Mobile technology has advanced at such a rapid pace it has permeated our entire computing infrastructure. The likelihood of having multiple devices and (thus screens) is strong, with many folks having laptops, tablets and smartphones at the very least. Throw in ereaders and other mobile devices and you have millions of users with multiple screens around them that don't currently interact. It's time for what I call the Personal Grid (PG), a simple protocol that works cross-platform that is designed to let these gadgets communicate when near each other to leverage the multiple screens for the user's benefit.
The Personal Grid concept started gelling with me when I saw the HP TouchPad at the webOS press event earlier this year. While HP's implementation is restricted to interaction between the Pre 3 smartphone and the TouchPad tablet, neither of which is available yet, the benefits are immediate and great. HP leverages the web connection of the Pre 3 phone, and extends it to the TouchPad tablet when it is being used. Using a simple Bluetooth connection, when communications are received on the phone the notifications appear instantly on the tablet. This covers incoming voice calls, email and text messages. The user can process the incoming communications using the device in hand, no matter where the connection is established.
The ability to leave the smartphone in the bag or pocket while using the tablet and still leveraging the connectivity is tremendously useful. What makes this so powerful is the design that has this happen automatically because the two devices talk to each other when in close proximity. The user simply sets it up once and forgets about it, the magic interaction then just happens.
This is my vision for the Personal Grid but expanded to cover all mobile gadgets. Without having to purchase into a proprietary system or brand, common devices would communicate once instructed to leverage them as best serves the user. Bluetooth could be used for the connectivity, or another wireless technology if that better serves the purpose. The goal is to have all mobile devices, laptops, tablets, smartphones, ereaders and whatever comes along, link up seamlessly and share common information for displaying on the device in hand at a given moment.
The Personal Grid could start out simple like the HP implementation and just focus on communications. This would provide the most benefit for consumers yet could be expanded in time with greater functionality. Display content could eventually be shared automatically for example. The possibilities are endless once the devices are working together by default.
For the Personal Grid to take off, it would need to be cross-platform, and this may be the biggest obstacle. Getting these platforms to work together will require cooperation between the big players, and they don't always like to do that. Maybe the best way to get the PG going is to have it on one mobile platform initially; Android would be a likely choice as it is powering so many different devices.
The Personal Grid could be the glue that binds all of the mobile technology that is growing rapidly into a cohesive tool with near endless utility. Capabilities could be added to the interaction between devices that I can't even conceive yet that would make this huge. I'll bet you can imagine interesting ways the Personal Grid could be leveraged. Share them in the Talkback and lets get the PG started.
Image credit: Flickr user Lomo-Cam
See related coverage:
- I am ready for a smartphone that "gets" me
- Mobile UI design: Obey the 90/10 rule
- Video: Up close with the HP TouchPad and Pre 3