6 Mobile Innovations That Will Change Your Life

New mobile technologies are emerging that can change--and even save--our lives. Expect to see these six breakthrough applications in the next year or two.
Easier, Better Health Monitoring

Old way: The sick and elderly must find transportation to the nearest medical facility even for simple procedures.

New way: Real-time remote monitoring of medical conditions saves time and money, and allows faster, more helpful emergency responses.

Having your blood pressure checked takes just a minute or two. But if you are housebound, elderly or frail, getting to a place where your blood pressure can be taken, inserted into your medical records, and made part of a diagnosis can be a difficult task.

The ubiquitous Internet, however, is improving that problem with basic measuring and monitoring equipment that is wireless-network-enabled. Instead of scheduling an appointment and finding transportation, patients can wear monitors that transmit their vital signs directly to their medical providers. That information can be automatically inserted in the patient's health records and reviewed by medical personnel. When emergencies occur, emergency response personnel can be given accurate information while they are en route to the patient that will help them respond better.

Coming Mobile Attractions

•  Pay By Phone

•  Commanding Presence

•  Internet Everywhere, In Everything

•  Ubiquitous Media

•  Remote Health Monitoring

•  People Tracking

Some vendors, such as Sprint, are already offering such capabilities, and they are likely to become more common as time passes. This has given rise to a relatively new type of health care called telemedicine.

Many of the pieces have been in place for a while -- the American Telemedicine Association was founded in 1993. But the increasingly ubiquitous nature of the Internet is speeding development and, more important, adoption of telemedicine applications. According to the association's Web site, remote monitoring of blood pressure, blood glucose, and heart conditions is becoming more common.

This sort of wireless transmission of health data is not limited to sending information to doctors. Increasingly, it will also help adults monitor their parents. "If you have a parent who needs attention but who lives somewhere else, you can know, 'Did Dad get up, has he taken his medication and, if he's sleeping, does he have a decent sleeping heart rate?'" Smith said. "There already are a couple of handsets that can deal with that type of information."

Do You Know Where Your Kids (And Trucks) Are?

Old way: Parents worry about where their children are and if they're safe. Trucking companies have the same worries about their drivers.

New way: Real-time monitoring pinpoints location and even checks truck drivers for sobriety.

Parents worry -- that's a given. But special cell phones can help.

Last year, Japan's NTT DoCoMo released a cell phone for children that enables parents to track their whereabouts. "There are GPS capabilities built into the phone so the parent can find out at all times where the child is," said Karen Lurker, U.S. communications manager for DoCoMo. "If the child feels they're in danger, they can hit a button and a very loud alert is sounded. And if somebody tries to take the battery out, an alarm goes out to the parent. This phone is extremely popular."

Another monitoring application using cellular data was created for a trucking company in Japan. A vendor developed a device that is similar to a breathalyzer that plugs into a phone with video capabilities, according to Lurker. "The (driver) takes the test over a live video connection with their headquarters," she said. "The video phone confirms the driver is the one doing the test, not somebody else."

While the area of monitoring people in real time has a lot of promise, it's also easy to see the peril. "The ability to passively watch the movements of other people is interesting, but it's also dangerous," Smith of Social Technologies said. "The pushback comes when, say, you start watching where your spouse is or co-workers are. Obviously, there are privacy issues."

Whatever the social implications, the ability to track the movements of others can save money and lower risks for enterprises, CSC research fellow Doug Neal said. It also can help consumers.

For instance, an insurance carrier in England called More Th>n has a low-cost policy called DriveTime for drivers between the ages of 18 and 25 who promise not to drive between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. (when most accidents happen). The company installs a GPS in their cars, and charges a premium depending on how often they drive at night.

"The presence of GPS changes the behavior of the driver," noted Neal.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing