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Futurist: The Next Evolution of the Cellphone?

I am a long-time Futurist, and technologist. In my career, I have spanned the birth of personal computers, to the rise of Cloud Computing.

This image as a reminder, was taken with a cell phone camera circa 2000.

This image as a reminder, was taken with a cell phone camera circa 2000.

It is an interesting idea to merge Cellphones and Satellite phone services.

Lately, I find myself considering technologies I hadn't considered before. It's not that I thought they were not worth my time or of long-term interest; I just hadn't thought about them. No, I'm not suddenly going to dive into an exposé on quantum computing or quantum security. Both are intriguing and interesting, far beyond something that interests me. I am interested in both the security and computing impact but not today. Nor will I discuss the phone's power in your hand, which is an interesting discussion but not for today. I've had a go a few times at the phone's power, and I don't think it's time to iterate that conversation. Ultimately my thesis for today is very simple peel back the curtain and look and see what technologies are interesting right now.

One of the things I have talked about many times is 3D printing. While I think 3D printing is interesting, I don't think it's mass-market interesting. What is interesting to me right now is the proposed integration within the cell phone of both satellite and traditional terrestrial cellular service. To simplify that conversation, we are talking about your cell phone, but now a cellular and satellite antenna. If you look at the coverage maps of the United States, you'll notice that many areas are truly not as well covered as they could be. Like anything, cellular companies are businesses that wish to make money. With no population density, it becomes very expensive to increase cellular service quality. But this isn't about the quality of service but the integration of the two technologies.

If you look at a real map, not the one in TV commercials that seem to show the entire US has coverage, it doesn't. There is limited Cellular coverage in some parts of the US and the world. There is no published or advertised service at either of the two poles of our planet. Well, if you are just at the edges of the two polar ice caps, you might get some service. While cellular signals use satellites, it isn't directly. The call goes from your handset to a tower; if it goes across the world, it is bounced off a satellite to the recipient. That signal comes from the recipient to their cell provider, the satellite, and back to you. It is not a direct one-to-one connection. Your cellular phone needs the provider's cellular network. On the other hand, a Satellite phone connects to the satellite, then to the intended call recipient. It is a one-to-one satellite, phone, and user connection.

That means you pick up a satellite phone if you need to make a phone call in the middle of Antarctica. This new concept of merging the two devices then becomes very interesting. Today there are satellite communication devices that you can buy. However, if you buy a satellite phone, you'll find it very expensive. However, Garman, who makes GPSes, fishing equipment, watches, and other technologies, has a product that allows you to use a Satellite connection to share information only via text. It is called In-Reach.

What if getting lost was only an option, if that was something you wanted to do?

Now it is not a satellite phone, but it allows you to send messages via text via satellite. It works well and runs between 12 and $15 per month. So Garmin has several devices in the In-Reach family. All of them are very effective, and they all offer you satellite text messaging. They allow you to utilize and operate outside normal and traditional cellular areas. If you like to go hiking like you're out of cellular range. Or driving along some back woods road with no cellular service. This device will allow you to immediately get help, even as, in many cases, an SOS button you can press that will send an emergency beacon message, including your geophysical location or latitude and longitude, to whomever you wish. It is an incredibly interesting technology. It is available today, not expensive. But the reality is I wonder how long the In-Reach devices will remain once that functionality is part of your cellular phone. The camera and handheld GPS markets have decreased in the last ten years. The reason they are down is that your cell phone has a camera it's always in your pocket, and it also has a GPS

Because of the cost of satellite communication, I guess you will see a monthly fee added to your phone bill to access the satellite network. I suspect also see usage charges satellite phones tend to have higher usage charges based on the nature of the call. So today, I suspect the products are more interesting to people that are often outside the "coverage" of the traditional cellular networks. But that evolution of your phone to be just about everything is incredibly interesting.

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I'll end with this; your smartwatch can detect when you fall. When you fall, there is a prompt on the watch. Did you fall? Are you ok? If you are unconscious, the watch will notify people, including sending a GPS Latitude and longitude message to 911. With the satellite integration on your cell phone, it expands the value of that feature. There will be no location where the iWatch and phone cannot get help for you.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 DocAndersen

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