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How Mobile Computing is Defining Modern IT May 2, 2013

Posted by mattpassini in Modern IT.
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The field of Information Technology is in a constant state of flux, being catalyzed by any number of new or changing ideas and ideals.  A long argued question is whether society and culture shape technology, or if technology shapes society and culture.  Both have compelling arguments, but perhaps the best answer is that the answer is not one or the other, but both [1]. With that said, it is important to remember that the ever-changing field of technology is defined not only by one technology, nor by one culture or society, but by the combination of all in differing contexts.  Of our current trending technologies, I believe the largest general catalyst is mobile computing.  It is pushing the limits of technology on the three most basic fronts – hardware, software, and user experience.

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” Mark Weiser began his seminal paper on ubiquitous computing [2] with those timeless words that are hard to improve upon.  Mobile computing may just be a stepping stone, or a subset of ubiquitous and pervasive computing, but it embodies many of the same qualities.  Access to the internet, other networks, and other devices at anytime, anywhere has changed the expectations of the modern user [3]. The necessity of responsive web design or efficiently written native applications is now a minimum requirement.  Contextual awareness, such as devices and services knowing where you are, where you are about to go, and what you want to know and do are quickly becoming the new standard.  Users are slowly demanding the utopian idea that technology invisibly weaves itself into everyday objects, and requires little to no unique input or interaction with it, other than simply carrying out ordinary daily activities.

Of course, in order to fulfill that ideal of indistinguishable and integrated technology, the hardware itself needs to be continually redefined.  The four fundamental challenges [4] of mobile computing are all directly related to hardware, which of course indirectly affect software and user experience.  Mobile devices are resource poor, when compared to more static hardware.  Mobile devices are inherently insecure, given their size and agility.  Mobile connectivity is constantly variable and undependable.  Lastly, mobile device’s power supplies are finite, and are currently the most noted limiting factor in most mobile devices.  These four challenges give a concise generalization of what must be overcome to truly produce a pervasive world where technology simply disappears.  The work that is being continually done to solve these problems are quickly becoming the defining work of modern IT.

Software can be considered the medium that connects the hardware and the user experience.  A beautiful piece of hardware, or perhaps a disparate collection of seemingly unrelated devices, can quickly inspire a myriad of ideas for amazing functionality, but the last remaining piece is the actual implementation of those usage ideas through carefully crafted software.  Many arguments are made both for and against writing native applications versus writing web applications.  While many try to provide a singular answer, the bottom line is that each application requires its own determination on whether a web based or native application would be best [5].  As devices continue to become more integrated with everyday life, we may see a further push towards completely service oriented architecture.  Google’s Glass is a prime example of a device that is intended, for now,  not to run third party native applications, nor to browse to and utilize web applications, rather, its entire ecosystem is based on RESTful web services and the lightweight communication to and from the device [6].  This type of software engineering requires a very different view both from the developer and, hopefully subconsciously, from the user.

As suggested, there are many other facets of technology that are helping mobile computing evolve and define modern IT.  Big data, analytics, social computing, cloud computing, and corporate culture are all significantly impacting modern IT.  Big data consists of the 3 V’s: high-volume, high-velocity, and high-variety. Once the big data is apprehended, analytics are necessary to make sense of it all.  Analytics consists of mining the big data, processing it, and creating enhanced insight to provide intelligence for sophisticated decision making within the business [7].

Cloud computing is the expected evolution of remote data processing and storage, and has quickly become the de facto technology to utilize in conjunction with mobile and ubiquitous computing.  Social computing and networking is a natural extension of mobile and pervasive computing.  Users of technology often want to share information or collaborate in real-time.  This is not a result of social computing technology, rather, the inherent drive within humans to be interconnected with each other.  Lastly, the changing role of the IT department is a welcome adjustment to organizations.  IT leaders are becoming more business aware and business leaders are becoming more technically savvy [8]. IT is no longer about sitting in the back closet supporting back-end systems; it is about directly impacting the product that is used by the customers.  Conversely, business leaders are no longer technically inept and are now able to provide valuable input into the types of technologies that are used and created, in order to provide the best possible product to the customer.

All combined, these catalysts are flowing the ever-changing world of information technology into a decidedly different era – an era that is filled with tremendous successes and failures, which make for an intensely trying and gratifying time to be working both in and with the field of information technology.
Sources:
[1] Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. “Do We Shape Technologies, or Do They Shape Us?” N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013. <http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/pdf/ntw-jean-pierre-dupuy-text_en.pdf&gt;.

[2] Weiser, M. The Computer for the 21st Century. Scientific American, September, 1991.

[3] Satyanarayanan, Mahadev. “Mobile Computing: The Next Decade.” Carnegie Mellon University, n.d. Retrieved. 1 May 2013.

[4] Satyanarayanan, Mahadev. “Fundamental challenges in mobile computing.”Proceedings of the fifteenth annual ACM symposium on Principles of distributed computing. ACM, 1996.

[5] Quilligan, Aidan. “HTML5 Vs. Native Mobile Apps: Myths and Misconceptions.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 23 Jan. 2013. Web. 01 May 2013. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2013/01/23/html5-vs-native-mobile-apps-myths-and-misconceptions/&gt;.

[6] Google Glass Development Overview. https://developers.google.com/glass/overview. Retrieved 1 May 2013.

[7] Sicular, Svetlana. “Gartner’s Big Data Definition Consists of Three Parts, Not to Be Confused with Three “V”s.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 01 May 2013. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/gartnergroup/2013/03/27/gartners-big-data-definition-consists-of-three-parts-not-to-be-confused-with-three-vs/&gt;.

[8] Murphy, Chris. “Goodbye IT, Hello Digital Business.” Informationweek. N.p., 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 02 May 2013. <http://www.informationweek.com/big-data/news/big-data-analytics/goodbye-it-hello-digital-business/240150200&gt;.

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