Back in the day, the information the company road warrior had to hand was what he could carry. When he left the office he was out of contact, on his own. He could phone head office in the evening from his home or hotel to catch up and to pass on information, but his office was simply what he had in his briefcase. Times have changed though. For some time, dial-up and cellular technologies have made it possible for him to use the Internet to link with company information. The growing ubiquity of Internet connections via WiFi and recent advances in mobile devices, both in connectivity and applications now give the opportunity to have direct access to company systems at all times just as in the office. The current focus area is on converging Cloud Computing Services and mobile devices to allow always-on and anywhere access to corporate systems.
Early generations of mobile devices simply lacked the clout to carry out complex computing tasks. Mobile apps tend to be simple, perhaps only transferring documents or data, with very limited computing being carried out on the mobile device. A further disadvantage was that they tended to have proprietary interfaces, which limited the applications that could be used. Again, that has all changed. The technical specification of mobile devices has dramatically improved and the use of industry standard interfaces such as Google, YouTube, and mobile communications apps like Google Mail and Whatsapp have allowed development of easy to use apps that require little or no technical knowledge.
Tangible and intangible advantages accrue from the convergence of mobile computing and cloud-based services, some of which include:
- Improving Customer Service
The road warrior, and increasingly the customer has access to corporate cloud-based services using their mobile device and has access to the most up to date corporate information available. In addition, mobile computing apps and data sharing with cloud-based services mean that it is possible to communicate at any time with the appropriate corporate application. For example, on-line orders can be placed immediately by the salesperson or by the customer itself, rather than waiting for the traditional end-of-day phone call or fax. Currently, many Help Desk applications are rolling out mobile apps to allow customers to place support calls and receive responses directly from a smart device.
- Improving Company Profile
In some industries, being perceived as an innovative and forward-looking organisation is an essential part of the company profile. Using cloud technologies to deliver services to new and existing customers via mobile smart devices will enhance that part of the company’s image. In addition, there may well be positive feedback in that skilled professionals with skills in cloud computing and the associated mobile applications will be drawn to the company, looking on them as thought leaders in new technologies, thereby reinforcing the company’s profile in the marketplace.
For the Individual:
- Always-on Access
Mobile computing using smart devices, coupled with the increasing availability of WiFi services in public places such as malls, allows the individual to be always connected wherever they may be. The connection can provide access to social media, to personal information such as e-mail, and if a business has an Internet presence, to commercial websites. The Internet presence can be access to the corporate web-site, or if the company has embraced cloud services, to a dedicated customer portal to their corporate systems.
- Commercial mobile device apps
The use of dedicated apps designed for smart devices is gaining attraction right now, and many offer online services via mobile device apps to their presence in the cloud. For example, many online booking services offered by airlines, car rental agencies and accommodation providers have a mobile version of their on-line booking systems. This allows the individual to interact with an organisation from their mobile smartphone or tablet at any time without the need to use a desktop computer.
All-in-all, the use of mobile cloud computing provides significant benefits to an individual and an organisation. For the individual, it means that they have the freedom to operate anytime, anywhere, without waiting for access to a desktop environment. For an organisation it assists in improving customer service, streamlining existing operations, and giving the opportunity for a quick and cost-effective response to changes in their business environment.