Dramatic advancements in mobile technology, combined with the wide availability of sophisticated mobile devices, have enabled us to conduct our daily personal computing and communications activities on the go. As a result, we are fast becoming a society of nomadic computer users or, simply, nomads.1
The vast majority of users today are able to perform the same tasks on their mobile devices as they traditionally performed on their laptops or desktops. And although most users perceive – and use – their smartphones simply as portable laptops or desktops that offer the convenience of mobile operation, these devices can be, in fact, much more than that.
Still missing, however (from an enterprise perspective), is full support of nomadic computing at the applications layer. We believe nomadic computing or “nomadicity,” should extend to the applications layer. The majority of today's networked, distributed applications reside throughout many tiers of the enterprise. Therefore, a complete treatment of nomadicity must include a description of it in every tier of an application's enterprise architecture. Specifically, nomadic applications require support for nomadicity across all tiers of the enterprise architecture.
The realization of nomadicity in enterprise architecture will be the lynchpin of enterprise solutions that are capable of driving user adoption and creating business opportunity. The reason for this is the growing acceptance of mobile devices resulting from the novelty and convenience of mobility. As more nomadic applications become available, consumers will change the way and extent to which they use their mobile devices.
Today, however, there is only a fledgling presence of support for nomadicity across the entire enterprise. As a result, users still see their mobile devices as conveniently portable, cute, miniaturized versions of their laptops and desktops and, consequently, use them as such. They fire up one application for one task, another for another task and so on. The reason for this interaction model is that applications are largely silos that exist independently from one another. Although applications such as Google Maps or Yelp exhibit some aspects of nomadicity in their UIs, there is no integration of services and data.
Applications that exhibit many nomadic characteristics today, such as Google Now2 and Google Anywhere, are still the exception. And despite the noteworthy achievements of these applications, even applications within the same company are not integrated. For example, Google Mail, Calendar and Voice are not integrated, and access to them is certainly neither transparent nor convenient for the user – even on the desktop. In fact, even Google Voice itself is not well integrated as a unified communications platform.
The Business Proposition
The popularity of mobile devices, coupled with the transparency, convenience, dynamic nature and adaptability of the application, make it easy, convenient and enjoyable for users. And the ability to gather dynamic, detailed, relevant information about users is valuable to the enterprise.
For a business to sell to a consumer, it must know something about that consumer. And to retain the customer, it must demonstrate value. The enterprise needs the ability to collect information about the consumer and offer something perceived as valuable. The business then generates revenue through the following functions:
Internal and external cross-selling and upselling.
Just-in-time inventory control.
This kind of application, achievable today, can easily generate very accurate consumer profile and demographic information, which would enable more effective, targeted marketing, as well as upselling, cross–selling and sharing, ultimately generating more revenue. An example of nomadic computing in action could be found at a theme park. Park visitors would download a location-specific app onto their mobile devices that aggregates profile information from the company's Web portal. Sensing where the visitors are in their journey throughout the park, the app would make recommendations relevant to individual needs and interests. In the animated graphic below see how built-in nomadicity at the enterprise app level would work at an amusement park.