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The Future of Mobility – Six Trends to Look for in 2012

By Asokan Thiyagarajan, Samsung Telecommunications America Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The mobility space has undergone some revolutionary activity during the last three years. If 2009 captured record smartphone sales in the United States, the subsequent years have fared even better and dramatically shaped the façade of future mobile trends. In 2012, smartphone sales are expected to be nothing short of staggering in growth. In fact, smartphone users are expected to account for 31 percent of the total mobile user population in 2012 and go up to 43 percent by 2015.

The developments in the mobility space don't stop or begin with features. Screen size, functionality, application processors and resolution are key assets to make smartphones even more powerful. In addition, the emergence of the mobile tablet has created a new dimension in the world of telecom trends. In 2010, consumers snapped up a record 10 million tablets in the United States alone. In 2011, eMarketer is predicting tablet sales of 24 million. The greatest advantage with this market segment is the considerable breadth and depth still available for manufacturers to experiment and consumers to adopt. Tablets remain the big story of 2011.

Mobile data is growing at least 10 times quicker than voice. Mobile data in 2010 was three times greater than global internet data in 2000, and by 2015, at least two-thirds of mobile data is expected to be video. Several innovation layers have been built over a rich network base. 4G services and devices have started to drive additional growth. The new era of 4G communication operates from high latency and low throughput applications to those of higher bandwidth.

Not too long ago, consumers bought mobile devices based solely upon the numerous built-in features, applications that came standard with the device. However, this situation changed with the advent of modern mobile platforms that run third-party applications, thereby allowing consumers to customize their phones with the applications best suiting their needs. The developer ecosystem, with the success of the application stores, has embraced the creation of thousands of new applications with optimized performance on premium smartphones and mobile tablets.

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The mobile market in recent years has also been driven by exponential growth in the prosumer market that holds potential for devices with advanced capabilities. These advanced mobile devices are sought by professionals for both work and personal use cases. Consumer-centric mobile platforms such as Google's Android and Apple's iOS have helped in the production of a new generation of devices that encompass several visual standards and interfaces. Pinching, swiping, expanding displays and intuitive user gestures, advanced features like multiple connectivity, media support, higher storage capabilities and multi-touch functionalities are major highlights of these powerful devices.

More than half the world that is increasingly tech-savvy is anxiously waiting as mobility expands its way into 2012. While most global analysts are punching numbers for futuristic mobile trends, here are my Top Six Mobility Trend picks for 2012 that promise to capture and hold the evolving global technology market.

(1) NFC and Mobile Payments

Markets and Markets published a report in 2010 forecasting the U.S. value of mobile payment transactions would touch $56 billion in the year 2015. NFC technology entered its growth stage in 2011. 2012 is expected to be poised for game-changing developments. NFC chip-maker NXP expects to ship approximately 70 million NFC chips in 2011 and more than double that amount in 2012 as growth in mobility enables this technology.

Originally founded to encourage short-range wireless connectivity, NFC today offers a lot more potential. Very similar to Bluetooth technology, NFC makes its highest impact on contactless payment, transportation, health care, ease of use, smart objects and social media. The technology has existed for a decade and is already used in swipe cards for public transport and electronic passports, but it is expected to see a mass rollout in 2012 with the latest wave of smartphones.

NFC can be accessed in three ways (1) SIM Based (2) Device Integrated (3) NFC on Stickers. SIM and device-centric architectures are fast becoming the NFC standard. This offers a strong consumer advantage as the technology meets the requirements of multi-application, portability and security. While the battle between banks, operators and credit card companies continues over dividing the pieces of NFC revenue pie, many standards and technologies are developing at a rapid pace. The success of NFC largely relies on device manufacturers and mobile operators adopting technology and integration of credit card companies and banks.

Japan has been the leader in pioneering NFC mobile payment in 2004 with their Japanese wallet service – Osaifu Keitai. The advent of Google Wallet that makes your phone your wallet has brought about a paradigm shift in the way mobile payments work. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile jointly built a national mobile commerce network, ISIS, for bringing merchants and consumers together to offer an improved and personal shopping experience.

Android already has APIs for NFC. Designed for an open commerce ecosystem, the solution will eventually do more than your regular wallet does. It will not just store thousands of credit or debit cards but will also house your loyalty cards, boarding passes, receipts, gift cards, tickets and even keys. It is a repository of virtual versions of plastic cards and a simple tap is adequate to make payment and redeem features with NFC. Expect to see NFC reach greater adoption in 2012.

(2) Mobile Analytics

With the increasing usage of mobile devices, the need to deliver business analytics for mobile consumption also becomes inherent. The synchronized pattern of enterprise mobility and the emergence of the mobile tablet hold immense potential for delivering a specific set of analytics for mobile. The universe of mobile analytics, though nascent today, promises to open a plethora of opportunities in the years to come, starting in 2012. The capacity to access and react on business intelligence with your smart devices begins with setting up the right analytics engine. Speedy and secure delivery of intelligence in a suitable format is addressed. The greatest advantage of mobile analytics over Web analytics is that the former offers location- and behavior-based data.

ComScore shows that the first half of 2011 was more conducive to Google's Android, which continued to grab market share over Apple's iOS. When there is an inevitable deluge of new users who choose one device, platform or operator, companies will begin to depend upon analytics to survive competition. Web businesses of the past have used tools such as Google Analytics to understand the dynamics of their site. With increasing usage of mobile devices, it only but makes sense to move towards the mobile world and therefore mobile analytics becomes the buzzword.

One of the concerns of mobile analytics today is privacy. However, the world will witness an enormous change in decision-making, which will be eventually done on devices that are based on analytics.

(3) Mobile Cloud Computing

Tablets, smartphones, TVs and cloud computing will converge into a dynamically growing arena of mobile cloud computing. Analysts expect within the next years, there will be at least 1 trillion cloud-ready devices. Cloud computing enables access to a shared pool of resources, content and services. Experts say that by 2020, most individuals using the internet will operate predominantly through cyber space applications on remote servers that are accessed through networked devices.

Consumers prefer internet services to be omnipotent and available in any communication device they operate. Phones, tablets, televisions, along with home appliances will eventually invade this market that is sprouting demand in huge numbers. The target universe is large and therefore money mobilization holds optimum potential.

Cloud Email, Cloud Music, Cloud Mobile Desktop, Cloud Print, Cloud Video and Cloud Photo are some of the popular cloud computing applications that are available today. Mobile cloud helps to accelerate IT consumerization. Although in its infancy, mobile cloud computing will eventually become a popular method to develop, distribute and use mobile content, services and applications. Enterprise mobile cloud computing application services will also sky rocket in 2012 with companies and manufacturers offering services/data on cloud for corporate employee usage.

(4) Context-Aware Mobility Solutions

Context-aware mobility solutions can be compared to the likes of using radio frequency techniques to track land, space or air entities that have prevailed for several decades. Mobile devices employing environmental cues to identify location, resources and other contextual parameters such as behavior, calendar, contacts, humidity, environmental temperature, motion of asset and other aspects help to increase business efficiency tremendously. Today, these mobility solutions have evolved and acclimatized to business process demands by integrating information beyond asset location.

Imagine a phone that could literally read your thoughts? Well, this concept is not a far-from-possible task any more. Your phone would switch to silent mode whenever you want it to, without any physical or spoken direction to your device. Your phone could possibly understand your environment and start performing functions that are more appropriate to the setting. For example, when you are inside a theatre waiting to watch a ballet performance, let your phone offer information on the program.

Locate your favorite Chinese restaurant by combining location-based data and user reviews. While you continue to marvel on a perennial list of demands, your phone will continue to perform whatever you want it to like a personal assistant. These solutions integrate technologies of different kinds to offer a user-friendly solution.

(5) Connected Devices – Machine to Machine

Today, there are 9 billion connected devices and this number is expected to increase to over 24 billion in 2020 and derive $1.2 trillion in mobile service revenue. The development in connected devices holds potential to provide considerable financial, ecological and social benefits to the global economy. Contribution to new products and services, increased efficiency and cost reduction are a few of the glaringly obvious benefits. Most of these developments are on their way and will continue to come from machine to machine (M2M), which is a relatively new market for communication service providers. However, this effort is a conglomerate of cumulative efforts by the telecom and technology industries at large.

United States is home to about 330 million people, 1 billion credit and debit cards and more phones than the average population. This huge need to stay abreast and advanced creates a lucrative market for M2M providers to explore. Connected devices include activating devices, remote monitoring, remote sensors, associated aggregating devices, laptops, PCs, tablets, mobile handsets, eReaders and routers. The emotional connection between mobile devices and people will continue to thrive and flourish. Consumers will empower mobile devices to remotely control just about anything: air conditioning, appliances, entertainment, fire alarms and even your home's security. The concept can also be expanded to the enterprise environment.

Verizon in the U.S. has taken the lead in this market with a lot of intelligent moves. As this gathers stream, you can start to see other operators and service providers jump into this growing industry. AT&T and its suite of inventions that are embedded into routine life takes connected devices to another realm of progress altogether.

(6) One Alternate Mobile Platform

Not too long ago, the universe of mobile players and manufacturers chose Android and iOS mobile platforms since these are considered relatively easier to develop and monetize. With exceptional UI and handsome widgets, these platforms have fared well on their marketing and distribution and engulfed the market for two years. Hundreds of thousands of mobile companies have built mobile strategies around apps for these platforms. Android gave close competition to iOS with its open source platform and democratic style.

With life being at status quo for a few months or rather weeks, there seems to occur turbulence in this field today. Several giants like Nokia, HP and Samsung have plans to venture into this virgin market to ensure that iOS or Android is no longer the Holy Grail.

While HP's webOS and Nokia's Symbian are doing their share of rounds, Tizen, the offspring of Samsung and Intel, began doing some serious business, although it suffers from patency issues. The first release of Tizen is expected to hit the market in the first quarter of 2012. Yet another collaboration bringing the best of Moblin and Maemo is the Intel and Nokia byproduct MeeGo. Samsung's Bada and Windows Phone 7 are other major players each planning to cash in on the market that is quite vulnerable today.

2012 will witness the emergence of another alternate platform over iOS and Android. It could be wise to say that this emerging platform might get into the top order predominantly because of business demands, open sourcing and/or M&A. Mobile operators and manufacturers may adopt and ensure they even rule the ecosystem.

The rising consumer attention in mobile devices, the surfacing of cross-industry content, services and applications and involvement of internet players in the mobile world has fueled empowerment of devices that were manufactured and perceived for conventional purposes in the earlier decades. It is that avant-garde age where once-perceived impossibilities are transforming into reality and the coming years will testify to this magnificent migration.

As we get set for 2012, device manufacturers are working on revolutionary changes that will engulf the world. Devices are likely to encompass the six trends mentioned earlier - flexible designs, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, dual screen designs and many more. Research analysts expect to witness more foldable and ergonomic phones. Futuristic devices in secret agent movies may pave the way to devices that can fold, bend or assume any form that you want it to. Jaw-dropping gadgets featured in sci-fi movies will soon find their way into the real world.

Welcome 2012!!

Asokan Thiyagarajan serves as the director of Platforms and Technology Strategy at Samsung Telecommunications America.

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