Mobile Technologies in Emerging Markets–A Look at the Future

We do cover trends and report out frequently on happenings in the industry like the way to raise application downloads for your mobile app or a company which has raised money for investments. Like Ashish pointed out in this post the purpose of these are something greater than just reporting out. We want to build a platform using which YOU can take informed decisions and have a discerning opinion.

As a part of our focus on the future, we will be today taking a look at how some promising mobile technologies could potentially change business in Emerging markets. Like always, these are our thoughts. And value to this post and indeed any post or discussion is always through YOUR comments. So we are really looking forward to your comments and thoughts.

Mobility has been talked about quite a lot in the recent past. Since the advent of the app store – an innovative business model – the uptake of information on mobile phones has been phenomenal. It is an accepted fact now that applications would be the primary modes of data consumption on phones of all OS flavors.

However lets talk a bit about the future – what would be the promising technologies 5-10 years down the line? The days of translating developed market products (like in Japan) for emerging markets with a 4 year time lag is now long gone. As companies like Redbus and flipkart are beginning to prove – the model needs to be totally redefined in some cases to achieve success in India. SO keeping those factors in mind and the several singularities of the Indian market, here are what we think would be some promising technologies for the future –

1) RFID for near field communications and transactions – Mobile phones + RFID have been talked about a lot. RFID is a very commonly used technology which overcomes some drawbacks of related mobile technologies. E.g. it does not need “line of sight” and works within a certain range and proximity (addresses potential security concerns too). A good example is the FeliCa system pioneered by DoCoMo and Sony in Japan. In India, where there is a definite need for addressing near field communications scenarios, RFID could easily solve many problems. The uber – problem however remains with the business and not with the technology. Largescale adoption is what makes technologies viable and that would remain a challenge for some time to come.

2) Location based technologies – There are several interesting use cases like weather warnings and language translation which could be enabled by location information from the phone. Even approximate information from CellID could be extremely important – not the least for advertising. I do however think that good value should be provided before advertising comes in. Technology innovators have to think differently – unlike what crime master Gogo says – “Pehle maal lo, fir maal do”.

3) Optimizing Bandwidth allocated for mobile phones – Bandwidth allocated to mobile phones in India has a huge demand / supply mismatch. While the fact remains that mobile services need to have more spectrum opened up for them – however efficient utilization of spectrum could be an interesting area of research going forward. An interesting post on India’s spectrum needs here.

4) Mobile ad hoc networking – While ad hoc networks have revolutionised the way the Internet works today, we have to yet see killer applications of the same in mobiles. This could have major potential in addressing the need above and reduce costs overall in a country like India.

5) SMS based native applications – Applications always provide a better UX than plain vanilla SMS. Data based applications are however costly considering the high charges for data in India. SMS based applications which expose a good front end but use J2ME for communication could be explored as alternatives.

Innovation could also be explored in the areas of business. For a country as varied as India, the business models need a lot of tweaking – sometimes from the drawing board. Some innovations we have covered like Nokia exploring micropayment through microfinance. Some unexplored ones include prepaid credit being utilized in lieu of cash, easy transfer of credits between phones etc.

So what are some of your thoughts. What do you think could be the enabling technologies / business practices for the next big applications especially in India

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