The world is getting smarter, with emerging and evolving technologies driving changes in our work, our homes and even in us. Devices are infiltrating every corner of our lives, changing not only our behavior but also our priorities. Once upon a time people carried newspapers in their briefcases, hungry for world news. Now a study commissioned by Nokia revealed most people check their phones about 150 times a day – most likely scrolling for updates on social feeds. And the majority of us are glancing at mobile devices at least once per hour.
At home, that might mean tweeting but could also imply the user is interacting with a home automation accessory, controlling an entertainment system or checking on solar panel efficiency. Berg Insight predicts that the market for smart home accessories is only going to get bigger, growing to $12.8 billion in the next three years. The house of the future is quickly becoming the house of the present, with everything from lights to speakers to thermostats to pet care handled via apps on an iPad Air or similar. Notably, the very same iPad that was playing a live broadcast just moments before.
Multiple tasks used to require multiple devices. A desktop for work. A television for relaxation. A radio for music. A console for gaming. A camera for making memories. Now tablets and phablets (plus a little free 4G LTE data from carriers like T-Mobile) do it all and then some. In some cases, industries have embraced the ubiquity of mobile devices. Consider the example of security system companies offering remote monitoring apps that let customers away from home check up on their stuff. Or radio stations offering their programs as podcasts.
The big industry that has been slow to smarten up has been TV. The first year that adults spent more time consuming digital media than watching television was 2013 – and now two years later people still spend more time using mobile devices than flipping channels on a wall-mounted flat panel.
But that doesn't mean that we're watching less TV or that we're necessarily watching more TV on our tablets (though a 2014 Deloitte study found that 20-somethings were more likely to watch shows and movies on mobile devices). It's just that more people are choosing Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and even networks' own streaming over the rigid offerings of traditional cable companies. Add the growth of the cord cutters movement to the folks checking their phones 150 times a day or more, and of course the second screen is poised to become screen numero uno. What's surprising is that it took this long.
Maybe TV took so long to get smart because so many of us have found it hard to give up the first screen experience. And while slow, the TV industry is getting smarter and will ultimately embrace the once-second-now-first screen. TV 2.0 is the new way networks (and advertisers) are courting younger viewers – think streaming, more on demand content, an app for every show and heavily hashtagged social engagement campaigns that rely on mobile. Interactivity is still in its early days but networks are exploring how programming on a clickable screen propped on a viewer's knees can lead to increased revenue.
Like the technological revolution around us, these changes are being driven by what's in our pockets, in our bags and (now less frequently) on our desks. For now, smart screens and dumb ones coexist peacefully in homes all over the world. But it's not inconceivable to imagine that there may come a day when, for most people in the US and elsewhere, watching TV no longer means watching a TV.