Pokémon Go Shows That The Smartphone Revolution Has Barely Begun


Chunka Mui

July 19, 2016

Recent declines in the Apple iPhone sales have observers prematurely predicting the decline of smartphones.

“The phones we have right now are good enough, to the point where I don’t need a premium phone to do everything I need to do,” one analyst observed. “There’s no question that Apple’s best days are behind it,” said another.

Investors believed such pessimism and fled Apple’s stock. Apple’s market value declined over $100 billion, about 16 percent, in the two weeks after the decline was announced compared to two weeks before.

The flight was premature; the real smartphone revolution hasn’t happened yet. Immense innovation opportunities exist for smartphone makers, app developers and users—and every organization that cares about how it interacts with customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders.

Take, for example, the recent release of Pokémon Go, which in just a few days chalked up record-breaking downloads, surpassed Twitter in usage and sees more engagement than Facebook. Pokémon Go is a location-based, augmented reality game that allows players to find and catch Pokémon on their iPhone and Android smartphones.

Pokémon Go might well be the “killer app” that sparks the rise of augmented reality apps. And, not only in gaming—but in every information intensive industry and function, including entertainment, education, design, customer service, insurance, healthcare and so on. Imagine emergency room doctors examining trauma patients with patient-specific data, context-relevant references and diagnosis assistance in real time via augmented reality. Or insurance claims adjusters examining collision damages with analogous capabilities.

As computer pioneer Dan Bricklin recently noted, every generation of computer technology prior to the smartphone, including mainframes, minicomputers, and personal computers, focused on the computerization of paper forms. They were ways to maximize and coordinate the output of people working at desks.

Smartphones offer the hope of getting beyond replicating forms and to what Bricklin calls “radical intimacy.” Pokémon Go is a small step towards the revolutionary leap from computerized forms to intimate, sense-enhancing applications.

Consider healthcare. Computerization and electronic health records aspire to better capture critical information at the point of care, while enabling better decision support, enhancing coordination, ensuring compliance and reducing administrative burdens.

It comes with a huge cost, however. Studies show that physicians now spend half their time with patients on their keyboards, and only a third really interacting with patients. On top of that, they spend another two hours finishing their data entry after office hours. Computerization has turned doctors into the world’s most expensive data-entry clerks. It is not surprising that electronic health records are one of the biggest drivers of physician dissatisfaction.

Help is arriving. Sensors, cameras and natural language processing capabilities are starting to enable automated capture of vital measures, images and physician observations—without detracting from the doctor-patient interaction or even requiring doctors to look away from the patients.

Jenna Wortham observes that smartphones are having an even more profound affect: people are more honest with their smart phones than their doctors. She cites numerous examples, including her own, where users are more comfortable telling a faceless app about personal health matters — a slump of depression, gross blood clots, irritated bowels, menstrual cycles, energy levels, sexual activity— than telling a doctor.

This trend opens up opportunities for physicians and researchers to take advantage of mountains of app-collected habit and data for new avenues of discovery about individual and population health and wellness.

The US National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $120 million grant to enroll and engage 1 million Americans to capture and share their personal biomedical data, such as blood pressure, heart rhythm, glucose levels and sleep and exercise patterns, via a smartphone app. They’ll also be asked to give blood and urine samples so that scientists can study their biological makeup, especially their genes, proteins and microbes. NIH Director Francis Collins observed that such developments will “ultimately revolutionize the practice of medicine.”

New possibilities, sparked by applications as frivolous as Pokémon Go and as life-saving as precision medicine, will inspire an escalating, virtuous cycle of smartphone hardware and software innovation.

For example, Lenevo’s new Phab 2 Pro, based on specifications developed by Google’s Project Tango, adds new camera and processing capabilities to support 3D scanning, indoor location tracking, and motion detection. These advances will soon make today’s Pokémon Go feel as antiquated as Atari’s Pong feels now.

At the same time, innovators are racing to create embedded and networked sensors that turn your smartphone into something like Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy’s Tricorder on Star Trek.

Every smartphone maker will have to respond because, despite analysts’ proclamations to the contrary, the smartphones that we currently have will not be enough.


This article was written by Chunka Mui from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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