Smartphones Control the World


By Samuel Greengard

Hardly a day goes by without some newfangled gadget that connects to an iPhone, iPad or Android phone. Fitness devices, medical monitors, point-of-sale terminals and an array of other machines are rapidly morphing into inexpensive and widely available solutions that just about anyone can buy and use.

I now can view program information and select channels using a Comcast app on an iOS device. The app works better than the TV guide built into the cable service. Apple's own Remote app makes it incredibly simple to slice through a huge music library and play tunes on a computer or Apple TV. You don't even have to be in the same room because the remote works over WiFi.

But the capabilities don't stop there. Last year, I replaced the thermostat in my home with an Ecobee system that lets me control the temperature and scores of other functions from my iPhone. This makes it incredibily simple to make changes—including switching the system on and off—from anywhere and at anytime via an app. And Nexia offers a system to remotely manage lights and locks.

Heck, I can even sell an old desk or refrigerator and use an iPad and a Square mobile card reader to receive the money electronically. No muss or fuss with cash. I can also use a phone to view the feed from remote video cameras installed in my house or business.

Obviously, this is only the start. Why not have a smartphone app that optimizes washer and dryer settings and alerts me when the laundry is done? Why not have an app that connects to my automobile and allows me to change seemingly arcane functions and settings in a more intuitive way? (Chevy has already introduced some of these features in its Volt.) And why not create an app for operating the microwave oven? I've never figured out how to make it defrost a bagel.

You get the idea. You can apply this thinking across businesses and entire industries. Smartphones and tablets could make many expensive industrial control systems obsolete. They're already making conventional PCs look dumb and antiquated.

The slogan "There's an app for that" takes on new meaning every day.