By Dan Burrus
In the early days of cell phones, they were used merely for talking. Today, cell phones have a myriad of other applications. For many people, their cell phone is their daily organizer, music player, camera, GPS system, and news and weather device. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. In the very near future, cell phones will also be people's banks, credit card, keys, remote control, and video conferencing platform, just to name a few. Clearly, today's cell phones are much more than phones, and tomorrow's will revolutionize the business world.
In order to stay competitive and ahead of the curve, businesses need to look beyond what the cell phone is today and anticipate where it will be tomorrow. You have to ask yourself, "How is the cell phone changing my customers?" "What new service could I deliver on a mobile platform?" Or, "How are these beyond-voice-capabilities changing my customers' customers?"
The fact is that if you don't change with your customers, they won't be your customers for much longer. For most businesses, their customers are changing rapidly. Are you changing and learning as fast as your customers are? Because today's technology is rapidly evolving, you have to go beyond keeping up. Merely keeping up will cause you to always be behind. Rather, you need to jump ahead based on what you know will happen.
What do you know will happen? We know there are three driving forces that create exponential technological change: 1) Processing power doubles every 18 months as it drops in price, 2) Storage capacity doubles, and 3) We get faster speeds and higher bandwidth. Because of the processing power being faster, your cell phone can go online and perform searches faster. Phone companies are continually upgrading their network so the 3G network becomes the 4G network. In less than a year processing power, storage capability, and speed have all doubled, and next year they will double again, making the cell phone as powerful as your current desktop computer.
Additionally, businesses need to look at other countries to see what they're doing. As Americans, we tend to think we're the first with technology, but that isn't always the case (and it's definitely not the case with cell phones). Whereas we have multiple standards for cell phone technology, many other countries have one national standard so everyone's phone works the same way. As such, they can roll out new cell phone innovations much faster than we can.
Culture also plays a big role. The Japanese culture, for example, loves their devices and prefers using them over face-to-face conversation. So they have more cultural incentive to unveil the next cell phone use.
The bottom line is smart businesses will start seeing the certainty of technological change of cell phones and will recognize the opportunities that lie within. Following are some current and coming cell phone uses you need to be aware of and using.
Mobile travel. Currently, some airports allow you to use your cell phone as your boarding pass. You simply download your boarding pass to your phone. When you approach security, you pull up the barcode of your virtual boarding pass and swipe your cell phone under security's scanner. You can then go through security and board your plane without a paper ticket. Such technology saves your employees' time when traveling and eliminates the last minute "where did I put my boarding pass" search.
Mobile media. You probably already have music on your cell phone, and you may even have television programming. But now businesses can disperse training and education to employees as part of that mobile media. So while an employee is waiting in an airport for a flight, she can download the latest training information right from her phone.
Mobile management. Need to know where your salespeople or delivery drivers are at all times? We all have triangulation or GPS as part of our cell phones. There are programs, such as Looped for the iPhone that allow you, with permission, to bring up a map and see where your employees are located right now. Granted, this program was developed for personal use, so that friends and family could see where each other are, but there’s no reason why a business couldn't use it to locate employees, drivers, or anyone else who leaves the office for extended periods of time.