5 ways mobile could disrupt our lives

Mobile is a powerful and fast-moving disruptive force which is rapidly transforming the way we live and work

Scenarios of mobile disrupting our lives

Innovative mobile technologies have been responsible for disrupting established companies in virtually every industry, with apps such as Uber and Apple Pay showing the potential mobile solutions have to change our lives for the better. The increasingly interconnected world we live in is creating new opportunities for forward-thinking companies to develop enterprising services that utilise mobile technologies.

Countless technological advancements that are hailed as the next big thing fizzle out before making any meaningful impact, but mobile still has the ability to drive major social and economic transformations. It’s not just businesses that will be changing in the wake of mobile disruption, the way we communicate with each other and carry out day-to-day tasks will be simpler than ever before.

From universal translators to artificial intelligence-based personal assistants, innovations that were once believed to be light years away are now in clear sight due to the rapid pace at which mobile is progressing. Time will tell when these transformative ideas come to fruition and when they do we will wonder how we ever lived without them.

Here’s a selection of disruptive potentials of mobile technology:

1. Universal translators

Once thought of as only possible in science fiction, real-time universal translators are on track to be reality in only a few years, with both startups and international technology companies working on innovative solutions. The Google Translate mobile app can provide two-way instant speech translation in 32 languages, although it’s not ideal for free-flowing conversations as you have to look at the smartphone for each translation.

New York-based Waverly Labs have overcome this issue by creating an in-ear device called Pilot that connects with a dedicated smartphone app to translate conversations instantly. At the moment Pilot only works between two people wearing earpieces, limiting the situations where it could be used. However, future generations of the smart earpiece could listen to multiple people speaking different languages and still quickly translate their speech to the user. The company has raised more than $3.3 million on crowdfunding website Indiegogo, with an expected product release date of May 2017.

Widespread adoption of universal translators will not be reached until the quality of translation is virtually perfect. The fusion of voice recognition, machine translation and mobile technology could soon make language barriers a thing of the past, and completely change how we travel and learn foreign languages.

2. Personal assistants

Artificial intelligence-based personal assistants are becoming more and more advanced, with improvements in speech-recognition technology making them a real threat to the job prospects of human PAs. Since the launch of Apple’s popular AI-based personal assistant Siri in 2011, dozens of other high-profile tech companies have released their own products. The latest intelligent personal assistants can do so much more than just check the weather or tell the time. Viv.ai, for example, can do everything from arranging the perfect holiday to ordering a pizza.

“Just like a human PA, an AI PA can adapt to your routine, habits and taste. The main difference is that they don’t get bored,” says Julien Hobeika, co-founder of virtual assistant Julie Desk. “AI-based PAs work more efficiently and can do simultaneous tasks like writing an e-mail to thank a client for confirming a meeting, while inserting it in the agenda and purchasing a train ticket.”

It might take a few years to get AI personal assistants on the same level as humans, with Julie Desk still requiring a human AI supervisor to give final approval before any e-mail is sent, but if machine-learning continues to develop at its current pace, mobiles will become fully fledged personal assistants very soon.

3. Disability

Well-designed smartphone apps that utilise the latest technological innovations can improve the lives of people with disabilities and enable them to live more independently. iPhone and Android app Be My Eyes connects volunteers with blind people who need help with everyday tasks, such as checking the expiry date on food, via live video chat.

Once a blind person has sent a request for help, a volunteer receives a notification and the video connection can be made. The volunteer can then answer the question by simply describing what they see. Since launching, almost 400,000 sighted volunteers and 30,000 blind and visually impaired people have used this service.

Other innovative apps use voice recognition software to provide captions to deaf people on video calls, letting them “hear” what the person on the other end of the line is saying. Mobile app Talkitt has been life-changing for people with motor, speech and language disorders, such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and cerebral palsy, as it translates extremely hard-to-hear speech into clear prose. No matter what the disability, there is likely to be a mobile solution which can make life easier, especially for issues around mobility.

4. Healthcare

Healthcare is perhaps one of the industries most at risk of disruption by mobile technology, due to the massive gap between demand and supply. Far from just offering relatively simplistic advice on how to live a healthier lifestyle, a range of healthcare apps are giving users access to services previously only available at GP practices or hospitals.

Artificial intelligence-based personal health assistant Your.MD offers an alternative to a physical consultation with a doctor by using AI and machine-learning to determine the probability of a person’s condition, based on their symptoms, personal factors and wider medical history. “Mobile health (mHealth) apps have the opportunity to offer people pre-primary care support so that in many situations it won’t be necessary to visit a doctor in the first place,” says Matteo Berlucchi, chief executive of Your.MD.