Mobile technology has gone through three distinct periods-during which a single cost element has been the largest part of the price that enterprises pay for in mobile. For many years, the primary way businesses used mobile devices was voice communication. In the next wave, email & electronic messaging led. Executives found a significant business advantage in being able to be in touch when they were out of the office. As smartphones become the standard for businesses, data has increasingly become the primary cost driver.
In 2014 and the years to come, these data costs will be supplanted, just as voice & messaging were. Mobile industry strategist Chetan Sharma tells us that SaaS & enterprise business apps will take a growing share of companies’ mobile business budget. This “fourth wave” of mobile will be centered around providing differentiated service offerings to consumers, making it quite distinct from the previous eras of mobile business.
The previous three waves have had significant commonalities which will not be shared by the fourth. Currently, voice, messaging & data are all one-size-fits-all services. While different businesses might require varying levels of data or voice service, the underlying functions remain unchanged. The fourth wave, however, is composed of a myriad of solutions. From scalable data solutions to the creation of a mobile workforce, these new services will radically alter how business is done.
iBeacon & Bluetooth LE Bring the Internet of Things to the Masses
The Internet of Things, long predicted by analysts to reshape the way we interact with the world, has so far proven underwhelming. The vision of smart homes, appliances & even clothing which intelligently communicate with us has failed to become a reality. Consumers failed to adopt the technology which was supposed to lead this revolution, NFC & RFID chips. They failed because they aren’t built into current smartphones and are built upon proprietary technology.
Yet, when it seemed that the Internet of Things was a failed experiment, Apple breathed new life into it with the addition of iBeacon in iOS7. iBeacon arrives with exciting capabilities when combined with Bluetooth Low Energy (LE). It allows apps to pinpoint the location of a phone to within several inches. This technology lasts through a phone’s life because Bluetooth LE allows for the placement of smart sensors which can last for up to a year.
The two technologies combined have the potential to radically reshape the way we interact with the physical world. Imagine a grocery store that can intelligently lead you aisle by aisle with a digital grocery store app. That’s just one of the many possibilities provided by Bluetooth LE.
BYOD Continues to Challenge Companies
Increasingly, employees expect to use their own personal phones, laptops & tablets for professional purposes. This expectation forces employers to decide on a comprehensive Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. On the plus side, BYOD allows employees to work with devices that they are comfortable with & knowledgeable about, increasing employee productivity & motivation.
However, BYOD brings about a unique series of challenges that must be considered. Security is one of the most significant challenges organizations face. When an employee stores company data on her laptop, there are increased opportunities for the device to become lost or stolen. If either scenario happens, the company could face serious security issues. This weakness in BYOD policy is why sensitive business information needs an additional level of security as well as a standard security policy for all employees.
Big Data is Big Business
Spending on big data has risen tremendously over the previous few years. 2014 will be no different. In 2014, the amount spent on big data & business intelligence will rise to $14 billion-a 30% year-over-year rise. Over the past decade, exponential gains in storage space have meant that businesses are being constantly flooded by a deluge of data. The minimal amount of data stored by businesses with 1000+ employees is over 150 terabytes. This data comes in many different forms – from social media chatter about the company to data collected by intelligent sensors in stores. This number will only continue to balloon as the next generation of mobile devices increasingly allows consumers to collect ever more data.
For smaller companies, finding actionable business insights from all of this data might seem impossible. Yet, with 64% of organizations planning to invest in big data, can your company afford to be left behind? After all, businesses that invest in big data report an average of 6% higher profits than companies which don’t. Love it or hate it, big data is the new normal of business.
Mobile payments continue to rise
For years, tech analysts predicted that phones would replace the need to carry cash since all payments could occur digitally. Yet due to a number of factors, this hasn’t yet happened. 2014 could be the year when mobile money finally goes mainstream. There is a significant business opportunity in becoming the company that controls the paperless money market.
Although Google Wallet initially struggled, it has steadily increased its user count and the ways in which you can “fill” the Wallet. At the same time other, more niche mobile app payment systems are poised to make an impact on the mobile scene. Venmo allows users to easily process peer to peer transactions – imagine splitting the check for a dinner on your smartphone instead of having to deal with cash.
Interestingly, the most significant avenue for mobile payments probably lies in the developing world. Phone penetration is nearing 80% in Africa. While only a small portion of these are smartphones, the number is rapidly growing. As many economists have noted, lack of access to financial institutions is one of the driving factors continuing the cycle of poverty in the developing world.
Many companies are searching for the solution to this challenge. In 2007, Vodafone affiliate M-PESA released a mobile payment & banking solution designed for Kenya’s poor. It allows users to make mobile payments, transfer money & buy phone time. Today, the service is used by as much as 40% of Kenya’s population. Solutions such as this will not only be instrumental in raising the economic conditions in the developing world, but also in creating opportunity for new businesses.
2014 promises to be a huge year in mobile business. Several breakthroughs that have been on the cusp for years will begin to gain mass market adoption. Meanwhile, even newer developments will begin to reveal the path that mobile business will follow in the coming years. Those that adapt for these trends will find immense financial rewards. Those that ignore them could lead a business into struggle.
What do you think the top developments in mobile will be in 2014? How will your company use it to build your business?