CIO Review >> Magazine >> May - 2013 issue

Interoperability: The next Phase of Mobile Revolution

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Feyzi Celik Westborough based OnePIN Inc, is a provider of social address book solutions for mobile operators. Founded in 2002, the company has raised a total funding of $26 million from FA Technology Ventures, Egan-Managed Capital and Greycroft Partners.

The new generations of mobile users are entirely attached to their devices – continually online, and endlessly connecting with others. Mobile interactions are becoming the primary way in which relationships are initially established and a core enabler for allowing relationships to continue and to evolve over time. Sharing everyday "moments" (thoughts, media, and generally any form of content) with others is becoming the most performed and oftentimes the most important activity of the day.

The dramatic rise and recent tailing off of Social Networking use has shown that there is a balance between sharing everything with everyone and sharing special content with a select group/community. As a result, the "mobile social phonebook" is the prime area to manage mobile relationships (social connecting) and to facilitate content sharing with appropriate audiences. A mobile phonebook that is dynamic, socially relevant and able to extend across the user's preferred social/content sharing domains is at the core of the mobile user's universe.

In order to capture and monetize the opportunity of this unmet need, and to avoid the failed attempts by solution providers to date, social phonebook solutions must be: simple, available on any mobile device, easy to find (not buried in a menu or app store), and easy to access and use at socially relevant times and across platforms.

Mobile Industry: Continually Increasing Globalization

The mobile industry has not only evolved over the past five years, it has been revolutionized. As we look to the future, interoperability and globalization will become major elements in the next phase of evolution of the landscape.
Recently, we have seen major interoperability improvements in the mobile market; however, there is still a very long way to go. In terms of the "Social Phonebook" space, there continues to be many obstacles inhibiting progress for solution providers and mobile operators. As the social value of the phonebook continues to increase, the industry will adapt and embrace this resource as a core element of mobile user interactions and content sharing. This will be a monumental shift from the fragmented view of social networking connections, broadcast followers, email address books and the static list of mobile phonebook contacts that exist for the average user today.

The mobile industry continues to dramatically increase globalization. We have already seen many examples of mobile innovations that have started in emerging markets (such as M-Pesa and other Mobile Financial Services solutions in Africa), which have made their way to the United States, Europe and other mature markets. Companies who have experience in successfully introducing innovative solutions to these markets are best equipped to translate and leapfrog innovations in the mature markets which today are somewhat improperly considered the only source of innovative technology.
At OnePIN, we strategically decided to capitalize on the fast-moving, innovative nature of these markets. We launched our social phonebook solution, CallerXchange, with more than two dozen mobile operators, translating to a base of more than 177 million subscribers. The need to stay connected is a world-wide, universal "want" and our solution, which transforms mobile calls and SMS messages into social connections, resonates with our customers in both emerging markets like Africa, CIS, LATAM, Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as closer to home here in the U.S.

Opportunities and Challenges: Two Sides of a Coin

Entrepreneurs in this space have a tremendous opportunity in front of them. With this opportunity, comes a number of substantial challenges, including:
• Simplicity. History has shown that most solutions offered to the market fail to meet core needs due to complicated implementations. In the world of heavy broadband, multi-media content, and advanced user interface devices, simplicity is oftentimes harder to obtain. However, simplicity will always yield the desired results if focused correctly.
• Business Model. While this seems obvious, the internet and mobile spaces have had poor track records in this department. We no longer live in a world where building a website that gets a “boat load” of hits is considered a valid and sustainable business model. This is especially true given the limited venture funding options available in today's market.
• Technology Fragmentation. Even with the advances in technology, fragmentation continues to make it difficult to reach a global audience. While app platforms are becoming less fragmented, access to a core element like the phonebook continues to be proprietary per operating system and even device.
• Storefronts. Just because you post an app in the store does not mean you have solved the distribution challenge and have a sustainable revenue stream. In addition to attracting a decent base of users (not just downloads), the key is to build continued and loyal usage to achieve growth, further innovation, and most importantly a sustainable business model.
• Globalization. While it is a tremendous opportunity, reaching markets around the world is complicated and expensive.
At OnePIN, our lives are centered around helping mobile subscribers extend phone calls into social connections with simple and universal solutions. Our services make it easy to add meaningful contacts to a social phonebook and to make valuable connections, thereby driving additional voice, SMS, and data traffic – all of which we have quantifiably proven. We're looking forward to the next stages of mobility and how these will shape core human interactions.