Physical Technology – Phones

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OPINION: TELEPHONES have come a long way since the days of Alexander Graham Bell. What we hold in our hands now seems almost unimaginable, even to the most fantastic science fiction writer. In 1985, the equivalent of our smartphones was the size of an office, was not mobile, did not have a camera and did not have a microphone – and it cost $35 million – it was known as a supercomputer. Fast forward to today and it is now portable, has an incredible camera, a microphone and costs around $800.

In 2000 there were approximately 700 million mobile phone accounts on the planet, 30% of them in emerging economies. In 2014 there were estimated to be over 6 billion mobile phone accounts, 75% of them in emerging economies. To say the world is now totally connected is a truism.

Mobile phones are bringing efficiencies to markets all over the world, they are allowing demand and supply to more perfectly meet, they reduce wastage – this means lower inflation. Mobile phones mean we are “always on” as we are expected to be reachable at all times. We use them to wake us in the morning and they are usually the last thing we look at before we turn out the light. This means our working lives have changed forever as we are productive over a longer part of the day – not 8 hours anymore, more like 17.

Your smartphone is a computer and a sensor platform. It has 13 sensors in it – accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, magnetometer, barometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, pressure, thermometer, pedometer, microphone, camera and fingerprint reader.

How businesses integrate with the phone is now critical to the survival of some businesses – online gambling is one such example (in the past we went to the bricks and mortar offering). The free maps – instantly updated with traffic conditions, directions and helpful hints such as eating and fuel – have destroyed the street directory. Being able to order and pay for almost anything instantly completely changes the relationship between businesses and customers. Responding to requests by text, email, phone call or video can be done 24/7 and requires different business hours, remuneration and management of expectations. It also means your physical location matters less in the performance of certain tasks.

It also means the pressure to find balance in your day between work, rest and play intensifies. The demand to alleviate this pressure is a challenge for the built environment which must become more flexible in the offer of work, rest and play in a meaningful and convenient location. The relative proximity of home, retail, industrial, office and services (within walking distance?) is likely to become more important in the future (and therefore more desirable).

OFFICE/RETAIL/INDUSTRIAL: Wi-Fi, 24/7, push and pull communication, cybersecurity, total integration with wireless devices and extended opening hours must become part of our built environment.

By Tony Crabb, national director, research, Cushman & Wakefield.*

Property Reviewer on Australian Property Journal