(formerly The Financial Post)
14, 2002 Monday
Sales on the fly: Mobile e-commerce's potential is only beginning
to be explored
Burke Campbell and Murray Conron
be in the car, on a plane, or walking the street and never
miss a beat as we bank online, buy tickets, book reservations
or direct critical memos around the globe. Our notebooks,
cellphones, PDAs and pagers give us that freedom. This mobile
commerce or 'm-commerce' is part of the larger technological
revolution that is transforming the way we do business in
this new century.
Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association says one
in three Canadians has a mobile phone. The Meta Group estimates
more than 32 million workers in the United States talk business
in transit -- and by 2005, the Gartner Group estimates, there
will be 137 million wireless data subscribers in North America,
creating huge potential for new m-commerce services.
commerce will take off when and where it makes commercial
sense,' says Nick Hames, vice-president of the financial solutions
division at NCR Canada. Technology has yet to seize a high
volume business application. NCR is prototyping an automated
banking machine with a cellphone interface. Another innovation
is NCR's Xpress Payment Kiosk which, after user identification,
scans a bar code from your bills and accepts payments. The
touch screen kiosk shows you all transactions and account
history and prints receipts. Because ABMs are everywhere,
they provide a universal network waiting to be exploited.
global infrastructure served by a wireless carrier is necessary
to launch m-commerce. To hasten this development, firms and
their technologies are joining forces. For example, American
Express and computer technology group Hewlett-Packard last
week announced they had joined a consortium of banks and cellphone
makers that intend to set global rules for mobile commerce.
Networks and 724 Solutions, a provider of software for secure
mobile transactions via the Net, also plan to integrate Nortel's
Network Gateway Server and wireless infrastructure equipment.
724 Solutions offers FrameWorks software that supports global
shopping services, credit and debit card transactions, and
links server-side shopping transactions to wireless devices.
another alliance has Microsoft and Telus Corp. offering voice
over Internet services. Business people can make voice calls
via the Internet from any personal computer running Windows
XP to virtually any phone number. The PC user enters a phone
number and is instantly connected to another party anywhere,
a service to be extended to PDAs.
to Forrester Research, business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce
in Canada will surpass $270-billion by 2005, making it one
of the largest Internet economies. Further, Forrester estimates
global Net commerce will jump to US$6.9-trillion by 2004.
Expansion of e-commerce trade will drive m-commerce for smaller
firms like the dot-coms, too.
Nanos, managing director of SES Canada Research, says 'small
businesses are now buying and selling significant amounts
online and doing it more often.' That amounts to almost $2-billion
in the past year, according to SES. Once buying and selling
moves to an electronic platform, a mobile workforce carries
commerce in its pocket.
Mobility now offers mobile browser services on any Web-enabled
cellphone. Users call up a simple menu with categories such
as Web and Mail or Finance and Biz or Shop and Find. From
the mobile service, for example, you could go to an eBay.ca
auction, buy best sellers at Indigo.ca and bank with the major
transit business connects with every industry, demonstrating
the powerful role wireless communications and m-commerce can
play in revising our notions of commerce. United Parcel Services
(UPS) delivers approximately 13 million parcels daily, 70%
of this volume in North America. UPS maintains a constant
information flow among its vast courier force, global business
offices and customers so the company can track shipments,
manage the logistics, calculate traffic, clear customs and
have reliable two-way shipping for deliveries and possible
The couriers update package information on a hand-held computer
Delivery Information Acquisition Device, which wirelessly
relays the status to a UPS data repository. With hand-helds
such as the Palm Pilot, UPS and its customers can consult
the latest shipping and delivery status on the UPS Web site.
Bosch, director of e-commerce for UPS Canada, underscores
the new vital dimension in m-commerce. 'The delivery of the
product is important, but the delivery of the information
surrounding the product is also critical to our success and
shipping information includes the routing, estimate of cost,
an e-mail notification of the progress and arrival time and
nearest drop-box depot location. Since this type of application
is a boon for all industries, UPS works with its customers
to have the information flow over a wired or wireless landscape.
Mr. Bosch adds: 'Using wireless, we are fast and efficient
and pass the savings on to our customers, whether they are
wireless or not.'
six years ago, the Internet and Web access began to transform
every aspect of trade, marketing, corporate human resources
and communications. Some observers still fear m-commerce has
been hyped, doomed as a fad that will fail its investors.
In fact, m-commerce is a key component in creating a rich,
interactive global information network. It blends old and
new business models, creating hybrids such as online auctions
and wireless bidding that will spawn new industries worldwide.
with tiny computing chips, appliances and everyday objects
will soon become dynamic communication tools when linked to
the Internet, according to a report by the Accenture Institute
for Strategic Change in the U.S., titled The Future of Wireless:
Different than You Think, Bolder than You Imagine. Manufactured
goods, embedded with sensors, could provide current information
on their condition and location, signalling for help if stolen.
m-commerce, then, it is safe to say, 'We ain't seen nothing
mobile e-commerce really takes off, a global wireless infrastructure
will have to be put in place.