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Day 1 from Mobility LIVE! Conference in Midtown Atlanta

Mobility LIVE! put on by the Metro Atlanta Chamber is in its second year September 23-24. The conference calls Atlanta home with some of the most influential enterprises (especially, less on startups) around the mobile [r]evolution
So this was a cool little surprise that I learned about a month ago that there was going to be this conference called Mobility LIVE! in Atlanta hosted by the good people of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The conference runs for two days bringing together some of the most influential companies together to share their thoughts on mobile technology, and how they’re companies are “mobilizing” to both capture the opportunity and address it.

Mobile’s obviously not new, and it was touted as the greatest inflection points since the invention (or coming about) of the internet.

Day 1 was really just a half-day, and I sat in on a couple sessions as well as the “after-party” at Opera. (What an interesting place Opera is when the lights are actually on and the place isn’t full of… characters.)

So here are some random collection of thoughts and observations from Day 1:

Business Transformed Session starring Brett Cooper (CEO of BlueFletch Mobile (a mobile development company)) who moderated the panel, Jaspal Sagoo (CTO of the CDC), Margaret Martin (CEO of Merlin Mobility, Inc.), Matt Jones (GM of Mobile at Home Depot), and Anthony Gallippi (Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of BitPay)
  • From Jaspal, the opportunity in mobile lies in “speed to science”. That is, the ability to empower epidemiologists in the field to quickly analyze data. The CDC, as many people are aware of the Ebola outbreak in Africa are hearing about, must deal with lots of issues around analysis and the speed to which they can understand pandemics. The U.S. is obviously incredibly structured with robust communication lines. In Africa, these are luxuries nowhere to be found.
  • From Margaret, Merlin Mobility sees her company’s endeavor into Augmented Reality as a key piece in the future to empower largely two functions: sales and training. From a sales perspective, contractors or merchants can super-impose images of potential products and how they fit thereby enabling faster, more effective sales opportunities. Very interesting to see how they’re also working with companies in the entertainment industry (like amusement parks) to engage customers in situations like long queues.
  • I got a chance to catch up with Margaret later in the day, and she didn’t mention “marketing” explicitly, but she does see marketing as a function of sales, just much earlier in the funnel.
  • Per Matt, Home Depot sees mobile as an additive experience/ tool for consumers in the stores. For many retailers, mobile means “showrooming” and lost sales. For Matt, he sees mobile as a way to empower customers who walk into Home Depot’s 2,000 stores as means to search for products, validate products, and ultimately, make a buying decision.
  • Anthony (“Tony”) of BitPay sees mobile as a very young, nascent world in payments. Many payment processing startups and companies are built on credit cards which was largely structured 50, 60, 70 years ago. The world is changing to embrace more digital currencies where open structures will dictate real regulation versus the highly lobbied regulations of today’s financial institutions.
  • There’s a feeling of excitement and apprehension to Apple Pay – Apple’s solution/ foray into mobile payments announced during Apple’s recent Worldwide Developer Conference. The general feeling is that Apple has a way of creating markets and creating inflection points where previous companies may have struggled to get significant handholds. However, there’s still lingering effects of Apple duds including Apple Maps that reminds these Execs that not everything Apple touches will turn to gold.
  • Tony sees Apple Pay as a great enabler for larges swathes of the market to start embracing their mobile phones as means for payment. He likes to look at emerging markets in this respect as in many emerging markets, most people don’t have bank accounts. Bank accounts are for the wealthy. However, everyone has a cell phone, and for many citizens in emerging markets, payments can include the exchange of minutes.
  • Mitigating against the risk of Amazon or other ecommerce sites, Home Depot cites its competitive advantages as actually BEING those 2,000 stores. It gives Home Depot incredible reach and localism where they may branch into more delivery options beyond just the “ship-to-store-for-free”. Instead, they may start exploring “ship-to-consignee” from its stores. That is, each one of its stores may be mini-distribution centers. Now, imagine how great that would be for its network of professionals and contractors – who account for 33% of Home Depot’s business – that may need delivery of goods same-day.
  • Talk of drones? Meh. It’s cool, but there are some heavy regulations on that. And besides, delivering a book is cool, but delivering a “bumper” would be bit taller (higher?) task.
  • Margaret sees a growing desire for hands-free applications including leveraging augmented (and virtual) reality technologies. Things like wearables including Google’s Glass are just the tip of the iceberg now.
  • Tony sees the next great wave of opportunities in globalization/ global commerce. The challenge for this today is transactions (payments) across borders. With digital currencies like Bitcoins, those challenges can be greatly addressed.
Hack-Back Invitational Finalist presentations… for the last 30 days, teams create hacks (technology solutions) to address problems for three major social enterprises home-based in Atlanta – American Cancer Society, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and Points of Light.
  • For the American Cancer Society, it looked like the major problem points/ opportunities they tasked teams to do was utilizing technology to connect the community of the Cancer Survivors Network (CSN). That could include opportunities connect those undergoing treatment, those who have undergone treatment, survivors, etc.
  • The Boys and Girls Clubs of America looked to showcase the positive effects of clubs as part of its programs for prospects, members, and those affiliated with the members (including family members, friends, etc.). Hacks were largely built around club discovery and showcasing those who have stories from their experiences and how they’ve leveraged those experiences into their present.
  • The Points of Light organization seemed to want to address areas including getting involved via volunteer opportunities and creating greater awareness of the organization’s efforts.
  • Great to see so many hackers on the finalist teams with what seemed like other non-entrepreneurial backgrounds. Some teams were formed from their work colleagues who just wanted to work together to help solve these problems for great organizations.
  • One of the Magentic teams showed off its cool augmented reality hack as a way to raise awareness of the Points of Light historical landmarks. That is, if you were in D.C., for example, you could hover your phone (with the app) over a point of reference such as a landmark, and get a super-imposed image of a famous figure to share his/ her historical achievement. Their vision was to also sell “coins” so you could really learn more about different landmarks and the like without having to actually travel. The proceeds from selling these coins would go to Points of Light.
Other interesting things included the Tino Mantella (CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG)) speaking after the Hack-Back presentations about the outstanding demand for engineers and programmers here in the state of Georgia.
  • Many CIOs are citing 6 months to fill some programming needs.
  • With the Governor of Georgia, TAG is working to implement ‘Code & Programming’ courses for credit in all high schools à go beyond the 100 out of 400 high school programs who actually have advanced placement (AP) courses for programming today

Overall, the conference has been positive, and it’s great to see a lot of large, established companies come together to share their visions on the mobile front. The conference hasn’t been without its hiccups (mostly technical, ironically enough), but it’s in its 2nd year, and looks promising for future set-ups. Though, I’m a little disappointed there aren’t more sessions specifically about startups and innovation as well as even a tour of Tech Square so close by. Either way, I’m excited for some great speakers and panels tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll continue to make some great networking connections, and get some interesting inspiration for what’s coming Tomorrow.

What are your thoughts on any of the findings above? What questions do you have or would you ask any of these companies?

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