Jun 04

Instances of how mobility changes the rules

Mobile devices are changing the way we work — not just as individuals but also as enterprises.  This applies as much to government as to businesses as the following two examples (both from real life and both from Madrid) demonstrate.

In the first a colleague recently had to present his annual tax return to Hacienda (the Spanish equivalent to the IRS).  Unlike in previous years he had some areas of uncertainty. He decided to visit his local tax office.  But they had changed their procedures.  he was brusquely told that no longer could he just turn up and wait his turn.  Instead he had to go home, contact the tax office and request a time and date, preferably via the Internet.  Bureaucracy triumphed: no help from Hacienda today — or so its people thought.

Instead José María  whipped out his smartphone, accessed the Hacienda Web site, located the appropriate office and requested an appointment, which was available for … 10 minutes later.  It turned out that this tax office was not busy that day and in a few minutes all was resolved (albeit to the astonishment of one tax official who had not thought such flexibility was possible).

Now move back 9 months.  I was traveling to the US but could not check in online (no reason was given).  I could not even check-in at the airline desk at the airport — again no reason was given.  Eventually the airline worked out that my US Visa Waiver (a Visa in everything but name given that you have to apply for it and then pay) had expired some weeks previously (though I had never been alerted, even though my email details were on file); as a result the airline was not allowed to let me board the plane because I would be refused entry on arrival in LA.  This was not a good place to be.

Leaving the check-in desk I started to think.  I had my iPhone (since stolen in Tel Aviv — see http://www.constellationrg.com/blog/2012/03/snatch-and-grab-smartphone-theft-tel-aviv-provokes-re-think-smart-device-eco-system) and my iPad.  My iPhone had a local 3G connection plus it had tethering.  I had my now expired Via Waiver number with me.  What would happen if I connected the iPad to the iPhone (via Bluetooth, with the iPhone acting as a router) and contacted the Visa waiver Web site at the Department of Homeland Security?

Some 10 minutes later I had completed a new Via Waiver application (building on the expired details — I had previously been approved to enter the USA by the Department of Homeland Security). Another 5 minutes and I had paid the issuing fee electronically by credit card.  Now I had a new valid Visa Waiver — but would it work in time to make my flight?

Back to check-in, but to a different employee who knew nothing of the previous refusal.  I offered my reservation details — and immediately my boarding pass was available for issue (which was pretty impressive on the part of the airline and the Department of Homeland Security).  I could travel.

Now consider the implications.  In both instances mobile devices enabled government procedures to be satisfied without delay.  In neither instance was either system created to achieve what mobile devices delivered.  This is why mobility has become a strategic business opportunity (as a forthcoming Constellation Research Quark mini-report will explore and justify).

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