Imagine having your car text you when it needs a tune-up, or having your electricity meter warn you when your electricity bill is likely to exceed your budget. Ten years ago, this sounded like science fiction, but thanks to recent efforts by the mobile industry organization GSMA and vendors AT&T and Qualcomm, this sort of technology is closer than ever.
A Smarter Everything
According to the GSMA, nearly 9 billion devices in the world can get online, and 6 billion of these are gadgets that connect through the use of cellular networks. Smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and even certain washing machines can connect to the Internet through cellular networks, and this trend will likely accelerate over the coming years.
The GSMA hopes that, eventually, everything with an electric current will have the capability to get online and communicate with other devices in a much more efficient and timely manner. This makes it easier to monitor and control what goes on in your home, much like we see with Smart Houses today.. By 2020, the GSMA expects to see 24.45 billion connected devices with 12 billion of those devices being handsets.
While the GSMA may hope that soon every man, woman, child, and family pet has an Internet-connected device, several obstacles stand in its way. Here in the United States, we use a wide variety of wireless radio wavelengths, many of which are incompatible with each other. AT&T says that, with the help of the GSMA, it hopes to unite carriers under a common industry standard so that all devices operate under the same wavelength.
If all carriers were to share the same bandwidth, though, you could have network overloads and outages that would be nationwide instead of just the regional ones we have today. Network providers would have to make a larger effort to make sure their networks could handle the mass volume of people using them.
The cost of unifying under a single spectrum would be extremely high as well, as carriers would have to replace or upgrade towers to work with the new spectrum. This would also mean a lot of devices on the market today would no longer work, upsetting many people who would no longer have a working phone or tablet and would be forced to get a new one. The GSMA was quick to point out, however, that carriers in Japan and Korea have completely shut down their 2G networks with few or no issues.
Although it would be costly for carriers in the short term, unifying on a single spectrum that all devices could communicate through would be well worth the expense. While implementation of a new unified network would be costly, it would be easier to maintain that what we currently have. This means better signal strength in areas where you previously would have been lucky to get a bar of service.
The other upside is that devices would be able to work on whichever carrier you wanted. If you saw a phone you really liked, you could buy it without having to worry about it being compatible with your service provider. By creating one device that works everywhere, the GSMA believes that smart devices would drop to more affordable prices.
Qualcomm hopes to use affordable smart devices (like e-readers and wireless monitors), to help institutions like hospitals and schools gain access to cutting-edge technology at a very low cost. Doctors would have better tools for monitoring their patients, and children in developing countries would have access to the same level of information that is available in the western world.
While it can be a little scary to think that all your electronic equipment could someday be connected to the Internet, there's plenty of upside to such a world. We would have better control over our resources thanks to smarter power grids and the lines of communications would dissolve even further. This isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight, but it is something that we might see in the next ten years. The world is becoming increasingly more mobile, and the GSMA wants to bring everyone along for the ride.