How smartphones have the potential to change our cities

TOKYO –The future of the world is in your hands. It’s a phrase that used to be just a crude toilet joke but has become more of a reality in this increasingly mobile world. Smart phones and their users’ expectations will be a driving force behind many of the services and lifestyle changes in the next few years, according to a survey recently done by network gear maker Ericsson.

More than 80 per cent of some 7,500 iPhone and Android handset users from five major cities around the world expect that services such as mobile reservations for restaurant dining and leisure activities, in-store mobile navigation, contextual pharmaceutical, childcare and elderly care services and mobile-based personal traffic navigation systems will be common place in the next three years, according to the survey results released on Tuesday by the Ericsson Consume Lab. The smart phone users, aged 15 to 69, are representative of 40 million people. The respondents, which came from Sao Paulo, Beijing, New York, London and Tokyo, were asked how smart phone-related services influenced their satisfaction of living in their municipalities and what were the most positive and negative aspects of city life.

“We are headed for an extreme app demand of a projected growth of about five time what we have today,” said Cecilia Atterwell, head of Ericsson Consumer Lab. “This is a call out to government agencies, device manufacturers, carriers and businesses that if they intent to remain relevant to their clientele, they need to be prepared to roll out these type of mobile services within the next three to five years.”

Atterwell was one of the speakers during a media briefing at the opening of the Ericsson Business Innovation Forum here. She said the looming demand is potentially a huge business opportunity for organizations prepared to invest mobile and information communication technologies (ICT).

The respondents identified ICT as a driver in three key activities that gave them satisfaction in living in the city: Shopping; eating out; and going to sports, entertainment and cultural events.

This is hardly a surprise, said Michael Bjorn, head of research at Consumer Labs, however the takeaway from the survey is that majority of respondents indicated that these activities are now largely driven by mobile services and applications.

“It illustrates how mass demand for new ICT services can change city life, beyond what we recognize, in just three years,” he said. “Smart phone services related to shopping, eating out and finding entertainment can drastically improve people’s satisfaction of life in cities.”

For examples satisfaction with shopping is associated by respondents with same-day delivery for online bought goods, mobile navigation and stock tracking, and situational shopping recommendation

Dining out is tied with mobile menu and table reservation applications, mobile-based ingredient checkers, and social network-based restaurant recommendations.

Leisure activities are facilitated by mobile reservations, digital trainer apps and virtual play connectors.

“As many as 79 per cent of respondents use these services today in a limited way, but they expect these tools and services to be universally available in the next three years,” said Bjorn.

The respondents believe these services will be delivered by Internet companies, mobile carriers, business owners and manufacturers.

The respondents also mentioned three key factors of city living that provide them with difficulty and dissatisfaction:

  • Lack of child care and elderly care
  • Difficulty in communicating with authorities
  • Traffic congestion

These are areas in which mobility and ICT can potentially solve, according to several guest speakers.

“For example, the home can become a platform for services and applications that can make life better for the elderly,” said Kenya Hara, professor at Musashino Art University and board member of the Japan Design Centre.

His group is proposing a radical shift to shared living spaces where up to 500 people could live in a residential building sharing some common facilities and spaces such as a home library, dining space and kitchen. The approach is not only meant to conserve scare resources but is also meant to address increasing difficulty of providing for elderly care in countries like Japan.

Apart from this, Hara said, architects, city planners and technology vendors can collaborate in developing “connected” houses fitted with sensors that track vital signs of a building and even its occupants and raise context-based alerts to the appropriate organization.

Other technologies that will be increasingly in the demand in the next three years are:

  • Connected food and medicine services the update families on the needs of their children or elderly relatives
  • Mobile of online social care network
  • Online near-care network that facilitates communication between extended families via devices
  • Smart phone and PC communication with city services departments
  • 24/7 online and mobile hotline for city information and services
  • Personal navigator to aid in indoor and outdoor navigation
  • Self-driving and self-parking vehicles

Hara admitted that sensors collecting private data from individuals raises some critical privacy concerns.

“The individuals concerned and the stakeholders will have decide what data can be collected and for what purpose will it be used,” he said.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Nestor Arellano
Nestor Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

Related Tech News

Featured Tech Jobs


CDN in your inbox

CDN delivers a critical analysis of the competitive landscape detailing both the challenges and opportunities facing solution providers. CDN's email newsletter details the most important news and commentary from the channel.