Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Economics of Mobile Application Development

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

At last Thursday’s Mobilize conference the discussion started off with a round table focusing on “The Economics of (Mobile Application) Development.” At the end of this panel discussion which included talent from BlackBerry, the LiMo Foundation, Qualcomm, Adobe, & Windows Mobile the group concluded the following:

“That mobile applications will run primarily over the web versus being installed native to the device, applications will be available in a centralized area (like Apple’s App Store) versus a distributed model of distribution, most applications will be downloaded versus bundled with the device, mobile applications will be developed through businesses rather than through a consortium, & finally that applications will continue to be geared towards the consumer versus businesses.”

These predictions point to a couple of hurdles that in my opinion will continue to plague the mobile industry for many years to come.

The first hurdle is that there are far too many mobile operating systems & too few standards in this space. When a company or an application developer decides to develop a mobile application they are forced in most cases to pick a single operating system to use to develop their application because trying to keep up with the support & life-cycle of that application on 5+ mobile operating systems requires resources that many businesses & application developers simply don’t have to invest. As a result, businesses & application developers loose entire audiences because their application won’t be supported on a large majority of mobile devices running other mobile operating systems. Even with 5+ mobile operating systems; why can’t each mobile operating system adhere to some set of standards that would allow applications to seamlessly work across operating systems?

It is evident that device manufactures realize the control they’ll have when choosing a particular operating systems to run on their device. That is why there is such a race to gain market share now before the mobile market becomes even more saturated with additional mobile operating systems (note that Android from Google is being released this week). If these companies can’t work together on a set of standards for businesses & application developers to adhere to my hope is that we’ll see some device manufactures & mobile operating systems simply go away.

Secondly, mobile carriers still control too much of the equation. The mobile carriers have control of which devices they’ll allow on their network. They determine how the mobile applications will be distributed to the consumer; installed on the device prior to sale or forcing the consumer to download. The mobile carriers also control the costs associated with the network time (voice or data) that the application will require to use. All of these control factors make it very difficult for businesses & application developers to develop an application that is simple & affordable for the consumer to use.

While the mobile market is obviously exploding & “open” for growth, don’t be fooled to believe that there aren’t some significant hurdles for us to overcome in order to deliver a valuable solution to enterprises & consumers.

What is your opinion on these questions pertaining to the mobile market?

Applications will run: Native or Web?
Applications will be distributed: Centralized or Distributed?
Applications will be installed: Downloaded or Bundled?
Applications will be developed by: Businesses or Consortium?
Applications will be geared towards: Consumers or Businesses?

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Simplify with Voice APIs

Monday, August 4th, 2008

The first week in August is often referred to as “Simplify Your Life Week.” While not a recognized holiday, it is appropriate that every so often we are reminded to take a step back & evaluate ways to simplify & streamline our lives & businesses. This notion of simplifying isn’t meant to suggest that we get rid of all of our worldly possessions either. Simplifying can be explained as having enough without having too much. I began to think more about our business & not only how we could simplify things around here but how our services & technologies enable other businesses to simplify.

I’ve recently been thinking of NetworkIP’s services as similar to those of a power company. A power company provides power to millions of businesses & homes. Businesses for example don’t purchase generators, boilers, compressors, steam traps, etc. to get power to their systems. They plug what they need into wall outlets & the power company delivers however much power that business needs through that interface. This is very similar to what NetworkIP & more specifically Jaduka offers to the enterprise. If your applications require access to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) you need not purchase telephony switches, arrange & manage complicated carrier connections, workout signaling anomalies, plan for capacity, etc. Rather, you can simplify things by connecting to one of our many Voice APIs offered through the web. Jaduka’s Voice APIs will provide your business with direct access & use of the PSTN which is by far the most reliable & scalable voice network on the planet.
 
Business processes are another area that we could all focus on simplifying. As a business grows its processes often become bloated & require too many manual processes. There are a million different ways that businesses could improve existing business processes by including automated communications into the process. Take for example a simple business process that involves consumer credit protection. Today, if a user’s credit card is used for a purchase that exceeds a predefined limit an automated notification is sent to a representative of the credit card company that will in turn make a manual phone call to the consumer to confirm whether the purchase was valid or not. Rather than involving the representative from the credit card company so early in the process you can automate this process with communication technologies offered through Jaduka’s Voice APIs. When the predefined limit is exceeded, an automated system can dial the user’s phone number & through use of an IVR the user can be prompted to confirm whether the transaction is valid or invalid (press “1” if charge is valid, press “2” if charge is invalid). If the user reports the transaction as invalid (pressed 2) s/he can then be automatically connected to a customer support representative to discuss the matter in more detail. With just a small tweak to the existing processes, Jaduka’s Voice API provides a much simpler, efficient, & cost saving process for the credit card company.

As you kick off this first full week in August consider ways to simplify your business & if you need some help reach out to us.

You can learn more about Jaduka’s Credit Card Fraud Protection Service online.

Transaction Processing Engine

Friday, August 1st, 2008

In a post titled, “How Billing can become a Revenue Generator“, the authors of Telco 2.0 cited the many possibilities for a Telco to use their transaction processing and billing capabilities in other verticals to help solve real business problems. The article first pointed to the reliability and security problems recently in the news about the Oyster Card (an electronic ticket system used by Transport for London (TfL). The article suggests that if a Telco had been offering they Oyster Card services such problems would be much less likely to occur because Telcos have developed the infrastructure to handle high volumes of traffic, we understand the importance of reliability of pre-paid systems, and we know all about the importance of security in payment systems too.

The article went on to cite how a Telco’s transaction processing and billing capabilities can provide significant value to other verticals to include Yield Management in the airline industry and another transport system run by the TfL that enforces traffic congestion charges.

We couldn’t agree more with the article and that is why earlier this year we launched our Transaction Services Platform (TSP) which is available through use of Jaduka’s Transaction Services API. We identified that businesses were having significant problems managing huge volumes of transactions in real-time; much like the article described. Rather than these businesses being able to focus on their own product development and services they were caught up trying to manage their transactions and billing for which they really didn’t have the infrastructure or knowledge to fully support.

Over the past 10 years we’ve developed a solution that has stood the test of time and continues to be future-proof. Using our own Transaction Services Platform we successfully process and bill for over 2 million calls a day, we manage transactions for well over 800 million user accounts, and we are processing close to a million API transactions any given day.

At NetworkIP, we understand the value of security and reliability. We have invested the dollars and resources to develop what is now an award winning solution that can manage your transaction processing and billing needs so your company can maintain its focus on its products and services.

The Value Behind Those APIs

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

We are happy to see people talking about the value of APIs & specifically the value of voice APIs. Dameon Welch-Abernathy asked the question, “Is there money in voice APIs?” in a post yesterday on GigaOm. Daemon’s question resulted with mixed comments from the community & also got some real thought leaders like Thomas Howe, Ken Camp, & Doug Mohney giving their take on the topic.

Our answer to the question is absolutely yes, but only if you have an API this is versatile enough for almost any market & you have a scalable infrastructure that supports the growth of the solutions developed using your API.

When NetworkIP decided to form Jaduka the goal was to unleash the power & performance developed in 10 years of engineering a scalable & reliable telecommunications & transaction processing platform. The metrics don’t lie; we do process 450 million minutes each month on average with calls originating & terminating from all corners of the globe. Today we are processing 200 million database queries across a proven & award winning database solution. Our volume of transactions are only increasing too! We don’t hide what we have under the hood. On the contrary, we want to make this already proven solution available for the development community & businesses to take advantage of.

As Jaduka began developing APIs for the development community & businesses they didn’t limit those APIs to voice only. We have an entire suite of APIs to include account management, payment, transaction processing, point of sale, conferencing, & SMS to name a few. Whether you are looking to develop solutions for the web, retail, or mobile space Jaduka provides the API & NetworkIP provides the proven infrastructure to support your business case.

The products that Jaduka showcases in its Labs are only a small example of the products & solutions that companies can develop with Jaduka’s many APIs. We have some exciting news to come about what others have been developing with our transaction processing engine & we are actively involved in developing relationships to support the activity that is taking place in the mobile space.

As Ken Camp stated, “the community is overlooking the basics: Value, Sustainability, Scalability, & Proven Success.” Jaduka, combined with NetworkIP, has all four basic qualities & a whole lot more! Come take part in discovering more about what is under our hood & the value with not just one, but our many APIs.

iPhone Update Failure

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

After reading the many blog posts, news articles, & talking to fellow iPhone 1.0 owners I hesitated from updating my iPhone software last Friday when Apple first released it. I decided that I’d wait until the weekend after Apple had worked out all the kinks in the upgrade process & all of their servers were fully operational following the many crashes that occurred on launch day.

Unfortunately when I begin the upgrade to the 2.0 software this past weekend I had to stop the upgrade because my laptop hard drive didn’t have enough space to allow for the iPhone to backup. I’ve slowly been deleting & backing up files on my laptop this week so that I could resume the iPhone software update. This afternoon around 6:00 PM I had made enough space available on my hard drive to back up my iPhone & begin the 2.0 software install.

The iPhone update started out OK, but a few minutes into the install I received a phone call on my phone & from that point forward things went down hill. My phone rebooted itself during the restore stage a few times, iTunes locked up on my laptop, etc.

It was more than 2 & half hours ago that I started the install & I’ve finally got a phone that will stop rebooting & isn’t synching or restoring from iTunes. The sad part is that all of my personal settings have been deleted off my phone. My e-mail settings no longer work, my voice mail settings are gone, my photos were duplicated 4 times resulting in over 1,300 photos now on my phone, all of my bookmarks have been deleted, & my stock & weather watches have all been wiped. I’m too frustrated with Apple & the new iPhone software to even consider downloading & testing any new iPhone applications. I’ll be happy when I have my phone restored to its original state prior to the software upgrade.

I thought I was playing it smart & surely all the horror stories I’ve read & been told wouldn’t happen to me. Luckily I’m able to make & receive calls & my contact list hasn’t been destroyed; or so I think…

Know Your “Web” Market

Friday, July 11th, 2008

The great maxim for businesses is that we know our market. It stands to reason that if you don’t know your market, as a business how can you expect to fulfill the needs of a market with your product or service if you know little to nothing about that market. For example, if your market is a group of vegetarians & you are trying to sell them beef then you’ll be out of business very soon.

For a brick & mortar store that is selling product locally the “know your market” concept is key for to their success. If you don’t understand who your market is, then how can you expect to find a location that is going to make your business accessible to that market?

With the introduction of the web, the concept of “knowing your market” becomes much more difficult to obtain. I read a great story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that reported that many U.S. sites now draw more than half of their audiences from international visitors, but generate only about 5% of their revenue from that traffic.

Do you know who is hitting your website? If you are firm that is advertising on the web, how many potential customers are you missing out on because you are only targeting those domestic site visitors & not those visitors hitting your site from overseas? According to the WSJ story, “U.S. Web sites are waking up to a sobering reality: A huge share of their traffic now comes from overseas, but they are struggling to make money from it. Now, Internet companies big and small are scrambling their business models to try to cash in on foreign markets they have largely ignored.”

If you are a web based business or you have a web presence, how are you ensuring that you are targeting your market correctly? If you aren’t reaching your target market then you are loosing real revenue opportunities. In order to ensure you are reaching your target market via the web you need to be tracking your website. Not sure what to begin tracking? Here’s a quick list to get you started.

How many visitors are coming to your site?

Before you gather any other statistic you need to know how many people are coming to your site. Most website hosting companies can give you basic metrics like this & make sure you’re getting a figure for unique visitors & not page views or hits.

Where are your site visitors coming from?

The next important statistic is ‘where did they come from?’ If you are using a 3rd party program this information is in the referrer report. You want to know which search engines are sending you traffic & which other websites have a link that sends people to your site.

How did your visitors find your site?

You need to know what search terms your visitors are using that led them to your site. Search phrases are more helpful than search words. When you have a report that tells you what search terms are producing the highest rate of traffic from search engines, you can adjust your keywords & your website’s content so that you get more & more visitors coming in on those terms.

What are your visitors doing when they reach your site?

Behavior has always been considered the best way to predict future actions. You can work out how to improve your website to better meet your customer’s needs if you can find out: what your visitors are doing, how your visitors behave & how they buy, where your visitors click in a website, etc.

Once you have these types of statistics you’ll better understand (know) your web market & you’ll be in a position to tailor your product, service, & marketing message to fit the needs of this newly realized market. While the web adds complexity in identifying your target market, it’s a valuable asset that if & when harnessed correctly will pay off for you & your company.

Fireworks & the FreeRunner

Monday, July 7th, 2008

This past Friday, July 4th, a many Americans celebrated our country’s independence. Typical July 4th activities in the U.S. include firing up the grill with burgers & dogs, heading out to the lake or pool, & shooting off fireworks when the sun goes down.

For those of us heavily involved in the open-source development community we were busy putting in our orders for the new Neo FreeRunner from OpenMoko which was finally released in the U.S. on Friday. Earlier this year we began prototyping some mobile applications using the Neo 1973 from OpenMoko. The Neo 1973 allowed us to get our feet wet with mobile phone application development as well as contribute back to the open-source community.

The OpenMoko phones manufactured by First Internaitonal Computer offer developers the unique ability to completely customize the software of a working GSM phone. While the current software isn’t quite ready for end-users, the new FreeRunner hardware adds Wi-Fi & extended battery life (something the Neo 1973 was severely lacking) to supplement the feature set of the Neo 1973 which includes GPS, bluetooth, USB networking & 2.5G GSM.

The new FreeRunner will begin shipping today & should arrive in our Austin office by end of week. Both our NetworkIP & Jaduka engineering teams are eager to begin working with it. The new FreeRunner & 3G iPhone all in the same week; we can hardly contain ourselves.

Internet, but no Voice in the Air

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

As the WSJ article suggests for some passengers having Internet access on your next flight will make you happy & at least you’ll feel more productive while flying & for others you’ll be disappointed that you can’t go anywhere without being tied to the Internet & your e-mail.

Beginning in July, only a few days away, a few domestic flights will be equipped with gogo, an Internet service provided by Aircell. For rates starting as low as $9.95 passengers will be able to connect their Wi-Fi enable devices (computers & mobile phones) to the Internet. For flights exceeding more than 3-hours passengers will pay $12.95. Compare those fees to the $15.00 you’ll pay for checking in bags on some airlines & what you are being charged for snacks aboard a plane & the Internet costs start to look insignificant.

Internet service will be limited to flights in North America initially. This isn’t due to any regulatory problems or concerns; Aircell’s service is only land-based & won’t work over the oceans & on other continents. Download speeds aren’t like the high-speed Internet connections that you are most likely used to at the office or at home. For tasks such as reading & sending e-mail & casual web browsing the speeds are more than adequate though.

What stood out to me when reading about Aircell’s gogo service was that it blocked against any voice traffic. So those voice over IP enabled applications on your phone or computer won’t work for you. It’s my suspicion that these services are being blocked because Aircell & the airlines are looking to add voice services at a later date for additional fees. Of course, I’ll give Aircell & the airlines the benefit of the doubt for now & hope that they are simply blocking voice over IP services for reasons other than monetary gain down the road. Given the limited bandwidth currently available, VoIP services would most likely not work very well & if they did they would hog bandwidth from other users. Not to mention the annoyance factor involved with so many passengers being on the phone. As if the guy snoring next to you wasn’t bad enough, now you’ve got to listen to other people’s annoying phone conversations too.

Now if only these planes that are being equipped with the gogo Internet service will be have additional power outlets.

Planning For Capacity & Volume

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Today Mozilla is releasing the final version of its Internet browser Firefox 3. Mozilla was hoping to set a Guinness World Record for the most downloaded software in a 24-hour period. It was reported earlier today by GigaOM that as of 10:00 AM PST when the software was supposed to be made available that all of Mozilla’s download sites were down. Right now I suspect that no one at Mozilla is worried about setting the Guiness World Record & rather they are hoping to simply recover & be able to support some percentage of the requested downloads that are queuing up.

It is unfortunate that Mozilla was not better prepared for today’s influx of download requests. On a day that could have ended with record setting numbers will instead be remembered as the day that Mozilla’s website was down.

Given the nature of our business & the many businesses that rely on us for service we treat capacity & volume planning with the utmost respect. If we are down, our customer’s are down & that’s not something we will let happen. Whether we are adding a carrier to our network, a server, or a new service we calculate & re-calculate the effect such a change will have on our network & platform. Each day we are running analytical measures against our platform to ensure that every moving part of our platform is performing to specifications.

Just this past Father’s day weekend we had another record setting day in terms of call volume & number of transactions processed. Leading up to this Father’s Day weekend our teams invested countless hours planning & preparing for the additional volume of calls & transactions to ensure the highest quality from our platform & carriers. We take these types of steps because our customers & their businesses are dependent upon us delivering reliable services.

No Such Things as a Traditional Mobile Phone

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Today’s mobile phones aren’t just phones. Even the most basic mobile phone includes a camera, video games, texting interface, calendar, clock, etc. I bought my grandmother, who just turned 86, her first mobile phone a few weeks ago. It was impossible to find a phone that met my grandmother’s criteria which was simply to have keys with big numbers & a large screen so she could see what she was typing. Who knows, maybe my grandmother will be texting & downloading ring tones soon.

For some consumers, the mobile phone is seen as a status symbol. This is especially true for the youth market that purchases phones. For many others though, the mobile phone has become an essential part of life & is how many of us conduct our daily business. It’s important for a stock investor to have Internet access so s/he has realtime stock updates when not in front of a computer. It’s important for many software engineers to have text messaging as a way of being alerted of something not working correctly. It’s key for a sales person that is on the road to have access to e-mail. Because network speeds & bandwidths are increasing we are seeing more & more applications being developed for the mobile phone. As these applications become more available, consumers who aren’t already will begin to use their mobile phones for functions other just making phone calls.

How about this approach to using a mobile phone? In London, the mobile phones of teenagers & young adults who are undergoing chemotherapy are being used as notification agents to the patient’s doctor. These teenagers & young adults record data about their symptoms into their mobile phones & when specific symptoms were recorded the mobile phone will immediately alert the hospital & the patient will then then be contacted from staff at the hospital.

As the baby boomer population continues to age & require more medical attention I foresee more mobile-medical friendly applications presenting themselves.