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Matt Berry talks about the growth of mobile technology

“Mobile is now the first point of contact between both individuals and organizations.”  --Matt Berry

Mobile technology is already transforming the way we work, shop and socialize. That trend will only accelerate in the future, says Matt Berry, director, Demand Generation and Client Experience for IBM MobileFirst.

“Mobile is now the first point of contact between both individuals and organizations,” he says, adding, “Ninety-one percent of users keep their mobile device within arm's reach 100 percent of the time.”

For better or worse, mobile communications is blurring the lines between work and personal life. “Being able to do almost anything work-related with a mobile device, combined with being able to do that anywhere, anytime gives enormous amount of flexibility to organizations and employees,” he says.

And that is only one aspect of mobile's advances. By the end of 2013, there will be more connected mobile devices than people on the planet. That prediction encompasses not only cell phones (owned by about 45 percent of the global population), but also tablets, e-readers and machine-to-machine connections such as smart electric meters.

The rise of the machines

Central to the blending of work and personal life is the move toward bring your own device to work or BYOD. “People want the flexibility to work wherever, whenever, with access to the data they need. And they want to use the device they're most comfortable with,” says Berry. It's important for enterprises not to get caught up in which device an employee uses. The comfort level of a familiar device is critical to BYOD success.

Projected online retail sales for 2013 -- $231 billion. Projected for 2017 -- $370 billion

By 2011, 20 typical houses generated more traffic on the Internet than the total it carried in 2008.

Enterprises benefit from BYOD through increased employee productivity and satisfaction, Berry believes. But allowing access to company data from mobile devices does have risks. Security is certainly a challenge, he says, especially since each operating system such as iOS or Android requires that different safeguards be put in place. "It's probably the top concern when we talk to CIOs [chief information officers] about mobile. They know they need to do adopt mobile, but they have so many security concerns.”

Businesses are still grappling with BYOD. A study released in February 2013 by the Computing Technology Industry Association found that only 24 percent of companies have a BYOD policy in place, and 36 percent have neither a policy or intentions to implement one.

Device-to-device communication

Less visible but no less important is device-to-device communication, also called the “Internet of things.” Microprocessors are now found in everything from cars to air conditioners, and it's increasingly common to enable these tiny computers to communicate wirelessly.

“It used to be science fiction to be able to turn on air conditioning or lights in your house from your phone,” says Berry. “But it's already happening.”

One of the major players in the Internet of things is likely sitting in your driveway. A modern automobile incorporates between 70 and 100 microprocessors that run about 100 million lines of computer software code. (To put that in perspective: the avionics and support systems of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner comprise roughly 6.5 million lines of code.) All that means safer cars that can instantly warn when something is wrong―or even about to go wrong―via the Internet.

“A car now contains so much software and technology, it really opens up huge opportunities for what you can do that information,” says Berry. It can make the car safer, provide the driver with more information such as weather and traffic conditions, and allow the manufacturer to monitor what's going on with the vehicle's systems. “For example, Ford, an IBM client, could go in and see if there were problems with air bags in certain models without having to bring the car in for inspection.”

Marketing through mobile technology to grow 38 percent by 2016.

By 2015, there will be twice as many networked devices as there are people on earth.

He sees two areas that are ripe for more integration with mobile: transportation and government services. Transportation affects everybody and has an enormous impact on the economy, through productivity lost in long commuting times and the speed (or lack of) in moving goods. “It's the root of so many things,” he says. Mobile communications can pinpoint the location of buses and other public transportation as well as trucks. That information is already the heart of several Smarter Cities projects, but there is lots of room for expansion, especially in developing countries that are modernizing their infrastructure.

As for government services, people want to be able to access information through their mobile devices and use them in interactions with governments. “I just paid a parking meter with my mobile device,” says Berry. “I got out of the car and on the meter it said 'Don't want to use quarters? Download this app.' I scanned the QR code and within 90 seconds using PayPal, I'd paid for my parking.”

What mobile means for businesses

Berry says mobile is already part of virtually every business sector. Insurance firms equip their agents to be able to process claims right in the field. Banks allow deposits via smart phones. Manufacturers monitor their assembly lines remotely. And retailers see huge sales increases by targeting customers with messages based on their location, even within a store.

By the year 2017.Global mobile data traffic will be 13 times greater than its 2012 level. Mobile video will account for 66% of all mobile data traffic. Tablets will generate more than 12% of global mobile data traffic