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The Future Impacts of the Mobile Revolution: A Conversation with Darrell West

In the recently released book Going Mobile: How Wireless Technology is Reshaping Our Lives, Darrell West describes the transformative impact of the mobile revolution on entrepreneurship, education, health care, public safety, and other areas. In this interview he expounds on the research in the book and some of the changes that wireless technology may have on society.

How many mobile devices are there in your home right now?

My wife and I have nine mobile devices between us. We are the perfect illustration of the mobile revolution that is sweeping the world. People love the convenience of mobile technology and the way it puts information and services at their fingertips.

What are industries or sectors not mentioned in the book where mobile technology will have a disruptive impact?

There are interesting mobile applications in health care and education. Each of these areas is labor intensive and in the early stages of technology disruption. In health care, for example, we are seeing remote monitoring devices that record vital signs and electronically transmit them to physicians’ offices. They allow health providers to become more proactive about health care. When they see signs of abnormal readings, they can reach out to patients and refer them to health facilities. In the education area, mobile learning is becoming more prevalent in the form of instructional software optimized for handheld devices. This gives student’s access to the latest information in particular subjects.

Mobile applications and devices are prolific producers of data. What changes have to occur before society gain the maximum benefit from mobile data?

One of our big challenges is to take advantage of the aggregated information that is coming online to improve decision-making. If we can figure out how to spot patterns in medical service delivery, transportation, energy usage, and finance in real-time, it will help people use technology to make their lives better. Right now, the gap between information and decision-making is too long. In many areas, it takes so long to collect and analyze data that the results may be obsolete before it is delivered to decision-makers.

What role does the wearable tech trend play in the future of the mobile revolution?

Wearables represent a major new trend in mobile technology. People are starting to integrate calorie counters, exercise devices, and mobile communications into their day-to-day lives. Smart watches help people stay on top of the latest information and keeps them plugged in 24/7.

What are the biggest policy barriers in place today that mitigate the benefits of mobile technology?

The private sector is way ahead of the public sector in mobile technology innovation. This is putting great strain on infrastructure. We need speedy, wireless networks so people can take advantage of new developments in mobile learning, mobile health, and smart cities. The United States also needs to do a better job on research and development so the country retains its competitive advantage on technology innovation. We need to train the next generation of data scientists, cybersecurity experts, and app developers.

Going Mobile: How Wireless Technology is Reshaping Our Lives is available here

Author

J

Joshua Bleiberg

Ph.D. student - Vanderbilt University

Former Research Analyst - The Brookings Institution

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