Thinking about the Connected World

Those who know me will know that I’ve always been a fan of connected & mobile technology, and after an impromptu chat or two with @scottgould (web) was reminded that I’ve been ahead of the curve on mobile technology for a long time, having used e-mail and internet capable mobiles for as long as they’ve been around – long before GPRS, and miles before any of the more glamorous design showcases disguised as technology gadgets people crave today.

While I’ve always benefited from this sort of technology, the true holy grail for me hasn’t yet been realised. I see a world of what I’d say is truly connected technology. I call that technology “real time state sync” (because you’ve gotta have a geeky name for everything). Apple would come up with something more marketing friendly and stick an “i” in front of it mind and suddenly people would call it “new technology”. But that’s another rant!

What is real time state sync?

To explain it, it’s probably easier to just explain what we have today vs what I hope to see. Right now most people have a small splattering of devices, often, with mobile phones taking centre stage for obvious reasons. Your other devices such as a Laptop typically talk to these devices using Bluetooth and exchange basic data, either on some sort of schedule, or when you manually hit a button.

In my case I have my laptop sync with my current flavour-of-the-month mobile, the Nokia N97, and keeps my calendar/contacts up to date every 15 minutes or so, with the phone also regularly checking in with an Exchange Server too (you can never have too much sync!). It’s no different with my music or video content, photos taken etc. It’s OK, works reliably and ultimately does it’s intended job.

What I want is to to see that concept of sync taken and expanded. So, we have technology close to that in things like Blackberry’s which “push” e-mail to your phone as soon as it arrives – so you’ve now got an inbox that is near real time. I can run clients like Gravity that keep my Twitter feed up to date (well almost thanks to API Limits). But that’s not what I want from real time, and it certainly isn’t state sync.

I won’t explain what Real Time means, since I hope anyone reading this grasps that concept. But what do I mean by “state sync”. Well here’s a scenario:

You’re walking home and reading a news article on your phone from BBC News or The Register (for example). In my case, I’m using the N97 and Opera 5 Mini Beta. I’m halfway through that article when I arrive home. Home where quite a bit of connected technology exists. For me, the myriad of so-called internet connected devices includes such wonders as Vye S37 & Acer Aspire One “Netbooks”, 2 Microsoft XBox consoles, multiple Logitech Squeezeboxes, and I’m thinking of getting the Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet at the moment.

And now the big question… why can’t I just pick up the Archos Tablet and find the Web Page I was reading is there, with the same web page open, and waiting for me to continue on the larger screen- it is after all an Internet capable device, and should always be connection ready.

Or maybe I’m I’m listening to Chicane’s latest track on an MP3 Player/Phone) – as I walk into the house and flick the Squeezebox Boom on in the kitchen to make a cup of tea, why can’t the boom just takeover from my MP3 player and belt out that same track, from the same point my phone is at?

That is connected technology, and that is real time state sync – I’m not only keeping the same content on my devices, but I’m enabling those devices to share state and do so in real time. My devices are smarter, my enjoyment of that technology enhanced, and the steps and (admittedly minor in the most part!) hassle involved in making those choices reduced.

Hurdles?

It’s clear we have many hurdles in technology terms to handle first, such as the increasing divide between power demands and battery life, the black spots and performance in mobile data coverage, and the insistence of manufacturers to allow coexistence of devices. Personally I envisage too that for this to work you probably need some form of central “control” to make this efficient – fortunately I’m an advocate of Hosted (or “Cloud” computing) and suspect this is probably the easiest part of that jigsaw to solve.

The technology would need to be smart from the outset and expect capabilities to grow, and intelligently deal with compatibility – I don’t expect my music player to render full web pages, but I do expect my Netbooks to be able to render a web page I’m seeing on my mobile, and clearly you need some sort of over-ride or control (which must be a single button/tap action) in case you do want to do multiple things at once. Quite likely too we have to handle those issues of multiple people sharing devices, but those are really secondary consideration.

Am I the only one who wants seamless technology? Let me know.

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