Mobile applications are one thing, but mobile apps WITH fast data requirements are another.
The combination of mobile apps and fast data requirements can cause major data scale issues. Whether you are trying to update an existing application or build a new application, mobile apps with personalization, pricing, location, or gaming functionality must consider data architecture differently from the outset.
The Fundamental Growth Characteristics of Mobile
It’s official, mobile applications now account for over 50% of the computing market. It crept up on us quickly, and it’s easy to forget that mobile growth is different than what we’ve seen before. Of course, most people in the mobile space know about the growth. You would have to be living in a country without internet, TV, or radio if you haven’t heard that mobile usage is growing tremendously along with mobile applications. But, let’s put this in perspective: AOL took 2.5 years to reach 50 million users and Angry Birds took 35 days. Yes, Angry Birds was a smash hit, but so was AOL.
An AT&T Senior EVP recently wrote, “Over the past five years, AT&T’s wireless data traffic has grown 20,000%. The growth is now primarily driven by smartphones.” In fact, many say that mobile use will cause a spectrum deficit in the U.S. According to the Telegraph, smartphones are mostly used for internet (24 minutes and 29 seconds per day) and social media (17 minutes and 29 seconds per day) while phone calls are ranked 5th (12 minutes and 6 seconds per day). Similarly, mobile commerce is planned to rise from 1% of all e-commerce sales in 2010 to 7% in 2016 (i.e. from $3 billion to $31 billion in a 6 years period). Apps are also accounting for more minutes of usage. So, no wonder business groups are clamoring for mobile-centric programs and applications.
The bottom line is that mobile applications are growing data differently than traditional database applications.
Fast Data Requirements that Cause Scale Issues
According to a recent, VMware-sponsored research report by Hurwitz titled “Winning Mobile and Web Customers with Fast Data,” there are four key, mobile business initiatives that require fast data capabilities:
- Personalized Web Offers
- Web Pricing
- Mobile Location Services
- Mobile Gaming
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Fast data scenarios mean the data layer’s scale must become an unquestionable priority (in terms of design and architecture) because the data drives the value of the functionality. Let’s look at the list above with more detailed example requirements to show where scale issues show up:
- “Personalized Web Offers” requires an app to know historical habits, interests, and/or intents and combine them with current shopping cart content or current/recent browsing patterns. These are fast data opportunities because they only exist for a point in time. For example, imagine if you had looked at a pair of boots online for 2 minutes one day on your phone, cycling through every picture of it available. To the webstore, you demonstrated real interest in this product—but failed to buy. The next time you are on that apparel store, it should feature that pair of boots and possibly a discount to entice you to revisit that purchasing decision—hopefully this time completing the purchase.
- “Web Pricing” is similar in that calculations are performed based on real-time information like existing inventory, the amount of time until an event, the type of customer, what competitors are offering, and more. Let’s say your travel app knows that you have searched for tickets to New York City five times in the past month, what could it do with this information? What could it do if it knew you just logged into the application? What if flights to NYC were pretty full? What if they were empty? It takes a real-time engine to make a specific offer to NYC upon login to help fill empty planes. While travel websites are the most advanced, this type of pricing can be applied to many arenas.
- “Mobile Location Services” are about an application’s ability to recognize your location and do something with the information—be it connecting you with others, offering you local deals, or highlighting points of interest. For example, an app could point out all historic landmarks as you drive by or let you know that a friend is nearby. In any case, the app must constantly determine your location and other “objects in proximity” to take action.
- “Mobile Gaming” is about competition between people. When two players are playing at the same time, the state of their gameplay needs to be synced (without lag) for an enjoyable user experience.
While you may think, “hey these don’t apply to my app,” keep in mind that even web giant’s like Facebook and Yahoo! are fundamentally changing their strategy to these big fast data advertising opportunities to monetize the web. So, if it doesn’t apply to you today, you should consider if your business has any opportunities yet undiscovered to do this.
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