Using applications and services to make it easier to do what we want is already happening. But services will need to be relevant and reliable to help us navigate through the mobile data clutter, says Qualcomm's Colm Healy
Some 25 years ago the world of mobile looked a lot different from today. Who could have predicted the industry's growth, the rise of the mobile operators, the change in OEM fortunes, SMS success, camera phones, billions of users, mobile games, 760 mobile operators, $900billion in revenues, Google, the iPhone, Facebook and all the rest?
The mobile is now much more than a phone; it is an everyday tool we use to share and access information and content wherever we are in the world, all the time. Phones are now not just about voice and text but are complex communication platforms unlocking a host of applications from entertainment, social networking, utilities, as well messaging and email.
We have seen the evolution of access to information. Firstly, the Web gave us access to data intelligence: information that we could analyse, make decisions with and, if needed, change our existing behaviour. Sites like Amazon are a good example of this: easy access to a huge catalogue of items and simple one-click purchasing that changed people's behaviour.
The second phase of the access revolution has been social connectivity, starting with email and culminating in services like Facebook. Services where people can maintain contact with many others at the same time are enabling shared intelligence and shared decision-making.
We are now about to enter the next phase of information access - what we call "Connected Intelligence". Imagine a world where applications on your phone will help you decide where to buy clothes that you are interested in, what restaurants your friends have recommended, and what interesting places to visit, and how to get there. Imagine holding up your phone in a busy high street of a strange city to find out the shops or restaurants you're looking for, or if anyone you know is in town.
When everything is connected, imagine going into your friend's home and being able to drag and drop pictures onto his monitor or TV, or a movie, or play your music via his music system. Imagine connected home appliances and energy meters that will provide information to help us plan our lives better and be more efficient. Imagine wirelessly connected on-body monitors that are connected to your phone, to update information to doctors or relatives, or help you with lifestyle choices. Imagine cars connected to avert accidents, manage traffic or advise you of a delay ahead and an alternative route.
The good news is that this future isn't too far away: using applications and services to make it simpler to do what we want is already happening. But in this connected future we will need to have access to relevant and reliable information that will help us navigate through all the clutter and make the best decisions for us. This is all about contextual relevance. What is important for me, right now, right here, in these specific circumstances.
In today's world the proliferation of apps and stores continues. Juniper Research's latest report claims that mobile app revenues will reach $32 billion by 2015. All consumers want access to these Internet services on their mobile, and they want services that are convenient and easy to find as part of a seamless mobile Internet experience. But current modes of discovery and usage are limiting the potential and usefulness of mobile apps as consumers struggle to make sense of this abundance of information.
Traditional methods such as search don't translate well to mobile. Most methods do not optimise content discovery, as they typically tend to showcase the latest or most popular apps to a general audience. Recent research by Qualcomm reveals that 80% of users noted they had difficulty obtaining content on their mobile handsets, meaning that they spent more time searching and less time enjoying it.
These statistics were supported by the Yankee Group, which said: "App stores are overwrought with too many redundant applications, lacklustre offerings and the inability to wade through a sea of applications". It is exactly this issue that is prohibiting the industry from reaching the potential revenue generation possibilities presented by the mobile Internet and mobile applications.
Mobile needs to evolve from a traditional search engine approach to one that is focused on the individual user. The mobile industry needs to provide not just the applications, but the most compelling and useful user experience.
Tier 1 service providers like Vodafone are already enabling people to discover, buy and share a range of digital content with friends and family. Vodafone 360 introduces consumers to previously unexplored areas, undiscovered services and content to deliver a compelling content proposition to their users. They have seen four times more purchases as a result of the discovery service. And 360 showcases up to a third of their catalogue in any given day, making the entire catalogue discoverable. With the right help, operators and developers can enable their customers to enjoy a better, richer mobile experience.
Service providers have a unique and significant capability to leverage their knowledge of their network. They have a close relationship with their customers and have great insight into each user's preferences. The rise of mobile data usage gives service providers the opportunity to focus on better understanding their users' needs and to offer relevant contextual experiences to each individual consumer. Delivering a "must have" service that is personalised and can offer relevant and useful recommendations will only increase loyalty and contentment among consumers.
Consumers don't have time to sift through content. We live in a time of convenience. When we know what we want, we want to find it easily and we want it immediately. Even when we're not sure what we're looking for we don't expect to take anymore than a few minutes searching for it.
As all things become connected, discovery and personalisation technology that helps people find the right information will be an essential element to how we interact with our world. Service providers will need to follow Vodafone's lead and help users navigate effectively through the ever deepening ocean of apps, and content, if they wish to succeed.
Colm Healy is VP of EMEA Services for Qualcomm Internet Services and General Manager of Xiam Technologies