Tag Archives: technology adoption

The simple feature needed to take location-based services mainstream

Location-based services offer amazing future possibilities. Restaurants can offer just-in-time discounts to people nearby fill empty tables. Similarly, People can pick a restaurant where their friends are currently enjoying “Happy Hour”. Stores can offer targeted coupons to browsing customers based on their buying habits. Meanwhile, I can find a nearby store that has that hot Christmas gift in stock while I am shopping.

The success of companies like FourSquare demonstrates the potential of these possibilities. However, right now early adopters are the primary users of location-based services. Many mainstream consumers refuse to use them. Why? Because they do not trust location-based services (yet).

Why many still fear location-based services

What is the cause of this mistrust? Fear of losing control of offline privacy. Most of us now accept that information they post to the Internet could likely be publicly available (how much Generation Y cares about this vs. the Baby Boomer generation is an entirely different debate). However, very few want their offline activities (which stores they visit, where they are driving, etc.) to be readily available as well. minority-report-monitoring_280px-sqThis is an understandable fear as this information could be exploited for a variety of very bad purposes: from thieves breaking into your house while you are away to the scary advertising future depicted in the movie Minority Report.

This fear and mistrust will only increase as many new players enter the location-based services market. Some will only use your location services when you explicitly approve this; others will “store your approval” using your information without explicit notice (you can see this already in many location-based apps). Some will carefully protect it; others will have data breaches that disclose months of data on what you were doing, when, and where. Some will even sell your data to third parties (perhaps not initially, but when new sources of revenue are needed, after “notifying you of changes to their Terms of Service”). The consequences of these disclosures on privacy are enormous.

A simple way to address these fears

There are many ways to address these fears: industry (or legal) standards for use of location information, creation of registry of trusted location-based applications, etc. However, these means of protection are complicated (wherever there is complexity, there are many sources for unexpected outcomes). They also require consumers to trust location-based service providers to do the right thing, without error.

smartphone_switch_180pxHowever, there is a simple way to give back consumers assured control over when their smartphones are sharing location information with apps: the physical on/off switch. Give people an easy way, with the flick of a switch, to turn off sharing of location data with any applications. Let them check whether they are sharing or not with a simple, binary glance. Don’t make people navigate through multiple menus. Make it as simple as a light switch.

There is a well-known precedent for this: the silent/vibrate button. When mobile phone came out, people needed to make them silent when they went into meetings, movies and restaurants. Those mobile phones that made this simple were loved; those who didn’t were not. The love of the physical toggle switch reared its head again a few months ago when Apple removed the ability to lock iPad rotation with it’s physical switch (they restored the feature after much uproar in the next point-release).

This is NOT a placebo

I know, many of you are saying this is a simple placebo. Mobile phones already broadcast your location to your telecomm provider. However, the sharing and management of this location information is different than that used by location-based service application. It is not broadcast over the Internet (“Jim just check-in to…”); it is only attainable via search warrant or similar legal procedure. In addition, it is approximate (Verizon knows my location, plus or minus X meters; I do not positively confirm which store I am in); location-based app data is tagged with metadata that makes it much more exploitable.

Instead it will let location-based services “Cross the Chasm

Putting a location services on/off toggle switch into the next major release of smartphones will make it far less scary for mainstream consumers to adopt location-based service. Having this physically in smartphones will create infrastructure from which application developers and consumers will all benefit. The first mobile provider who does this will definitely gain an advantage, especially if it does so in partnership with an App Store-delivered application provider. Will it happen first on Android (due to its openness) or it will happen first on iOS (as part of Apple’s holistic user experience)? Or will Nokia’s sufficiently influence Microsoft to provide this (Finland is known for its strong privacy protection)?

BYOT: Treat your employees like consumers

More and more companies are asking employees to “Bring Your Own Tools” (i.e., laptops and PCs) or “Telecom” (mobile and smartphones). Consumer tech is advancing so quickly, and is now so interconnected that this should be the norm—not the exception—if companies want happy, productive employees.

People are frustrated with their office tech

There are only two kinds of technology in the world. The first kind is the technology that you choose to use; the second is technology you are forced to use. At home, we have a tremendous amount of choice between desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, etc. At work, we have little choice.

We have all heard the jokes (often daily) about how bad office tech is. It is usually less productive to use than the tech we buy with our own money. It is frequently out-of-date. It is often not suited to how we individually work: some people go from meeting to meeting, needing something that boots instantly, some want big screens, others extreme portability.

The is a by-product of centralized enterprise management

The frustration we see with our technology at work is not intended. It is the result of the inherent delays of centralized enterprise management.

At home, if you want a new smartphone you go to the store, try it out, and buy it if you like it. However, if you are an enterprise IT manager you need to wait for enterprise service providers to ramp up and support it… then wait until your prior purchase contracts are ending… then get bids and budget approval… then on-board the new provider, setting up support structures… all in-time to be a whole technology generation behind. This cannot compete with the consumer tech model. (Have you ever seen a centrally planned model beat a purely competitive one?)

For basic employee tech this is no longer needed

I know, at this point you enterprise IT managers are raising the need for standardization to guarantee compatibility, support Service Level Agreements (SLAs), etc. However, this is an argument for the technology world of the past.

In the old days (I am old enough to have done what I am about to bash), we had lots and lots of desktop software to install and support. In those days, you could not: provide rich interactive experiences with standard browsers; deliver software via SaaS; run applications anywhere in reliable, easy-to-install VMs; plug your smartphone into your enterprise exchange server at the Verizon or Apple store; etc. All of this required tailored systems engineering and strict configuration management. However, times have changed. These services are all consumer-ready, integrated “out of the box” and proven at very high consumer adoption rates.

Its time to let treat employees like consumers

happy_tech_140pxwWhile it is important to maintain enterprise standards and controls for the back office—be they on-premise servers or managed service agreements with external partners—it is time to treat the front office like a storefront.

Publish a list of operating systems, browsers, wireless cards, and mobile platforms that are compatible with your back office systems and let your employees consumers bring their own tech. Provide an annual stipend they can be reimbursed for. Let them pick from this what works best for their daily work. They will be happier and more productive. (You may even attract new creative, productive employees.)

This is not as hard or scary as some think

Yes, you will have to provide online document storage and mandate anti-virus and backup services. Yes, you will have an “uncontrolled” variety of tech people will be using (and asking for your help with). However, this is not a scary as you think.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) tech companies have been doing this successfully for years. As they cannot perfectly control their customer’s behavior, they do not try to do so. Instead they build enough flexibility into their tech, ensuring it will it work for 99.XX% of customers who follow their published “minimum system requirements” guidelines.

Not only does this model work; it works better. I have looked at end user cost of support numbers for small and large companies, for support of external and internal users. In all cases the command-and-control-styled internal computing numbers were worse. Giving employees choice doesn’t just make them happy; it will also make your CFO happy.

It is also flexible and “future-proof”

Once you let go of the centrally controlled enterprise management model (for basic employee tech), you get a whole set of new benefits. You are no longer held hostage by remove a lot of dependencies on specific vendors, platforms and service providers. You no longer have multi-year delays planning and negotiating adoption of technologies (that usually evolve in leaps and bounds every 12 months). Your employees will pick the leading products in the market, as they prove themselves appealing. Those who do not want change will protect themselves from it. Those who are early adopters will champion innovation in your organization.

BYOT lets the fast-moving innovation of the consumer tech market work for you, not against you.