Apps Are Blind — Use Sensors To Make Them See

Most apps are dead boring. Sensors can help add some zing. Sensors are data collectors that measure physical properties of the real-world such as location, pressure, humidity, touch, voice, and much more. You can find sensors just about anywhere these days, most obviously in mobile devices that have accelerometers, GPS, microphones, and more. There is also the Internet of Things (IoT) that refers to the proliferation of Internet connected and accessible sensors expanding into every corner of humanity. But, most applications barely use them to the fullest extent possible. Data from sensors can help make your apps predictive to impress customers, make workers more efficient, and boost your career as an application developer.

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Design A Best-In-Class Mobile Experience

A lot of people have been talking about Facebook’s new Nearby Friends feature for their mobile app, which gives users the ability to see which friends are nearby. But less discussed, and perhaps just as significant, is another change — to a more contextually-relevant Facebook profile.

In the past, when you checked out other users’ profiles, you would see the same static information including their profile photo and links to their friends and “about” pages. There were two problems with this. First, the information is rarely updated, so it becomes stale. Second, if you don’t know the person, it takes a bit of digging through their pages to find out if you know them or have anything in common.

The Facebook iPhone app’s recent update addresses these concerns by taking a contextual approach. Specifically, it presents more personalized and dynamic information, such as whether you and this person share any mutual friends, whether you happen to live in the same city, and what the friend has been up to recently. The app also prioritizes this information, so it’s one of the first things you see after you click on a user’s profile.

In fact, we’ve seen this trend in mobile apps — the best apps are moving away from static web-like experiences and are delivering more personal, relevant content, fast. In my report, "The Best And Worst Of Mobile User Experience," I found that leading mobile user experiences share common attributes that separate them from the pack. These leading experiences:

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Lesson From Mobile Banking — Making Things Easy Makes Money

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan just announced that more than 10% of all consumer deposits are done through mobile devices. That's in Q1 2014, and it's up from 6% in Q1 2013. (What you see in this picture is my local Bank of America branch, which I never visit any more.)

I love this from the Wall Street Journal's MoneyBeat blog:

Banks that don’t offer a full suite of mobile banking services may run the risk of alienating customers. All told, about 60% of smartphone or tablet users who switched banks in the fourth quarter said mobile banking was an important factor in the decision, up from 7% in the second quarter of 2010, according to data from New York-based consulting firm AlixPartners.

A mobile transaction costs 10 cents. An ATM transaction costs $1.25.

Here's what this means for you: Find a mobile moment where you can make your customer's life easier and you'll make money three ways. First, you'll make the customer happier with a better experience. Second, you'll keep him from switching to a competitor. And third, if you engineer it right, your own processes will be simpler and you'll save money, too. That's mobile mind shift thinking.

It's not just banking. Where are the mobile moments like this in your business? 

New Mobile Business Models: Uber Finally Opens Its Kimono - A Little, With Uber Rush

It was just a matter of time. They started with taking people from point A to point B. They gave us some glimpses of what might come by dropping off ice cream and litters of kittens. Uber became (and continues to become) incredibly efficient by matching supply and demand, all from the mobile device. How successful? A valuation of $3.4B back in August 2013. 

Some may argue (and I got this question yesterday from a journalist) "they could have done this without mobile services." I disagree. Mobile has added a level of convenience and improved the customer experience dramatically. Convenience. Convenience. Convenience. Uber has embraced what we call the mobile mind shift and is expertly serving customers in their mobile moments - a concept explored in depth in our upcoming book.

Uber (and similar services) have grown the overall business for private car transportation. What are they cannibalizing? I haven't done this analysis, but for me - I drive less and spend a lot less on parking. Do I spend more on Uber than I would have on parking? Probably, but they are so enjoyable to do business with. (See our customer experience framework).

- Mobile phones (subsidized) are relatively cheap - or at least affordable as a cost of doing business for your typical driver. Dedicated hardware isn't. 

- A mobile app for the drivers (and now cyclists) pinpoints exact pick-up locations PLUS shows the hotspots for demand based on time of day, location, weather, holidays, local events, and probably a hundred other factors. There is no other way to communicate easily to drivers where they should wait to pick up rides. 

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Amazon Dash: Monetizing Mobile Moments At Home

Amazon is testing a new device to facilitate making a grocery list and ordering groceries through their AmazonFresh service in markets such as San Francisco and Seattle. (See TechCrunch article.) Consumers can add items to the list through voice or by barcode scan. Two things (for me) make this an interesting experiment to watch.

1) Amazon looks to profit from what we call "a mobile moment," a concept introduced in our forthcoming book, The Mobile Mind Shift. Or more specifically in this case, an impulse sales moment. As a consumer, I add an item to my grocery list before I forget. I may or may not order that day - it may be tomorrow, but I will buy it. The Dash adds convenenience - it removes friction from my shopping process. The Dash takes advantage of the immediacy of mobile. (See our report on how to create mobile moments).

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Who Owns David Ortiz's Selfie?

David Ortiz took this selfie when the Red Sox visited the White House to celebrate their win in the 2013 World Series. First there was a huge hue and cry because of the question of whether Samsung put him up to it (David says it was spontaneous, but he does have a contract with Samsung.)

Now the Obama White House is objecting to the commercialization of the image, because it's not "appropriate" for the president to be part of an ad campaign.

OK, let's look at what happened -- who did wrong?

Was Big Papi wrong to take money from Samsung? No, any athlete can sign an endorsement deal.

Was Ortiz wrong to ask for a selfie with the president? Look at that smile on Obama's face. He was having a good time. If he didn't want a selfie, he should have said no. This is a hell of a mobile moment. If it were me up there with the president, I hope I would have the courage to ask, too!

Was Samsung wrong to promote it? You could argue this, but frankly, Samsung has to be delighted.

Is the White House within its rights to object? I imagine so, and I understand their position.

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Microsoft’s New Personal Digital Assistant Signals The Start Of Something Bigger

When Clippy, Microsoft’s paper-clip assistant, disappeared in 1998, it was hardly missed; it was both annoying and offered little value to users. Zip forward 16 years: Microsoft has just introduced Cortana, a new personal digital assistant that the firm will launch on Windows Phone in the coming months. Powered by Bing, and about two years in the making, Cortana will be important if Microsoft gets it right. Here’s why it’s an exciting development:

  • Mobile-first is a growing enterprise strategy. The whole idea of creating a mobile-first enterprise strategy has taken root in many enterprises, as they recognize that users now expect any information or service they desire to be available to them, in context and at their moment of need. Users are cognitively and behaviorally ready to embrace wearable technology as an extension of mobility — and to weave it into their business processes. My colleague JP Gownder shares his views on wearables here.
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