Mobile Phones: Are They Making our Lives Easier

Recently I had the pleasure to present a workshop on “Mobile Phones: Are They Making our Lives Easier” at Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat on August 5th, 2012.

Here is an overview of the topic approached along with resources for expanded knowledge on the points discussed:

According to a survey by “Lookout”, a mobile security company: 58% of people don’t go one hour without checking their mobile phones! And 73% actually feel panic when they misplace their phones!

It appears that these gadgets are finding their place in our daily lives. But are they making our lives any easier?

Well, because of this attachment to mobile phones, it is imperative that we try to explore ways to render our use of these devices much more productive. And to do that, we must first understand how phones developed through time and how people’s perspective changed with them as well.

I could propose three stages in which mobile phones have gone through. The initial stage was embarked with the actual invention of mobile device for the general public in 1995. Those had the basic, primitive, functions that include calling and sending simple SMS messages. Then things started to improve in 1997 with the production of internal antenna; which gave space to expand on the functions and hardware-related materials. Then second stage started in 2002 when different companies started to add different functions and applications to the mobile phones. They incorporated email inbox into mobile phones as RIM Company did with their Blackberries. Then we had the musically-revolutionized phones, like what Sony did by bringing the “walkman phone” with dedicated keys on the phone. Then the third era began with the invention of mobile phones with computer-like operating systems; like the iPhone in 2007 by Apple. In addition, other companies like Microsoft and Google also entered this market with similar products that marked the beginning of the “Apps” (short for applications) era, that is continuing today.

Analytically speaking, as you may have noticed, mobile phones are no longer mobile “phones” only:

They are mobile cloud-storages (or online storages that use large servers to store data away from the devices used in, like: Sky drive, Dropbox, Google Drive). Furthermore, they are GPS (Global positioning system) enabled and navigators (like Google maps, Nokia drive, Bing maps).

Let’s not forget that these mobile phones are also virtual chatting “venues” as we all know, as well as internet browsers that enable you to browse through social networking websites and post directly in them around the clock.

This, inevitably, suggests 2 important factors that are changing how we use mobile phones: “collaboration and speed”. Collaboration is clear through the apps that enable us to use a certain program together in real time (like most chatting programs; Blackberry messenger, Windows live messenger and others). And the speed factor is evident in the rapid increase of the performance and capabilities of mobile phones today. These two factors are direct influencers of how phones are affecting our lives today. However, the question that remains standing still: Are they making our lives easier?

The answer to this question probably comes from a very promising project that is participating in the “Imagine Cup 2012” competition by Microsoft. The project “blood it” is brought about by young Omani students from Sultan Qaboos University. This project aims at focusing on the desperate need of blood by blood banks; that is because of a direct result of the continuous number of accidents in the Sultanate. So, the project suggests a simple solution that can help save lives at these critical moments. A system is developed to categorize the blood donors into blood types, and in critical time, a GPS will allocate the closest donors with the required blood type, and will wait for a response within 10 minutes or so, and would automatically send some other donors if an answer is not received.

This suggests an important ideology in using mobile technology. That is a “purpose”. The existence of a meaningful, logical, and truthful purpose will make the existence of these mobile phones worth a lot. Phones are powerful tools that would definitely contribute in making people’s lives easier.

Another project, “Ushahidi”, is another purposeful project that is spread all over the world, aiming at making “normal civilians and residents, world reporters. They can just send an SMS, an MMS, or a multimedia file from a computer or a smart phone and the system will evaluate the message’s authenticity and compares it to other instances sent by other world reporters; as a tool to form a truthful source of information.

Again, these aspiring projects show us the need for a purpose to employ those powerful tools as we call “mobile phones”. It’s always the need, the notion, the meaningful purpose that could make those tools a certain solution that is just incomparable to any other.

The slide show:

Mobile Phones Today: Are They Making our Lives Easier? (the presentation)

Resources for further readings:

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