The future of mobile messaging

I often get emails from research companies or publishers trying to sell me things. Most aren’t relevant, remotely interesting or affordable. One this morning, from Portio Research, caught my eye. It’s still not affordable (at least not for us), but it did come with ten great report ‘teasers’. And all of them interesting and relevant. From the official email:

10 Facts You May Not Know About Mobile Messaging

1.     Revenues will break USD 300 billion in 2014. Annual worldwide mobile messaging revenue will reach nearly USD 210 billion by the end of 2011, and smash USD 300 billion in 2014.

2.     Messaging currently accounts for the majority of global data revenues. Messaging in 2011 will still be responsible for more than 60 percent of global data revenues; SMS and MMS alone will contribute a massive 55.7 percent to global data revenues in 2011.

3.     SMS is king. With little fanfare, SMS has long been the foundation and mainstay of non-voice service revenues. And will continue to be so for some time.

4.     SMS brings in 13 times more revenue than Apps. SMS alone generated USD 114.6 billion in 2010, and will reach USD 126.8 billion in 2011. Compare that to forecasted mobile broadband revenues (USD 58.1 billion in 2011) and mobile application revenues (USD 9.5 billion in 2011) and there is still much to get excited about in the world of mobile messaging.

5.     New European data usage trends are emerging. 2010 was something of a landmark year with significant growth seen in other mobile data services, beyond messaging. Trends seen in Japan and South Korea can never be seen as “typical” indicators of what will happen in other markets around the world, as those countries stand alone in terms of leading technology adoption. However, when mainstream markets in Western Europe witness trends that recur in more than one market, then we know a change is coming. Operations in Spain and Germany have now witnessed the changeover, where non-messaging mobile data revenues now exceed SMS revenues.

6.     MMS is a huge success. Contrary to years of popular opinion that MMS somehow failed as a service, MMS is the second highest grossing non-voice mobile service of all time, second only to SMS.

7.     MMS outperforms mobile apps and mobile music added together. In 2010, worldwide MMS traffic hit 248.7 billion MMS messages and generated massive revenues of USD 32.5 billion. To put that into perspective, MMS is bigger than mobile apps and mobile music added together, MMS is bigger than mobile gaming and mobile video added together, twice over. MMS is still a huge business, making a lot of money, and still growing in all geographic regions worldwide, and at a double-digit growth rate in most.

8.     Europe records the highest mobile e-mail revenue. In 2010, the Asia Pacific region was the largest mobile e-mail market worldwide in terms of number of mobile e-mail users, whereas Europe generated the highest mobile e-mail revenue worldwide.

9.     Latin America will see the largest mobile e-mail user base growth. As an individual country market, Japan has been the biggest market for mobile e-mail in terms of user penetration and it is expected to maintain its position in the near future. Over the coming years, the Latin America region will have the highest growth in its mobile e-mail market owing to the increasing smartphone penetration and the small current mobile e-mail user base.

10.  Over 311 million people use Mobile IM. Mobile IM is ‘the small player’ in the mobile messaging mix, generating revenues of USD 6.8 billion in full-year 2010, a substantial amount of money, but small compared to the massive USD 114.6 billion generated by SMS. Mobile IM is an extremely popular service, with more than 311 million users at end-2010.

The full report – “Mobile Messaging Futures 2011-2015″ – is available here on the Portio Research website. Have your cheque book ready.

The FrontlineSMS trump card

This time last year I was on my way back from Washington DC where I’d spent a week at the National Geographic Explorers Symposium. It was one of those am-I-really-here? events where you randomly share a lift with the likes of Bob Ballard – who discovered the wreck of the Titanic – or Spencer Wells, who’s trying to figure out where we all came from.

I couldn’t be there this year, but I did receive a nice surprise in the mail from a friend who works for National Geographic Traveler Magazine. At this year’s event they produced a deck of cards with the names of each of the Explorers and Emerging Explorers. I love what they’ve done with ours.

All that’s missing is the \o/ logo.  ;o)

That aside, hearty congratulations to everyone who made the Explorers Class of 2011!

Mobile technology and the last mile

Since our founding in 2003, has been primarily focused on serving the needs of the smaller, local, grassroots NGO community. FrontlineSMS is testament to that approach – a low-tech, appropriate technology which works on locally available hardware and without the need for NGOs to employ the services of teams of technical experts. We haven’t got everything right, and FrontlineSMS remains a work in progress, but we’re excited about where we are, how we got here and where we’re headed.

We were recently approached by Philip Auerswald, Editor of “innovations“, to write an article on that journey, and our approach to mobiles-for-development. The result was a tri-authored piece by three members of the FrontlineSMS team – Sean McDonald, Flo Scialom and myself. A PDF of that article – “Mobile technology and the last mile” – is available here.

About “Innovations”:
“The journal features cases authored by exceptional innovators; commentary and research from leading academics; and essays from globally recognized executives and political leaders. The journal is jointly hosted at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship”.

Many thanks to Phil and the “Innovations” team for inviting us to contribute.

The Environmental Network

Date: Thursday 2nd June, 2011
Venue: Aspen Environment Forum, Aspen, Colorado
Chair: Ned Breslin
Speakers: Ken Banks, William Powers, Courtney Hight, Charles Porch

The Environmental Network

“Recent social movements in North Africa and the Middle East have shown the power of social media and mobile devices to accelerate change at the grassroots level. What lessons does that experience hold for the environmental movement? Can Facebook and Twitter somehow catalyze an environmental revolution as well – and is it happening already?”

Ken Banks is Founder of

William Powers is a prize-winning writer and author of the New York Times best-seller “Hamlets BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age”

Courtney Hight is the Co-Director of Energy Action Coalition and Power Shift

Charles Porch heads up Facebook’s efforts to help non-profits utilise the platform

Ned Breslin is CEO of Water for the People

The 2011 Aspen Environment Forum is presented by the Aspen Institute in partnership with National Geographic, and provides a critical framework for committed voices to address a significant milestone:  A global population of 7 billion and how to reconcile Earth’s finite resources with its ability to sustain our expanding human needs.

The “Ultimate Music Awareness App”

Close friends will know that I’m a bit of a walker. In fact, a few years ago I did start to put down tentative plans for a walk across the African continent, but a Fellowship at Stanford put pay to that. I rarely use public transport when I’m on the road, preferring to remain above-ground and on-foot to get a better sense of where I’m staying. And although I’ll sometimes carry my camera with me, I almost always carry my iPod.

Most of my thinking is done while I walk, and most of my blog posts take shape that way, too. I carry a note pad a lot of the time, stopping often to jot down ideas. This post came together while I was listening to music, walking through Cambridge earlier this year. That walk witnessed the birth of the “Ultimate Music Awareness App”, and Apple’s announcement of iCloud this week prompted me to dig it out again.

So, what would my app do? Well, it’s quite simple really.

  • It would have an option to plays songs written on that day’s date, or which reference that day’s date
  • It would be location-aware, and create an auto-playlist of songs written about the place I’m walking through, or with name-connections
  • It would play songs by artists who were either born, or lived, in the area
  • There would be an option to play songs based on that day’s news headlines (for example, if a study found annual rents were increasing – or decreasing – then it would play “Rent” by the Pet Shop Boys). A summary of the news story in question would also be displayed on-screen for context
  • All of the playlists would be compiled in real-time, and streamed/buffered from the web
  • Playlists could be uploaded and shared on-line (and mapped) for other music lovers/walkers

If anyone ever developed this, I know I’d buy it. After all, it would be my ultimate music awareness app.

The Aspen Environment Forum. In tweets.

Last week I was fortunate to attend the three-day Aspen Environment Forum (#AEF2011) in Aspen, Colorado. It gave me the perfect opportunity to “leave the tech behind” and immerse myself in some of the bigger environmental issues and challenges facing the planet today.

The event boasted a fantastic line-up not only of speakers, but also delegates. Some of the smartest people in their field were there to discuss, debate, challenge and collaborate. One of the highlights was getting the chance to meet some of the people who featured heavily in my anthropology dissertation way back in 1999, which looked at the role – or lack of – anthropologists in the creation of national parks.

So, in the spirit of my “Tim Smit. In tweets” post last year, here’s a few highlights of the Forum in 140 character chunks.

Context: Talk of a crowded planet are often over-exaggerated. As this statement demonstrates, in reality it’s more an issue of resources, not a lack of space (even though seven billion is a big number).

Context: It’s not just the scientists and politicians we need to get onside in the climate change debate. There’s a general apathy among the general public, too. Engaging the man and woman on the street emerged as one of the key challenges at the Forum.

Context: Some people are willing to make lifestyle changes when they recognise a problem, but they’ve got to be simple, affordable and as least disruptive to their daily lives as possible.

Context: It’s easy to make demands if you’re never expected to deliver. As the green energy message gets louder, the day of judgement looms.

Context: Switzerland is the first country to pass a law encouraging the use of “living roofs” (also known as “green roofs“) on new buildings. Proven benefits are spiritual and social, as well as environmental.

Context: Dispelling a popular myth that cutting down trees is the only way of unlocking a forest’s value.

Context: Great quote on how we need to think more holistically about the value of our forests.

Context: Over consumption is a bad thing, regardless of what you eat.

Context: Conservation organisations need to start putting people back in nature. Some are – I was fortunate to work at Fauna & Flora International earlier in my career.

Context: One of the bigger surprises for me at the Forum was the increasing importance of urban agriculture. Growing food? In cities?

Context: Farmers don’t just grow food. They have a wider responsibility, something we – and they – need to recognise.

Context: Size is relative. A small farm in the US is not the same as a small farm in East Africa.

Context: If you thought food was expensive now, you’re in for a shock.

Context: Good friend Jerry Glover highlights the folly of littering the soil with fertiliser when most of the action happens much further down. More on Jerry’s work promoting more sustainable agriculture is available here.

Context: Farmers shouldn’t be paid for what governments want them to grow. Consumers – voting with their wallets – should be the ones to tell them.

Context: A sharp reminder that we’re heading down a rocky road with our mono-culture farming practices. Diversity isn’t just king. It’s common sense.

Context: One of the more eye-opening statements of the week. Taking into account the chemicals, machinery, storage, packaging and transport, large “high-tech” American farms aren’t much more productive than their smaller “low-tech” African counterparts.

Context: As Christian Aid once put it, “We believe in life before death”. Ultimately, feeding people should be more about quality than quantity.

Context: Factoring in drinking, cooking, showers, toilet breaks and the amount of water needed to produce the food they eat, average water consumption in America is staggering. Unsustainable on a global level? You bet.

Context: Busting the myth that a clean, tidy environment is something you only aspire to when you’re wealthy.

Context: Poverty – the root cause of much evil.

Context: Only one percent of our oceans are protected in any meaningful way. Amazing.

Context: The challenges may seem unsurmountable, but that’s not an excuse to do nothing.

Context: We need to reframe the renewable energy debate.

Context: If living within our means is a measure of development then we have much to learn from the ‘developing’ world. Let’s not kid ourselves that ‘we’ have all the answers.

More on the Aspen Environment Forum can be found on the Forum website, including videos of many of the Panels. A few photos from outside the Forum are available on my Flickr pages here.