Because all of the world’s data—Google’s search database, your email, news stories, traffic information—is mostly stored in Internet datacenters, it can be connected in new ways. Connecting maps with traffic information gives you driving time estimates. Connecting maps, street photos, restaurant reviews, and Web search lets you ask questions like “Show me a map of all restaurants in zipcode 10019 that have at least an overall Zagat rating of 20.” It seems like magic, but it’s really just the clever combination of many different information sources. Companies like Google that gather (crawl) and organize (index) these information sources make the task of combining them that much easier.
The popularity of “WiFi” (wireless networks), and the ability of the cell phone network to carry Internet traffic, means that every communication device is now an Internet device. Even the simplest cell phones can usually receive email, and sophisticated ones like the iPhone do much more.
Adam Greenfield does a nice job of describing this phenomenon for a nontechnical audience in his book Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing.