The D@ily Byte

A blog on digital culture and new media

From education to politics, medicine to romance: 10 ways your smartphone is changing the world

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Forgot your camera? No worries, Instagram will take care of  that must have photo. Lost on your way to a party? Google maps will get you closer to that big night out.
Boss didn’t pay you, card declined? No problems, the Commonwealth bank app will let you transfer money from your savings. New to an area, don’t know where’d best to eat? Foodspotting will help you find your way to culinary heaven.
Didn’tget to pick up the paper this morning & want to catch up on today’s headlines? Twitter will give you access to breaking news all around the world. On your way to a blind date and want to do your homework? Facebook is the best way to ensure your first date doesn’t turn to disaster.

Got a problem? Your mobile phone is bound to have the answers for anything that life throws your way.

Given that there are more smart phones in the world than toilets in many parts of the word and the average smartphone has more computing power than Apollo 11 did when it journeyed to the moon, there is no mistaking the significant influence mobile devices have over our lives [ Time 2012]. From education to politics, medicine to romance, mobiles are drastically changing the world around us.

Time magazine’ Wireless Issue on August 27 explores this issue in depth and offers a deeper insight into our increasingly mobile-dependent world. “From the battle for the white house to the dynamics of a first dates, our lives are being reshaped by the constant presence of our phones and our evolving relationship with the idea of being connected to everyone and everything all the time” [TIME Magazine 2012]. The magazine also features an in-depth, Qualcomm-partnered mobility poll that illustrates human dependency on smart phones and tablets. The poll tallied worldwide responses from 5,000 people online and by phone in June and July, and a whopping 84 percent said they could not go one day without a mobile device.

Not only does Time discuss how smart phones are increasingly changing the way we live our lives, but this edition really demonstrates how smartphone technology can be used to successfully market a product. From the front cover which was generated from 288 Instagram photographs captured on readers’ phones all around the world, to integrating the Q codes into the magazine allowing readers to scan using the Times mobile app for bonus content…this issue demonstrates how the mobile phone has essentially become an extension of consuming a product exploring the world around us.

The Wireless issue explores in a series of articles 10 ways which smart phones have changed our lives forever:

1. Elections Will Never Be The Same

Smart phones and social media have been used prolifically in this years US presidential election to target voters like never before. After his cutting edge digital campaign in 2008,  Obama’s campaign has had the most successful online presence. Since its launch this year, voters can download the “Obama for America” app and , donate money, have access to tailor made factoids, twitter messages, and share links with friends, and see the party affiliation of many of their neighbours on a map. The democrats can then use this information to target voters  for door knocking campaigns and build a data base of loyal supporters.

Romney’s campaign released its own app called Mitt’s VP. He enticed voters to download the app by announcing that he would reveal his choice for Vice President to voters using the app before the media. Although the news of Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan for VP was in fact released by the media before his app, it has been important for providing the campaign with valuable vistr information such as users name,phone number, home address and email. the app also send push notifications to phones throughout the campaign.

Mobile digital campaigning is also changing political advertising, allowing to target voters using mobile ads, particularly useful amongst the swing states.

It seems that all this new technology is having a profound effect on voters patterns of political communication and news consumption. According to a Pew study 14% of American adults use therr cell  phones in that year to tell others they had voted and 12% of adults used phones to keep up with political news. 50% also agreed that wireless mobile technology made the government more accountable to the people.

So just how much will the mobile revolution affect the 2012 vote?  And more importantly, will all this technology change politics in a broader sense, altering and facilitating the way Americans engage in self- governance? The answer to that could be as important as the outcome of the 2012 election itself [Time 2012].

2. Doing Good By Texting

There is a new trend growing amongst charities and non-profit organisations called Mobile activism, that is using cell phone technology to dispense information, raise money and advocate for social change.
Jed Alpert cofounder and CEO of Mobile Commons is a leading voice in the growing field of mobile activism, His company develops phone strategies for all sought of non profit organisations such as Habitat for Humanity and Planned Parenthood. Clients can use Mobile Commons to send mass text messages to members, collect and mine data.  “It’s as close to reaching everyone as anything, here and everywhere else in the world, Alpert told Time.

His company has been particularly effective at engaging with young people, with DoSomthing.org being one of his most successful mobile activism campaigns. This US non-profit organisation encourages teens to participate in the community and uses geographic data to text teens about nearby volunteering opportunities. In August, DoSomething.com  saw its text message list of 500 000 surpass its email list.

Large charities such as the red Cross have used mobile activism to raise money for many of its humanitarian campaigns and saw $32 million dollars raised from text messages sent after the Haiti earthquake. Although this was only 10% of the total amount raised, it allowed busy people who otherwise may not be giving the opportunity to donate in a convenient and timely manner.

3. Bye-Bye, Wallets

Can you imagine a world where cash and credit cards no longer exist and consumers can pay for everything using their mobile phones? Google can and have released Google Wallet which allows users to do just that. It requires a special chip in your phone which allows users to pay by tapping their phone on a credit card readers using near field communication technology.

Square’s pay is another mobile wallet device which allows users to pay without removing their phone from their pocket. The app communicates wirelessly with the merchant’s phone or computer and accepts payment almost instantaneously. At the moment there are only a handful of participating stores, however this technology could have huge potential in the future for traditional retailers to communicate in-store offers and enhance consumers shopping experiences.

4. The Phone Knows All

The more we tweet, text, shop, take pictures and navigate using our smart phones, the more information we put out to the digital word about who we are and where we go [Time 2012]. This information has become extremely useful for Government agencies and law enforcement departments who are increasingly using mobile phone technology to solve criminal investigations. Major cell carriers revealed in July that they had received more than 1.3 million requests for cell phone tracking data from federal, state and local law enforcement officials in 2011. By comparison there were only 3000 wire-tap warrants issued nationwide in 2010. The average time it takes the US marshall service to find a fugitive has dropped from 42 days to two, according to congressional testimony from Susan Landau a Guggenhiem fellow.

However, there are downsides to this technology and many have expressed concern over the potential for such technology to be exploited, in particular by advertisers for commercial gain. Advertising companies are the biggest collectors of mobile data. Mobile advertising is now a 6 billion industry and by using personal information collected from mobile phone usage advertisers can identify and target potential customers.  There have been many apps released which are capable of everything from collecting location information, to capturing images a phone is seeing.

Companies such as Carrier IQ have been revealed to have installed software on as many as 150 million phones, that accesses users texts, call histories without users knowing consent.  Even such social media sites as Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare and Instagram were reported to be uploading personal information from iphones and ipads.

So it seems no app is really free, we pay for it with our privacy. The US federal trade commission does monitor companies for improper use of customers private information, however it is hard to draw a line when with so many consumers are putting most of their lives on the web knowing their privacy may be at stake.

Many consumers have fought back by investing in privacy apps, such as Last Pass Premium which securely  consolidates multiple passwords into one master key for your computer and smartphone. Google chrome allows users to switch to incognito mode and all browsing history will self destruct at the end of a browsing session on the web.  Another service called Burners Disposable Numbers allows users to get a temporary number which can be destroyed. This allows consumers to protect the identity of their real phone number and prevent advertisers and telemarketers from gathering their personal data.

5. Your Life Is Fully Mobile

Our lives are now fully mobile and It’s hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which we have developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones” [Time 2012 ].

Time in cooperation with Qualcomm launched the Time mobility poll a survey of close to 5 0000 people in all age groups and income levels in eight countries about their mobile phone usage. This poll revealed just how dependent we have become on our mobiles in every-day life:

•    In the US 9 in 10 adults curry a mobile.
•    84% people surveyed said they couldn’t go a single day without their mobile devices in hand
•    1 in 3 people check their mobile every 30 minutes, 1 in 4 every 10 minutes.
•    A third of respondents admitted that being without their mobile left them feeling anxious.
•    If forced to choose between the two, 65% worldwide opted to take their wireless mobile with them in the morning instead of their lunch; 44% would leave their wallets at home in favour of their device.
•    64% use their mobile phone devices whilst watching TV (77% of which were 18- 24 year olds);  58% use their wireless mobile devices whilst also using a laptop or desktop computer
•    55% worldwide had flirted with someone via text message (76% of which were 25 – 29 years old); 43% have used texting to ask someone out on a date.

Results from the survey reveal that this over reliance on technology is not necessarily seen as a positive thing, with 29% of respondents said they fear society places too much emphasis on technology.

It is interesting to observe the responses from varying countries in regards to how mobile phone technology has affected work-life balance. In the US only 19% it’a easier for respondents to be away from the office because of mobile technology. However, over 80% of Indian respondents also said that “mobile technology has helped me achieve a better balance between work and family”

6. The Grid Is Winning

Many rural communities are finally getting connected to cell phone services. The article talks about Hot Springs, a rural town in Montana which is likely to have a cell phone tower installed later this year. Not only will cell service be convenient but has the potential to save many lives. One resident said that cell phone service would ” connect this little town with the rest of the world”.

However, this issue has divided the town with many residents being opposed to the building of a mobile tower, having concerns how this may affect their health and lifestyle. Many in the town say they like feeling removed from the rest of society. Mayor Randy Woods says “More and more when I go out of town, Im glad we don’t have cell phones”.

7. A Camera Goes Anywhere

Of course, photography isn’t the first thing that people do with their mobile phones, although 77% percent of mobile phone users surveyed in India say that they do just that. In the results of the TIME Mobility Poll, it was shown that Indian mobile phone users have been the most affected (compared to those from the US, Brazil, Canada, South Korea and the UK) by the built-in camera features of a mobile phone.

Smartphones have revolutionised photography, allowing ordinary people to produce professional finish photographs. Instead of concentrating on camera settings and complex equipment, users can now better focus on their surroundings and the art of photography itself. Not only have smartphones given your average joe better access to a quality camera, but interestingly enough more and more photo journalists are also shooting with their iPhones.

Photojouralist Michael Christopher Brown offers this insight into mobile photography: “Using a mobile allows me to be somewhat invisible as a professional photographer; people see me as just another person in the crowd. With a mobile phone on the street, if you want to photograph people candidly, you can get close and you can experiment. You can take pictures in new ways” [Time 2012].

In fact Brown photographed his entire photo essay on the attrocities and repression which have affected the Democratric Republic of Congo with his iphone. He documents how many militant groups and governments have used conflict minerals to fund warfare. The electronics/mobile industry is one of the main destinations for these minerals, so it is exceptionally fitting that he should shoot the entire essay on his mobile phone.

“I’d like people to pause when they look at these photographs, taking time to think about where the material for modern technology comes from—and what lives are affected before they get into the phones in our hands”, he says.

8. Toys Get Unplugged

In this article Tech columnist Harry McCracken picks his top 8 smartphone gadgets:

In addition, he recommends some useful apps for smartphone users:

  • Tripit– an app for travelers which turns confirmation emails into detailed sharable itineraries and alerts them to last minute airport gate switches.
  • HipGeo– a free travel blogging app available for iphone and Android which lets travelers preserve and share memories from their travels in words, pictures and video formats.

9. Gadgets Go To Class

Time’s survey revealed that approximately 80%  of students own a mobie by eighth grade. With a generation who are so tech savvy,  a few pioneering administrators in the US are considering a new approach in classrooms called BYOT–bring your own technology. BYOT policies allow kids to take their phones or tablets to class and use them to engage with one another in classroom lessons. Current educational apps being used include:

  •   Motion Math-an app that helps students learn addition and multiplication.
  •   Toontastic– an app that allows stydebts to create and share their own cartoons online.
  •   Brainpop– an app which allows students to access animated videos on a wide range of educational topics.

Companies like Avaya and HP are racing to develop a range of new in-classroom apps for student’s mobile devices. One idea being developed is an app that can be used during maths lessons to ensure that every student has responded to a problem and allows students to compare answers. This would be an extension upon an already existing practice of introducing clickers into classrooms. Clickers are remote-control-like devices which allow students to answer questions electronically from their seats. This has been useful for many teachers in order to  gather real-time data about whether students are comprehending lessons.

Interestly enough, a pilot study in North Carolina called ‘Project Tomorrow’ also revealed that students who has used mobile devices to collaborate on school projects scored better on standardised tests than children who had not. Time’s Qualcomm poll revealed that  70 percent of parents think the benefits for kids of learning about technology outweigh the potential for distractions from studies.

Although it holds great promise for the future, there are some concerns over introducing such technology into classrooms.”The technology has great promise, but has created huge legal issues for school districts” says Daniel Domenech, Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators. “Some kids use their phones to bully other students or to make inappropriate phonecalls. There are also concerns that BYOT raises equality issues amongst students who do not own a smartphone”.

10. Disease Can’t Hide

An this article, Belinda Luscombe shows how SMS has revolutionised healthcare in developing countries such as Uganda. A project called mTrac sponsored by UNICEF, is allowing health care workers “to text details of drug supplies and disease outbreaks that they had previously put on paper” [Time 2012]. This information is then ammassed and coded into a kind of online dashboard so that public health officials can monitor developments in real time.This initiative is currently under way in clinics in 57 of Uganda’s 113 districts, consisting of 8000 trained health team workers.

Another UNICEF-sponsored group called U-report crowdsources information from its 140,000 members to “send and receive information about development issues, including health. These texts can be targeted; mothers can be alerted to free vaccinations in the area, for example [Time 2012].

Luscombe reports that ” The cost of maintaining such SMS-enabled tools to the Ugandan Ministry of Health is a mere US$14 per district,per month. This minimal cost however, has the potential to save so many lives, which is what makes UNICEF’s program’s so successful.

The following article “iPad, M.D.” by Kate Pickett, also shows how iPads are drastically improving “working conditions and patient care” at some hospitals and medical schools in developing countries like the U.S. “A study of the University of Chicago iPad project published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients got tests and treatments faster if they were cared for by iPad-equipped residents. Many patients also gained a better understanding of the ailments that landed them in the hospital in the first place,” Pickett reports.

‘Disease can’t hide’ and ‘ipad md’ show just how important spartphones will be for the medical industry in the future.

Time’s Wireless edition certainly provides an interesting commentary on how much smartphones have changed the way we live our everyday lives. Not only does it provide an informative read but it allows readers to interact with the magazine in a totally unique manner, using their mobile phones to scan q codes and access bonus audio visual material online.
Read Time’s Wireless Edition here

References

Scherer, Michael (2012) ‘Elections will never be the same’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 22-24

Pickert, Kate (2012) ‘Doing good by texting’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 25

McCracken, Harry (2012) ‘ Bye-bye wallets’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 26-27

Calabresi, Massim0 (2012) ‘The phone knows all’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 28-29

Gibbs, Nancy (2012) ‘Your Life is fully mobile’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 30-37

Steinmetz, Katy (2012) ‘The grid is winning’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 38-39

Brown, Michael Christopher (2012) ‘A camera goes anywhere’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 40-43

McCracken, Harry (2012) ‘ Toys get unplugged’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp  44

Cloud, John (2012)  ‘Gadgets go to class’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 46-47

Luscombe, Belinda (2012) ‘Disease can’t hide’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 48-50

Pickert, Kate (2012) ‘Ipad M.D.’, TIME, Vol. 180, No. 9. pp 51

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