Blog Archives

There might be hope, after all


BlackBerry Messenger

BlackBerry Messenger

BlackBerry will not give up. Even though their latest generation of SmartPhones is not really taking off, the Canadian firm is still trying to find avenues to stay afloat. There was a first move opening BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to other platforms, followed by the latest announcement of a pilot to allow monetary transactions over BBM. There might still be hope for the Canadian manufacturer, by focusing in monetising what once made them strong: Their level of security, and giving up what they are not really catching up with: Mobile Devices.

There are certain markets where BlackBerry remains strong, and where BBM enjoys a greater market share than WhatsApp (India, Indonesia and Canada amongst a few others). Seems logical to capitalise on their success in these core markets as well as the dominant position of BBM as the messaging app of choice.

Indonesia, once known as BlackBerry country, still accounts for more than 15 million users, and is the market of choice to launch their latest proposal, one that could definitely help increase the loyalty of Indonesians to the brand, but not sure whether it would be enough to attract new users to the platform. Named BlackBerry Money, the app allows BlackBerry users to link a bank account to their BBM identity, allowing to send money to other BBM users. In essence, a stored value account gets associated to the users BBM identity, where money can be used to make payments to friends and merchants. It can also be used to buy airtime from the user’s carrier and to send money back to their bank account upon receiving payments.

Fragmented market

There are quite a few mobile person to person payment solutions available, but the market is quite fragmented, with no proposition really having the critical mass required to become the de facto mobile payments standard. Barclays is one of the market players, with Pingit seeing quite a success in the United Kingdom. For BlackBerry Money to have a chance, it would need to be made available to all platforms where BBM is available. Only this way could it have the critical size to become the mobile payment platform of choice for consumers.money

Processing the payment

One of the key aspects when monetising mobile payments is the payment processor. Google still looks shy with Wallet whilst Apple is yet to make a move. Both companies have an enormous amount of Customer credit cards on file, and would probably be tempting for them to materialise payments by using credit card issuers, although this might be a gross misinterpretation and they might have bigger plans in the making to eat the credit card issuers cake. In the meantime, BlackBerry is teaming up with local banks and going towards a stored value model which gives them a certain degree of freedom on processing and eventually establishing (and receiving) the fees.

Quite an interesting move from the Canadian manufacturer, and one that could mean there might be hope, after all.

 

Crowdsolving and MH370


Tomnod

Tomnod – enabling the crowd search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 – Picture courtesy of Tomnod

It’s been 9 painful days since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 vanished from secondary radar on the early morning of Saturday the 8th of March en-route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. As sad as the story and mystery of the whereabouts is, a beautiful use of Technology, Digital and Social Media has come on the spotlight in the hunt of the plane. The idea is simply brilliant. Thousands of detailed, freshly captured satellite images are made available to the public, allowing the crowd to collaborate in the humongous task of combing thousands of square miles of ocean in the search for any trace of the missing plane. The imagery is provided by DigitalGlobe, who owns and operates the network of satellites that constantly capture the images, with Tomnod being their crowdsourcing arm.

The mechanics are simple, and brilliant. Just browse to Tomnod’s website and join the cause. Tomnod will assign you tiles of the map where the search area is being focused, allowing you to tag different types of objects as you find them. With a simple and incredibly intuitive user interface, you can be collaborating to the cause in a matter of seconds

Whilst in this particular case the plane is yet to be found, this has been successful in the past in finding a missing light plane in Idaho, helping response and humanitarian aid teams prioritize they activities in the aftermath of devastating super typhoon Haiyan or mapping the damage of a deadly tornado in Oklahoma.

Tomnod has helped resolve real problems in recent times.

Tomnod has helped resolve real problems in recent times – picture courtesy of Tomnod.

It just comes to demonstrate how Technology can help solve real world complex problems, by organizing and coordinating a massive collaboration effort across the globe. Beautiful idea, hope it is as successful this time as it was in the past. You can help, spread the word!.

Let the sunshine in


A beautiful application of technology it is to use it to bring sunlight to a place naturally deprived from it.

The Rjukan Mirror Project

The Rjukan Mirror Project – photo courtesy of The World’s Best Ever

With a peculiar orography, Rjukan small town west of Oslo, Norway is surrounded by mountains that prevent sunlight from reaching its almost 3500 inhabitants between September and March each year. A pioneering project is installing three computerized mirrors that will direct sunlight to the town’s market square.

Powered by solar and wind energy, the heliostat mirrors are controlled by a computer program following the sun movements to provide an illuminated ellipse-shaped area of 600 square metres.

A century in the making

The town was established in the beginning of the 20th century around the industrial settlements of the Norsk Hydro Company exploiting the waterfalls in the area for power generation. The importance of sunlight was identified as early as 1913, when Sam Eyde, founder of Norsk Hydro, envisioned the idea of a mirror to direct sunlight to the settlement in the valley.

A century later, the vision has become a reality thanks to the application of modern technology. A beautiful and environmentally friendly application of modern technology to deliver the sun to those deprived of it.

Corporate Crusade


First Crusade

Adhemar de Monteil carrying the Holy Lance in the First Crusade

It is becoming increasingly clear that Apple is executing a serious, calculated strategy to conquer the corporate space, traditionally dominated by Microsoft in the desktop/laptop space and BlackBerry in Mobile. It all started back in June when iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks were presented. Silently, they both introduced several features that clearly target the introduction of their devices in the corporate environment, where security policies and device manageability play a crucial role in determining which technology is used in the workplace.

In fact, the enterprise market is the only one where Macs are really increasing their footprint, reportedly at a yearly 20% uplift. Serious numbers for an industry -desktop computing- not living its best days.

Looks quite timely that OS X Mavericks includes several new features that make very good sense in a policy controlled environment, just to name a few:

Security enhancements to VPN connections used for remotely accessing resources in the corporate network, better ways of managing and controlling FileVault 2, the hard drive encryption facility in Mac OS X as well the possibility to use Apple TV for presentations onto screens and projectors.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/enterprises-will-love-mac-mavericks-2013-10#ixzz2iVxQHbff

Whilst OS X is not new in the corporate scene, iOS seemed to be lagging when compared to its desktop counterpart. This, together with BlackBerry’s lately decline, will surely boost the adoption rate of iPhone as the corporate mobility solution.

The list of features is extensive but can be summarised in the ability to embrace both personal and corporate use in a single device in a totally seamless way for the user. Details about them can be found in this article about the iOS 7 Event for Corporations that never happened.

Enterprise space

Enterprise space

And just when we thought these were strong arguments in the Corporate Crusade, the 22nd October event surprised us by giving out both the Operating System

and iWork (Apple’s equivalent to Microsoft Office) for free. How this translate to corporate purchase agreements is yet to be seen, but definitely a bold move within their calculated strategy to secure a leading position in the enterprise space.

Capturing the fleeting business


Nokia Lumia 820 onboard POS

Nokia Lumia 820 onboard POS

While still struggling in the consumer market, some potential success stories start to emerge for the Nokia and Windows Phone tech marriage. Turning a Nokia Lumia 820 into a mobile point of sale with specific apps connected to their booking and payment systems, allows to capture a very short-lived business opportunity like on board paid upgrades.

Onboard connectivity definitely plays a role in the success of the initiative, but more importantly, paves the way for the next level of loyalty recognition and rewarding on the spot thanks to the connection with the centralized CRM systems.

A promising prospect for Delta and Nokia/Microsoft and definitely a big scale experiment with 19.000 units distributed amongst Delta’s Cabin Crew.

More about this story:

Nokia Lumia 820 Flying High With Delta Airlines

Delta Streamlines In-flight Customer Service With New Windows Phone Handheld Devices For Flight Attendants

Transplacing and the second life


The ubiquitous nature of technology and the frenetic pace at which it evolves becomes dramatically obvious when products with a traditionally longer lifecycle embrace electronics and software traditionally only available in computers. The flooding of technology into these consumer products can be seen everywhere, with TV sets becoming closer and closer to computers with Internet connection and multiple apps that go well beyond the original intention of the base product, or cars with multiple, software-powered, onboard systems such as Navigation, Audio, Phone and Voice command, just to name a few.

This increased affordability of computing power and ubiquitous connectivity brings a whole new world of possibilities to enhance the traditional concept of certain consumer products,  it has also had a number of downsides. Some products have seen their life cycle accelerated and a TV set that not so long ago had its lifecycle measured in decades, is now reduced to a few years. The adoption of advanced operating systems to power day to day consumer products accelerates obsolescence of these bringing it closer to that of computers.

iOS in the car

iOS in the car

Cars, for obvious reasons, are a different story. Long lasting products by nature, and with manufacturers integrating more and more technology (both hardware and software) onto them, a situation is created in which the (expensive) technology onboard vehicles, such as GPS Navigation, gets quickly outdated, with very few options for upgrading the hardware part of it. These systems soon pale when compared to the much more affordable, and easily upgradable features available in smartphones for a fraction of the cost.

Moves like iOS in the car, announced as a yet-to-be-implemented feature in iOS 7, can be game changing by going far beyond just providing a pretty interface for your iPhone when shown on your onboard screen. They can go as far as transplacing the complete onboard technology of vehicles into a smartphone, by basically getting all the software to run remotely in you

r handheld device, rather than in the onboard processors.

Huge move

First of all, the obsolescence is over. All your car will provide is a screen, and that is the only thing that can get obsolete. The Navigation software available on iOS (despite the Apple maps fiasco) is on par with any onboard GPS system, and comes for free. No in car GPS hardware required, no more slow processors that can only run simple maps, no

more costly upgrades to onboard maps. Online maps permanently updated, real time traffic information and all the necessary hardware packed in your smartphone, which you can upgrade as frequently as you wish.

Audio is another key application brought by iOS in the car, creating a specific interface for managing your audio library while on the move, together with the phone interface.

Siri is King

Lexus Remote Touch

Lexus Remote Touch

In my humble opinion this is the moment that Siri has been waiting for. Interacting with onboard technology in cars has been, and still is, a big safety concern. Whilst all manufacturers have invested obscene sums in creating intuitive interfaces (BMW’s iDrive, Lexus’ Remote Touch or Audi’s MMI as an example), they still require attention from the driver. Of course most of the premium brands have implemented voice command systems, but in most cases require learning or following very specific instructions with accuracy being low enough not to be a full alternative to the physical interaction.

But here comes Siri, with the ability to understand natural language and take dozens of different instructions without the need for the driver to learn how to enumerate them.

Online Car

Basing your car electronics in a naturally connected device brings new possibilities by being able to make use of Siri’s current (and possibly future) capabilities like finding restaurants, petrol stations around the current location, finding movies to watch and maybe booking hotel rooms in the future.

Development

If Apple opens iOS in the car to developers, I bet we will be seeing cars giving away most of their onboard technology transplacing it to apps implemented in iOS which will manage most of the car functions, with Siri as the main way of interacting with your vehicle systems, from your Navigation,  Climate control, Audio, Video and even car adjustments to be managed easily by interacting with apps in your Smartphone while talking to Siri.

Not a bad move, and one that would increase customer loyalty once a long lasting good like your car is tied to a particular Smartphone platform, on top of possibly transforming the way we understand technology onboard vehicles. And bring a second life to them.

Apple to enter into mobile payments?


Your phone will be your wallet

Your phone will be your wallet

Last week at WWDC, Apple introduced iOS 6 amongst others. Without entering into two much detail about the hundreds of new features that the new OS will bring, there is one that reveals that Apple might be taking a serious look at mobile payments. With the introduction of Passbook in iOS 6, your iPhone will turn into a very convenient digital repository to place all sorts of digital goodies. Vouchers, loyalty cards, promotion codes, QR codes, which include boarding passes, and movie tickets, just to name a few. These can even be geotagged, so they would become active whenever you are near the target location.

Interesting and definitely very useful, but not outstanding from other competitors which are already offering partial solutions to this problem. Likely to have a wonderful user experience though, and would define standards so that companies can create their own passbook-able digital goodies. Apparently big players in different industries are already signing up for the new platform.

However, this touches some of the items that other companies are defining around a potentially very lucrative industry: mobile payments. Storing credit / debit / stored value cards in your mobile phone would be no secret, and would be similar to Google Wallet, which opens the door to adding more intelligence to the physical moment of payment.

Apple Passbook

Apple Passbook

Game changing?

There are many different ways into which Apple might decide to introduce mobile payments, but considering their usual appetite to be real game changers, it will be interesting to see if they have anything awaiting down their sleeve.

So far the traditional approach would be to use cards stored in the phone –in Passbook- to be used through NFC (it is yet to be seen whether iPhone 5 would ship with NFC, even though many rumors point in this direction) the integration with Passbook and other digital goodies such as vouchers, loyalty points, etc would help create a more interactive payment experience, but this would not be seen as a breakthrough as it would be quite similar to the ecosystem defined by Google around Wallet. And above all, Apple would be making not –or little- money out of this.

The payments ecosystem is complex and involves many actors. From issuers to merchants, it’s an industry which has a great dependency on a very established infrastructure, and in which having the right coverage and capillarity to reach a high percentage of POS (Points Of Sale) where new technologies of mobile payments would be accepted.  This will surely be a challenge, even for a company with the drive and ability to massively push technology as Apple. NFC, with support from many companies will take some time to takeoff until a large number of Points of Sale are upgraded to support the near field technology. Yes, it is getting lots of support from mobile phone manufacturers, but merchants are yet to catch up (one-third of POS expected by end of 2012, with 2% at mid 2011 in the US).

So having set the scene, it will be very interesting to see what Apple has to offer in the mobile payments space, whether they will just rely on their ability to attract merchants to adopt Passbook as their natural digital distribution platform for digital goodies -and eventually payment methods- while reusing the existing NFC standards and Card issuers as Mastercard, Visa or American Express, or whether they will decide to change the way we understand mobile payments the same way they did with the way we understood the SmartPhone or even the way we consumed music.

Cars: The next app frontier


This is the next territory to be conquered by your apps

This is the next territory to be conquered by your apps

It’s no secret that apps have changed the way we consume content and software, and expressions like “I have an app for that” are now part of our daily lexicon. Little by little, the appmania has been overflowing SmartPhones and Tablets. TVs where the next conquered territory, and now it seems that cars, and more specifically, on board infotainment systems are the next frontier.

Key players in the industry like Denso, QNX, Magneti Marelli and the traditional car manufacturers are already working in their respective strategies for bringing apps to your car. While most of the current trends are around driving performance and self-diagnostics, extending the features currently available on most infotainment systems, some brands are already introducing very popular general purpose apps. Read Lexus here, and the recently launched latest version of their on board system, Enform, which includes some interesting apps available on board the car. Things like buying movie tickets or booking a table at your destination are now possible, even through the cars voice commands. Even checking in your destination on Facebook is now something you can do behind the steering wheel.

This probably opens a new question behind the technology on which these on board infotainment systems are based. Will we see Android or iOS based in car navigation systems?. It would definitely be very exciting as this would mean instant availability of thousands, if not millions, of apps right to be installed in your car. Interesting potential advantage for Android as some of the current platforms are already based on Linux, which could mean easier integration of Android-based apps onboard.

It’s already happening


Only a few days after this post where Social Media adoption by the Banking industry is analyzed, it is already happened. A Bank has taken the step forward to truly start providing banking services to their customers on Facebook.

ICICI Facebook Banking application

ICICI Facebook Banking application

Digital Life

Whether we like it or not, our customers’ digital life happens in the Social Media. They live and interact there, not in our online banking platform. Therefore it was only a matter of time that someone overcame the resistance and found a way of blurring the boundaries and integrating with their customers’ digital life.

As anticipated, security was -and still is- the main concern both for Financial Institutions as well as Customers when approaching Banking services on the Social Media. Other industries and online services are clearly adopting Social Media profiles as a universal form of authentication, in which your Facebook ID or your Google+ profile become your Digital identity. If Facebook and Google+ are a representation of your real life as an individual, your identities in such platforms should be sufficient proof of identity of your Digital existence.

ICICI’s approach is to make the customer go through a registration process which creates a personalized password. Usage of the application also implies a second factor of authentication, so the customer experience will look quite similar to that of the existing online banking, but at least within your Facebook environment. It will be interesting to see how new approaches to securing Banking services on Social Media will help blur the boundary even more, to a point where there will be virtually no separation between your friends’ posts and your account statements, maybe just a step-up with a strong two factor authentication to protect sensitive data, but avoiding registration processes that somehow impact the illusion of full integration. This would have an interesting consequence: If many sites allow you to log on using your Facebook ID, why should your bank be different?. Why not simplify the process and just use your Facebook ID with a second factor of authentication?.

Anyhow, a very interesting and innovative movement by ICICI which will surely be followed by competitors very soon, and will help gauge the appetite of customers for Banking Services integrated in their very own Digital space.

Born Social vs Learnt Social


Citi rewards facebook app

Citi rewards facebook app

Following the previous post on Scoot, and how they are a truly born social company, it is interesting to compare how their evolution is in Social Media as compared to more established companies that are learning how to become social and adopting it on their way.

It is becoming more and more clear that Social Media is not only going to be the way to gain a more close and personal relationship with your customers, but also a full service channel that will probably start moving business out of your current electronic platforms. Some industries will be earlier adopters than others, and some examples of this can be found on the airline industry, where Malaysia Airlines is already offering flight search, booking and check-in can be done in a facebook app.

Security and privacy concerns will slow down the adoption for certain industries, namely the Financial Services, but yet there is already space for certain features to be offered in Social Media. Citibank recently launched a new facebook app that allows their customers group their reward points they obtain for purchases and use them for charity or a group gift. Rewards seems to be quite the right transaction for Banks to start servicing customers over Social Media, as its level of risk is far lower than traditional financial transactions.

It will be interesting to see and compare the adoption curve for established companies, specially on highly risk aware industries like Banking as compared to companies born social like Scoot, who have adopted Social Media in a very natural manner for literally every single internal process they are facing in the journey of setting up the airline: Recruiting, selecting their slogan and offering promotions. It will not be surprising to see that Facebook -their Google+ page is yet to be seen- will become their main sales and servicing channel when they start operating.

Will this be the trend followed by other industries and therefore, will Social Media replace -at least partially- online banking? I make my bet!