CES 2015

Our Smartphones Have Changed Everything

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LAS VEGAS – Stop for a minute and think: What can't you control with your smartphone these days?

Maybe it crept up on you, this dependence on the computer in your pocket. Or maybe you dove in willingly, eager to let your phone manage everything from your wallet to your waistline. Either way, if you feel like you're addicted now, just wait: your phone is about to rule even more of your life.

I’m standing in the back of a room packed with tech journalists, arms crossed, patiently waiting for the Qualcomm press conference to kick off at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. I’m not sure what’s going to be said or announced. I simply thought I’d check it out.

Within minutes, Qualcomm president Derek Aberle takes the stage and starts rattling off facts and stats about the mobile tech behemoth. Each slide illustrates not only what the chip maker has been up to, but exactly how a new generation of apps and services the industry over enable us to do just about everything -- from our smartphones. Entrepreneurs should take note.

Our homes

The “smart” home consists of Internet-connected devices that control and monitor, well, you name it. Heating and cooling, audio, TVs, lights, security, energy consumption… shall I go on? All of this via dashboards and messages from our phones.

Smart-home tech has been slow to catch on, but just give it time. More than two-thirds of consumers plan to purchase some form of connected-home technology by 2019, according to research from the Acquity Group.

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Our vehicles

Qualcomm says it has 40 connected car programs across 15 manufacturers. That’s more than I expected. Yes, your next Cadillac XTS might feature Android OS and communicate with your smartphone. Apple also has an OS for cars. And smaller companies like Dash have their own products that help communicate things about your car to your smartphones.

You might not have a smart car yet but, again, it’s only a matter of time. The number of cars connected to the Internet is expected to grow to 152 million worldwide in 2020, according to IHS Automotive. That’s up from 23 million in 2013.

Our health

Aberle talked about Qualcomm Life, the company’s smart health-tech initiative. One component of this is the 2net platform, a cloud-based system that communicates between medical devices and apps that allow patients and their physicians or caregivers to access biometric data. Doctors and patients, say hello to data on your phones.

Qualcomm already has 500 member companies participating in its connected health ecosystem. And it's just one player in this growing space.

Related: LG Is Betting Big on Innovations That Haven't Caught On – Yet

Wearables

I see this as a double-edged sword. On one hand, we have a once virtually non-existent industry gaining steam. The wearables industry was expected to reach $1.5 billion in 2014, according to Juniper Research. That’s more than double from 2013. Think of millions and millions of smartwatches, fitness trackers and more, all feeding information to or from our smartphones. Qualcomm says it is involved in 15 products that are shipping across 30 countries.

Then again, one of the biggest obstacles for wearables is that many aren’t standalone devices. They need to pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth in order to connect to the Internet. We’ll have to see when this market begins to plateau.

I suppose all of this goes without saying. No big news here. But it’s worth noting how our smartphones are spawning technologies into all corners of our lives. So much tech today -- here at CES and beyond -- starts with that smartphone in your pocket. Opportunities abound. It’s kind of amazing.

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