Mobile World Congress will be buzzing with phone reveals -- but it's the low-key news one should watch
Unlocking doors and paying for goods with a smartphone will become more mainstream
Tracking fitness with clothing will also be popular, although there are questions over washability
Biometrics will be the new passwords, replacing swipes and numerical log-ins
Editor’s Note: Stewart Wolpin has been writing about gadgets, gizmos and geegaws for a variety of popular online and print media, consumer, specialty and trade publications including Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mashable, DVICE, Laptop Magazine, CNET, Digital Trends, Ubergizmo, Techlicious and others, for more than 30 years. Stewart also writes about other stuff including baseball and small stakes poker. Follow him on Twitter.
Amid the hoopla of new super-phones, largely unknown technologies are emerging – and it will be these that change our lives. Here are seven I predict will help define our future.
No more keys: Bluetooth 4.0
Bluetooth 4.0 (recently updated to 4.1), also known as Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) and Bluetooth Smart, already enables an ever-widening variety of wearable gadgets such as wrist-worn health/fitness monitors and smart watches. But Bluetooth 4.0 has literally started opening doors.
The Kevo Unikey is the first in what promises to be a wide variety of keyless home deadbolt locks – the Goji Smart Lock is due next month and the August smart lock later in the spring – that require only a smartphone with Bluetooth 4.0 or a Bluetooth 4.0 key fob to unlock.
Away from home, several hotels have begun testing keyless Bluetooth 4.0 room entry.
No more tickets or cash: NFC, iBeacon
When you tap-to-enter a venue or facility rather than producing a physical ticket, you’re using NFC (Near Field Communications). Tap-to-pay-by-smartphone solutions via smart wallets such as ISIS and Google Wallet have been a little slower to take off, however.
Apple’s iBeacon micro-location technology promises to be more popular. iBeacon combines Bluetooth 4.0-based location-based services – such as transmitting coupons or sales alerts when your presence is detected at a particular in-store spot – with payment options.
In its first major roll-out, iBeacon systems are being installed in more than 20 Major League Baseball stadiums in the U.S. for the coming season.
Constant health and fitness monitoring: Wearable biosensors
The future of digital health and fitness monitoring are not in separate wrist bands or smart watches.
Instead, biosensors will be integrated into clothing, shoes and accessories such as Sensoria smart socks, prescription Google Glass and smart workout gear from Athos, which is due this summer.
Just like wrist bands and watches, Bluetooth 4.0 will transmit bio data from your clothes to your smartphone, then, if necessary, via the Internet to a care provider or monitoring service.
In a few years, when buying clothes, you’ll be asked what sensors you want embedded along with size and color. The only question: will these smart clothes be machine washable?
No more wired Internet: LTE Advanced/Wideband
4G LTE Advanced, also known as LTE Wideband or LTE-A, promises to deliver data at 150-300 megabits per second (mbps), up to 20 times faster than current 4G LTE cellular connections and around six times faster than the fastest wired cable Internet service.
Several cellular carriers around the world already have begun limited rollout of this new speedy cellular service. But the implications of LTE Advanced are broader than simply faster downloads to your mobile phone.
Such speedy wireless connectivity could provide consumers cable-free home Internet connectivity options.
Ubiquitous and automatic Wi-Fi: Passpoint Wi-Fi
Your mobile phone connects to local cellular networks without you having to do anything. Connecting to a local Wi-Fi hotspot, however, is tougher than finding a free parking space in midtown Manhattan.
Passpoint Wi-Fi will create cellular-like automatic, ubiquitous and secure Wi-Fi connections. By 2016, it’ll be possible to leave your home, board an international flight and enjoy your trip without ever losing your speedy Wi-Fi connection.
No more passwords: Biometric security
Fingerprint, optical or voice security will soon replace tapping in passwords or swiping patterns on your smartphone screen.
Motorola introduced fingerprint security scanning in its Atrix smartphone in 2011, Apple broadened the acceptance of fingerprint scanning with the iPhone 5S’ Touch ID sensor, HTC added a less capable version in its One Max phablet, and both Samsung and LG are poised to add the capability to their next gen handsets, the Galaxy S5 and G3, respectively.
Some Android phones can use eye-scanning security via the Eyeprint App Lock from EyeVerify, and several companies, such as Agnitio, are developing voice recognition systems.
No more charging cables: Inductive wireless charging
Your home is likely cluttered with cables trailing out of wall sockets or outlet strips to which you connect your family’s phones for recharging. Clear this cable clutter with third-party wireless charging cases, which use the same induction charging technology used to recharge your cordless toothbrush.
Just lay your phone(s) on a recharging pad to rejuice your phone – only the pad needs to be plugged into AC. Holding up universal adoption of built-in wireless recharging, however, is a seemingly unnecessary format war between the two primary wireless recharging camps, Qi, the brand name of the Wireless Power Consortium, and Duracell’s Powermat, which leads the Power Matters Alliance.
Without one universal system, phone makers have shied away from building in the capability.