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How feasible is the personal communications hub?

It's the comms capability that matters, not the device

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Reg Technology Panel How would we like to use mobile technologies in the future? The answer seems to be that we'd prefer to consolidate all of our messaging and calls to a single device.

A recent Reg survey considered the importance of having such a comms hub, and more than 60 per cent of you responded that it would be highly desirable or desirable. But just how practical is this?

One thing that we didn't specify when we asked this question was the type of device. In general terms you have repeatedly told us that the laptop computer is likely to maintain its position as the primary mobile device. However, there are going to be plenty of contexts (hotel, train, top of a mountain) where it's just not going to be practical to be carting around a computer, however ultra-thin and portable.

Home is where the hub is

Instead, this will be more about ensuring that we can take our communications profile with us wherever we go, regardless of what we choose to put into our pocket or bag.

In terms of profiles there can't be any one size fits all: not only do habits vary, but we like to communicate in different ways with different people, depending on what we're trying to do. Some situations require a simple terse voice call, for example, or a quick email exchange; whereas others may involve a group chat, video, or indeed some clever screen sharing using tools from Cisco/WebEx, Adobe or Citrix.

While this last example may not yet be de facto mobile behaviour, it is becoming more prevalent on the desktop, and it's fair to surmise that the mobile equivalent will follow. As smartphones become more powerful they will no doubt take on some of this workload, but for the foreseeable future we shall still need to select the most appropriate device for the job – and associate our connectivity with it as simply as possible.

Whatever is the device that sits between the connection pipes and the person, it's going to have to be capable of managing a whole set of different information flows, voice and data. Not only this, but based on what we have already seen about wanting to plan ahead in terms of connectivity costs and single-billing, service providers will need to ensure they deliver appropriate tariffs to support the differing needs of their subscriber base, regardless of what sits at the end of the pipe.

In a future article we'll be looking into the possibility of always-on, blanket mobile access and its potential impact. For now, however, what's most important is enabling people to bring together their differing communications onto whatever device they choose. ®

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