The Rise of Mobile Push Technology

In a pre-mobile world, push was premature, but it’s time for a second look.

Mobile Push Technology | BCBusiness
More and more companies use mobile devices to push information.

In a pre-mobile world, push was premature, but it’s time for a second look.

Maybe you remember when the Internet was a new phenomenon. Back then, when they measured the number of Internet users in millions, a novel product was developed to help the “information overload” that we were apparently suffering from on our 56K modems. It was called PointCast, and it introduced the concept of pushing customized information to the end user. In fact, PointCast co-opted “push” technology as its own concept and created a downloadable app that updated stock info, weather, news and sports scores. But the information requests swamped slow modems and corporate networks, and people objected to being exposed to advertising all day long. The company turned down $450 million from News Corp., only to completely combust and sell for $7 million one year later. Push got off to a bad start.

Today we truly are swamped by information. We have 24-hour access to broadband info thanks to smart phones and tablets. Watch people walk by in downtown Vancouver and you’ll see how they constantly engage with the newest forms of access to information. Social networks have increased the volume and changed the context of the information. Twitter is a fire hose of information and Facebook, while time-consuming, is more relevant to us if we have picked our friends carefully. Adding to the crush of information, time has become compressed for all of us, with business seemingly transpiring at an incredibly rapid pace. Heck, even fun has become fast, with constant bits of entertainment to fill the minutes of boredom. With the pace of our world and the petabytes of information to sort through, we need a way to get to the most relevant things faster.

While in the days of PointCast we were annoyed by push, mobile phones have made us comfortable with it. Think about texting versus e-mail: you have to “ask” your computer to retrieve your e-mail (the term is “polling”), but a text gets to you right away. BlackBerry Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik are all mobile-platform messaging applications that we use to “push” a message to our friends. It is relevant information that is needed in the moment and doesn’t require a computer.

Vancouver’s Quick Mobile sells a content management system for creating mobile apps for corporate events. Its customers are the largest companies in the world, which have hundreds of meetings and conferences a year. Instead of handing out paper programs, they use Quick Mobile’s software to put everything participants need for a conference on users’ phones. In addition to selling the software, Quick Mobile has enabled push technology via the apps. For example, the best recommended restaurant by previous meeting attendees can be pushed out to the current out-of-towners. Polls and surveys can be taken in the presentation room, with results pushed only to those attendees at that session. Travel delays or updates come popping up in the app to warn attendees of problems.

Dating apps for mobile devices are emerging and utilizing the push techniques. If you are open to dating invites, Vancouver’s Tingle dating app will push information about other local singles, their general whereabouts and their matching attributes to your phone in real-time.

Local mobile app development firm Atimi Software makes mobile applications for many corporate customers. My favourite is the Canucks app. When the push is activated, I know when the puck drops, when and who scores and what the final score is. News and other details during the off-season come up with a little notice icon on my screen as well.

As more and more companies use the mobile device to push information, we may, once again, have too much data being sent at us constantly – even if it is location-based and contextually relevant. Some bright startup is probably working on that problem right now. In fact, I know one or two.