Case Study: Mobile rings changes for events

Sport Business News

Chris Bignell, director of XL Communications, outlines how the mobile phone is evolving and what this could mean for the events industry, such as music festival organisers.

According to leading fact–based mobile insight company Mediacells, 92% of mobile phones that were sold in Europe during the last quarter of 2008 were capable of at last some kind of internet access. By the end of 2009 this will be ubiquitous–every phone in everyone's pocket will be able to access the internet. Of course, being able to do something and actually doing it are very different. I am able to watch television, but what if there is not anything good on? The technical capability might be there, but it has not been easy for people to either access the information or, indeed, find anything very interesting when they do. Two things are changing this. The first is the increasing penetration of what the mobile phone industry calls 'smart' phones. Formerly available only to high end or business customers, these phones are becoming mass market. Mediacells data suggests that, whilst around 9m people had one of these phones in the UK at the end of 2008, more than 20m will do so by the end of 2009. The second change agent is usability. Phone manufacturers have been good at making phones that made phone calls, but not so great at phones that do lots of other stuff. In 2008 the landscape shifted significantly with the 3G Apple iPhone. Here was a device that really did make it easy to browse the internet at a reasonable speed and, most importantly, to access the information you wanted at the touch of a button. Suddenly it is almost as easy to do stuff on your phone as it is on your PC. This might not have been such as significant development had it not been for what followed. Launched in January 2009, the Palm Pre promises to be easier to use than the Apple iPhone. This points to an industry that is, for the first time, taking the delivery of content services very seriously. The increased popularity of Facebook, Twitter and a host of other Web 2. 0 applications has increased the urgency to provide solutions that deliver anywhere, any when access to consumers. All of the above means that by the end of 2009 there will be a very significant number of people who will have both the inclination and the ability to access the internet from their phone. The mobile internet, much promised, is now arriving. This has an important impact for major events. Up until now, event websites have served as information portals for people before and after an event–not necessarily during. For people at an event, their primary source of information has not been digital, but through announcements, leaflets, screens and other media. Moving forward, the importance of the mobile phone as a medium to communicate information to people at an event will become increasingly significant. If everyone has a phone, and every phone can easily access internet–based information, new ways of communicating and sharing become possible. Consider for example a major music festival. Rather than relying on providing static information to people either before or during the event, organisers will be able to provide realtime information: which artists are playing where and when; the best route to get to the venue; updates on the weather; even where to pitch your tent. Rather than sending an endless number of irrelevant text message updates, information can be accessed by festival goers at will. They could also add pictures to Facebook and updates to Twitter in real time, creating a sense of community and publicising the event in realtime to the real world. Of course, with the world of mobile, it is never that simple. Most phones do not operate in one standard way and the cost of creating a range of applications for different phones with different sized screens, working on different operating systems can be overwhelming. A UK–based start up called Bemoko is aiming to overcome this by rendering content that has already been created for a traditional website and delivering this to mobile devices. The smart part about this solution is that the software identifies the phone when it arrives as the website. This gives (among other information) the model of phone that is accessing the site. The reason why this is important is because it enables the right content to be sent to the device, giving the best user experience whichever model of phone is being used. For example if a mobile phone does not support Flash content, it will not be sent. For the end user this means that they receive content that they can see, rather than lots of red crosses on a page: the experience is significantly enhanced and personal to your phone. Of course the other significant thing about this solution is that it does not require the building of lots of different applications or websites to suit different types of phones, meaning that cost can be lowered and development time decreased. The potential for mobile internet services has, to date been limited. There were too many factors that inhibited an engaging service: lack of bandwidth; lack of suitable handsets; lack of usability to name but three. This is changing, and like the best changes it is being demand led. Before long delivering information through mobile at major events will not be one channel of communication. It will be the one. Chris Bignell runs XL Communications, a communications consultancy that specialises in helping companies get the most from mobile. www. xl–comms. comMediacells delivers fact based mobile market insight to brands www. mediacells. comBemoko is a UK company delivering simple, effective web for mobile www. bemoko. com

Additional information