November 18, 2015

Top Mobile Trends to Watch in 2016

Two visionary IT experts discuss the biggest trends in mobile for the coming year, from 3D touch and virtual reality to wearables and the Internet of Things.

For years, mobile technologies have had an enormous influence on higher education, changing the way students communicate, access information and learn. And there's no sign of mobile losing steam anytime soon. According to the 2015 NMC Horizon Report, which forecasted the most important ed tech developments in higher education, mobile-related trends will rule for at least the next five years: In the short term, with a time-to-adoption horizon of one year of less, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon will proliferate; in the mid-term (two to three years) wearable technologies will see significant growth; and in the long-term (four to five years), the Internet of Things (IoT) will have wide-reaching impact.

Mobile, BYOD, wearables and IoT are all familiar territory for Robbie Melton, associate vice chancellor of mobilization and emerging technology at the Tennessee Board of Regents, and Jonathan Blake Huer, director of emerging technologies at Ball State University, who have decades of combined experience overseeing mobile strategies and initiatives at their respective institutions. We asked Melton and Huer to identify the top mobile trends poised to impact higher ed in the coming year.
Wearables and Edugadgets
"Mobile devices are now like Swiss Army Knives," said Melton. "You can transform your mobile device into various tools, such as a medical and fitness device, a compass, a scanner, a camera, a construction/carpentry tool, a fashion tool, a musical instrument, a cooking aid — as well as access the entire world of books, newspapers, games, translation and so forth."
In the health field, for instance, devices such as smart watches, smart clothing — even a pair of earrings — can determine in real time a person's heart rate, blood pressure, range of motion, even his or her state of mind. "With on-time data, smart shoes with embedded sensors can assist physical therapists in determining when, where and how a person is moving, as well as make immediate adjustments to a person's therapy," noted Melton.
These smart gadgets and tools — which Melton calls "edugadgets" — can improve teaching, learning and living, she pointed out. Huer agreed, adding, "I think it's about accessories more than just wearables. I've seen some incredible scientific tools that attach to the iPhone to take measurements."
The edugadget trend is still in its infancy, Huer noted, with more developments to come. "As more of these instruments become available, the price will go down, more educational uses will be shared and integrated with class assignments, and the mobile device will act as a hub of scientific discovery. We've already seen the start of this with Apple's HealthKit."
Sensory Apps
With its ability to function as so many different tools, it's no wonder the mobile device is becoming more and more like a personal companion that is with us 24/7. "We now eat, work, socialize, sleep and communicate with our mobile devices," Melton said. She sees a growing trend toward more interactive, dynamic, data-driven mobile apps, incorporating sensory stimuli that allow users to experience tactile objects, smell odors, even taste.
"We are the technology now," said Melton. "We've reached a tipping point where technology and humans are physically merged together (biotechnology) to interact, manipulate and create new processes and environments."

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