Mobile and cloud technologies are intrinsically linked. Designed to give users easier, more flexible access to information and applications, the two share similar roots. And they are now being aligned in new and impactful ways.
“We live in a mobile plus cloud world,” says Maribel Lopez, founder of Lopez Research and contributor to Forbes1. “While each of these technology trends has its own challenges and merits, companies are increasingly thinking of how the intersection of mobile and cloud will change their business.”
Sales representatives, installers, service and maintenance professionals, auditors, and other remote workers have relied on Internet-enabled mobile devices for more than a decade. The cloud simply expands the possibilities for what can be accessed and what can be accomplished with those devices.
“Going mobile isn’t just a matter of selecting devices and operating systems. The shift to mobile is about creating application, data, and services portability across locations and devices,” Lopez explains. “A truly mobile company will also take advantage of all of the new data sources and features—location, image capture, and sensor data, for example—that mobility provides.”
The Internet of Everything
That’s where things get interesting. The mobile cloud isn’t just for mobile workers. It’s for everyone. And everything.
“The Internet of Everything is certainly enabled by the mobile cloud,” says Vishy Gopalakrishnan, associate vice president of unified communications at AT&T. “Sensors, automobiles, machinery, asset tracking devices … all of them are capable of gathering, crunching, and distributing data over cellular networks.”
Some of the most impactful opportunities come when these mobile “things” are aligned with mobile workers and functions, he adds. Examples Gopalakrishnan points to include:
- Sensors on garbage and recycling bins capable of alerting waste management companies when they are full, allowing for collection on an as-needed basis versus weekly routes to gather half-filled bins.
- Insurance companies can use the mobile cloud to amass a wealth of details—including photos, witness accounts, and location, weather, and traffic data—to construct claims immediately following an accident instead of trying to compile the facts after everyone has left the scene.
The opportunities, says Gopalakrishnan, are endless, spanning every industry and many business functions.
“The way we work and collaborate will be very, very different in five years,” he says. “The lines that we see today between voice, video, applications, and data will be completely blurred.”
Developing a unified strategy
“Cloud computing provides a critical role in helping mobile achieve its ultimate value proposition,” says Lopez. “Cloud is at the core of enabling new service innovation. Many of today’s most highly regarded mobile services, such as file sync and share and streaming content services, couldn’t exist without the cloud.”
That’s why companies need a unified strategy. And they need to develop applications and services that are network, device, sensor, and identity aware. Only then can the mobile cloud be fully realized.
“Rather than building a mobile strategy and a cloud strategy, a company should be thinking of these things as combined,” Lopez suggests. “Others may call this the next generation of IT, but this transition expands far beyond a shift in infrastructure. The mobile cloud world changes the fundamental fabric of a business. The mindshift is that business leaders will use these technologies to change the customer and employee experience with contextual data that makes the end user smarter, not just more efficient.”
“Mobility is no longer just an extension of business functions. It’s becoming the primary platform,” says Doug Jones, executive director of conferencing at AT&T, noting that he does most of his work from his smartphone. “Every situation can be a mobile first situation, and the cloud helps make it possible.”