How the mobile and cloud dream team is reshaping sport and enterprise

The NBA has led the way in the use of mobile technology, powered by the cloud, the bring the sport into the 21st century.

Mobile makes computing look easy; not only easy but sexy too. From point-to-point directions to play-by-play sports action, our screens light up at just the right moment to keep us in the know. In reality, however, mobile devices are just an endpoint. They are powerful, but nowhere near powerful enough to perform the processing required for all but the most basic operations.

And just as professional athletes make their sport look easy, in reality these super stars actually have an entire team behind them that propels them to shine at just the right moment. For mobile, this powerful teammate is the cloud. It is precisely in sports where mobile, and its massive computing power teammate, the cloud, shine their brightest.

The cloud, with its distributed and scalable computing model is the brains and brawn behind the mobile mod. The cloud is a critical component for exciting mobile experiences. It is the cloud in conjunction with mobile that is able to meet the demand of that ever growing number of mobile devices which now exceeds the population of the planet.

Sports venues and teams are leveraging cloud and mobile to jump ahead of enterprises in their pursuit of pushing the frontier at the end-user mobile experience. Business can find a lot to learn from the success of the power couple of cloud and mobile in sports.

First, sports teams are leveraging the power of the cloud and mobile to extend existing services. The NBA is using the cloud to deliver statistics, from the most recent games all the way back to the first game played in 1946. This just wasn’t possible before mobile and the cloud when the computing power of the average user was isolated to the PC on her desk. But fans today can use their mobile device to answer in an instant questions like, who is the bigger basketball star, Michael Jordan or Lebron James?

Businesses too should first look for systems and processes that would benefit from the computing power of the cloud to improve existing capabilities. They should look for present processes that are slow or could be enhanced through a more dynamic distribution platform. This could mean improving the systems and services for customers as well as internal employees.

Sport teams are also using mobile and the cloud to expand their fan base and loyalty in novel ways. From fan analytics to better understanding their customer, to social and sentiment analysis, to precision and contextual marketing

For example, to call on the NBA again, they are testing a precision marketing service, from mobile carrier Verizon, to present promotions that associate a fan’s location, demographic data, and nearby businesses such as fast food establishments. These establishments have seen an average increase of 8.4% in sales following a promotional game. What used to only be actionable well after the fact is now actionable in real-time because of the compute power of the cloud delivered directly to fans mobile devices.

Businesses too should be looking for ways to expand their existing sales and partner networks by using the power of the cloud. They should look for ways to combine ancillary revenue opportunities to further bring value to their clients. Businesses should be asking where can we leverage our customer base, customer data, partner network, and combine that into a compelling proposition that can be computed in the cloud and delivered as a value added service to existing and potential clients.

The power of cloud and mobile isn’t just for improving client services and offerings. It is being used in sports for looking at internal operations as well. Teams are asking, what could make us a better, stronger team? These teams have come to rely on analytics powered by the cloud and mobile as much as they do a coach or star player.

Professional sports organization are betting big too. From recruiting, to scouting, to salary cap management, to player analytics, sport teams are voraciously consuming the cloud and mobile to find that edge against the competition. The NHL uses analytics to analyze in real time the effectiveness of a team’s style of play. The NFL uses analytics powered by the cloud to help select draft picks. Teams are turning to the cloud via mobile on almost a play-by-play basis for next step insight.

Many sports teams are making the analytics department one of the most crucial members of the team. They have come to see that the success of their season depends on it. Why then are many business, with just as much on the line, not taking advantage of the same capabilities?

Like sports, business should be turning the power of the cloud on themselves to find efficiencies, advantages, weakness, and room for improvement. They should break down their processes and actions into distinct pieces to find an advantage. Most importantly, they should use mobile to get this data into the hands of the right people at the right time to leverage it to the fullest.

Sport teams have demonstrated that the cloud and mobile can be a powerful ally. Those who wield it win, those who don’t stand there wondering why. Is your business positioned to win or wonder? Is actionable data in the hands of those who need it the most when they need it? The cloud and mobile are on your team – have you put them in the game?

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.

This article was originally published on The Guardian on Sept 29, 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Mobile

What can enterprises learn from the way the sporting world serves its fans?

Fans

If you haven’t been to a sporting match in the last couple of years you’ve surely missed the frustration of attempting to connect to a severely strained mobile carrier network. Driven by the demands of tech savvy and constantly connected users, sporting venues today are responding by building new (or retrofitting) massive WiFi infrastructures to meet the crushing demands of mobile bandwidth hungry fans. In doing so, fan engagement and expectations at sporting events are undergoing unprecedented change.

These high tech venues are providing a host of expanded and personalised experiences for fans. From the moment they enter the venue, fans can get services that direct them to their seats, allow them to upgrade those seats, or give them the ability to order food and beer without ever having to get up and miss the action. These highly connected venues can also deliver instant replays, providing multi camera angles straight to your mobile device. Fans are catered to at an individual level like never before.

Just as sports venues have woken up to the fact that they can, and must, dramatically change the on-premise experience by taking advantage of users’ excitement for mobile, businesses too have the same opportunity. Succeed and employees will not only have higher satisfaction at work, but they’re likely to put in more hours as well. Fail and you run the risk of your employees looking for a better run team. However, this will take financial and resource commitment by the business to invest in infrastructure, security, and services to see this come to fruition.

How should enterprises take the first step to create a contextually relevant connected culture? They can start by making sure they have the capacity for users to connect. They can perform an assessment of their WiFI capacity and increase access points if need be. The number of devices employees will be bringing into the workplace will only continue to go up and without the ability to connect to the network, and beyond, the opportunity of connectivity will be lost.

Organisations will also need to develop a strategy for mobile and the cloud that takes into consideration what it means to enable their end users. Mobility is only a gimmick if it doesn’t meet actual employee needs. Organisations need to think beyond IT and involve the business side of the operation to truly understand which apps and services it should be providing in order to deliver contextually relevant experiences.

There are many on-premise contextual services that enterprises could enable for employees. From a help-desk experience, to workflows, to analytics, to cloud storage, enterprises have a huge opportunity to make mobile experiences directly-relevant to the end user. These solutions can leverage the additional information mobile devices can provide to deliver the right information at the right time and right place.

Organisations need to look at how they will develop, deploy, and manage these services and security to end users for a smooth experience. This can usually be greatly accelerated through one of the many enterprise mobility management suites available on the market. They will give businesses a base platform for security, app management, and information control.

As much as sporting events have changed the in-venue experience for fans, they have also changed what it means to be an engaged fan outside of the venue. This might be in the comfort of your home, or out at a restaurant or a bar. The challenge venues faces is figuring out what can be done to further draw fans into the action of the game. How can they make those fan experiences as rich and relevant as the fans who are in-venue?

Sports leagues and venues have responded to this remote fan challenge by offering the opportunity to engage with players, fans, and coaching staff through social media. They’ve also created game and trivia questions to compete against other fans. Mobility too offers fans a second screen, contextual experience of related real-time information to the game and players as it happens.

Business should ask the same types of questions as to how to enable remote employees in new and personalised ways. Is your sales superstar about to show up at a key client? Why not have all her related information ready based on their calendar and current location. Need to bring a distributed team together to review product information? Leverage apps such as Fuze or Skype to connect everyone with the devices they already own rather than expensive legacy video conference equipment. The relevancy of these experiences is only limited by an organisations ability to streamline their process to the individual employee.

Mobile will only further blur the lines on what an engaged fan means. It will also continue to blur the boundaries of what “office” and network means. However, with this blurring of lines, enterprises, like sports venues, can take advantage of mobile devices to better deliver and gather information as it happens. Businesses need to provide contextual experiences to connect employees like fans, as an ongoing experience that meets relevant needs at the right time and right place for the win.

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.

This article was originally published on The Guardian on Sept 26, 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Mobile

ICYMI – Enterprise Mobility for Dummies – Part II

In case you missed the live broadcast yesterday of Game Changers on the Voice America Business Channel, I had the honor of speaking on a distinguished mobile panel of experts that included Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research, Carolyn Coad of SAP, and Michael O’Farrel of the Mobile Institute, hosted by Bonnie Graham. It was a great (and entertaining) discussion on the current and future state of mobility – click below to listen!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under IoT, Mobile

Live from London – The Internet of Things at the Guardian Changing Media Summit

image

I am in London all this week and will be speaking on the IoT at the Guardian’s Changing Media Summit.  Follow the live blog tomorrow and Wednesday for the latest happenings and some impromptu interviews I’ll be doing. Tweet me if you have any questions you want me to ask any the distinguished speakers.

Leave a comment

Filed under IoT

What’s Up Whatsapp?

News of Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp prompted me to visit WhatsApp‘s website to get their perspective. What surprised me most was that, rather than featuring an announcement about the acquisition, it had a blog post that boldly proclaimed: “We don’t sell ads.”

This post, written by co-founder Jan Koam, rides high on a self-congratulatory victory lap of a company fighting against the evils of personal information collection and unwanted advertising. However, this is in stark contrast to the fact that they just sold themselves to one of the biggest advertising engines since Google in the digital age. So one has to ask: “What’s up WhatsApp?” Is your supposed raison d’etre as empty and untenable as Google’s “Don’t be evil”?

Koam writes: “At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collected and sliced and packaged and shipped out … And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen … Our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That’s our product and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it.”

Well, that is going to change quickly once they are part of one of the biggest aggregators of personal information on the planet. This post and pending acquisition raises two points worthy of addressing.

First, as much as the high ideals of the technocracy would love to shun advertising for ever, it is one of the primary models of business around the globe. It also works. That’s not to say it isn’t without problems, but, if it didn’t work, it wouldn’t attract the money and attention it does. It creates a cycle that connects businesses and buyers. It also allows for the subsidisation of many of the free and great services that have sprung up in the digital age. It is infantile to think otherwise. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Second, the post supposes an advertising model akin to the dotcom days of advertising. That of banner ads that take up precious screen real estate with limited targeting capabilities. The world has moved on technically and so should our thinking. It conveniently doesn’t address the ability to deliver a contextual experience based on the capability of connected devices. Mobile devices provide a first layer, the internet of things will take this even further.

My issue with Koam’s post isn’t that he wanted to get away from banner advertising, it’s that all he could imagine is a world of dumb, static, barely targeted ads. In fact, his post only further perpetuates this very outdated form of digital engagement. What would be more helpful would be to provide a vision of a company that changes the advertising experience altogether. He would do better to demonstrate a service that matches product and person with such alignment that it isn’t an inconvience or irritant.

This vision for the future of advertising would be for something that wasn’t a constant visual nuisance. These ads, better termed as offers, would appear at the right time and in the right place. Mobile and other connected devices of the internet of things can easily allow for delivery during the correct connected experience.

Your personal data is the new digital currency. It is true, as Koam writes, that “when advertising is involved you the user are the product”. In lieu of paying directly for our services, we are offering our personal information and usage patterns as currency. These services do collect this information and use it to advertise to you. But you should use this currency wisely and give it only to companies and services that offer not only superior functionality but also superior offers.

What we need isn’t more high ideals or more blatant boring broadcasted advertising, but a healthy mix that demands a more intelligent blending of the two. If companies such as Google, Facebook and many others continue to collect more and more information about our every movement then how, when and what they present to us as ads should be more intelligent as well.

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder of Palador, a mobile strategy and solutions consultancy in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin. He is a speaker at this year’s Changing Media Summit 2014.

(Originally posted on The Guardian)

1 Comment

Filed under Apps, IoT, Mobile

The app headache you can’t afford to ignore

It’s Tuesday at 9:13 a.m.—do you know how many cloud apps and services are being used within your organization? I’ll give you a hint: it’s way more than you think. A recent survey by cloud service monitor company Skyhigh found that it is significantly higher than most suspect. As Nancy Gohring explained the findings, “On average [Skyhigh] customers use 545 cloud services. That’s a far cry from the 40 or 50 apps that most CIOs…think their employees use.”

These cloud services with their native apps represent the frontier of the consumerization of IT where employees, emboldened by their ability to dispatch apps and services at will, are en masse changing the landscape of enterprise technology. However, this shift in acquisition of technology by the end user has not let IT off the hook for managing and securing the corporate network and its associative data.

Progressive organizations that want to encourage, rather than hinder, the spirit of consumerization need to cover certain bases to make sure that users are enabled in a secure and managed fashion without limiting the user experience. One aspect of security that should remain firmly in the domain of IT management is user authentication and authorization.

As the number of apps and services increases for the average user, managing app access represents a significant security and convenience issue. There are two major issues caused by this overwhelming use and reliance upon apps that access the plethora of available cloud services. First, it is a pain for users to have to constantly re-enter user credentials. This inconvenience will wear on the users and they will look for less than secure shortcuts to avoid this. Second, and most importantly, it is a governance and security issue for not only IT, but organizations as a whole. Organizations need to maintain a full picture of what is being accessed by who and when.

Many users approach cloud applications in one-off manner. They are often forced to create a user name and password for each service. Oftentimes these usernames and passwords are too simple, get lost, and are forgotten. They are also not centrally managed. Organizations with little awareness of the vast number of services being used by their employees have no idea what data is coming and going. They are also unable to mitigate any security threats for a given service. Lastly, when a user departs an organization it becomes a challenge to revoke access to the myriad services they had access to.

It is precisely these issues that a group of experts in the security industry has come together to attempt to solve. I had the chance to speak with one of these leaders, Paul Madsen of Ping Identity, who will participate in the working group that has formed within the OpenID Foundation. Called the NativeApps Group, or NApps for short, the group is working on developing a Native Single Sign On (SSO) protocol for mobile apps.

As Madsen related, the end goal of NApps is a standardized protocol that would allow a Token Agent on a mobile device to seamlessly manage authentication and authorization across all applications on that device. What Native SSO will mean to organizations is that there will be an interoperable ecosystem of different apps and back-end services, all built by different vendors, that will be able to communicate and leverage the same security protocol for authorization and authentication.

A mobile app that wanted to leverage the NApps Native SSO standard would be designed to interact with the Token Agent on the device and routinely check for the appropriate token to approve or deny access to app functionality. If no agent is present, the app would automatically switch back to the service’s current proprietary capability.

What would the Native SSO user experience be like? The example that Madsen used was that upon accessing your first enterprise app each day, the Native SSO Token, branded with your enterprise look and feel, would open. Users would log in to the Token Agent with their Active Directory credentials. This authentication will happen at the enterprise and not some other third party. The credentials would follow the same strength and expiration policy as set up by the IT department. After users entered their username and password they would be passed securely to the enterprise identity server. After validation the identity server would pass back security tokens to the TA; these would be valid for a given period of time, say twenty-four hours. Once in possession of these tokens, the TA would use them to obtain the necessary security tokens for the business applications, and provide the user seamless access to mobile application services such as Box, Dropbox, Concur, Evernote, or on-prem applications.

This experience differs from current Single Sign On (SSO) standards or deployments in two regards. First, the apps for which SSO is enabled are native applications rather than browser-based. Second, NApps is looking to define an open standard and resultant ecosystem of interoperable implementation. This has a huge advantage in that it doesn’t lock an organization into a single vendor’s paradigm.

So, how soon before something like this is available for enterprise consumption? Madsen told me that NApps is currently kicking off in the OpenID Foundation. They hope to have a draft specification late this year, which a variety of vendors will likely implement against. Madsen hopes to see a ratified standard to follow six to nine months later.

Some of the biggest hurdles that face the emergence of this much-needed service in the enterprise are competing interests by vendors and app developers. Without the availability of a native SSO service, mobile app vendors have little incentive to integrate into this model. This will change, however, as NApps is currently supported by such cloud leaders as Salesforce and Box. Enterprises, with greater control over their own apps, will be able to implement this sort of solution on a much faster basis once it becomes available.

The proliferation of apps and services within any single organization is a security issue that should not be taken lightly. Organizations that have a holistic understanding of information access and flow will be in a position to avoid opportunistic and careless data breaches. Those who fail to position themselves in the modern world of consumerized services in the enterprise will continue to have their risk profile increase.

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile strategy and application consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Apps, Mobile

SAP SMP 3.0 – A fresh approach to mobile development and open standards

I spoke with Carolyn Fitton, SAP mobile marketing,  about how SMP 3.0 isn’t just about bringing together its various mobile platforms and assets, but how the platform is designed with developers and the latest open standards in mind. 

Leave a comment

October 23, 2013 · 10:11 am