I was at Ericsson last week, as an external speaker in an internal management conference for the MultiMedia division, discusssing opportunities in mobile beyond entertainment. This followed on from some work with Ericsson’s ConsumerLab earlier in the year.
In looking “beyond entertainment” the focus was on applications of mobile that enable other industries to connect with their users more effectively, with the effect of getting mobile deeper into people’s lives.
A good example here is the trial run by O2 and Nokia in London of integrating an Oyster Card (NFC ticketing system used in London), a Barclaycard and a mobile phone to enable people to have 3 accounts with the single device. Although there were some technical issues, I understand the trial gave positive results in many areas and work is starting to scale it up to include other operators.
Another good example is the Blood Donor database in Sri Lanka where they have improved their management of blood stocks by sending text messages to donors with a certain blood type as stocks of that type of blood are used up. This makes it easier to have enough of the right type of blood in the right areas.
There are lots of examples from different sectors and countries around the world. Ericsson, along with many other vendors and operators, is already active in a number of projects of this type but the approach so far has been rather piecemeal.
The main points of the discussion were:
- Many companies in the mobile industry have been over-focused on entertainment applications for multi-media technologies, and there’s little evidence that this is paying off for the industry. How many TV services on operators’ portals are profitable or having a significant effect on average revenue per user (ARPU)?
- Entertainment applications are fine, but tend to focus more on younger people – who do not have a high share of the wealth.
- There are good opportunities in other sectors, and within that, there are many opportunities to embed mobile data services deeper into society.
- These can bring significant benefits to organisations that implement them, as well as making people’s lives easier.
- They can also bring benefits to the mobile industry in the form of new sources of revenue, plus expand the use of mobile data into broader segments of the population.
It’s important not to be naive or rosy about the opportunities, though. It’s not a simple landscape, with high technical complexity, high project complexity, unpredictable business models plus low economies of scale because so many of the projects are national or local in scope.
But, as economic conditions deteriorate, and users check their discretionary spending more closely, I think it’s a good time for vendors and large operators to start being more systematic about addressing a broader set of sectors – not for enterprise applications but for linking that sector to its users in the population. It’s not going to be a quick win, but the long term business opportunity is sizeable.
I’d be really interested to hear of further examples of this sort of project, including any information on the benefits and difficulties experienced.