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Yes Virginia, Santa does TXT!

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When I was leading Upoc we would create “Themed” social networking groups around different holidays.  We had particularly interesting groups, and results around Thanksgiving, Valentines Day, New Year’s, Hanukah, Kwanza, MLK’s Birthday and Halloween.  The most interesting, and memorable group was the Christmas group of 2007.

Each social network had a particular question that the members were asked to answer and comment upon.  For Thanksgiving the question was simply, “What are you giving thanks for this year?”  For Christmas it was, “What do you want from Santa this year?”

These social networks were created from the existing Upoc community.  We used our in-house tools to invite members to join.  When a network reached a critical mass of between 500-1000 members, we had a vibrant group.  Since I enjoyed the social networking, group psychology, and the pure fun of these networks, I was often the group moderator and owner.   The majority of the messaging within the group was done via SMS text messaging.  It was not unusual for one of these group to generate millions of messages during its life.

So you probably guessed by now.  I was “Santa”.  I would watch the group discuss their  various needs and wants, and then once or twice a day, as “Santa”, I would interject some pithy (hopefully) comment.  My username was “Santa”.  As Santa I would also boot from the group anyone who wanted nothing more than carnal contact with Santa!

This pattern continued for about a week, when a particularly classic desire bubbled up from a member.  She was a single Mom, with another baby on the way.  She lived in a very rural section of a Southern State.  To protect her identity I will call her “Virginia”.   Either Virginia thought she was text messaging with the real Santa, or she was really good at role-playing.

She texted Santa and said she “really believed in Santa”.  We had several text conversations about her living situation and she would ask about the reindeer.

After communicating with Virginia for two days I decided it was time for Santa to practice some real  holiday spirit . I messaged her that if she really believed ielf_poster1n Santa, then she would get a call from one of Santa’s helpers, “Charlie the Elf”.

In terms of full disclosure,  “Charlie” worked in our customer service department and was eager to play the role of an Elf.  Charlie called Virginia and got her address.  She was a little curious why Santa did not already have her address since he visits every house on Christmas Eve, but we and she let that one slide.

Once we had her address, I went to the web page of the real Santa helpers – Toy’s R Us.  I purchased various items to brighten her holiday- some toys, books, and baby clothing.  These items were shipped directly to her home.

After I made the order I checked out her home on Google Maps.  Using the Satellite view I discovered that the address was in fact a trailer on a secondary dirt road, connecting to the main dirt road, that connected with what may have been a paved road about 5 miles away.

toysrus-logo-high2Santa sent a message to Virginia to tell her that her package was on the way and that it would come from Toys R Us.  She messaged back asking why Santa needed to use Toys R Us.  I thought about sending an explanation about outsourcing and the global flat economy, but instead just told her that Santa needs a little help in reaching the most rural areas.ups-logo

As Santa, I used another of Santa’s helpers – UPS- to track the package.  When the UPS service send me a message that the package had been delivered, I texted Virginia to ask her about her gifts.   She got back to me and messaged that there was no package by her door.   I went back to the UPS web page and it informed me that the package had been left behind the carport.  Santa then messaged Virginia to look behind the carport.  She messaged back in a couple of minutes, totally amazed that I was able to tell her exactly where to look.

If she did not believe in Santa as a magical figure before that, with the help of text messaging, Charlie the Elf, Google, Toys R Us and UPS, she was clearly a believer now!

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Filed under advertising, blackberry, CEO, Christmas, Google, hockey, location based services, mobile, new media, politics, Santa Claus, social networking, wireless

Catch the Next Wave in Mobile

The key to the future lies firmly in what you do in the present.  This is the theme of every time bending sci-fi story.  Change what you do now and your future timeline will alter.   This axiom has never been as true in the mobile industry.  With a significant portion of the industry for value added services treading water (or drowning slowly) in this economy, those who position themselves for the recovery wave  will ride to success and be the next hot thing.  If you miss that first wave, you sink.

So, enough for the metaphors , Let’s get to the predictions.

Where should you be positioned for that enviable wave of profitability?

What will be hot? My top three

-Location Bases Services – For real this time!

minority_report2The prediction of profitable LBS services has been around for as long as LBS services.  The reason I am now bullish on LBS is the convergence of social networks, large screen devices and third party LBS providers for applications.    The visions of “Minority Report” like talking billboards or auto-generated coupons as you walk past a Starbucks have been the visions of non-visionaries.

Nice for Sci Fi but not in reality.

The popular navigation applications such as VZW navigator have been the first step in this lucrative market.  The integration of LBS with social networking will be the next.

LBS will be the  bridge that will bring virtual social networking back to the real world.  looptCool apps like a Google map that automatically shows you the location of your Facebook friends, alerts you if a “friend” is at the same bar, game or locale as you.
This is being developed by Loopt – today.

Legitimate dating services such as Match.Com could obviously benefit from such a service.

Will this make the anonymous rogue of virtual space more dangerous or more marginal?

Regardless, this is coming and will be big   Position your application for this and you will catch the wave
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-Mobile Commerce  – The rest of the economy meets wireless

In a previous article I talked about the tipping point of large screen devices and keyboards.  That trend coupled with “open networks” is a perfect storm for true commerce on mobile devices.  The industry will break out of the ringtone and wallpaper commerce “sand box” to address the other 99.9999% of the economy.

We will be evolving from using mobile as an alerting mechanism for transactions such as banking, trading, ebay, sports, etc.  The next step is to use the mobile as the transaction vehicle.

There are already several mobile ticketing trials for airlines and events underway.
Using your mobile as a truecredit-cards mobile wallet is just over the horizon.

The barrier that will have to be removed is the 40-50% share of revenue that carriers take for the existing mobile oriented content.   Credit Card rates for merchants are one tenth of what carriers charge.

The carriers have been providing both a billing service and a “mall owner” function.  Open Networking and free application choice changes this equation.   Either the carriers figure out how to be the clearinghouse for general commerce using their networks, or they will be ultimately bypassed.   The consumer should hope that the carriers continue to play a role and benefit from this increased commerce flow.  Simply , the more revenue the carriers can garner from commerce generation, the less the basic subscription rates have to be.

In either case the revenue flow through mobile will increase geometrically

-Advertising –The arrival of universally acknowledged Mobile ROI
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My view is that mobile advertising has been “Swift boated” by the other advertising media outlets.  This makes sense.  If I made my bonus purely on television, radio, print or web advertising, I would be less than happy for a share of those dollars, Euros or Yen to go to mobile platforms.  The claims that mobile advertising is impossible to measure seems rather suspect to me.  You can measure TV audience but can’t measure someone who clicks on your mobile ad?

With so much more content being produced for the larger screen mobile devices, the preferred monetization mechanism will be advertising first, subscription second.  The value chain for mobile ads, from creative, agency, platform, network, publisher and advertiser will mature and become fully mainstream.

More advertising revenue will benefit the traditional media giants as well as the new wave of mobile publishers such as game provider Cellufun.

Eventually the advertising model can help carriers transition the handset subsidy to the providers of goods and services.

These are my waves for the next couple of years, what do you thing I have missed?

Are you poised to cash in?

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Filed under economy, Google, hockey, location based services, mobile, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, mobile games, social networking, wireless

Always bring your wireless stuff!!

My Wireless Business Trip

Being an executive in the wireless industry, I tend to be an early adopter to new technologies and often rely on the technology, just a bit too much. My recent trip to the West Coast is a good case in point.
The Trip out: (picture is not the guy!)
While I was on the plane to the west coast I had the honor to be sitting next to a distinguished public figure. Since I want to honor his privacy I will not say who he was. We had a brief discussion as we observed that he was reading the Wall Street Journal in paper edition and I was reading it on the Kindle. I tried to demonstrate the coolness of the Kindle and he was mildly intrigued. For the next 5 hours of flight time he devoured his WSJ, ripping out many pages, taking copious notes on the torn articles, and filling then in a folder.   Try that on a Kindle!
Driving Around:
I rented a car from National and wanted to try there in car navigation system and compare it to by GPS enabled Google maps and the VZW navigator application. The Street Pilot from Garmin behaved like a bad “Saturday Night Live” sketch. It took many minutes to find its satellites and thus its location. It barked out directions in quick succession: “Turn Right, Turn Right , recalculating, Turn Left, Turn Left” The screen would have an arrow pointing right and the voice would say turn left. It was sad and amusing.
 My passengers and I , not to be deterred (or detoured) switched our LBS direction technology. First the VZW Navigator was fired up, but for some reason refused to find our location. We then switched to a GPS enabled BlackBerry and achieved a similar fate. Perhaps we were in a GPS Bermuda triangle? 
We finally used a plan vanilla version of Google Maps and easily found our way. 
For my first battle with LBS technology click this link.
At the Continental Presidents Club”
We finished our meetings and settled into the Continental Presidents Club at the airport to wait a couple of hours for our flight. I connected to the free WIFI network that Continental provides and started to work. The problem was that the effective bandwidth I got through their WIFI was clocked in a not so impressive 20 KB/sec.   20KB,/Sec that is so last century!
Fortunately, I travel with lots of options. I disconnected from the WIFI and inserted an EVDO wireless card and presto, 250KB/sec.
I now feel vindicated for carrying  an extra backpack of all my wireless “stuff”. 

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Filed under lbs, wifi, wireless