Jonathan Spalter

As the nation works to maintain our technological leadership globally, one bright spot has been the major mobile innovations underway in Oregon — and across the country — that are improving our lives and transforming great ideas into whole new industries. By 2015, our mobile devices will be the primary way Americans connect to the Internet. That’s quite the sea-change given that the first iPhone launched a mere six years ago.

U.S. wireless networks have risen to the challenge of this surge in connectivity. And consumers have benefited from the modern-day equivalent of a Swiss Army knife on steroids — powerful, connected tools in the palms of our hands that help us navigate our lives from work to health care to personal finance and more.

Americans love mobile apps, but Oregonians have an especially good reason to love them. As a leader in the app economy, Oregonians not only benefit from the innovation in wireless devices, but also from the growing industry along the I-5 corridor stimulating economic development and job creation. Skyrocketing demand for apps is creating an unstoppable economic force enabled by smart devices and high-speed modern networks. In 2007, the app industry didn’t exist. Within nine months, one billion apps were downloaded. By the end of this year, two billion apps will be downloaded — every week.

Many Web-enabled apps go far beyond entertainment value. Telemedicine and mHealth have given people more choices and greater flexibility to assess and improve their personal health. Just imagine Hayward and Bowerman monitoring heart rates the same way Salazar can now with today’s Duck runners. Physicians, too, are turning to these powerful tools. In fact, 80 percent of U.S. doctors report using their smartphones in a professional capacity — with 60 percent doing so during patient visits, according to health care technology company Epocrates.

Young Oregon entrepreneurs are leading the way at innovation incubators. At a recent app development “hackathon” at Oregon State University, students built apps to help address day-to-day challenges in their campus lives — from time management, to creating sharable flashcards to determining if produce is ripe. These students are discovering the amazing potential for job opportunities in the mobile economy. Indeed, one student is paying off his college loans early with the revenue from his 32 apps.

Oregon is well-positioned as a leader in the fast-emerging mobile innovation economy. Maintaining this competitive edge must be a key objective. To do that, elected leaders at all levels of government must recognize that forward-looking leadership is a crucial force behind the growth in our tech sector and economy overall. That will require constructive rules that help advance a rapidly evolving mobile market driven, as it should be, by consumer demand and entrepreneurial know-how. It is through pro-innovation policies that Oregonians can continue to embrace the wireless Internet and all the benefits that it brings — from improved health care and education to local job creation and economic growth.

But it should remain our collective hope that mobile innovation’s greatest days lie yet ahead. By encouraging private sector investment in networks and deployment of the latest technologies, we can continue to enjoy advancing technology that opens up new possibilities and opportunities for us all.