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.


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:


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.


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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  1. 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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  1. 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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  1. 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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  1. 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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  1. 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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  1. 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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  1. 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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  1. 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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crowdfunding: Sticknfind raises 1 million dollars via Indiegogo – #mwc13

This piece was originally written on behalf of the Orange Live Blog during a Press trip at Mobile World Congress 2013 last week

No, you aren’t dreaming! 1 million dollars were raised by Sticknfind by Jan 2013

No, you’re not deaming! The SticknFind startup raised closed to 1 million dollars on the Indiegogo crowdsourcing platform.

And The founders of SticknFind are no rookies either for they have been pioneers of Bluetooth products since 2003 and 2004 and they have been working for the automotive industry and have won many awards since then declared Jimmy Buchheim in his introduction yesterday. He and his teams have also developed the Blutracker project in the past can track various items within 2,500 ft range also funded through Indiegogo ($180,500 were raised for that project) as well as Meterplug, an intelligent plug which measures your real electricity consumption and displays the consumption in local currency (close to $128,000 on Indiegogo too). “This has been a very successful company” CEO and founder Jimmy Buchheim said. He started the new company in early December: “it wasn’t easy” he said, but he looked very pleased with the funding he got from the crowdfunding platform. Indeed, I know of few people who wouldn’t be happy with that!

Jimmy Buchheim, SticknFind CEO and founder shows the SticknFind tracker

why go through crowdfunding?

“The most obvious way, apparently, was to design our product, produce it and pitch it and then sell it to some industrialist, but this wasn’t easy for us to do. So we decided to go the crowdfunding way because the input from the users is sometimes more valuable than what you can get from a company” Buchheim said. He added “industrialists want to change the product to suit their needs and not that of their clients, and talking to VCs ends up with having too many cooks in the kitchen and this is how it starts to get bad!”

So, what is that innovation which users have found worth investing one million dollars into?

  • First and foremost, it’s about an “amazing tracking feature” to put it in the words of Buchheim’s: “a lot of Intellectual Property went into the tracking mechanism” he said. What it means is that it gives users the ability to measure very precisely where an object is located : “the resolution is amazing, the system is able to measure very short distances”,
  • Secondly, the find it feature which enables the sticker to send a notification if the paired object comes into range. Users get alerts on their phone if they leave the object behind them. You can place the sticker on a camera; on your car keys etc. and you can even measure the temperature of an object too (this would, for instance, tell you whether the object is outside or inside),
  • Thirdly, the easy zooming capability enables one to find keys in a 150ft (45 metres) range but SticknFind was able to extend that reach to 300ft (90 metres). Based on feedback from users, they produced prototypes with 3 different manufacturers. “It took us a lot of tuning” Buchheim added, “they are made of very small parts and it required extensive work but we eventually identified the right kind of plastic so as to find the right mix [i.e. neither too rigid or too rubbery] in order to increase the reach”.

SticknFind will start shipping next week. The company started production last month, that is to say early compared to their initial promise (end of March), and the device will be available from retailers in April. This is the first generation of trackers, Buchheim said, “we are creating a new market and it will trigger huge applications. People and companies are losing a lot of money with stuff they lose” he said. What of generation 2 then? “It will be even smaller”, Jimmy Buchheim promised,h “you could even have it on your toothbrush!” in said in jest.

“This is the true Internet of things” Buchheim declared. The price for 2 stickers is $49 and $89 for 4 and there will be packs of 10 available. The app will be free and available on Google Play and IOS and it will be working on the Blackberry Z10 too (April release). And the battery lasts for two years so won’t even need to change it that often. A free SDK will be released to developers. The SDK will also be made available for Mac OSx (by March) and Windows 8 (from April onwards).

There are many applications for SticknFind, including industrial applications such as the keeping of inventory (100 and even 1000 items can be working at the same time the SticknFind CEO said).

The system, because it uses Bluetooth 4.0, only works with newer phones (Iphone 4S or newer or Samsung Galaxy SIII etc.) but no additional accessory is required to make it work. “The only way to make the battery work for 2 years was to use the new generation of Bluetooth, otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted more than a few days” Buchheim declared. As for security, pairing is limited to devices when they are 1 m apart and “you have to tap it to activate it so that it’s safer”.

This technology is really innovation at its best, it fill in a requirement, is available right now, and is both simple and ground-breaking; no wonder they raised so much money from Indiegogo.

social media is like pinball wizardry Heineken social media head says

This was the second panel at the useful social media conference and it was devoted to customer interaction. This is the report for part 1 in the panel with Lennart Boorsma who works for Heineken (Global Brand Team). The moderator was Mike McGrail from the SocialPenguinBlog

Heineken presentation

It was entitled “igniting conversations” preferably over a beer, Lennart said as part of his introduction.  Heineken believe that it is  social since 1873! Beer is social by definition (as long as you don’t have too much of it though). The idea is to turn digital into a true marketing tool and Lennart sees “social as a means to create engagement and deepen connections with the audience”. Heineken mainly started its social activity 2 years ago with the merger of the most important facebook page and decided to “have more stuff in place” which meant Youtube, Twitter and a few others like Pinterest and Iinstagram. “Nobody is interested in the back-office tools for managing social media” Lennart added. “If you say you implemented a new CMS for Facebook no one is going to be thrilled”. Yet, without it, nothing is possible he said. Nowadays, social has to be embedded in the brief from the start Lennart Boorsma went on.

“Old media used to be like a bowling alley and now it’s like pinball” Lennart said. Your messages are changed and bounce around. Likewise, content has to change and has to be fun and tell a story. It’s theory but it is hard and it takes a lot of time and requires luck too! The goal is to generate more engagement and conversations about the brand. Today a TV commercial isn’t sufficient, one has to provide a real-life experience.

This is why Heineken launched their star player dual screen app to enable football fans to score points as they answer questions wile watching football matches on their TV. It was launched on April 26th and was hugely successful. Yet there are challenges such as latency in the distribution of TV programmes, namely over cable, DSL or satellite, for users must be given a fair chance to answer all the questions in a reasonable timeframe.

Lennart also showed us a new experience around an enhanced TV commercial whereby real customers could “serenade their dates” and it provided more experience than just a classic commercial. 8 hours worth of streaming were delivered, people from 160 countries played, and 4.3 billion hits were achieved. Lennart concluded by saying that they are only at the beginning and that the work is paying off nicely with over 7 million fans now, up from above 2 millions 2 years ago and “one of the fastest growing pages worldwide”. When asked about cost, Lennart added that “when you have a great shareable idea, you don’t need to spend a lot of money”. I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

#leweb12 – hoteltonight: “smartphones are where the market is going”

The Silicon entrepreneur explained that there are 2 main groups of hotel bookers. One is for people who have the time to book in advance, be it for business or leisure, whereas the other group is impulse bookers. These are the ones that Hoteltonight is catering for: “they are presented with last minute deals. Having an app in your pockets truly changes the way you think about hotels” Shank added.

[note: this is a guest post I did yesterday on behalf of the blog]

[Sam Shank, chain start-up entrepreneur and founder of Hoteltonight]

In the US there are a lot of chains but a lot less in the UK. “The ownership is very fragmented, and this is the bread and butter because people can choose and pick up new places that are nice” Shank said.

not just a High end service?

One could be tempted to think that this is a very exclusive service for the rich and wealthy, but Sam Shank disagrees strongly with that statement: “we want to be something for everyone. It goes from luxury hotels to more basic hotels and even business hotels” he said. The application delivers 3 deals from a selection of 20 hotels each night. Hotels are competing amongst themselves and “nothing can be predicted” Shank said. This emphasises the lastminute effect in so far as you can’t choose what hotel to stay in in advance.

the market?

Admittedly, there are “many vendors in the same space” and some are multi-million companies such as Expedia for instance. “The main way hoteltonight competes is from singular focus and mobile, content and merchandising, customer support and online marketing” Shank said. The start-up’s singular focus on mobile, and their advantage on competition is that they have no legacy systems. Most businessmen are using their smartphones on the move but “it is still a challenge when teaching people that they should use only mobiles” Shank added.

In essence, Hoteltonght is focussing only on last minute deals and mobiles are well suited for this. Besides, it’s a marketing channel for hotels because 90% of buyers have never stayed in the selected hotel before.

Shank’s third start-up

Hoteltonight is Sam’s third start-up: “all have been successful but I know that lack of focus is reason number one for failure” Sam Shank explained, and this is why they focus on smart phones, also because “this is where the market is going” he concluded.