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Recognition technology drives next-generation mobile strategies

New audio and visual recognition technology should be shaping mobile strategies, and CIOs shouldn't overlook the business value of cheap consumer tech.

Mobile strategies that focus on the deployment of devices, the replication of Web capabilities and the development of native apps might be answering an urgent business need, but they don't put CIOs at the forefront of mobile computing. Rather, CIOs looking to optimize business processes should waste no time in crafting next-generation mobile strategies that leverage new and emerging recognition technology and take advantage of the proliferation of cheap technology such as tablets and smartphones.

You can lower the TCO of hardware while increasing the customer experience by providing a nice Android or iPad interface for the consumer technology.

There's a real buzz forming around recognition technology, with companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo making strategic acquisitions in these areas. At the Gartner CIO Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz., this spring, analyst Hung LeHong discussed threeareas -- visual, audio and video recognition – on which CIOs should focus.

Visual recognition. Visual recognition technologies have many uses, from shopping to health care. They allow users to take pictures of wine labels and learn everything they might want to know about that particular bottle, from tasting notes to customer reviews. For $4.99, a mobile user can download the Skin Scan app, which takes a picture of a mole on one's body, measures its size, assesses the risk of skin cancer and even points him or her to the nearest doctor. Visual recognition can even take a picture of a passing rail car and know, so to speak, what's packed inside.

Audio recognition. Audio recognition technologies are quickly becoming a part of the mobile experience. Shopkick is an app that allows participating retailers like Macy's and Best Buy to offer rewards to on-location shoppers. "A gizmo emits a sound that you can't hear but your dog probably can -- and your phone definitely can -- because GPS doesn't work indoors," LeHong said. IntoNow, meanwhile, enables iPads to "hear" what users are watching on TV, providing yet another channel for its owner, Yahoo, to sell products -- imagine a world in which targeted ads are sent to an iPad but do not disrupt the show.  

Video recognition. Video recognition technologies essentially function as an augmented form of reality, LeHong said. Put the WordLens app in front of a sign written in a foreign language, and the app will translate the message. Golfscape pinpoints golfers' positions on the course, allowing them to estimate distances, including the locations of greens and bunkers. According to LeHong, there's even a subway app exists that analyzes movements in order to predict whether a person is about to jump.

What does the spread of recognition technology mean for the CIO? LeHong argued that CIOs crafting mobile strategies should think twice about investing in expensive hardware when so many people are already walking around with smartphones and tablets. Smartphones can now be purchased for less than $100, and Canadian startup DataWind Inc. made a splash this year by answering the Indian government's call for a cheap tablet with its $50 offering.

Thus, CIOs might want to reconsider how recognition technology can replace hardware -- from ATMs to kiosks to price checkers – traditionally deployed in their operations. "You can lower the TCO [total cost of ownership] of hardware while increasing the customer experience by providing a nice Android or iPad interface for the consumer technology," LeHong said. In other words, put your resources into mobile software rather than provide self-service hardware that consumers no longer need.

For more on next-generation mobile strategies, read our tip on near field communications.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer.

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