I spend a lot of time talking with folks about mobile technologies and hear a lot about how mobile is going to transform business as we know it. Most of the discussion is around how information is going to be delivered to the mobile worker and consumer. In the consumer world there is the usual talk about location based advertising. Neither I nor most of my friends are interested in getting bugged by a mobile advertisement while I’m out and about. Then there are those folks that talk about how the devices in your home are going to start communicating to your mobile devices, exchanging information that makes your life so much easier. Sorry Charlie, these tales are nothing more than rework of the ones that started in the early ‘90s when WiFi was but an infant. Instead of your mobile device being the central system it was the refrigerator. We still don’t have centralized inventory of our food staples linked to automatic reordering systems, at the local market, and my refrigerator doesn’t have a reason to talk to my toaster or coffee maker. So how is introducing a mobile device going to get mom and the kids to accurately enter information regarding the food that has been consumed? It isn’t. For those in the know, this is the realm of the RFID chip. Still yet to replace the humble bar code, these chips have lots of potential. That is once somebody invents the technology that will allow you to print or apply them at web press speeds.
So what is the “next big thing” for mobile? How is the proliferation of mobile devices and ubiquitous high speed wireless communication going to drastically impact business and personal life? In my humble opinion it is simple; location aware applications will be transformational.
What is a location aware application and how does that differ from the idea of a mobile device delivering me information based upon my location? Location aware applications act differently based upon where you are located. Applications that deliver information based upon my location are trying to inform me. Location aware applications perform different functions based upon where I am and what it is I’m trying to accomplish.
A simple example of this is the humble social services case worker. These folks have the task of visiting multiple people and families assisting with all levels of social assistance. Let’s take the instance of a case worker checking on a placed foster child. Of course they want to have information on the case at their fingertips; names, ages, etc. They would also want to know if the neighborhood they are going into is considered safe, so how about displaying the latest police incidents that have occurred within 5 miles of her location, automatically. Since she is visiting a foster child she would want to know of any registered *** offenders as well as known criminals in the area and even other members of the foster family that live close enough to have an impact on the child’s life. All of this information is available today and easy for her to research before she goes out on the call. With a location aware application this information is combined into a data set based upon where she currently is, not where she intends to go, and is displayed real time.
The big difference here is that the application is actively searching, combining and displaying data that will help her work better, without her having to request it. The application understands what the work effort is and automatically brings in relative information.
From a business perspective this changes applications significantly. Today applications are data focused, providing the user with information based upon user queries. Tomorrow the applications will present the user data based upon the location and the function of the work they are performing. The applications will become the virtual helper. Anticipating the information you need based upon what they know about the work you are performing and where you are located.
To deliver location based applications mobile solutions and even enterprise systems will have to be rethought. Artificial intelligence elements will be the next component to be added to the mobile device. Some would even say that Apple and Google are well on the way of delivering the first mobile AI solutions today. Siri, where is the nearest Starbucks?