By John Brandon
Think your smartphone is powerful now? Wait until the year 2050, when Apple will have faded into oblivion (most major tech companies can last barely 30 years).
Your phone will be paper thin and charge wirelessly. You’ll probably project a high-def screen onto a wall when you want a bigger screen, since laptops will have become relics. But the truly impressive innovations will go far beyond these well-known predictions. Super-smart AI will make your phone even more powerful for business. Here are my predictions for what phones will do:
1. Analyze your surroundings
Future phones will analyze your surroundings, but not in the way you might think. Today, phones can connect to a Bluetooth signal and stream audio to your car. In 30 years, your phone will become more self-aware. When you arrive in your hotel room, your phone will connect to the thermostat and adjust the temp according to your usual preferences. You’ll have fingertip access to every other electronic gadget, even the sink in the bathroom–say, to find out when it was cleaned last. And, you’ll see instant info about the connections available, your hotel bill, who is nearby, and the weather. This data will not lurk in disparate apps, though–your phone will get it on the fly.
2. Record information
One of the problems with human memory is that it tends to be fallible. That’s not a problem for your phone. Yet, in the future, phones won’t just store data you put there. The device will morph into a digital recorder of every event, place, and experience. Walk into a conference room, and sensors in your phone will tap into the phones of every other attendee, recording their names, professional experience, and even their recent travels. You’ll record audio and video, of course, but the phone will do this automatically by tapping into other cameras in the room and during important occasions. The AI will know what you want to record and do this in the background without your intervention.
3. Display clean data
In the current digital age, you don’t have much choice about how information is presented. Turn on CNN, and you have to live with the programmed chatter. Yet, a future phone will have the ability to adjust streams of information. This is more than just editing. Your phone will become the main conduit you use for seeing information, but it will be smart enough to weed out information you don’t care about. When you read a future digital version of The New York Times, your phone will customize the information for you on the fly–presenting only relevant news in chunks you determine.
4. Monetize your mobility
In a future cashless society, one based primarily on transactions you conduct with your phone, you’ll be able to monetize your mobility. Say you show up at a meeting having researched a topic extensively. Your phone can offer to share this information for a small fee with business partners. You’ll also be able to offer a stream of well-honed content like indie movies and newly discovered music under your own micro-distribution license, similar to iTunes but localized and wireless. Once all of our financial data is stored on our phones (and highly secure), we’ll start using the phone to sell just about anything. This will work both ways, of course. The accumulated knowledge of others will also be a click away.
5. Familiarize your world
Phones already do a good job of helping us understand the world around us–just use the Zillow app to see a constant stream of house prices as you drive around. As an intelligent agent of learning, your future phone will go much further. You’ll speak into your phone and it will translate what you say in real-time, in any language. (Some apps do this already, but not smoothly or quickly.) Your phone will know your preferences and will connect to neighborhood services. Say you like soccer: Your phone will let you know the city has recently improved a soccer field as you drive within a few blocks. If you like a new band, and arrive in Orlando, your phone will let you know where the show is happening.
6. Fraternize with others
The concept of gamification is already here–just look at Klout perks or Bing rewards. In the future, the concept will expand much further. Your phone will constantly scan for like-minded people (as you can do today with some social apps) and you’ll be able to hold multiplayer matches with nearby gamers. But future phones will “gamify” anything you want, from beating your boss to a meeting to earning perks for sharing an easier route to the museum with the car next to you (and getting a free gas token as a reward).
John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine and writes the Tech Trends column in every issue. He also writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com. @jmbrandonbb