The Advent of the Personal Swiss Army “Device”

By Tim Powers.

Hi, my name is Tim, and I’m addicted to my mobile device.

I can admit it. And I don’t have a problem. I can quit anytime. But why would I want to? Mobile is my lifeline to the world we live in today.

My 69-year-old father still uses a dated flip phone and refuses to use it for anything other than talking, which according to him is what they were designed to do. Obviously, he has a lot to learn.

This is a stark contrast to how millennials view the world of mobile, and I can only imagine their eyes rolling upon hearing the views of my father – or any organization not fully engaged in a mobile first strategy. In fact, the definition of “mobile” has even changed. A recent study showed that millennials believe that losing their phone would be a bigger hardship than losing their automobile. In other words, millennials would rather be “mobile” online… than mobile via a car.

And our mobile phones have become one of our prized possessions; some might even call them personal attachments. We wake up in the morning and check out devices. Before falling asleep, we check our devices. When we experience some uncomfortable moment or loneliness during the day, we find solace in our mobile surrogate. No reason to even call them phones any longer as “talking” is actually the fifth used function on a device.The world has become one big stand-up comedian. We always have to be “on.” In fact, 60 percent of the world touches a mobile device every day – checking email; updating social media accounts; taking pictures of meals, kids or “selfies”; reading the news; checking sports scores; playing games; listening to music; or shopping.

mobile-accessibility-1024x832Mobile isn’t just a device, it’s “your” device. It’s customized for your lifestyle, habits, preferences, needs, and physical or cognitive abilities. Mobile helps democratize data consumption and optimize interactions, especially as more and more people rely on devices for daily activities. This is why the design of any new mobile app, service or website needs to be built with accessibility from the outset for everyone, including people with disabilities, the growing elderly population and those with no or low literacy.

Not only that, but using mobile devices creates “situational disabilities” such as:

  • Small screens in bright light needing high contrast and large fonts;
  • Hearing streaming video because of the noisy environment needing closed-captioned video;
  • Interacting with the phone safely while driving requiring hands-free and eyes-free operation with voice recognition and text-to-speech technology.

Thus, assistive features of mobile devices and properly-enabled accessible mobile applications are more important than ever because they can deliver more productive endpoint solutions to enhance a business process, employee system or customer-facing application and improve the overall user experience for the mass market.

Usability and accessibility in this “always on” world is no longer a feature of design, but a critical component of it, especially as more and more governments make accessibility a requirement.

A human-centric approach to mobile strategy and solution design can address these challenges and others – including the need for hyper-personalized, context-aware content that can be accessed by anyone, anytime and anywhere. Organizations also need be equipped with mobile accessibility guidance and checklists for mobile, web and native iOS and Android™ application development so designers and developers can create accessible applications, test them, and certify compliance.

We are at the beginning of this journey but know that factors around mobile, accessibility and usability are converging… and fast. By getting out ahead of these concerns, organizations can be better equipped to enhance the customer experience so all users can take advantage of their own personal mobile Swiss army “device.”

This includes my father, who might reject mobility now, but as he ages and his physical and cognitive abilities deteriorate, will soon realize that he might have to rely more and more on a mobile device (or other assistive technology) as his best connection to the world – to securely access a bank account, communicate with a doctor, schedule food delivery, turn on the television or adjust the temperature in the house.

Or even send a text. After all, no one wants to talk anymore.

Learn more about IBM’s accessibility initiatives, and join the discussions with us on Twitter,Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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