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Idiro CEO Discusses the Future of Mobile Web and Customer Service Software
By Chris DiMarco, TMCnet Managing Editor
Social media is the most important development in communication from the last decade. The '90s laid the ground work for commercial interaction with the internet and prepared the world to use it on a daily basis. Social media sites like Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter took that willingness and redefined the way that people talk to one another and interact with the world. If the web came to full fruition in the ‘90s and the ‘00s were the decade of social media then the 2000-teens are likely to be the decade of mobile adoption. The combination of smartphones and social networking is already changing the face of commerce, communication and computing as we know it.
Idiro Technologies offers a number of social media analysis services including viral marketing, customer acquisition and retention studies. Services increasingly important as the saturation of social media adoption peaks. Recently Idiro’s CEO Aidan Connolly sat down with TMC to discuss some of the emerging trends and connotations they have for the future of communication.
1. What was the most significant technology trend in 2010 and what impact will it have in 2011?
AC: The growth of products based on Google’s (News - Alert) Android operating system was one of the most significant events in 2010. Google has demonstrated that it has the innovation and resources to successfully enter new markets, and give behemoths like Apple (News - Alert) and RIM a run for their money. The continued success of Android will have a great impact on the mobile market, not just in 2011, but in years to come.
Additionally, I would say that the acceptance of analytics as a fundamental part of any business will continue to gain steam. Businesses have begun to realize that they cannot simply hope to grow their sales through a scatter-gun approach to marketing. Understanding what a company’s customers are doing and what they want has become more mainstream over the past 12 months and I would expect that trend to continue in 2011 and beyond.
2. What impact will the continued growth of cloud computing have on the communications industry in 2011?
AC: Cloud computing will continue to generate interest among enterprises, primarily for the compelling cost-savings it provides through lower equipment, energy and manpower costs. The challenge for cloud-based providers is to convince these businesses that data and other critical information is secure in the cloud environment. These issues will continue to linger in 2011, and will be a primary factor in customer decisions to implement these solutions.
While cloud computing offers significant savings to an enterprise’s customers it is also a very cost-effective business model to vendors and these two factors will drive the continued adoption of cloud-based services.
Security technology vendors will benefit from this trend due to the perception that data is less secure in the cloud. Cyber sabotage/crime will become more of a threat and it is incumbent on our industry to find a solution to this lest the whole cloud initiative grind to a halt due to security concerns.
3. Who will be the mobile winners in 2011 out of Google Android, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and RIM?
AC: It’s too early to predict a winner, but clearly Apple and Android seem to be the early leaders in the handset battle. It will be interesting to see how the battle plays out in the Tablet space. Both Samsung (News - Alert) and Apple have very strong products. Android is the new MS Windows and I think in time the market division will be similar to that which existed between PCs and Macs in the 90s. Apple’s reluctance to embrace openness will probably be their undoing – maybe less so in the western world but definitely in developing economies.
Nokia seem to have lost touch with market trends in recent times but this is not the first time that they have missed a beat (i.e they were followers rather than leaders when clam-shell handsets first came out). I would expect that Nokia will stabilize their position though I don’t expect them to regain dominant position they had in the past.
4. What impact will mobile technology have on the tech space in 2011?
AC: Mobility will continue to be one of the dominant forces in technology. And the continued growth of smartphones will help propel this innovation. Consumers are now becoming increasingly comfortable with using their smartphones as devices for multiple purposes, like making payments, watching videos, and finding stores, restaurants and other locations. Developers see these devices as the perfect platform to create new and exciting applications that will serve both consumers and businesses, and are putting forth enormous effort to bring these new innovations market faster to satisfy this growing demand.
Mobile technology has facilitated the delivery of new services to the developing world in a way that the PC never did. I expect that we will see more innovation coming out of developing economies and making their way into western economies. The internet is moving to mobile and that will become even more apparent in 2011. Besides entertainment and info-grazing, mobile purchasing and financial services will become more and more important to the point that some operators will consider including banking services as part of their product offerings.
5. Where are the best opportunities in the tech space this year?
AC: There’s a lot of interest swirling around cloud, mobility, and M2M at the moment. But in reality, if someone has a solution that will allow a business or consumer to reduce expenses, that provider will definitely get an audience. The recent recession has taught enterprises, SMBs, and individuals how to make do with less. Any product or solution that can tangibly satisfy this requirement will be well positioned this year.
Any service that removes the need for paper or a tangible product will have a good chance of succeeding. Added to that, vendors must start to layer services on top of the replication of real-world physical services. For example, I want all my invoicing to be digital so that I no longer get any paper bills but on top of that I want analytics to identify trends in my consumption habits that can be changed or optimized to that I can reap some benefit.
6. How can technology change the world for the better?
AC: There are a multitude of examples of how technology in and of itself can make a positive impact, including bridging cultures and fostering communications. One of the most important benefits of modern communications technology is its impact on the environment. Through collaboration, people don’t need to travel as much. Cloud-based technology minimizes energy costs, and as a result, reduces the carbon footprint.
Probably the single biggest impact of technology is that is democratizes access to information and renders everyone, especially those in power more accountable. Technology has unleashed a great tidal wave of equality on the globe and I think this will only be appreciated by students of history in a generation from now. Even Wikileaks, despite all the controversy surrounding it, has made governments realize that they cannot act with impunity and hope to get away with it. This, in time, will also be seen to be a good thing for society and the world at large.
7. How have you leveraged social networking as an internal collaboration tool?
AC: Yes, we go to the pub. That’s the original social network.
As for online social networking, no, not to any great extent, but a number of enterprises are experimenting with it. Discussion groups and bulletin-board style interaction have been an important tool for developers for many years. Collaboration using social networks can extend this tool to a broader scope of individuals, and could provide the spark for many innovations.
8. What will be the greatest technological development in 2011? Why?
AC: It would be impossible to predict a specific development, but one of the more fertile areas revolve around the “internet of things”. As we move towards connecting not just people but also objects (cars, fridges, medical devices, sensors etc) on to the internet I think we will see an explosion in services and, as we layer complex analytics on this internet of things, we will begin to remove the inefficiencies that exist in our world today.
AC: One of the most critical elements in business today is keeping the customer happy. Companies simply cannot afford to lose good customers; it’s expensive and difficult to replace them. And when those customers hold influence within their respective communities, the resulting churn can be disastrous. Additionally, people trust their friends more than they do your company. You must always bear this in mind when talking to your customers. A negative experience with one customer can quickly cascade across your customer base; fortunately the converse is also true.
We’ll be discussing how advanced CRM and analytics technologies can help many providers properly identify these influential customers. Through the careful analysis of customer data and communications patterns, many providers can draw a clear picture of the communities that exist within their customer base, identify the influencers, and then take action to ensure customer satisfaction and retention.
10. What other topics should be at the top of attendees’ lists?
AC: It’s a very wide-ranging agenda, so I would imagine there’s enough there to capture anyone’s attention.
11. What new and exciting products/solutions can we expect to see from your company in 2011?
AC: We’ll be introducing an exciting software product, Idiro Social Miner. This solution gives communication companies powerful Social Network Analysis (SNA) resources that can enable them to significantly reduce churn, acquire new customers, and up-sell their current subscribers. As a software-based product, the operator can have unlimited access to these capabilities. And since it resides on site, the service provider doesn’t have to worry about customer data leaving their premise. This product will be available to mobile operators worldwide.
12. Please make one surprising prediction for 2011.
AC: Well, it’s not that surprising but the internet will become predominantly mobile. The dying love affair with the desktop will finally end. We will be free and mobile and constantly connected. For example, we will see the idea of using mobile devices as electronic wallets finally move to main stream. We should, in time, have virtual credit cards, virtual plane tickets, our medical history etc on our smart phones. Additionally, in time peoples mobile devices will become repositories of certain shared data. We will see peer-to-peer data sharing moving from feeding off desktops to feeding of devices in people’s pockets (that will present challenges in the area of security and piracy).
Arguably, most importantly, access to information will become ubiquitous and this will help drive social equality and a more equal distribution of wealth.
To paraphrase Marx, “People of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your desktops.”
Want to learn more about how social networking can increase your sales and retain your customers? Then be sure to register for the Social CRM Expo, collocated with TMC’s ITEXPO East, taking place Feb 2-4, 2011, in Miami. The Social CRM Expo is where you will learn how to effectively use the social channel, in conjunction with the others to make your organization even more successful… by enabling you to have a more complete view and understanding of your customers to boost retention, sales and results. To register, click here.
Chris DiMarco is a Web Editor for TMCnet. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University. Prior to joining TMC Chris worked with e-commerce provider Suresource as a contact center representative and development analyst. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Chris DiMarco