Today's 3 Displays Will Grow to 5 Screens in the Future

Users now have three screens in their daily lives: smartphones, TVs and digital screens. More screens are coming and will change our lives even more.

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LAS VEGAS—Using just smartphone, television and computer screens is becoming so old-school, but change is on the way. In the near future, digital consumers will gain even more than the three screens that they now use each day to view video, check emails and get their work done wherever they are located, through the addition of virtual reality/augmented reality screens as well as screens in autonomous vehicles.

That's the view of Roger Entner, principal analyst of Recon Analytics, who argues that as the number of screens in our daily lives continues to expand, wider market engagement will be possible for advertisers, content creators and businesses to deliver their messages, which will further expand mobile video, entertainment and work use.

The coming screens inside autonomous vehicles are particularly intriguing, Entner told eWEEK here at the CTIA Super Mobility 2016 conference, because while riding inside autonomous vehicles, users will have more time to consume data on in-vehicle screens since they won't have to pay attention to driving. The typical user commutes an average of 46 minutes a day, and spends an average of 10 minutes of that time on smartphone calls while driving. That leaves plenty of time for consuming more mobile video and completing other tasks, he said.

The fifth upcoming screen will involve virtual reality and, more importantly, augmented reality, said Entner, as VR and AR continue to evolve and find importance and relevance in people's lives.

"There are just more opportunities to engage with customers today," he said.

Ironically, there are those who say that wireless hasn't much innovation left to give in the future because it is so good today, said Entner. "When some people look at wireless, they wrongly look at it and say 'this is all there is,'" referring to today's wireless devices and use cases, he said.

Entner thinks that is very wrong.

"There's innovation left across the board," he said. "But the integration has to get tighter" between mobile devices and networks, which have to be adapted to growing technologies, including augmented reality, autonomous cars and applications.

To make that happen, developers, content producers, advertisers and the rest must be looking at covering all the screens that will be in people's lives so that they can help grow and encourage the screen expansion that is on its way, he said. "There has to be an integrated effort between manufacturers, carmakers, software companies and others to make content available for five screens, to bring five screens to what it's meant to be" for end users.

Entner visualizes a "contiguous environment" where consumers wake up in the morning, watch TV for their news, have breakfast, get into their autonomous cars and tell the vehicle where to drive, watch the rest of the news and check emails on a screen in the vehicle, get to work, check in with their parents on a screen to be sure they took their medicines, and more. "That's how it all ties together."

By the time consumers arrive at their desks, their emails are already checked and they will be able to continue their workday, said Entner. "We absolutely are working toward it" by sometime perhaps in the next five to 10 years, he added.

The coming technology of 5G networks will help all of this greatly, but that advance isn't expected to begin its first commercial deployments until 2020 and won't be fully deployed until a decade later. "5G is a huge part of it because it solves the problem of the huge amount of data it will take to do all of this," said Entner.

A key step now is that awareness must be raised so that consumers and businesses see the possibilities before them and begin to seek out and encourage such technologies and opportunities, he said.

"When you are aware of it, the more likely you will be an early adopter, and the more early adopters we have, the faster it will happen," said Entner. "By mobilizing business users and consumers who say 'we know this is the cusp,' we will accelerate this. People should know about it and demand it and investment will follow. If consumers demand it, the enterprise will demand it and there will be more investment."