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Mobile: the next frontier


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A tour through the current mobile landscape, asking "why now for mobile?" and looking at some of the options and opportunities for institutions

A tour through the current mobile landscape, asking "why now for mobile?" and looking at some of the options and opportunities for institutions

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  • It’s Friday, it’s the end of the day, it’s nearly a bank holiday… … L = likelihood that this talk might be any good
  • … on the plus side…
  • ...first, a wholly scientific method I’ve perfected over many years to help understand my audience better: the “geek snigger test”
  • This talk is mainly non-technical. If you find this slide funny, you are probably going to be disappointed...
  • … if you find this one funny you’ll probably be ok
  • (if you don’t find this funny, you’re probably asleep. Or lacking a sense of humour…)
  • Here are the main areas I’ll be touching on today. It’s a bit of a whistlestop tour, and if there’s one thing I’ve discovered when talking about mobile it is that there are no answers, just more questions…
  • This was said back in 1996 – actually it was about the “internet of things” or ubiquitous computing, but applies equally well to mobile too
  • Some 14 years later, we are finally seeing a critical convergence – a kind of perfect storm – which will finally (probably) make the mobile dream a reality
  • These are the factors. Let’s have a look at them in a bit more detail...
  • First off, “devices”. - we all have “a device”. In the UK, 120% of people have a mobile phone.. - 1.15bn new handsets last year (of which 90% have colour web browser) - cheap, small, replaceable – and have a short lifetime which means the technology cycle moves on quickly: not many people have old mobiles for long - 1.2bn “mobile web” users (more stats later...)
  • Networks: - GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA…4G - WIFI and (possibly) WIMAX - cheaper, faster - more available (when was the last time you saw one of those telco “coverage maps” for the uk…?
  • Content - the “chicken and egg” of new tech: finally we’re moving out of the cycle where no content is created because the platform is young - vast swathes of stuff are now available via API’s, i.e. “on any device” example: 100 million CC’d images on Flickr, many of which are geo-coded … and as the above graph shows, the best camera really is the one you have with you…
  • Services: - finally, real-time access to things like mapping services and GPS - also, realistic access times across ubiquitous networks: devices are quick to find location or use mapping. This is trending to invisible technology - availability of these services is high, and they are usually free or cheap
  • Location is big… - cell(+) location / GPS / WIFI / locative - mobile OS starting to be location aware (but bear in mind that location can be manually entered, too – more later) - many geocoding services available - ..and millions of geocoded resources..
  • Awareness, marketing, “the big sell”: probably more important than anything else - marketing leading to demand, leading to services, leading to demand…an “awareness cycle” buy a mobile, get sold the mobile internet on any billboard, you’ll see ads about (Flickr, Facebook, Twitter etc) “on the go”
  • Wayhey! Time for some graphs... :-)
  • In comparison, it is estimated that around 23% of people used the net in 2008, worldwide It is estimated that more than 90% of the global population now have access in terms of signal... As I said earlier, 120% of the UK has a mobile phone: there are 72 million subscriptions or active SIMs
  • Smartphone sales continue to dominate in Europe It’ll be a while before the older machines have been replaced, but not long - a matter of maybe a year or so
  • - People aren’t very suprised about iPhone (this includes iPod Touch too..) - Blackberry often raises an eyebrow. This isnt just corporate markets (who like it because of enterprise tools and the fact it can be locked down) but teens, too. Mostly this is because of the Blackberry messaging applications...
  • - This isn’t the best of slides to look at at a distance but it hopefully gives some idea of the various differences between nations. - It also shows quite clearly the effects of poverty on purchasing habits..
  • This site suggests 2.18% of browsing is from mobile. Other stats suggest different figures: Netmarketshare say around 1.70% ( ) or even up to 5-10% These are small. But remember that these stats are for *browsing* and don’t include apps, and this is of *total browsing market* and growing...
  • The markets themselves look like this - and growing at exponential rates iPhone (and Touch) are currently leading, but many experts predict that Android is going to dominate. We’ll leave that argument for the time being…
  • It’s tricky talking about options because there are so many, and actually they aren’t comparable - it’s a bit like saying “here are your options for the web” - it is entirely dependent on context and what you want to achieve... At the same time, there are some common patterns...
  • - Before we do this, we need to take a step back and ask: Why mobile rather than another platform? - These are the unique traits of mobile: the important ones I think from a content perspective are: ....intimacy of the device (67% of people sleep with their mobile phone....) [Tomi Ahonen] ...the ubiquitousness (provided you take capability into account...more later) ...the contextual and parallel nature of the experience. You typically “do mobile” at the same time as “doing something else”
  • - Mobile experiences differ from desktop experiences in many ways. - Here are some of them. Mobile is often about rapid, contextual, unplanned interfacing with content
  • This is so far from being a complete list, but in experience terms, here are some common areas in which cultural heritage visitors might be using mobile devices
  • As an institution, how do you “do” mobile? depends on what the “it” is... but here are some (non-exclusive, non-exhaustive) options…
  • #1: Adapt existing This means providing a special way of rendering your site - a CSS file usually - which gives a mobile optimised view You can “sniff” for whether a browser is mobile or not and provide this view automatically. Pros: cheap; no additional content maintenence effort Cons: the content is probably not what users want; doesn’t use phone capabaility or consider the actual experience of ‘being mobile’ Increasingly, people question whether - with the rise of smart phones - you need to do this at all. I’d still say yes, probably - sites are big and slow and full of media and experiences that are irrelevant to mobile users
  • #2: Build new Build your own separate site, use the same browser sniff when people arrive (but don’t forget to link to the “main” site, to the BBC!) You can use someone like,, icetip (there are many of these offerings - shop around..) which let you build a site for cheap or free Pros: easy; more focussed to mobile visitors; can segment to fit mobile capabilities (visit, what’s on, map, telephone number), do it in Wordpress! Cons: can be harder from a maintenance POV, although if you have an API or feeds you can grab stuff live from the normal site; probably more expensive to bui
  • This is what you get when you go to the PH museum site on an iphone - an automatic redirect to a cut down version of the site. They have another non-iphone mobile friendly one, too. I’d say #1 and #2 - which are essentially about how you deal with incoming visitors from mobile - are becoming a must for any institution, especially given it isn’t hard or expensive to do. The hardest thing in this scenario is the information architecture, and being focussed on what you provide
  • #3: Build an app If you want a more focused experience - one that is about collections, gaming, a specific exhibition.. you can choose to build an app. Pros: best use of platform and capability (location, vibration, compass, etc); focused marketing; maybe even income! Cons: expensive (although see next slides..) - minimum ~£10k; complicated; and you have to choose your platform: apps are NOT CROSS PLATFORM! But…you can choose to build an app as part of a partnership to reduce costs. Revenue shares are common…
  • Here’s Brooklyn Museums iPhone app. It covers collections, and essential visitor stuff. Brooklyn also have a web mobile site...and some other stuff which I’ll talk about later
  • Another example from the National Gallery. Well worth following the link on the slide – it’s a great case study of a museum’s experiences building an app - Probably native iPhone development, and done with a partnership deal to minimise costs / maximise benefits - They took the decision to use existing content as much as possible, also stuff that isn’t IP restricted
  • Here is Launchball, which started off as a Flash-based game and is now an iPhone app
  • #3b: Build an app without building an app These tools are compelling - they let you build in xhtml/css/javascript and they then convert to iPhone / Android BUT – this is not the same as a native app, will still cost you (some) money, and is at the whims of Apple...! There are other alternatives, for example which has a different model ($299 p/a) - but not as full featured... See also which is what the Museum Marketing app is built using
  • #4. Build a mobile web app Building apps for the browser is starting to be a possibility, and will only get better... Apps can be bookmarks! Pros: use existing skills; use existing content; potentially cross platform (see also building CSS for your existing site...) Cons: only limited use of device capability (location is ok in HTML5, but orientation, accelerometer not accessible); speed is a giveaway, at least for now..
  • decided to build a web app rather than an “actual” app. The link is to a video where they explain why they did this You’ll see if you go to how this works. It looks like a native app, and tries to feel like one, but it is slow, which is the giveaway
  • #5: Don’t forget the basics…! SMS and MMS are HUGE.. 28 th January 2010, the Mobile Data Association aggregated stats for all UK networks: 11 million text messages are sent an HOUR across UK networks... (That’s 93.8 billion during 2009...) MMS is a lot lower – “only” 600 million sent during 2009
  • I said there were no answers, only more questions, so a takeaway thought is challenging...
  • Maybe it is this: Everyone (in the UK!) has a mobile... But.. - There are vast quantities of mobile phones with vast quantities of different capabilities. - The mismatch of capability is one of the key things that can be a barrier to institutions who want to provide inclusive experiences. - Trends are starting to show, but it is far from a universal capability set, and changing all the time This becomes a guessing game, or a “just do bleeding edge” activity. It is up to institutions to choose based on individual cases
  • This is probably more pertinent than the old browser capability question: the differences between devices are much more marked - Here’s the current capability across all current mobile handsets. Probably the most important thing to keep an eye out on is the ability to browse…If experience has taught us anything it is that “the web” is important, probably more important than the current app store battles… More likely though, we won’t see a “dominant platform” but instead a plethora of different platforms with some cross-over in capability as illustrated by some figures like those above.
  • At the end of the day, I think location has the most exciting potential for content-rich institutions like museums This diagram from Paul Golding illustrates what location is actually about: the intersection of “opportunity” and “interest”...or perhaps for museums - content and context – it is about the moment when someone and something come together
  • Here’s the Powerhouse Museum again using a platform called “Layar” It’s a great example of bleeding edge: it is only available on iPhone or Android but it is very compelling, easy to do, and extremely sexy…! Earlier on, someone said that technology shouldn’t drive content. Normally I’d agree 100%. Here, I think we can be forgiven for letting the technology drive the content…!
  • If you think creatively, location doesn’t actually require location capability! Here is Brooklyn, with a web app called “BklynMuse” which (at last!) links gallery (“real”) with web (“virtual”)… This is a location-based service but doesn’t actually require that capability - you manually key stuff in. The “location” stuff is implied rather then sensed…this doesn’t feel like a location activity, but actually it is... The nice thing about this is that it is pretty much device-independent, while also being compelling from a content perspective.
  • Location is only going to get better...
  • Don’t ever predict...but IMO the future for museums and mobile is (you guessed it) experiences that are somehow location-based
  • Transcript

    • 1. mobile the next frontier mike ellis // museumnext // 30 th April 2010
    • 2. I am Mike Ellis I have spent about ten years on the web I am a generalist, strategist, social(web)ist I work for a not for profit IT company called Eduserv my mum
    • 3. L = ((friday + end of day) x overload) 1 _______________________________
    • 4. + (mobileisquitesexy x no comicsans )
    • 5. geek test
    • 6. hardcore geek
    • 7. amateur geek
    • 8. (awake?)
    • 9.
      • why now for mobile
      • some stats
      • how to “do” mobile
      • some examples
      I’ll be talking about…
    • 10. “ Our preliminary approach: Activate the world. Provide hundreds of wireless computing devices per person per office, of all scales” Xerox PARC, 1996 why now?
    • 11. ..only now (14 years later) are we finally beginning to see a convergence of various factors… yes, but..
    • 12. devices location network services content awareness
    • 13. devices
    • 14. networks
    • 15. content
    • 16. services
    • 17. location
    • 18. awareness and marketing
    • 19. facts ‘n’ figures
    • 20. “ The speed and scale of the world's love affair with mobile phones was revealed yesterday in a UN report that showed more than half the global population now pay to use one.” The Guardian, 3 rd March 2009
    • 21. the rise of the smartphone
    • 22. iPhone + iPod Touch BlackBerry Nokia / Sony Ericsson / Samsung top mobile OS in UK
    • 23. ..and worldwide
    • 24. … compared to desktop April 2010: 2.18%
    • 25. : app market size
    • 26. the options
    • 27. intimate always carried contextual always on ubiquitous multi-sensory parallel why mobile?
    • 28. desktop mobile 30 minutes 30 seconds Planned Unplanned Sit forward Sit back Time No time Creating Consuming Focus Multitask Source: Tomi Ahonen book Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, 2008 use case differences
    • 29.
      • Visit:
          • ...“on the way to the museum”
          • ...“engaging with the objects”
      • Non-visit:
          • Also - engaging with the objects!
          • gaming
      some experience types
    • 30. ..but how do you actually “do” it...?
    • 31. 1. Adapt your existing site, or part of it
    • 32. 2. Have a distinct and separate mobile site
    • 33. (example: powerhouse museum)
    • 34. 3. Build an App
    • 35. Brooklyn...
    • 36. = £1.79 From MW paper, roughly: > avg 17,600 downloads per week when free > avg 1,360 downloads per week when paid > Estimated revenue: £44,350 (after Apple) National Gallery
    • 37. Gaming...
    • 38. 3b. Build an app (without building an app) Build apps with existing skills: - Titanium Appcelerator - PhoneGap - Adobe CS5 - Next generation of Adobe AIR ?
    • 39. 4. Build a mobile web app
    • 40.
    • 41. 5. Don’t forget….
    • 42. is there a final thought?
    • 43. making use of capability
    • 44. SMS: 100% Browser (including WAP): 95% MMS: 80% Camera: 73% Modern browser: 71% Bluetooth: 64% WIFI: 19% ..but balancing with ubiquity
    • 45. thing person radius of opportunity radius of interest revisiting location
    • 46. augmented reality
    • 47. location doesn’t require location capability!
    • 48.
          • more devices with GPS
          • more common use of QR and other codes
          • RFID (in-built to devices)
          • More accuracy
          • Someone, at some point, will crack internal waypointing...
      all of these things are incoming for location
    • 49.  
    • 50. Next frontier iphone convergence hands kid on phone network wc you are here photo op charts half the world minifigs road ahead remember crow stool letter thanks to flickr people
    • 51.
          • @m1ke_ellis
      thanks for listening!