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My Spy Next Door

The recent spy ring round up in my area of suburban New Jersey brings back a memory of another east bloc spy that I knew…. really.

Before I get into that story, since this is the Mobileman blog, I need to tie this story to something wireless.

The recent Jersey/Russian spies exchanged messages in a Starbucks using a private WiFi Network and hid messages (eventually not well) in jpg images on websites and social media.

Okay enough of that. Now my spy story.

When I was in high school the cold war was the real deal.  My kids laugh at me when I recall the “Duck and Cover” civil defense drills we did in elementary school.

“When you see the flash of the nuclear explosion, duck your head and cover up!”  I can still hear that catchy little song in my mind “Duck… and Cover” , sung by a turtle with a helmet on his head. The video below was already over 20 years old when it was being used in my elementary school.

In high school I was part of the “Computer Club”. (The statute of limitations on Geekdom has expired!)   We were a group of 6 guys and one girl that competed in programming contests with other schools.  Our computer room was a converted boys bathroom that had 3 Teletype computer terminals complete with paper tape storage and long rolls of continuous yellow paper.

A former boys bathroom in a high school is hardly the setting for the next Tom Clancy novel….. or is it?

One of the computer geeks in our club was Peter Hermann.  Peter was a year older and by all accounts` extremely brilliant.  He was just another normal Westchester suburban kid,  with the one additional  detail.  Peter and his family were East German spies.

This became the setting for a real life novel written by another classmate of mine – Lawrence Kessner.  In 1981 he wrote “The Spy Next Door”.  This has nothing to do with the recent movie or another spy novel of the same name. Of the three it is my favorite spy story.

It seems Peter was being groomed to be a master spy.  He was destined to go to an Ivy League school or a D.C school such as Georgetown.  At college he would make the lifetime connections that any good spy needs.  His major would be in  government and his future job was planned to get him access to good spy stuff to send back to his handler.  His parents, while also spies, were “mulls” –  Spies who would move messages from one place to another.  Peter was the sleeper crown jewel.

I remember Peter showing us some of his spy gadgets.  This was a safe thing for him to do because who ever suspects a 15 year old classmate to be a real spy?  I remember a small  “spy” camera and a nickel that opened up and had a small space that something (microfilm) could be placed.  I even remember saying something like , “Gee , that would be cool stuff to play spy with…”  I am sure he got laugh on my account for that one.

The Kessner book goes into more details on Mark’s other relationships and activities.  It seems the KGB even used a “honey-pot” trap to keep him in the fold.  Could you imaging a 14-year-old boy going to Moscow for training and being seduced by a gorgeous KGB woman?   They could have easily won the cold war through mass recruitment if they made that perk well known.

Fact stranger than fiction.

In the end the East German spy family was caught and turned into double agents by the FBI.  When the East Germans and the KGB suspected that this had happened they asked them to return to East Germany.  At this point the family entered the witness re-location program.

Moving trucks came by their house in the middle of the night and removed all their belongings.  The house was on the market the next week.  We assumed that the moving trucks came from our government and not from the KGB. No one has heard from them since, although I am sure they have been living normal lives in the open. I also wondered if the new family that moved in was also a spy family being re-located from somewhere else?  A Spy exchange program?

Spies in the suburbs.  Not a new story.

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Filed under From Russia with Love, Honey Pot, KGB, mobile, New Jersey, The Spy Next Door, True LIfe

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