Recently I was asked to sit on a panel at the Vermont Business Expo called the 777 Series. This annual event features 7 experts who have only 7 minutes to share 7 valuable tips to the audience – thus, 777.
This year’s all-encompassing topic was Social Media. You can review the collection of slides from each panel speaker online here.
Social Media In The Air
It’s all the rage, I tell you … this Social Media thing and using your mobile devices to do it. Every single person in that room (90+) at the 777 Series event had a Smartphone and wanted to learn all about how they could use Social Media to reach out and engage with new and existing customers who also have Smartphones.
One panelist talked about how to use Twitter. Someone talked about tools like Yelp and FourSquare. Another talked about the legal aspects of Social Media and another addressed Cloud Computing and mobile. It was a good solid baseline on the Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media (Hint: check out the slide deck linked above for more).
Anyway, my role? To talk about the future of Mobility and the evolution of user behavior that first starts with Social Media on Smartphones and grows into something more.
The Future Of Mobility
In my presentation I spoke about how Social Media on Smartphones is slowly raising the curtain for consumer-facing businesses on what big enterprise-level companies have been doing for many years … using mobile devices (and now Smartphones) to consume and collect relevant data for their businesses. I then suggested that Social Media tricks to engage customers is just the tip of the iceberg.
Soon your tweets and blog posts will simply not be enough for your customers. Soon consumers will realize they can do more with their smartphones than just read tweets and access the web. They’ll want to, well, consume more and more of whatever you have using their Smartphones and do it in new and different ways that empower them. They will want to take stuff with them, order things – whatever – and do it in an increasingly OnDemand fashion. Soon Social Media will become an introduction to something more that you will have to offer to keep your customers coming back for more.
“OK great”, you say. ”But what does this have to do with this ‘Mobile Data Crunch’ thing you teased me with in the subject line??” I’ll tell you.
5 Year Predictions
Before I got into all that though, I presented three predictions recently made by various research analysts and industry experts that cautions businesses to move forward with Mobility very carefully. Those predictions are as follows:
- Mobile Internet Usage > Desktop Internet Usage within 5 years. This is backed by several trends showing the rate at which mobile internet access is ramping faster than desktop internet usage ever did. If you want to learn more about this prediction, you should check out April 2010 Internet Trends just put out by Morgan Stanley.
- Demand for mobile content > carrier capacity within 5 years. This is backed by studies made in December 2009 that showed data demand surpassed voice demand for the first time ever. This means people are using their Smartphones for consuming data over actually talking on it. If you want to learn more about this prediction and the facts behind it, you should check out this report by RYSAVY Research.
- Hybrid mobile apps > mobile web apps > standalone apps within 5 years. I personally made this prediction based on all the trends I’m seeing and reading about. Despite the huge push for HTML5 to support more robust mobile web apps based in The Cloud, people just won’t change. They will continue to adopt Smartphones out of the convenience they bring and they will continue to consume increasingly copious amounts of data despite their mobile carrier’s inability to support the demand. Thus I predict that we’re going to see more data pulled over WIFI and stored “On Device” / offline than accessing it immediately in the Cloud because mobile users are OnDemand users and they simply will hate to wait for anything.
The “Mobile Data Crunch”
All these predictions speak to what I’m now calling the “Mobile Data Crunch”. The what? The “Mobile Data Crunch”. Say it with me now … “Mobile” … “Data” … “Crunch”!
Yup, it’s coming I think. There is a perfect storm brewing in the Mobile World, and it is being brought on by the following trends:
- Increasing numbers of Smartphone users
- The need to consume more and more data on their Smartphones, and
- Phone carriers unable to provide reasonable bandwidth to support demand.
Basically, everything will take longer to get from “Point A” to “Point B” if all these things continue. OnDemand users will start to feel the “data crunch” as their smartphone user experience slowly worsens on carrier networks. Carriers will move to regulate the flow of data by charging for bandwidth in an effort to guarantee some level of reliability and performance.
Don’t believe me? AT&T just eliminated their unlimited data plans from their offerings.
What to do about it?
My prediction in #3 above is where I see it going. More and more OnDemand users will rely on their home WIFI networks or free hotspots to consume their data and communicate with the world at an increasingly faster pace. When not in these high-speed, wireless environments they’ll want to carry as much information as possible with them to remain productive. Even then, WIFI could be slow or unreliable in highly congested areas so OnDemand, OnDevice content will be critical to users remaining productive.
Software Developers of increasingly feature-rich mobile applications will also have to step up and get ridiculously smart about how the dispense and manage mobile data. Because consumers will want more of it at their finger tips, they’ll also have more to sift through and search. They’ll want to leverage pre-defined filters and context-driven rules to automatically present content that matters (and filter out the rest). Geo-location and other like tools will play a huge role in enabling these tools … but we’ll also have to code in some smarts to use them properly.
Don’t get me wrong.
Carrier Networks will still be vital to communicate and we’ll use them when appropriate. I know I will, but with more and more of them (like AT&T) switching their data plans to include a bandwidth meter, we’ll all just have to get a whole lot smarter (sooner than later) about how we use Mobility if we’re going to leverage our Smartphones and thrive amidst the ensuing “Mobile Data Crunch”.
I sure hope I’m missing something here, but right now I’m just not seeing it. Stay tuned!