April 16th, 2013

The Emergence of Hyper-Personal Commerce

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Omni-Channel CommerceAdvances in commerce are on my mind today for several reasons. First, I am attending the RAMP Advanced Commerce & Mobile Retail Services Summit. Second, Layer 7 just announced an exciting new partnership with Elastic Path, the first commerce platform to unify the commerce experience through a common API access point. And finally, I have noticed a recent surge of demand for Layer 7’s API and identity capabilities to deliver new omni-channel, hyper-local functions to retailers, consumer marketers and payment/credit providers. It’s clear that eCommerce is undergoing a sea change.

Mobile devices and social media have multiplied the number of touch-points available for engaging buyers. The line between retail and “eTail” has grown blurry as location increasingly defines all shopping experiences. Big Data now makes it possible for marketers to tailor promotions to every shopper, based on buying history and inferred intent. And API-driven architectures provide a way to tie all online channels, data sources and cloud services together in an event-driven, context-aware network that can engage buyers wherever they are.

All these elements assembled together suggest a new era of personalized commerce. This will place the buyer back at the center of a commerce universe of disparate data, mobile, cloud and social elements that will converge to deliver him or her a more exact shopping experience tailored to his or her choice preferences at that point in time and that place in space.

For Layer 7, this convergence of trends that puts the shopper at the center of an API-connected ecosystem plays to two particular strengths. Firstly, it leverages Layer 7′s leadership in networking enterprise, mobile, social, cloud and partner services via APIs. Secondly, it cements a concept of enhanced identity, where a fuller user profile can be built around an ID to deliver a more complete view of that subject. Both will be essential for delivering on the vision of highly-personal commerce that spans online channels, is location-aware, leverages multiple data sources and can determine a context-specific action across mobile, payment and Web services.

To learn more, read the API-Driven Omni-Channel Commerce solution brief >>

February 25th, 2013

SSO & OAuth for Mobile Apps – Live Discussion, Feb 26

OAuth SSO Tech TalkIn case you haven’t heard, we are living in the age of mobile applications and the APIs that power them. Sometimes it’s called the API economy.

Smart phones are ubiquitous, social networks are the norm and we are connected to applications on our devices all the time. We love applications like Instagram, Twitter, Evertnote and Snapchat. But we don’t like signing in and out of each of these applications across networks or devices. It’s awkward and cumbersome and we’re often doing it while on the go or commuting, with only one hand to use while tapping in our passwords. Besides, who wants to remember all those passwords anyway? And it’s not safe to use the same one for every application.

This is the major downside of using all these great new mobile applications. Most of us would gladly invite a scenario where we’d only need to log in once to access multiple applications. There’s social login – but is it safe and is our privacy secure? Remember what happened to Burger King’s Twitter account? Enter Single-Sign-On & OAuth for Mobile Applications.

On Tuesday Feb 26, we’ll be hosting a live interactive Tech Talk on security and Single Sign-On (SSO) for mobile applications. And I’m excited to welcome back Layer 7′s Chief Architect and resident OAuth expert Francois Lascelles. He’ll discuss how to provide SSO for mobile applications, without compromising the security of the apps or the APIs that power them. Francois will also be taking your questions throughout the Tech Talk. So, this will be a great opportunity to get answers to your questions about your own applications and the security that surrounds them.

Click here to get the event details and a reminder in your calendar.

On the day of the event, click here to join:

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February 22nd, 2013

The Internet of (Interesting) Things

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IoT at MWCRight now, a lot of companies are gearing up for Mobile World Congress – and Layer 7 is no exception. I’m attending MWC and I’ll be interested to see how the Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M play out at the conference. IoT has been getting a lot of attention recently, so – in preparation for MWC – let’s take a look at some of the most interesting things that have been said and done in the last couple of months.

I’m particularly excited about a very ambitious EU-funded project to map an IoT reference architecture. Whether it will really become the reference architecture or simply a collection of best practices is subject to debate but I think the simple fact of trying to pull together all the different knowledge domains into one set of documents is bound to be interesting.

Forbes recently published an article by Alex Brisbourne called The Internet of Things Isn’t as New as It Seems. The article offers some really fascinating insights into the renewal rates for built-in 3G services in iPads and OnStar. Reflecting upon my own positive experiences with a 3G Kindle, I have to agree with Alex that, for connected devices to really reach their potential, connectivity must be simply built-in without requiring a separate subscription.

Another indication of this trend is the fact that car manufacturers are apparently switching from built-in mobile connectivity (requiring the owner to carry a subscription) to tethering off the driver’s existing smart phone. This highlights the challenges telco providers are facing – as summarized in a recent blog post on telco2.net.

Alex Bassi has provided another look at the way IoT is affecting business models, making the point that technology is enabling us to use things without having to own them. In my humble opinion, we’ll see this service-based model, which we normally associate with SaaS and the cloud, extending more and more into the domain of physical “smart” things. We can already see this usage pattern emerging in the automotive sector: car sharing a la Zipcar; limo service from Uber; electric car solutions from Better Place. FastCompany calls this the new “self-service” economy in an article that explores these issues in depth.

To get a good overview of the Internet of Things, I suggest heading over to ZDnet, which regularly posts articles on IoT and M2M. Postscapes, meanwhile, is completely dedicated to tracking IoT – I particularly like this site’s (currently incomplete) directory of companies in the space. There’s also a good collection of relevant essays gathered together on Bundlr.

Finally, here are a couple of links for the technically inclined. First here’s a presentation on the impressive set of open source building blocks developed as part of the m2m.eclipse.org project. Second is a piece that touches upon some technical aspects of the semantic Web that have a good deal of relevance to IoT. This is an area I’m personally very interested in and it might be a good topic to explore in a future post.

In any case, I expect to have plenty of interesting things to report on after Mobile World Congress. If you’re attending the show, be sure to stop by the Layer 7 booth for a chat. We’ll be at booth  #8.1A47 in the App Planet zone.

February 20th, 2013

Journey to the Center of the Mobile World

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Layer 7 at Mobile World CongressMobile World Congress – three words that strike fear into the hearts of marketing managers everywhere, for this is the largest mobile event of the year and we’re just a few days away from seeing 70,000 visitors descend upon Barcelona like a kettle of vultures, hungry for new innovations. This year, they will be treated to new hunting ground too, as MWC moves to a new, larger venue with more room for fresh meat. Before that metaphor gets completely worn out, let’s take a look at what we can actually expect from this year’s show.

As usual, we’re likely to see a very broad sweep across various areas of telco innovation and mobile strategy but there are some fundamental questions facing the community and these will dominate many conference sessions, seminars and exhibits:

  1. Connected Living
    As the Internet of Things gains momentum, how can the service provider community deliver the kind of enriched connectivity the broader ecosystem increasingly demands?
  2. Mobile Commerce
    For years, mobile has been a key banking and commerce tool for certain markets. With the rise of NFC (near field communication) and success stories like the Starbucks mobile payment app, will mobile become the preferred payment instrument for us all?
  3. Next-Generation Communications
    The world of communications moves quickly – too quickly even for service providers at times, with the runaway success of technologies of iMessage, WhatsApp and – next – WebRTC. In this ever-innovating world of mobile communications, can service providers regain some ground and demonstrate their value?

Layer 7 has answers to these questions and will be at MWC, demonstrating a variety of solutions that can help service providers address the challenges ahead. For example:

  1. We have been collaborating with AT&T and have planned an M2M solution that will capture anonymous information about visitors as they move around the exhibition halls. This information will be presented as intelligent APIs via the Layer 7 platform.
  2. Security and authentication are very familiar terms to Layer 7 and we’ll be showing how mobile payments can be easily and securely integrated with a mobile app without compromising the user experience.
  3. “Communications as a Service” opens many opportunities for service providers and the new partnership between Layer 7 and Voxeo Labs will show how easy it can be to capitalize on these opportunities.

Come and meet the team at booth 8.1A47 in the App Planet zone or email info@layer7.com to schedule a meeting. See you there!

February 4th, 2013

More Mobile Access Predictions for 2013

MWC PredictionsWith February just beginning, the mobile world is gearing up for Mobile World Congress (MWC), which will be taking place in Barcelona, at the end of the month. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what new products and features will be announced at the show. From the ongoing trends (some of which Mike Amundsen recently discussed), I’d expect to see a number of announcements of IoT products.

The good old measure of progress, mobile subscriber penetration, doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, the real measure is how many other connected devices a subscriber uses – iPads, Smart TVs and even fridges (who wouldn’t want a Galaxy Kitchen or an iPad Mini?) This is just the start of a revolution in connectivity, which will make it easier than ever to consume information and equally easy to emit a lot of information, often through social networks.

But there is another aspect to this – not only will you be able to post your own information but there will be all kinds of devices that can “sense” information about you. I expect to see a lot of this at MWC – sensors and cameras scattered around the floor, mapping passers-by to Facebook profiles and other personal information. Obviously, the capturing and cross pollination of this information raises all sorts of privacy issues.

It will also have a number of significant ramifications for mobile developers. First, there will be a new wealth of information available in the form of Web service APIs, as most of the data will be stored in cloud. The sheer scale of this new information-rich world will require apps to leverage cloud processing capabilities in order to be truly effective. This will create opportunities for enterprises to rethink their mobile architectures.

Second, mobile developers will need to use standard protocols for authentication and authorization. OAuth and OpenID Connect are key standards for protecting resources and allowing app users to authorize apps to leverage their information. Will these standards address all the privacy issues mentioned above? Probably not but they will make it a good deal easier for app developers to comply with privacy laws and regulations.

Third, the most successful app developers will be those that are able to provide a seamless user experience (UX) across multiple devices. This is because the end user of the near future will naturally expect all apps to know about other sessions that user had with an app across all of his or her many smart devices. Devs will therefore want to migrate sessions across devices, to bolster the UX.

If you’re going to MWC, come and say hello to the Layer 7 team. We will be located in the App Planet area Hall: 8.1 Booth: A47. I hope to see you there!