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What is Mobile Computing?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Mobile computing embraces a host of portable technologies that makes Internet access on the go not only possible, but integral to every day life. From notebook computers to personal digital assistants (PDAs) like the Blackberry® and iPhone®, to standard cell phones, mobile computing has become an indispensable way of life.

Mobile laptop and notebook computers can use one of two types of wireless access services when away from the home or office. The most commonly used and least expensive is WiFi®. WiFi uses radio waves to broadcast an Internet signal from a wireless router to the immediate surrounding area. If the wireless network is not encrypted, anyone can jump on. WiFi is commonly used in public places to create “hotspots.”

The drawback to WiFi is that you must locate a hotspot, then stay put within broadcasting range to use it. An alternative to WiFi is cellular broadband. This type of mobile computing technology utilizes a cellular modem or AirCard® to connect to cell towers for Internet access. The AirCard fits into the PC Card or ExpressCard slot of a notebook or laptop, delivering Internet access on the go, literally. One needn’t remain stationary to use cellular broadband as the signal will remain strong everywhere there is cellular service.

Cellular broadband is also used for providing Internet access to cell phones and PDAs. Access is usually considered a premium service that either increases the monthly cost of the plan associated with the device, or incurs extra fees when used. In some cases, restricted Internet access is allowed for free when connecting to the carrier’s website to manage an account, for example, or to purchase products from the carrier such as custom ringers or wallpaper.

Another service associated with mobile computing is cloud computing, or the ability to use website services from mobile computers. Cloud computing provides access to a network-like environment with various applications and virtually unlimited resources so that field representatives, for instance, can utilize website resources rather than being supplied with weighty, expensive machines packed with company software and data. Mobile computing also provides access to a company’s virtual private network (VPN) by tunneling through the Internet. It’s nearly impossible to estimate the value of increased business productivity afforded by mobile computing.

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Discussion Comments

By istria — On Aug 06, 2010

@ GiraffeEars- I am a student at Arizona State University, and mobile computing programs expand our capabilities as students. Every student and faculty member has access to a personalized student website. Students can access this website from any computer or device with web capabilities.

The site also enables cloud computing, making collaborative projects much easier. You can actually see what a person is doing to a project on your own screen, and talk about it with that student through instant messaging, video messaging, or over the phone. Essentially, multiple students can access a file simultaneously. Students can even build their own website through a WYSIWYG web design tool. They can control who can edit information, and who can see the website. This is technology at its best.

By GiraffeEars — On Aug 06, 2010

Many of the newest smartphones can become portable wireless hotspots, utilizing the wireless carriers 3G or 4G networks to deliver internet service to nearby wifi devices. In a sense, they become the opposite of a wifi hotspot.

If you have an unlimited data plan, you will not need to pay hotels for expensive wireless internet access. You can collaborate on internet projects with classmates in a park. You can even stream live video to the internet from a camping trip or a trip to a festival like Bonaroo or Burning Man.

The possibilities are endless, but as of now, I don’t think people fully comprehend the impact of this mobile computing solution. People may see it as a novel idea, but for those who live their life connected to the web, creating a mobile hotspot is a big deal.

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