Mobile devices are more than handsets

EDMONTON — Tom Vassos, a Canadian business school instructor and author of a book on mobile marketing has a three-part hypothesis on mobility: That we are in the midst of an irreversible mobile revolution; that forward-looking businesses will leverage the opportunities that mobile technology represents; and that they’ll do it by using mobile to change business and marketing models,

An MBA instructor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and author of Destination Innovation: Creative Mobile Marketing and Commerce Strategies, Vassos made the observations this week at at the ninth annual CIO Peer Forum here.

He doesn’t think about mobility in terms of a form factor. For business and marketing purposes, a car is a mobile device, thanks to the telemetry installed. And that’s what makes the mobile revolution: the instrumentation, especially taken together.

Your phone’s GPS can locate you. Its onboard compass can detect precisely in which direction your camera is facing. Put them together, and you’ve just identified the building that you’re staring at, allowing the network to provide more information onscreen – augmented reality.

How else are companies changing business and marketing models using the instrumentation and features on mobile devices?

* Home Spotter is an augmented reality real estate platform that allows brokers to find properties in a neighbourhood that are for sale, property details like number of bedrooms, square footage and price, and provide a “radar view” of others for sale in the neighbourood, all by pointing their mobile phone cameras. A version for homebuyers is in the works.

* ZipCar changed the model of car rentals by eliminating the overhead associated with huge lots, which allowed shorter-term car rental than one day. changes the model even further – the service doesn’t even have a fleet. Members in your area, located by GPS, offer their own cars out for rent, fully insured on an hourly basis.

* International grocery chain Tesco was determined to expand its footprint in a crowded South Korean market. They created a series of “stores” that were actually backlit subway posters of product. Consumers snap the QR code, submit an order, and the product is delivered two hours later to their homes.

* Remember that your car’s a mobile device, too. Insurance company Liberty Mutual is experimenting with telematics-based policies. Let the company track your driving behavior — how fast, where and when – and the company can lower you policy price by precisely calculating your risk profile.

“Some people that speed and drive at two or three in the morning might not want to do that,” noted Vassos.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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