The end-of-year prediction list is a staple of blogs and newspapers, especially for those with a technological bent. There is, however, too often a temptation to allow the promise of future technology to infiltrate the present, leading to bold predictions that by next Christmas we’ll all be being picked up from the office party by our self-driving cars. That being said, technological development is happening everywhere and nowhere less than in the cell phone industry. There is much cause for excitement contained within the promise of 4G, which will only get faster and the coverage more extensive over the course of next year, and which has the potential to reinvigorate the way cell phone plans are priced. The smartphone is well on its way to becoming the primary device for internet access (predicted to be so in 2015) and with it the most important piece of technology in our lives. The potential to use your phone to unlock the front door and control every appliance within the house is certainly there, but is unlikely to become widespread in 2013 despite the great leaps forward in M2M technology being made by arduino and Vodafone. In this list I have focused on three realistic ways that the smartphone could make itself even more involved in the smooth running of day-to-day life in 2013, and only included ways which require low investment (in terms of both time and money) on behalf of the user.
1) The Thermostat
The development of ambient awareness is one that has really excited those with an interest in the future of the smartphone. The idea is that your phone acts as your personal butler, working out where you are and issuing orders accordingly. Predictions for the use of this technology have been varied, from allowing your car to work out when you are leaving the office in order to come get you to reminding you what groceries to pick up when it detects you are in the right store. While these are both potentially viable, ambient awareness already has a real-world application. Nest (and Tado in Germany) have developed a thermostat that uses your smartphone to monitor your movements and heat your house accordingly. Nest claim that their thermostat can pay for itself within two years as it heats the home more efficiently by tailoring its program based on your movements. Good for the environment, potentially money-saving and all with nothing to remember – the smartphone controlled thermostat could well become widely established in homes during 2013.
2. The Coffee Machine
The dream of having a house controlled by one device is currently impractical, but the coffee machine could be an early smartphone-controlled appliance which gains widespread popularity. The Danish company Scanomat currently produce a high-end version, but the potential for a coffee machine that is synched with an alarm-clock app is one that could become popular during 2013 as an improvement on the coffee-making alarm clock, a staple of last-minute Christmas shopping. Moreover this coffee machine could send an alert to the phone when it was running low on coffee, thereby employing some of the technology that could go into ‘smart fridges’ which know when groceries need replacing. A simple and relatively inexpensive (especially for those who need to replace existing coffee machines) appliance, the smartphone-controlled coffee machine has the potential to involve our phones in making breakfast – and if that’s not crucial, what is?
In keeping with the theme of ambient aware technology, discount website retailmenot have recently launched an app that uses location services to get the user discount vouchers. Currently set up to work in a limited number of US malls, the technology has the potential to be of great benefit to shoppers worldwide. The app detects which store you are in and automatically brings up a list of vouchers which can be used in that store (or restaurant), allowing the customer to get the best deal possible without having to trawl around on the internet. A simple idea, but the automation of the app helps bring forward the vision of a truly ‘smart’ smartphone – which can seemingly predict the wishes of its owner. 2013 won’t be the year when smartphones pass the Turing Test, but it will be the year when small strides are made in centralising our lives through one pocket-sized device.