Archive for July, 2012
When we were first introduced to the internet, it helped us instant message people on AOL and in a short time we had Google which managed to find anything in the world we needed. It has since evolved from this simplified snapshot of what the internet provides, to a much more vast and technology-rich landscape where we can watch mobile HD streaming movies and upload our entire hard drive to a Cloud (still trying to figure that one out). One device that has been the turning point in the evolution of the internet is the smartphone.
Smartphones and the internet were meant for each other. Wireless companies originally focused on unlimited calling and texting plans or promoted unlimited text add-ons; but as time passed, data plans were required with the purchase of any smartphone to help utilize their full capabilities. Now with the news that Verizon has tossed its mobile plans that were based off minutes and texts and have focused on shared data plans, it is clear the internet has taken over the wireless industry as well. Due to the speed of data networks, mobile applications have brought endless possibilities to the user and have made calling and texting plans almost obsolete.
Wireless companies knew this day was coming. With advancements in VoIP technology, you can speak to someone across the world and even see them on video using Skype for free – yes, free. Why should I need minutes on my phone when data speeds are fast enough to make calls (or even video calls) over? Even text messaging, which used to be a cash cow for the wireless industry, is slowly being replaced with data based messaging apps like BBM (Blackberry Messenger) and iMessage (iPhone messaging app). Of course all this is only possible when enrolled in a data plan, and that is where wireless carriers plan on charging customers the most in the coming years. The new Verizon plans give you unlimited minutes and texts knowing that it will be irrelevant soon, but when it comes to data, that amount is charged by gigabytes used.
Even TV providers are feeling the pain of data-based content. Services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus make it possible to get a good amount of TV shows and primetime programming streamed through your computer or TV for about $7.99 a month. When customers compare that to an $80+ cable bill, why wouldn’t they contemplate the switch? Even premium channels like HBO and Showtime are allowing access to their content online for streaming through HBOGO and Showtime Anytime, knowing people are beginning to want the content they are paying for whenever and wherever they want it. Mintel Comperemedia is also observing a trend from Q1 2011 to Q1 2012, where TV standalone campaigns have been decreasing while the internet only campaigns are trending upward.
The evolution of the internet has been a quick one. I remember when having a 56Kbps dial-up modem was the premier speed to surf the web, now companies are offering speeds a hundred times faster with even faster speeds likely coming in the near future. With wireless companies and TV providers fighting over the same government-limited spectrum (amount of space to run their wireless networks) they can gather up (more spectrum means being able to offer faster download speeds); it will be interesting to see who will come out with the perfect mix of price and value given to the customer.
The physical Swedish currency of the kronor might be used even less (or possibly even disappear) due to a new mobile payment system. WyWallet, a new mobile payment, could revolutionize the currency in this Nordic country even further and it might even make the country completely cashless. Currently bills and coins only represent 3 percent of the Swedish economy, compared to 7 percent in the United States or an average of 9 percent in the Eurozone, according to the Bank for International Settlements. And this currency percentage will likely decline even further in the country with the new mobile wallet payment of WyWallet.
The four largest telecom operators of Telia, Tele2, Telenor, and 3 launched the WyWallet in Sweden. The four operators claimed the mobile payment service will be available to 97 percent of Sweden’s mobile users. The services from WyWallet will allow person-to-person money transfers, online shopping payments, loading of prepaid cards, and paying for SMS-based services, such as public transport, ticketing, and even voting. WyWallet will also eventually support NFC (Near Field Communication) point-of-sale payments and live testing will begin in July 2012. The WyWallet will initially be available on Android and iOS, but the WyWallet for the Windows operating system will be launched later in 2012.
It is interesting to see that Sweden is taking an all-inclusive approach, with all four major telecom operators equally owning and benefiting from the new mobile payment service. The same inclusive mobile payment approach has also been implemented in smaller countries like Denmark and the Netherlands. We’ve have yet to see a large country, like the United Kingdom or Germany, take on this approach, most likely due to numerous telecom operators within those countries. However, the ISIS mobile payment platform was launched as a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon here in the United States in 2010. Notably, Sprint is not a part of the ISIS venture.
The ISIS venture in the United States is a mobile wallet that also uses NFC technology to make mobile payments. The system is already being tested in Austin and Salt Lake City. However, the www.paywithisis.com website states that ISIS ready phones will be available this summer to the general public from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. It will be interesting if this technology (or another mobile payment technology) will disrupt the payment status quo in the United States and create a common mobile payment standard for us here in the States. Likewise, will the new mobile payment system enable us as a society to become even more cashless?
One thing that most experts believe is that cash will not disappear anytime soon in Sweden (or the United States), even with the introduction of WyWallet mobile payment system. The former deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank, Lars Nyberg once said that cash would survive “like the crocodile, even though it may be forced to see its habitat gradually cut back.” Personally, I think currencies will always survive due various reasons. For example, how would I as a tourist, pay for goods and services when visiting in Stockholm…most likely, I would pay in Kronor. Or, in another example, how do I pay for that hot dog at Hot Doug’s in Chicago that only takes cash? Regardless, it will be interesting to watch and see how these new mobile payment systems evolve over time.
When it comes to hotels, I do my best to convince myself the room is clean. But is there really any way to know for sure? The bed is made, the floors are vacuumed, and everything is in its place, so in order to get a good night’s rest, I have to tell myself that it really is clean. Best Western is now responding to the growing concern around cleanliness in hotels and is taking a new approach to the cleaning process as it rolls out its new “I Care Clean” program throughout 2012. Using advanced cleaning technologies such as UV wands on “high touch point” areas and UV inspection black lights to detect any biological matter, Best Western is hoping to increase consumer confidence through a more precise and dedicated cleaning method. According to Ron Pohl, Best Western senior vice president of brand management, “We are unlocking the potential of the housekeeping profession by providing new tools and training to help ensure customer satisfaction, loyalty and ultimately trust.” In addition to sterilizing UV lights, the process also includes wrapping remote controls, pillows, blankets, and towels in sealed plastic to show that they are cleaned from one guest to the next.
This effort is in response to research from IDEO and Booze and Company that revealed that cleanliness is one of the most important priorities to guests at midscale hotels, and that there has been a general lack of confidence in hotel cleanliness within the mid-scale hotel market. According to a recent press release from Best Western, these research results also showed that guests find housekeeping to be an inconvenience during their stay. Best Western has responded to this by also working on a “collaborative service” process so guests can choose the time they want their room cleaned (morning or afternoon) and the level of service they would like performed.
I think this is a worthwhile venture, and one that might increase consumer confidence to see hotels taking cleanliness seriously, but it still leaves a lot of room for uncertainty. Just because I am taking a pillow out of a plastic bag, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily clean. But I do appreciate the effort and I think it will go a long way for a mid-scale hotel chain such as Best Western.
JetBlue has taken a very unique approach to promote its presence at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. The airline, which began service to and from the Texas airport on May 1, has partnered with TV network TNT to commission a five acre advertisement created by the environmental artist Stan Herd. Positioned in a field next to the airport, this completely natural and environmentally friendly art installation was unveiled on June 1st and will be visible through July 31st to any lucky passenger with a window seat flying in or out of the airport. Not only is it meant to promote JetBlue’s service, but also TNT’s new TV series, Dallas, which is a re-make of the hit drama from the ‘80s. The artist calls his installations “Earthworks,” and this one is made entirely of natural ingredients such as mulch, sand, rock, limestone, crushed pecan shells, and more. In addition to the JetBlue logo, Stan Herd’s creation also includes the TNT logo and Dallas name, plus images of the two main characters from the show. According to Jace Hieda, JetBlue’s manager of regional marketing, “This partnership is a perfect example of how we try to make the flying experience more enjoyable for our customers with fun extras and entertaining experiences. It also presented us with an opportunity to tell the story of our launch into DFW in a unique way.”
This unique advertising approach sounds like it would definitely add an entertaining element to a flight, and I think it goes well with JetBlue’s increasingly popular and unorthodox brand strategy. I’m not going to book a flight to Dallas just to see it, but I appreciate that there is still an airline out there focusing on more than just increasing fees.