Mobile 3.0 arrives: How Qualcomm just showed us the future of the cell phone (and why iPhone sucks for this new contextual age)

Google Now screen shot

The world just changed yesterday. You probably didn’t notice. But I guarantee strategists at Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google did.

What happened? Qualcomm shipped a new contextual awareness platform for cell phones.

Yesterday the Mobile 3.0 world arrived. First mobile was the standard old cell phone. You talked into it. The second mobile era was brought to us by the iPhone. You poked at a screen. The third era will bring us a mobile that saves us from clicking on the screen.

We’ve seen lots of precursors. Heck, Google itself, a couple of weeks ago, shipped something called “Google Now” that tells you stuff based on your context. “Hey, Scoble, you better leave for your next appointment because it takes 53 minutes to get there” my new Nexus 7 tablet tells me. You see the actual screen shot above.

But in the future your mobile device, whether it be something you hold in your hand like a smart phone, or wear on your face, like Google Glasses, will know a hell of a lot about you.

How?

Well, Qualcomm just shipped the developer SDK, called Gimbal.

This SDK talks to every sensor in your phone. The compass. The GPS. The accelerometer. The temperature sensor. The altimeter sensor. Heck, we’ve known about sensors in cell phones for a while now. Here’s a New York Times report from May of last year.

But now, thanks to this SDK your smart phone will start to make sense of the data. Developers will have a single data pool on your cell phone to talk with (Qualcomm was very smart about privacy — none of this data leaves your own cell phone unless you give it permission to).

Today I was talking with Roland Ligtenberg, product developer at Qualcomm Labs. While talking with me I realized just what Qualcomm was up to.

See, if you do all this collection and analysis in software there is a battery cost. Remember Highlight? My favorite app of SXSW (and really the year). Did you ignore it? Well, investors aren’t. Ron Conway told me that aside from Pinterest Highlight is his favorite new company. Mine too because it showed me something no one else showed me before (a new kind of context of people who are near me). It actually is a lame app compared to what is coming, thanks to this Qualcomm SDK.

Qualcomm wouldn’t comment, but Roland told me that if you did all this in hardware there would be a lot less battery cost. So, look for this SDK to come to your mobile phone (or other wearable computing devices, like Google Glasses) soon.

Want to see what other use cases are coming? Check out this answer on Quora (actually 28 separate answers from techies) about what the Google Glasses world will bring (really they are talking about contextual and wearable computing, mashing together).

To add onto those answers, these new systems are going to know whether you are walking, running, skiing. Whether you are shopping, working, entertaining yourself (it knows whether you are in church, or in a strip club, or at school, or at work, or driving). Thanks to the wifi and bluetooth radios it can even know you are riding in your wife’s car, not driving. (Only available on Android, because Apple doesn’t let developers talk to the radios).

Which brings me to why Apple sucks.

Apple does NOT give developers access to the Bluetooth and Wifi radios. This is going to really hinder developers in this new contextual world.

Think about why your phone or Google Glasses might want to know you are in the kitchen, vs. sitting on your couch in the living room. The information that should automatically show up on your phone will be radically different. In the kitchen I’m in a food context. I want recipes, or healthy living guides, or I want my device to track just how many Oreo cookies I’m eating “hey, Scoble, you fat dude, this isn’t helping!” Already we’re doing this kind of quantified self stuff with Fitbit, Nike Fuel Band, and other devices. My wife is already tracking everything she eats and does on her cell phone.

Now, in the future our cell phones will know us at a very deep level. Already I’ve told Facebook more than 5,000 things I like. Check out my list. It’s public. On it you’ll see which startups I like. But also that I like Round Table Pizza. Think about that one for a moment.

In the future my cell phone will know I ordered a pizza. Will know when I get in my car. Will know who is in the car with me. And will give me contextual data that will make my life better. For instance, on my todo list I might have put “pick up a hammer at the hardware store.” It will know that Round Table Pizza is near the hardware store. It will know I have an extra 15 minutes. It can use Waze to route me to the hardware store first, tell me to pick up my hammer, and then head to Round Table to pick up that pizza. All while measuring how many steps I took (Nike Fuel points!) and telling me who has crossed my path. Oh, Joseph Smarr, who works at Google, is also at the Round Table? Cool! (He lives in Half Moon Bay too so this could happen at any time).

But when I get back, can my phone understand that I’m now in the dining room, eating? Or the living room, ready to watch a sports show (it knows already what sports I like — think about the next Olympics where it tells me that it has queued up the track and field finals for me to watch automatically)? Only if you don’t have an iPhone because Apple hasn’t given developers access to the wifi and bluetooth radios, so it can’t let developers let you map out your house accurately.

Which gets me to what Facebook and Amazon could do to totally disrupt the smart phone market (both are rumored to be working on hardware). See, you shouldn’t work on hardware if you only can match what Apple has already done. You should work on it if you can totally blow away what Apple has done.

I bet that Amazon and Facebook are building a new kind of contextual device. One that already knows you. Facebook already knows what I read, watch, listen to, and much more thanks to its Open Graph API system. Amazon already knows what I read, watch, and buy, thanks to its commerce system.

Add these two companies to Qualcomm’s new contextual platform and you have a new world.

By the way, Qualcomm is a $95 billion market cap company and is spending $3 billion a year in R&D and its chipsets are probably inside the phone you are currently holding. So, I take what they are doing very seriously.

So seriously that next week Forbes author Shel Israel and I will announce a new project all around contextual computing next week. See ya on Tuesday.

A new age just arrived. Mark yesterday in your calendar and see you on Tuesday.

By the way, for those at Rackspace, this will eventually change everything about our business too. We’re well positioned, thanks to our move to supporting a totally open cloud, which will pay big benefits next year as developers need to build new infrastructure to deal with this contextual age. The cloud is about to turn contextual in a very big way and that’s why we need to keep up with what Amazon, Google, and the other players are doing here and why we should start building support systems for this Qualcomm SDK now. It is that big a deal.

Watch this video to see a taste of what’s coming in the new contextual age.

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Scalable Living: changes you can make to be more productive

I’ve been going through lots of changes behind the scenes that is leading me down a new path I call “scalable living.”

To get there, over the past year, I’ve unfollowed about 10,000 people on Instagram. Then I did the same on Quora. I deleted hundreds of apps from my iPhone. Totally changed how I communicate with all of you (I almost shut down my blog, instead, preferring to spend time where most of you are hanging out anyway: on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+).

Over that same time I added more than 1,500 filters to Gmail, which clean out my inbox of a lot of crap. Rebranded our shows to “Small Teams, Big Impacts.”

These changes will continue the rest of the year. Here’s where my head is at:

I might only have one day left on earth. Several people I knew died this past year at a younger age than I am at (I’m 47). That struck me. What would I do if I only had one day left? What would I change about my life.

Well, I would focus on doing things that have scale. For instance, instead of calling each of my family members one by one (I don’t have much time left, for instance) I would get them all on a Google+ hangout together. That has scale. Calling them one by one doesn’t. By the way, the hangout would be shared with the world. That has scale. Letting you hear the news second hand wouldn’t.

Now, we don’t need to be so dramatic about these choices we make. After all, I hope I have more than one day left here (someday I won’t even have that, though) but let’s take it into smaller things: sharing and curation.

Over on Facebook I laid out a challenge to people. I called it the frictionless-sharing shootout.

See, if you really want to know who I am and what I’m doing, Facebook is dramatically ahead of other publishing systems. Visit my profile and you’ll learn what music I’m listening to, what questions I’ve voted on over on Quora, what news I’ve read, and much much more. Subscribe to me and you’ll know — while I do it — what articles I’m liking and commenting on.

That’s mostly done “frictionlessly.” That’s scalable living, because I didn’t need to explicitly share those things with you. See, writing a blog post is hard. It takes time, thought, and, I’d argue, even a bit of talent and experience to keep it interesting.

Worse than that, though, is that each time I publish I am keeping YOU from living in a scalable way. Why?

Sharing something like “I’m listening to Skrillex right now” means you have to see it on your screen, and pay attention to it. If you are still using an old-school RSS reader (I am using new school ones, like Flipboard, or Facebook) then they won’t be filtered out. If I do enough of them you will unsubscribe because I’m bringing too much noise and not enough signal to your life. You can sense that’s not scalable living.

So, what role does a blog have in this new world. It certainly is NOT centralizing my life. Facebook is — by far — the best place to do that. This morning alone I listened to several songs in the car. Do you really want me to post every time that happens here? No way. But on Facebook that’s easily dealt with. Even better Facebook usually filters that stuff out and Facebook gets better over time at figuring out what you want to engage with and what you don’t. If you saw everything I did on my profile come through on your home feed you would unfollow within an hour. Instead 330,000 new people in the past year alone have subscribed to me on Facebook. Why? It’s scalable living and having great inbound makes life more interesting.

Over on Quora, after unfollowing everyone, my inbound got a lot more interesting. Why? Because only once in a while are people interesting (even the most interesting people are only interesting once in a while, I’ve learned, while talking with hundreds at lots of conferences that have lots of interesting people). Quora, when you focus it on topics, brings you MUCH more interesting things. I was sitting on University Avenue last week looking at the Palo Alto topic and learned so much about a city I’ve spent a lot of time in.

Same is true everywhere I’ve applied “scalable living” techniques to. Can you write a script using IFTTT to do something for you rather than you do it yourself? You did click on IFTTT to learn about what it is, right? That stands for a service that lets you write scripts following a “if this then that” statement. You can do all sorts of things with Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Email, Weather, and other channels. Scalable living for sure.

Have you “tuned” Facebook yet to bring you interesting stuff? Did you even know you had to tune it? First tip: run this tool to separate people you don’t talk with often into your acquaintance feed. Then use the other tips I sent to my friend Jason Calacanis.

I’m going to try to refocus my efforts with startups on this new kind of living. Entrepreneurs need to live this way to increase their chances for success. Paul Graham talks about “leverage-able moments.” That’s scalable living. Putting yourself in play to get the most out of life. When I answer Quora questions, like this one on connecting with high-profile people, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Even when I listen to music on Spotify, I’m trying to do that. Because you know that I listen to Skrillex one of you suggested I listen to Ratatat. Of course I liked their page on Facebook. Why? Because that brought me more news about them to my news feed.

Companies can do this too. Beyond using Cloud Computing, you can use tools like New Relic which helps you watch your cloud infrastructure, or integrate other services that do things like comments (I use Facebook here, but Universal Studios uses Echo).

Doing those things is scalable living.

Anyway, enough rambling. You can blame this whole post on Tim Ferriss. On his Facebook feed he posted a New York Times article on the Busy Trap and said it was one of the best articles he’s ever read in the New York Times. I agree, but Tim is one of the best authorities on scalable living I’ve ever met. So, Tim, this is for you! That article did, indeed, rock, and is aiming at the same thing I am: scalable living so you have time to hang out with your friends and not be “busy.”

That said, the article is wrong. The first rule of scalable living is to get control of your inbound. That means telling a lot of people “sorry, I’m too busy to have lunch with you today.”

What that really means is that Fred Davis, one of the founders behind Wired Magazine, will be here in a few minutes and we’re just gonna sit around this afternoon thinking about the future. The future is scalable living. Oh, and those Google Glasses things are gonna be how it arrives! 🙂

Shhh, my blog is coming back!

I just loaded the new WordPress plugin from Facebook. It’s been several months since I’ve blogged, since I’ve been publishing on Google+ and Facebook. But now my blog can come back. Hopefully Google+ will come out with a publish API at the Google IO conference so I can rejoin my WordPress blog into my Google+ profile just like I did with my Facebook one.

Speaking of which, next week I’ll be at the LeWeb conference in London where I’ll be debating Andrew Keen about social media.

Ahh, the fun!

Why haven’t I been here lately? Well, let’s see. A year ago I had 0 followers on Google+. Today I have 1.65 million!
A year ago I had 13,000 followers on Facebook. Today I have 333,000!

Social media audiences have shown up big time and so I’ve been investing all my time over there. Especially on Facebook lately, since I’m getting more engagement per person and, well, the audience is just more influential there (the CTOs I want to talk with are mostly on Twitter or Facebook, if you know where to look).

Will all this work out? Who knows? I’m having too much fun! Anyway, it’s good to be back on WordPress!