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5 Themes of Mobility LIVE and Where We're Heading

The 2nd Annual Mobility LIVE conference put on by the Metro Atlanta Chamber took place September 23-24, 2014
Last week, I attended the 2nd annual Mobility LIVE conference in Atlanta hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The two-day event included some of the largest enterprise players in mobility, especially those in Atlanta. It was a great experience to hear what some of these companies are addressing current and upcoming concerns, how mobile has changed the field, and where they see the next opportunities. Not bad, considering I went there for some inspiration and general understanding of the potential customers across the table if I were to build a B2B technology play.

While stepping into a number of sessions and meeting many great big whigs, I took copious notes to try to remember all that was said and shared in my Day 1 Recap and Day 2 Recap posts. (I have to admit, I don’t recall taking notes so vigorously in school as I do in these types of events or meeting with entrepreneurs or clients.)

Given about a week to digest, I’m back to share what I believe were the five recurring, predominant themes shared by mobility stalwarts including Michael Zeto (former founder and CEO of acquired-Proximus Mobility, now at AT&T), Margaret Martin (founder and CEO of Merlin Mobility), Michael Flanigan (co-founder of Covello), and many more.
  • It’s the Age of the Consumer. Or rather, “consumer driving the experience” per David Wilkinson, VP of Global Channel Sales for NCR. Retail (physical) and online sales channels… social media outlets… mobile messaging… massive rise of on-demand services… consumers are connected more than EVER at incredible pace. With this comes incredible power for consumers to drive experiences in omni-channels and ability to quickly connect – buy or not buy. Corporations (big, medium, small, everyone) are all trying to reach the end-consumers meaning consumers at the end of the day, they’re all vying for OUR business. They’re vying to be relevant in an increasingly transparent world.
  • Everyone’s Hesitatingly Excited About Mobile Payments. We’ve tried this mobile payment thing for years – Google Wallet, Square, PayPal, etc.. NFC is a big thing across the oceans to the east and the west. Bitcoins are… well… Bitcoins. What’s the difference now? Well, really, the difference occurred a month ago before Apple announced Apple Pay. Per Anthony Gallippi, co-founder and Executive Chairman of BitPay, Apple has a way of creating markets and exciting massive markets around new products and services. Everyone in the room is excited to implement quick-set-up, mobile pay solutions in retail, and Apple is seen as a key to educating and influencing consumers to be more comfortable with the notion of paying with the phone. They see incredible potential to be able to change the retail landscape with these options including the chance to empower retail employees for upsell and consumer experience opportunities as well as increasing receipts through faster, easier check-outs.
  • Big data = Big Problems + Big Opportunities. Everyone laughed when Matt Jones, GM of Mobile at Home Depot, was a jokingly uneasy addressing security concerns (recent data hack of millions of consumer data). Everyone is after more data about consumers. In today’s world, “for relationship marketing, the key is marketing at SCALE” per David Christopher, CMO of AT&T. What drives our behavior, as consumers? Who are we connecting with, and who do we trust? Companies are looking for data to understand consumer behaviors to be able to reach consumers at the right time at the right place with the right content. It’s all about context – that’s the movement from current social media tools and marketing automation. And with all of this data about us and how to reach us comes the big concerns over security and privacy…
  • Social enterprises are big opportunities, but not attracting the innovation. I read an article the other day about how there aren’t enough companies tackling “big problems – little b, little p” – see the MIT article here. Well, the small problems are only small because most startups are looking to build the next Snapchat or WhatsApp to make some obscene 100 quadrillion dollar exit. There’s meager investment in non-profit areas and solve problems of the “unexotic underclass” as the article writer puts it. There aren’t enough startups looking to bring technical experience and innovation to help meaningful causes. Atlanta is home to some fantastic social enterprises including the American Cancer Society, Points of Light, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. There was a hackathon component to Mobility LIVE to hack tools and solutions for the three aforementioned organizations. It’s amazing the problems they have or the problems they were trying to solve. They seemed rather “simple” from a technical perspective, and yet, here they were asking for help. My take is that there just isn’t enough money to steer towards innovation at these incredibly lean organizations. Not only that, but they’re spread so thin locally, nationally, and globally while continually trying to raise funds to help support existing initiatives. The non-profit world is hard, but there’s big opportunities here to bring some more talent to solve these “big problems – little b, little p”.
  • Everything is social. Everything is mobile. Everything is cloud. Everything is everything. You’re probably thinking: “What the heck is he talking about?” I’m talking about how everything is converging. Much like I said before, worlds are connected across the physical and digital realms. Big data analytics is giving companies better insights into consumers. Drones are about to take-off (literally and figuratively) and deliver packages from Amazon probably equipped with mini-cameras to watch our every movement. (Okay, that one might be farther away.) However, that phone you might be reading this on is the gateway for evolution. It’s allowing all of us to connect socially, purchase instantly, and communicate constantly. Soon, we’ll only be a few clicks away to buying digital goods across continents thanks to digital currency. We’ll be served up coupons as we walk into retailers. We’ll have way easier times putting together Ikea furniture thanks to augmented reality from innovators like Merlin Mobility. Everything is becoming more and more intertwined so that it won’t be too long that things won’t necessarily be “cloud” or “social” or otherwise. It’ll be answer choice D) all-of-the-above.
Perhaps kind of like in stocks, what you hear is a good stock, the opportunity to strike is already gone. In this case, what the presenters and speakers talked about, they’re working on those opportunities already. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to hear how much mobility has really affected our everyday lives and how flat the world is really getting (I haven’t read the book to borrow the term).

Also, Atlanta is in a great place for this continuing evolution. We’re very much becoming an incredibly connected city with innovation highlighted by large companies headquartered here or nearby, and spearheaded by a massive entrepreneurial movement. Number 5 in “app intensity” via CTIA. Number 3 city for young entrepreneurs via Forbes. 28 companies in the Fortune 1000 call metro Atlanta home + 4 elsewhere in the state of Georgia (see Metro Atlanta Chamber site). There are way more data points, but those are just some quick indications shared at Mobility LIVE that highlight not only where Atlanta (and Georgia) sit in Mobility, but also the opportunity for Atlanta to continue to influence the evolution.

How is your company addressing the above five themes? What are some other themes you’ve seen in mobility that I didn’t mention?

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