Handheld Device Offers Mobile Emergency Service

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Written on Saturday, November 29, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

I have come across today a new device that MobiWatch Inc. has recently launched. This new device is a 'handheld emergency device' that allows people in need to quickly and easily call for help via their mobile phone.

More from the article:
MobiWatch spent two years engineering the Bluetooth connections and arranging partnerships with Sprint Nextel Corp. for the connectivity, and Cambridge-based emergency response service provider ProEMS Solutions Inc. to support the device. The company is now preparing to bring the product to market, and the device, which has been beta-tested with Sprint, is expected to launch in early 2009. The monthly service fee is expected to be priced between $6 and $10 per month.

The device itself is a keychain fob with a dime-sized button guarded by a plastic slide so it can’t be pressed inadvertently. During a perceived or real emergency, opening the slide and pushing the button initiates a Bluetooth connection to a user’s cell phone, which in turn calls an emergency response call center. An operator can then pinpoint a caller’s location using GPS and cell tower triangulation, and contact the appropriate parties, be they police, ambulance or family members. A subscriber can also pre-register special instructions, such as medical allergies or instructions for specific emergencies.
I liked the idea, because the product comes to fill a need. However, if I put myself in the position of the person in need, I don't think it would be much different getting the phone out of my pocket and pressing on the speed dial button and using this device.

In addition, this is smaller - meaning also easier to lose - harder to find in a pocket full of things or worse in handbags. This means it is also an extra device to carry and keep track of (i.e. not forget or lose).

I can imagine the same solution could be combined with a Bluetooth hands free headset, which would also combine two functions in one, and is something we already keep track of. Why not even add voice recognition software so that you can even whisper in it a keyword and it dials the number, or voice-triggered by screaming if you get attacked.

The thing is that though I like the idea of such a device, what MobiWatch is launching is only half-way there and leaves a lot to be desired. I'm in fact even a bit surprised someone hasn't already implemented and launched such a solution, but I might just not know about it yet.


What does it all mean!?

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Written on Friday, November 28, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

There are some days in our lives that are just different. They stand out. It is the ones that we have a chance to reflect on our work and our life, and realise certain things about the ever changing world around us.

Well, today's been one of those days for me. And it all started from the video below. The funny thing is that most of the facts in it I already knew, but something about seeing all of it together puts it all into perspective. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!



Mobile Marketing Study Reveals Mobile Trends In Europe

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Written on Thursday, November 27, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

Earlier today I was digging through my rss feeds which I hadn't checked for a couple of days, and I've come across this great piece of news from the Mobile Marketing Magazine. Most of what follows is a blatant copy-paste, but I've highlighted and created an easily digestable list of what I though were the most important facts.
  • Surge in mobile SPAM
    • unwanted text messages growing 21.3% year-on-year (61.3% in France!).
  • Gambling and adult services increasingly used by teenagers.
    • (worst in Spain: 4% of 13-17 year olds, from June 2007-June 2008. best in UK: 1.3%)
  • 5.6 million Europeans access financial information from their mobile phones - 23.6% increase over last year. (highest increase: 30.2% in Italy)
  • Mobiles now more omnipresent than PCs
  • Average mobile phone cost in the EU: €476 (£405)
  • Average mobile subscriber yearly spend:
    • €401 mobile phone bill, (highest in Spain: €544
    • €69 acquiring their handset (highest in Italy: €148) and
    • €6.07 on mobile content such as ringtones, wallpaper, games and music. (highest in the U.K. : €6.89)
I've pasted the relevant extract from the very interesting article below, for more information.
The study, which was conducted by comScore M:Metrics on behalf of Airwide Solutions, looked at the way mobile subscribers use their phones across five European markets - the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. Although the study highlights some worrying trends, Airwide says the findings represent a major opportunity for mobile operators to play a proactive and strategic role in protecting their subscribers, both through education, and through the security solutions they deploy across their networks.
The study revealed a surge in mobile spam. Despite some mobile operators leading the way in deploying anti-spam solutions, the study found that there is still some way to go, with the number of people in the EU receiving unwanted text messages growing 21.3% year-on-year. With some spam messages containing mobile worms and viruses, this statistic is a cause for concern, especially in France where the problem is growing by 61.3% year-on-year.
The study also exposed the use of gambling and adult services by under-18 year olds. The problem is worst in Spain, where 4% of 13 to 17 year olds accessed adult or gambling services between June 2007 and June 2008. The UK recorded the lowest problem, with only 1.3% of minors accessing inappropriate mobile Internet sites. The study notes, however, that the figures may mask a more serious situation, with many teenagers embarrassed or frightened to admit the truth.
With many people now owning Smartphones, mobile phones are also being used to safeguard sensitive company information and personal data, such as social security numbers, PIN codes, passwords, company financial data and other proprietary information. Many people are also now using their phones to carry out financial transactions. According to the study, 5.6 million people in the EU access financial information from their mobile phones - a 23.6% increase over last year. Italy has been the fastest to embrace mobile banking services, with a 30.2% increase in use from June 2007 to June 2008.
Another key finding from the study is the extent to which mobile phones have become a vital part of the way we live. Mobiles are now more omnipresent than PCs, inherently more portable than other communications devices and carry far more personal and valuable data than ever before.
On average, a mobile phone in the EU is worth €476 (£405), with the average mobile subscriber spending €401 a year on their mobile phone bill, €69 acquiring their handset and €6.07 on mobile content such as ringtones, wallpaper, games and music. Spain registered the highest spending on mobile phone bills at €544 per year. Italy recorded the highest spending on the handsets themselves, with an Italian mobile phone user paying on average €148 for a mobile phone, while the UK leads the way on the amount spent on mobile content per year at €6.89.
The survey also found that while we are using our phones to take more photos and record more videos, we are at risk of losing these precious personal memories, with 50% of those surveyed admitting that they do not back up their data.
I think that though the study has not really revealed ground-breaking news, it provides some very valuable data for mobile marketers, that help identify the mobile marketing field.


Bluetooth Marketing in (More) Football Stadiums

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Written on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

For those of you that have visited this blog before, you might have already read about several football clubs in Europe that have already installed Bluetooth Marketing Systems in their stadiums. Real Sporting, was apparently one of the first clubs, Bayern Munich also ran a bluetooth marketing campaign in the Allianz Arena (article in German) and Real Madrid also reportedly had a bluetooth proximity marketing system installed, however I could not really find a lot of details on this..

The latest episode involves a number of football clubs (8) in the U.K. and Scottish Premier Leagues. More details from this article:

Fans at Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, West Ham, Portsmouth, Wigan Athletic, Wolves, and Celtic will be able to opt in to receive transmissions, which will come in the form of video and audio as well as text messages, and include information about club fixtures and club profiles along with advertising.

Bluepod reckons that fans hanging around on the terraces are an ideal target for entertaining advertisements, and cite a recent trial at Portsmouth that saw over 6,000 fans downloading a movie trailer from a crowd of about 20,000.

Stadiums are ideal locations for running bluetooth marketing campaigns, as they involve:
  • large masses of users
  • plenty of content (from the club), that inherently interests users
  • services, that users want.
Content itself and value-added services are the two most important reasons why users would willingly participate in a mobile marketing campaign. When the users are given something of value to them for free(i.e. no monetary cost involved), experience shows that they go to great lengths and can even endure failures in order to reach their goal. Not only do they not overlook prompts and call-to-action messages, but they look out for them and they themselves initiate the process of interaction. And this fact can, on its own, drastically affect the outcome of a proximity marketing campaign.

Just imagine a few examples:
  • see the match schedule on your mobile phone,
  • order drinks and snacks from your seat,
  • see the team lineups,
  • watch replays of goals and highlights,
  • have live score updates from other league / cup matches,
  • vote for the most valuable player (mvp),
  • upcoming matches for the club,
  • and the ability to book tickets for these matches.
The list is pretty much endless. All of these really offer a new, more interactive experience in the stadium, and I just can't wait to see some of these in real life!


Bluetooth Network Update: Interview with Broadburst Technologies

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Written on Tuesday, November 25, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

Last week I posted about the new Bluetooth Marketing Network that has been rolled out in Canada. At the time I hadn't yet received a reply about from Broadburst Technologies to my e-mails for more information and I promised you an update if the reply ever came.



Well, Barry Forward took up my inquiry, and we have since had some time to chat, during which he answered a few questions I had, so here they are:


GS: Could you please shortly describe what it is your network will be doing?

BF: We are a North American Bluetooth Broadcasting Network that allows advertisers and marketers an opportunity to purchase time on our network and connect with mobile phone users.

GS: What is the typical range for your network access points?

BF: 10 metres to 100 metres.

GS: Did you select places where people sit, or places people walk through?

BF: Both - we describe our locations as high value, high traffic with lots of opportunity for dwell time. Some of locations are in shopping center food courts, while others are in busy transit facilities.

GS: Do you only push content to mobile phones?

BF: We are simply the media channel and provide access to our network to marketers who can push content or create interactive experiences for consumers.

GS: What is your consumer target group? (Which people do you expect you'll be able to reach?)

BF: Here in North America the rollout of Bluetooth broadcasting (proximity marketing) is truly in its infancy. Our target groups, at the moment, are younger (14 -30 years of age) and extremely tech saavy - their lives are truly being lived through their mobile phones. They can activate their handset's Bluetooth in their sleep.

GS: How many people do you expect to reach every day/week/month?

BF: Millions of people pass by our network partner locations daily and as adoption of Bluetooth grows here in Canada and the U.S. we expect to capture increasingly higher percentages of them as the months and years pass.

GS: How do you plan to raise awareness and let people know about offered services, in order for them to turn Bluetooth on?

BF: We plan on partnering with major media companies interested in boosting exposure with younger audiences. This includes call-to-action out-of-home and digital signage at our network locations. However, the key to our success is ensuring that consumers who interact with Broadburst are treated to a valuable mobile experience, that is useful to them in the location where they connect to our Bluetooth broadcasting network.

GS: Do you require consumers to install anything on their mobile phone?

BF: Essentially no. However we are a media channel and advertisers/marketers may choose to develop applications that require users to install them.

GS: Are you planning to run opt-in or opt-out campaigns?

BF: Yes.

GS: Is this a commercial application? (i.e. do you plan to generate revenue from this and how?)

BF: Absolutely! We generate revenue by selling advertising (time/space) on the Broadburst Mobile Media Network.

GS: How can companies advertise on your network?

BF: Like any broadcasting network we sell advertising time/space availabilities, as well as targeted location opportunities where advertisers/marketers want to reach specific geographic locations and demographics.

GS: Have you already had interest from any companies to be advertised on your network?

BF: Yes.

GS: Tell us a bit more about who your company are.

BF: The Broadburst team has been pioneering the deployment of Bluetooth wireless technology for several years. With over 30 years of knowledge and experience in the marketing and broadcast sector, coupled with expertise gained from Mobile Media Broadcasting, Broadburst’s management team is a leader in the mobile media broadcasting industry in North America. Broadburst's management team includes seasoned entrepreneurs and media and broadcast veterans who comprehend the nuances of developing a strong marketing platform.

GS: How receptive do you feel the North American market (U.S. and Canada) is to mobile marketing?

BF: We are on the cusp of significant growth in mobile marketing here in North America. Traditional advertising still rules the day, but mobile marketing is starting to get traction and we are starting to see good budgets allocated to innovative programs that include mobile such as Bluetooth broadcasting.

GS: Do you feel the worldwide recession is affecting the mobile marketing field?

BF: Yes. But marketers are turning to mobile marketing in increasing numbers to break through the clutter and connect with consumers in a new way.

It was great getting Barry's insight, and I look forward to hearing out more about them and their bluetooth network in the months to come. In the meantime I hope they will be able to put their network to good use and report back on us on how their proximity marketing campaigns turn out.


Short Absence Due To Injury :(

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Written on Monday, November 24, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

Hello everybody,

Just a quick note (from the doctor) to keep you updated.

I am still recovering from a concussion I suffered on Friday night playing football (U.S. readers read: soccer ;) ). The doctor recommended I take it easy for a while and said I am not allowed to use a computer or watch TV for a couple of days, or read. Which leaves me with pretty much nothing to do, but it's not like I have an option here..

I'll be back within the week hopefully, but until then, my wishes for health to everybody! :)


Can a Police Bluetooth Network Be Illegal?

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Written on Friday, November 21, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

Bluetooth Marketing is based on a relatively new technology (for the wider public) and is also a relatively novel marketing approach. As with most new technologies (and all things new) there is a problem in identifying and classifying these new technologies into the existing legal framework.


This means that, until new laws are voted and applied, there is a legal gap. In the case of Bluetooth Marketing particularly, the current status (at least here in Greece, but I think this is also the case in most major European countries) is that most well-designed currently running campaigns are 'probably legal'.


There is a lot of debate regarding this matter, and a lot has already been said, including this blog, where you can find one of the most interesting threads about whether bluetooth proximity marketing is legal or not. On the one side marketers can argue why the message appearing on bluetooth-enabled mobile phones asking for permission to receive an incoming connection, is an opt-in prompt message. On the other side consumers can also argue that even that very message asking for permission is intrusive in itself and thus constitutes SPAM and is illegal.

With this ongoing debate it seems reasonable then, that mobile marketers, and companies wishing to invest in mobile marketing are very cautious about investing their money into a marketing approach that could be fashioned illegal. Of course, Bluetooth Marketing as a whole can not, and will not be fashioned illegal because it offers a specific set of opt-in capabilities, that can render every campaign perfectly legal. Campaigns instead of sending a message to the consumer, can ask them (via a different medium) to opt-in by initiating the connection and 'pairing' their phone with a Bluetooth Hotspot. However, the argument from mobile marketers is that this approach leaves too much on the consumer and thus renders the medium a lot less useful for mobile marketing, and also that the Bluetooth protocol provides the confirmation message precisely for this reason, i.e. to enable people to opt-in.


There does not seem to be a clear answer to these questions yet, and different people have different views, depending on their viewpoint. However, the U.K. Police seems to be taking an interesting stance in the matter!

I posted a while back about a bluetooth marketing campaign by Southport Police. Now, it is the Northamptonshire Police taking up this marketing approach. The latest comes from this article:

Northamptonshire Police are now using Bluetooth technology to send crime prevention text messages to the mobile phones of people living in hotspot areas.

And there are hopes that the messages will also reach offenders, as some of the texts mention trap or sting cars where dummy items are deliberately left on show so that offenders are caught in the act when they try to break in.
From a fundamental point of view, it seems to me that the Police should not participate in any illegal activity. And it is pretty obvious to me that the Police would never publicly partake in any illegal activity. I also don't think the Police is following the opt-in campaign type that is legal either way, we are talking about a content push campaign.


I think these two proximity marketing campaigns are the best and most convincing examples about the legality of this approach, at least in the U.K. If anyone is aware of some reason why this would be the case in the U.K. but not elsewhere in Europe (or the rest of the world, for that matter), please let me know and I will amend this. Until then I will remain convinced that, though if not done properly proximity marketing campaigns can be very annoying, the approach itself is legal. Period.


I still think that there should be a certain extra set of regulations for mobile and proximity marketing, but I will write about that again sometime soon. Please let me know if you have a different opinion on the matter! I am always open to discussion, especially if you are legally more qualified than me to discuss this!


Bluetooth Marketing Network In Toronto

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Written on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

This is refreshing news!

Broadburst Technologies Inc., a Canadian mobile media company, has announced the launch of a Bluetooth Marketing Network in downtown Toronto. The network is now live at 40 Gateway Newstand locations!

Most proximity marketing services today are offered locally, and in restricted environments. The real potential with a large deployment that ranges across many locations is in being able to provide a proximity service that has value for the end user in a number of disparate places. This way the user can use, for example, use a tourist guide near all major tourist attractions within a city; and if the network were to expand to more than one cities, use the same service that s/he knows and trusts across all those cities.

The news announcement I came across read:
Broadburst’s Bluetooth transmitters are now positioned throughout the Toronto transit system and other high traffic pedestrian areas in the downtown core, offering rich, interactive media content utilizing Bluetooth wireless technology to deliver interactive services and content to mobile phones.

“We are extremely pleased to launch this new phase of our Bluetooth broadcast network,” said William Kells, CEO of Broadburst Technologies Inc. “Our coverage area in downtown Toronto is extremely attractive to advertisers who want to connect directly with mobile phone users as they move through the city. By using Broadburst’s Network, advertisers can send localized content in an entertaining and informative way to cell phones of potential customers, who can download and enjoy the content free of charge. Broadcasting content via Bluetooth allows advertisers to reach potential customers in the moment, as they are making decisions on products and services at point of purchase.”
I sent an e-mail to Broadburst Technologies last week when I heard about this, to find out more information about how they plan to use and exploit their network, but they still haven't got back to me. I decided to go ahead with the posting anyway today, and I'll let everyone know by posting a follow-up article if they do reply eventually.


Mobile Marketing Association Publishes Mobile Marketing Guide

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Written on Tuesday, November 18, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) recently announced the winners of its Fourth Annual Global Mobile Marketing Awards. With these, the MMA also published the Mobile Marketing Guide, highlighting the winners and finalists, which can be downloaded at www.mmaglobal.com/annualguide.pdf.

The guide is an excellent resource for businesses starting out in mobile marketing, and contains a wealth of advice that can really help in planning, preparing and running your mobile marketing campaigns. I do recommend that you head over to the Mobile Marketing Association website to download it.

I am listing below the top 12 tips included in the guide as a quickly digestable list, with the most representative quote I picked from each tip.

The basics

  1. RESPECT THE END USER.

Any successful mobile marketing program must respect the end user and always put the interaction decisions including choice and control in the hands of the consumer (this means consumer “pull,” not consumer “push”).

  1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EXISTING RESOURCES.

Education is the key to being successful, says Jason Gruber, vice president of U.S. Strategic development for AOL’s mobile team in Seattle. “Brands need to get smart about the mobile space,” he says.

  1. UNDERSTAND THE ECOSYSTEM.

Because mobile marketing involves multiple participants, understanding the ecosystem (aka value chain) will help you launch a mobile initiative more effectively, as you will understand what players will need to be involved in providing your solution. Simplistically, the value chain includes consumers, who carry many different types of handsets, such as cell phones, smart phones and PDAs with varying capabilities. Next are the wireless operators/carriers, who provide service to consumers through a wideassortment of voice and data features and functionality. Aggregators and technology enablers provide the technical solution, the interoperability across the carriers and the link with the marketers.And then, brands and their agencies will help define their strategic objectives, goals and creative and lead the launch of the campaign.


Planning a campaign


  1. DEFINE YOUR STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES AND LEVERAGE MOBILE’S UNIQUE CAPABILITIES.

You need to look at the big picture, first, and then determine which mobile solution fits into the overall marketing mix. Unlike other media, mobile can reach consumers making a buying decision anytime, anywhere (including at the point of sale).


  1. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.

Understanding the target demographic, including age, sex and mobile technology skill levels, for your campaign is key to a campaign’s success and will help you to determine what mobile media best suits the marketer’s strategic objectives.

...

Understanding your audience will help you to focus on the needs of the campaign, and not simply guide selection based on “cool” technology. Brands and marketers who can see beyond the technology and physical formats, and recognize the underlying value of the campaign to their target audience tend to run successful mobile marketing campaigns.

  1. SET CLEAR, MEASURABLE GOALS.

Because mobile marketing campaigns come in many different flavors, it’s essential to determine the desired and measurable results right from the start.

  1. INTEGRATE EFFECTIVELY INTO A CROSS MEDIA CAMPAIGN.

Mobile is most effective when used in a multichannel program, enhancing and complementing offline and online strategies. Consider deploying a holistic, 360-degree plan that might include the use of TV, web, print or outdoor ads with an embedded mobile “call to action” as an integral part of the campaign.

  1. ENGAGE THE CONSUMER — AND DRIVE SUSTAINED DIALOGUE AND INTERACTION.

Mobile is a highly effective response channel to expand brand engagement with individuals. In fact, mobile goes well beyond interruption-based media like TV in generating a personal interaction between the brand and the consumers. Therefore, you should think about the overall journey the customer will take during your campaign. That means planning for what will happen after the first interaction.

Implementing a campaign

  1. TEST THE WATERS AND BE WILLING TO ADAPT.

Today, every brand has an opportunity to learn how to reach consumers on their mobile devices. That means taking action now—such as launching a pilot mobile program, extracting key learnings from the initiative, and applying the added knowledge to your next campaign—will be key to long term success in the mobile channel. The mobile space is evolving rapidly so you may want to “dip your toes in the water” now in order to be ready for the future.

  1. KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Keeping it simple means ensuring your brand’s message is clear and relevant to the user who receives it, but it also means that the campaign that you launch is easy for the consumer to use—and understand—using technologies that are available today.

  1. ENSURE A RELEVANT AND SUSTAINED PROPOSITION TO THE CONSUMER.

A successful campaign will continue to present relevant, sustained value to the consumer—and ensure that every interaction is a valuable interaction.

  1. HAVE FUN!

Mobile presents many opportunities for creativity, innovation and exploration. Try it today to determine the best opportunities for your consumer, and have fun!

To read more about these, simply follow the link. I think it's worth a read at least!


LBS: Price-Check SMS Service

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Written on Sunday, November 16, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

Even though every single business around us seems to be getting hit one way or another from the economic crunch (and this is bad!), there are still new services that seem to be arising from the needs of this harder and tighter market.

Consumers are becoming more and more concerned about where and how they spend their money, and the mobile service I am blogging about today, seems to have come to help cover this need. This SMS service allows UK consumers to text the brand, model no, and postal code/town where they are currently located, in order to get back an SMS with the prices from all local registered shops, including the web price for each one. From the news article:
The service is free for retailers to sign up to, and provides both small independent retailers and larger electrical retail chains with a way of monitoring their local market, reaching new audiences and ensuring their prices remain as competitive as possible.
To use the service, shoppers text the word PRICE, plus the make and model of the item they want, along with a location, to 60706. Within 60 seconds, they will receive an SMS response, containing two local stores with the cheapest retail prices, plus the best web price. Shoppers pay 35p plus standard network charges for successful search results.
“More than ever, in the current economic climate, shoppers are looking for bargains and retailers are looking for fresh ways to promote their best prices and get customers in store,” says GotYourPriceCheck Founder, Harmeet Baxi. “Retailers who sign up to GotYourPriceCheck will immediately begin to reap the benefits, and with many of their closest competitors coming on board, they can’t afford to miss out.”
Of course the service depends largely on the participation of retailers. Consumers can't have a complete picture of the market (or the high-street) if they can't get all the prices from all the shops. And this of course is difficult in practice, as not all shops are equipped with the technology to participate in such a scheme. However smaller shops might often have deals or offers on, which means they are the cheapest. The difficulty is getting people to trust the mobile service when not everyone is participating, but on the other, hand smaller shops already have a difficulty in keeping up with larger brands and retail chains.

I particularly like this SMS service because it means people can spend less time walking around from shop to shop looking for the best deal on the product they have decided to buy, and more time sitting for coffee with friends (the 'national sport' for greeks), or go to the cinema, or spend more time for entertainment in general.

I would like a couple of obvious, I guess, improvements to the service, such as the service detecting my location automatically, and offering the results ordered by approximate distance. Also, though SMS is pretty limiting regarding this respect, related products are another service I would like, and also categories of products, so that I could check which stores have an offer on dvd-recorders for instance, rather than specific models of specific brands.

EIther way, it seems such a service will be probably be a while before it comes to Greece (most stores here are still struggling with maintaining an online presence), but I hope it doesn't take too long!


Disneyland LBS: Theme Park Navigation

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Written on Friday, November 14, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

Keeping up with the last couple of posts about some eyebrow-raising mobile marketing campaigns from a couple of big players, today I am bringing you an update about kids and adults alike favourite, Disney! As I haven't been to Disneyland (yet.. ), I am using information from this article:

Now news comes that Verizon and Disney are striking a deal, where Verizon customers can have an applicaion added to their phones that will allow visitors to track where they are, wait times on rides, where Mickey is, etc.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited about this, because theme parks are ideal places to offer all sorts of mobile services, and run successful mobile marketing campaigns, mainly because there is content, and mobile devices can be used to provide some mobile services that can really affect the quality of each visit to the theme park. (Unfortunately, this will only be available to Verizon customers it seems, but at least it's a step in the right direction.)

The best example of how the experience will change is queues, where people can pre-book their rides, based on current and future queuing times, in order to reduce general queue waiting times. Another great example is navigation. Visitors often need to get from ride A to ride B, and there aren't always instructions available at the time. It is obvious and handy to have it on the visitors' mobile, so all they have to do in order to access the navigation instructions is simply pull their phone out of their pockets.

There's a whole lot of other services that can be run in that context. Location-based or not, there's just endless possibilities to do with entertainment; imagination is the limit, and with entertainment imagination is pretty limitless.. mCoupons, live offers, proximity services, interactive quizzes + questionnaires, treasure hunts using the camera phone, interactive games, ride information on the phone (such as age/height restrictions), etc, etc..

Well, either way, now I've got at least one more reason to want to go to Disneyland!


Mobile Phones as Mass Tracking Tools

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Written on Thursday, November 13, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

Last week I was posting about Cityware, a research project about tracking Bluetooth devices in a city, and thus observing movement patterns and trends within a city. The reseach team behind the project provided a piece of software through Facebook back in July 2007, which allowed the wider public to run the software on their computers, that utilised the Bluetooth capabilities of their computer to record Bluetooth activity.

The same idea seems to have spread further than the Bluetooth domain, to more location-providing technologies and mediums. There's already a couple of companies that have to started to use GPS data and data from mobile opperators aggregatively. From the article:
Sense Networks [use] GPS data from taxi cabs and cell phones to detect road and foot traffic, as well as predict tourism and retail patterns. Similarly, Inrix uses traffic data to predict traffic patterns, and Path Intelligence in the UK monitors traffic flow in shopping centers by tracking cellphones.
Other companies I'm sure are already planning to follow and I expect to see a lot more on this sector soon. The privacy concerns, which are obviously there will slowly die down, making this a much more realistic and viable business.

The companies can use this sort of data for all sorts of different analysis, from which a great number of patterns can be identified, mainly for masses and crowds. This covers living patterns and maybe in the future even the possibility to use something like this to find out where and how we'll be spending our evenings. Indeed, one of the biggest uses of this technology is traffic detection and monitoring, so as to provide drivers with the best routes, according to this article:

Just before midnight tonight, researchers from UC Berkeley and Nokia will release free software that can be downloaded to Global Positioning System-enabled phones that run on GSM networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

The software will transform the phones into devices that are used to monitor and measure traffic - and show real-time traffic data. The system is similar to the Bay Area's 511 system, which relies in large part on FasTrak toll tags.

But because it uses cell phones, it could dramatically improve the accuracy of driving time projections, and allow driving time estimates on less-traveled roads, including surface streets and rural highways, the researchers say.

It seems the trend on using location data anonymously to track masses is growing.. And as long as there are strict restrictions and rules about privacy, and allowing people to opt-in, I'm ok with it.



Greenpeace Campaign Extends to Mobile Marketing

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Written on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

I was out and about this morning, fighting with the horrific greek beaurocracy, waiting at endless queues (which I absoutely hate), and while waiting I was reading the latest news on my mobile through my RSS reader. This was helping me ease the pain, as I was at least being entertained, even though my mobile(k810i) is not what you would call built for mobile surfing (a la iPhone).

I've downloaded the latest Opera Mini 4.1 (there's also a 4.2 beta now, but I'll get to that in a bit), which does a very decent job with most websites, so the whole thing is pretty smooth, and at least it gives me access to some interesting content in places where there is absolutely none (such as this morning's environment, where there's nothing but people shouting at one another in an attempt to get their job done).


coalfinger
Anyway, I'll not bore you with greek beaurocracy any further. Reading through my RSS feeds, I came across this. Greenpeace are running a campaign to prevent the building of new coal-fired power supply plants around the world (you can read more here about why this is a problem). The Greenpeace mobile website for this campaign (this is the full version), which I visited claims (and so does the news article on the Mobile Marketing Magazine) that I should be able to watch the cool cartoon flash video on my mobile. Cool! I was pretty eager to see this, so I visited the website, decided to devote some of my precious limited data bandwidth just for this.

Though the website renders well on my mobile though, attempting to view the video was a disaster! I tried a couple of times on my mobile, but no luck. The error message was something like "we are sorry, the video could not be provided in a suitable format for your mobile phone". I then thought to try my Motorola A1200, which is a business phone I was carrying with me at the time. Again, same message, and no video. At that point I had to abandon my effort to view it, only to watch it later on, when I went to my office, where I did view it in the end, and I must say I enjoyed it too! ('carbon footprint' -- genius! :) ).

The problem here some would claim is that my mobile devices were not supported. However, I was not notified of this anywhere. I was promised a video upon my visit to the website on my mobile, not on my iPhone for example, so that I would expect it wouldn't work. I was told about a mobile marketing campaign, and even though I know that most mobile marketing campaigns don't work on all devices, I was expecting this one to work. I'm quoting the whole MobileMarketingMagazine article to show you what I mean:
Mobile solutions company Roundpoint (Mob: http://roundpoint.mobi) has brought Greenpeace's 'Coalfinger' campaign to mobile, enabling mobile users to view the Coalfinger video, sign up to the campaign and to pass it on to a friend.
Roundpoint’s service automatically detects the type of mobile device and provides the appropriate format of video for the particular device. The video is available to download in sections or in its entirety at http://greenpeaceuk.mobi.
The Coalfinger video is an animated spoof of the James Bond classic Goldfinger. It features Graverson Green and his assistant Katrina Hurkane who battle against Coalfinger in an attempt to stop him destroying the planet with his coal-fired power stations. The aim of the campaign is to show that coal-powered energy is having a detrimental effect on the environment.
Well, I regret to inform the Mobile Marketing Magazine folks that their article is slightly inaccurate, and that it doesn't deliver what was promised, and this is a shame.. The video is really good, I really like the slightly lighter point of view, and the campaign could really expand to a far greater range of users, if it really was available for download and could thus turn viral.

I still recommend you watch the video though!



Royal Marines Bluetooth Marketing Campaign

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Written on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

The UK Royal Marines, as well as most of the U.K. army, navy and air force, are constantly running promotional campaigns in an attempt to approach young people. During my time in the U.K. I have seen a number of their ads on TV, posters in public places such as the Tube (a.k.a. London Underground), and online ads in a number of U.K.-based websites.

Admittedly their campaigns are pretty well designed and are pretty successful in attracting their target audience, which I believe to be young people especially (both male and female). Every ad I have ever watched (some of which I still remember now, a few years later) , was always based around a powerful message and some real content, which is what makes a good ad in the end. Especially, as it comes with a powerful call to action for the recruit to visit the army website!

It comes as little surprise to me then, that the Royal Marines are taking on a mobile marketing approach to their promotional campaigns, so as to approach young people (who use mobiles most) more effectively, and more directly.

Their newest campaign again involves a video, which, however, is now being promoted via a Bluetooth marketing campaign in a number of cinemas (I think around 120) around the UK. The video is being broadcast in cinemas where the newest James Bond film, the Quantum of Solace, is being played, in order to be provided in relevant context, and it's a good example that combines digital integration, mobile and online (via the website).

The campaign was featured on the Guardian recently:

Mobile video content, which was created by digital agency twentysix, will be made available via Bluetooth in 120 cinemas before and after showings of Quantum of Solace.

The 45-second clip opens with the line "You may have something we are looking for", and features footage of marines in action. It ends with the strapline "It's a state of mind".

I think it's a very interesting deployment and I'd love to hear more about what how it goes, so if anyone knows anything about this drop me a line as usual. However, I'm not expecting the army to release such information -- just writing down some wishful thinking!


NHS Mobile Marketing Continues..

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Written on Monday, November 10, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

A couple of weeks ago I was writing about a mobile marketing campaign that the National Health Service (NHS) is running in the U.K., that allows people to find out more information about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

It seems the campaign has had a good uptake and raised eyebrows within the NHS, so they are now pushing for and trying out more mobile marketing campaigns. Their latest campaign now involves an interactive sms service, that aims to drastically cut-down on patient DNAs (Did Not Attend -- not to be confused with the DNA, cutting that down would be madness!!).

From the news article:

University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, and Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust are two of the NHS Trusts using the service to cut financial losses from missed appointments. Additionally, a consortium of NHS Trusts in the Midlands has also begun deploying the service this month.
A missed out-patient appointment costs each Trust £100, bringing the total wasted across the NHS to more than £500 million each year. In London, where the problem is worst, the loss is more than £134 million. NHS Scotland loses more than £30 million each year through DNAs. As each NHS Trust has a patient treatment quota to meet, any shortfall means that forward budgets will be cut. DNAs also lead to other patients having to wait longer than necessary for treatment.
The MARS two-way messaging service is secure and simple to use and a step up from one-way systems. The service sends a text message reminder to the patient’s mobile ahead of an appointment. On receipt, patients are able to note the reminder and can reply back with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response. A returned ‘No’ response enables hospital Administrators to arrange an alternative appointment if required. They also have the opportunity to reduce waiting lists by filling cancelled treatment slots and help the Government hit its 18-week patient treatment targets.
This is another great example of how simple, automated, interactive services that address the audience directly, through their mobile phone, offer value to the public, and as such are bound for success. It's a win-win situation for both parties.. what more can you ask for? I'll be keeping an eye out for NHS. It seems they've really started to grasp the meaning of mobile marketing!


Location-Based Services: Geotagging Pictures of Routes

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Written on Sunday, November 09, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

This one I really liked! It's called BreadCrumbz and it's a mobile navigation app for Android, that provides users with the ability to create routes with directions on the fly. The app uses the phone's camera and GPS capabilities to take geo-tagged pictures of your route while Android's location APIs and Compass sensor track their progress as they navigate. The app then uses the Maps API on Android to overlay route information such as arrows or notes on top of a map.

When you are done, BreadCrumbz creates for you a personalized, picture-based map that you can mail your friends / share via GTalk or bluetooth / upload on the web, in order to show people directions to a specific building or landscape.

I found out about BreadCrumbz from a YouTube demo. BreadCrumbz was one of 20 winners in the Open Handset Alliance's Android Developer Challenge, earning a $100,000 prize in the process. You can get it free for the T-Mobile G1 through the Android Market.

The future for BreadCrumbz holds voice capabilities, which are reportedly in the works. Also it promises to let people share walking tours of their favourite city, for example, or document personal stories with location-based pictures and information. Businesses can also use this sort of thing to bring customers to their door—or even illustrate multiple points along their supply chain.

I'm thinking about using this in a road trip I've got planned for Xmas. I'll let you know if it works.!


Bluetooth Guide for Gadgets

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Written on Thursday, November 06, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

This post is exactly about what the title says. A guide for bluetooth-enabled gadgets from the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

I've been looking for this type of thing for years! Though in general one Bluetooth device is, more or less, bound to work with another, I've always needed a way to confirm that what I'm buying is actually what I need. I guess I'm probably that type of consumer, right? Especially when shopping for gadgets, I always find myself looking at detailed specs, product information and characteristics. But with gadgets you have to.. It's the technology I'm buying, so I must know what technology it is I'm buying!

The underlying problem here is inherent with every new technology.
How does it work?
Which products implement it?
How full is the technology implementation in each product?
Which technology features work, and which don't?
And if it works, how well?
What's coming?

Then enter version hell:
What's the latest version?
What are the differences between this version and last?
Is it backwards-compatible or (more unlikely) forwards-compatible?
Does this version of this technology work with that version of that technology?

And it goes on...so many questions, and so many answers.. A mess, especially for people who can't always afford to keep up-to-date with latest advances in the tech world.

That's why I especially liked this tool.. You go to their website, search for the product, profile or technology you want it to implement, see if you can match it to another device and you're done. Simple! I like simple!

The web service isn't perfect functionality-wise yet, but it's good. (free tip to their dev team: link on each product should be a deep link to the company website, not to their home page, so that after I've found what I'm looking for, or comparing products, I can easily jump to their webpage). Now I know next time I need a gadget where to look for Bluetooth related info.

I just hope more initiatives like this come up, so we can end up with one tool that knows all that (and no, I don't mean the internet).



Knife Crime SMS Campaign

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Written on Wednesday, November 05, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

On a day like today, it is hard to write an article about something other than the U.S. presidential election. Well, Obama won, and it is only left to be seen how much of the change he promised he will be able to deliver. One can only hope. Still, my article today has nothing to do with that, so please forgive the somewhat irrelevant introduction!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about a program in the U.K. called 'Text a Cop' which allows students in schools to text cops directly about suspicious incidents and possible crimes.

Today, I came across a similar news article from the Mobile Marketing Magazine, about Crimestoppers, the U.K. crime-fighting charity, who have now announced they are running a similar campaign, encouraging young people to report knife crime incidents via text messaging.

From the article:
The Tower Hamlets pilot scheme was highly successful and yielded useful information for local police officers. It is hoped that this extension across London will further help combat knife crime in the capital. During the roll-out phase, Crimestoppers will initially be working proactively in the 15 London boroughs most affected by knife crime, promoting the service through workshops and talks.
The service was developed in conjunction with Anderson Software who provided the specialised, secure, software that ensures that pupils remain anonymous when sending information to the police via text. A similar scheme supported by mBlox is also being rolled out in 32 cities in the US and 16 cities in Canada.

“Mobile phones play a fundamental role in the lives of young people today,” says mBlox Chairman, Andrew Bud. “This project recognised that engaging students in their preferred medium will help encourage them to pass on information about knife crime in a quick and easy way. Crucially, the secure system allows them to maintain their anonymity, undeniably leading to greater usage by students and assisting Crimestoppers in its fight against knife crime.”
I know from personal experience knife crime in London is not to be taken lightly. And anything Crimestoppers do to fight it, I'll be behind it!


Cityware: Tracking People via Bluetooth (in a good way?)

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Written on Tuesday, November 04, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

I recently came across a very interesting research project from the University of Bath. The project is called Cityware and its aim is 'to develop theory, principles, tools and techniques for the design, implementation and evaluation of city-scale pervasive systems as integral facets of the urban landscape'.

The project started 3 years ago, when the research group installed Bluetooth 'scanners' in offices, cafes, and streets in Bath, which recorded all Bluetooth signals that appeared within range (10m) and were subsequently analyzed to help improve traffic and other city functions.

One of the researchers, greek Vassilis Kostakos, claims the project could be used in a number of fields, from helping to design mass transportation networks, to helping prevent spreading epidemics. The project has attracted great interest from the academic community, but from a number of companies as well.

Mr. Kostakos and his colleagues released an online application in July 2007 for Facebook (and Second Life) for Cityware and that's when Cityware really took off. Thousands of users used the software on their computers, participating that way in a distributed system that utilised the Bluetooth capabilities of their computer to record Bluetooth activity, and enabled user annotation, which in turn linked Bluetooth data to Facebook data. The application is currently 'down for maintenance', and asks people to 'Please come back in the near future'.

Perhaps this is due to the controversial nature of the research project, that arises from the fact that people do not necessarily realize they are being tracked. It's easy to see why there would be all sorts of privacy issues with this sort of thing. From my personal point of view, however, I agree with Mr. Kostakos who was quoted saying: "Bluetooth is a relatively useless medium for tracking individuals, but ideal for tracking crowds".

However there is also the opposite point of view. There was an article in the Guardian, a while back, about Cityware, that mainly discusses the privacy concerns in length. It's a good and interesting read though in my opinion some of the views are a bit extreme. In a world where we are constantly being tracked by CCTV cameras, via our IP addresses, through our identity cards and passports, our license plates and all sorts of other uniquely identifiable information, I sincerely doubt Bluetooth is top of the list for invading our privacy. Some interesting excerpts from the article:

Contacted about the Cityware project, the office of the information commissioner said in a statement that the public should "think carefully" before switching on their Bluetooth signals. A spokesman said the government watchdog would "monitor" the experiment.

"This is yet another example of moronic use of technology," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, an independent campaigning group defending personal privacy. "For Bath University to assert that there aren't privacy implications demonstrates an astonishing disregard for consumer rights. If the technology is as safe as they claim, then all the technical specifications should be published and people should be informed when they are being tracked."

...

More than 1,000 scanners across the world at any time detect passing Bluetooth signals and send the data to Cityware's central database. Those with access to the database admit they do not know precisely how many scanners have been created, but there are known to be scanners in San Diego, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Toronto and Berlin.

In Bath alone scanners are tracking as many as 3,000 Bluetooth devices every weekend. One recent study used the scanners to monitor the movements of 10,000 people in the city.

About 250,000 owners of Bluetooth devices, mostly mobile phones, have been spotted by Cityware scanners worldwide.

What are your views? Is Bluetooth really Big Brother material?


Protect Your Proximity Marketing Campaign From Being Called SPAM

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Written on Monday, November 03, 2008 by Giorgos Saslis

Spam, we all know. The e-mails (let alone other forms of messaging, such as SMS) I personally get everyday that can be categorised as spam, are in the hundreds (yes, I do realise there's some of you out there that get them in the thousands, but this isn't a contest, right? -- and if it is, well I guess I win :) ). In this category I am only counting e-mails(or messages, in general) which I would have rejected, had I been given the option, and most of which are from an unsolicited use of my e-mail address, that I just cannot be bothered to chase up.

I heard a very interesting definition of 'Junk Mail' a few days ago, btw. This definition included, not only the the aforementioned messages, but also messages from people we do know, that simply contain stacks of useless information. An excellent example of this is conversations between a number of parties, which contain a lot of content, but little substance, and could easily have been stripped down to one word / phrase, such as 'Yes' or 'I agree'. This definition was what got me thinking about today's subject.

We put a lot of work, and invest our hopes, as well as a good deal of money, of course, in our mobile marketing campaigns. This is what makes it all the more important for them to be successful. We'll also be out of a job if they aren't, incidentally, so I guess that's another very good reason.

There are two key points that make a successful campaign:

  • provide some value to the end user, so that they want to see your message,

  • notify them as to the existence of the service.

Regarding the first point, there is a lot of debate about how to provide value to the end user. There is not just one answer, in my opinion, and the answer in every case is different. This is because we are talking about running a marketing campaign in a physical environment. Well, physical environment are all just different from one another, and thus have distinct requirements. There are some common characteristics between similar physical spaces, that allow us to run the same mobile marketing campaign across all of them, sure. However, in theory, each location can provide slightly different information to the end user, specific to its own unique characteristics. For example, the same campaign may run on every bus stop in a certain town, prefecture, or even country. Ideally, however, it would be much more effective if each single bus stop provided the same content, but slightly altered depending on its location.

In addition, this value depends (perhaps more greatly) on the target audience, and the end users themselves. For each mobile marketing campaign, we must consider:

  • who our target audience are,

  • why we are trying to reach them,

  • what message we are trying to get across,

  • what the tone of the message should be,

  • what interests our target audience and how that relates to our product,

  • and finally what the content of the message itself should be exactly.

The answers to the above questions are more than likely to yield an appealing message or service to our target audience, through which our marketing message will be delivered. The marketing message or advertisement must be weaved into the fabric of the service being provided that has value for the consumer. The more we can accomplish that, the less it will be perceived as an advertisement / marketing message and the consumer will be much more open to it.

Good ads or marketing campaigns always give something to the consumer; whether that's humour, some education, art, etc. it depends. But if you want the consumers' attention it doesn't come easy (though mobile marketing does make it cheap – compared to what you would pay before). You must put the effort and thought into broadcasting your message in such a way that it does not feel like an ad.

Be creative, and put yourself into the shoes of the consumer. They will always appreciate you and your product more.