On average, IBM is predicting that companies will develop 25 mobile computing applications over the next two years, and the number of transactions being generated by mobile computing devices will increase 50 percent by the end of the year.
Speaking at the ITEXPO West conference this week, Mike Riegel, IBM vice president of marketing for mobile, says companies are looking to mobile computing to essentially transform the entire customer experience. The reason for this, says Riegel, is that mobile computing applications not only reduce costs, but they provide a more engaging experience. Customers who use tablet devices to shop, for example, buy more products per online visit than people who actually visit a store, says Riegel.
Riegel says it’s now possible to not only use analytics to modify customer experiences in real time, companies can start to customize that experience as they learn more about how each customer uses that application.
The types of mobile computing applications that are being developed vary widely, but they all link back in one form or another to enterprise applications. Air Canada, says Riegel, has taken advantage of mobile computing to create an application that allows customers to check themselves into a flight, which saves costs compared to using a kiosk or having someone talk to an agent. Visa is working with the Gap on a mobile computing application that sends people coupons whenever they are near a store. And a startup company called SkinScan has created a mobile computing application that uses a device’s camera to allow people to send a picture of a spot on their skin to a service that assesses the likelihood of that spot being cancerous. Even tire companies such as TBC Corp. are building mobile applications for customers.
To specifically address this market, IBM acquired Worklight earlier this year, a provider of tools for building mobile applications. That technology is now the cornerstone of an IBM Mobile Foundation offering that also includes Websphere Cast Iron software for integrating mobile applications with cloud applications and IBM Endpoint Manager software for managing and securing those devices.
Riegel says mobile computing applications are still in their infancy with most of them not using capabilities such as global positioning systems to create location-aware services. In the future, Riegel says mobile computing applications will also take greater advantage of near-field communications (NRC) technologies to facilitate transactions. These applications will also make use of accelerometers to track the speed at which someone is traveling and microbolometers that are capable of using infrared to identify heat sources that could, for example, be used to identify parking spaces or the shortest line in the grocery store.
The technical challenge facing organizations, says Riegel, is the sheer number of mobile computing devices that need to be supported. That creates a requirement for an application development platform that not only makes it easier to generate code across multiple platforms, but, just as importantly, says Riegel, also simplifies the management of those applications.
There’s no doubt that mobile computing applications are a major corporate focus. The challenge is that not only is there no end to the types of devices that might need to be potentially supported, but there is no shortage of choice when it comes to platforms for developing those applications. While many organizations are still not certain which one of those platforms they might ultimately standardize on, the one thing that is for certain is that they will be developing lots of mobile computing applications for many years to come.