The green android

Am happy to say, I wrote this in October 2008. So much for seeing possibility about the android phone market, 4 years ahead of its time

Remember 'Data' from Star Trek, TNG?

A very capable android, who depserately wanted to be human. To imitate our foibles, our humor and even our tears. While Data wants to become more human, we are caught up in becoming more mechanical, more efficient and more emotion free. More computer-like, if you wish.

Today, the power of the computer is available to us, not only to be more computer like, but also to be more human. The power to connect to each other and to relate. The power to be spontaneous, as only humans can be. The power to cherish a relationship, built over time.

You may be wondering what it has got to do with green and with business opportunities?

The android has come full circle. It is now google's OS for mobile handsets on an open platform. The API can be a starting point for aspiring developers who will have access to a low cost (less than $100, street), readily available, multi-vendor hardware platform that:

  • has a low power consumption virtual machine
  • in a mobile footprint, that fits in your pocket,
  • running on a single charge for the whole day,
  • and can not only communicate world-wide, using GSM and CDMA, but also interact locally, using bluetooth, for free.
  • It facilitates user input from a touchscreen or a keyboard
  • and can capture real time images - including those of yourretina or thumb print,
  • in addition to being very location aware - thanks to GPS.

Yes, you can choose to see a mobile phone as 'always available machine intelligence' to make our lives more interactive, with richer relationships and creative possibilities.

On October 22, 2008 - T-Mobile will put the first mobile phone running Google supported Android OS in the market. More are sure to follow.

The business opportunities come from the possibility that this can reshape how we work and interact. We can take scores of existing applications that were tied to desktops and laptops and open them up to mobile users.

Quiet paradoxically, this is green because it can optimize travel and even take away the need to travel in many situations. Saving precious time. Saving energy.

Before we go to some specific scenarios that will open up, let us generalize a little bit on the computer's ability to connect.

Essentially, it allows us to connect in 3 different ways.

  • connect across physical distance to people - the phone call.
  • connect across time to our own historical data - the desktop search, the file system
  • connect even when simultaneous access is relaxed - the messenger, the sms, the email - in varying degrees.

We already have the means to connect in all these ways when we are at a desk. But we are usually at a desk when we are working. When we are not working we can be anywhere. But then these tools find it a little hard to come along with us.

Android will take care of that difficulty :)

We can call, search, instantly retrieve, chat, message and email on the move. Now imagine we can also make payments, figure out exactly where we are and prove our identity when required, with no additional effort.

Then we have the building blocks to be even more human, using the power of IT, when on the move. Surely, this is 'IT for green' using IT's ability to connect. Let us dive into 3 case studies, before we conclude.

Case 1 - The greedy buyer

You go to a mall. you can see the deals available on your cellphone. You can even see who amongst your friends (or friend's friends) are in the vicinity.

You go to a bookshop and find a book you like. Instead of purchasing it you scan the barcode with the camera and search for a better deal possible, finally arranging for the book to be delivered at your doorstep in the evening. (flipkart was also not there at that time!)

You have a coffee with a school friend you found in the vicinity. Over coffee, you also arrange a cab to pick you up at the mall's gate. (no, meru cabs was also not there, at that time!)

 You both then walk out, stopping on the way to home, to pick up a packed lunch, that was a real steal-deal.

Case 2 - The greedy merchant

You run your own side business, working 3-4 hours a day on it. You have regular customers in the locality. You are able to pick up their shopping lists in the morning, consolidate and deliver after filling their orders from the wholesale market.

On most days, you don't even need to go to the market, as another local entrepreneur is doing the chores for 6 of you, at the vegetable market.

Some of your customer's friends in the locality have heard about you too. They make their shopping lists available too and you 'bid' on their lists too, giving them a decent discount because incrementally it costs much less to fill their order.

They make the trial purchase by accepting your bid that day. In no time, they start swearing by you too.

All because of your android cellphone and trusted electric 3 wheeler. And ofcourse your long term relationship skills :).

Case 3 - The ride stealer (chance pe danc'er)

You wait patiently at the cornerside, having already announced on the car-pooling website your desire to travel to electronic-city today, between 8:00 and 8:15 AM. You have indicated that you are willing to pay Rs.30/- for the ride.

A car stops by and an attractive looking stranger smiles at you. Without a word, you both point your androids to each other's eye. A match is made back at the website.

No!, You are not talking to an impersonator. Yes!, Your money will be accepted and the ride given. Thank you!

The money, incidentally, will be an electronic transfer and you are delighted that the stranger has opted for this payment to go to your favorite green NGO.

You both get talking and get to office as time simply flies because both of you are interested in getting more cycling lanes built in the city. In fact, the android is now the car-phone, connecting you to commuters in 3 other cars, who are also having a similar chat, because you had scheduled it 10 days ago.

Is it work? Is it play?

Welcome to new possibilities. New ways of fun. New business opportunities. Green Business Opportunities.