Monday, August 16, 2010

NFC needs EZ-Pass Moments

EZ-Pass is a service offered by Department of Transportation’s across the northeast United States. It is essentially a small white box which via wireless communications can read when a car passes a toll area and charges the driver accordingly. It is offered by other DOT’s across the US under different names. This allows drivers to essentially move past toll areas very quickly without typically waiting in long lines. The EZ-Pass moment is when a driver is waiting in line for a toll watches other cars whiz by without stopping. At that moment the driver says to himself, “I need to do what those people are doing because I do not want to wait in line for a half hour”. This EZ-Pass moment was allowed to happen because people do not want to wait in lines and the DOT saves and makes money using this technology.

NFC (Near Field Communication) is a technology which allows cell phone users to make contactless payments via their cell phone. So far this technology has not taken off because there are not NFC transmitters in cell phones with the exception of a very few models and there are almost no NFC readers to make purchases with a cell phone. The reason for this lack of adoption is that the major players in the value chain (wireless carriers, banks, and credit card companies) cannot agree on payouts or implementations of the system. There is also some disagreement whether this is enough advancement to warrant the overall investment in this strategy. This situation has changed somewhat by the announcement by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Barclays Bank, and Discover Card to create a joint venture and do trials with NFC. Three of largest and most well know credit card companies Visa, Master Card, and American Express did not participate. Still there is enough capability in the current JV to create an opportunity for NFC. Success in the opportunity depends on customers, merchants, credit card companies, and banks to have what amounts to NFC moments. Moments like when the cell phone user says to himself or herself, “I really need to use the cell phone to buy this because it makes life so much easier or it saves me money”.

Here are some NFC Moments:

1. “I do not have to carry this big purse around when I want to run to the store, go out on the town, or go to a business meeting” NFC essentially frees women from carrying around a purse or wallet.

2. “I do not have to run back to my car to fill up the parking meter so I do not get a huge parking fine” NFC allows the user to make contactless payment at a parking kiosk and by inputting their phone number can allow the parking authority to send them a text to extend their parking time or warn them that their time is up. This can be done via SMS as well, but many municipalities use kiosk in their parking areas and using kiosks allows people to be billed via their credit or debit accounts rather than their wireless carrier via premium SMS.

3. “I can get more people into my store via discounts and deals, tell them how much they have saved and say thank you” NFC when used with SMS, or applications can allow people to store coupons and discounts on their phone and in the store’s back end systems. These coupons can be redeemed via NFC in a unified experience over the phone. When customers make their purchase the store can tell them how much they saved and thank them with a message on the phone. Redemption of coupons originated from cell phone has been tried via loyalty cards at point of sale but this method has not gained mass appeal.

4. “I can set up my own loyalty and discount programs associated with my branded charge account or my customer's debit account” Department stores who want to cater to younger people who live by their cell phones can allow them to use their bank accounts via PayPal or other intermediaries to pay for items. Or the NFC payment can debit the customer's charge account with the store.

5. “I don’t have pay 3% to a check cashing agency, I can have a bank account like everyone else, someone can help me keep a budget, and maybe make some interest.” There is a good percentage of the population that is unbanked in the US. They do not have access to the benefits of banking services. These services are offered in 3rd world countries and can be offered in the US via NFC. The added benefit to merchants with NFC terminals that cater to this group is that they will attract more customers. People used to cash their paycheck at bars, and typically they would stay around a buy a few drinks. The same principal applies to convenience stores, supermarkets and drug stores.

6. “My company does not have worry about the fraud issues associated with magnetic stripes” For credit card companies fraud can happen when criminals handle cards as well as put false magnetic strips in terminals. Contactless payment avoids this.

7. “I do not have to miss the train waiting in line for a ticket or token” With NFC the phone becomes an automatic contactless swipe card. A user can automatically pay for train or bus service when they use them. For the transportation authority they can issue less magnetic strip cards, or tokens.

8. “I do not have to wait in long lines at the store” Bar scanning lines can be set up for items and NFC can be the payment method. It will be quicker than inserting cash into the automatic register and safer and quicker than swiping a card. Bar scanning lines are currently being done by Home Depot and some grocery stores with credit cards, debit cards and cash payments.

9. “I do have to pay credit card fees as a small business owner” Small merchants and their customer can exchange funds via their cell phones and receive confirmation via NFC without using a credit card. This is similar to the bump service offered by PayPal.

From my list there are a number of payment systems already in existence that offer contactless transfer of money. What NFC can offer is a standardized method of doing these various payments so they can be used by most phone operating systems, and understood by most people. Interoperability and usability are often the key to mass market adoption.

For NFC to evolve the wireless carriers need to be the first on-board as they typically decide what technology is on a phone. They get the benefit of having the phone as a doubly important item in people’s lives, as a communications device and as a payments device. But they should also expect some type of transactional benefit for investing in the NFC technology and subsidizing the phone.

There are a number of parties who can benefit from NFC: consumers who get a better shopping experience and save money, merchants who want to create more loyalty with customers and want to provide a better shopping experience, transportation authorities who want to save on costs, credit card companies who want to avoid fraud, and the unbanked who want the benefit of banking services. The crucial point is the merchant, customer shopping relationship. If merchants believe they can get more people into their stores and get them to spend more using NFC, and if the consumer values the benefits in cost and time savings of NFC, then it can be a successful service. What moves the process along are the NFC moments.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Learnings at Supernova

I attended the Supernova conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The conference is designed to bring forward thinking ideas and issues to the forefront. A number of these issues were addressed including:

Spectrum needs and bandwidth speeds:

A prevalent topic was the need for additional wireless spectrum. The FCC who was in attendance is in the process of releasing 500 MHz of spectrum through various means over the next 10 years. There was also the expectation from the panel that wireless data traffic is to grow to 30 to 40 times what it is now. The additional spectrum and the way it is used by large carriers may not be the complete long term solution. The panel did agree that unlicensed spectrum was going to play a role in satisfying customer needs.

Some in the panel discussions stated the there was not enough 100 MB access in homes and that the lack of competition was limiting this. Others in the panel argued that the customer was satisfied with the speeds they were getting. The truth is somewhere in the middle, but the fact remains if the bandwidth is available it will be used in some capacity and it will likely be disruptive to some existing economic construct. An example: What instantaneous high quality video conferencing can do to certain industries like travel? A common theme for the decision makers in the audience and on the panels was unforeseen circumstances. Of course, no one can completely know the future but it does behoove businesses to know their core business and look at the impact technology is going to have on them.

Customer and user interaction with web sites and social networks:

The other major topic that was brought up was consumer and user interaction on the web with company web sites. In addition there was a need for better user understanding of filters on Facebook. The general theme being that technology needs to interact more symbiotically with our reactions, thoughts, expectations and feelings. Apple is a company that does this in terms of providing a technology that matches the way we think and organize our thoughts. Company web sites in general leave it up to the user to navigate. In addition, there are people in an organization that can help the customer but technology puts up a barrier to direct interaction via a web site or an IVR system. Technology does not do a great job of introducing these people to customers. For social networks the problem also exists as most people on Facebook do not have a good idea of what people can see or not see about them.

This type of reasoning brought up an impromptu session at the conference called tummeling. A tummeler is a host which knows everyone and can be someone who teaches you about the systems or situation you are in, and introduces you to people who you should meet. Essentially a tummeler is a guide to the inter-workings of the organization. The basic premise of the session was that web sites need a tummeler to guide people through web site, and understand and organize the social network web site for your needs and feelings. The general consensus is that this will be a hard undertaking because the people who design social web sites are technology focused rather than customer focused and that there is a conflict in interest between the social network user and the social network site due to advertising. Competition can change this but right now Facebook is on the top of the hill. Still this type of advancement is required to get more usability and trust out of the web experience. A group that supports the tummeler idea and delivers podcasts on the topic can be found on

Computer enthusiasts meet and unite:

Another interesting topic around making the Internet more personal was This is a bit of a misnomer because of the negative connotations of the word “hacker”, but these are essentially clubs which have work spaces that computer enthusiasts and programmers can come together to build projects and business ideas together, and tryout security ideas on an offline network. Different clubs have different specialties in terms of computer programming. Universities are looking at these types of clubs where computer talent can learn more than in a traditional academic setting. To learn more about these groups go to, and an example of a hackerspace web site is

Companies using social media:

Another interesting panel was around companies that had taken advantage of social media to draw customer interest and help the customer experience. For example:

Vitaminwater and Mountain Dew were discussed for their on line crowd sourcing campaign to design an ideal drink. Mountain Dew used a number of online methods to allow users to cast a vote and share thoughts including Facebook, video submissions and Twitter. is a web site that allows local merchants to create discounts for goods and services for a group of interested buyers. The website puts up a special discount and web site visitors click on the deal if they are interested. Once the deal reaches a trigger point or pre-determined number of clicks then the deal is offered to everyone that clicked. It is a good way for local businesses to create excitement around a deal and give the vendor a way to get people to try and purchase a product.

Publishers who transformed or created themselves as aggregators of information in order to deliver a publication that is profitable. Weis Healthy Bites Magazine was highlighted as an example of this. Gourmet Magazine has also downsized to serve this type of role for interested readers.

A couple of companies were highlighted for using twitter to reach their audience. Jet Blue was cited for using Twitter to advertise bargains. Comcast was cited for improving customer service via its @comcastcares twitter feed. The service has a reputation of cutting through red tape to find a customer solution. The founder of this service Frank Eliason is an example of a tummeler. He allows outsiders or visitors to navigate the Comcast care system and gets them to the right people.

The company Clickable,, is a one stop shop for small business to advertise on the web via traditional methods as well as social networks. They are working with American Express’ small business unit. One of the underlying themes of the conference was how local businesses can take advantage of social networking.

Ending with education

The conference ended with a panel on changes that are going to happen due to the digital world. We have seen this in music and publishing, where revenues have declined and new business models have been needed to take place. The panelist brought up the sense of entitlement that the American workforce has and that it is conflicting with the current economy. One example of this was given by the Director of the Science Leadership Academy, Chris Lehmann where the cost of college and higher education had outstripped the financial viability of families thus possibly denying America of technology talent in the future. But there is always a way around problems and people starting new ideas to make forward progress. Hacker spaces are one of the ways around this educational dilemma.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Investigations using a cell phone

From the company ( that offers you the ability to move your data over to a new phone when you change phones or carriers comes a higher grade solution that is used by government agencies, military and law enforcement to verify stories and investigate crimes. The product is called the UFED Physical Pro, and can work with over 800 devices including the iPad.

This solution allows agencies to retrieve data stores like SMS, photos, videos, audio files, calendar information, contact information and trace call records. It can also get the password of a phone and retrieve deleted data. For GPS devices like Tom Tom and cell phones with GPS capability it can retrieve GPS fixes, favorite locations, routes, and home location. Before a navigation device can give its owner directions it needs to do a GPS fix to get its current location.

Since cell phones have become a focal point of people’s lives especially busy people it can be used by law enforcement to provide a record of who a person knows, a record of who they called and when they called them, a record of their SMS messages, and a record of their whereabouts from GPS fixes. The ability to read SMS messages and call records allows the investigator to understand motives, ambitions, thought processes and planning steps. The ability to view a person’s history through these various means can be particularly clear because they are not expected to be under surveillance.

The implications are powerful for law enforcement to create a pattern of activity and a view into the inner workings of a criminal mind and network. It can also be used by innocent people to prove their alibi similar to how DNA is used.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Looking Forward with Mobile Advertising and Marketing

At the recent Mobile Marketing Forum (MMF) in New York City, June 7th through the 9th some of the most forward thinking advertising executives came to explore ideas on mobile advertising and mobile marketing. The most obvious takeaways were that the mobile phone is going to be an increasingly important tool in marketing to customers and that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the full implications of this media shift. In this posting I will highlight the importance of the mobile phone for marketing, what are currently its advantages, and what it means long term for marketers.

The Smart Phone Wave

It was clear to everyone at the conference that the use of smart phones and high end feature phones is going to be common place. One of the presenter’s forecast was for 50% of the cell phone subscribers in the US to have a smart phone by 3Q2011. That is just over a year away. The need for a smart phone has reached average user as Best Buy has run an advertisement about “Smartphone Shame”. The inflection point for smart phone growth has been reached.

People on average spend a good deal of time on the cell phone. According to the Microsoft presenter of the three major screens PC, TV and mobile phone, mobile phone accounted for 27% of the time spend on the three screens. The PC accounted for 40% and the TV 33%. The phone is also the device of choice for the younger demographics of whom the advertisers want to reach.

Opaque View of Mobile Advertising and Marketing

At the conference it also seemed that advertisers and brands did not have a clear idea of how they were doing to take full advantage of this smart phone opportunity, primarily due to the fragmentation, semi early stage of market adoption, uncertainty around advertising ROI and inexperience with the mobile media vs. other media.

Mobile advertising and marketing has been around for 5 years now so some aspects are clearly understood like the smaller screen means more focus and less clutter, mobile has a good click thru and response rate, the phone is with you all the time so location and time sensitive ads can be sent, and the cell phone is a good way to direct people to stores. Targeting is somewhat problematic because in some cases brand and agencies do not know what they are getting for their ad dollars. A number of companies like Apple, Bango, Openwave, Nielsen, and Millennial Media are working to provide better targeting solutions for brands and advertisers. Beyond straight advertising which is expected to get its kinks ironed out brands, companies and advertisers need to look deeper in terms of what a mobile phone means to consumers and how to use the phone to invigorate company- consumer relationships.


The audience at the MMF voted that personalization will be the most important context aware element in 10 years. The cell phone is clearly a very personal device and this is good and bad for agencies, companies and brands. The good part is that they can target to the individual level and get stronger customer interaction. The bad news is that it is going to take more resources to be relevant to the individual consumer as well as be responsive to that consumer’s needs. It creates a different relationship where the customer expects more but the reward of customer loyalty can be created. In this time of customers requiring control of their virtual relationships, easy opt-in and opt-out capability is required. On the plus side opt-in and opt-in databases also allow for better targeting. In sum the cell phone makes the relationship between the company and customer more involved and possibly more rewarding if done correctly. One of the companies that works in this area of improving customer relationships over all communications channels including mobile is Knotice. (


Fragmentation is here to stay. That includes different smart phone operating systems, apps. vs. mobile web, MMS, and SMS. It was a sign of maturity for the mobile advertising industry when companies like Disney and Microsoft mapped the customer segments with phone types so that they could better plan advertising campaigns. It is the companies that can understand the phone technology, what it can do, and who to partner with to reach the audience they want that will best take advantage of the fragmentation issue.

One company which takes advantage of a number of existing technology factors including penetration of MMS phones, unlimited messaging, and viral market is Mogreet ( They send MMS movie clips, commercials, and greeting cards which users can forward to their friends. Mogreet also gives users the capability to respond to the ads and are able to create user databases. A couple of other aspects work in their favor, the youth market has unlimited messaging due to the SMS craze and young people prefer video messages. Microsoft claimed that 37% of people who saw a movie trailer on their phone went to see the movie.


One of the aspects that is holding mobile advertising back is the lack of commerce compared with the PC advertising. The tablet will probably be more akin to the PC in this regard. Mobile web sites have to make the shopping experience on the mobile phone easier and more enjoyable. At the end of the day mobile will probably not be used for shopping as much as other devices and it will be used for shopping in a time of urgency or convenience. In addition, the mobile phone will be used more for a communication device with customers rather than a means of commerce. That is why integrating mobile with other forms of advertising is so important. But to encourage people who wish to shop on their phone one click shopping would be a big help in this regard. Billing Revolution has a one click billing service for mobile web sites.


Brands are salivating to deliver coupons or ads onto a mobile phone when customers are in the store. But the success of in-store mobile campaigns has not been high. How do you get people to be jazzed about this? Under the coupon redemption strategy it is easier for the store and the customer to use the current barcode and loyalty card method. Brands can offer in store coupons for special products to special customers but the best results are likely to be yielded via the store loyality card. The customer sees a coupon while in the store or before going to the store, clicks it on the cell phone, and when the item is scanned and the card is scanned the discount comes up. Working with the store web site also gives the customer a good place to store the coupon information. A company which does this for a number of grocery stores is Zavers (

Couponing can also be done on a one off basis via a barcode reader or a camera taking a picture of a number but with multiple items purchased it can become more cumbersome. This type of coupon redemption or ticket reading is better for recording one off redemptions like train tickets or percent discounts off the total bill.

Interactive Marketing

One of the often forgotten elements of customer interaction on a mobile phone is the camera. This can be used as a way to engage the customers via barcode, number reading, photographs or digital watermarks. Once customers become aware of this and some of its benefits companies can use this to initiate relationships with customers and drive sales primarily through other channels. The digital watermark company Digimarc ( uses digital watermark technology to show videos of cars to car enthusiasts after they had taken a picture of the advertisement. After viewing the ads the customer could also call for a test drive. This type of interaction with customer has been initiated with short codes and will continue to do so but the camera offers a more elegant and seamless way to start the conversation with potential customers.

Integrating Brands with the Fabric of our Lives

The cell phone is integrated in the fabric of our lives. This becomes even more so when someone is holding a smart phone. How easy it is to use a cell phone to improve our lives and how capable the phone is in terms of providing benefits will determine its success in mobile advertising and mobile marketing.

Currently people use a cell phone to communicate and check messages; kill time and be entertained; find information when it hard to get to other sources, or we are too lazy to get up from the couch; conduct transactions when we are away from a desk and when there is a sense of urgency; and to navigate to different locations. Finding where to fit brand messages and customer interaction into these various activities is where mobile advertising and mobile marketing will be most beneficial.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wireless Data Pricing: Making the Complicated, Uncomplicated

As wireless data becomes more popular, there are two issues that collide, consumer’s expectation of unlimited broadband and scarcity of wireless capacity which requires it to be rationed in some degree. That rationing mechanism is price and speed controls on the network. The current wireless carriers want to entice people to use broadband services but they also want to ensure that they do not lose money or create a bad customer experience by over utilization of the network. Carriers have a dilemma: they have to create caps to guard against over use and non profitable customers yet they still want customers to use data services and see the value of data services. Part of the value that carriers can bring to customers is the feeling of unlimited service. So what options are open to carriers?

Create data caps on data usage with some type of event when the limit is reached

These are the options available for this solution:

Charging high overage charges when the cap is exceeded: This is not a good solution because it annoys the customer, makes them feel taken advantage of, and it inhibits usage of demanded service because of the uncertainty of a per MB rate.

Slowing down the bandwidth in areas of congestion after a cap has been reached: When the customer goes over the cap, and is in an area of high bandwidth congestion, the data speed to the devices drops to levels that will allow quality for some services like email and messaging but make higher speed services like video and web browsing less attractive. This is a workable solution but not ideal. It will be annoying to the 3% of people that typically go over the cap. In addition, it leaves the carrier who tries this first in a weak marketing position when most of the marketing around 3G and 4G services are about fast speeds.

Over usage protection with Rollover: This is in effect a prepaid service layered on top of a postpaid service which allows the customer over usage protection for going over their cap. The service allows a customer to pay for additional amounts of data for the typical monthly price. They can use this extra bandwidth in any month they want, and until the contract expires. This gives customers a fair deal on overage, a reason for staying with the carrier, and continued use of services that they desire.

Paying for content or services and including the bandwidth charge inside the total charge

This is already being done with tablet devices like the Kindle and iPad for books, and has been done in the past with downloads of ringtones and games. This can also be done with TV shows, and movies.

Video is clearly the big bandwidth consumer and with 4G there is likely to be more streaming video solutions as per my prior blog posting, “Everywhere Cam” on May 6th. Yes, Skype can do this but it is not ideal for live action. There is an opportunity for a value added service that offers high quality video from a phone to a number of viewing platforms including the PC, TV and tablet. The added benefit is that this video can be stored in the cloud for replay later. This service can be offered in a prepaid construct where a user gets an hour of high quality video for $5 to $10. This video can be used for as long as the customer has a data plan. This service has to be easy to set up and use, and to communicate to the customer. This video service offers the customer convenience, flexibility, and value of transmission and storage.

Incentivize data users to use WiFi and Femtocells

WiFi and Femtocells are two good methods of pulling traffic off of the main network and providing a fast and reliable experience. Carriers also have the opportunity to incentivize data users to use WiFi and Femtocells by adding data to a customer’s overdraft protection, providing free content, free voice minutes, high quality video feeds, and award’s points. In addition the carrier can offer targeted advertising from the various WiFi and Femtocell areas to increase revenue or defer costs. The more traffic that is pulled off the network the less traffic is on the 3G and 4G networks.

Summary: Use different methods to provide fairness and value to the customer

Data pricing can be complicated because of the need to provide safeguards against over usage of the network. In addition, video will put further stress on the wireless network. The main problems is rationing usage and still providing high value to the customer. Creating billing systems that allow for both postpaid and prepaid billing along with easy to understand consumer interfaces can do a lot to bridge this gap, allowing for a satisfied customer and profitable carriers. In addition, creating unique services that the customer will value can allow for data charges to be bundled with content.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Prepaid equals Wireless Affordability

Prepaid is where the market growth is in the US market. Major prepaid carriers: Metro PCS, Sprint, Leap, and Tracfone added a total of 2.5 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2010. Major post-paid players Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile added about 240,000 postpaid subscribers or about 10% of the 4 major prepaid carriers. There are a number of reasons for this including: the bad economy and people’s desire to watch their spending, but the main reason is that prepaid is very affordable to the average user. The two most cost effective plans that stick out are:

• Virgin Mobile’s (Sprint) Plan of all you can text and use data, with 300 minutes of voice for $25 a month

• Tracfone’s Straight Talk plan of 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 30 MB of data for $30 a month

In addition, if unlimited voice and text is desired it can be obtained for $45 a month or less.

Business Changes with Prepaid

Prepaid has also lead to a number of business changes in the market:

• Put more competitive pressure on voice prices and voice margins for all carriers. (More minutes used and less ARPU for those minutes)

• Changed where the value customer is going. (T-Mobile owned this space and they lost 77,000 subscribers in 1Q)

• Created a less subsidized model for phones (Virgin Mobile offers the Blackberry Curve for $300)

• Delivered stronger branding for prepaid (Helps bring in customers and lowers churn)

Where does prepaid go from here?

The wireless services market in the US is effectively splitting into two main parts: the high-middle end represented by smart phones and high data use; and middle-low end represented by typical voice and text devices, family plans and prepaid. Prepaid has become and will remain a strong option for certain segments of the middle to low end of the market including single people, people who want to add a second cellular phone line, people who are concerned about their budget, economically challenged people, and youth who want their own cell phone and plan.

There is likely to be some consolidation in the prepaid business as it a high volume, lower margin than postpaid, high churn business where operating efficiencies are paramount to a successful business. The company that is able to create the strongest brands and the best operating efficiencies in this market will be the winner.

Some market disruption is likely to occur in the high to middle end of the wireless services market when smart phone prices come down and prepaid players are able to offer unsubsidized Android phones or other desirable smart phones for under $200. The prepaid carriers will also have to recalibrate their data charges based on the typical data usage of a smart phone, but the data prices are likely to be less than the overall postpaid data deal. What creates opportunity in this segment is that nobody likes to pay $80 a month or more for a service plan with a high end smart phone ($40 for voice, $30 for data, and $10 for text). Another factor that will boost this market is when children start asking for smart phones in droves. When children want goods, their parents look for affordability, and affordability can be found in prepaid.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Everywhere Cam

There are currently instances of everywhere video. Video shots from security cameras around Times Square during the most recent terrorist attack, police cars videoing chase and arrest scenes, schools using web cams to find missing laptops. But the next step toward everywhere video is smart phones and 4G networks. The most recent example is the HTC EVO 4G phone from Sprint and the prototype iPhone that was shown by These devices have cameras on both sides of the phone to allow for personal video conferencing. Personal video conferencing has a long history in telecom and has not really been a popular application. But that does not mean that putting cameras in different places will not change the way our lives are viewed or exhibited.

A couple of examples come to mind:

Live Streaming Video:

The Flip camera is a popular device that is offered by Cisco and it is popular for its ease of use and good picture quality. It allows a person to basically point and click a video and just plug it in the PC to upload. Every 3G and 4G phone with video capability can be a Flip camera that shows live video. People that are not able to attend a live event like a kid’s baseball game can watch it on the computer or TV and can make comments back to the video camera holder or other people watching the event.

The Life Cam:

A camera wired to a battery pack can be strapped to someone’s head or put on a hat or helmet so that another people can observe what the camera wearer is seeing. The observers may also be able provide comments to the camera wearer about their behavior. This could apply to someone under house arrest, and the behavior of a famous NFL quarterback comes to mind. The intrusion into someone’s life by installing this on them with directions being given using a microphone would be a strong punishment and a possible deterrent to poor behavior. Of course this can be used in a positive way if someone wants to draw attention to themselves.

The Worker Cam:

Currently businesses can track employees using the location of their cell phones but they could also take videos or pictures using a smart phone camera. Having a camera on both sides of the phone can give a 360 degree video of what an employee is doing. Of course this will not work at all times as the phone can be in the employee’s pocket, but the employer can call the employee so they take the phone out of their pocket.

Emergency Cam:

Remote cameras can be quickly installed or deployed to record events, like people following or stalking other people in cars, in law enforcement stake out areas where movement of people needs to be monitored, and there is limited man power or it is too dangerous to maintain a position where the camera is located.

Implications of the Everywhere Cam

As the number of people with phone video cameras increases: more of people’s life will be on display especially famous people, more memory will be needed to store videos on devices and in the cloud, greater network capacity and backhaul will be needed to stream video, data pricing plans will need to be more flexible to account for video usage, and our expectation of privacy will become challenged and may have to change.

The camera phone created a change where at any time a picture could be taken. Pictures are worth a thousand words. A video phone allows a person to take a video or in some cases be watched at any time. Videos are recordings of people’s actions. People are determined by their actions. With video phones and 4G remote cams there will be more judgments of people’s actions.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

HP and Palm, a good match

These two companies might very well go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Palm has a very good smart phone matching or exceeding some of the capabilities of the iPhone. HP needed a platform by which to enter the growing market of smart phones and tablets. Palm needed the distribution strength, the capability to educated store sales people, and international expansion potential. HP has strong distribution via their PC business, a well developed plan on how to train and incentivize store sales people and international presence.

Challenges still remain namely working with carriers especially in the US, and growing the number of applications to compete with the iPhone and Android. But these are table stakes in the business.

Having a separate brand is not a problem. Palm, an HP company can be the smart phone and tablet brand. HP can be the PC brand. HP has reputation for quality, ease of use, and stability from their products in printer and PC business. The Slate, HP’s current tablet brand can be for enterprise use and the Palm version can be the consumer tablet.

This also gives HP a greater entre into the enterprise. The mobile workers want an easy to use device like the iPhone, but with a keypad, that can do multiple applications and effectively surf the web. The enterprise wants a secure, enterprise device that it can control. Palm can do this.

As a hardware play, the smart phone market is a good one if you have a hot product. The smart phone market is growing, and people typically change out their phones every two years or less so there is a good residual market.

HP is about putting the most technology in people’s hand so that they can use it, making it easy for people to use, and creating a strong customer relationship via care. Apple may have the best user interface but they do not always give the consumer the most technology options. The Blackberry is about messaging, email, and security. Android is about giving the customers technology and power in their handsets with a good experience, but not always with a strong focus on customer care. Nokia is about providing good smart phones to the masses and international markets. There is an opportunity for HP to connect the dots and rise in this market doing it the HP way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What is Yahoo?

Yahoo seems to me to be the newspaper of the Internet with a few other added services attached like email, search, messaging, Flickr, and Groups. I do not think you can discount search because is still highly used especially outside the US, email because it is a strong player in this market, or Flickr because it is an excellent photo web site. But essentially most of the space on the Yahoo site is dedicated to information and it has many of the similarities of an old time newspaper like providing news, sports, weather, finance, comics, cooking, and classifieds (Personals, HotJobs, and Autos). It also has a very generalized, national, middle of the road feel. Sort of like the USA Today. It is essentially the average American’s news source on the Internet. Other people offer this type of service like AOL, and MSN but Yahoo seems to do it the best, have the widest selection of information, and get the most viewers.

Yahoo has improved the news viewing experience over the traditional newspaper. It has allowed people to click on videos, send information via email or to Facebook, to sort and to focus on information, and to get more information via a search engine so it is in fact an enhancement over the existing generalized newspaper and the user can do this for free, which is very powerful. The one weakness which Yahoo has is the ability to go local. This is also a weakness of USA Today. Yahoo can in some instances be local via search or select content but essentially its strengths are in wide reaching content and brand advertising.

As the devices that people view content on change so does the situations in which they view content. When a new content viewing technology comes out the initial response is to replicate the old content on the new technology. Examples include: Radio on TV, Newspapers on the Internet. But over time the advantages of the new technology are recognized and the content and advertising is changed to best suit this new technology. The content companies that are best at adapting to the new technology gain the most market share. The two devices that are changing the way people view content are the smart phone and the tablet.

The smart phone changes the way people access information because it is personal to that individual, carried with that person, and can sense location. This makes local information a much more important component. It is true that Yahoo has a local component on its mobile web site, but it does not capture the essence of local the way that some sites can like Where or Yelp! Some of the key attributes that attract the local users include sports, weather, social, directions, and micro communities. In essence local has to come alive on a mobile phone to draw people’s eyes to it. The creation of content on such a micro level will be a nearly impossible task, so Yahoo needs to be an aggregator, organizer, deliverer, and communicator of this local content. An example of a company which does this for sports is Fan Feedr. The service essentially puts every relevant posting on the Internet for a particular sports team in the palm of your hand, and sends updates of team scores. This can be done for community and social information as well. Yahoo also needs to have a more interactive navigation service like Google and Nokia so that people can get to where they want.

The tablet is also a personal device, but it is less portable. It is also a device that is much more inclined to be used in a comfortable position. It is a device which is optimized for the viewing of all content, national and local; print, sound, pictures and video. The fact that it is more inclined to be used in a comfortable position bodes well for the viewing of Yahoo’s traditional content vs. the PC in which content is seldom viewed in a comfortable position. Location is inclined to be less important than a smart phone because people will not be accessing the device at all time and locations. But the personal aspect is important because people want to view information which is relevant to them. The local services offered on smart phone will also apply to a tablet.

What is USA Today now? It is a national newspaper who has seen its popularity decline as a print newspaper as people have gone to equal or better, free information sources on the Internet. It is a company that has tried to make the transition to the PC and the cell phone but is still best known for its print version. Content companies need to make the adjustments in the focus of their content and the way the content is delivered when new technologies arrive in order to maintain their position as the top content provider.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Interesting Products at CTIA 2010

At CTIA 2010 I was able to walk the show floor, meet with a number of vendors, go to Gerry Purdy’s Innovation Dinner, and also attend a number of keynotes and panels. From my viewing these were some of the interesting products and services that I saw:


Toktumi is Mobile VoIP software that allows the user to use voice minutes over a Wi-Fi network or the 3G data network. It essentially functions as second line for your phone and it cost $14.99 a month. It offers nice features like conference calling for up to 20 people, and cheap international calling. It works well with the iPhone giving an iPhone like user interface, and declining an AT&T call without losing the VoIP call. It basically gives all of benefits of VoIP calling: less costly nationwide voice minutes and cheaper international calling, with a good user interface and a lot of good calling features. It may not be for everyone but it is good for small businesses who want to look larger especially those with an international component and it is good for people who do a lot of calling, especially internationally and want to save money. The long term effect of services like this are easier call set up for groups and more price pressure on voice services especially international voice services.


AirKast is a platform that allows radio stations to stream their listening content to users of smart phones such as the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android devices via an application. The application also allows users to see information and advertisements from that radio station. The radio station can offer interactive ads that allow the customer to interface with sponsors. The benefit to the consumer is that they can listen to their radio station via their phone when they are away from a traditional radio or out of town. There can be significant interest for people who want to listen to their local sports team when they are out of town. Out of country radio stations could also be popular. Most of the implementations so far have been music services. These services also give radio stations the opportunity to engage advertisers with an interactive platform; and gives them relevance, local targeting and reach with the new devices that are coming out.


The NearbyNow Mobile Shopping Platform creates applications that allow customers of retailers and brands and readers of magazines to shop for items that are seen in magazines, or heard about from friends. On the iPhone retailers can display their wares on an application or a magazine can show items that were advertised or displayed in the magazine (i.e. Seventeen). On the application users can find the item, gather information about the item, put a hold order on the item, and find the store where that item is sold. The benefit to the consumer is that they can find an item they saw in a magazine and be able to find the nearest place to try it on, and to purchase the item. For print magazines it gives them an added way to entice advertisers as there is added benefits in giving the customer an additional place to shop, learn about a product, put a hold on the item at the store and get directions to the store.

Absolute Software:

The Computrace software from Absolute Software is essentially LoJack for PCs. It allows people and organizations to retrieve their PCs if they are lost, stolen or have not been returned. The service can remotely delete information on the PC and recover laptops via monitoring of the computer activity (IP address, Cell Tower Usage). The software is located in the firmware of the computer and can be reconfigured on a computer even if the hard drive is erased. This can be good for individuals or businesses that have had their computers stolen, schools that want their kids to return lent computers, or law enforcement that wants to arrest criminal thief rings. So far there has not been a strong market for this service for smart phones as law enforcement has showed more interest in PC recovery. But that may change in the future as smart phones are used more like PCs and the information stored on these devices is more valuable.


Leapwave offers a service that allow venues like bars and stadiums to provide information, games and content to viewers using the TV screen or other digital signage at those venues and the mobile phone as the interactive device. These can be used for trivia contests or games, and ads can be placed next to the games on the screen. The added benefit of the service is that it can give additional entertainment to patrons, provide more audience participation for live events like voting on live entertainment, and bring in additional advertising revenue. This is one more example of how a mobile phone can be use as an interactive device in a very customized solution and create an additional platform for advertising.

Billing Revolution:

Billing Revolution is a company that allows merchants to set up one click billing for credit card transactions from the merchant’s web site or application on a mobile phone. One click buying by companies like Amazon has made shopping easier on the web. On a mobile phone where clicks are at a premium one click billing is even more important. This can be beneficial for merchants who want to promote buying in a mobile situation, entice deal of the day buying, or attract purchasers who use their mobile phone more than their PC. Besides credit cards Billing Revolution can be attached to PayPal accounts. This is one of the steps that had to happen to increase m-commerce and boost mobile advertising, basically easy purchasing on a phone. This may even be applicable to some retail environments where few items are purchased but there are long waiting lines. Purchasers can make selections via barcode, pay via credit card, and have an employee check the items purchased when they leave the store (Like Home Depot). The benefit to consumers is that they can easily purchase items on their cell phones; the benefit to business is that consumers are more likely to purchase items on their cell phones if it is an enjoyable and easy experience.


Right out of Star Trek episode, a wearable computer that is essential a headset with a small computer screen at the end of a slim arm so that the user can access computer information while their hands are free. The computer responds to voice commands. The screen is small but it is close to the eye so viewing is like a normal computer screen. It is still fairly expensive so that it will be used for specialized industrial applications. Exact applications will probably revolve around specific information retrieval, and remote control of other devices. But if you want to get an email from your boss when you are on top of a rig you can do that too. It also allows for more efficient and safer workplace because two hands are free at all times. It the future there could be a web cam in front of the arm to relay and record video information which can be examined by experts in the home office.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

CTIA 2010: The Industry Looks Toward the Future

The CTIA Wireless show on March 22nd to March 25th, 2010 was marked by a number of keynotes and product announcements that were clearly meant to guide the industry to a future where data will play a prominent role. The keynote addresses were focused on outlining the need for additional wireless broadband capacity, the desire for more spectrum to be released by the FCC, and the business viability of less overall regulation. There was subdued praise for the FCC broadband plan with the understanding that many details have to be worked out, but that it is considered a start in the process of growing the mobile internet.

Some key issues remain in guiding the industry forward:

Is LTE going to provide a big enough capacity boost to create large amounts of bandwidth increase?

Data from a report: HSPA to LTE-Advanced: 3GPP Broadband Evolution to IMT-Advanced (4G) by Peter Rysavy of Rysavy Research done for 3G Americas,, indicates that for an apples to apples comparison of HSPA+ and LTE, the capacity increase for LTE is around 25%. What that says is for the last mile of a wireless network (handset to base station) there will need to be a lot more spectrum available as well as more micro solutions like Wi-Fi Hotspots and Femtocells to cover the capacity gap between what users want to do on their phones and the capabilities of the network, especially as it relates to video.

There are other benefits of offering LTE however, and much of them comes from the efficiencies of an all IP network and the lower latency which improves VoIP. The cost saving from these efficiencies allow the investment in the LTE networks to become worthwhile.

Video is a Bandwidth Hog

Video seems to the elephant in the room when it comes to bandwidth capacity. Cisco in their keynote highlighted that over 90% of all wireless traffic will be video in five years time. This is somewhat self -serving in that the more IP traffic increases the more Cisco provides the equipment to drive this traffic but the appeal of video still remains especially as the experience on the fixed Internet is transferred to the mobile phone. This point was further highlighted by the CEO of Clearwire, Bill Marrow who compared the usage on the Clearwire network vs. the 3G network where average usage is almost five times higher on the Clearwire network. Clearwire openly promotes that usage of video viewing as a differentiator for customers.

The other aspect that the mobile phone brings is the use of the camera as a video conferencing device, as well as, a live video camera. The proposed new Sprint WiMAX phone will have a camera both sides of the phone to allow for video conferencing. In addition, a service that allows for on the spot live video capture also has the potential to be popular, as a restriction free “See What I See” video service. Those video services have the potential to create more bandwidth issues.

Apple and Google Missing

One of the strangest aspects of the show was that there were no major presence of the two companies that have made the most impact to the industry in the past couple of years: Apple and Google. The iPhone has clearly become an icon in the industry so much so that a company like Samsung is offering an iPhone like product called the” Galaxy S” which promoted itself primarily with its stronger screen characteristics: brighter, more battery efficient and able to be viewed in sunlight, and its Android operating system. Google has clearly made an impact in the market allowing handset manufacturers the ability to compete with the iPhone and changing the fortunes of manufacturers HTC and Motorola for the better. Much of the conversation around the show was marveling at the staying power and impact Android has had on the mobile market. In essence these two major internet players are saying we will work with carriers as we need to but, our interests for what we see the internet being are clearly different, and we do not need to promote an organization that is clearly a carrier organization.

Next week in my blog I will talk about some of the interesting new companies and product ideas that I saw at CTIA.