How mobile devices and the web saved the day

March 26, 2012

The story begins two weeks ago. I was on vacation in Berlin and I was having a break from the usual coding routine. I had no PCs with me, only my old faithful iPhone 3GS. Everything was going great until the time I had to come back home. I was flying from Berlin to London with Ryanair. As usual, with low cost airlines, there was a delay of 40 minutes; and the drama started!! By the time I would get in London there wouldn’t be any public transport to take me from the airport to my house. As I result I would have to take a taxi from the airport and pay a premium for that service.

Being desperate on what to do, I start playing with my iPhone and looking for a Wi-Fi spot. Luckily enough there was a free Wi-Fi in the airport (thanks Schoenefeld airport). So there I go, looking on Google for taxi prices from Stansted to Central London. The first site I found was a small taxi company called Banana Cars (funky name) and in their site they had a section quoting their prices. Before I even click that link, a pop up window notifies me that customer services (yes in a taxi company) are here to help via chat if I like. And that’s the moment I got a shock!! Customer services chat? In a taxi website?? On my iPhone??? The result was that I booked a taxi, in a very good price and the driver was waiting for me in the airport with a paper, with my name on it! And all that through my iPhone; on a public Wi-Fi, 1hr before I land to London.

When I got home one thought came through my mind; we made it!! No, I’m not talking about me and my girlfriend coming home safe. I talk about us, computer scientists and all the people working for the web. I even talk about big corporations. We all made it!! We manage to make the web and the mobile devices an essential part of our lives, about 5 years ago, but we didn’t stop there. We did research, we worked together, the entire community and many corporations and we made it even better. We created small, efficient devices that serve our needs and offer us countless information in our palm. That can connect to many different networks and share information. And that’s only one part of our success, probably the smallest part.

The big success isn’t that people have mini computers in their pockets; the big success is that people know how to manage knowledge, and how to use it to improve their lives. A small taxi company in London created a web site not only to tell the world what they do, but also to support them while there. They used technologies that few years ago you could only see on websites from big retailers (like dell etc.). They got familiar with those technologies and now it’s a necessary tool for their business. As a computer scientist I’m happy. When I join college back in 2002 I couldn’t even imagine that in 10 years people will use mobile devices, JavaScript, HTML, Wi-Fi, 3rd generation mobile networks and cloud services to be really ubiquitous. And here we are, 10 years later and it’s a reality.

So to sum everything up, a failed flight from a low cost airliner helped me realize two things. First, what 10 years ago was research material and optimism, now is reality and part of our lives, what our professors taught us about ubiquitous computing and mobile devices is here today. And finally the biggest realization is that my job will vastly change in the future. The software engineer of the future won’t be the same as today. People now know how to use what we created so far. People know how to write a JavaScript or a VBA program, they don’t need us anymore. The knowledge is out there and they are managing it. The software engineer of the future has to innovate, has to go one step ahead and make easy for the user of the future what now seems impossible. I will consider our work successful if in ten years time the average user will be able to create mobile applications on his/her own. I will consider software developers successful if we manage to simplify knowledge the way we did with the web so far. So let’s go and amaze ourselves!!


George

Thoughts of a developer, a photographer, a runner, a cook. All of them the same person. George is also on Twitter!