Monday, February 6, 2017

Innovation and patterns around Internet

When I started using a smartphone, I was interested in only two things – the first one being the display of all contact information of a person in an organized manner and the second is the display of SMS messages in a window, neatly showing the threaded discussion.

The availability of camera in smartphone caught my attention due to arrival of my daughter into our family at that time. Ability to capture moments overpowered the disappointment of grainy photos. This phase was followed with adoption of productivity tools like gmail and search. I played some games too.

I browse for various kinds of information over Internet and my interests include news, technology, business, movies and blog articles on diverse topics. While I was using browser on Laptop earlier, I tend to consume more information through mobile these days. I find InShorts and Flipboard to be very helpful here.

I took to buying things online easily as I was a credit-card user from early employment days. The likes of Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon opened my world to quite a few books, couple of mobiles, computer accessories like USB-drives and SD-cards and a few miscellaneous items. But it was my wife’s easy adoption of apps to ‘request for offline services online’ that fascinated me. That brought to my attention about a hundred miscellaneous services we would all use at some point in our life – pest control, wedding photographer, yoga trainer, tuition master, gym instructor etc. It has given me a new perspective outside the tech world too.

I leverage google maps for navigation, while moving around the city and also in new places. Owing to my interest in movies and music, I happen to consume multimedia content through a wide variety of apps.

I got an account with Facebook and was accessing it once in a while. Realized soon that there were very few contributors to content and it has become another entertainment channel.  Twitter was fascinating for some time but the noise was too much to handle for me. I never had interest to follow any celebrity on Instagram. WhatsApp is one app which I use regularly as it offers personal or group communication by choice, which suits me. I was willing to pay 1 USD fee to access the same and still would, if required.

After I got into Familybirdz, I downloaded a variety of mobile applications and experimented. The number of applications and categories of applications are overwhelming. While the tech industry is buzzing with new opportunities and billion dollar companies, the app landscape is getting cluttered. The fact that consumers phones have limited resources and typically a user would not access more than ten applications on regular basis (and another 10 rarely) is a point worth keeping in mind. While everyone strives to remain among top 10 in user’s minds and phones, the competition would only get intense. Though there are lot of standalone apps in the market, the apps needing access to back-end servers are not less. These are realization of business models with front-end as apps. As we have been seeing, the innovation can happen in technology or business models.

Driving innovation in the future needs understanding of these models at the highest level possible and one way to do that would be with the help of usage-patterns of Internet as a platform. The following are those usage-patterns, from my point of view, and they are applicable independently or in combinations. 

1.       Communication
(email, enterprise messaging, personal social network (relationships, messaging), social media (brand & customer, celebrity & fan, leader & follower), audio / video calls)
2.       Buy / sell THINGS
(books, clothes, groceries, provisions, etc)
3.       Buy / sell SERVICE
(buy insurance policy, reserve a table, book a movie or event ticket, rent a movie etc)
4.       Requesting for a doorstep SERVICE online
(hail a taxi, order food, photographer, plumber, electrician etc)
5.       Execute business PROCESS
(finance approval, content publish workflow, auction etc)
6.       Access CONTENT
(text & multimedia - static or personalized (login), search, browse)
7.       Games
8.       Digital payments
9.       Advertisements
10.   Connecting machines to each other or to people

If a new idea is floated, it can be mapped on to these patterns. If there is potential in the idea, it would follow one of the existing patterns, but with clear differentiation. If it’s an idea outside the purview of these patterns, it ought to be an innovation in new dimension and can creat new markets. Disruption could be caused either way, depending on the impact of idea. If we look back and think about the times when each of the above patterns were introduced, we can understand the disruption these trends have caused in many sectors.

The end-goal of all apps is to provide convenience to the user, increase efficiency of operations, provide entertainment, enhance knowledge or keep informed. Some of the interesting questions to think are – how will it be, when EVERYONE (adults amongst 7+ billion population) in the world has access to ALL 10 patterns mentioned above through Internet? Would there be enough peace and harmony across the globe? Where are we headed with technology?