Mobile Phones offer More Than Just Voice

October 15, 2008

Almost every day someone presents a new idea or use for mobile phones. The size of the mobile market has become so vast that it is increasingly more difficult to identify those mobile business ideas that will work & those that won’t. In the last 12 months the mobile space has opened up new business verticals that few would have ever imagined.

The mobile space is still relatively young. It was only 25 years ago (October 13, 1983) yesterday that Bob Barnett, President of Ameritech Mobile Communications (what is now AT&T Inc. & Verizon Wireless), made the nation’s first commercial cell phone connection from Chicago’s Soldier Field.

When Barnett made that first commercial cell phone connection he used a Motorola DynaTAC handset that weighed 2 1/2 pounds & retailed for $3,995 USD. Fast forward to 2008 when most mobile phones weigh less than 1/2 a pound, they retail for around $50 USD, & even the most basic mobile phones offer address books, calendars, games, text messaging, music players, & cameras.

Just three weeks ago I read an article in the Canadian Press describing how a new Japanese mobile phone built by Sharp Corp. will be used in place of a traditional car key. This new phone uses a technology developed by Nissan Motor Co. called “Intelligent Key”. As reported by the Canadian Press, “Cars equipped with the system sense when the correct key is nearby, automatically unlocking their car doors, and allow the engine to be started once the key is brought inside the car. Nissan said it has shipped about a million cars with the technology in Japan since 2002.” NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile operator, will provide the mobile network that this new service will run on.

It isn’t a surprise to me that a Japanese company is the first to introduce this type of technology. The mobile phones available in Japan are some of the most sophisticated in the world. Most of the mobile phones you will find in Japan come standard with digital TV, music players, Global Positioning Service (GPS), & cameras that double as barcode scanners & wireless credit cards.

The mobile phone is no longer a device for business men & women or the elite. The mobile phone has become a ubiquitous device for all income levels & demographics around the world.

Today, the mobile industry is nearly a $150-billion-a-year industry. As data speeds continue to increase & mCommerce solutions gain popularity the mobile industry will only continue to grow.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka


G1 Android Already Sold Out

October 7, 2008

Two weeks ago today (September 23, 2008) Google officially announced & showed off the new HTC G1, aka the “Google Phone.” The G1 will run Google’s much anticipated Android mobile operating system & T-Mobile will provide service on their GSM network.

In my opinion, the G1 will be this first real competitor of Apple’s iPhone. One week following Google’s announcement & before the first phone had even shipped, T-Mobile announced that they had sold out of the G1. The demand for the G1 has far exceeded both Google’s & T-Mobile’s expectations. In an effort to respond to consumer demand, T-Mobile decided last week to triple the number of G1 mobile devices available for sale through pre-orders until October 22nd.

The excitement surrounding the release of the G1 Android goes beyond the fact that T-Mobile has sold out of their initial inventory. This is excitement can be seen through the numerous developments & announcements surrounding Android to include: Visa developing a mobile payment solution on Android, T-Mobile removing their 1GB data cap, & Amazon preloading their MP3 digital music store on the G1.

The future potential of Google’s Android operating system is almost limitless. HTC is predicting up to 2 million Android phones will be sold by end of 2009. Google is also making waves with mobile carriers with their hopes to free the mobile device from the mobile carrier with a concept they call “Instant Bid.” Expectations remain high & I like many others believe that Google will deliver & expose the necessary technologies for others to develop the next generation of mobile solutions.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka


Apple Shifts the Mobile Industry

September 23, 2008

I was reviewing my notes from last week’s Mobilize conference & I found myself asking where was Apple? This 1-day conference featured eight panel discussions with talent from the major mobile network providers, the mobile device manufactures, the mobile operating systems, & a variety of companies that specialized in mobile application development & marketing. The panel discussions consisted of topics ranging from the development of mobile applications with Location Based Services (LBS), to the hurdles associated with mobile carriers, to investment strategies in the mobile market space. Regardless of panel topic, I noted a recurring theme throughout. Not one panel discussion could avoid bringing up Apple & what they had done with the iPhone. It felt at times like the entire conference consisted of people asking how do we keep up with Apple, or is Apple’s approach the right approach to take, or what will Apple do next?

I scanned the list of conference attendees that was handed out at the beginning of the conference & there wasn’t a single person in attendance from Apple; nor was anyone from Apple participating in any of the panel discussions or keynote presentations given that day.

So here I sat in a room full of very talented people from some very reputable & large companies who could not help but analyze Apple & what Apple has done to the mobile market.

I find myself asking why Apple would have been there. Apple has set the standard. They’ve raised the bar with mobile devices & mobile application development & distribution. As a result, we find ourselves trying to catch up to Apple. While we sit here discussing how Apple approached the mobile market, they continue to innovate. I’m sure from time to time that they find themselves at conferences looking for answers to questions & to get a feel for a market. Of course they appear to do their own research in many other ways. Apple doesn’t wait for an industry to shift, they shift an industry.

Can other mobile device manufactures & mobile operating systems surpass Apple? Is today’s release of Google’s Android operating system on HTC’s G1 an example of this or will Apple continue to shape the mobile industry?

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka


Contactless & Mobile Technologies at the Presidential National Conventions

September 3, 2008

Last week’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) was interlaced with contactless & mobile technology from beginning to end.

First Data kicked the convention off by introducing their new GO-Tag; an innovative electronic sensor that is small enough to transform any device into a contactless payment solution. The GO-Tag which was distributed in the form of a small button at the DNC allowed the 5,000 lucky journalists & delegates who received them the ability to “purchase” free snacks & drinks by tapping their GO-Tag button on electronic sensors at concession stands installed throughout Denver’s Pepsi Center. In a recent BusinessWeek article, Michael Capellas, First Data’s CEO, is placing a major bet on the fast-emerging world of mobile electronic commerce. According to the article, the GO-Tag project is one of five new ventures that Capellas has launched since he took over First Data. The other four projects include information analysis, customer-loyalty programs, fraud detection, & consumer-behavior prediction. The article went on to say that Capellas believes that mobile commerce could add more than a $100 million to First Data’s revenues in 2009.

Then there was Senator Barack Obama who announced Joe Biden as his vice-presidential pick with a text message. Nielsen Mobile described this text message based ad campaign as “the single largest mobile marketing event in the U.S., to date.” Nielsen estimates that 2.9 million U.S. mobile phone subscribers received the text message launched by Obama’s campaign. Obama supporters can still sign-up for future text messages from Obama’s campaign by texting “GO” to short code 62262 (spells OBAMA). Supporters can even subscribe to specific types of information updates by texting specific keywords such as “HEALTH”, “EDUCATION”, etc. For more information about Obama’s mobile campaign you can visit Obama’s web site & while you are there you can even download wallpapers & ring tones for your mobile phone too.

Delegates attending both the Democratic & Republican National Convention also made good use of their mobile phones for communicating events from the convention. They sent & are continuing to send text messages to services such as Twitter which in-turn distributes these messages from the convention to their “followers”. These same people are also shooting short video, audio, & taking pictures with their mobile phones & then uploading them to their blogs as mobile blog entries (“moblogs” for short).

These are just a handful of examples on how contactless & mobile technologies are being used in larger scale mediums such as our current presidential election & more importantly these two technologies are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday landscape.


NetworkIP Recognized in Inc. 5000

August 26, 2008

We are excited and proud to announce that NetworkIP has been recognized by Inc. and included in the 2008 Inc. 5000, which represents the 5000 fastest-growing private companies in America. For more than 27 years, the Inc. 5000 has served as a benchmark for the most innovative, dynamic and successful companies in the nation and we believe that this recognition speaks volumes of what we have achieved at NetworkIP over the past 10 years.

Much of our growth this past year is contributed to additional volume achieved by our existing customers, new services being offered by Jaduka and from our strategic partnerships with companies such as Cisco, Dell, and Nortel Networks. As a result we have been able to offer a wider variety of telephony services with great quality and at a low cost!

We want to thank our customers for trusting us with their businesses and following our lead in developing strong and reputable brands for the consumer. And of course we couldn’t have achieved this level of success if it weren’t for our talented team of employees! We owe a big thank you to them for all of their hard work and dedication to perfecting the solution we offer today.


Success at the Prepaid Press Expo

August 25, 2008

Last week’s Prepaid Press Expo in Las Vegas was a huge success for NetworkIP, our customers, & the prepaid card industry as a whole. The Expo brought seasoned veterans along with a good number of new companies entering the prepaid market.

In an effort to design the best conference possible The Prepaid Press partnered with the Pelorus Group & as a result the show offered a great array of conference tracks to include a look at the Prepaid Long Distance market as a whole (day 1), Prepaid Wireless (day 2), & Prepaid Alternative Payments (day 3).

On day 1 our very own CEO, Pete Pattullo, presented on the topic of “Building a Better Mousetrap” which focused on the technology of prepaid. Pete’s presentation discussed how we at NetworkIP have approached building a solution to stand the test of time received outstanding feedback from the audience. As Pete suggested, it takes a lot more than a VoIP box to develop a truly remarkable platform. It requires a combination of passion to build reliability, requires managing quality connections (our own iQT solution), ensuring competitive pricing, having the right information to make decisions, the evolution of the platform (we’ve been at it for 10 years & recently released our 8th major software revision – ICS8), innovation & the never-ending pursuit of excellence, & having talented experienced people with the right skills. These are the components that have made our solution the best in class!

Following our very own Leadership Summit Wednesday morning I caught a number of good conference sessions on Prepaid Wireless later in the day. Randall Walrond, VP of Product Management at IVR Technologies, discussed how the prepaid market can leverage the new technology of today’s mobile smart phones. He & I agree on a number of points on what these new devices & faster networks open up to the industry.

I also heard a number of compelling arguments suggesting that the average prepaid consumer isn’t ready for the new smart phones, the applications that run on these smart phones, & new technologies such as Near Field Communication (NFC). Oscar Munoz, President of Uni-Mas Corporation, provided compelling arguments that the average prepaid consumer can’t afford today’s smart phones & that technologies such as NFC are just to far out to invest in for today’s market. Munuz of course didn’t argue that smart phones & new technologies such as NFC would eventually reach the prepaid consumer. He simply suggested that it’s still a few years down the road & that we need to focus on the reality of today.

On day 3, Joel Stanton of Lightspeed Research presented on the value that exists in today’s alternative prepaid market. He discussed the pros & cons with of both the closed-loop & opened-loop gift card industry. Stanton’s presentation was then followed by a discussion on how to best distribute prepaid card solutions. Thomas Honey of Better ATM Services discussed the numerous problems with the distribution of gift cards & cited specific examples such as banks offering VISA & MasterCard gift cards.

Looking back on this year’s show & the topics that were discussed we noticed a significant shift in attention towards the mobile market. We too believe that the mobile market offers huge potential for prepaid. As network speeds increase & mobile phone operating systems, mobile devices, & the mobile networks continue to open up there is an abundance of opportunity for companies to leverage the services & applications that can be developed for this market.

Our hats off to the folks at the Prepaid Press who were able to put together such an exciting & informative event. It was definitely worth us attending, it was great for our customers, & we look forward to maturing the many new relationships that were made at this year’s event.


Plugging Starbucks in to Telephony

August 5, 2008

Every time I walk into Starbucks I’m hit in the face with a new sales promotion. Howard Shultz & crew are doing all that they can to turn Starbucks around. If successful, their current promotion will have consumers visiting a Starbucks twice a day. The approach with this promotion is that if the consumer returns with their morning receipt after 2:00 PM, they will be offered any grande (that is a ‘medium’ for you folks that have yet to pick up on the Starbucks lingo) iced drink for $2.00 instead of the usual $3.50 & above price tag.

I can’t help but look at a promotion like this & imagine the benefits that Starbucks could achieve if they would simply use communication & transaction based technologies to market & manage this promotion. The problem is that too many companies perceive such an integration to either be impossible, or if possible then too expensive.

My morning coffee was paid for using my Starbucks credit card. Talk about a loyal Starbucks’ customer… I earn Starbucks points with all of my purchases instead of miles or cash back. Since Starbucks has already “signed me up” why not alert me of this promotion via text message or better yet with a phone call rather than catching me only after I’ve walked through their doors? It wasn’t until I purchased my coffee & then asked for my receipt that the clerk even notified me about the promotion. What if I wouldn’t have asked for my receipt? Would the clerk even have told me about the promotion?

Even if I do decide to return later today it is now my responsibility to remember the promotion & I’m also forced to keep track of my receipt for the rest of the day. With the use of communication & transaction based technologies I wouldn’t have to do either. Since I’m already a loyal customer & I’m using a Starbucks card I shouldn’t need to hang on to my receipt. My purchases could be tracked on-line & when I return later in the day my Starbucks card could be scanned to validate that I made a purchase earlier that morning. As for forcing me to remember the promotion, since Starbucks already has my mobile phone number I could be sent a text message or recieve a voice call around 1PM to remind me about the promotion. Both of these solutions could easily be enabled through the use of Jaduka’s Voice & Transaction Services APIs.

Again, it’s obvious that too many companies do not realize how easy & inexpensive it is to add these types of technologies to their applications & promotions. This is especially true for companies wishing to add voice.

The Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) for too long now has been inaccessible to companies that do not have huge telephony equipment or deep pockets. With Jaduka’s Voice API we have removed these barriers & we have made it easy & inexpensive to plug in to that telephony network. With our APIs you can make your applications & promotions heard.