Apple released their iPhone X on September 12 to much acclaim. There has been a huge amount of excitement around some of its features, from the new camera and lighting, through to the ability to unlock it by simply looking at it. These are certainly impressive new features, plus the phone itself looks stunning with the new full screen design, but the reality is that when Tim Cook claimed that this would push mobile technology forward, it isn’t any of these elements that will have that impact. In fact, many of the more eye-catching changes are not the ones that will have much of an impact at all, after all, they already appear on several competitor’s phones, and those that don’t appear to be only incremental changes that are hardly going to set the world alight.
Instead the thing that is really going to push not only mobile technology, but many other technologies forward is the A11 Bionic Chip and Neural Network within the phone. These are certainly not the sexiest elements, Jonny Ive didn’t stick them on the outside for a reason, but they have the potential to truly change the world. The A11 chip is small enough to fit into an iPhone, but have the same power as those found in the current MacBook Pro 13 inch laptops. Miniaturizing this kind of power to the extent that it can fit in a phone is impressive, but this, combined with the neural network within the phone is what is truly revolutionary.
The vast majority of AI embedded within devices utilizes the cloud to function, which is limiting. Not only in terms of accessing the service when offline, but also in terms of needing to embed it only in technologies that have the potential for a constant connection. Whilst in phones there is certainly the potential for constant connection, the reality is that even in urban areas you will still find several dead zones every day, whether that’s if you’re underground or just in an area with so many people that there is insufficient bandwidth.
With this technology built into the phone, Apple have removed that issue completely, it means that Siri can work anywhere, facial recognition can take place anywhere your face is, but these are simply some phone-specific uses. If you can imagine this kind of technology within sensors or even smaller electronics, 10 years in the future we may be looking back at the iPhone X thinking how cumbersome and heavy it was compared to what’s available now. The development of this technology opens up a completely new theater of operations for a whole multitude of systems and ten years from now this technology may well have played a huge part in the development of emerging technologies.
For instance, at present IoT devices are stupid, acting as sensors that simply feed data back to a central unit which then communicates through a central unit to the cloud. This then utilizes AI to analyze and act on that data. This kind of technology has the potential to cut out several steps and act solely based on the information there, without the necessity to connect to the cloud. This step removal is the same with almost anything that requires a connection to access AI, which significantly increases data security as data isn’t transmitted outside of a closed network.
This has the potential to avoid the kind of attacks that we saw in October 2016 where millions of IoT devices were harnessed to commit DDOS attacks on Dyn, which took down some of the world’s largest websites. Without the need for a connection to an outside network, many of the devices hijacked for it would not need to be connected to the internet to function, and with no connection needed, there would be no way to hack them. One of the big issues for IoT devices is that they require wider connections to function, yet they have no computing power, meaning that protection against intruders is impossible. With Apple taking a huge leap forward in terms of computing power with this chip and AI capabilities, in the future as the prices drop and performance improves, the potential to include powerful security measures increases.
So although many see the iPhone X as a gimmick, and something that simply brings together elements that companies like Samsung have been doing for a while, the reality is that what you see is only a fraction of the leap forward. It is what you cannot see that will push smartphones and the wider technology landscape forward over the coming years.