By Robert Marcus, CEO of QuantumWave Capital, an investment bank specialising in mobile start up M&A
<br />Whether we choose to accept it or not, the mobile internet is something that is taking over our lives. The majority of the world now accesses the internet through mobile devices.
The convergence of mobile networks and devices with the internet creates a global market of six billion users, generates $2.5 trillion in annual economic value, and 2013 is the year it gathers force.
Consumers are driving the mobile internet. Not business, as has been the case with earlier technology waves. The mobile internet is about individuals who are constantly in motion. Mobile first means that apps and services need to be adapted to the lifestyle of people on the move, whether they are commuting to work, riding a school bus, or vacationing at the beach.
As we move ever closer to 2013, here is an overview of the five most important new technologies and how they will enable new approaches, new business practices and consumer benefits.
<strong>HTML5 goes mainstream</strong> <br />Many of the new applications of developed online will be built upon HTML5, the latest revision of the mark-up language that is used to define the building blocks of web pages.
The good news for the masses that want improved applications is that HTML5 resolves many of the practical issues of programming mobile apps in the current version of HTML, and adds new features that improve performance on mobile devices. But most importantly for the end user, it provides a common platform for mobile applications to run on devices that have differing operating systems.
<strong>Fourth generation networks become pervasive</strong><br />Following EE launching the first 4G network in the UK, Britain now has the first ever phone network to truly offer mobile ultra-broadband internet access. This will offer many new capabilities including eliminating poor quality calls via the likes of Skype, and support for the latest mobile devices, which seem to change on an almost monthly basis.
<strong>The cloud is mobilised</strong><br />This year not a day has passed without some vendor or IT service provider coming out with their own special definition of the cloud. In 2013, we will move away from what is and what isn't cloud debate and witness the shifting of processing power and the data to the cloud. This will enable mobile devices to remain physically small, relatively low powered, and priced affordably for consumers.
As a result, consumers will get powerful new applications at low price points. However, it is not just consumers that will reap the benefits; cloud will also change business. Next year, we will finally see organisation adopting the cloud to further accelerate the move to mobile computing for business applications.
<strong>The internet of things is activated</strong><br />Much of the data explosion of the Fifth Wave will come from smart machines. Not only are more individuals connecting, but an even larger number of devices are being connected, handling every conceivable kind of business or consumer task. Just as mobile devices used by people will greatly outnumber desktop installations, the number of devices on the internet will soon swamp the number of people. The networking company Cisco estimates that there will be 25 billion to 50 billion devices communicating via the internet by 2015, which is just three years away.
<strong>Web 3.0: the semantic web</strong><br />The fifth and final technology impacting mobile in 2013 is the semantic web, which will provide a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries. By creating a way to include semantic content into web pages through common data formats, the semantic web will provide structure to content that today is unstructured or only partly structured.
This new structure will enable machines to glean information from the web as easily as humans can, creating “a web of data that can be processed directly and indirectly by machines,” according to Tim Berners-Lee, British computer scientist and the inventor of the World Wide Web.
The semantic web envisions information being architected formally so that machines, as well as people, can ‘understand' content and ‘understand' how different sets of data are related. At the simplest level, the result will be more meaningful searches.
At a deeper level, the semantic web will enable machines to provide information that is more contextually relevant and to act on data according to context. By introducing a significant reinvention of the search process, one that is based on the context of the query as opposed to just keywords, Web 3.0 fully activates mobile presence, an alchemical combination of personalised information and meaning that the end user can appreciate.
In summary, from the mainframe to the mobile, technology has been marked by a series of kairos moments over the decades, dramatically restructure the industry. The mobile internet is the next kairos moment, and 2013 its biggest year.