Friday, 18 January 2013

Mobile marches on into 2013 - the predictions

So, the global economy has once again failed to live up to our hopes for modest growth in 2012, and this year the threat of a triple dip recession looms large. By contrast, the world's appetite for Smartphones and Tablets is insatiable, driving forward innovation in mobile technology at an unstoppable pace.

Such is the rapidity of change in the mobile technology industry; you can never be too sure what exciting developments lie around the corner. I'm happy to say that all but one of my predictions for last year were pretty accurate, it was my theory on increased Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) uptake which was a little off the mark.

The problem with BYOD is that it doesn't exactly do what it says on the tin. Because businesses need to be able to protect their network from viruses, malware, data leaks and so on, they will often lock down BYODs. But this means removing any personal apps, and the result is a mobile device that seems far from your own.


Sharp rise of consumer device adoption in the enterprise
Over the past year we've seen an influx of highly sophisticated mobile devices flood the consumer space. But the latest generation of Smartphones and Tablets are making an increasingly strong business-case, with lean thinking organisations turning to them as a means to increase efficiencies without high levels of capital investment.

A compelling combination of power, reliability and low-cost will significantly hasten uptake of mobile devices to support fieldworker roles during 2013. Couple this with an innovative range of aftermarket rugged cases and device-based security; we will see a new versatility of enterprise-hardened mobile devices that meet the needs of blue collar workers right through to the executive management team.

Rugged devices challenged
Enterprise-hardened smartphone and tablets may be good news for businesses looking to roll out sophisticated mobile technology at low cost; however the same cannot be said for rugged device manufacturers who will see their value proposition further compromised this year.
In 2012 we saw two major buy-outs signal diminished demand in the rugged device sector, with Honeywell taking over Intermec and Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions do the same with Psion. To survive the tough year ahead, rugged PDA manufacturers will need to reinvent themselves and build in innovation to their product range.

Business Intelligence enables big data
The slow economic recovery will no doubt mean some businesses freeze or rein-in IT spend. On the other hand, those that invest in Business Intelligence (BI) will gain a significant advantage, both in terms of their ability to identify inefficiencies and exploit opportunities to generate revenue. Having granular knowledge of operations will allow for businesses to proactively streamline processes and enhance performance, becoming leaner as a result.
This year will see more and more organisations turn to real-time BI tools to pull vital insights from important data, whether it resides in the IT infrastructure or with the mobile workforce. In turn, cloud synchronisation of corporate data will be further utilised as a low cost facilitator of big data analysis.

Machine to Machine (M2M) will migrate to alternative wireless services
To date, M2M devices have predominantly been connected to GSM 2G (GRPS) networks. However with the advancement of cellular data connectivity and the global roll out of LTE, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are now considering the alternatives. For instance, US telecommunications giant, AT&T, announced last year its plans to switch off GSM in 2017, to access valuable bandwidth for fast data services in the race for bigger capacity.

However, if UK MNOs follow suit, this may cause some issues here in the UK. Many of the major gas and electricity suppliers intend to the roll out 50 million Smartmeters over the next five years on the GSM network, which could one day be switched off. What we can say for certain is that the wireless spectrum that was recently used for the Teletext service could be repurposed to offer a significantly lower data cost than the current GPRS network, to provide specific M2M services.

Keep taking the Tablets
Impressive figures for the Tablet market in 2012 can leave us in doubt - Tablets are here, and they are here to stay. Global usage grew by 55 per cent last year - with over 108 million devices purchased - a mega-trend which looks set to continue in 2013. If consumer demand for Tablets follows in the footsteps of the Smartphone phenomena, we will see a 60 per cent increase in growth, equating to at least 250 million more devices being sold this year.

Smartphone growth
It's a similar story with Smartphones. 720 million Smartphones were shipped last year, representing growth of 48 per cent globally. The increasing availability of low cost, feature rich Smartphone technology is a key driving factor in their unceasing popularity. The market is far from saturated though, with 5.5 billion connected devices worldwide there remains potential for another 50 per cent rise in Smartphone sales in 2013.

Mobile shopping
In the run up to Christmas last year, the BBC reported a 300 per cent rise in the number of people using mobile devices to buy online. Coupled with the upward trend in sales of Tablets and Smartphones, 2013 looks set to be the year for mobile shopping. We saw many of the major retailers making their online presence mobile-friendly and creating apps, and this will become more widespread as the year progresses. Although Point of Sales mobile payments is slowly gaining traction, it is mobile based spending that will cause the biggest stir in 2013.

The turning point for NFC
All of the smartphones in the shops today have NFC technology baked-in, all bar the iPhone that is. So this year will see NFC come of age, used for gaming, Bluetooth pairing, information transfer, and increasingly mobile payments. As this exciting technology starts to get established within the consumer space in 2013, businesses will also begin to embrace NFC in barcode scenarios.
Due to its ultra low-cost, NFC offers businesses an attractive RFID alternative, with numerous innovative applications including ticketing and transportation (micro-payments), barcode enhancement, active tags which store and communicate information (vehicle damage records), safety systems, asset management, fleet management, equipment rental and time and attendance.

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