March 23, 2006



Posted: 10.24.05

Mobile Knowledge: The Age of Connectedness

Communal by nature and fearful of the prospect of loneliness, we have an insatiable desire to talk. We may have not realized the extent of this desire until cheap mobile telephony enabled us to instantly satisfy the urge wherever and whenever we like. There’s nothing new about telephony, which is why its rapid adoption in mobile form has been hardly surprising. What comes next? Well, nobody quite knows.
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By Lubna Dajani

In this age of connectedness, however, it is expected that we shall move from a mobile telephony evolution to a mobile computing revolution. But before that happens there are a number of questions that need answers, especially since mobile computing is something entirely new to the masses. What is it good for and why do we need it? While definitive answers do not yet exist, this has not stopped us from building networks that supposedly will enable the mobile computing revolution. These are the so-called 3G networks.

To make sense of it all I have called on a dear friend and colleague, Mr. Paul Golding. Paul is an internationally renowned mobile consultant who holds many patents and has authored several books, including his current book titled “Next Generation Wireless Applications.” Paul is known for his creativity in an otherwise conservative industry. I have asked Paul to share his view on the mobile revolution in the age of connectedness. This is what he had to say…

There has been much wasted energy in the past debating the need for a killer application that will make mobile computing highly desirable. These days, this idea has been replaced by talk of “killer cocktails” or even “killer environments”, suggesting that providing lots of services is the key to the revolution. With current telecom networks, this isn’t easy, which is why the idea of a killer environment has become fashionable. For some, the IP Multimedia System (IMS) is such an environment. IMS is a kind of Web for real-time services. Just like the Web is based on a core protocol (HTTP), IMS is based on a core protocol, called Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP.

SIP is sometimes called a rendezvous technology. It enables two or more parties to rendezvous digitally and start exchanging data, which can be of any kind, such as voice, video, gaming interaction or an instant messaging conversation. With such multimodal capability, we shall move from a dial-to-talk paradigm to a click-to-connect one. The universal metaphor, and client, for this mode of interaction will be the buddy-based approach that we are used to in IM. We will be able to see other parties, human or automaton, and click to launch a session, such as a game or a chat. Presence will figure heavily in the management of such sessions.

I’ll defer a more detailed explanation of IMS to a later column. For now, let’s explore the anthropological underpinning for a mobile computing revolution. If telephony stems from a desire to talk, then from what need will mobile computing grow?

Perhaps the answer is in a more universal desire to feel connected. After all, we are social creatures and our souls need to connect. More pressingly, we appear to be living in an era of accelerated change: technological, sociological, psychological and economical. In a sea of change, the need to feel anchored is important. This is the motivation for increased connectedness. Without it, it is as if life will move on without us. No one wants to be left behind, or perhaps more presciently, no one can afford to be left behind.

Take knowledge management as an example. As management legend Peter Drucker points out, this is an age of “unprecedented change in the human condition”, where “substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people…will have to manage themselves.”

The current outsourcing trend is one such change. We are possibly facing a serious erosion of the middle classes as currently composed and sustained. Negotiating these changes will be a matter of survival. This necessitates having a high degree of connectedness with information, people, opportunities, ideas and places. Increasingly, the only way to access this information will be digitally and the importance of the digital self will come to the fore.

The digital self will need to be connected via a digital umbilical cord. This is not only necessary for survival, as just alluded, but fulfills a strong emotional need to feel included (or, connected). Feeling and being connected is a constant need and hence wireless will play a major role in the forthcoming connectedness revolution, which is probably a better moniker than mobile computing.

Paul, you never fail to captivate me with your insights, thank you. Indeed, the process of becoming connected or mobilized reflects a concurrent increase in the possibilities of mobile technology along with a gradual habituation towards using mobiles in a variety of new ways, which once experienced, cannot be foregone. Folks, I am delighted to tell you that Paul has agreed to join me in future columns as we journey through the landscapes of the Age of Connectedness.

For now as always, I look forward to your comments and feedback. Reach me at [email protected]
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