, Ted thinking of spinning o its PC business to focus on faster-growing areas, Ken Singer and Jillian York is a sign of just how much has changed. 1 specialreportsThe Economist October 8th 2011 1
  3. 3. SPECIAL REPORT PERSONAL TECHNOLOG Y 800 Devices in use: Growth of Desktop PCs Smartphones F O R E C A S T 700 in the gadget 1993 100m Laptop PCs Tablets 600 PCs Device shipments 500 Units, m 400 300 in 2008 1bn PCs 200 100 2005 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 0 by 2020* 10bn Mobile connected Mobile phones in use devices m, 2003-15 Feature phones Smartphones 150 400 2011 300 100 Forecast 200 50 100 0 0 Mobile broadband South Korea Britain France Germany Japan Russia Brazil United States India China 48.2 62.0 62.8 82.3 126.5 143.0 194.9 Population 310.4 1,224.6 1,341.3 connections m, 2010 Per 100 people, 2010 91-100 41-50 0-10 Sources: Cisco; Gartner; Informa Telecoms & Media; KPCB; Morgan Stanley; UN; Yankee Group; The Economist *Forecast 2 A new tech landscape is taking shape that o ers consumers dreessen Horowitz, has invested in several consumer companies, access to computing almost anywhere and on many di erent including Facebook and Twitter. Now, he says, many exciting de- kinds of device. Smartphones are at the forefront of this change. velopments in information technology (IT) are appearing in the The Yankee Group, a research rm, thinks that sales of these hands of consumers rst and only then making their way into phones will overtake those of ordinary feature phones in many other arenas a trend that tech types refer to as the consumerisa- more countries in the next few years. But other kinds of machine, tion of IT. from Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming console, which allows gamers The transformation may not be quite as dramatic as Mr An- to contact friends while they play, to web-enabled television sets, dreessen’s remark implies. Armies, universities and other institu- are also helping people stay connected. tions still spend vast sums on research, the fruit of which will con- In part, this emerging array of devices re ects changes in tinue to nourish personal technology. Moreover, this is not the rst society. As people come to rely more heavily on the web for every- time that individuals have taken the lead in using new gadgets: the thing from shopping to social networking, they need access to rst PCs were often sneaked into rms by a few geeky employees. computing power in many more places. And as the line between Nevertheless there are good reasons for thinking that the lat- their personal and their work lives has blurred, so demand has est round of consumerisation is going to have a far bigger impact grown for devices that can be used seamlessly in both. than its predecessors. One is that rising incomes have created a vast, global audience of early adopters for gadgets. Around 8m un- The consumer is king its of the Kinect, a Microsoft device that attaches to the Xbox and The rise of tablets and smartphones also re ects a big shift in lets people control on-screen action with their body movements, the world of technology itself. For years many of the most exciting were sold within 60 days of its launch in November 2010. No con- advances in personal computing have come from the armed sumer-electronics device has ever sold so fast, according to Guin- forces, large research centres or big businesses that focused main- ness World Records. These people will absorb new technology ly on corporate customers. Sometimes these breakthroughs found on a scale that is simply quite stunning, says Craig Mundie, Mi- their way to consumers after being modi ed for mass consump- crosoft’s head of research and strategy. tion. The internet, for instance, was inspired by technology rst de- The cost of many gadgets is falling fast, giving another llip veloped by America’s defence establishment. to consumption. Smartphones priced at around $100 after a sub- Over the past ten years or so, however, the consumer market sidy from telecoms companies, which make money on associated has become a hotbed of innovation in its own right. The polarity data plans are starting to appear in America. The cheapest Kin- has reversed in the technology industry, claims Marc Andrees- dle, an e-reader from Amazon, sells for $79, against $399 for the sen, a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist whose rm, An- rst version launched in 2007. The cost of digital storage has also 12 The Economist October 8th 2011
  4. 4. SPEC IA L R EPO RT PERSONAL TECHNOL OG Y2 fallen dramatically. A gigabyte (GB) of storage, which is roughly to build their own global brands. enough to hold a two-hour lm after compression, cost around A globalised supply chain is not the only thing helping con- $200,000 in 1980; today a disk drive holding a terabyte, or sumer-electronics companies to cut costs. They are also bene t- 1,024GB, costs around $100. ing from economies of scale as the incomes of more and more The growth of the internet and the rapid spread of fast people in more and more countries rise to the point at which gad- broadband connectivity have also transformed the landscape. gets are a ordable. Erik Brynjolfsson of the MIT Sloan School of So has the rise of companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon, Management points out that because of this, manufacturers of whose main aim is to delight individuals rather than businesses consumer electronics are now moving down production learn- or governments. Apple, in particular, has been to the fore in the ing curves faster than more specialised tech rms. democratisation of IT, creating a host of impressive devices such HTC is a case in point. The company shipped over 22m as the iPhone and the iPad. Much of the credit for its success goes phones in the rst half of this year, more than twice as many as to Steve Jobs, who stood down in August as its chief executive. in the rst half of 2010. As it has grown, it has been constantly tweaking the integration between product development and Techtonic shifts manufacturing. Matthew Costello, the rm’s chief operating o - This special report will examine in more detail the forces cer, says that it now takes six to 12 months for the Taiwanese com- underlying the reversal in polarity to which Mr Andreessen re- pany to get a product from the conceptual stage to a consumer’s fers and how they are a ecting individuals, businesses and gov- hand, compared with 12 to 18 months only two years ago. ernments. The combination of new devices with pervasive con- nectivity and plentiful online content is raising citizens’ Power surge expectations of what personal technology can achieve. And it is The ability to amortise spending over a fast-growing audi- leading them to bring their own devices into the workplace, ence is also encouraging tech rms to pour more money into con- where some of the technology they are expected to use now sumer-focused research and development (R&D). Asked what is seems antediluvian by comparison. This trend is challenging driving consumerisation, Jen-Hsun Huang, the boss of NVIDIA, companies to rethink their IT departments’ habit of treating em- an American rm that makes graphic chips for everything from ployees as digital serfs who must do as they are told. gaming consoles to smartphones and supercomputers, whizzes The burgeoning global market for smart consumer technol- through a quick calculation. There are about 200m PCs sold ev- ogy is also inspiring an outpouring of entrepreneurial energy ery year that contain the kind of chips that NVIDIA produces, he that will create many more remarkable products. And it is en- says. Assuming an average sales price of $20 per chip, that makes couraging organisations of all kinds to adapt innovations from a potential market today of $4 billion for the rm’s products. the consumer world for their own ends. Companies are setting Sales of the types of PC that NVIDIA targets are likely to grow, so up online app stores for their employees; hospitals are handing this number could increase. out specially modi ed smartphones to nurses; soldiers are try- However, Mr Huang expects the market for smartphones to ing out tablet computers to control drones and experimenting grow far faster, with around 2 billion ultimately being sold each with battle eld apps . Many more such opportunities are likely year. Given that the average sales price of NVIDIA’s chips for to emerge as the technological and economic forces behind this these devices is $20 too, the potential market is $40 billion, ten popular computing revolution gather steam. 7 times as big as that in PCs. Other forecasters also expect demand for smartphones to soar. Gartner, a research rm, estimates that 1billion will be sold in 2015, up from 468m this year. R&D is shift- Consumerisation ing to consumer-focused markets simply because we have more hope that it will be monetised there, explains Mr Huang. The power of many These economic trends are being reinforced by several tech- nological ones. Arguably the most important has been the abili- ty of microchip-makers to squeeze ever more computing power onto their products, as Moore’s law (which holds that the num- ber of transistors on a single chip doubles roughly every two years) has continued to operate. James Bruce of ARM, a British company that designs chips for the iPhone and other portable The shift from personal to personalised computing devices, reckons today’s versions are 40 times more powerful ANYONE WANTING TO get a better idea of the scale of the than those around in 2000. changes taking place in the world of consumer electronics One of the most important leaps has been the introduction should take a look at Foxconn’s giant factory complex in Shen- of multi-core processors, tiny chips with two or more proces- zhen, in southern China. Known as Foxconn City, it covers an en- sors, or cores , on them. Often, smartphones are used only for tire square mile and is crammed with manufacturing operations simple stu such as calls and e-mail, which do not require all of and company-managed housing, medical facilities and educa- their computing potential. By using multi-core chips and smart tional centres. About 400,000 people work there, roughly as software, phonemakers can shut down one or more of the pro- many as live in Oakland, California. cessors, reducing the drain on phones’ batteries. We have be- Like several other Taiwanese rms that operate factories at come experts at the art of doing nothing, jokes Mr Bruce. home and in China, Foxconn churns out electronic devices on Other advances have also contributed to the personal-com- behalf of a number of Western companies. By tapping into puting revolution. Lithium-ion polymer batteries, which can be cheap Asian labour, Apple, Samsung and other consumer-elec- easily moulded to t di erent shapes, have made possible ultra- tronics giants have been able to drive down the prices of their slim devices. Developments in ash memory technology have phones and other gadgets, broadening their appeal to consum- made it possible to store more data in devices. Advances in ers. A handful of insurgent Asian rms, including China’s Hua- screen know-how have begotten super-sharp displays. Photos wei and Taiwan’s HTC, which make devices that run on Google’s and videos can be shot and shared on the move. Some phones Android mobile operating system, are using their cost advantage even allow video calls. 1 The Economist October 8th 2011 3
  5. 5. S P ECI A L RE PO R T PE RSON AL T ECH N O L O G Y 2 Technologically impressive as all this is, the biggest change that the new devices have wrought is to transform many peo- ple’s experience of computing. The PC may have been personal; a smartphone or tablet, held in your hand rather than perched on your desk, is almost intimate, and you can take it almost any- where. This shift has been driven by Apple, which likes to boast that most of its revenue now comes from post-PC devices such as iPods and iPhones rather than from its Macintosh computers. This is partly marketing talk: crack open an iPhone and you will nd many of the paraphernalia including a motherboard and microchips that make up the guts of a PC too. The Gucci of gadgets Yet Apple has indeed ushered in a new era in which perso- nal technology is nally living up to its name. That is because the technology is starting to adapt to the people who use it rather than forcing them to adapt to it. The most obvious manifesta- tions of this are the touch-screens and intuitive operating sys- tems on many tablets and smartphones that have allowed even toddlers to take to them with gusto. It is also re ected in the way that phones can now be tweaked to re ect people’s increasingly connected lives by, say, bringing up a friend’s latest Facebook posts when he calls. The PC is personal but nowhere near as customisable as the smartphone, says Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies, a consultancy. The marketing of this new generation of mobile devices has also reinforced the notion of technology as something per- sonal. Again, Apple has led the way, encasing the mass of elec- tronics that make up iPhones and iPads in elegant cases and churning out its iPods in a range of di erent colours. Consumer technology is becoming fashion, says Paul Sa o, a veteran Sili- con Valley tech-watcher who works for Discern Analytics. And Apple is now the world’s biggest fashion company. Still, no matter how good a gadget looks, utility counts. This is where smartphones excel. Many now contain sensors such as Pioneers such as Amazon have built cloud-based ecosys- accelerometers (which detect whether a gadget is being held ver- tems that make content such as its electronic books widely tically or horizontally), gyroscopes and compasses. More and available. Even though the rm has its own e-reader, the Kindle, more employ global positioning system (GPS) technology, and has hatched a tablet computer too, it has also created apps which let the Geissbühlers nd their iPhone when it returned and other software that let people get at their digital stu on all sorts of devices, including PCs. Other The PC may have been personal; a smartphone or tablet, companiesaare developing their own eco- systems in bid to make people’s mobile- held in your hand rather than perched on your desk, is computing experience even more seam- less. Google’s recent $12.5 billion acquisi- almost intimate, and you can take it almost anywhere tion of Motorola Mobility, which makes smartphones, tablets and other gadgets, from its space mission. Soon this sensor technology will become will enable it to produce a new crop of devices to show o its widespread too: ABI Research forecasts that by 2013 85% of cloud services, such as Gmail and Google Docs, to best e ect. smartphones will be shipped with GPS systems and around half And Apple is stepping up its integration e orts, rolling out an will contain accelerometers and gyroscopes. iCloud in which people can store up to 5GB of content for noth- Thanks to these sensors and the apps that tap data from ing, and more if they pay. them (see box on the next page), smartphones are being used for all sorts of things, such as navigation and video-recording, that Heads in the cloud used to require dedicated devices. Some in the industry call the The rise of the cloud has also created an explosion of other smartphone the Swiss Army knife of consumer electronics. consumer-focused web services. These include the big social HTC’s Mr Costello says it is more like a black hole because it is networks such as Facebook, which has over 800m users, and a swallowing so many other gadgets . host of smaller rms such as Foursquare, which was created spe- Another big driver of mobile-device usage and thus of ci cally to let people tell their pals where they are. This combina- consumerisation has been the rise of cloud computing. For tion of social networking, location-signalling and mobile com- much of the personal-computing era, the content that people puting nicknamed SoLoMo by John Doerr, a prominent needed for work or entertainment had to be stored on PCs’ hard venture capitalist has given birth to out ts such as Badoo, a site disks, or on external hard drives and USB keys. But now data and for people wanting to chat, irt and date. Mobile computing is content often reside in the cloud : large server farms, run by also encouraging people to use web services more often than Amazon, Google and others, where huge amounts of data are they would on a PC. Facebook reports that people who visit its stored for retrieval from almost anywhere in the world. network via mobile devices are twice as active on it as those who 14 The Economist October 8th 2011
  6. 6. SPEC IA L R EPO RT PERSONAL TECHNOL OG Y Apps on tap The beauty of bite-sized software ASKED WHAT MAKES mobile apps so special, plenty with a more serious purpose, such as connection is available. This also explains Bart Decrem, a co-founder of Tapulous, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Child why they launch so much faster than soft- gives a reply that could have come straight ID iPhone app, which lets parents store ware on PCs. Apps mean that people are no out of the mouth of Steve Jobs. Apps are information about their kids and send it to longer going to be satis ed waiting for nuggets of magic, he says. They very the authorities if a child goes missing. spinning hard disks on PCs to deliver what elegantly address the strengths and weak- In many ways, apps are representative they want, says Tim Bajarin of Creative nesses of the mobile internet. Mr Decrem of the changes taking place in personal Strategies, a consultancy. knows the app economy well. After building technology. Small, downloadable chunks of There has been speculation that apps a number of successful gaming apps at software, they give people access to infor- may fade when new websites designed to Tapulous, including Tap Tap Revenge , mation in a neatly packaged format and work better on mobile devices appear. But which involves tapping on coloured balls as most have one or more of the following that is unlikely to happen while mobile- they move down a phone’s screen, he sold attributes: simplicity, cheapness and in- internet connectivity remains patchy. Fans his company last year to Disney, where he is stant grati cation. also point out that apps are easy to create. now an executive. They have caught on partly because Most, however, are destined for Hordes of other developers have piled many websites do not look good when obscurity. Today there are more than into the app business, creating hundreds of viewed on phones’ tiny screens. Apps do a 425,000 apps in Apple’s online store and thousands of o erings for online stores run much better job of making the best of the more than 250,000 in Google’s Android by Apple and Google, by telecoms rms such space available. Using them is intuitive, by Market. Yet in a recent survey of Android- as South Korea’s SK Telecom, and by in- and large. Many are free; many others cost phone users in America, Nielsen, another dependent app stores such as GetJar. The no more than a fancy cup of co ee. Some of research rm, discovered that the ten most appetite for apps appears insatiable: the most creative apps make the most of popular apps accounted for 43% of usage Gartner, a research rm, estimates that phones’ sensors. Gaming ones use acceler- and the top 50 for a whopping 61%. Admit- almost 18 billion have been downloaded ometers and gyroscopes to track users’ tedly, these statistics may be in uenced by since the rst app store was opened by motions, while mobile-navigation apps rely the pre-loading of apps for services such as Apple in 2008. By 2013, it thinks, the num- on inbuilt GPS systems. Facebook and Google Maps onto many ber will have risen to 49 billion. Many are Another reason why apps have proved phones. But the results are still telling. Part games such as Tap Tap Revenge and popular is that, unlike websites, they do not of the problem is that there is still no reli- Angry Birds , in which a bunch of enraged need a constant connection to the internet. able search engine for discovering out- digital fowl wage war against evil pigs that Instead, they are stored in mobile gadgets’ standing apps. No doubt there will soon be have pinched their eggs. But there are also silicon memories and refreshed when a new an app for that too. STORE NO. OF APPS 49.2 Most popular: Games 64 Apple App Store 414,852 Android Market 237,199 Weather 60 GetJar 160,296 31.2 MobiHand 158,301 Social networks 56 PocketGear 91,144 17.7 Maps/search 51 1. Hair Plucker 1. Facebook Mobango 82,936 Handango 44,685 2. Temple Run 2. Google Maps 8.2 Music 44 3. Draw ‘n’ Go: 3. Talking Tom Cat 2 SK Telecom T Store 37,629 BlackBerry App World 36,781 0.5 2.5 Awesomeness! 4. YouTube News 39 4. Office Zombie 5. MP3 Music Handster 31,042 2008 09 10 11* 12* 13* 5. Google+ Download Pro Biggest app stores No. of app downloads Most popular categories Top free apps‡ etiL ainaM orP daolnwoD retsdnaH 240,13 11 01 90 8002 31 21 gnikraP .5 cisuM 3PM .5 sweN 93 Q2 2011 dlroW ppA yrreBkcalB 187,63 Worldwide, bn 5.2 5.0 52 % of users†, Q2 2011 September 27th 2011 d l T 4 delgnaT .4 oidaR arodnaP .4 id R d P 4 erotS T KS 926,73 cisuM 44 trAnipS 3 trAnipS .3 ebuTuoY 3 ebuTuoY .3 Sources: Android Market; AP; Apple; Gartner; Nielsen; research2guidance 28 2.8 *Forecast †US ‡Apple: iPhone only; Android: all devices ognadnaH 586,44 srewoT xiS 2 srewoT xiS .2 spaM elgooG .2 spaM elgooG 22 tap into it via other means. the proliferation of broadband connections that has turbo- Other small software companies are also placing powerful charged it. In many rich countries xed-line broadband connec- tech tools in people’s hands. Dropbox lets users upload photos, tions are now commonplace, often with a Wi-Fi link at the end of documents and other content via a simple interface and then re- them to allow people to use their devices wherever they are in trieve them from many di erent devices. SlideShare allows peo- homes or o ces. And a variety of wireless technologies includ- ple to share presentations and other stu via the cloud. Many of ing third-generation , or 3G, networks, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth these companies o er a free basic service: Dropbox lets users have made it possible for people to stay connected to the internet store up to 2GB of data for nothing, then charges for more. almost everywhere. Amazingly capable mobile devices and oodles of cloud- Skype, which claims to have about 170m monthly active us- based content are two of the three pillars on which the personal- ers, is one of the services that has ourished as all sorts of de- ised computing revolution is being built. But it is the third pillar vices have become more powerful and connected. It’s amazing 1 The Economist October 8th 2011 5
  7. 7. S P ECI A L RE PO R T PE RSON AL T ECH N O L O G Y 2 how many things you can now use Skype on, says Tony Bates, the rm’s boss, who points out that many of the innovative uses of the online phone and video-calling service have been in- spired by consumers. For instance, when teachers began using Skype to swap advice on classes, the rm added features that made it easier for them to collaborate using its technology. Like many other technology executives, Mr Bates is con- vinced that consumerisation is an unstoppable force and that it has raised people’s expectations hugely. It used to be that the best IT experiences people had were in the o ce, he says. Now that technology has been democratised, they have become used to doing new and exciting things themselves. For their employ- ers, this is creating both opportunities and headaches. 7 Personal technology at work IT’s Arab spring People are demanding to use their own gadgets in their jobs. Trying to thwart them is futile WILLEM EELMAN, the chief information o cer (CIO) of Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch consumer-goods giant, recounts the reaction of young employees when they rst come across the complicated and often confusing ways in which many big cor- porate IT systems still present information to sta . They take a look at a business-application screen and they scream in horror, he says. The youngsters are even more horri ed when presented force are already seeing swift changes. Accenture, a consulting with tomes of instructions through which they must plough be- rm whose sta often work at clients’ o ces, is a case in point. fore getting down to work. Frank Modruson, the CIO of the company, which has 223,000 Like many other companies, Unilever is recruiting from a employees, says that less than two years ago 30,000 smart- generation whose expectations of technology have been pro- phones and other mobile devices were connected to its network, foundly shaped by Facebook, mobile apps and other innova- most of them bought by the rm. Today there are 85,000, less tions. But it isn’t just digital natives who are shocked by the than a third of which were provided by the company. state of some of the technology in their workplaces. The rapid Other companies are seeing a more gradual in ux of em- spread of tablets and smartphones, and the magnetic attraction ployee-owned gadgets. At Unilever, Mr Eelman says that of the of social networks and other online tools such as Twitter, mean 90,000 employees who use a computer for their jobs (out of a to- that people of all ages have grown accustomed to having power- tal of 160,000 sta ) about 5,000 have so far brought in a mobile ful yet easy-to-use technologies at their ngertips. Many of them gadget of their own. But he expects that number to grow as the want the same stu at work too. company rolls out a new IT infrastructure that will allow people Their demands are also being fuelled by changes in society. to work more easily from di erent places. Among these is the increasing mobility of the workforce, wheth- er commuting or visiting clients, which has made smartphones War of the IT worlds and tablets especially popular with corporate road-warriors. The arrival en masse of personal technology in the work- There has also been a gradual blurring of the lines between per- place is causing waves. Historically many IT departments have sonal and business lives, which means that people rely on tech- treated people as tech automatons who should do what they are nology much more to allow them to work or play anywhere at told, says Bob Tinker, the boss of MobileIron, which helps rms any time. manage mobile devices. For years that has involved restricting The e ects of these changes are being widely felt. A survey people’s choice of mobile gadgets to a few devices such as the of 3,000 workers in nine countries carried out by IDC, a research BlackBerry smartphones made by Canada’s RIM. rm, for Unisys, an IT company, and published in July found that One rationale for this was that strict standardisation saved their use of personal devices to access business information had money. By limiting choice to a few gadgets, companies could buy grown sharply, partly because of the arrival of tablets (see chart 1 them in bulk and streamline their maintenance in much the on the next page). The study also noted that IT departments often same way that, say, budget airlines reap big savings by buying greatly underestimate how much employees are using their own just one or two types of aeroplane. At the same time, standardi- technology, including social networks and other web services, sation made it easier to ensure security. A big reason why Black- for work. And it accused internal tech teams of frequently using Berrys have proved so popular with companies has been that security concerns as a gleaf to justify keeping tight control of RIM also provides software that lets IT departments maintain a decisions about which devices workers may and may not use. rm grip on the way the devices are used. How far rms are a ected by all this will largely depend on Now, however, IT teams are facing a challenge to their au- the nature of their business. Those with a highly mobile work- thority. Much of what workers are demanding, including the 16 The Economist October 8th 2011
  8. 8. SPEC IA L R EPO RT PERSONAL TECHNOL OG Y sold. And another study published in August by McAfee, an IT- security rm, found there had been a steady increase in mobile malware software such as viruses and Trojans designed to disrupt or steal data (see chart 2 on the next page). Google’s An- droid system is an especially popular target. One piece of mal- ware disguised as an Android calendar app sent SMS messages to a premium-rate number without users’ knowledge. Another, masquerading as an update for Angry Birds , a mobile game, deleted browser histories and bookmarks on phones. Popular web services have also had security hiccups. In June a software update at Dropbox caused a temporary security breach that allowed unauthorised access to data held by the on- line-storage service for about four hours. According to the com- Rather than pany’s blog, fewer than 100 accounts were compromised, but the episode nevertheless shocked those who had assumed that the a few geeky service was perfectly secure. The rm has since taken steps to rebels, prevent a recurrence. there are Lock up your devices now entire Perhaps the biggest risk of all, though, is employees them- selves. Numerous studies have shown that although people lock armies of their cars and their homes, many do not secure their mobile de- employees vices. A report in March by the Ponemon Institute, a research group, for AVG, a security rm, found that less than half of the equipped 734 Americans surveyed had set up passwords on their smart- with smart phones, even though most had used them for work. Other stud- ies have found that when people do protect their phones, they mobile often choose codes that can be cracked easily, such as pass- devices word or 12345 , rather than more secure combinations of let- ters, numbers and other symbols. Many CIOs recognise that trying to stamp out the use of2 right to use their own smartphones and tablets for work, to mix personal gadgets at work is not only futile but also risky. I’d rath- business and personal data on them, and to personalise them er know about a device and put reasonable security on it than with their own apps, is anathema to IT departments used to run- stick my head in the sand and pretend it’s not there, says Accen- ning digital dictatorships. Often it is senior executives who insist ture’s Mr Modruson. To manage the risks, companies have been on being allowed to use their own technology for work, which installing systems from rms, such as MobileIron and Zenprise, makes it hard for IT folk to say no. This really is the end of the whose software lets IT departments manage a wide range of mo- nanny state of IT, says Doug Neal of CSC, a consultancy. bile devices. These can detect the kinds of gadgets that are gain- CIOs who try to ban the use of personal technology at ing access to a rm’s network and wipe data from those that are work risk a proliferation of shadow IT , which arises when em- lost. Virtual desktops from companies like VMware and Citrix ployees surreptitiously use their own devices and software to get that let people use devices but keep data on a remote server be- things done. This is not new, as the example of the people who hind a rewall are another popular means of limiting risks. sneaked the rst PCs into o ces shows. What is di erent is the All this costs money. So there is much debate in the IT world sheer scale of the consumerisation movement this time. Rather about whether or not consumerisation leads to savings too. Mr than a few geeky rebels, there are now entire armies of employ- Modruson says that Accenture’s employees have spent $4.25m 1 ees equipped with smart mobile devices. Left undetected, their do-it-yourself e orts could cause sensitive corporate data to leak and open digital doors to hackers. 1 There is some debate about just how big a threat this is. Ear- Bring your toys to the office lier this year Verizon, an American telecoms rm, published a re- Devices used for access to business applications, % port that reviewed numerous corporate data breaches that had occurred in 2010. It concluded that most of these were due to di- 2010 2011 rect attacks on corporate servers, not to mobile devices being compromised. Moreover, many smartphones and tablets now include features such as the ability to erase, or wipe , the con- tent on them remotely and to track their location using their in- Personal PC, built GPS systems. The same cannot be said of most PCs. And smartphone Personal PC, 30.7 smartphone, some operating systems such as later versions of Apple’s iOS in- Business PC, Business PC, tablet smartphone, 40.7 clude ready-made encryption capabilities that protect data on smartphone tablet devices. This helps explain why so many companies are embrac- 69.3 59.3 ing iPads. Apple has said that most members of the Fortune 100 list of America’s largest rms are either buying the gadgets or running trials with them. Nevertheless there are grounds for concern. The Verizon re- port predicts that threats to mobile devices will grow as more are Source: IDC survey, May 2010 and 2011 The Economist October 8th 2011 7
  9. 9. S P ECI A L RE PO R T PE RSON AL T ECH N O L O G Y 2 of their own money on tablet computers that they use for work. Adapting personal IT for business But Cesare Garlati of Trend Micro, an IT-security company, gives warning that companies also need to take into account the cost of managing many di erent kinds of devices running on various The consumer- telecoms networks. It’s a nightmare of complexity, he says. Yet even if IT perestroika is pricey, the investment may still be worth it and not just because it minimises the risk of a disas- industrial complex ter caused by shadow IT. For a start, rms that embrace consum- erisation are more likely to attract technologically minded work- All sorts of organisations are borrowing ideas from ers at a time when IT is becoming ever more crucial to corporate consumer technology success. Those people are also more likely to give their employ- WHEN SHE STARTS her day at Sarasota Memorial Hospital ers early warning of innovations in the personal-technology in Florida, Danielle Reed picks up a smartphone. It is part of world that could a ect their business. And they are probably bet- a system provided by Voalté, a start-up created to modify smart- ter at conversing with customers who are themselves adopting phones for doctors and nurses. The phone allows Ms Reed to many of the same technologies. communicate quickly and easily with her fellow nurses either Such considerations help explain why even companies in by calling them or by sending text messages, a number of which heavily regulated industries are letting people bring their own are preprogrammed. She can also open specialised apps: one al- gadgets to work. Previously we just said no to people using non- lows her to look up di erent medicines and their side-e ects; an- standard devices, says Robert Cockerill of Thames River Capi- other helps her identify pills brought in by patients. tal, a British fund-management company. Now the rm lets em- Ms Reed says that the smartphone has other bene ts too. ployees use a range of phones and tablets as long as sensitive She no longer has to carry di erent devices for making phone data on them are encrypted and activity is logged in order to calls and receiving alerts, and she can send group text messages, comply with regulations. which makes it easier to communicate with all of her colleagues P zer, a big pharmaceuticals company, is also embracing on a ward. The 300 or so phones provided by Voalté (whose consumerisation cautiously. We have to nd a balance between name comprises the rst two letters of voice , alarm and exibility and protecting the intellectual assets that are the life- text ) have also helped to make Sarasota Memorial a quieter blood of the company, says Je Keisling, the rm’s CIO. The place for both patients and workers. Before introducing them the company allows workers to use various kinds of devices and op- hospital often relied on a noisy public paging system to send erating systems, but to get access to its network they must agree messages to nurses and other sta . This is now used much less. to load an encryption agent on their gadgets and to allow P zer to wipe part or all of the information on them if necessary. Keep taking the tablets At the other end of the spectrum, some companies are giv- Rob Campbell, Voalté’s chief executive, says the company ing their employees stipends to encourage them to buy their expected to encounter plenty of scepticism when pitching its ser- own devices. One of these is Citrix, which requires sta to use its vice to hospitals because the medical profession is used to get- own virtual-desktop product on the gadgets they purchase and ting purpose-built gadgets for so many things. But it has been to install antivirus software prescribed by the company. The rm pleasantly surprised by the reception to the consumer technol- says that about a fth of its 6,500 employees have taken advan- ogy. There’s so much momentum behind these smartphones tage of the policy. that doctors and board members get it, he says. They get tablets Mr Eelman of Unilever sees consumerisation as part of a too: Manhattan Research, a health-care research company, pub- broader shift in what companies expect of their IT departments. lished a survey in May that estimated that 30% of American doc- Not so long ago, he says, many internal tech teams were focused tors were already using iPads and almost as many again were on installing gigantic software systems to handle such things as planning to get one within six months. accounting and human resources. Most of these are now in In spite of this momentum, Voalté has succeeded only be- place, though they require maintenance. This means IT now has cause it has worked hard to adapt the technology that consum- more time to be a partner supporting rms’ business divisions. ers enjoy to a hospital environment. Among other things, it has Enabling workers to use the gadgets they consider best for their modi ed iPhones and BlackBerrys so they can handle calls over jobs is part of this strategic realignment. Wise companies are not hospitals’ Wi-Fi networks, because cellular coverage can be poor just embracing the consumerisation of IT. They are also turning inside some wards. It has also installed robust security software innovations from personal technology to their advantage. 7 on the devices and ensured that they can gain access only to a hospital’s network. And it has developed a gadget that recharges up to 40 phones at once while connecting them to Voalté’s serv- ers, which update their software. Ms Reed says a single charge is 2 Sneaky geekery perfectly adequate to keep the phone running for her shift, Unique pieces of mobile malware, cumulative total which can last up to 12 hours. 1,200 Like Voalté, plenty of other organisations (including the armed forces of several countries: see box on the next page) are 1,000 keen to take advantage of the billions of dollars that the consum- 800 er-electronics industry spends on R&D each year. Apple and oth- 600 er companies that focus on the global consumer market typically 400 show little interest in other areas because that market is so big. By 200 adapting their innovations for di erent uses, entrepreneurial companies are carving out new niches of their own. Many of 0 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 their products and services promise to make the organisations 2009 10 11 that adopt them more e cient and agile. Source: McAfee Social networks are a case in point. Facebook, in particular, 18 The Economist October 8th 2011
  10. 10. SPEC IA L R EPO RT PERSONAL TECHNOL OG Y2 has proved wildly popular for sharing everything from videos of Lady Gaga to photos of a drunken night out. But these Droid wars networks’ public nature makes them un- suitable for exchanging sensitive cor- Smartphones are invading battle elds porate material and probably those pho- tos too. This has opened the door to rms COMPANIES ARE NOT the only ones adapting incidents of friendly re, as well as giving such as, Socialtext, Yam- personal technology to their own ends. soldiers an advantage over the enemy. mer and others that have created tailor- Armies are too. Next month Singapore is due The idea of spotting people’s where- made networks for businesses, behind to issue thousands of tablets to recruits, to abouts on a screen will be familiar to gam- corporate rewalls. Like the big public help them get ready for training sessions and ers another reason why armies are interest- networks, these custom-made ones typi- record what they learn. Britain has also been ed in consumer gear. As so many young cally allow employees to see who else is using tablets to help prepare troops for duty soldiers have used smart gadgets already, active, set up project groups and exchange in places such as Afghanistan. they do not need much training on them. stu among themselves. Firms that use Smartphones and tablets may soon be From an R&D perspective and a training them say they have made it easier for sta deployed more widely in combat zones as perspective, these devices are a no-brainer, to nd important information and to col- well. Harris, an American rm with expertise says Michael Anthony of the US Army’s Com- laborate with their fellow workers. in video communications, is working on an munications-Electronics Research Devel- app that allows a tablet computer remotely opment and Engineering Centre (CERDEC). Your colleague is your friend to control a camera on a drone. And Rayth- There are still hurdles to surmount. Bajaj Finance, an Indian consumer- eon, a big American defence company, is Consumer phones are not designed for lending rm that has been using Chatter, developing Raytheon Android Tactical Sys- combat. They also require constant wireless’s social-networking sys- tem (RATS), a platform that allows soldiers to connectivity, as well as long-lasting batter- tem, for over a year, says it has led to much choose from numerous smartphone apps, ies. O cials at CERDEC say these drawbacks smoother communication between its including ones that let them receive images can be overcome. Field tests suggest that sales sta and underwriters. In the past, from drones or satellites on their screens. with some modest additional protection, explains Rakesh Bhatt, the company’s Armies are keen on consumer tech- smartphones are robust enough for use and chief information o cer, the assessment nology for several reasons. First, electronics special batteries can prolong time between of which potential customers to take on rms are outgunning them in R&D spending charges. Armies can also tap wireless-net- involved lots of bilateral e-mails and in- on things such as touch screens and other working gear mounted on drones and bal- stant messaging. Loan documents were interfaces. The industry’s annual invest- loons to keep soldiers connected in the eld. exchanged on a separate electronic net- ment here is well over 1,000 times greater Even with modi cations, the phones work, adding a layer of complexity. Now than the military’s, explains Mark Bigham will still be far cheaper than bespoke devices. all of this happens on its social network. of Raytheon. With budgets tight, private- And their software can also be updated in a Mr Bhatt says the network has helped the sector innovations are even more appealing. ash. In one test of RATS, users requested a rm make speedier and better decisions Smartphones can also give a soldier new feature for an app. Three hours later a about which risks to underwrite. more real-time data about battle elds. RATS revised version was available for download- Apps are another consumer innova- o ers an augmented-reality app, which ing. Armies have to accept that consum- tion being imported by businesses. Many overlays an image from a phone’s camera erisation is a ecting them too. Soldiers are organisations, including The Economist, with data from other sources. A soldier can bringing their own phones with them on have developed their own apps to deliver see digital markers representing other deployments, so it would be best if they got or promote their products via public members of his unit (tracked via GPS signals their apps from stores that have a military stores run by Apple and others. Now from their devices). This could help reduce seal of approval. some companies, including PepsiCo, Standard Chartered, a big bank, and P zer, are setting up their own internal app stores too. Many of the apps in them are designed to help mobile workers save time. P zer, for example, has created an app that makes it easy for employees to locate and contact co-workers travelling on business a boon in a global rm with peripatetic executives. Another popular set of corporate apps supplies data to people on the road. A ac, a big American insurer, has devel- oped several apps that allow members of its sales team access to customer data and claims records without Other apps will be built by companies. Deloitte, a rm of having to log in from a desktop computer. Some companies are consultants, has created one called Bamboo to help it with disas- even holding competitions among their employees to see who ter-recovery planning. The app allows the rm to update em- can come up with the best apps a practice copied from the con- ployees’ emergency plans automatically by pushing new infor- sumer world, where contests among app developers are com- mation to their phones, which are among the few things that mon. Researchers at Gartner predict that by 2014 around a quar- people tend to take with them in a sudden evacuation. Deloitte is ter of business apps will be created by workers who are not part planning to roll out the app across all of its o ces and has also of IT departments. developed a service based on it that it is selling to its customers. 1 The Economist October 8th 2011 9
  11. 11. S P ECI A L RE PO R T PE RSON AL T ECH N O L O G Y 2 Firms are also developing apps that let employees unlock that use Google Apps, a range of cloud-based software including some of the data that are held in head-o ce enterprise systems e-mail and document-sharing. Used to Google’s free consumer more easily. MeLLmo, a start-up, has created an app called products, many workers take to its corporate ones easily. Roambi that takes data from big nancial systems and presents This and the prospect of cost savings have encouraged them in graphical format on smartphones and tablets. Santiago more organisations to embrace cloud-based o erings. Last year Becerra, the rm’s boss, says Roambi is popular with nance the city of Los Angeles, which faces a big budget de cit, adopted types and other road warriors who need information on the a series of apps designed by Google for governments. Kevin move, but can be used in other settings too. One big manufactur- Crawford, an IT manager for the city, thinks it will save more er has even issued iPads with the app to sta monitoring its pro- than $1m a year over the next few years simply by not having to duction lines. Now they no longer have to return to xed PC run and support its own in-house systems for things such as workstations to consult production data a trip that could take e-mail. Firms that have ended up with a hotch-potch of di erent eight to ten minutes each time in the rm’s huge factories. Ger- IT systems as a result of mergers have also taken to the cloud. many’s SAP, America’s Oracle and other companies that create MWV, an acquisitive global-packaging company, switched to big IT systems are rolling out software to make it easier for rms Google’s e-mail app rather than try to integrate ten di erent e- that work with them to develop their own mobile apps. mail systems that it inherited from various deals. Several of Roambi’s developers come from the computer- Drawing on consumer-inspired technology can produce in- games industry, where expertise in producing great graphics on tangible bene ts too. Employee app developers are more likely small screens is plentiful. Avaya, which creates communications than external ones to have a good idea of what they need to do tools for businesses, has also borrowed know-how developed their jobs well and will relish the opportunity to create their own for games for a product called web.alive, which allows people to software. And internal social networks are an aid to co-operation hold meetings and conferences in a virtual environment, using in what management types like to call the white space be- avatars. And numerous rms, not to mention the armed forces, tween a company’s various divisions, by making it easier to nd are using videogame-like technology for training. and collaborate with knowledgeable colleagues in far- ung parts of a company. Savings in the virtual sky Some of those who have been promoting the use of con- Cloud computing, which began with consumer-focused e- sumer-inspired technologies inside companies say that execu- mail services such as Hotmail, has also caught on in the business tives used to a command-and-control world are still reluctant to world. The companies leading the charge here are Amazon and embrace them, just as they are resistant to allowing employees to Google, which have already developed popular cloud services bring their own gadgets to work. This is not how managers were aimed at consumers, such as Kindle e-books and Gmail. Amazon taught in business school to operate, says Marc Benio , the boss has built a huge business renting cloud-computing capacity and of But as consumer technology becomes ubiqui- services to companies and Google boasts over 4m customers tous, these bene ts will be even harder to ignore. 710 The Economist October 8th 2011
  12. 12. SPEC IA L R EPO RT PERSONAL TECHNOL OG Y Ubiquitous computing 3 Everything online Up close Internet-connected TVs and games consoles, global forecast, bn 1.0 Games consoles TVs 0.8 0.6 Technology will become even more personal 0.4 GENEVIEVE BELL HAS spent the past few months travel- 0.2 ling to several di erent countries, rummaging in people’scars, and photographing and logging what she found in them. 0Ms Bell is neither a private investigator nor a spy. Instead she 2011 12 13 14 15 16works for Intel, the world’s biggest maker of semiconductors, Source: Informa Telecoms & Mediawhere she runs a team that helps the company analyse how peo-ple interact with technology. An anthropologist by training, Ms Bell says her interest in could be almost 15 billion devices linked to the internet in circula-cars and their contents which were unpacked with their own- tion by 2015, up from 7.5 billion last year. These will includeers’ permission is a re ection of the fact that vehicles have be- everything from televisions and gaming consoles (see chart 3) tocome places where people use a great deal of personal gadgetry. co ee machines and cookers.Her photos often reveal what she calls a wasteland of electrical This has led researchers such as Ms Bell to conclude thatdetritus inside vehicles: everything from multiple chargers for ubiquitous computing, or ubicomp to its fans, is no longer thedi erent kinds of electronic devices to music CDs and other arte- realm of science ction. In a series of articles in the 1990s Markfacts of people’s digital lives. Cars are a perfect proxy for mobile Weiser, the chief technologist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Cen-phones, she says, because people load lots of stu into them to tre (PARC), laid out a vision of a world in which computersbe prepared for every eventuality and then rarely chuck any- would be everywhere yet all but invisible. Instead of the conven-thing out. tional desktop or laptop, Mr Weiser (who died in 1999) and one Intel’s curiosity about how people use technology in cars is of his colleagues, John Seely Brown, predicted that in this newhardly surprising. Carmakers are keen to install extra computing era of calm technology gadgets would adapt to people ratherpower in their vehicles in order to impress customers with a than vice versa.taste for technology, and Intel hopes that this will translate into abig new market for its chips. Ford, for instance, has already devel- Still a wired worldoped a service called SYNC, based on a Microsoft operating sys- Calm is not a word typically associated with most perso-tem. SYNC allows drivers to make calls, play music and do other nal technology today. Just trying to get various gadgets to workthings using voice commands. The car company has also created together is often enough to send blood pressures soaring. More-AppLink, a feature that lets people link their smartphones to a over, the spaghetti of wires, the chargers and the other parapher-vehicle’s voice-control system and operate their apps with it. For nalia of digital life are hardly unobtrusive. And although wire-now the system works with only a handful of apps, such as Pan- less broadband connectivity is widespread, it can still be patchydora, an internet-radio service, but Ford is hoping to expand that and unreliable. All this is a far cry from the kind of seamless in-number rapidly. teraction between humans and connected devices depicted in Japan’s Toyota has also been working on an in-car system, futuristic lms beloved of ubicomp enthusiasts, such as Stevencalled Entune, to which drivers will be able to connect their Spielberg’s Minority Report .smartphones via Bluetooth wireless links and other means. And Ms Bell acknowledges that the infrastructure of computing is still messy , but argues this should not be allowed to obscure the fact that it hasIt is not just vehicles that are becoming more connected. become much more widely accessible. BoSo are homes, public places like sports stadiums and Begole, a ubicomp expert at Xerox PARC, echoes that view. We already have a criti-even aircraft cal mass of devices and wireless net- works, he explains. The next step is toit plans to make driving even more personal by helping people’s make those devices aware of how humans work and to get themcars talk to them. The rm has announced plans for a Twitter- to adapt to their private social network, called Toyota Friend, which will be If there is one part of the world where personal technologyintegrated into some electric and hybrid vehicles in Japan next is on its way towards becoming ubiquitous it is Asia, where sev-year. Based on software from and Microsoft, this eral richer countries have created impressive infrastructures onwill enable a car to send a tweet-like message to its owner telling which all sorts of personal technologies can work. South Korea,him that, say, its battery is running low or a maintenance check is for instance, plans that every home in the country should havedue. Mr Benio ,’s boss, says he foresees many an internet connection with a speed of up to one gigabit per sec-more product social networks that will create more intimate ond (fast enough to download a full-length feature lm in a mat-relationships between people and the devices they own. ter of seconds). And it also intends greatly to increase the capaci- It is not just vehicles that are becoming more connected. So ty of the country’s wireless-broadband networks.are homes, public places like sports stadiums and even aircraft, Singapore has set itself a goal of creating an ultra-fastwhere passengers are now sometimes o ered in- ight Wi-Fi ser- broadband infrastructure and sees this as the foundation of avices for an extra charge. Cisco, a big IT rm, reckons that there wealth of new digital services that will be delivered to its citi- 1The Economist October 8th 2011 11
  13. 13. S P ECI A L RE PO R T PE RSON AL T ECH N O L O G Y 2 zens. These include telemedicine , which allows doctors to phones has also given a boost to fans of lifelogging recording monitor people’s health remotely using devices in patients’ your life via electronic media which was popularised by Gor- homes, and high-de nition videoconferencing services so that don Bell and Jim Gemmell, two Microsoft executives, in Your Singaporeans can keep in touch with relatives, friends and col- Life, Uploaded . For some time people have been immortalising leagues. Canalys, a research rm, reckons that almost two-thirds their thoughts and deeds on Facebook and other social networks of the phones sold in Singapore last year were smartphones. The from PCs. More and more often, they are doing so on the move, same gadgets are also plentiful in Japan, where many of them from smartphones with apps such as Instagram. A photograph is contain near- eld communication (NFC) chips, which in e ect taken, the time and place are noted automatically, and with a few turn them into mobile wallets that can be used to pay for grocer- taps the image can be uploaded. More of people’s lives will be ies, trips on public transport and more. captured in future, says Mr Bell, simply because more bits and America, Britain and other countries are also experiment- bytes are owing out of these devices. ing with various mobile-payment technologies, including NFC- In their book Messrs Bell and Gemmell predict that people enabled phones. Fans of these envisage a future in which peo- with chronic ailments will one day have sensors embedded di- ple’s wallets and purses will get sucked into smartphones too. rectly in their bodies that can transmit data about their vital signs Google, for instance, has already endorsed NFC technology and wirelessly to other devices such as their phones. This forecast, Apple is likely to include some form of mobile-payment capabil- which would give a new spin to the slogan Intel Inside , may ity in future versions of its iPhone. seem far-fetched, yet some cardiac devices are already equipped with wireless connectivity that allows them to send data to doc- A new reality show tors. And gadgets such as a bathroom scale made by Withings, a Other novel services are giving people far more data about French company, can transmit a person’s weight to a digital the world around them. There is much excitement in tech circles health-log on a computer or smartphone. about augmented-reality apps. The Golfscape GPS Range nder Rather than have sensors lodged inside their bodies, many allows golfers to see a picture of the course in front of them and people may prefer to have them woven into their clothing, or have it overlaid with useful data, such as the distance to various placed next to rather than under their skin. Some venture capital- bunkers and the green. Other apps, for example Layar and Goo- ists such as Mr Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz believe that gle Goggles, combine visual images with data gleaned from web wearable computing will be the next big thing in personal browsers and other software. This enables them to overlay the technology, though the companies that have set their sights on images with information from many di erent sources. Someone this area face a di cult task. History is littered with examples, using Layar can point his phone’s camera at a street in Paris and such as the Seiko Ruputer wristwatch computer, that sounded see information about, say, well-known restaurants in it and call great in theory but turned out to be lemons in practice. up pictures showing what they looked like in the past. This has not dissuaded Nike, which has produced a range The ability to capture video and audio easily on smart- of wearable devices that allow people to track their tness as 112 The Economist October 8th 2011