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Smart thinking

FOR ABOUT the first 20 years of their existence, mobile phones were seen as just telephones with no wires. Traffic was dominated by voice, with text messaging and email seen as add-ons. But the smart mobile changed everything in less than six years, while the iPad has achieved far more in less than 18 months.

It is difficult to understate the importance of this change, but last month smartphones and iPads outsold PCs, while the embedded PC is being driven to extinction and Google is activating more than 550,000 Android units every day. There are now more mobiles than people on the planet, and about half are smart, so it is estimated that twice as many now browse the web on a mobile than on a PC.

This is all being driven by, and indeed is driving, web enrichment, with more than three billion videos being streamed every day, and an expectation that 90% of web traffic will be video within the next three or four years. Most importantly, mobile devices are now the terminals of choice.

And this is just the start. In Korea, the credit card is dead, wiped out by mobile transaction apps. In the US, 80% of people access the web to guide their consumer choices and purchases at the point of sale. This is now powering 6% of all purchases, a number that is predicted to grow to 20% by 2015.

So what of the general business scene? Will the transformational power being felt in retail be reflected across all businesses? It is hard to think of any sector that will escape the benefits of mobile smarts. For those who think it is merely a pocket PC, it is time to think again.

Being able to get online anywhere and access the web is not the entire story. Mobile smarts allow us to gather and process information, and then share it with others while on the move. In many organisations, all the data and experience is moving to the edge. This is particularly true of people engaged in delivery, installation, support and maintenance, not to mention healthcare and the blue light sector.

Just consider for a moment what your mobile knows about you and your habits. Once we get past your name, address, email and Twitter account, it gets very deep – and some even consider it dark.

Smartphones and tablets are capable of gathering information about our habits and behaviours on a scale that is unimaginable, and invisible, to most. These devices can detect if we are standing, sitting, walking, running, riding a bike or travelling in a car, what we bought, who we met, who we called and our proximity to other smartphones. And there is much more to come with the addition of a range of sensors to detect chemicals, temperature, radiation, light levels and more.

This all marks a fundamental change that affects scalability and reach. The old centralised multi-distributed sensor systems will not scale, nor will the centralisation of any data collection on a massive scale. However, a network of smartphones as sensors, storage and processors/decision makers not only scales, it is also very efficient, resilient and low cost.

What happens next? The inclusion of modest amounts of intelligent and adaptable software will expand the possibilities further. This is all a long way from those mobile phones of 30 years ago, and that revolution changed the way in which we worked and conducted business in ways no one had imagined.

All businesses rely on accurate and timely data, but few exploit today’s meta data relating to their customers and competition. This smart revolution is about to change all that, and the future winners will leverage this information opportunity to the full. My prognosis is there is more money in the meta data than the data, goods or services being traded. ?

 

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