Mobile Olympics

Mike Short, Chairman of the Mobile Data Association and Vice President of R&D at O2, emailed with some thoughts on how the 2008 and 2012 Olympics (in Beijing and London respectively) provide an ideal opportunity to showcase the mobile user experience. He asked MEX to explore some of the challenges associated with making these events accessible to mobile users and provide a forum for debate.

He outlines his ideas below:

It seems newspapers are gripped with World Cup fever and the prospects for the Beijing and London Olympics. However , what will be the mobile user experience by then, and how much planning is really needed to enhance this experience such that these ‘once in a lifetime’ events last with us?

Perhaps MEX could lay down some of the usability challenges for mobile in London as host city in just 6 years time?

By 2012, we could be expecting an ‘all digital’ world, including:

– Mobile email for all and blogging/sharing experiences from the events

– Mobile internet for all – staying informed, secure and up-to-date, wherever and whenever you wish

– Mobile televison – capturing those moments of excitement and adding them to personal archives

– Mobile voice activated dialling and wider voice services prompts

– Unlimited storage – through integrated or memory accessories

– All phones with digital cameras , and wider RFID / authentication for ticketing, security and commerce

– A hope for wider Bluetooth and accessories compatability, cross vendor and ‘out of the box’ working

– Energy or battery recharge is no longer an issue

– Disposable / recyclable phones

– Multimode, multimedia, and multiservice devices prevail – 2G/3G/Wi-Fi and mobile TV

So will the infrastructure cope when between 3 and 5 million visitors descend on London?

And who will provide the Electronic Services Guide to make all these services easily accessible ?

Samsung as the global mobile IOC sponsor will surely wish to be prominent for both Beijing and London, as these are the ultimate showcases for their technology. Yet it will still be the user experience which determines longer term reputations.

So what are your top 10 issues to ensure we do have an unforgettable Mobile Olympics experience?

— Mike Short, Chairman, Mobile Data Association.

I think Mike raises several interesting points. For instance, his role at O2 means he is well placed to recognise the challenges these extra visitors may place on a city’s existing mobile infrastructure. 100,000 people in a stadium texting, calling and sending multimedia messages? That’s a pretty serious strain on the cell site.

It also brings to mind the issue of roaming, which has been the subject of much discussion in the MEX community. In the face of legislative action by the EC, Vodafone and T-Mobile today both announced moves to reduce European roaming charges by as much as 40 percent over the next 12 months. Will this go far enough towards giving tourists the peace of mind to use their mobile devices freely when travelling to an event such as the London Olympics and will operators also move to simplify and reduce data rates to allow next generation services to flourish.

Mobile television has been a favourite topic in the press in the run-up to next month’s World Cup. I believe it has a role to play, but at present the technology is not sufficiently mature for it to have a major impact at the tournament.

I also think there is a fundamental misunderstanding as to how best mobile technology can be utilised for major events. Most discussion has centred around the idea of using mobile as a channel for ‘consuming’ the events, such as being fed video or information in a manner similar to broadcast television. Companies which attempt this will very quickly come up against some major usability barriers. Mobile’s unique benefit is its ability to connect people so they can share in an event experience: sending video clips to friends back home, uploading camera phone images to a blog, betting and connecting with other fans in the stadium.

The mobile industry’s job is to enable this kind of rich communication by providing intelligent platforms, environments for sharing media, complimentary games and video services.

One of the other major issues will be ticketing and the use of the mobile device as an electronic wallet. The London Olympics provides an ideal event to showcase the potential of the mobile handset as an identity token and a payment method.

We will be discussing all of these ideas at the MEX conference on 31st May and 1st June. Liam Galin, CEO of Flash Networks, will talk about ‘Speed, coverage and quality of experience’, while two in-depth panel sessions will examine how mobile devices interact with the physical environment and the potential for sharing information within mobile communities. See the full agenda online.

I hope you will be able to join us at MEX and in the mean time, please continue the debate by posting comments to the blog.

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  1. 1
    Jane Vincent

    People have always recorded and shared special moments and the olympic events will be no different. People will most likely use the technology that they are most familiar with at the time as they won’t want to risk losing the memento to lack of experience. As well as this their mobile device may already hold precious memories or emotional links with loved ones; using that particular device makes them feel in touch with each other so they are sharing the special moment even if they are not actually communicating by talk or text or image. Some may want to share the moment in real time, and others record it to show to friends later. Based on what we know from our DWRC research about the social practices of mobile phone users today it will be the tried and tested products that will be used on the day and people will expect them to work!

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