The user is king in M2M too

Users are typically more interested in what things and services do or deliver than how they work. They want to get the work done. Still most products and services are too cumbersome to install and use and even if they help solve important problems people are reluctant to buy and use them. Coming from IBM to Apple at the time for the Mac made me see the difference between function centric and user centric development approaches.When there is a reasonable choice, users always chose the products they like. Some 3,5 billion people had a mobile phone when the iPhone was launched June 29 2007. It brought a completely new user experience to the market and despite many technical limitations and a high price it rapidly and fundamentally changed the mobile industry. Operators were chocked and Nokia lost. There has always been application developments for mobile phones but by enabling any and all developers to develop easy to install and use apps for millions of iPhone users and efficiently distribute and maintain them, enormous forces were released. All of a sudden a completely new way of solving small to big problems was at hand and a massive amount of apps were made available. Like when Internet took off many said “there is mainly useless garbage around”. Development started from the users. The users downloaded some 30B apps 2011 and the revenues are expected to be some 15B$ (Gartner). The users are kings.

The relevance of this for M2M is that whenever users will be involved, they must be able to use the device or devices of their choice to interact with the service. And the usability of the service needs to be in pair with what they are used to already. There will continue to be several terminal platforms and we have to support them all even if it is hard. Up until now most employers had standardized terminals but also that is changing rapidly. BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – is spreading like wildfire promoted by Cisco and others. In essence we can chose between developing apps for the different platforms, using HTML5 or using cross platform tools like MoSync, PhoneGap and Appcelerator. These choices are critical since the success of an M2M service depends on how they interact with their users.

Volvo cars released an iPhone and Android app in June 2011 which use their On Call cellular service to allow users to lock the car, find their car, look at the dashboard, start the parking heater and other useful things. I’m told the app is a roaring success and if so I believe the reason is that Volvo car owners immediately understand which problems it solves for them, how it works, they can use their device of choice and it works like anything else on that device. The entire On Call technology, system and networks are invisible to them. It just works. That is a good example of how I believe M2M solutions should interact with their users.

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