Schoolar: Some less noble reasons to give thanks for wireless communications

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Daryl Schoolar

There are plenty of big or noble reasons to give thanks for mobile communications for the ways it has made our lives better. Wireless networks are bringing connectivity to areas of the globe that have so far been underserved by wireline networks. Wireless communications can help facilitate tele-medicine and remote education. Thanks to mobile networks, farmers located in the remote corners of the world can participate in global commodity markets. All of these examples provide great humanitarian benefits that raise the standard of living for people throughout the world.  These are the types of benefits that infrastructure vendors and operators like to point out when talking about the good they provide.

However, as we enter the end-of-year holiday season here in the United States, I thought it was a good time to share some of the less noble reasons for giving thanks to the benefits that mobile communications have brought to my life. And, I am sure if you think about it, these are some of the same reasons you give thanks as well--even if you don't want to admit it.

Calm the kids
Anyone with children knows that they have the uncanny ability to act up at the most inconvenient times--waiting in lines; waiting in a restaurant; when you are having a catch-up with a long lost friend. Thanks to mobile broadband and smartphones, parents now have the solution. Pull up a Sponge Bob video or a game like Minecraft, stick it in front of your child's face, and you have 15 minutes of peace and quiet. This may seem like a cop-out and that parents should use such a behavior disruption as a teachable moment about being patient and well-behaved. But sometimes you just need 15 minutes of peace and quiet in public.

One-up the know-it-all
We all have know-it-alls in our lives--that person who is a self appointed expert on movies, music, history, and politics. Their knowledge is so rock solid that they can build a 30-minute lecture around a half-truth at the drop of a hat. Now thanks to mobile Internet you can cut that lecture off at the knees.  You can quickly verify the validity of that half-truth and save yourself losing precious time to a bag of hot air. Sure this seems petty, but putting that know-it-all back in his/her place is your opportunity to have that teachable moment you missed out on with the kids.

Looking busy when you aren't
Having the ability to look busy even when you aren't is a great thing. You walk into a party and realize nobody you know is there yet. Just take out your phone and look like you have some super important message you need to respond to--such as "liking" a friends comment on your latest status update. This allows you to stall for time until your friends arrive, and gives you cover to scan the room for a new group of people you can work your way into so you are no longer hanging on the party's periphery looking like a social reject staring at a smart phone. Looking busy also comes in handy with know-it-alls when you don't have the time or desire to prove them wrong.  Just stick your face in the phone and walk away saying you have to update your blog on the best ways to respond to self-appointed Einstein's.

Stay on top of the scores
The holiday season overlaps with some of the best months of high stakes college and professional football games. While you are out dutifully tending to your family obligations like watching your uncoordinated kid dance like a plum fairy, or standing glass-eyed and bored at your spouse's company party, you still have to stay on top of those games. That last second field goal could be the difference between a happy Christmas morning and needing to stop off at the local car title loan store on the way home. Thanks to multiple sports web applications, you can follow your games no matter where you are.

Is it a deal or a dud?
As most people know the end-of-year holiday season also marks the "buy something for somebody season" as well.  And that buying often involves purchasing something about which you are clueless. This is where the mobile Internet comes in handy and scores you brownie points with your loved ones. Find something you think that special person will like in a store and using your smartphone you can quickly see if the store down the street is selling it for less. You can also find product reviews that will tell you if it will fall apart in a week or cause some horrible disfigurement to the user. Deal or dud, you need to know before you buy.

I admit at this time of year I should be thankful for bigger things. Also, the reasons I listed for being thankful are fairly petty compared to the big societal benefits that wireless and mobile communications are bringing to peoples' lives. But, I am grateful to live somewhere that those real issues aren't a daily concern – and that is something I give thanks for everyday.

Daryl Schoolar is Principal Analyst of Wireless Infrastructure for Ovum. Daryl's research includes not only what infrastructure vendors are developing in those areas, but how mobile operators are deploying and using those wireless networking solutions. Contact him at daryl.schoolar@ovum.com and follow him at @DHSchoolar.