3G for humans and machines

John Stefanac, Qualcomm
19 Dec 2008
00:00

Lccording to Wireless Intelligence, there are approximately 705 million 3G subscribers in the world today. By 2012 this figure will reach 1.6 billion. While we see similar levels of growth in the Asian region I am particularly excited about the Southeast Asia and Pacific region, with 61.5 million new 3G subscribers this year. In a region with over 500 million people, an underdeveloped fixed-line infrastructure and a burning desire to get access to information, opportunities abound. 3G will benefit not only from the migration of 317 million current 2G subscribers but also from the acquisition of new wireless subscribers.

Beyond subs

The question is, however, what other opportunities are out there‾ The convergence of consumer electronic devices that transform mobile phones into music players and cameras has already taken place. Now, convergence is forming between the mobile device and computers - making them more than just a smartphone. Devices like netbooks and ultra mobile personal computers (UMPC) allow traditional laptop users to access the internet wherever there is cellular coverage. These devices are one-third the size of a laptop and will soon be powered by platforms that incorporate communications capabilities with a computer processor on a single chip. Similarly, embedded communications modules are increasingly available on PC laptops, enabling users to be connected 24/7.

When we talk about convergence we should not limit the conversation just to devices.

Convergence between different business entities will also take place with 3G providing that platform. Why do I have to use my prepaid public transport card to get on a bus or train when all I need is my 3G-enabled device to be scanned, instantly debiting my bank account‾

Other applications may in fact require dedicated 3G devices. The Amazon Kindle allows subscribers to download books, newspapers and magazines onto the device. With applications like this you can just imagine how this could transform education. No longer would we need to haul school bags with a multitude of books around. I know I wish I had a Kindle when I was at school.

Another area getting increasing attention is telemedicine. Just imagine having electrodes appropriately placed on your body that can measure your heart rate, blood pressure or even your blood sugar levels and instantaneously transmit that data to your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. The enormous potential to save lives exists with such applications.

Things on mobile

Next year will be an inflection point for new 3G-based applications. So far we have written about applications that involve a human interface, but let's take this one step further. There are six billion people in the world today and estimates indicate that there are 50 billion machines.

Imagine a car fitted with 3G chipsets that can alert you when your car is due for its next service check-up. Envisage your automaker transmitting the latest computer software directly to your car - all without making an appointment or leaving your car in the garage. And, if your car breaks down, a technician will be instantly dispatched to assist you using GPS - they will know what the problem is and know exactly where you are.

'The Internet of Things' is a major development for the 3G wireless industry.

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