Friday, August 28, 2009

Comment moderation turned on

Small piece of information about this site: I've turned on comment moderation to keep spammers away. All real comments will be accepted without delay, that's a promise!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sports Tracker, again

Once again I'll write about my favourite application Sports Tracker (ST) because latest edition of Finnish business magazine Talouselämä has a short article about the new company that will continue the development. Longer version of the article is available from Talouselämä's website (Finnish only).

The article tells how the ST core team has founded a new company and how this initiative is part of Nokia's "Innovation Mill" (I wrote about that earlier).

According to the news, Nokia didn't care about ST anymore, because "everybody who is interested about this application has already installed it". That's just crazy idea, ST has been so badly marketed solution that only those lucky enough to know about the application have installed it. Dig this: July 2009 edition of Wired had a cover story about "Living by Numbers", i.e. solutions like ST. Was ST included in the story? No. If this solution doesn't exist for Wired, it doesn't exist for average users.

Based on the article, ST is now in search of the business model but using the service will remain free. However, the phone application will be on sale in some channels and not free anymore. I've always thought that ST is so good solution that I'd even pay for some extra services but if the client application would have had a price tag, I guess I would never have downloaded and tried that. Here are some ideas for business (in no particular order), but please think again if it really is beneficial to charge for the basic application. ST is not just an application, it's a solution.
  1. Keep the basic solution free and create a subsciption model for extended features (classic "freemium" model). One example of premium services I'd be happy to pay for is the weather information. Whenever I record new activity with ST, premium version could add the current weather information to the event. Also improved training analytics features would be worth considering.
  2. Partner with gyms and connect ST to their client registers. When user visits gym for excercise, that information could also be stored to ST's database. That way ST becomes the storage for all sport activities, not just outdoor sports. Compare this to solutions that are only for runners: ST is already far ahead those and with this feature comparing ST to others is just waste of time.
  3. Create a partner network of trainers that can analyze user's exercises and suggest them improvements in training schedule. Something like "this is how I've trained so far, what should I do to be able to run marathon in 6 months?"
  4. Partner with insurance companies. User's who can display long records of healthy life from ST database can get their life insurance cheaper, for example.
  5. Sell special hardware. Polar's hear rate belt is a good example of hw that really adds value to ST. I remember when I once went to Nokia flagship store and tried to buy one - just to learn that it is not available. It seems I wasn't the only one disappointed, based on Polar's support site.
  6. Sell service to large companies, specifically to their HR department. Encouraging employees to take care of their health saves costs. Take a look at Pekka Niska to see an example what this means in practice.
  7. Allow open innovation and publish API's to add entries to your database. The more users have personal information in ST database, the more value it has to user and to the company hosting ST. There is also a possibility that somebody else writes the client applications for iPhone, Android, Maemo and all the other current and future mobile platforms.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Update to Nokiagate

After the summer it's good to catch up what has happened for "Nokiagate" lately. For those who don't know what Nokiagate is, read my posting that started it all and follow the case from here.

I did receive a couple of calls from Nokia during the summer and they were interested to hear my opinion about how they managed the situation and how their processes could be improved. I told them that it appeared as if there was no process at all to handle security reports like this and it took far too long from my initial report before action was taken. After the starting difficulties things began to go smoothly when the conversation channel was opened.

I just ran a quick test with some updated terminals I had available and here are the results (device / firmware version / result):
  • E75 / 110.48.125 / Opens connection without asking permission, content unknown.
  • 5800 / 30.0.011 / Opens connection without asking permission, content unknown.
  • N96 / 30.033 / Account can be created in offline mode, OK.
It looks that E75 and 5800 still go online without asking user's permission. However, new firmware ensures the validity of server certificate and doesn't anymore let me examine the contents, but the connection goes to Let's hope they have removed password information form the request as they earlier promised, unfortunately I cannot verify that.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Are SMS alerts an opportunity or an expense?

Just now there are two major factors that shake the ground under the (postal) logistics business; first is the economic downturn and second is the almighty internet. The combination of these two means that the volumes in their business have fallen significantly and will continue to do so. As an example, volumes for Finnish Post have decreased between 9% to 16%, depending on the product category.

Someday the economic situation will improve, but internet and electronic communication are here to stay.

There is a major trend to move away from paper invoicing to electronic invoicing because of the huge cost savings. Deutsche Bank estimates there is a potential of €54 billion savings if invoicing process is improved, and that’s just in Germany! It is safe to assume that volumes of paper invoice are going to drop dramatically in favor of electronic invoicing.

Let’s leave business-to-business invoicing aside and concentrate on business-to-consumer invoices. In the B2C world the problem is how to send the electronic invoice to the customer, the scene is very fragmented and solutions are many. The selected media should be reliable, fast, common and cheap.

Assume that someday electronic B2C invoicing is working flawlessly and you will in some digital way receive the minimum information that’s needed to accept the invoice. What’s missing from the business’ point of view? Today paper invoices come with customer newsletters, marketing material, offers and so on - invoice has become an “advoice” that carries much more information than just the invoice. At its best advoice concept is so powerful that customers are delighted to receive the invoice, because of the attached content. When everything is electronic, what will happen to advoices and this media? The progress reminds me of the banking business in the 90’s - banks created products that allowed customers to do self-service instead of visiting the offices. Later banks understood that maybe they succeeded too well in allowing self-service as they had lost contact to customers. Now banks and insurance companies try to get customers sometimes visit the office, but results haven’t been good. How to sell new complicated products to people without personal contact?

Ok, what’s my point? Finnish Post has a service that allows companies and organizations securely send messages (e.g. invoices) to customers; it’s like an email system that allows only pre-approved senders to send messages. When new message arrives, user will get an alert to his email inbox and he can login to see the message.

This summer system was upgraded with an option to send also SMS alerts when new messages arrives to inbox, end-user price is €0.25 message. This is a mistake, messages should be free and here is the reason why.

I can easily understand why there is a price tag in the alert message, it’s just the easiest way to secure the decision maker’s background in the current economic situation. "Customers want SMS, let’s put it there and charge for every message" goes the easy rationale. Last year there were total 2.1M messages sent through the system. Just taking list price from an SMS-aggregator shows that if they had sent alert for every message, the cost would’ve been about €72.000. I don’t think that is much if compared to other media that they use for marketing: with that sum Finnish Post can’t even get two front page ads in a major newspaper - and that's just the printing cost. Comparing a print media ad to a highly engaging SMS message with a call to action and immediate return channel is like comparing a steam train to a sports car. Studies have shown that Blyk’s answer rate for SMS’s has been around 25%! If Finnish Post were able to do the same, they (or their customers) would have received 500.000 replies from end users. (Yes, this is not a fair comparison because Blyk’s model depends on having a very homogenous user base with information about personal preferences, but that’s still an evidence how SMS marketing works at its best.) Can you see the business here: trend towards electronic invoicing suddenly becomes an opportunity instead of a threat, but that needs some new thinking.

In short: it’s is just wrong to punish users who want SMS alerts. If that channel is used well, Finnish Post could in fact reward users who accept SMS alerts with information about new message and a short ad with a clear call to action.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Quick study about media companies' mobile sites

In my previous entry I wrote about a small study I made to see how top 100 Finnish companies have arranged their mobile presence. In short they havent done much with it, as only 8 companies had some kind of a mobile website that I could discover.

Frustrated about the bad results I made a second test, this time I took ten Finnish online media houses. The companies tested were not picked from any top-ten list, but those were the sites I use myself.

I tested for the existence of .mobi site, site with m-prefix and possible device detection with automatic redirection to mobile site. For more information about the tests, please check my previous posting.


This time I was able to see more mobile sites than before. Two sites had mobi-site and three had registered the domain but there was no service. Four companies haven't registered mobi-domain and one domain name was taken by some other company. The sites that had mobi-service were Yle and MTV3.

From ten tested sites seven had mobile service available in m-address (e.g., one redirected to original desktop browser site and two didn't use this server name at all.

Device detection and redirect to mobile site seems to be the most difficult test. In the top 100 company study only one company had deployed such a system, this time two sites (Digitoday and Taloussanomat) were able to detect mobile device and redirect user to mobile site when he tries to access the base service with his mobile.

This time there were three sites that were able to score 2 out of 3: Yle, Digitoday and Taloussanomat - kudos to them. Previous test round didn't find any company that was able to score more than one out of three. It looks that media companies have far better understanding about mobile browsing than top 100 companies do.

List of sites tested (random order)