It goes without saying that smart phones are already very popular and enjoying rapid growth. But a few things finally happened in the last year that people have been predicting for a long time, things that could make smartphones and mobile apps an even bigger part of our lives.
First off, in what many consider to be a bold move from a normally conservative company, GM has already released mobile apps that allow many of their cars to be remotely monitored, unlocked, and even started. So as long as you have a high degree of confidence in your smartphone's battery life, you don't need your car keys anymore.
Next, we have Starbucks, who have quietly sidestepped the ongoing mobile payments dispute by launching a barcode based payments app that doesn't require any special technology. Other large retailers are probably watching this closely, and if the big cell phone companies don't get their acts together, they might just end up missing the boat again. In any case, many industry observers feel that the Starbucks system could be the spark that sets off an explosion of mobile payment systems, from McDonald's to Neiman Marcus, and everywhere in between. Here is some more detail on the Starbucks solution, and for an industry analysis click here.
But I saved the biggest one for last. Are you ready? Take a deep breath, and then read this: Smartphones outsold PCs for the first time, Q4 2010. This milestone happened much sooner than anyone expected, thanks mostly to new Android activation numbers so high they're almost hard to believe. At the start of 2011 people were talking about activations in excess of 125k units per day. Currently the number being tossed around is 300k units per day. If Android can keep it up, that platform alone will outsell PCs in 2011. Folks, this could be the end of an era.
When we combine these milestones, the smartphone appears to poised to become a sort of ultimate swiss army knife; a single device that does everything. The thought of it is exciting; imagine the convenience! Alas, as with all great things in life, there is a downside. Money, privacy, communication, and even physical security could be compromised if the software or data on the device is not secure.
The average person has at least 3 things with them when they leave the house: wallet, keys, and cell phone. Today, if one of the three things were to be lost, that would be bad. It would be a huge inconvenience, in the best case. However, when a cell phone is lost today, the unfortunate person is not normally forced to cancel their credit cards and reprogram their car locks. Worse than that, if we envision the future that the stories listed above point to, there is a potential for any or all of the three to be stolen electronically, by a thief far away, even in a different country. That should be a sobering prospect, both for consumers and the various companies providing services to them. It is easy to tout the benefits of technology convergence; it's a fun and exciting topic. But as technology providers, it is our duty to also consider the potential drawbacks.
In order to keep everyone safe, sensitive mobile data needs to be securely stored on the local device, and transmitted reliably to each company's data vaults. Those same companies need to be able to determine, with 100% accuracy, whether a certain request is coming from an authorized device or an imposter. This could be a mobile purchase, a request to unlock your car, or even your home.
Two critical components of a safe, trustworthy solution for storing and syncing sensitive mobile data are Oracle's Berkeley DB and Database Mobile Server. Most of the world's large enterprises already store their critical data in Oracle Database. Berkeley DB is a stable, mature product with over 10 years proven history. It is ideally positioned to be the mobile data store to complement Oracle Database. It is secure in the traditional sense, meaning it can protect mobile data from malicious intent, and in the database architecture sense as well, with full transactional guarantees. Database Mobile Server provides the final piece to form a complete solution: the capability to synchronize your data between the mobile devices and your Oracle backend, and manage the mobile application, data, and even the device itself if desired.
If you're considering a mobile application that will access sensitive data, data that you already trust Oracle to store in your backend infrastructure, Berkeley DB and Database Mobile Server are the best choices to handle it.