Webinar: Breathing New Life into Utilities with Mobile

By admin No comments »

Join Appcelerator and PopcornApps (Appcelerator Partner and Utility Industry Expert) for this upcoming webinar on “Breathing New Life into Utilities with Mobile.” Utilities businesses are facing rising generation costs, massive numbers of experienced technicians staring at retirement, and wildly complex energy generation grids spanning countless technologies (solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, coal). Furthermore, smart meters provide utilities companies with a unique opportunity to “re”engage their customers with a more interactive relationship. All of these scenarios represent opportunities for mobile initiatives to transform these enterprises.

In this webinar, we will explore scenarios such as:

  • Business to Consumer apps that enable end users to participate in their energy consumption, provide self-service, enable financial transactions (bill pay, new orders, etc).
  • Business to Business applications for Smart Grid technology that can change the way energy is delivered, the routes it takes, and the behavior of the device.
  • Business to Employee apps for technicians in the field, enabling them to be more productive, more intelligent, and more efficient with fewer trips to the grid.

There’s no question that mobile represents the most significant opportunity that utilities companies have seen in years to transform themselves, and become mobile-first enterprises. Register here.

Breathing New Life into Utilities with Mobile

Date: Thursday, March 14th

Time: 9am PDT

Presenters:

Michael King, Appcelerator’s
Director of Enterprise Strategy
.

Michael helps companies plan and execute a scalable mobile strategy. Previously, Michael spent 11 years as the lead mobile analyst for Gartner.

Samvit Raina,
CEO and Founder of PopcornApps

A premier provider of Mobile, Social and Web solutions that enable enterprises to provide a unified customer experience across all channels.

 

PopcornApps introduces smartMOBILE for Utilities

By Samvit Raina 1 comment »

At PopcornApps, our focus is on a few industry segments. For these industry segments, we build solutions to address a specific business objective or problem common to the industry. One of the segments in our focus area: Electric & Gas Utilities.

For Utility companies, we are proud to introduce our smartMOBILE for Utilities solution.  This solution provides 3 layers for a mobile application (Functional, Integration and Data), which work to deliver a comprehensive set of functionality to the customers’ smartphones.  For e.g. functions like ‘My Usage’, ‘Alerts & Notifications’, ‘Rate Plans & Goals’ are readily available to the customers. This solution allows for interactivity by enabling actionable alerts and notifications related to the customers’ usage patterns, outages or account related issues.

click for larger image

Advanced Metering Infrastructure and in particular, Smart meters, have become change agents for the customer relationships of a Utility company.  Smart meter deployments have reached a critical mass and continue to grow globally.  Utility companies fully expect to leverage smart meters to roll out energy efficiency programs –  Presenting usage related analytics to their customers has been a good start.  Most Utilities provide rich data to the customers over a Self-Care or Account Management web portal.  This is accomplished through a “Pull” mechanism i.e. the customer has to login and review information on a periodic basis.

PopcornApps’ smartMOBILE for Utilities solution increases the level of engagement a Utility company has with its customers by providing a “Push” approach to information delivery and completing the functional loop with response notifications back from the customers.  Such a response could be used to enroll the customer in a Dynamic Rate plan, Change the Alert threshold or simply provide more information.

Once deployed, this solution will drive adoption of the mobile app, thereby allowing Utility companies to gain a better handle on usage patterns, generate customer and regional usage profile, and ultimately offer valuable input into generation.

Mobile OS Platforms rule – Apps must allow deeper OS Integration

By Samvit Raina 4 comments »

In the recent past, we have seen mobile OS announcements on version upgrades/updates from Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Apple announced iOS 6 at their World Wide Devleopers Conference (Jun 11 – 15, 2012)

Microsoft announced Windows 8 Phone and Windows Phone 7.8 (to support current devices) at their Windows Phone Summit on June 20, 2012…

…and today, June 27, 2012, Google announced Jelly Bean (Android 4.1).  All these OS have new features – some which will be considered innovative and others incremental improvements.

I skimmed through most of these announcements and later went back to look at the details on a few features of each OS.  Each OS update has enhancements specific to their “own” offerings; Apple has new Maps, Microsoft has deeper Skype integration, Google has Advanced Search.  However, my observations lead me to the conclusion that all OS platforms want to become a one stop shop for consumers:  Not only when it comes to content consumption but also to useful, transactional functionality for every day use.  Let me elaborate by highlighting a few features…

Wallet Features:

Passbook in iOS / Wallet Hub in Windows Phone / Google Wallet

The similarities in Passbook and Wallet Hub are stunning and since both are yet to be released, we will have to wait and see which is more elegant and provides ease of use.  While all 3 can take advantage of technology like Near Field Communications (NFC), Google Wallet seems to be more aligned to it and is banking on new payment peripherals at retailers.

Microsoft and Apple are hoping to leverage updated barcode scanners, which can read smartphone screens.  A lot of retailers are already deploying these scanners.

What does this mean to businesses? 

As an example, Starbucks has already deployed smartphone apps to manage their loyalty card; well it is more than just a loyalty card – it is a mobile wallet that supports Starbucks as a retailer. Users can “load” their Starbucks card into their phone and the app takes care of account management, payments, loyalty points and promotions. The app has been hugely successful and since Starbucks was unwilling to wait for NFC to mature, it has created a new standard of sorts for mobile barcode integration. 

Starbucks may be considered a leader here, other retailers who are still contemplating deploying mobile apps (or upgrades to existing ones) may be able to save time and money by leveraging features like Passbook and Wallet Hub and integrating them into their mobile apps.

Please note that in addition to account management functions, these features can used for other transactional integration – a mobile boarding pass your airline, a movie ticket, a promotion coupon – you get the gist…

Social Media Feature:

iOS 6 Facebook integration, Windows Phone People Hub (Currently available)

iOS 6 will bring functionality that has been already present to a large extent on the Windows Phone platform.  Once your Facebook account credentials are made available to the OS, default OS applications like Calendar, Contacts and activity feeds will be seamlessly integrated.

Windows Phone takes a different route to social media integration. The “Emails and Accounts” menu under Settings of the Windows Phone allows you to specify account details for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Windows Live in addition to your Exchange, POP or Google Mail.

Once these accounts are set up, a swipe to the right in the People Hub (aka Contacts) will provide a news-feed which allows for viewing “What’s new” in all accounts or can be filtered by Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.   Additionally, upon selecting a particular person (contact), a user can view updates, pictures, posts, tweets and their own interaction (phonecalls, emails, sms messages) with that person.

 

 

With this deep integration provided by these OS features, the need for a native Facebook app is in some ways eliminated – 

Good news from a users’ perspective but bad for Facebook because it loses the opportunity to present ads.

 

 

Real Time Feature:

Google NOW / Windows Phone Live Tiles

Google NOW is going to be a feature in the new Android 4.1 OS dubbed Jellybean.   This feature gathers information from the phone and users’ previous behavior related to search, calendar, travel plans, likes and dislikes.

An example provided is a user’s commute pattern – any possible disruption to it would be highlighted in a “card”  – such cards can be resident and updated live on the home screen.

Windows Phone Live Tiles work in a similar manner but rely on the underlying app to support the ‘update’ aspect.  For example, a user can have an American Airlines app pinned to their home screen.  Based on the travel schedule, this ‘tile’ will have flight information like Terminal, Gate, or delay in departure or arrival of the flight.

With these enhancements, the OS platforms will continue to become more real time and integrated to provide everyday features for users.  I don’t think the app marketplaces will see any downturn in the near future but apps will provide a rich integration APIs to ‘blend in’ with the OS.   As far as ad related revenue, there may be a shift coming in how these apps promote products and services.

Enterprise Mobility by PopcornApps

By admin No comments »

Over the last few years, that smartphone in your pocket has become an extremely useful device – to the “Don’t leave home without it” point.  The advancement in mobile technology, networks and the availability of applications has enabled a progressive on the go behavior.

But I submit to you that mobility and its uses have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to enterprise applications, the ones that fulfill a set of useful business functions.  There are organizations emerging as leaders in early adoption with innovative set of features – for example: Chase Bank has an application which allows customers to take a picture of a check using their iPhone’s camera and have it deposited to their account.  There are several other applications, which blend in enterprise application functions with mobile device features quite nicely.  To me the whole idea of writing a check is obsolete but  I am sure Chase and other banks will do a lot more to change consumer behavior over the next few years.

 

Over the next several years, mobility will change drastically – the technology evolution in smart devices, the growth of tablets and increased affordability will allow user adoption of smart devices to exceed feature phones globally…. But the main advancement will be in usability and availability of applications, which enable end-to-end business processes on the go!

Mobility and everything to do with mobile devices has been a passion of mine for years.  I have always believed that success comes in loving what you do for a living.

Focusing on my passion for innovative technology and love for mobile devices, my venture PopcornApps provides Enterprise Mobility as a core service offering.

PopcornApps is on a mission to help clients enable a rich experience for B2B or B2C users of smart devices; providing functionally relevant business processes optimized over the mobile device channel.  Integration to existing applications for functions like Product & Service catalog, Billing & Payments, Order Management, Shopping Cart, Work Orders, Trouble Tickets etc. is the real key to delivering a good enterprise mobile application.

My team and I are working hard to bring meaningful solutions to a myriad of industry segments and geographies.  I look forward to the support of my personal and professional circle for guidance, advice and enabling business growth for PopcornApps.

This infographic, a first of many provides a view into the core service offering from PopcornApps.

Desperate for differentiation

By admin No comments »

Competitiveness in the market place is an ages old phenomenon (well maybe not ages – Webster says the first known use of the word ‘Competitive’ was in 1829) – anyway in my book that is ages old!

Competition has been a factor for individuals (in sports, studies, debate, politics etc.), for countries (Super power, leading economy etc.), for service providers (Hotels, Airlines, Telecom operators, IT companies etc.) and for products.  It is a phenomenon that gets sparked when an innovator brings an idea to fruition and others try to ‘ape’ the idea or ‘better’ it.

As competitors compete, it becomes important for them to differentiate and highlight how their product, service or solution is better (or different) than their competition.

A company that has managed to differentiate its products and services is Apple.  Apple has been at the forefront of innovation to the extent that many a strategy session have asked the question: “What is your ‘iPhone’?”.  Well the iPhone, iTunes, iPad have truly been game changing products and services and have been aped by Apple’s competitors.

Apple has an integrated model of product development with a closely managed supply chain and a marketing machine which keeps the products ‘edgy’ and consumer oriented with a great deal of geeky stuff (like processor speed, chipset jargon) purposely kept out of the ‘spec’ sheet for the most part.  Apple also closely controls things like the Operating System, hardware and related third party software used by its products.

But I submit to you that in this fiercely competitive and fast moving world of Telecom, the differentiation between players is fast eroding and while there have been several products touted as ‘iPhone killers’, some of products on the market today may come close in form and function.

The iPhone has created competition in the handset/mobile device space and players like HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung have partnered with Google and Microsoft to provide choice to folks who are not squarely in Mr. Job’s camp.

However, if you take a quick minute to assess Apple’s competition, you will find some striking similarities:

  1. Most of them use chipsets, display, memory etc. from a handful of suppliers – Qualcomm, nVidia, Sony, Toshiba etc.
  2. All devices have relatively similar pricing and depend on the telecom operators to decide on price in markets that support handset subsidies
  3. Some of these devices bear the striking resemblance to the iPhone
  4. As the technology evolution continues, the top spot is enjoyed by a ‘super’ smartphone for 2 -3 months at a time

So where is the differentiation? It is in the industrial design of the product and a thin veneer of usability related ‘value-add’ software, which can be provided over the Operating Systems like Android and Windows Phone 7.  Such usability software like HTC’s Sense UI and Motorola’s Motoblur seem competent additions.

Advancements in technology bring about reduction in component pricing.  Paired with availability of global resources, this has made the mobile device industry look like the computer manufacturing industry of the late nineties – largely involved in assembly work from a myriad of hard-drive, memory, graphics and motherboard manufacturers. Packaging, industrial design and pricing are the only differentiators.  Product refresh cycles have been more accelerated than ever before and consumers have become ever more demanding.

In this industry, the barrier to entry has been significantly lowered. Big names like Dell, Sony-Ericsson, Lenovo have entered the market place with their offerings – some better than others.  With little-known Indian manufacturers like Micromax coming out of $100 android-based smartphones, are Apple and other ‘Tier-1’ manufacturers desperate for differentiation?  Damn right they are!