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April 17, 2007

Upwardly Mobile

Most Americans are just looking for a cell phone that completes more calls than it drops. But in the media and content deep dive in Helsinki, Finland, today, we asked participants what else they are looking for from their mobile devices, since they already have the coverage problem licked. Here’s a partial list of their requests:

I want it to be the key to my car and home.
I want it to track my family members and tell me where they are.
I want it to be my wallet.
I want to watch the news on it.
I want it to translate different languages.
I want it to be a universal remote control.
I want it to monitor my heart rate and blood pressure and transmit the data to my doctor.
I want it to access my virtual worlds.
I want it to jam all personal communications of other people near me.
I want it to just be a phone.

This litany of requests will give you some idea of just how wirelessly advanced the Finnish are. While much of the rest of the world struggles to extend wireless coverage and improve data speeds, the Finnish are thinking about heart monitoring and real-time language translation. They’re so far ahead, they’re pining for the good old days, when a phone was just phone.

Helsinki is similar to Seoul in its level of wireless sophistication. This is, after all, the home of Nokia, one of the true pioneers in the wireless market. And we were not disappointed in the innovative thinking of all the participants when it came to the mobile market. It helped that we had folks from Nokia, leading Nordic telecom Telenor, and the leading Finnish gaming company Sulake. But our deep dive included more than just Finnish. We had representatives from all over Northern Europe, including German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG, Norwegian venture capital company Viking Venture, a German hacker organization called Chaos Computer Club, and the Copenhagen Business School.

One of the most compelling ideas that our colleagues kicked around during the day was a mobile twist on the contextual content thread we have been exploring throughout the GIO. If you recall, we have been tossing around the idea that as it gets harder and harder to monetize content in traditional ways, content producers should be looking at providing more context around content, some of which could be monetized. For example, if an individual could notify content producers, including advertisers, of the kind of content they want and when -- a sort of digital persona or marketing profile -- the distribution and consumption of that content would be far more efficient and valuable.

The Helsinki deep dive took that concept a step further, and talked about mobile devices that could broadcast content (or other kinds of) preferences that you could take with you wherever you go. This personal broadcasting could also help individuals identify like-minded people in any location, creating spontaneous communities in real time. One diver called it “blue spooning,” a play on the word Bluetooth, the wireless communications technology. Whatever you call it, it adds another layer to the argument that context takes otherwise valueless content and makes it valuable.

Also, there was some spirited debate over whether user-generated content could arise on its own, or whether it needed to have some investment (in a framework or infrastructure) to enable it. And there was yet another desperate plea for some kind of framework to allow users that create content, be it a song, movie, or a suggestion to a corporate product development team, to be remunerated for their contributions.

The discussion was progressive, and by that I mean that it feels like we’re really getting somewhere with this context issue. Any and all thoughts are welcome.   

April 17, 2007 in Media and Content | Permalink


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This article touches on a number of key concepts that are potentially game-changing. For starters, the idea of using the mobile phone as an agent for personal health monitoring begins to redefine spaces that already exist.

The IT management industry continues to grow and emerge, solving problems and creating new ones. Systems management is generally a term used to describe the real time monitoring of computer systems & networks. But what's the single greatest and most complex system ever created? The human body. And it provides a wealth of untapped information; information traditionally only accessed at the expense of ever-increasing health care costs.

In fact, so much information can be extracted from a single human "system", we have not even begun to fathom the possibilities. Talk about personalization or personalized content! Talk about on-demand social networks based on personal information and location-based services.

Some of the same problems with traditional systems management would apply. Agent technology is always an issue (how do you get the info from the managed host to the management server?). The mobile phone, in whatever form (wallet, watch, pocket device), could evolve to become the agent on the ultimate managed host.


Posted by: Todd Singleton | Apr 23, 2007 1:22:25 PM

I found Todd's thoughts intriguing, in particular, the analogy between IT Systems Management and sensor-based health systems monitoring. Monitoring of "the human condition" would feed analysis processes that provide near-real-time alarming as well as longer-term trending of health conditions - and timely treatment in both cases. The resultant savings in lives as well as medical costs would be astronomical.
In this case the content is well established (pulse, pressures, etc.) but the context has been little explored. Holt monitors represent the technology of the 70's; recent endoscopy procedures using ingested camera pills represent today's capabilities.
one company made an abortive entry into the health systems market in the '70's but backed off. The purported reason was that the down side of legal exposure offset the potential revenue of blood analysis machines and the like. But the economics and technical capabilities in the 21st century are quite different.

Posted by: L Patrick Briody | Apr 30, 2007 12:09:18 PM

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