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If you read my post last week, “Can Mobile Technology Turn Me into a Green Thumb, Overnight?” you’ll be happy to know that my garden is thriving. I still have no idea what types of plants I have, but when I got home on Friday they were sporting vibrant flowers, and some gargantuan, certain-to-be juicy tomatoes that will likely be on our dinner table this week. I can’t credit mobile technology with the assist this time around. This is all courtesy of Mother Nature – apparently my plants were quite thirsty and she generously blanketed them with three days of rain followed by gorgeous sunshine. Let’s just say there was some serious photosynthesis (c’mon, you all remember it from middle school science) taking place in my backyard.

I know that Mother Nature won’t always have my back, so my uber-app for gardening still seems like a great idea. In this follow-up post, I promised to explore a few additional areas:

  • Does the technology to make it real exist today?
  • What types of companies could benefit most from creating this app?
  • What are some other industries where a similar solution would apply?

Does the technology exist today?

Believe it or not, the technology exists. Today’s smartphones are nothing short of amazing. Below are two widespread Internet assertions – don’t hold me to their accuracy, but they sure sound impressive.

  • Your mobile phone has more computing power than all of NASA in 1969. NASA launched a man to the moon. We launch a bird into pigs.
  • Did you know that in 1946, ENIAC (the world’s first computer) could perform 385 multiplications per second? Today, the iPhone 4 can perform 2,000,000,000 instructions per second

Mobile devices, and their apps, continuously amass a tremendous amount of information about you – your location, movement between locations, favorite music, internet sites, people with whom you interact, brands with which you transact, restaurants where you dine, and much more. In the case of my dream gardening app, my mobile would store every detail about my yard.

But, I don’t want the app to just keep an inventory. I want it to proactively provide me with personalized recommendations and care instructions. To pull this off, a lot needs to happen – the app must elegantly orchestrate a symphony of data residing on my mobile device with numerous external databases containing weather patterns, horticultural information, etc. Then, it must instantaneously examine the data, make intelligent predictions, and ultimately provide me with a personalized plan of attack. By the way, it must be extremely scalable demonstrating the ability to do this all for thousands (or millions) of consumers, simultaneously.  You may have heard buzz around words such as real-time big data, cloud, analytics, mobility, and machine to machine (M2M) – these are all pieces of the puzzle that could make the app a reality.

This article provides a great overview of the common terms you’ll encounter when exploring these topics. However, to dive deeper, I highly recommend you check out the terrific lineup of presentations and discussion groups taking place mid-November at SAPPHIRE NOW. There will be a ton of great sessions, but here are some I plan to check out. If you can’t make it to Madrid in person, many of these will be streaming real-time.

Which companies could benefit from this app?

This gardening app would be a tremendous opportunity for any retailer (or supplier) that generates a significant amount of revenue from gardening related products. Home Depot, OSH, Scott’s Miracle Gro, TruGreen, Smith & Hawken, and Amazon… the list goes on and on. They’d all drool over the ability to have complete knowledge of your yard and the ability to target you with the most personalized offers possible, leading to higher conversion rates, increased transaction volume, and deeper customer loyalty. If they threw some gamification into the mix, and gave me a badge for growing a 5-pound tomato, I’d be sure to share that on Facebook and twitter.

Another company that could benefit is your local water company. According to the San Jacinto River Authority, during the summer months, more than 50% of our drinking water is used on landscapes and yards. Ironically, the American Water Works Association estimates that households using automatic timers for irrigation systems use 47% more water than those with systems that are operated manually. In other words, today’s household sprinklers just aren’t that smart. Utility companies could benefit tremendously by offering an app to help their customers save money via reduced water usage, while at the same time decreasing demand for such a valuable natural resource. 

Other industries where this would apply

Swap out the concept of caring for plants and replace it with caring for people or automobiles. Healthcare companies and automobile manufacturers are similarly looking to deliver superior customer experiences via mobile technology that keeps people healthy and cars running smoothly. I’ll explore more of these concepts in future posts. Happy gardening!

Follow me on twitter @BrentCohler

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  1. Adam Stein

    Impressive stats Brent, think about what type of apps businesses will build 43 years from now if 2012’s baseline processing power is “only” 2,000,000,000 instructions per second.  Moore’s law from 1969 has brought many advances, hopefully “Hal” won’t ruin our M2M-based world again!

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