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Reflections from GigaOm Mobilize

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I’ve been at the 2013 GigaOM Mobilize conference these past two days with Ricky Wong, our senior product manager for mobility. Sounds appropriate, right?

I’ve always been a fan of GigaOM conferences for their ability to attract smart thought leaders and “doers” who are able to add insight to the constantly evolving technological landscape. This year was no different – and contrary to what you may think at first glance, this is not simply a consortium regarding that addictive device in your pocket.

This year’s hot topics in technology are wearable tech and the Internet of Things. It’s all about where we’re going and how technology can/will take us there. Really, a few alternative names for the conference could have been Wearing Robots or Road to Skynet. (These are also good names for a rockband. You're welcome.)

We live in a world where everything is interconnected and digitized. And as the show opened we were reminded of the pervasiveness as GigaOm shared that we are on track to have 50 billion connected devices by 2020. As such, the much-ballyhooed Internet of Things will be a societal transition.

We are already well on our way – from the fitness trackers many wear, to the new smart watch announced by Adidas at the conference. It is worthwhile to note that as populations become increasingly mobile, companies and users alike will be increasingly aware of how devices can help solve problems.

The Internet of Things is not actually the Internet we’re all familiar with. It is an increasingly complex system of connected devices – not just mobile phones. Per a panel at the conference, consensus is that “things” is the complicated piece of the puzzle. Despite what technology can do or where it can take us, the ultimate goal is still solving real problems.

We now hold the idea that we should be able to connect with anyone, anywhere. But we keep changing our tool sets. So how do we decide what to move forward with? The use cases for a new product or technology should have pragmatism to cause people to question why they hadn’t previously thought of it, while still increasing productivity and efficiency.

Additionally, given the dichotomy of divergent tools, very few new technologies are purely vertical closed ecosystems. New ideas are all about integrating with others to execute vision. What do we already use, what is the right focus and who are the right partners.

The recommendation for enterprises is to treat all devices as BYOD. As the services and devices powered by all this technology become an integral part of daily life, it’s irresponsible to think that people aren’t going to use these devices in their personal life.

Naturally, engrossing oneself in two straight days of discussing how society is transforming us into live-action Jetsons immediately leads to concerns about privacy and security. These are two very different concepts: privacy is the freedom from being observed while security is the freedom from danger. Innovating with both in mind is still an imperfect art.

It is very exciting to think about all the opportunities ahead of us. So it seems only fitting to end with the Arthur C. Clarke quote shared during today’s opening remarks. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”