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Mobile musings about Taking Ontario Mobile

A couple of weeks ago I made the long trip out to Toronto to hear the readout of the Taking Ontario Mobile report (Report hereafter), a set of research-based recommendations from OCAD University.  This Report is hefty (the Executive Summary is 124 pages alone), so my one small blog will not attempt to summarize the facts and findings of this Report (please read it here).  I would however like to take the time to focus this blog entry on my 3 main takeaways from the readout in an attempt to spark additional conversation around mobility.

  1. The definition of mobility is not as ubiquitous as its adoption.  This report defines mobility as a, “…network in which individuals have connectivity throughout their activities that is mediated, enhanced or driven by technology.”  I rather like this definition because it is not focused on any particular form of technology (e.g. smartphones vs. tablets or web vs. client-server) but rather on the action of involvement in one’s daily life activities.  Within the software engineering/R&D world we can sometimes get bogged down in architectural debates about what constitutes a mobility application while in the end, as this definition illustrates, the underlying architecture makes no difference to the end user.  Is mobility just pervasive technology? 
  2. Simple mobility innovations can yield great results.  Dr. John Semple from the Toronto Women’s College Hospital was on hand to describe a study in which he had post-operation breast cancer patients electronically file daily photographs of their incisions along with a health questionnaire to record recovery.  The surgeons were then able to download the information securely to remotely monitor their patients.  This use case may seem simple but it has yielded some great benefits.  For patients, they gained a sense of relief knowing a doctor was monitoring their recovery daily without the inconvenience of having to physically go into a hospital (which in a Canadian Winter can certainly provide obstacles).  The surgeons were given the opportunity to collect more data than they ever had in the past on their patients post-operation.  As Dr. Semple described when the pictures were put into sequence and given context, the information became extremely valuable to research and treatment efforts.  The patients were able to adopt the mobile application because (1)mobility is pervasive and patients already had the necessary technology to participate and (2)the application itself was so simple to use (essentially take a picture, answer some questions and hit send).  Did I also mention that this little innovation works to decrease acute healthcare spend within Ontario?     
  3. Ontario is leading the way in mobile-related research as shown by our vast amount of academic publications surrounding the topic.  In fact the University of Waterloo is among the top institutions in the world leading this research field.  And where there are smart people in mobility, mobility businesses tend to follow.  While Ontario is home to BlackBerry and our very own iAnywhere Solutions/Sybase (now SAP), the Report also highlights lots of other companies within its mobile ecosystem such as KiK, Polar Mobile, and Xtreme Labs.  I also learned that Canada is only third to South Korea and Taiwan in terms of mobile-related patent growth.  Who knew our local innovation ecosystem was such a mobile kick starter? 

So what can we learn from my takeaways as SAP, a global corporation of over 65,000 employees?  I think my takeaways can serve as proof points to what our leadership has been publicly stating for 2013:  (1) stay focused on the end user, (2) simplify where we can and great results will follow, and (3) invest in Waterloo as a center for excellence in mobility.   OK maybe I embellished the third point but we do have our SAP Labs Canada welcome event next week so a girl can dream right? 

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