There's no doubt mobile technologies have already made a big dent on our lives. Whether its checking is surfing the web from your netbook while at the airport, updating your Facebook status from your smartphone, or even reading a novel on an e-book reader.
According to research firm Gartner, the impact of mobile technologies on our lives looks set to continue to surge in the next couple of years too. Gartner says investments in mobile applications and technologies will increase through 2011 as organisations emerge from the recession and begin spending again.
With this in mind, the research firm has picked out the 10 mobile technologies to watch in the coming years. "We are highlighting these 10 mobile technologies that should be on every organisation's radar," said Nick Jones, vice president of Gartner.
Jones said the technologies were selected "because they will evolve in ways that affect corporate strategies, significant numbers of customers or employees will adopt or expect them, or they will address particular mobile challenges that organisations will face through 2011".
Bluetooth (3 and 4)
Two new Bluetooth versions will emerge by 2011: Bluetooth 3 will introduce 802.11 as a bearer for faster data transmission, and Bluetooth 4 will introduce a new low-energy (LE) mode that will still allow communication with other Bluetooth devices.
Both versions will include other technical improvements to improve battery life and security. Gartner believes that Bluetooth 3 will be employed for activities that need a lot of bandwidth, such as downloading images and videos from handsets).
Bluetooth LE will offer functions, such as the ability to lock down a PC automatically as soon as the user moves away from the machine.
The mobile web
Gartner says that by 2011, over 85 percent of handsets shipped globally will include some form of browser. Furthermore, in Europe and Japan, smartphones with sophisticated browsing capability and the ability to render conventional HTML sites in some manner will make up around 60 percent of handsets shipped.
The growth in smartphones with relatively large and high-resolution screens will encourage greater numbers of people to access conventional websites on mobile devices.
Gartner says that despite the lack of standards, widgets provide a convenient way to deliver simple, connected applications, especially those involving real-time data updates such as weather forecasts, email notifications, marketing, blogs and information feeds. "Because widgets exploit well-understood tools and technologies, they have lower entry barriers than complex native applications, and thus can be a good first step to assess the demand for an application on a specific platform before undertaking expensive native development," the research firm says.
Platform-independent mobile AD tools
Gartner believes mobile platforms will become more diverse through 2012. "Therefore, tools that can reduce the burden of delivering installable applications to several platforms will be very attractive," the research firm says.
Gartner says the while platform-independent application development (AD) tools cannot deliver a 'write once, run anywhere' equivalent to native code, they can significantly reduce the cost of delivering and supporting multi-platform apps that provide will run even when there's no signal coverage.
According to Gartner, app stores will be the primary (and, in some cases, the only) way to distribute applications to smartphones and other mobile devices. Gartner believes that app stores will play many roles in an organisation's commercial strategies.
"They will be a distribution channel for mobile applications and a commercial channel to sell applications and content (especially in international markets), and they will provide new options for application sourcing. Many applications will exploit ecosystem cloud services. "
Enhanced location awareness
By the end of 2011, over 75 percent of devices shipped will include a GPS. GPS will be the primary, but not the only, means of establishing handset location. However, Wi-Fi will remain important in situations where GPS is unavailable or unreliable.
Gartner said the popularity of location-aware handsets will lead to a wide range of location-aware apps that will serve as a foundation for more-sophisticated apps in the future. "However, organisations must be sensitive to local privacy regulations, ensuring that apps are 'opt in', and remain on alert for new risks and concerns that will be raised by location awareness."
During 2010 and 2011, the availability of mobile broadband will continue to grow as mobile networks enhance their offerings. Gartner says improvements in wireless broadband performance will mean an in the nukber of devices and activities that no longer require fixed networking, making mobile broadband a more effective fallback when fixed connections fail.
The firm also believes embedded mobile broadband technology will become a standard feature in many laptops, as well as e-books and media players.
Touchscreens are emerging as a dominant technology. They will appear in over 60 percent of mobile devices shipped in Western Europe and North America in 2011. "Touch-enabled devices will also make increasing use of techniques such as haptics to enhance user experience," Gartner says.
According to the research firm, organisations developing native handset apps may need to exploit single and multitouch interfaces and haptics to give their apps a compelling and competitive user experience.
Many network service providers increased their commitment to machine to machine technology (M2M) or remote monitoring of devices in 2009, which according to Gartner means a range of M2M service options will be available in the coming years. Gartner says key applications that will use M2M technology include meter reading, security/surveillance and track and trace functions.
This isn't strictly a single technology, but refers to a collection of security technologies that enable the use of apps, which are not tied to specific devices and platforms, and, in many cases, do not require security tools to be installed on the client.
Gartner says this includes thin-client architectures, applications as a service, platform-independent forms of network access control (NAC), portable personality, virtualisation, and hosted security services, such as 'in the cloud' virus scanning. "Device-independent tools cannot provide the rigour of fully installed security, but a blend of several of these tools can enable CIOs to deliver applications that can run on a wider range of devices while reducing security risks.," Gartner says.