Even though the cloud remains a somewhat nebulous term to the population at large, nearly everyone has a sense that it allows us to keep our digital lives in order and access content from any device, anywhere, anytime (as long as there is an Internet connection—and even sometimes when there's not).
At a simple level, it's how you can save your photos or documents and access them from anywhere. But the cloud is really the connective tissue for so much more, and it's allowed mobile to take off on several levels.
First of all, the cloud provides a way to access content on any mobile device. Think about Box, Dropbox, or Google Docs. You can start reviewing a document on your laptop, then take the train home and access it on your smartphone or tablet. The cloud gives us that access across devices.
Then think about the mobile-first companies the cloud has enabled. A service like Uber or Airbnb really couldn't exist without mobile and the cloud. It drives the ease of use of pulling out your smartphone and calling for a car or booking an apartment. You can communicate with the driver or host, and you can see where the driver or home is on a map. All of this is enabled by the marriage of mobile and cloud technology.
And the services themselves have been able to scale because of cloud infrastructure services. As these services have grown in popularity, the companies didn't have to buy more physical servers and other compute resources. They simply used the cloud, and the services could scale as needed.
Layering on the Internet of Things
And now we have the Internet of Things, and a similar dynamic is in play. As devices, buildings, appliances, even clothes and transportation become increasingly connected, we will begin to change how we live our lives. The sensors will communicate to the Internet, to one another, and to you and your devices.
This connectivity will be facilitated by cloud services either directly by moving information across devices to humans at the end of the cycle or indirectly by using cloud infrastructure services to process and drive the data across the various platforms.
Back in 2002, the dark ages before AWS, Facebook, smartphones, or any of the digital bric-a-brac that we take for granted today, I wrote an article about an MIT project called Project Oxygen. MIT envisioned a world where computing power would be as available as the air we breathe. It envisioned a marriage of always-connected hardware and software, including a pocket-sized computer we call a smartphone today.
"Oxygen is built on an architecture consisting of three core elements: a fully integrated handheld device called Handy 21 that can change purpose automatically as the need or user location dictates (for example, behaving like a PDA, pager, or cell phone), network configurations called Network 21s that change dynamically to meet the needs of users (for example, automatically routing network traffic to relieve congestion) and embedded computers called Enviro 21s (because they are part of the environment, such as the building where you work) that carry the computational burden for the smaller handheld device," I wrote at the time.
All of this has come to pass, of course, and it's driven and made possible by the development of cloud resources. The whole world is becoming connected, and the cloud is the glue holding it all together.(c) Can Stock Photo