Reading the articles about Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook 'Places,' you might get the impression that location-aware apps are only for helping 20-something urbanites meet and mate. In fact, as analyst Seth Grimes pointed out in a recent Intelligent Enterprise article, location-based services may have more potential in the less glamorous area of hard-core enterprise technology.
One is the emerging area of mobile Customer Relationship Management (mCRM). This isn't about bringing SAP CRM or Salesforce.com to the smartphone. Both have been done. Rather, mCRM is about providing services that enable companies to market to consumers via their mobile phones.
The archetypal example is sending a coupon via SMS to a shopper who strolls near a store in the mall (a discreeter version of what Minority Report envisioned). This requires both analytics on the back-end to analyze customer profiles, as well as mobile services delivery capabilities - something Sybase happens to both possess.
Another is mobile Business Intelligence (BI). As with mobile CRM, we need to expand the definition of mobile BI, which has been used thus far to label analytics dashboards running on iPhones and tablets. Think of products from RoamBi, Qlikview, or more recently, MicroStrategy.
Rather, BI can work with geolocation apps to to accelerate internal processes or enable profitable cross-selling opportunities. A few examples courtesy of Grimes:
- Manager X is out of the office, as indicated by a mobile device. Route operational alerts to an on-site deputy and reduce X's alerts to certain essentials and send twice-daily, simplified summary reports.
- An iPhone-equipped account rep is visiting a customer and has an extra hour. Whom should she introduce herself to at that particular customer site?
- The account rep is in downtown San Jose. Customer's FourSquare tweets that he's at Philz Coffee a few blocks away (one of twenty customers the rep follows on Twitter). Perfect opportunity to say hello.
Grimes modestly calls these scenarios "hum drum, today needs, same-but-better stuff rather than anything truly new...I expect things truly new to emerge from mobile computing, in BI and other enterprise applications, just as they have in the consumer domain."
He's right. Take SAP BusinessObjects, which envisions many augmented reality scenarios that rely on location-based apps and server-based BI. For instance, helping a factory foreman, using his mobile device's geolocation capabilities, to get detailed maintenance history information of the gears and parts in his factory. Or help a car manufacturer provide information to managers of local car dealerships. Or enable a consumer goods company to track information and location of their vending machines. Or help a manager quickly compare sales between two different areas of a retail store. Etc.
Our sister company is close to releasing a free prototype of an iPad/iPhone app that will work closely with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer technology and the BI onDemand web site to provide this level of augmented reality. I'll try to let you know as soon as I hear when it's available. I'm planning to download it myself.
What enterprise applications can you imagine resulting from the marriage of BI with location-aware mobile devices?