Tag Archives: User Experience

Network As A Service: A Carrier’s Differentiator

I briefly interrupt my slumber to highlight an announcement from yesterday.

Over the years our attention has shifted away from the carriers/operators.  We only remember them to complain about them or to comment on AT & T’s iPhone exclusivity.   Shiny devices from iPhone to Nexus One to RIM’s devices have made our eyes sparkle.   In some respects you may have even discounted or written off the carriers.  But they are doing things behind the scenes… things that will impact the way you and I interact with our devices and with people across networks.  Exciting stuff so they can finally shed the dumb pipe moniker.

If you’re a developer opportunities are already out there to be leveraged in this space.  Be ahead of the curve and not behind it.

This is yesterday’s announcement as retold by TechCrunch Europe:

Aepona, the Belfast-based developer of a software engine that powers the “Network as a Service” (NaaS) business model for mobile operators, has just raised a $10M round, led by new investor BlackBerry Partners Fund, a Toronto-based global fund focused on applications, services and supporting infrastructure for mobile platforms.

Existing investors Amadeus Capital PartnersPolaris VenturesInnovacomNordic Venture Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures also participated in the round.

The company provides the software engine that powers the “Network as a Service” (NaaS) business model for mobile operators allowing them to monetise assets and functionality within their networks – such as billing, location, messaging and voice communications – to open up new revenue opportunities.

Aepona, whose revenues grew 50% year-on-year from 2008 to 2009 with positive EBITDA, will use the new round to accelerate growth, and invest in additional sales and business development.

Below are portion of the Press Release from Aepona’s website:

Aepona is a market leader in the NaaS marketplace through its deployments with more than 20 Tier One mobile operators around the world, together with its pioneering work on the GSM Association’s OneAPI initiative and the launch of the Canadian OneAPI commercial service, which is at the forefront of the Mobile Cloud Computing market.

Commenting on its decision to invest in Aepona, Marc Faucher, Partner at BlackBerry Partners Fund said, “Aepona’s proposition is constructively aligned with the strategic goals of mobile operators, and the company is ideally positioned to capitalize on the major trends that are shaping the future of the mobile industry.”

Among these key trends are:
· Mobile operators looking for ways to re-assert themselves in the applications value chain to address increasing competition from web-based service providers.

· The proliferation of high-end smartphones enabling a new generation of applications and services that combine advanced device functionality with core mobile network functionality, creating significant additional value for the end-user compared with the device-only applications that are prevalent today.

· The arrival of Cloud Computing into the mobile domain meaning that application providers can now quickly and easily access mobile network capabilities across multiple operators. This reduces market fragmentation and is vital for driving mass adoption of applications on a global scale.

“Aepona’s solution directly addresses these trends, and it’s for this reason that BlackBerry Partners Funds believes the company is poised for significant growth. We look forward to working with Aepona, and providing insight and support that will help the company realise its full potential in the mobile eco-system,” continues Faucher.

“We are delighted to welcome BlackBerry Partners Fund on board as a new investor in Aepona,” said Al Snyder, CEO of Aepona. “The Fund shares our vision for the future of the mobile industry – one in which mobile operators can adopt a two-sided business model, delivering differentiated, network-enabled applications through their retail channels as well as directly monetizing their network and billing assets to open up new wholesale revenue opportunities from the Mobile Cloud. We especially look forward to leveraging the relationships that BlackBerry Partners Fund shares with the handset and application developer communities, to develop new propositions that combine the unique capabilities of the mobile device with the power of the mobile network.”

All this to say what?

Keep an eye on it… others are.   If I get a chance I will try and write more about this (and if you are interested).

Mobile Strategy for Small Business: It’s About Local Convenience

Small businesses are an under served market in mobility. We constantly hear about the importance of small businesses to our economies, yet today few would argue that this sector is properly served and serviced from a mobility standpoint. Of course, carriers have plans but many times they simply rebrand a family plan as a small business plan and push it out. The effort to sell to the smallest of small businesses is often not worth the return to some of the larger players. This is all improving and will continue to do so as the cloud and open source makes business models that cater to the smallest firms much more attractive and manageable. As a small business owner you may already be seeing some improvement and your mobile strategy is starting to take shape.

Or maybe as a small business owner you still feel ignored and you don’t know what to do with this mobility thing. My humble guess would be that the vast majority of small business owners are not thinking or even remotely contemplating a mobile strategy. There are many different angles to take on the topic of small business and mobility, but for today and for now let’s just focus on one part of it: as a small business would you benefit from a mobile application?

Small Business and Mobile Applications

The simple answer, and I am sure many would agree with this, is no. The time and effort required to design, build, distribute, market and maintain a mobile application is not what you are in business for. A few may try to sell the idea of a mobile application to you but you will be hard pressed to make a case for it.

Without a mobile app you are seemingly left without mobile options. The thought of not being present when the need arises in your customers (when mobile) may worry you. In fact it may even terrify you. This is where search in general and local search in particular become your best option.

A Case for Local Search

Human geographers will tell you that everything happens in space; a particular point in space. All human interactions happen somewhere. For you as a small business owner your work, your clients and customers are mostly local. This is why local search is your friend, why competition in this space will heat up and why existing players with key advantages stand to benefit the most.

It is about convenience … local convenience!
It is the middle of January and you and your family are returning from Costa Rica where you just had a wonderful eco-tourism vacation. You are happy to hear that you just missed some of the coldest weather in years… unfortunately you walk into a freezing cold house due to a broken down furnace.

What do you do?

  1. Blame the kids?
  2. Boot up your computer in the basement?
  3. Go back to Costa Rica?
  4. Take out your smartphone?

If you answered ‘take out your smartphone‘ you answered the way I did.  The other option of digging through night tables and recycling boxes to find a telephone directory doesn’t even enter my mind for this scenario.  Your phone is right there with you.

Now what would you do?

  • Browse to your favourite search engine?
  • Then search for ‘emergency furnace services Toronto
  • Click on the first few options?
  • Click on an ad?

Or would you instead…

  • Open up a local search application
  • Search for ‘emergency furnace services Toronto?
  • Click on ‘closest to your home‘ option
  • Look at the first few (perhaps check a video)
  • Pick one and call them immediately!

We spend our money and buy a majority of our services locally. Our context is local!  We may research products on the web from around the world… but when it comes to actually purchasing them we do a lot of that locally.

As a small business owner seeking presence in the minds and wallets of mobile consumers you want to be there when the moment of need arises.  Lots to think about. We will try and come back to this topic over the next few weeks.

Here are some other things to consider…
How social can a local search app be?
What about product availability and inventory?
Menu and prices?
So what other things could be leveraged on top of a local search application?
In your opinion is local search the best option for small business?

Friday Ramblings: Electronic Health Records, Microsoft Courier and Hospital Operations

The majority of you have seen this… but to me it is well-worth having it posted here mostly because of the enormous potential this could have. It is the type of thing that makes you sit back and wonder what it could become… (I am talking about the Microsoft Courier – video below).

Yesterday I shared this video with two of my colleagues on my current assignment. Both have been Hospital IT Directors and one is also a Nurse and Clinical Informatics expert. Both of them tried at one time or another to bring mobile technology into their large hospitals with varying degrees of success. What do you think their reaction was? They were both awe struck. In fact I would say they were even a little bit giddy about it. They began to think and talk about the potential (and especially liked the fact that it folds, is smaller than a laptop and has a touchscreen). Of course they started asking questions about whether or not it had RFID capabilities and about its ruggedness. Had I not stopped the conversation I guarantee you they would have asked me (as every nurse does when I speak of mobile technology) if it could withstand being dropped into the various and sundry fluids found in hospitals. I have only seen the video … so I don’t know the answer to those questions or if it would be part of their roadmap.

But watching the video does makes you think. And dream.

It is good to think and it is good to dream.

As we move forward with the implementation and adoption of a province wide (Ontario) electronic health record this device does show some promise. Perhaps it could help adoption for the smaller practices scattered throughout the jurisdiction (numbers vary but the number I hear often is that we have over +12,000 healthcare providers in Ontario). It is certainly portable enough for physicians to carry… But how helpful would it be for hospital based nurses who typically need both hands to do their job properly?

Those of you involved in healthcare know it is never a straightforward endeavor. No two implementations are ever alike; can you imagine tens of thousands? Several of my previous roles took me deep into the hallways, operating rooms, kitchens and sub sub-basements of hospitals across North America where I learned one thing – it is never easy and no two hospitals are alike… and even if you thought they were alike – you never ever say that to anyone in a hospital (or in healthcare for that matter). In fact I would say that in some cases it was easier for me to implement large cutbacks in non-clinical services than it was to actually implement a new technology. Of course it was also difficult to suggest a mobile strategy offering from a device manufacturer perspective since hospitals are typically looking for a device agnostic vendor with whom they have the confidence that all options will be presented.

Truly, only time will tell what comes of the Microsoft Courier. However it is good to see that they still want to be in the game. Without much further ado…

FYI – This post also marks my decision to discontinue the healthcare and technology blog over at Virtuate. Instead that blog will focus more on the change management, process transformation and training in healthcare and in hospitals. In addition to that I will post anything related to mobile health over on this blog.

Collection of tiny mobile apps for your iPhone (or my Personalized Enterprise Gateway)

New to me … but probably old to you (remember I don’t use an iPhone in everyday life).  It took me back to some of the projects I have worked on before and the ever present need of providing relevant information to our mobile users/workers.

So today I bumped into Leaflets

Leaflets are small, mobile web-based applications you access from Safari on your iPhone or iPod Touch. And since Leaflets are designed to run fast over EDGE networks, you can use them anywhere: no wi-fi or 3G required.

The seeds for Leaflets were planted when we learned that the mobile web would be the primary way to deliver applications to iPhone. We knew what kind of apps we wanted on our own iPhones, so we built those. Then we found a few that other folks had built. Then we put them all together at getleaflets.com. From photos to feeds, Leaflets puts the best iPhone apps at your fingertips.

Interesting little concept which may already be outdated (for these purposes) because of what the iPhone/App Store combo can already do on its own.   Although their blog does state that…

The primary goal of Leaflets is to provide relevant public and personal information in the mobile context. This project is meant to upgrade the core product to version 2.0, bringing it up to date with modern convention.

This gives the impression they may still be working on it.  However, it looks unlikely since the last blog post is from January 19 of this year.

More to why I find it interesting.  Leaflet to me is a simple concept: a gateway to the mobile web.  Someone does the initial filtering work for me thus saving me time and effort.   I know what you are thinking… as a consumer you want the choice and you want to be the one that navigates, researches and ultimately chooses what you want on your device.   Absolutely… as a consumer more freedom and more choice to you!  You have spent your hard earned money and helped stimulate the economy with your spending.  You should choose your own applications.

But just for fun let’s turn our sites on the enterprise.  Let’s not talk about you as an individual but you as an individual in an enteerprise (or other large organization).

I am sure something already exists out there but I would like to see this gateway (actually more like my personalized enterprise dashboard) provide me with quick access to what I need for my job and for managing my device.  These of course will already be pre-approved apps or links (behind the icons) which have gone through all the necessary enterprise rigour necessary to get them through your doors (security, c0mpliance, blah, blah).

Thus providing mobile users with quick, safe and approved access to ‘corporate, public and personal information in their mobile context.’

Somethings to provide your users:

  • Self-management options through an internal portal (web or on device).
    • Submit and review tickets
    • Report problems
    • Provide suggestions
    • Change passwords
    • Live chat with your enterprise service desk
    • Request approval for new applications
    • Load new applications
  • Work related applications
    • Whatever is needed for your role… SFA, FSA, etc
  • Administrative related applications
    • Time and expenses
    • Flight requests and approvals
  • Collaboration and productivity applications
    • Email, contacts and calendaring
    • Instant Messaging
    • Other interesting Enterprise 2.0 apps
  • Reference and knowledge based applications
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • What else?

There is a lot of integration speak out there… but we haven’t made it so for our valuable resources – our mobile workers.

iPhone and Enterprise Mobility

This post is not meant to be a thorough analysis of the iPhone in the enterprise.  I am sure that much has been written on that from both friends and foes of the iPhone.  Instead we would like you to comment on why the release of the iPhone has been good (and still is) for enterprise mobility… and perhaps start a conversation.

Enterprises are not throwing BlackBerry out the window and replacing with iPhones as much as we are lead to believe.  Despite the impressive numbers posted by Apple last quarter, it would be irresponsible in an enterprise environment to tear and replace BlackBerry because of the overwhelming consumer response.  Plus it would probably be in violation of whatever policies are in place.

We can all agree that BlackBerry has served the enterprise very well over the years.  A secure and dependent platform can not be torn apart on a whim or a fad.  The BlackBerry solution is enterprise grade and has been so for quite a while.  But don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe iPhone is a whim or a fad; however, cautious IT departments should be treating it like one until it is a proven enterprise-grade solution.

A few brainstorming points about the iPhone and enterprise mobility:

The End User is King! Long live the End User!
We sometimes forget about the one critical component in enterprise mobility; the one thing that allows the enterprise to be out there and extend itself beyond its four walls.  No not technology … more important than that … the mobile employee; the end user. You and me.  Although mobility is about the device at the same time it is more about something else… someone else!  As Oliver Starr stated well over two years ago:

It isn’t what the phone does, so much as what is being done with the phone that has lead us to Mobile 2.0.

It is not what the iPhone has done… but what it allows us to do that is so groundbreaking both for the consumer as well as for the enterprise.

We All Win!
The iPhone has all the competitors pushing harder towards improvements in usability and functionality of the devices.  Everyone wins in such a scenario; the end user, the enterprise and the mobile industry.  You know what… who really cares whether or not RIM started developing their touchscreen device before Apple or as a response to iPhone?  At the end what matters is that we have more choice today… a few more examples:

  • The iPhone app store has over 8,000 applications.  Unheard of 3 years ago.  No other ecosystem built around a mobile platform even comes close to that number.
  • RIM has announced an app store of their own… who cares if it was as a response to Apple.  The main beneficiary will be the end user and developers.
  • Developers are being stretched and money is being thrown at them to develop applications for all of us… including the enterprise.
  • Choice is good… We are not complaining.

Again … it is not what the iPhone is as much as what it has pushed the industry to be.

Value and Experience
We will talk much more about this in the upcoming Financial Services and Mobility series.  But suffice it to say that with the iPhone many folks will finally recognize the strong correlation between the value that mobility brings to the enterprise and the experience of the end user.  These two things (value and experience) are not opposed to each other.

Security and Efficiency are the iPhone’s main competitors in the Enterprise
The iPhone’s main competitor in the enterprise is not BlackBerry and it is not Windows Mobile.  The iPhone hasn’t broken in because the iPhone is not ready.  Its main obstacle is not another platform but its own.  The techie in the bowels of the enterprise tasked with managing the deployment does not yet have the tools to manage the iPhone in the enterprise securely, affordably and efficiently…. (please correct me if I am wrong).

Truly it is just a matter of time before the iPhone becomes universally accepted as an enterprise grade solution.  I am sure there are many smart people working on that and it will be so.  Which platform wins when this happens I believe is still up for grabs… But what we can say for certain is that enterprise mobility will be much farther ahead than what it was before the iPhone arrived on the scene and that it will be for the better!

What do you think?

Content On Its Way

I am launching this site both for fun and for interest… after working in the mobile technology space for the last three years I don’t want to lose some of the knowledge that I picked up along the way.  It is actually quite interesting that my view of the mobile world grew exponentially since I left one of the large Smartphone manufacturers and began to do independent research both for personal reasons and for clients.  There are a lot of brilliant writers/designers/thinkers/commentators out there that I was not exposed to until recently and which I will write about as the days go by and time allows. There is even another Jose writing about mobility …  😉 Some of the articles that I am thinking of writing over the next few weeks (or having others pitch in and write as well) are the following:

  • Defining Mobile 2.0 – There is a lot of excellent material out there on Mobile 2.0 so I am not attempting to rewrite what is already out there.  Hopefully by putting together a compilation of what has already been written I myself can get my head around the concepts and in turn disseminate them.
  • Value vs. Experience – As users we are in search of both value and experience around the use of mobile technologies.   We need positive returns to our investments (these go far beyond money) to consider ourselves winners and we seek positive experiences to keep us engaged and coming back for more.   This topic has implications both on the individual but should also impact the buying decisions and mobile strategies of businesses.
  • Has the iPhone changed the mobile landscape? – Whether we want to admit it or not the iPhone has changed the mobile landscape.  It has allowed everyone to bring into the present many dreams and visions previously reserved for a mobile future (by everyone I mean device manufacturers, telecoms, small businesses, enterprises, IT managers and individual end users) to think (dare I say dream).  I am saying this not as an Apple junkie but as a regular mobile observer.
  • Why its the right time for business to consumer mobile applications? – Almost like a perfect storm, there has been an incredible convergence of factors that make this prime time to build and deploy business to consumer mobile applications.  I sure hope that by the time I sit down to write this specific post the time will not have passed… 😉
  • Mobility and Trust: Increasing Organizational Value – The study of trust and its relationship to the creation of prosperity in societies has intrigued thinkers for quite a long time.  Some of these same principles apply to organizations and when these are institutionalized and become part of the corporate culture everyone wins.  Mobile workers will especially benefit from a high trust organization.
  • Monitoring Your Mobile Workers: How Much Is Too Much? – This can be a sensitive topic but I find it an interesting one (hopefully others will too).  There are different schools of thought on managing, monitoring and following up on workers in general … and mobile workers are even more challenging.
  • Reducing Support Costs by Profiling Mobile Users – This one should almost be a no brainer.  However as I have done research on this topic in the past I have found little material publicly available, so if we can further the conversation here and help others by drafting something if a strawman then I think we will have provided something.

I can think of even more topics but hate to list them all here and not come through for you at the end… especially since you are undefined and I am not even sure if you will every show up.  If you happen to read this and have comments and opinions and what to write or what not to write please let me know below.  I would like to hear what you have to say and what you think might be missing out there.