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Is mobility the new black?

Tech and Innovation

Posted on March 25, 2011

14 min read

In business today few will deny the importance of innovation, so much so in fact that a term has been coined that illustrates the discrepancy between intention and reality – the innovation gap.

For those of us that follow design, technology and telecommunications, or even closer yet, work for Telstra, there is a clear front runner when it comes to innovation, and that is mobility.

Mobility touches us all whether we realise it or not, across our working and private lives, in social and traditional media. It plays such a strong part in innovation you only have to think about the proliferation and popularity of Tablet computers to know I’m right. Touch-screens tablet computers have even made their way into factory fitted car production these days. The iPad has spawned a new generation of computer users (my 75 year old mum loves the one I bought her) and has paved the way with some of the most innovative application development we have seen in recent times.

So while I can see the importance and range of aspects of mobility in my day to day work and the impact it has had on my study, I thought it would be worth speaking to some of our colleagues in a crowd blog of sorts, to garner their view on what effect mobility has on their lives at work and at home. Their answers are wide and far ranging. Read on.

Michael Lewis – Senior Channel Enablement Specialist

Michael-LewisThe most evolutionary change to the way I work occurred around 8 months ago when I purchased my Apple iPad. Note I said evolutionary rather than revolutionary. For many years I have been a “walking advocate” for mobility – through the use of smartphone technology and laptop/note book computers to the more recent adopter of cloud computing.

The iPad is not revolutionary. Tablet computers have been in the market for many years. It took Apple to give them WOW appeal. Like the iPhone before it,  the Apple design team gave the market exactly what it wanted – easy access to the internet, music, video, email, YouTube, directions and a multitude of other items, through a single touch to the screen.

Gone are the days when I walk into a meeting with my laptop computer, and few are the days I take it home with me to complete a project. Today it’s all about the iPad.

How exactly have I made this change? Sure its been a bit of trial and error, but I do believe I have the optimum solution for my needs today. I don’t for a moment suggest this will be the solution for everyone – you will need to assess your own needs. An approach I have developed when evaluating technology is “work and play”. Simply put, what I use at work may not be what I want to use outside of the office. At the same time, I don’t want to have to lug around several devices if I don’t need to. Add to this the complexity of security of data – companies do not want confidential information potentially compromised by the possibilities of computer viruses or to fall into the wrong hands in the event of a lost or stolen device.

The most recent versions of the Apple operating software for the iPad have allowed users to organise their applications into folders. Nothing new in a Windows environment, but certainly a positive step forward by Apple. Folders are great for productivity. I tend to keep the most common applications on the home screen, and lesser used ones in folders on following screens. A quick glance at my folders include:

  • Productivity
  • Strategy
  • Health
  • Travel
  • Books
  • Lifestyle
  • Games

Work related applications including Documents to Go – that allows me to create and edit Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets on the iPad, and view PowerPoint presentations. With the assistance of the Apple wireless keyboard, I regularly write my outlines of blogs for the Telstra Exchange over a cup of coffee. This software is a good investment for around $12. To create and edit PowerPoint slides, I recently purchased Apple Keynote.

There are many free applications out there that I have also downloaded – including some to assist in booking travel, and speech to text Dragon Dictation that allows me to talk (rather than type) notes or emails.

From a work perspective, I am using Junos Pulse from Juniper Networks – that gives me a VPN secure access point into my work files.

A daily dose of The Australian gives me the full newspaper without the environmental impact, and Flipboard fills my desires for technology magazines and facebook. Videos are viewed through VLC and the iBooks application lets me read ebooks and pdf files to my heart’s content.

I could go on for many more pages…… but the blog deadline looms……and I’d love to hear how you use your mobile devices. Please feel free to add your comments below.

Ingrid Schroder – Communications specialist

Ingrid-SchroderTo roam or not to roam…

Last year I took a month off and travelled through Brazil & Argentina. It was truly an amazing trip! But I must confess – I have one regret: I really should’ve left the Blackberry at home.

Checking my screen intermittently meant I wasn’t missing out on anything at work. But isn’t that the point of going on holidays? Sure, it was convenient to keep a finger on the pulse, but by the time I got home it felt like I’d never left.

I know, I know, I could have switched it off, but I guess it’s one of those bad habits that comes with living in the age of mobility. You get so used to being contactable 24 hours a day that when you’re out of range it feels like you’ve lost a limb.

I mentioned this to a colleague on my return who laughed and said “what the hell did you take it for? When I travelled a few years ago there was no international roaming or Facebook, you just went on your way and said ‘see you in a few months’”. The world didn’t end.

I do love being connected, but sometimes I wonder – is there such a thing as being too mobile?

Mat Unwin – Online Business Specialist

mat-unwinOne thing I’ve been waiting for to take off in a big way is NFC – Near Field Communications. You might know it as ‘Swipe-to-pay’ or ‘bumping’ to exchange contact details or information.  It’s so damn useful in so many ways, but it’s almost like the majority of society is scared to embrace it. When this first started getting press – early in the 2000’s – I envisioned that by now we would be using our phones to pay for anything we wanted, exchanging business card details on a daily basis, waving the phones near the turnstile to get into the footy and even checking off the shopping list on our smart phones by tapping them to the price tag on each item as we picked them up – or even the items themselves.

My wife and I sit down regularly and work through our mobile’s calendars to synch them – we tried a couple of ‘cloud’ calendars but could never get them to work right – but I’d so love to be able to just bump phones and spend the time playing ‘Settlers of Catan’ with the kids instead.

Sure, some of what I foresaw is happening – albeit slowly and with a less-than-stellar take-up amongst potential users – but why the resistance? Why aren’t we embracing a technology that genuinely has the potential to make a lot of processes easier and smarter?

Besides all the practical stuff, I have had a killer mass-audience magic trick all ready to go for the last 3 years just waiting for there to be enough spread of mobile applications using this tech for me to try it. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to sit on an idea this good?

Security is still the single biggest issue with the take up of NFC – and I can fully understand why. Having an easily lost or stolen phone as being a digital wallet does put the majority of us in fear of being lumped with a whole heap of charges we never made, and that’s the same fear that many of us had about credit card when they first gained popularity – or online shopping for that matter. With companies such as PayPal stepping in as a more secure ‘middle man’ in many of these processes, our level of confidence has increased – and they are planning to do the Same for NFC by the end of the year.

Just consider how many things you would find easier to pay for, open, lock, check off or share if it only took a near pass of an NFC enabled device – and in the meantime, just understand that I will continue to look puzzled while I futilely bump my phone into yours when we meet….

Justine Barwick – Finance business analyst

justine-barwickWhen I was a kid I wanted to be a Leyland Brother.  Now that I’m older, I’m wondering if my defacto relationship with the internet is holding me back. My virtual adventures just don’t seem to be cutting it for me anymore. I’m in love with being one click away from all that knowledge.  I have no idea why I need to know half the useless stuff I look up on a daily basis, but the fact that I can get it in an instant? I’m hooked.

In an age where access is everything, I simply want what I want, whenever I want it, and wherever I happen to be.  Leaving the net for the wilderness? *insert shocked face here*

But with the extent of coverage these days, and the laptop no longer the reserved domain of the corporate executive, I’m rethinking my position. I’m ready to get out there – with a little Mobile Broadband security blankie.

Okay yes it’s cheating if you’re a Leyland purist, but I’ll bet you a charcoal marshmallow on a stick that even Mike and Mal would have rejoiced in a little WiFi technology, given the opportunity.  It’s like a mobile insurance policy, in case you need to suddenly know how to do an after-dark tent pitch because you didn’t pack the map and got lost, or how to deal with a spider bite emergency and prevent your leg falling off.

And just imagine how impressed your mates would be after fixing the Kombi with 3 tent pegs and a footy sock after consulting a MacGyver download.

I don’t want a divorce – I want my internet to evolve and grow with me, share my new travel goals and want to see the world with me. Too much to expect? Other relationships have broken up for less. Now, anyone know where I can get a low mileage orange Kombi with a built in Jacuzzi? Baby steps.

Collin Van Uden – Customer Service Representative

collin-van-uden

The history of Mobility is kind of like a brief history of Life As We Know It.

Where would we be if our amoebaean ancestors had eschewed that radical, hip and happening ‘evolution’?

Or if our Precambrian great grandparents decided to stay at home on the couch instead of crawling their way out of the primordial soup into the strange, unexplored world of terrestrial existence. Ah, surely those were the days, when things were simple (and I mean really simple) and ‘new paradigm’ meant evolving whole new appendages.

Skip down the timeline a bit and mobility has a pretty important part to play in the human population explosion. One hundred thousand years ago, someone wondered if there might be fewer people eating pointy toothed carnivores in “that big ‘Asia’ looking place” and before you know it, whole tribes were on the move – out of Africa, and into the history books.

Take another leap down the timeline and we come to a point, 50,000 years ago, when something pivotal occurred – , an unknown number of intrepid explorers used boats to traverse the watery depths of the ocean itself.

For the first time, we’d employed technology not only to conquer an environment we can’t survive, but also to achieve a massive augmentation of our own ability to be mobile.

On a side note, some of those early seafarers became the indigenous inhabitants of Australia.

Much later of course, another Fleet of much bigger boats was responsible for the mobility of countless people, seemingly limitless resources, and whole libraries of information required to both create and maintain what would come to be known as one of the greatest empires in recorded history, on which “the sun never sets”.

A few hundred years on and we’ve taken care of that “tyranny of distance” stuff by connecting the country to itself and the rest of the world with telecommunications technology.

It’s a bit clever really, nothing less than the truly mind-blowing ability to reach into each other’s very thoughts, instantaneously, from any distance, which to me has always seemed just a little bit like magic.

A ubiquitous mobile network and the forthcoming technology to replace it (cheerfully dubbed ‘NexterG’ by a colleague) allows us access this strange hybrid of inner and digital space, that undulating field of 1’s and 0’s that so many of us now manipulate, traverse, and affect each day from any where and for an ever expanding number of reasons (see Mat’s piece on Near Field Communications for example).

This is the mobility of today – a mobility of possibility, of design, of imagination and creativity – movement through the informational platform we spent the better half of the 20th Century building.

Tell me a bit about the sites you use and what you use to interact with them – How do you move through and manipulate this ‘virtual space’ we’ve created?

Terry Simmonds – Forecasting and Re-engineering manager

I don’t see myself as technically sophisticated or terribly mobile dependent. I guess I am not even a very serious blogger – I don’t have a site, don’t have a facebook page and I’m not on twitter. I am on Linked In though …I didn’t think I had much to contribute until one of my colleagues caught me talking on my mobile – a 5 year old Nokia.

It has a habit of gracing my belt for most of the day. I only fully realised its influence on my life when a colleague caught me out listening to a phone message while at work.

“Got to stay in touch – hey? That call must be really important to take it here.”

Thankfully Next G has good coverage even in the bathrooms of 275 George St Brisbane. Aren’t I the fortunate one or am I really just a closet mobile junkie that has to stay in touch no matter what or … where?

Brendan O’Keefe – Community Engagement Manager

Brendan-OKeefeI’m a big fan of Android and many great creative and productivity apps are open and free.

Mobility and the latest technology gives me and the young people I collaborate with at ideas@play the ability to go out into the field and observe, interview, document and instatly create mind maps, video streams, photo galleries all while we are out and about.

Viva la Android!

Out takes

If I think about the next big thing I imagine the kind of next gen device that will be my one and only computer/phone/music player device with wireless USB or Thunderbolt connectivity thingy (a technical term) so I can truly take a one-device-does-it-all approach to my mobile life.

What do you think that device might look like and how does mobility affect you from day to day?