A revolution is easy to spot when looking backward, but they are much harder to see when they first happen. Microsoft, Apple, eBay, Amazon…all revolutions with ramifications that weren’t seen until much after they first released a product, or came online.
But I predict a revolution in an event that took place just a few days ago at the Worldwide Developers Conference, where Steve Jobs announced the latest version of the iPhone. I know, I know, you’re thinking that I missed the boat. The iPhone revolution already took place; this is old news.
But there is something in this iPhone that in my opinion will change things dramatically in the coming year: GPS.
GPS on the iPhone has the potential to allow users to link content to a specific location. For years, as I’ve talked with colleagues about this topic, the single biggest hurdle we’ve seen is the hardware problem. First there wasn’t a device that provided everything “all in one.” Then, as devices started to have the necessary features, few people actually owned them.
With the new iPhone we now have a device that provides access to the Internet, true GPS navigation, and the ability to record audio and take pictures. What does that give us?
Information is useful, but information given in context is even more so. That is why 100 years ago if you wanted to learn about barrel making, you didn’t go to the library, you became an apprentice. You learned the information at the location where it made the most sense.
Today, we have access to almost limitless amounts of information. Much of this information is about the physical world around us. A user can learn about species of plants and animals, virtually visit far away lands, or read about the history of places around the globe. Unfortunately, as soon as the user steps away from their computer and into the outside world, their access to this information is severed.
My family and I just went to Oceanside, California and enjoyed some time at a lovely beach. While there I wondered what the weather would be like tomorrow. I wondered if there were any tricks to body surfing, or if there was a place nearby that rented boogie boards.
Imagine if I could have turned on my iPhone and found articles and contents left by other users. The information would have been delivered to me not by searching for it, but based on my location. Users might have linked the location of the beach to Wikipedia articles on surfing, local weather, eateries, current tide conditions, news about recent shark attacks, etc. There may have even been information that I found useful that I wouldn’t have thought to search for.
Sure, there are times when I want to turn off technology and just get outside. But there are also times when I want to learn about the great outdoors, and I’d rather be doing it out in the sun, than stuck in front of a screen.
I predict that in the coming months and years, we will see the information age leave the basements and stuffy rooms of our houses, and break out into the great outdoors.