One of the sessions I was looking forward to attending at SXSW Interactive was on Mobile Opportunities for Entrepreneurs in 2011 with Raj Singh as part of the Future15 track. Raj Singh is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Stanford Research Institute and a long-time entrepreneur with eleven years experience in mobile. Raj spoke about several themes relative to opportunities in applications and today I’m going to discuss just one of them. The content was so valuable and extensive that I’ve decided to break it into a few posts. Hard to believe he only spoke for fifteen minutes but thanks to my AudioNote iPad app, I didn’t miss a beat.
Mobile phones and tablets such as the iPad have become such a part of our life that we are at a point where they are not just a luxury but a critical component of how we do business and communicate with each other. Raj talked about a world of always on and the implications for hardware and software. Think about the typical SXSW Interactive attendee who is constantly updating their Twitter status, Gowalla location and posting real-time to their blog via the iPhone, iPad or MacBook.
Of course, the hottest applications at SXSWi this year were strong on push notifications such as Hashable, Beluga, GroupMe, and and the overwhelming choice of location based applications. This need to be always on has implications for how applications interact with the user. Raj discussed not only how news organizations are tailoring content to your interests, but that they may tailor this contextually or based on time of day. As I experienced at SXSW, there is a chance of over push and I therefore disabled all push notifications as they were far too distracting. Furthermore, how will the carriers tune their networks to this environment where not only are folks downloading applications but those applications tend to be much more chatty with a constant flow of short updates.
The second area relative to the mobile ecosystem discussed was the need to be always charged. He mentioned the fact that everyone in the industry complains about battery life and the joke in the industry is that phones will start shipping with two chargers since we can’t seem to solve the battery issue. We’ll have one charger in the car, one at the office and one at home so mobile devices can be available to suit our needs. For the last two years at SXSWi I’ve leveraged a SafPwr iPhone Battery Case which has helped substantially.
One of the promising developments in the inductive charging space is the recent deal with GM and PowerMat that will feature a form of a wireless charging pad in the new Chevy Volt in 2012. I get really excited thinking about the fact that we could charge wirelessly and I won’t have to have a charger everywhere. Although inductive chargers have their tradeoffs, I’m confident technology innovations will bring this to fruition. Also, Raj stated that the success of Bluetooth was a result of adoption from the automotive industry. So when in doubt, sell the idea to Detroit first.
We’ve seen this changing lifestyle migrate to the bedroom as well with all sorts of technologies such at the iHome iPad/iPhone/iPod charging alarm clock. Not only can you wake up to music from our iPhone, but your phone will have a fresh charge as well. Given the fact that the first thing that many folks check in the morning is Facebook via their mobile phone, this is a no brainer. But take that a step further. What if nightstand furniture built this charging capability into the top drawer or the top of the nightstand itself via induction. So basically you just set your devices down on your nightstand and rest assured you’ll be fully charged in the morning.
As mobile technology evolves and users are more often in a high-speed network, we are also seeing latency continue to shrink within applications. Raj cited a few examples in the multi-player gaming world where fast speed can truly make a difference. This also lends itself to applications like video conferencing applications such as Skype, FaceTime and another promising Facebook application called Social Eyes. Friends of mine are also using an application called HeyTell to leave short messages for each other directly vs. using voicemail. I recently discovered my sixteen year-old daughter is also using this application. What if we could bring push-to-talk technology back like NexTel used to offer to mobile devices too?
Enhanced Applications via Smart APIs
Another promising area in the application space is the evolution of smart APIs that will allow the application to query the carrier network about the user’s specific environment questions such as “Is the phone roaming?, Is the phone in 3G?, How much battery life does the phone have?” or lastly, “what is the data metering for this specific user?”. When applications can all work together with the carrier network we can get much more contextual applications in the age of “Hyper Instrumentation” by leveraging more personal details about the user.
There are so many opportunities for entrepreneurs in the mobile space it’s overwhelming. It’s time to stake your claim and help demanding consumers who demand always on, always charged, high-speed mobile environments. What other ideas do you have? Leave your comments below.