But What If the Device Were A Key

Nokia N9Going back to this thought… the [mobile] device being a key. The questions though stem from the premise, “a key for what?” Ideally, if the mobile device were a key, then that would mean that other systems (ecosystems) were generally stable, secure, and profitable at some sort of critical mass that wasn’t necessarily determined by the vertical integration of a specific vendor’s device. A key for what… well, let’s hit on some of the working methods and interfaces that tend to most poke my way of life.

Logging Travel, Expenses, and the Descriptive Stuff

Between my bicycle and my car, I tend to log a lot of miles in between wheels. A mobile device being a key for me would be a device that auto-magically morphs its interface and logging mechanisms to logging those trips, the hit towards my wallet, and then associating any text, photos, music, or even calls to that trip.

I think of an aspect of the Nokia Bots app where its able to utilize the Cell-ID data from cell towers to notice the difference between whether I’m home or not. When I’m “home,” then it shows me contacts whom I talk to then, but this listing changes to those I’m most likely to talk to when I’m on the move when I’m not here. When I think of an adaptive travel logging system (again, more than an app), this is what I think of it being able to respond to with little instigation from me. An adaptive travel logging system, that’s able to:

(a) use my existing mobile
(b) use my existing carrier
(c) read my device’s calendar (no matter if this is shared online or not)
(d) realize the presence of motion
(e) and then use the mapping application as a base to log the cost per mile, gas consumed, images taken, music played, etc. of the trip
(f) and finally automatically puts this into my calendar, linked to all of that information whether on the device or not, as a memo

A mobile device then becomes a key for skillfully taking care of the administrative aspects of my travels.

Writing, Researching, Reviewing, and Collaborating

Another activity that I do a ton of is writing. On any given day, I can write anywhere from a few hundred to a several thousand words (depends on mood more than anything else). That writing usually has a purpose – writing for journaling purposes (for example, my poetry), research and analysis (MMM, Twitter, and notes in Evernote), or working across data sets with others (training decks, collaborative documents, event planning, or shared bible study/meeting notes).

In situations like this, what’s most needed are flexible document formats, interactive elements that can be shared or added easily onto the document space, and then the ability to utilize the data in a format that works best for the audience (public or private). But, the mobile has to also be able to connect to exterior elements – keyboards, monitors, projectors, with the content ready to display in that manner (the user interface has to adapt to the presentation mechanism).

That turns ideas like this CPU/mobile projecting onto a table surface into something that’s more useful and even logical. That said, the rigidness of documents, and how we think about “documents” might make this a lot harder to break from than anything else. Sometimes, I feel that I’m closest to breaking this nut though – I’m just missing some application-centric skills to turn the last parts over (I think).

But, what I most don’t want is an attachment. Send me a hyperlink to the source document in your main drive/source system. Assign me a permission to read, edit, approve, give feedback, etc.. to it. 

In other words, can the mobile be a key to accessing data, but the structure is no longer limited to a “document format” but now as structured as it would be in our heads (I’m a spatial thinker, there are fragments everywhere).

Beyond Mobile Payments, Being Your Own Bank

I get the hoopla about mobile payments, heck, I’d love to be using my mobile to pay for everything from the small vending machine runs to gas for my car. I’ve never been a big fan of carrying plastic cards, and know for sure that we can do better. But, I think that if the mobile were a key to some kind of financial freedom/flexibility that we don’t have now, that it has to go beyond just making it “different” for me to pay for something.

For one, if my mobile is able to send and receive payments over an authenticated connection between me, my carrier, and banking institution, then I would expect to have many of the same tools on my mobile and accessible to me that the other two entities do:

(a) Can I open an app, that isn’t connected online, that has a log of my transactions and gives me a report based on the parameters that I set up
(b) Can the same app identify issues between my transactions and the carrier/bank’s records? 
(c) Can I send money to someone else that’s no connected to my bank, nor under the viewing of my carrier (if you will, a space in the mobile wallet for “cash” as well as that space for “bank-holdings”)?
(d) Can my car assume the financial identity of my mobile so that in going through a drive-thru or a gas station that I’m simply presented with a confirmation screen of my order/pump number and the costs?

Is the mobile a key for banking being totally decentralized – does that key offer me more or just as good value as it would a financial institution?

Ruminating on the N9

One of the problems with the Nokia N9 was Nokia. They had the device that could physically be molded into these and several other situations, however the power/brand of Nokia didn’t hold enough weight to make that key attractive for those companies that didn’t have the momentum that Apple has been rolling with. Certainly, Apple is a different story and runs according to their own pace – and the N9, had the project been managed more efficiently, might have been just what could have enabled all of this to happen – in Western contexts.

But, the problem –  just as I kind of hit on yesterday – is that we’ve got all of these silos, and anything that’s looked like it could converge aspects of these tighter gets the the perspective of “not good enough.” To some degree that might be true, convergence as it has been practiced has been a compromise of sorts. What if we get around those constraints, think through the entire process instead of just a part of it? Can then the key work? Nokia seems to have had a contingent that thought so – the Maemo effort almost seemed grounded in this.

But, without that last step, those trusted relationships between service enablers and the device maker, a mobile device really isn’t much of anything at all. When a company can control not just the device, but the hooks to the device that enable services to more organically happen, then you have what we are looking at today in respect to the opportunities in mobile. That doesn’t mean that passionate folks with higher-than-normal skills won’t be able to figure out things around it. But, those won’t be the meat of the market – at least not until process design becomes a part of that school curriculum that also includes web and application development.