Ten minutes out in Singapore rain, and no cab. I call
6522-2222. "Welcome, passenger from Caribbean Apartments, press 7 to
confirm location." Oops. How'd they know where I was? I press 7.
"Car number 7265 will reach you in five minutes, thank you for using
Comfort Cabs." And it does.
An hour later I stop by a McDonald's, pick up a burger.
I say, and they wirelessly debit the subway RFID card in my pocket. At the Expo
ground, at a Coke machine, I SMS the code to SingTel. A Coke can drops out, and
my phone bill gets a dollar charge.
Our world is spawning m-apps. For everyone's mobile:
workforce, customers, partners. They need info on the go. And the business that
gives it has the edge.
Just as Fedex's package tracking raised the bar: 'overnight'
wasn't good enough any more. Customers wanted to know where their package was,
when it reached, who signed for it.
SMS is de rigueur for banks. It's convenient, and cheaper
for the bank than calling customers to an ATM. Yes, m-banking took its time, and
m-users are still the minority. But they're the higher net-worth folks, who
don't have time; the ones the bank needs to retain.
Among the mobile platforms, SMS is king. The 'terminal'
is common-everyone has a cellphone. They all SMS: from drivers to vegetable
sellers...I even know a few Americans who can 'text' now!
Mobility has a long way to go, though. First, penetration,
and reliability. Banks could do a lot more to promote m-banking, and reduce
their own costs. Jet Airways could try making their SMS system actually work,
instead of saying "please try after some time.." whenever you send
"Jet 812" to 500 on Airtel. Ditto for Railways PNR info. I could go
on. If I can't trust a service to work, I won't use it.
And then, the wide open spaces in the market. M-data was one
big gap. No GSM provider had data offerings for the first ten years, saying
"there's no market...we're busy with voice." And then Reliance
launched its data service for laptop users, POS card terminals, ATMs... A year
later, Airtel was scrambling to follow with its Blackberry and data cards and
Location-based services, as in my Singapore taxi experience,
is the other big open area. CIOs I've spoken to have yearned for simple, cheap
LBS service without expensive GPS. They want to see, on a screen, roughly where
their sales people are, now, in the city. One CIO said he had to build a truck
fleet app using an SMS gateway: his truck drivers SMS their location every few
hours. This is silly: the network already knows their locations. Airtel et al
use that info only to tell the truck driver himself. "There is no
There's an m-world of opportunity out there, for those who
venture out to explore it.