At GigaOm's inaugural MOBILIZE seminar, a panel of bright folks from Yahoo, Motorola, Sprint, and Zumobi tackled the topic of "Signals from the near future", a futuristic sci-fi look into pervasive, context aware mobility ten years from now. Common across all individual forecasts was that Location will serve as a key attribute to connect the physical world to the digital. And beyond location, so too will Proximity by way of near-field sensor capabilities that not only connect people to places, but also to things; objects in the real world that broadcast their purpose out to other primary mobile devices with imbedded readers. The application possibilities by coupling the two are limitless, but there's more beyond the applications themselves. Together, Location & Proximity have the potential to reveal social behavior in migration, purchasing, and community interaction patterns which thus far have been difficult to detect and model by modern social science research methods employed by sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists. According to Yahoo's Chief Scientist, Marc Davis, analytics on contextual mobile user behavior data will "create a platform for computational social science". Hello.
For the near term and next five years I suspect we can continue to expect mobile apps to place more dots on maps. But 10 years from now, perhaps look for advanced backend geographic information science and GIS analysis to make notable impacts on mobile service delivery with near-real-time analytics. These analytics will of course improve the services themselves via user data recycling & symbiosis, but more importantly, they should also tell us a whole lot more about ourselves and lifestyles, plus how we interact with our surrounding environment and community in personal and commercial contexts.