Graphene and the Daunting Fragmentation of the 3.0

This post is an opinion piece gazing at the future of touch-screens, mobile, the wonder material graphene and the coming 3.0. Subscribe to the TopCoder Blog (top right of screen) Graphene Lattice TopCoder BlogYou will be touching your phone a lot less in the near future. Wait, did you say “less”? Every commercial, whether it be for Land Rover or Bud Light Lime features an anonymous set of hands touching the proverbial screen, changing backgrounds, changing scenarios in an almost Inception style fashion, and it makes sense why. Today, whether you are on line at an ATM or waiting for your jolt of caffeine at Starbucks or simply watching a video on your iPhone, you will be touching and swiping your phone. It is not revolutionary to assert the mobile device (and tablet) is the single most important vehicle for data consumption in our world today. So why in the world am I professing that in the not too distant future you will be touching your phone screen quite a deal less? In a previous article, we talked about the coming 3.0 and how the smart mobile device, now being toted around by hundreds of millions of humans, is in effect creating the proliferated railroad tracks that will support and run the 3.0, aka the Internet of Things. Keeping in mind, the 3.0 focuses on device to device connectivity, so humans constantly having one half of the equation on their person is a huge step forward with regards to the physical infrastructure that will support the 3.0. Why does that matter to this discussion? Because in the developed 3.0, many times the ‘thing’ will be the thing you are touching, swiping, reading from and the mobile device will sit in your pocket much more often than it does today. In short, you’ll still be swiping and touching, but now it will be the ‘thing’, not your phone getting the majority of this touchy-feely love.

Screens Everywhere

Most movies we thought were really good at some point routinely degrade over time for a variety of reasons, not Minority Report. The futuristic Tom Cruise mystery & chase thriller was a hit for Spielberg upon release and with each passing year, the flick seems to gain scores of new fans partially (if not predominantly) due to the incredible accuracy displayed with regards to what tomorrow’s technologies will look and feel like and the design focused way in which we will interact with these technologies. Gesture-Tech computing functionality, personalized real time advertising, retna-scan based security… they are all happening. In this future world – set in 2054 – electronic screens are everywhere, newspapers are made of some electrified material and even cereal boxes come to life via an electrified screen. Here’s a quick scene from the movie that showcases the imaginative technology. So is this really possible? Sure. Is it possible sooner than 2054? I believe, yes.

Raise Your Hand if You’ve Heard of Graphene

Graphene looks like a honeycomb lattice, but on an atomic-scale level. You can stack 3 million sheets of graphene on top of one another and the entire stack would be only one millimeter thick. What else? It’s extremely strong, incredibly flexible and an amazing conducter of electricity. Movie buffs will remember the “One word” advice given to Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film, the Graduate. The word then was of course: Plastics. Well, today’s one word for all things next, has become Graphene. Watch the video below to understand this amazing structure and why it has piqued the innovative interest of so many in the scientific and engineering community.

The Thing’s the Thing

Just slightly before Minority Report and the Graduate, a playwright named Shakespeare spun an enticing and murderous mystery featuring a play within a play to entrap a guilty king. In the not too distant future and within an interconnected sensor-driven environment, we will be interacting less and less with our actual phone and more and more with the actual “thing” we are holding or looking at. The “thing” will be an interface in its own right, a way to interact with a brand, a way to ascertain critical data to save a life, a way to purchase and share a purchase socially with one touch of the “thing”. Your mobile device will act as a personal hub, streaming preferences and data to this screen interface and for the most part, can remain in your pocket. As an example of what I mean, envision this very plausible near-future advertising opportunity. You are at your favorite sports bar taking in a game and a few beers. As you’re watching the big screen, the label on your Budweiser begins showing a few highlights relevant to your personal fantasy football team. In between highlights you’re served advertisements nudging you to try a more expensive InBev brand beer, Stella Artois (InBev owns Anheuser-Busch) and if you order a Stella – through the on-bottle screen interface of course – you can get the frosty beverage at the same price as the Bud, an instant discount to try the more expensive beer. After you order your first Stella and take a sip, you’re gently nudged to tell the screen what you think of the new beer by way of a super simple rating system powered by a gentle slide of your finger. It’s seamless, it’s tailored and you’re instantly rewarded for participating. The point being, the possibilities with how we will interact with things starts to become endless. The above scenario is the most obvious, using the new interface to advertise and act as a transaction vehicle. Perhaps after several beers you’re no longer being courted to order another, but rather to order something else, a cab upon leaving. Here’s a unique video showcasing dozens of uses for a single graphene-based device. A final point, one that speaks to the ability of TopCoder to deliver so many solutions in parallel, is the fact that if you thought the mobile revolution, pace layering and design thinking have all led to a tremendously fragmented technology landscape – which it certainly has – then the coming 3.0, when every “thing” has a screen or the ability to relay data back to a specific human or connected device, with individual “settings”, will dwarf the current fragmentation and leave companies wondering how in the world they develop enough intelligent interfaces that drive value to the end user. It becomes a daunting task to even consider. Leaders of the 3.0 will understand that in order to deliver value to so many end users of these new interfaces, they will need to innovate in a new way by tapping virtualized workforces, hyperspecific skill-sets and competitive communities that can deliver to them scores of new options to test, implement and improve upon. Hamlet, eat your heart out.

Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene Video Credit: youtube.com/vegasciencetrust

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