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Monetising the mobile

Amit Nanavati | Updated on February 13, 2014

Innovate smart to tap the potential of the ‘phone economy’



A decade or so ago, the mobile phone served a single purpose — connecting people through calls. Today, this device is integral to everyday life. Its functions include being a TV, a gaming console, and a music player. It is continuously and vigorously evolving — from empowering farmers, to enabling banking operations; from tracking missing persons to getting real-time discount coupons while shopping.

According to a report, ‘The mobile economy 2013,’ almost half the world’s population uses mobile communications. By 2017, the global mobile subscriber base will surpass 4 billion. The rise in mobile phone usage, coupled with its potential to empower users and transform lives, has spurred interest among researchers.

Research potential

India, as the second largest mobile phone market in the world, provides innumerable opportunities and avenues to researchers.

For instance, researchers working with a telecom service provider in India found that the volume, variety, velocity, and veracity of data contributed to the increasing complexity of data management and workloads. The innovative solution consolidates numerous records, processes data, and appropriately serves the required information to consuming systems. The research focused on transforming ‘processing-data-at-rest’ to ‘processing-data-in-motion’.

A closer look at the industry will highlight that continuous innovation is vital for telcos to thrive in this burgeoning mobile economy. The trends point out that in emerging markets like India, the mobile phone uptake will be driven by the increased penetration of smartphones, implying a significant growth in data consumption.

Studies have shown that smartphone users in India spend more time viewing mobile content rather than making voice calls. It is evident that the increase in smartphone adoption and faster download speeds will boost the Indian mobile market significantly.

These trends mean that telcos are now in a position to monetise data and data consumption, as well as capitalise on the direct opportunities for commerce. Telcos are looking at their networks and customers to see the broad, significant contextual insights that can be derived from them.

Context Data

Enterprises, too, are now approaching this trend in innovative ways, like creating remotely controlled sensors on smartphones via cloud platforms that use real-time analytics to enable the conversion of mobile data into meaningful information for consumption. This allows back-end enterprise applications to collect user-context data ‘on-demand’, and ‘as-is-necessary’, taking into account the users’ preferences. Additionally, this solution is built around the principles of utility-driven sensing, saving device and network resources, and allowing the enterprise to innovatively use this data to understand their customer better.

There’s no question that the mobile device will continue to be the preferred medium for content consumption and will challenge telcos to improve the ‘quality of experience’ (QoE) offered to customers, while at the same time keeping their operational costs at a minimum. The potential of such an innovation would be enormous.

Imagine delivering low-cost educational video-based content for mass markets. This solution empowers users to control when, and at what price content can be delivered to them, allowing for flexible pricing. A service provider would be able to extend discounted plans for students and teachers to download educational videos on low-cost smartphones or tablet-like devices.

Further, as an increasing number of enterprise customers choose to develop mobile applications aimed at bolstering enterprise efficiency, improve customer services and engagements, telcos will have to recreate their operating models, and look at creating value for customers who are in constant need to stay connected.

Digital advertising

There are direct opportunities with commerce in the realm of digital advertising. Although, it is still unclear how big a role telcos will play in this, there is a massive growth in programmatic buying, with integrated, seamless, real-time digital advertising that demands huge quantities of data.

It is growing to include established platforms such as TV and radio, which are also becoming digital. This is a huge opportunity where telcos can allow their data to be used for analytical modelling of buying and selling options for both advertisers and publishers.

The emerging new generations of computing systems with embedded data analytics, and data-centric architectures are enabling systems that will learn, adapt, and ultimately hypothesise and suggest answers. This will require a fundamental shift away from how computing has progressed for decades and, at the same time, will open up new ways for telcos to drive data-based revenue streams.

With all these opportunities on the horizon, this is only the beginning of the digital monetisation path. The first priority at this point on the journey should be in improving an enterprise’s performance, and gaining deeper insights into customer experience.

(The writer is Research Lead, Telecom Research and Innovation Center, IBM.)

Published on February 11, 2014

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