Telematics Update's Jan Stojaspal reports from The Open Mobile Summit London 2014 on the bigger picture of mobile disruption.
Presentations on day two of The Open Mobile Summit London 2014 continued to highlight just how indiscriminating mobile has become in its impact on everything from home heating systems and vast new shopping centers to TV entertainment, cars and even how surgeons are being taught.
Tom Guy, product & commercial director at British Gas Connected Homes, opened the day with a presentation on how his company embraced the lean start-up philosophy to get its Hive Active Heating, a smart thermostat, off the ground. “It’s quite a simple story but not one that you often hear about within a big corporate,” he said.
That story began with the realization that the mobile-enabled customer is expecting a “huge amount more from us,” Guy said. “They are interacting with us in completely different ways than they were five years ago, their expectations are much higher, and problems need to be solved much quicker. And many, many times those problems are communicated out in the social world so everyone knows that someone is having a problem because it’s probably … on Facebook or Twitter.”
It followed that a completely separate business unit, set up in London and with the freedom to explore the market, take risks and make mistakes, was needed. Connected Homes was set up and last fall launched Hive, a smart control system for at-home heating and hot water. And the process – Hive already has around 80,000 installations around the United Kingdom – has been a revelation in more than one way, Guy said.
First of all, Connected Homes realized that customers want to retain control rather than rely on Hive to make choices for them. Hence, when Connected Homes recently introduced a geo-location feature, which knows if a person is leaving his house or returning home, it stuck with prompts for heating adjustments rather than automating the process.
Another surprise was the fact that, through Hive, heating went from a low-interest category to a high-engagement product, with more than half of the customer base using the Hive smartphone app every other day, Guy said.
Through working closely with customers, Connected Homes also realized the importance of simplicity and beauty of the product. “What we found with Hive is you’ve got to build a product that is absolutely simple … and you’ve got to absolutely delight the customer,” he said. “We also believe that designing a product that is beautiful, that we believe is beautiful, is absolutely key to customers.”
Finally, data protection emerged as an important consideration with the conclusion that whatever customer data is used, it has to be helpful to the customer. “You won’t see us using the data to sell more products,” Guy said.
(For more on connected homes, see Smart homes connect to Europe’s power grid, part I and Smart homes connect to Europe’s power grid, part II.)
Physical retail and mobile
Bringing mobile to Westfield Group, a 54-year-old Australian company with a portfolio of 87 shopping centers in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, also has its challenges, said Kevin McKenzie, the group’s chief digital officer during a discussion that followed the Hive presentation.
“I’ll be honest, what we are doing is new, we are working with a very successful, more traditional company that is driven by building physical buildings, which is different than building digital products,” McKenzie said. “And I think, in the past, anything digital or mobile was thought of as marketing, and I don’t look at it that way. I think digital is an essential layer that you have to add to just about anything you are offering to the consumer. And so that’s where the struggle’s been. Why do we need this? What part of the budget does this go into? But thanks to our CEO personally driving this, we have come a long way.”
In many ways, mobile-enabled physical shopping will follow online trends in terms of customization and personalization, McKenzie said. “I think the consumer is going to continue to tell us more about what they want when they are in the presence of a physical retail [outlet], and it’s going to become more customized as part of the experience in the future,” he said. “Just like we enter a website and that website welcomes us, I think the exact same thing is going to happen in physical. They are going to know who we are, what we want, and possibly even have things prepared for us before we get there.”
He singled out the iBeacon indoor positioning system from Apple as holding particular promise for advancing this trend. But the industry needs to figure out what customers really want before it starts bombarding them with in-store, location-aware offers. “The one [application] that is the most interesting and exciting is preferential treatment … whether it’s first-in-line or a welcome from a greeter,” he said. “The second one is probably around offers. The issue with offers is you don’t want to give men coupons for bras. … First we have to inject personalization in there.”
The future of TV
A mid-morning panel on the future of TV turned up an unexpected statistic. Contrary to the hype surrounding mobile video, television viewing on mobile in the United Kingdom remains miniscule, with mere 1.5% (3.5 minutes a day) of all television viewing taking place on devices other regular TV sets, according to Lindsey Clay, chief executive at Thinkbox. “People want to watch television on the biggest and best screen possible,” said fellow panelist Jon Block, controller of commercial digital products at ITV.
Still, mobile is a “fantastic opportunity for TV,” Clay said, particularly when used for chatting about TV, discovering new content, playing along or making actual purchases from TV. For advertisers, there are also opportunities for tying in sponsored mobile content, such as games, with popular shows. However, only certain types of shows are suitable for such tie-ins. “Entertainment is just made for the second screen,” Clay said, and other panelist agreed.
For example, Domino’s sponsored ITV’s X Factor app, and 1.55 million people in the United Kingdom downloaded it during the last season, according to Block. Sports is also an opportunity, but drama a lot less so because people want to concentrate on the plot, as opposed to going to their mobile device to look up the back story, Block said.
(For more on this, see Mobile disruption of broadcast TV: Picking the right fight, part I.)
The shapelessness of things to come
Next up was Mark Rolston, founder and chief creative at argodesign, and former chief creative officer for frog design, an iconic Palo Alto design firm and an Apple collaborator from the beginning. And he looked far into the future of how mobile can enhance everyday lives.
To start with, he took issue with the current design of portable devices. “We do a ton of baby-sitting now,” he said. “We spend a great deal of time keeping them running, keeping track of them, keeping them synced. … That’s a massive design driver and should be for you, because if you look at the current phenomenon, it’s a temporary thing.”
According to him, people will soon begin to demand computing that fits their lives in more graceful ways. One way he imagined this would be done is through technology, such as pico projectors, that annotates the real world with contextual information, rather than having to pull out a portable device to search for the information.
Moving onto wearables, he said he did not think of them as primary products bringing services to their wearer but rather as solutions “bringing my body to the Internet.” The example he gave was Disney’s MagicBand, a colorful, radio-equipped wristband that can be used to enter theme and water parks at Disney World, to pay for food and merchandise, or to unlock one’s Disney Resort hotel room.
But it can also do magic for children, he added, explaining that his daughter wearing MagicBand can, for example, walk up to Mickey Mouse, and he can call her by her name and say happy birthday if it’s her birthday. “That is a moment of magic that delights her, creates a closeness, creates a situation that otherwise can’t happen,” he said.
Rolston concluded his presentation by considering how instead of installing a smart sensor for every “dumb” switch in his house, one would use a centralized computing device to enable the entire room. According to him, this device could, for example, be a smart light bulb using computer sight to watch for activity in the room, to identify objects and to assign them other functions, such as those of a light switch.
As a video demonstrated, the picture of a light switch can then act as the real thing, and ordinary objects, such as a plastic Coca-Cola bottle, can double as a volume knob. “We think instead of making each one of these things with little computers, one computer can help a lot of dumb things in our world become smart,” he said. “We think it’s a hell of a lot cheaper and it’s a hell of a lot magical, which is one of the design objectives, I think, in creating the Internet of Things.”
(For more on mobile devices, see Wearables, ubiquity and the future of the smartphone, part I, and Wearables, ubiquity and the future of the smartphone, part II.)
An early afternoon discussion of mobile enterprise, featuring Marius C. Mueller, SVP & regional managing director Europe at BlackBerry, and Phil Barnett, VP global accounts sales at Good Technology, showed that mobile continued to transform this sector as well, but there was no clear direction forward other than that companies will continue to enable mobile workers in an effort to improve productivity and cut down on costs.
Is the future of mobile enterprise with BYOD (bring your own device) or COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled)? There was no clear agreement. Similarly, will the traditional enterprise model be replaced by the Cloud model? Again, hard to say, and the best strategy appears to be to prepare for both scenarios, as BlackBerry has been doing.
“We will face a lot of hybrid environments going forward,” Mueller said. “Part of it goes to the Cloud, part of it stays on the back end. I think, quite frankly, that’s what it will always be. I don’t think that large corporations will eventually put everything into the Cloud, maybe their personal private Clouds but not to a public Cloud.”
Four presentations later, Jesus Rodriguez, co-founder and CEO of KidoZen, an enterprise mobile platform vendor, provided a more definitive picture of the future to come in mobile enterprise. He predicted a significant consolidation of the much-fragmented and, by now, broadly commoditized ecosystem, and he also predicted the emergence what he called the third-generation mobile platform – the first two being primarily concerned with mobile device management and mobile enterprise application platforms.
According to him, the third-generation platform will be characterized by an end-to-end mobile experience, being Cloud-friendly but “not Cloud-dependent,” being front-end platform agnostic, scalability, developer- and open source-friendliness, and a capacity for handling a range of smart devices.
He then went on to highlight more than a dozen emerging trends in the area, including mobile device management becoming part of the mobile operating system (Samsung, Microsoft and Google are already providing device management capabilities at the OS level), mobile-first business applications becoming a stand-alone category as opposed to being an extension of solutions like an SAS platform, enterprise mobile backend as a service, mobile app wrapping, mobile app performance monitoring and mobile data virtualization.
Ultimately, he predicted a world beyond task-specific apps. “Today, we use an app for everything, so every time your salespeople in the field want to do something different, you build a different app for that capability,” he said. “Imagine you could do something like Google Now for business, something that the platform is doing work for you and collecting information for you and making your life easier without having to build apps for everything.”
Smarpthone and the connected car
A presentation called “The connected car – a vital component of the connected lifestyle” by Peter Virk, head of connected technologies and apps, Jaguar Land Rover, highlighted the role of the smartphone in transforming the connected car experience.
Virk showcased InControl Apps, Jaguar Land Rover’s new smartphone integration platform that makes smartphone content, apps and personalization available in the car without compromising the look and feel of the smartphone experience. “What we achieved is a world first,” he said. “We are the first OEM to have a full-screen display that’s transmitted from an iOS or Android device over standard USB. But, most importantly, the app that’s projected from the smartphone has the look and feel from the third-party app vendor.”
According him, too many OEMs have taken “an OEM view of what should third-party apps look like.” But that is not what consumers want. “If they want the Stitcher app, they want the look and feel of the Stitcher app,” he said. InControl Apps launched in January with close to a dozen apps, including iHeart Radio, Glympse, CitySeeker and Parkopedia, and will be available throughout the Jaguar Land Rover brands this year.
But relying on the smartphone has another advantage: it can bring instant personalization to the vehicle. “You don’t give your smartphone to other people,” Virk said. “With your car, you might share it. I share my car with my wife, and if she gets into the vehicle, she starts changing the setting in the radio presets to a choice that I don’t like.”
Using the smartphone for personalization solves this problem. “What we don’t want to do is lock in those settings in the vehicle,” Virk said. “By bringing the smartphone in, we’ll have that personalized experience, so it will be my favorite music, it will be that last thing I did on the sofa, and as I got into the car, I just carried on seamlessly.”
One of the final presentations of day two was on what mobile devices can do to address a looming shortage of surgeons in the developed world. It turns out a lot, according to Andrew Chow, co-founder of Touch Surgery, a surgical simulation platform built specifically for mobile, which teaches doctors how to perform surgery through animated presentations.
According to Chow, post-graduate training of surgeons takes eight years and is extremely expensive. Also, the process of training is stuck in the past.
All of this, according to Chow, will add up to a shortage of 46,000 surgeons forecasted by 2020. “A huge part of why there is such a problem really comes down to the way that surgeons are trained,” he said. “Surgery is still an apprenticeship, it’s very much stuck in the Dark Ages, so the way we learn surgery today is the same way that we learnt 40 or 50 years ago.” He described the current way of learning as “see one, do one, teach one.”
With Touch Surgery now allowing surgeons to rehearse their operations away from the hectic environment of their operating theaters, Chow expects the way of learning to begin to evolve towards modernity.
(For our coverage of the first day of the conference, see Open Mobile Summit London 2014: Day One.)
Jan Stojaspal is the executive editor at Open Mobile Media and Telematics Update.
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