There is no question that the recent emergence and rapid penetration of mobile computing devices has facilitated evolutionary leaps in innovation, including the provision of next-gen ITS solutions. However, a by-product of this rapid technology-shift has consequently included the emergence of multiple mobile operating systems (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows, etc), and multiple mobile hardware form factors (smartphones, tablets, personal navigation devices and cloud-based computers such as Google’s CR-48). The rapid shift to mobile computing has also included the emergence of new supporting client-based software applications (apps) that operate on the aforementioned operating systems and hardware devices. As a result, the quick emergence of the mobile computing platform has fragmented computing and the services reliant on today’s computing platforms. The following chart partially illustrates the issue.
As previously noted, mobile computing hardware has also splintered over the past few years. New hardware platforms such as smartphones and tablets, in addition to traditional (yet diminishing) computing platforms such as the desktop and laptop have implemented multiple computing ecosystems. In addition, the OS that operates these multiple platforms is also showing signs of additional fragmentation, as illustrated in the following chart.
The splintering of computing systems has caused a significant cost and complexity problem for solutions developers, as well as confusion on the end-users part, thus greatly hindering solutions-providers the ability to implement rapid deployment of transportation solutions that cover a majority of the consumer (traveler) and operator market. As is the case with most industries, fragmentation runs the risk of re-instituting significant barriers and system silos for transportation solutions. In addition, fragmentation is greatly enhancing the potential for security vulnerabilities.
We’ve Been Down This Road
The early days of computing was also fragmented, built from a number of operating systems and computing hardware platforms. Unix, DOS, Windows and Mac all provided OS to the infant computing industry. However, over time the industry consolidated most of the primary components, including operating systems and hardware, implementing a period of stability (calm) from around 1995 to 2005. During this period, Windows OS and PC-based hardware provided for most of all mainstream computing.
The question remains, will the re-fragmentation of computing have a long-term limiting affect on ITS? Natural attrition and business competition will provide some degree of defragmentation over the coming years, but to what degree remains to be seen. For example, should the Android OS continue to outpace iOS in growth rate, we could potentially see a quicker, more cohesive return to a defragmented computing model. In addition, the industry is beginning to show signs of coming together to develop some form of open standards that will aid in the unification of platforms.