A standalone system is something that can live "by its own". This is how I see the boundaries could be defined (of pieces of technology).
Let's see; a car? Is a car such a standalone system? In a way, it is. With its tens of thousands of patented and non-patented parts, you can drive a car for hundreds of kilometers before it requires anything. Usually what stops the going is lack of gasoline. Take a break at a gas station, and you can repeat such a journey again.
A computer requires electricity; both laptops, desktops, embedded systems, mobiles - all of these can be seen as computers of varying shapes and complexity, but what binds them together is the need for electricity. Electrons (the stream of which is electricity) flow in a computer in certain predictable patterns, so that the machine can very quickly do logical calculations.
What about the practical side of independence and standalone systems? What I dream about is a kind of semi-automated world, in which you would not have to constantly operate machines in order to achieve things. For example, if you want to be "independent", ie. not to be stopped by any barrier, you paradoxically usually have to carry technology with you: payment cards, keys, maps, notes, and so on. You have to memoize PIN codes, etc. It's quite a dreadful load on the brain.
I can only speak for Finnish culture. I have been a lot in Europe, one trip to Asia, and one into United states; but I guess basically all these societies are slowly going in the same paths, with different schedules. One country innovates something, and it spreads into other territories, too.
There's wide variety in peculiar things -- the things you'd never actually imagine could or should be done in different ways. For example, tickets and in general paying methodologies are implemented in culturally-bound ways. What is always both a little stress but also gives the curious mind pleasure, is to see how for example subway tickets look like; what kind of automation or manual work is involved with the gates; and so on.
Big cellular manufacturers are dreaming of liberating people from the excess "warez". Nokia for example wants to deliver mobile payment systems and virtual money. Do you remember the times before cameras found their way to phones? With cameras we don't necessarily have to carry an external camera, though the quality issue remains. There's always probably going to be a gap between mobile and real camera's picture quality.
One of those central pieces of new tech that I have been hunting for years is the Eyetap technology. You can take a more detailed look at it in here:
It is a mobile computer of sorts, but what is cool about it, is that it augments reality. It can fade away, alter, or enhance the scene that you are looking at. You can record voice or video (or both, ie. picture and sound) with the device, and check out information about places (Eyetap has network connection). Is it about cyborgism? You bet!
Looking forward to hearing more about it,