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The future of mobile technology: from Facebook and LinkedIn to IBM and brave new worlds

27 May, 2014

Buy Yorkshire mobile

My final post from the North’s biggest B2B conference picks up on some of the points covered by speakers from Facebook, LinkedIn and IBM, and considers the future of mobile and mobile technologies for our brave new world of modern business.

A quick round of both days at this year’s Buy Yorkshire:

In addition, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Banners and Mash director, Mark Evans, for a catch up about the different seminars we’d been to. With so many great speakers on offer at Buy Yorkshire, it is impossible to see them all – so Mark talked me through what Rashik Parmar (IBM Academy of Technology), Daryl Hughes (Facebook), and Laurence Bret-Stern (LinkedIn) had to say.

I’m glad he did as it sparked some interesting discussions!

A common theme across all three was mobile – and that’s what I wanted to focus on and explore in this blog post.

Facebook London Science Museum Survey

Daryl Hughes, E-Commerce Lead, EMEA, Facebook

Daryl noted that for the first time last year, the amount of time people spent on digital/online activities in the states overtook the time they spent watching television. The UK trend is heading in the same direction.

Furthermore, people are now increasingly accessing the internet on their mobile phones. Google figures from 2012 showed eight million people in the UK access the internet from their smartphone every day. There are 23 million smartphones in the UK – almost 50% of all mobile phones – and this figure is growing.

It makes sense, then, to invest in mobile optimisation and mobile technologies – especially for consumer brands. Not least in the retail sector, where online sales reached £56 billion in 2012 and are predicted to grow by 110 per cent in the next decade.

With one billion monthly active users and almost 600 million mobile users, Facebook is the world’s largest social mobile platform. 59 per cent of users access Facebook through their mobile phone. For many people, Facebook is the most accessed app on their phone.

Such is the power of Facebook for SEO (and increasingly so as Google algorithms now rank social sharing much more highly), there is now a direct correlation between Facebook campaigns activity and the visibility of brands through organic search. Consumer brands that aren’t engaging with this are missing out.

LinkedIn

Laurence Bret-Stern, Marketing Director, Linkedin

LinkedIn now owns the professional networking market. Its position has been bolstered recently by the number of graduates getting on board – a high growth area for the platform.

LinkedIn already had high professional market penetration, and with so many new people coming into the market (graduates now have to be much more ‘networking savvy’ to compete for highly sought-after graduate posts), LinkedIn is now in a great position for growth.

The original vision of the platform was to help professionals to maximise the use and benefits of their professional networks. Now this purpose and vision has been realised, the question for LinkedIn is: what next? How to best make use of all that valuable data?

Laurence talked about using LinkedIn data to establish and fill in expertise gaps: finding out what companies need and matching candidates, even before they graduate – informing universities and training centres where the skills gaps are, so they can tailor education and training accordingly.

For example, there are over a million people unemployed, but often their skills don’t match the vacancies. Or people stay in roles they are dissatisfied in (thus blocking them for others more suitable), due to a lack of knowledge that their skills are in high demand in another company or sector.

LinkedIn has now released university pages, which provide data on the wealth of young people and aspiring professionals. If this can be linked with data from the organisations both training for and recruiting for those skills, Laurence explains, “we can put an arm around the entire network and ultimately tell universities what skills need to be pushed.” The big data potential here is huge.

chris-brown LinkedIn

In my post on LinkedIn manager Chris Brown’s talk last year, I highlighted the company’s lack of investment in mobile. It was therefore great to see last month’s launch of the new LinkedIn iOS and Android apps, which have reportedly already resulted in a 40 per cent increase in mobile engagement from the previous version of the app.

The LinkedIn share price will be one to watch, as the company reaps the benefits of its investment in mobile, following a steady few years. Is this part of its tactics to capture and retain the graduate market share? I wouldn’t be surprised – if there’s one thing teenagers love doing, it’s playing with their mobile phones!

Rashik Parmar, President, IBM Academy of Technology

Rashik’s talk was reportedly both inspiring and mind blowing!

He points out that without the development of the first transistors in the 30s and 40s, nothing we do today would have been possible. Incredibly, there are now one billion transistors per person on the planet; and more transistors are produced each year than grains of rice!

Already, products have been developed that measure less than one millimetre yet can self-energise enough to be able to record audio/location/other data.

Rashik highlighted a number of important applications of this kind of new technology, including diagnosis and prescription solutions for healthcare professionals.

But one that particularly struck me was around the amount of data now held by mobile phone companies.

To give you some background: IBM is currently doing a lot of work with cities. Original city boundaries, created for security (eg the walls around York), are now a restriction as cities grow and require more road space for traffic. So what is the city’s role in planning new transport infrastructure? How should it all be managed? There are massive challenges ahead, and IBM is researching in this area to see what it can do to help.

So who holds the traffic data? Just think, mobile phone companies know exactly where you are, where you’re heading, and how fast you are travelling there. They know if you’re stuck in traffic! So they sell the data – for example – to advertisers for billboard planning, and sat nav companies to help them plan the best routes and give you accurate arrival times. (Luckily, they’re not selling it to the police – yet!)

This data is worth millions, and it all comes from you simply carrying your phone with you. Is it time, therefore, for mobile phone companies to re-think their pricing?

Should they be charging customers for calls? Or should they be thanking us for our data, giving our contracts away free, and passing the cost onto the companies who buy our data instead?

Met Office weather

In the same way the Met Office generates billions from the data it collects: not from selling it to the BBC for our weather reports; but from selling it to insurance and infrastructure companies that want to prevent or plan adequately for storm damage.

It is time we all began to think more carefully about the value we ascribe to data – and how best to capture, harvest and utilise it for mutual benefit?

The future for mobile technology has never been more exciting. And I, for one, am really inspired by the possibilities.

What do you think is the future of mobile? What are the challenges and opportunities for business?

I’d love to hear your comments on this topic!

Thanks again to Mark ‘Masher’ Evans for the chat that inspired this blog post.

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