Enterprise mobility is older than the world believes

by John Younghusband

June 19 2012

John Younghusband works in business development for DataArt UK.


Enterprise mobility apps have been around for a lot longer than people think. But we’re still trying to perfect them.

After all, Air Traffic Control is a mobile enterprise app and use of radio communication by emergency services & taxi firms, which have been around for decades, also fit the criteria.

Initial enterprise apps, as we know them based on cellular networks, first started in the 1980s with paging networks such as Hutchison in the UK & Hong Kong.

Initially developed in areas like security, so vans carrying cash or wages were regularly polled, then extra features such as Satellite Tracking were added. As an aside, wifi technology evolved from the Military, hence why so many Israeli firms are experts in this technology.

Indeed one of the first investors in the UK’s initial cellular network, Cellnet (now O2 & part of Telefonica) was Securicor, a very large business involved in the transport of cash & wages & other valuables.

But it was 3G and the advent of the GPS enabled handset, which everyone thought was set to revolutionise both consumer & enterprise apps over a decade ago.

The so-called ‘Martini’ effect of GSM (after the advert) enabling “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” communications, of course, still hasn’t happened.

Even if you live in central London, coverage is patchy, mobile data networks are overloaded and it’s still a very long way from reality. Hopefully in the UK, this bottleneck will be solved when Ofcom finally gets around to the 4G network auction.

As so often with mobile, the promises of the marketing teams, fail to match the reality.

In fact, it’s only recently, with the invention of ‘App stores’ (it was Apple’s iTunes and now Android App store and others) which has really set the market alight with potential for smart developers & entrepreneurs to bypass the ‘walled garden’  world of the network operators—who held innovation back by refusing to allow others to put services on their networks.

Many of the operators have realized they should stick to running big ‘fat pipes’ and let the innovators come up with the smart ideas.

Indeed several of them such as Telefonica, (with their Bluevia program) have setup liaison programs, whose purpose is to guide, encourage and sponsor innovative app developers.

Currently, apps can be categorised as Enterprise apps –for use by corporate users. Or more commonly, consumer facing apps, which are often paid for.

I believe location-based apps are the killer app but we still haven’t got anywhere near achieving what was already possible more than a decade ago.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some storming examples of mobile apps that not only improve productivity but also help reduce ‘customer pain’ through a more proactive customer experience, including safety and efficiency.

These apps are allowing business to function with less people and equipment while still enabling the company to deliver more from less.

I believe that in order to be successful, apps need to achieve one of two goals:

1. Entertain, educate or amuse the user. This includes games such as Angry Birds, the plethora of e-books, e-zines, I -players for TV & video, mobile betting, stock trading, and - dare one mention – pornography.

2. Enable improved productivity (‘make my life easier apps’). Mobile shopping, task scheduling, navigation, travel news, ’find my nearest.. .' Then there are the apps for ‘evenings out ‘: theatre & restaurant bookings and of course mobile CRM.

The list of valuable apps goes on and on. We have barely broken the surface of what’s going in mobile enterprise. I haven’t even touched on the travel industry or remote learning and social networking integration.

Still these are exciting times and as often happens, the killer apps will probably come out of nowhere (e.g. Angry Birds). No doubt, right now someone has a clever idea that will be solved or enabled by a smart app

John Younghusband works in business development for DataArt UK.

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