The mobile ‘push’

By Nestor E. Arellano

At one moment the giant video billboard on Time Square in New York was showing the picture of a nondescript building. The next moment, Toronto developer Adi  Isakovic fiddled with the touchscreen of his iPhone to replace the image with a video clip of his miniature French Poodle, “Cookie.” A few second later, the image was replaced by a live stream video of Isakovic which was shot by his wife Tania with her own iPhone.

Nestor Arellano

The application, called TubeMote, was developed by Isakovic. It allows people using a smartphone or computer to control YouTube video playback on another machine. For this to happen, the target machine needs to be connected to the users TubeMote video account which contains the video.

It was not that the small screen of the iPhone itself is controlling the billboard, Isakovic explained, but rather the mobile device acting as a bridge between the TubeMote channel and the billboard.

Despite this explanation that appears to tone down the role of mobile devices, there is no denying how the tiny screens we hold in our hands daily are rapidly changing how the daily occurrences of our lives play out.

“The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

That was from an internal memo from Western Union in 1876. Today one of the major initiatives of the former U.S.-based telegraph company is revitalizing its money transfer business with the use of mobile money transfer and micro-payments.

Mobile phones today command an unprecedented predominance over our lives. Mobile phones now number more than 5 billion worldwide. There are more than 24 million cell phones in Canada today and about 50 per cent of phone connections in the country are wireless.

In a recent poll of cell phone users, Chuck Martin, author of the book the Third Screen – Marketing to your consumers in a world gone mobile, found that more than 36 per cent of mobile phone users never turn off their phones and always have the devices beside them. Last year, Canadians sent more than 163 million text messages a day.

The public’s love affair with cell phones is amazing. We spend more time with them than our significant other and perhaps convey our thoughts to them more often.

Just as spouses tend to alter the way we perceive things and react, our mobile devices, in a span of 30 years or so have altered consumer behaviour.

Back when we didn’t have cell phones, I remember setting up a primary meeting place and a back up meeting place (just in case I run late) when going out with classmates. Today time and place appear so fluid with my teenaged kids. Nobody seems to have a plan or if they do it could be changed with a simple text message. Not one of these kids appear to need any directions, they have a map and GPS apps on their phones.

If Internet access, Web services and computers gave rise to a generation of multi-taskers, mobile phones are creating a generation of multi-taskers on the run.

Not more than five years ago, interactive and social media experts began harping about the need for companies to create a social network presence. “Your customers are in the social net and you need to be there to reach them,” the marketing mantra.

The social network is rapidly moving from our computer screens to our touchscreen devices. Businesses now have to refocus their efforts to include mobile marketing. Gone are the days, when marketers had the sole power to “push” their message out to the consumer.

“In the mobile world consumers are no longer waiting for marketers to tell them what they should buy. Consumers are the ones ‘pulling’ in information they want through mobile devices,” according to Martin.

But this ability to “pull” will no longer be enough, as Isakovic’s demonstration illustrated.

Many surveys indicate that Canadians are predominately sticking to the phone, texting and alarm clock features of their cellphones. I believe that attitude is quickly changing.

Today’s smartphone users will soon grow weary of pinching and sliding their touchcsreens. It won’t be long when mobile users will want to be able to “push” as well and deliver more of their own content to whomever, whenever and wherever they want. The business than can help consumers facilitate this will hit a goldmine.

After all, the screen space of 5 billion mobile phones is a whole lot bigger than the screen in Times Square.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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