Mobile breakfast

I spent the morning of Jan. 26 at the Bisnow Future of Mobility session in nearby Northern Virginia, listening two two panels discuss mobile trends and tech for the government and private sectors respectively. Here are a few highlights that I noted during the presentations.

The discussion in the government panel was focused mostly on security, in particular the challenges of moving from government-issued mobile phones to a “bring you own device” (BYOD) approach, where employees can use their own devices at work. AS you might expect, the Department of Defense has very high standards here, so high that only one smartphone, with a modified version of Android, currently meets their requirements for total hardware and software security. For other agencies, there are less stringent requirements, but still serious concerns, shared with many private businesses, about maintaining data security and privacy (for example, privacy of health records).

The discussion also covered uses of mobility to provide government services to citizens and other stakeholders. Two interesting items here:

  • Gwynne Kostin from the GSA Office of Citizen Services said that for delivering government services and information to mobile citizens (like these examples), the real sweet spot is the web. Kostin sees the web as the best way to deliver device-independent information everywhere: not just to mobile devices, but also to the next generation of smart TVs (and perhaps connected cars?)
  • A question from the audience asked about mobile solutions to support clinical trials in developing countries that do not have affordable smartphones. I was happy to hear this reminder that most mobile consumers in the world use feature phones (Nokia has sold 1.5 billion of them). The panelists did not have much to say on the subject, but it deserves attention. Fortunately, many of these feature phones are getting smarter; most already support some sort of close-to-full HTML browsing thanks to browsers from Opera and Nokia.

On the private sector panel, the discussion started with the old favorite: “what is a mobile strategy?” The first answer was (as it should be) that an app is not a strategy. From there, much of the discussion focused more on social media than on mobility as such; perhaps this is a reflection of the dominance of Facebook in mobile web usage. If you look at the data from Opera for example, you see Facebook as the number 1 or 2 site in almost every country country, with the exception of the ex-Soviet orbit, China, and a few others.

Another interesting insight was that mobile strategy is a way of breaking down internal silos in an organization. Companies find that a robust mobile solution requires input from many different groups: groups with data need to provide those data to support APIs, IT teams need to write and support software, etc. This implies that what starts as a mobile strategy may result in a realignment of broader business strategy & structure.

Photo by amalthya from flickr


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