The Shibuya Crossing

SmartMobs (The next social revolution)


“Smart mobs consist of people who are able to act in concert even if they do not know each other.”

The author sustains that new Mob devices will be able to link objects, places and peoples, and people to online content and processes, highlighting how getting this connection is not just an extra communication channel but it can contain new forms of communication. Rheingold states strongly how the way to do things will be incredible changed by these media because these will add new capabilities to human potential: “These separate upgrades (of Mobs capabilities, n.d.r.) in capabilities don’t just add to each other; mobile, multimedia, location-sensitive characteristics multiply each other’s usefulness.” The following steps the author introduce is how to track what people are going to do with this technology, what accepted social code will arise from their social life, how this code will expand through different communities. Rheingold says that how the graphical user interface enable non-programmers to operate computers, so these SmartMobs will enable people to do other things which were not possible before: “They enable people to act together in new ways and in situations where collective action was not possible before.” This kind of technology will enable us to know who in our vicinity is likely to buy what we have to sell, sell what we want to buy, know what we need to know, want the kind of sexual or political encounter we also want. Question are still open on how to establish a sense of community, how to create trust among the participants and how to promote collaboration. Rheingold suggest a king of autocracy where people behaviour is evaluated by the community itself. Other questions raised regards the impact of these technologies on communication in the family and societal life.

Moore’s Law: technology gets cheaper as it grows more powerful
Meltcafe’s Law: the useful power of a network multiplies rapidly as the number of the nodes in the network increases
Reed’s Law: the power of a network, especially one that enhances social networks, multiplies even more rapidly as the number of different human groups that can use the network increases


The Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan has the highest mobile phone density in the world. On weekdays average 190,000 and on weekends average 250,000 people pass this crossing per day (Source: CCC, Tsutaya), around 1500 people traverse at each light change, while 80% of them carry a mobile phone.

In the future, the way we think about computers will change. Some features will always be useful, but certain content and applications make sense only in specific physical locations. Devices and networks will become smart enough to identify those locations and change accordingly, and location-based computing will grow beyond the city guides and mapping services available today. Now is the time for software and hardware developers to think about the new applications and interfaces this shift makes possible.

Companies covered include:

GeoDiscovery (services leveraging automatic position identification)
Vindigo and CitiKey (mobile city guides)
Airflash (location-based information and commerce)
GeePS (location-sensitive commerce for merchants)
GeoTouch (next-generation online mapping)
Scout Electromedia (location-specific wireless devices)
GeoVector (interfaces incorporating direction and motion)
InfoMove (car-based services)
TeleVend (wireless transactions for vending machines and other locations

Check also Marie Curie Grants and Swiss Science Fundation

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