Gartner’s Vision Of The Future Of Mobility; Should Users Be Afraid?

The opening session I attended this morning at the Gartner symposium was entitled “by 2017 your smartphone will be smarter than you”. The speakers were Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi from Gartner and the moderator was Charles Arthur from the Guardian. As a matter-of-fact, the discussion ended up being far more interesting than the title suggested. The panel started to review the future of Smartphones and wearable devices and connected it very well to the issues of data privacy and user benefit, which are central to the use of big data.

Carolina Milanesi introduced the subject by saying that “smartness is achieved through sensors and also geolocation. Yet, “we are not there yet” according to her, and mostly if “people don’t want to share their location information, smartness may not even happen”. I think she exposed the issue very well by emphasising the fact that innovation related to Smartphones will not just be a matter of technology, but of user acceptance and benefits.

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Gartner’s Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi today in Barcelona

There are, according to those 2 Gartner analysts, 4 phases of what they call “cognizant computing”. “We have caught glimpses of each of these phases at the moment depending on the vendors and the services, but we are nowhere near complete smartness” Milanesi added. She and Reynolds went on describing these four phases:

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Gartner’s four phases of “cognizant computing”

  1. “sync me”: this is the most obvious phase, the one which most of the Computing giants have achieved; it is composed of storage and the syncing of personal data,
  2. the “see me” phase: this is all about our digital footprint. “This phase is still not very intelligent, and not many companies are taking advantage of this” the Gartner analysts said,
  3. the “know me” phase: this is about understanding who the user is, what he likes and what he does through the data he stored; so that he can be presented with offers and messages which are relevant to him,
  4. “be me” phase: this is where services are acting on the user’s behalf based on learned or explicit data.

Yet, looking at how many companies do this show that there is still room for improvement:

  • the “sync me” and “see me” phases are pretty common and are mastered by most high-tech giants like Evernote, Google, Apple, Amazon etc and Facebook of course,
  • the “know me” and “be me” phases are more restricted at the moment to mostly Google and also Apple. “Google now” is a good example of that, mostly on Smartphones: it is able to suggest ideas, for instance a restaurant which is relevant to your tastes, when you might actually need one and one is available in the vicinity. Apple’s Siri is a bit different. “It looks smart but is not” said Gartner’s Milanesi. When Carolina’s daughter spoke to Siri and said: “Siri, I don’t like you” he responded “now, now”; that’s because it was cleverly programmed but it doesn’t mean that it’s smart at all, Milanesi said.

clip_image006So all in all, we are several years away from smartness, Martin Reynolds explained. “Smartness will happen when your phone is able to ring 30 minutes earlier because there is to be heavy traffic and you have a meeting with your boss” he added. Yet, “if the meeting is not with your boss but just with a colleague, then the system should be able to send an email to say that you are going to be late”. That’s an example of how smart and predictive a service can be. I must admit that some of the stuff that I see from Google on my Galaxy S4 smartphone (the service is called Google cards) at the moment is already very close to this as Google is able to propose quite a few things (sights, public transport, stocks, birthdays, all based on social data…) already without me asking for anything (see screen grab).

Only a limited number of companies have that ability

Only a limited number of companies have the capacity that Google has gathered over the years in order to store and compute all this data. Others are following now said the Gartner analysts. Microsoft is on Google’s heels with an amazing catch up in terms of how many servers they are investing in at the moment, Reynolds said. Apple, and even Amazon too, but to smaller degree, they said.

But the real question is “how does this innovation affect regular businesses”?

“Some of these ideas will be disrupting traditional businesses” Martin Reynolds said. Through a combination of mass storage and Twitter feeds (Martin thinks that companies which don’t have a proper kept Twitter feed will soon be at a disadvantage) you will be able to reach a proper strategy which will project your company in the future.

What will change by 2017?

Carolina demonstrated a Plantronics prototype headset which is “a lot smarter than existing headsets” insofar as it knows what its user is looking at. Applications for that innovation could be found in video conferencing, but also in the user shopping experience, live navigation in Google Street view (as demonstrated live to us this morning), and even insurance applications for bikers and hikers, for instance, who would be able to record road accidents even before they happen.

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Gartner’s Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi

Powerful motion sensors

“There are also new motion sensors which make it possible for online services to know exactly what it where you are going and at what speed” Martin Reynolds added. “You will be able to record all your movements” he said. “Companies like Google and Apple, and even possibly carriers, will be able to map out where people go; even your house will be tracked” said Martin, and you will be able to see where you, but also your guests, are actually sitting and moving about in your house.

Avoid crossing the “creepy line” (Eric Schmidt)

Where is the boundary between storing a lot of personal information for statistical purposes in order to bring value to the user and prying into personal data in order to be able to track what people do? That is the real question. A lot of that issue boils down to who actually does the tracking in fact, and how much trust the user is putting in them. Governments definitely seem to be out of that game (at least if I believe the responses from the audience to Gartner’s questions), but also possibly carriers (for the same reasons). Strangely enough, companies like Google, and to a lesser extent Facebook, were perceived as less intrusive by the audience because “they bring more value to the user” according to Gartner. So the “creepy line” is less about the usage of personal data as it is about the value that the service brings in the users’ eyes.

As a Conclusion, what will be the future made of?

“The unlocking of all the data that is being stored at the moment will always take place” according to Reynolds, but the real question is “whether this is being done with the objective of bringing value to the user or third-party”.

According to the Gartner analysts in the panel today, value will also move away from the handsets and therefore we will witness a shift in prices and a lot of pressure on the manufacturers in the next three years. Even then, it’s difficult for us to see that happening in the very near future, given the recent demise of Blackberry and Nokia which left a very significant market share to Samsung and concentrated the market in a few hands. Also, “Consumers are starting to get more interested in the ecosystem and applications than the hardware itself”, Reynolds added. A sign of this being Apple’s decision to give away its software for free (as they did with “Pages” and other apps on iOS recently).

So what will be the future made of in 2017? And how smart will our Smartphones be? Certainly, more wearable devices will be available out there. And Smartphones will probably not get much smarter than they are at the moment as intelligence is bound to shift into the software and the ability to do predictive things using the data that users have provides… that is to say as long as they agree with that!

A pictorial guide to my Business portable Samsung Galaxy S4 office

mobile-large_thumb.gifAs I am preparing for the Gartner symposium in Barcelona, due to take place on November 11 – 14, having been kindly invited by Samsung to join a team of bloggers, it seemed only natural that I would write up a little story about how I am using my brand-new Samsung Galaxy S4 as a portable office. I have not yet studied all the possibilities, and my device hasn’t been fully customised either, but I have already set up a number of applications and spotted a great number of things to my liking. Let me share them with you here in a few pictures:

1. first and foremost, I have sorted out all my apps by category. Just below my Google screen (the android search feature is very useful I find) I have put a number of utilities, namely related to multimedia functions which I use rather often. Page number 2 shows a number of my most used applications including email, cloud storage spaces, maps, Kindle, Evernote and a few newspapers including the Independent and flip board. other pages are devoted to utilities and personal stuff. I haven’t had time to install my many online banking apps yet, but I can add as many as I wish on the large screen.

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2. Evernote premium is probably one on my favourite applications. I am using it across all my devices. I have 242 living notes in my notebooks at the moment, but many more have been deleted in order to unclutter the space on my desktop. Evernote is one of these applications you cannot put down once you’ve tried them. I use it to update my posts on the go, after they have been processed through voice recognition and stored in that application for editing.

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3. One of the nifty business applications I have found on Google play and installed on my Samsung Galaxy S4 is the camcard business card reader which scans any business card, or almost any business card, and turcs it into a proper virtual card for for your Exchange contacts list.

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4. as a business professional, I spend my time reading and reading and reading and reading. And I’m not just reading novels. I buy my books from Amazon and store them on my Kindle application on my S4. It’s very convenient because the screen is large and very comfortable so that reading is plain and easy on this new device. I love it and keep reading all the time. By the way, for those interested in innovation, I definitely recommend Edmund Phelps’s mass flourishing opus.

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5. as a digital professional, I spend a lot of my time in blogs and writing pieces in WordPress. The WordPress android application makes it easy for small corrections and editing to be implemented. It’s quite convenient to be able to update your blog on the fly. Here I’m showing my own personal blog, but of course I do this for business most of the time and manage quite a few of them.

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6. the Samsung S planner is the standard calendar application for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and I find it very convenient. For one, you are able to mix different calendars which is very good because I have 2 of them (one on Google calendar, for personal events, and one on Exchange for business events. It is important for me to keep things separate). The tabs on the right-hand side make it easy for you to access different views including tasks.

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7. the Samsung S memo application is something I discovered quite recently. As long as you have a screen-friendly soft stylus, you will be able to add handwritten information into your Samsung Galaxy S4 in order to keep that information at the ready. It’s very convenient and you don’t need to type on a quirky software keyboard. After all, handwriting is probably the most advanced technologies of all!

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8. working with pictures as far as I’m concerned is not just a hobby. It’s part of my job. One of the things that I first noticed on my new galaxy S4 is the fact that my Picassa albums as well as photos from the camera and screenshots etc. were all put together into the gallery application. For even more convenience, I have selected the option which backups all pictures to dropbox on the go. As a matter of fact, as soon as I get back to my desktop, I can download all the pictures taken from my phone into whatever blog post of document in which I wish to include those pictures.

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9. Last but not least, the ability to read attachments directly, be they office documents or PDF files like this one, is a very useful business helper.

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As a conclusion, there are very few things nowadays that you can’t do without a mobile phone like the new Galaxy S4. I’m not even mentioning NFC payments or security features. Imagination is the limit. Combined with cloud computing and Software as a Service, we are moving closer and closer, every minute, to Mark Weiser’s ubiquitous computing dream.

As a conclusion, there are very few things nowadays that you can’t do without a mobile phone. I’m not even mentioning payments or security passwords. Imagination is the limit. . Combined with cloud computing and software as a service, we are moving closer and closer, every minute, to Mark Weiser’s stream of ubiquitous computing.

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These Norwegians Who BOOST Mobile Advertising – #mwc13

innovationOn my third day at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I stopped by the Boost communications booth in order to have a chat with some of the world’s trailblazers and innovators in the mobile marketing market. It’s true that mobile advertising is the next big thing, but not much has happened yet by way of innovation in that area. All we are given to see is plain banners which divert people’s attention and takes them away from the page once they have clicked on them. Yet, new models are possible, and tools are being built by the likes of Boost, a Norwegian company now expanding on the UK market. Here is the report of my encounter with one of the company’s founders, Øystein Skiri (photo).

Oystein R. Skiri, CEO and co-founder of Boost Communications

mobile marketing since … 2000!

Boost communications was founded 13 years ago and the 2 co-founders started working on mobiles from day one, which was very visionary. Their idea was that “[they] could use them for more than just making calls”. They pioneered early solutions like SMS and MMS messages as soon as 1999. This is a period I can remember very well for I was in that industry too at the time. Today, “the world has evolved towards the landscape of paid, earned and owned media but a lot of the principles which were laid out in those days and are still valid”, Øystein Skiri, one of the two founders, declared. “One can actually increase the rate of advertising and direct marketing through the use of pertinent information, permission marketing” and, to put it plainly, the respect of users. This is typically what the founders of Boots Communications started to experiment at the end of the 1990s.

As Øystein Skiri showed me in the picture below, the company started very early on with the idea that customers had to give their consent about what kind of information they wished to receive, how often, and how pertinent this information had to be with regard to their needs.

Permission Marketing, the 2001 way

[permission marketing pioneers – Skiri points at a 2001 permission marketing form for direct marketing; Seth Godin will appreciate]

push marketing is never going to disappear

Yet, even with more respect, “push marketing is never going to disappear” to put it in the words of the founder of Boost Communications. Marketing has to evolve, and mostly on the mobile where click-through rates are very low because of the extensive use of disruptive mobile banners. “Mobile consumption has evolved” Skiri added. “Now that all are using smartphones and tablets, and we can now do display adverts, rich media and video advertising. The problem is that when we are using banners, the user who clicks on it will leave the current page so we had to create a device within the banner which is not going to divert attention.”

This is particularly the area in which Boost Communications has been innovating by creating new display banners that look different. “Display banners don’t quite work at the moment. Mobile advertising needs to be taken to a level higher through the understanding and interpretation of reading context, location and the understanding of previous user behaviour” Øystein Skiri said.

I have been able to see 3 kinds of innovation in the field of mobile display which I found particularly interesting:

  • first and foremost, a new kind of banner which revolves around itself; through this “flipping advertising”, Skiri said that click-through-rates can be enhanced 7 times. Obviously, the real banner can be smaller than the one displayed on this particular demonstration screen

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[mobile banners that flip click-through rates 7 times!]

  • The two other examples are interactive banners in which the user is not leaving the screen but is actually interacting within the banner itself either for a scratch game or even to shoot a penalty kit on the screen. Even though I wasn’t given numbers of how much click rates are improved with that kind of banners, one can easily imagine that users stay there for hours playing on the banner rather than leaving the page.

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[in-banner scratch game on mobile keeps users interested]

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[in-banner penalty kick game on mobile – this time it’s a goal!]

Boost communications is also responsible for the madmaker application, a self-service panel for producing banners and landing pages, mostly aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. The application can be used as is or delivered as a white label service. Publishers and agencies love that feature and end-customers in the B2B arena can also use the software directly. This technology is very straightforward and easy to set up; it is producing mobile land pages in the responsive design standard which are available on all kinds of screens. A partnership with the Google ad network will be provided in the short term Skiri added.

Madmaker.com (alpha V2) interface

[madmaker screenshot: tools on the left-hand side, preview in the middle, settings on the right]

Boost communications employs 55 people and is based in Oslo, Trondheim, London, Dubai and Johannesburg. It was founded through the Norway VC scene and received funding of 25 million Norwegian Kröner last year. Its objective now is to grow interest in new projects and new geographies on very fast-growing markets.

Barcelona, World’s mobile capital city for 4 days – #mwc13

This post was written as part of a blogger trip I organised for the Live Orange Blog. Connect to the blog for the latest on that event!

On February 24th, 2013, we paid a visit to the Grand Fira which is the brand new venue for the MWC conference in Barcelona. Everything here is brand new and even though they built dummy columns at the entrance to remind visitors of the old place it is certainly lacking the lustre of the old romantic buildings at the end of the old Fira convention centre, situated in Plaza de Espanya.

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[Polishing the signs while speakers are polishing their pitches]

Nonetheless, the new venue is – as the name goes – even bigger, and we can expect a lot to happen by way of innovation on the stands. The promise is that a new horizon for telecommunications is ahead of us. One, mostly, where NFC will be playing a role since the three letter acronym is absolutely ubiquitous. The press is even asked to check in through NFC gates exclusively and I was quite disappointed that I hadn’t taken the time to renew my phone and buy a brand new Galaxy SIII for instance.

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[nothing is shown at MWC on the eve of the event. All is quiet… not for long!]

Talking about Samsung, we were greeted by a small stand of theirs at the exit of the Fira metro station. This is probably a sign that they are going to show big things this year. On the other hand, so far, we haven’t seen any signs of Android being at the forefront, but it’s not clear as the venue is always decorated at the last minute to avoid leaks. Last year was definitely an Android year. Does it mean that Google – I heard that rumoured yesterday – would toy with the idea of renaming its mobile OS by using its main brand (as they did with Google Play which replaced the former Android Market)? Or does it mean that new big guys, like the Mozilla foundation for instance, are sticking their guns this year. A new OS in the mobile environment is a possibility. Time will tell, I am all set for the press conference on new mobile Operating systems as well as the much expected Zte announcement. Stay tuned to the live Orange blog!

mobility in retail industry: main security challenges and prospects

This is an original guest post by Roger Hockaday (picture below and bio at the end of this piece), Aruba Networks. Aruba’s Atmosphere Corporate blog is dedicated to mobile devices. Aruba Networks is a leading provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise (disclosure: Aruba Networks is also a North American customer of my company, Orange)

Risk and Reward: Tablets and Smartphones in Secure Retail

The introduction of smartphones and tablets into the retail environment brings great rewards to the forward looking retailers. They present a disruptive technology and provide an opportunity to innovate both front-of-store and back-of-store operations, yet they also introduce new security risks if their adoption is not properly developed.

The iPad, Android tablets (large and small) and iPod Touches or smartphones are altering the retail experience around the world. Retailers are the midst of a point-of-sale (PoS) transformation from terminals to smartphones and tablets. In fact, many retailers have started embracing them as best practice and, according to a recent poll (Aruba Networks 2012 Retail Survey), 56% of retailers plan to use iPads for Point of Sale in the next two years.

[source: the Aruba networks 2012 retail survey full results at http://bit.ly/arubaretail]

Sales executives in car showrooms use tablets to engage better with prospective customers, remaining by the car to access colour charts, model specification and instantly check stock levels without having to return to their desk. One well known US department store identified the challenge of walk-away customers in the shoe department as sales associates went to bring stock to the customers. The retailer justified the costs associated with the use of tablets by sales assistants simply to prevent customer walk-away as the assistant could now check stock levels, order shoes to be brought onto the sales floor, or offer alternates should the first choice item be unavailable, all while remaining with the customer.

To enable the use of tablets and smartphones in retail it is of course necessary to deploy in-store wireless (more than 50% of retailers surveyed intend this) but this requires a significant overhaul of the legacy networks first put into stores just to facilitate back-office functions such as stock-checking.

The last few years have already seen wireless networks extend onto the sales floor to support Point-of-Sale (hence the need to meet Payment Card Industry standards to protect cardholder and authentication data), but it is a more challenging proposition to support tablets for sales assistants, and even more to offer hotspot services to shoppers (as planned by 37% of retailers by the end of 2014).

In-store wireless enables a new set of mobile applications to allow retailers to engage even further with customers; applications that can push information to customer smartphones and iPads as they walk in the door enabling them to download rich content when and where they want. Combined with store associates empowered to access stock data and process transactions with tablets, it all adds up to an outstanding customer experience.

The challenge is how to manage this expansion of devices, users and applications on the retail network.

Front-of-store wireless requires pervasive coverage (there’s no secret to making a wireless network that works; good coverage combined with proven RF management tools and a management platform that provides real time visibility into the coverage, device location and application performance). The ‘secret sauce’ for retailers is the choice of platform used to manage the discovery of devices on the network, the provisioning of large numbers of devices and users without overwhelming the IT department, the ability deliver guest access with advertising, and delivery of context-based / role based connectivity.

[souce: ibid.]

While the cardholder associations of PCI (PCI standing for Payment Card Industry, with companies such as AMEX, VISA and MasterCard) require different levels of compliance based on transaction volumes, the use of Wi-Fi in an organisation brings a layer of requirements that the retailer must comply with.

Role-based access (as required in PCI DSS) can be as simple as separating employees from customers (or guests). However, in order to provide a more flexible infrastructure it is more logical to create roles based not just on the person (employee, manager, customer), but also the device (iPad, smartphone, handheld scanner), the location (retail outlet, hotspot, corporate office), and application (PoS, database, Internet access). This more holistic approach – one that understands the context in which the network is being used will ultimately provide a more flexible and efficient wireless network than one that simply separates employees from customers.

Security, capacity and flexibility will become the watch-words of the next generation in-store networks. Security to comply with the needs of PCI DSS, capacity to meet the needs of employees and customers using tablets and smartphones, and flexibility to cope with the new applications and rapid changes needed to work in a competitive environment. Tomorrow’s retail network will be very different to yesterdays.

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about the author

Roger Hockaday is Director of Marketing, Aruba Networks, EMEA. A former executive of Alcatel, Infoblox and Packeteer he is currently responsible for developing end user opportunities and channels to market in the secure government communications sector across EMEA for Aruba Networks.