Are mobiles redefining the personal computer?

by Mathews George | Mar 09, 2017
“Recently on my train commute back from work I read an email (on my mobile) about the potential to save on my electricity spend. By the time I was home I had switched my electricity provider using my mobile phone and nothing else. No annoying phone calls, only a few clicks and an online chat. If it were not possible to do it in that moment and do it online, I would probably have forgotten about the email.” Mathews George, Energy Action CIO, discusses the rise of the mobile phone and its influence on the energy industry across the globe.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Energy Action CIO Mathews George.

Using the narrow definition of "operated by one person", the first personal computer was the ENIAC, which became operational in 1946. But something that was small enough to be placed on a desktop and available off-the-shelf wasn’t manufactured until 1956, the LGP-30.

We’ve come a long way since those early devices - computers, laptops and then tablets. But looking ahead into 2020 all these devices show a downward trend! Surprising but true that the iPad was once expected to render the PC practically extinct, but recent studies show that it is off its peak and on a decline.

The only device that continues to show growth is the mobile phone, a personal computer in its true sense. Something you wouldn’t have imagined even a few years back.

Depending on the reports that you read, there are 4-7 billion mobiles in use today. Several countries have as many as 1.5x mobile phones as their own population! So it’s understandable that the number of mobile phones will continue to grow at least as much as the world’s population, if not more.

So what’s driving this behaviour?

Self-service how, where and when you want it.

Today if you don’t have a presence in the moment and space of the customers’ need, then you’ve lost the opportunity to connect. Monopoly or lack of innovation in your industry may float your boat today, but not for long.

Recently on my train commute back from work I read an email (on my mobile) about the potential to save on my electricity spend. By the time I was home I had switched my electricity provider using my mobile phone and nothing else. No annoying phone calls, only a few clicks and an online chat. If it were not possible to do it in that moment and do it online, I would probably have forgotten about the email.

In the energy industry most providers now have a mobile presence. While some provide basic insights into consumption others allow you to submit a meter reading and schedule an engineer visit.

Actionable insights come to you, you don’t have to go looking for them.

Unlike a personal computer, you don’t have to be at your desktop to know what’s going on and what you can do about it. The mobile phone is always with you and notifications can draw your attention to information that require action.

Apple’s HomeKit and similar automation products transform your home into a smart home, all monitored and controlled by your smartphone. Insights and capability to act on them, both in the palm of your hand.

The information from industrial control systems spewing out huge volumes of data was considered too complex to be distilled onto a mobile phone. But as computers become more powerful and intelligent, change is just around the corner.

Engagement, the final frontier of competitive advantage.

Depending on the service or product you provide, your customer interactions may not be regular enough for you to remain top of their mind. The observed exception is when gamification is involved.

Gamification uses design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goal by tapping into their basic need of status and achievement.

As Sydney's heatwave reached record levels on February 10, energy retailer Mojo Power contacted customers offering a cash rebate to reduce demand in a skyrocketing wholesale market. About 40% households answered the company’s call.

The CITYOPT operational tool rewards users for reducing and moving loads through a self-service mobile app. Instead of a one-off transaction, the app continues to engage the customers. Their recent pilot in France reported that 80% of households reduced their electricity consumption when the need to do so arose.

Looking at these trends, there’s no reason to doubt that for personal consumption or action, mobile phones are redefining the personal computer industry.

If you aren’t doing it already, think about how a mobile-first strategy can help you and your customers achieve your goals.

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