In my role as Cisco’s Chief Futurist, I get many questions about what the future holds and how new technology and emerging solutions will change our lives. Given the positive feedback and the volume of questions being submitted from the community around the first series, I’ve decided to do another series to answer questions from the education and tech community around the Internet of Everything (IoE). Whether the questions are global in scope, such as how the Internet of Everything will shape our world, or small in nature, like our most recent Ask the #IoE Futurist question about batteries or today’s question about the smartphone becoming superfluous, I enjoy the challenge of answering them all.

A few weeks ago, brand new smartphones and wearable smartgear products were unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While many of the specs and capabilities of these emerging devices vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, they all represent a common theme: mobile devices are not only becoming more present in our daily lives, but also changing how we connect, interact and share experiences.

As the Internet of Everything (IoE) drives more connected things, data, people and processes, how will the future of smartphones evolve? Will the endless possibilities for connected cars, shoes and dishwashers mean that the smartphone becomes one extra device for us to carry?

In this Ask the #IoE Futurist post, I’ll answer a question from John Spade (@DaSpadeR), a Cisco Champion, about how smartphones might change in an IoE world. Here is John’s question:

Question: “The smartphone lets us bring the Internet with us, but in the Internet of Everything, will the smartphone itself become superfluous?”

Answer: That’s a great question, John. If we think about today’s smartphone, it is ultimately an evolved PC compared to first or second-generation mobile phones. In fact, a recent ReadWriteWeb article highlights that the smartphone is responsible for bridging the Digital Divide – bringing technology to people who might otherwise not have access to computing resources – such as those living in rural or underserved areas.

Loaded with so many capabilities to enhance every aspect of our lives, the smartphone is truly the most personal computer or device we use today. As more apps and services move to the cloud, we will still need a device to access and consume them and the smartphone will be one of these dominant devices for quite some time. In fact, the influx of new devices will drive a surge in more data to manage – according to a recent Cisco Visual Networking Index, global mobile traffic is expected to increase by 11-fold over the next four years. This surge in data will require better process management tools that can be accessed from our phones.

VNI data

However, as wearable devices such as smart watches and connected glasses continue to gain market share, these devices will compete with the smartphone for our attention. And we are just beginning to see the influx of new wearable devices. For example, the new Logbar Ring, allows users to harness the power of Bluetooth to control multiple devices through simple finger gestures. And a new augmented-reality motorcycle helmet by Skully Helmets allows riders to see in every direction. These innovations and more are transforming what it means to be connected.

So, will the smartphone become unnecessary?

I don’t think so, at least not in the long term, especially as many of these other connected devices will rely on the smartphone as a gateway to access these services. In fact, a recent CIO article  highlights that as more wearable tech hits the market, the need for smartphones to evolve will become essential. Gartner Research Director Angela McIntyre said it best: “The smartphone is going to be alive and well for the foreseeable future.”

For now, we can enjoy the fact that smartphones and mobile devices will play an integral part in an Internet of Everything world.

Do you have a question for @DaveTheFuturist? Join the conversation using #IoT and #AskTheFuturist.