The Mobile Worker
by Corey Goff
Turning Commute Time into Productive Time...
Driving north on Interstate 85 at 7:30 in the morning in Atlanta, GA
is not so much a commute to work as it is a test of patience. Not only are you competing with other
folks on their way to their jobs, but you are also competing to decrease your own personal
downtime. The morning and after-work
periods are often a busy person's most wasted timestuck in the car or on another
machine of mass transportation.
Many of us
will listen to the radio, or some tapes, or even CDs--but is that really productive or
just a means to avoid some kind of road rage? The
question then becomes, "How do I make this time more productive for
The answer is to use the time to absorb information. Many smart folks
listen to informative audio recordings (the original method was the cassette tapes,
now it's the MP3 player). This is not a bad move, if timeliness isn't an issue. But,
what if you want to know what is going on now? Or your library has a limited
selection that doesn't cover the topics you really want to know about? Then you need to
find a useful information service that will provide news, content, or data. This makes the
commute productive in light of your needs--not just "fill-in" time.
Not all commuters rely on cars for transportation to and from work. Some of us use mass transit, such as bus, rail, or
air. Others bike or walk to work. And often, we get to work via a combination of these
means. A practical information service, then, often must be independent of traditional
lines of communication.
Satisfying the Information Demand
Many individuals carry a Personal Data Assistant, or PDA, such as a
Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor, or Compaq iPAQ. And
most people have a cell phone as well. These
mobile devices operate on several different platforms. Some,
such as the Palm Pilot, operate on the Palm OS. Devices
like the iPAQ utilize Microsofts Windows CE operating system. And catering to cell phones, web-enabled phones,
and RIMs is yet a different format, sometimes even dependent on what part of the country
or world you live in.
Consumers have a variety of different interests, jobs, preferences,
and dislikes. In this age of information,
people expect companies to treat them as individuals and thats why you see Web sites
offering personalized My
pages where the user can individualize the
visit per his or her personal preferences. But
this is only a starting point; personalization needs to go even further to satisfy
different users' varied personas.
Types of Providers
Companies right now are catering to the new MoPro (mobile
professional) market. While the word
"professional" means a person who holds a state license and doesn't work with
tools, marketing folks have hijacked the word to mean someone with a job. So, when you
hear "professional," don't feel excluded just because you're not a teacher,
preacher, doctor, nurse, lawyer, or cosmetologist. Companies like MobileBriefs,
Audible.com, i2Go, and BeVocal have made it their mission to service the growing demand of
information anywhere, anytime. And you don't need a state license to be a happy customer.
Let's look at the various categories of providers:
Personal Broadcast (PB) companies. This new breed of service provider will tailor
shows specifically to you. MobileBriefs (http://www.mobilebriefs.com) is an example of such
a broadcaster of personalized business content. Their
service allows a subscriber to go the Web site, choose which areas of business (i.e.
marketing, finance, etc.) and/or which industries he/she has interest.
A user can even
enter a commute time if desired. Then, the
system feeds the user relevant content (based on the subscribers preferences) from
MobileBriefs' vast database of business articles, abstracts, and business book reviews. The user has the option of reading the text on site,
downloading the text to any PDA, listening to the audio on site, downloading the audio to
any PDA, downloading the audio to any MP3 player, or even accessing a personalized audio
show by wireless PDA or cell phone.
Audio Download companies. These types of
companies typically have a large base of general interest audio material for individual
download to your desktop or mobile device. Audible.com (http://www.audible.com)
makes it possible for you to listen to audiobooks, lectures, public radio programs,
newspapers and more, either at your desktop computer or on the go with a portable device.
The service allows you to even listen to free samples before you buy. Just by downloading the AudibleManager® software
to your computer, you can listen to audio files on portable devices like any of the
Windows-based PDAs or MP3 players. Subject
offerings include fiction and
nonfiction, comedy, education, business information, speeches, spirituality, public radio
programs, newspapers, and magazines.
Corporate Mobile Audio Communication companies. These companies usually specialize in creating
internal communication systems for corporations via mobile audio. One leader in this space is i2Go (http://www.i2go.com), which has created a mobile software
platform that enables companies to provide relevant, rich media content to their
customers, employees, and partners. You can access the
information on all types of mobile devices-- anytime, anywhere. Customers also have the luxury of personalizing the
audio content they receive. The company has just recently created a Telematics
division to reach the consumers through the ever-increasing number of Internet-enabled
cars that have begun to populate the automotive landscape.
Phone Information Utility companies. Not as adept as Personal Broadcast (PB) companies,
but able to reach more users at the moment, these companies enable users to dial into a
cetral audio information repository and--through menus--choose their content. One leader is BeVocal (http://www.bevocal.com),
whose objective is to extend the power of every phone by providing voice infrastructure
software, applications, and services to telecommunications companies and businesses
worldwide. The consumer accesses the
information over the phone and s/he can personalize the content based on location. Users can get information on traffic updates,
driving directions, weather, news, sports, stock quotes and flight information, all
through voice-activated commands over the phone.
The Future is Mobile and Wireless
By 2003, 118 million US consumers will listen to personalized,
on-demand audio content at least once a week (Forrester Research, May 2000). Analysts are forecasting over 1 billion wireless
devices in 2003, with more than 50% of these devices being Internet enabled (Forrester
Research, November 2000). These expectations,
coupled with the mobile professionals longer commute time and desire for
personalized information, will dictate that companies, such as MobileBriefs, Audible.com,
i2Go and BeVocal, quench this emerging markets thirst.
Corey Goff is an independent writer on
mobile information access and serves as Director of Finance and Operations for