I define mobile and embedded technology loosely, meaning the emerging class of software and hardware devices designed to be used by the everyday person without much instruction. The smartphone is a good example. Thus defined, these technologies must be (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Jobs) insanely easy-to-use, self-teaching (that is, no manual), compelling, and above all, an enhancement to the traveler’s experience.

While I write for the non-technical reader, below are some techie terms I use that deserve some clarification:

User ~ the person who uses the computing system.

User Interface ~ Or “UI”, probably the most important part of the mobile computing paradigm, as it is the part of the system the user deals with, with its knobs and buttons and other control mechanisms. A dashboard is the UI of a car. In my opinion, UI design is best done not by techno-geeks, as is too often the case, but by human factors designers who have a thorough understanding of of how humans behave (also called “human factors”).

M2M ~ “Machine to Machine” or the UI interface between a two embedded computers. M2M typically refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same ability.

Embedded ~ computers that are stuffed away and hidden in everyday systems, like elevators and car engines. When done well, embedded computing becomes ubiquitous computing, which is when the technology fades into the background of our lives.

User Experience ~ a person’s emotions about using a particular product, system or service, highlighting the experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership

Mobile Computing ~ a computer you carry with you as a consumer appliance, like a smartphone, but not a laptop. Tablets and wearable computers (e.g. Dick Tracy style wristwatches) are also considered mobile. Sometimes mobile computing is not mobile, as when an iPad is fixed on top of a kiosk stand and becomes…immobile…but using the same enabling software and UI techniques.

Telematics ~ the integrated use of telecommunication and information technology for vehicles. I usually use this term to mean any computer that is embedded into the dashboard of a vehicle. Telematics apps are most widely used for providing services such as real-time navigation, roadside assistance, vehicle tracking and more recently ~ vehicle insurance.