“Jasus, my phone battery is shocking these days. I’m constantly charging it but it’s still draining quickly! ” Sound familiar to you? It certainly sounds familiar to me. Long gone are the day when you could charge your “ready to go” brick phone on Sunday evening and not need to give it more juice until the following Wednesday!
Recently, during an evening out with a few mates, a friend was complaining about how the battery life on his phone had recently taken a dramatic downturn. Very annoying, we all agreed. Why’s his battery draining so fast I wondered. Soon after, my same mate was discussing his new Fit Bit and how great it is,
“It’s class lads. I just keep the Fit Bit on my wrist and it communicates with my phone all day and night, recording and tracking my exercise and sleep patterns.”
Sounds really cool; but how does it communicate with his mobile I thought to myself. Well, after a quick bit of research I answered both my questions! Fit Bit’s communicate with mobile devices via Bluetooth. While a great way to send data between devices, keeping Bluetooth switched on 24/7 is certainly a battery drainer.
Bluetooth and similar communication technologies have grown in importance for marketers that have identified the massive benefits of leveraging the amazing growth in mobile device adoption rates. Thinking about this, my Fit Bit eureka moment and my work within the Mobile Marketing industry (spending a lot of time every week researching, using and discussing all things mobile) led me to ask “has mobile Marketing Technology outstripped mobile device capabilities?“
This may seem like a silly question given the great returns marketers achieved using mobile in recent years. There’s no doubt SMS, Paperless Coupons, Email, Mobile Ads and Apps have been a huge success; largely due to smartphone and tablet adoption rates and how easily modern mobile devices can support these functions. However, much like Winter in Game of Thrones, Mobile Marketing 2.0 is coming! Are we ready for it? Are our devices ready for it? And what the hell is it?
What is Mobile Marketing 2.0?
Mobile Marketing 2.0 is real time data driven marketing based on location and proximity communication technology such as Beacons, NFC, WiFi and GPS. Once communication with a device is made a marketing message can be delivered to the customer via push notifications, SMS or in-app messaging. The major advantage here for a marketer over other forms of Mobile Marketing is that the marketing message can be tailored in real time based on location and proximity and, even more powerfully, it has the potential to be customised base on interests, tastes and behavior if the marketer has access to relevant customer data. Beacons and NFC are widely regarded as the most likely to battle it out for location and proximity marketing dominance. So, how do these technologies work?
Beacons are small, low energy pieces of hardware that can communicate with mobile devices via Bluetooth (It’s worth pointing out here that the Bluetooth Beacon itself is low energy but Bluetooth on mobile devices is not). Currently championed by Apple – with their iBeacon offering – Beacons are regarded by many industry experts as the technology which is poised to transform the retail world.
Image the power of mapping your customer’s movements around your store, triggering special offers based on where they’re standing and the ability to entice passers-by in with rewards or discounts direct to their phones! How long until Beacons are common place in your local supermarket, shopping centre or high street? Soon, very soon! UK retailers Tesco and Waitrose have already begun testing Beacons in selected stores.
2. Near Field Communication (NFC)
Near Field Communication, aka NFC, is a contactless method of communicating small amounts of data between a transmitter (NFC tag) and a mobile device. When a NFC enabled device is held close to a small NFC tag (much like in the left hand side image) a low frequency radio signal communicates between tag and device. These communications can be used by marketers for various functions such as “tap for coupons”, “tap for offers” or even “tap for info”.
NFC requires more conscience user intent than Beacons but is less intrusive for the customer. Location based offers can still be sent to mobile users, but only when they actively tap to receive them.
Beacons vs. NFC
The following is a great infograph by Zugara which highlights the major differences between Beacons and NFC technology.
So location and proximity based marketing is coming; and lets face it, it’s going to be pretty damn cool for the marketing, retail and events industry! However, to bring me back to my original point, the communication technology is clearly ready.. but are our mobile devices?
In my opinion, no.
How has Mobile Marketing technology surpassed our mobile device capability?
Lets go full circle back to where we began this post; my mate unknowingly having a Fit Bit vs. phone battery conundrum! He ranted about how bad the battery life of his phone was then minutes later raved about how good his new Fit Bit is, unaware that one was a symptom of the other.
Much like how marketers and retails will rave about the potential uses and benefits of Beacons and NFC for location and proximity based marketing, end users will likely rant about how the Bluetooth required for Beacons and WiFi (or 3G/4G) needed for getting the most out of NFC is sucking their device battery dry! The power of mobile devices has certainly improved dramatically over the last few years but unfortunately battery life has not.
Mobile Marketing 2.0 may very well become a quick success with Innovators and Early Adopters but before the mass market of Early Majority and Late Majority users will accept location and proximity as common place, dramatic improvements in the battery life of mobile devices will need to be made by manufacturers. With Bluetooth perhaps being one of the worst offenders for power usage and with Apple having such a big stake in the success of Beacons then surely it’s only a matter of time before improvements are made in mobile device battery capabilities?
Are there any cool advancements in battery capabilities on the horizon?
Yes, there are some cool battery life innovations on the horizon; however, when they will be ready for the mass market is another question entirely. It has now become a major goal of the tech industry to improve battery life in order to keep pace with the extraordinary rate of tech innovation.
1) Research by Microsoft
Microsoft recently announced a new project which aims to give mobile devices a battery life of up to a week by making changes in software and design. By making the tweeks researchers hope to see batteries being used more efficiently and therefore last for longer periods of time. Another idea being looked at by the Microsoft research team is using two smaller lithium-ion batteries rather than the conventional one large one. They hope one could be optimized for running applications and functions which require more power than usual and the other could trickle power currents out to run basic functions.
2) Carbon Fibre
Scientists are now looking beyond standard battery technology for something new, imaginative and, most importantly, practical for improving battery life. One such answer may be carbon fibre. Researchers in London have created a new material comprised of carbon fibre which can be charged and moulded into any shape. There may very well come a time when our mobile phones don’t hold a battery but instead the casing is comprised of a material which can power our device.
This interesting video by BBC News explains more. Click here to view.
This year a research team at the University of Limerick announced that they have developed a nanotechnology that doubles the life of mobile device and laptop batteries. The innovation will allow for “smaller and lighter batteries that can hold more charge for longer and maintain this performance over the lifetime of the product.” The commercial viability of the technology still needs to be assessed before we will see it being used in our devices. Hopefully we see this happen sooner rather than later!
So, should I embrace Location and Proximity Marketing?
Mobile device battery life may slightly hamper the short term growth of location and proximity based marketing within the mass market but it’s important here to consider the well renowned diffusion of innovations curve. Those belonging to the groups at the beginning of the curve, known as Innovators and Early Adopters, are more likely to take risks and adopt new technologies and trends which they perceive as modern, techie and cool. They are opinion leaders within society and set the precedence as to whether an innovation will catch on within society.
Despite the limitations of device battery life, Innovators and Early Adopters are unlikely to be deterred. It’s better to accept limitations, release your minimum viable offering now and learn from the feedback of the groups you most need to impress. We don’t know when drastic improvements in battery life will realistically happen, but amazing location and proximity marketing technology is available to us right here, right now!
Ask yourself, what’s a bigger risk? Accepting and overlooking mobile device battery limitations in order to advance to Mobile Marketing 2.0 or remaining static, waiting for battery improvements and running the risk of being overtaken by a location and proximity embracing competitor?