Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, recently wrote a brief article indicating his company’s role in the “mobile revolution.” As we have highlighted in our book Connected Cities, mobile technologies already have been responsible for and continue to offer further opportunity in market creation (to the tune of 256 billion euros). The technology has only hit the tip of the iceberg, and Schmidt notes the next three places he intends to take it.
First, Google will focus on the underlying fast networks; second, on the development of mobile money; and third, on the availability of inexpensive smartphones in developing countries. Of note in the second two categories are a few companies from our Showcase. It appears that Google’s initial intents in regards to mobile money are for consumers in more developed regions; it’s near field communication, or NFC, technology enables smartphone users to pay for groceries, clothing, or other consumables simply by waving their phone near an in-store device. As far as I can tell, this technology would also be useful for things like mobile parking or public transit passes. Park-line’s current model involves paying for parking by using your mobile phone to make a call to a processing center; NFC would make these calls unnecessary. Similarly, Transport for London could move away from necessitating a physical “Oyster card” by enabling NFC.
The use of mobile technologies in developing countries is already well known. We documented Mission 4636, which used mobile technology to facilitate the first responders to the Haiti earthquake. Of course, their reach could have been much broader had the local population had access to more mobile phones. Somewhat surprisingly, 90 percent of the world’s population already does have access to mobile networks, though this does not mean they actually own a mobile device, nor does it mean they have access to smartphone technology that significantly improves access to information.
The brevity of Schmidt’s article has attracted a fair amount of attention. We’ll keep our eyes out for updates.