Happy Mondays

I’ve had one of those weeks seeing interesting things and not finding the time to write about them. Some have made it onto the site as part of news stories we have posted, but a couple of events that have so far not had a mention deserve one. Both took place on Monday.

The first was the Mobile Research Conference, organised and sponsored by research firm Globalpark, and now in its third year. This year’s event had a good vibe about it, and the presentations I sat in on showed the power of mobile to deliver in many different ways.

Nathan Eagle from txteagle explained how his company is using mobile to conduct research in emerging markets, and reward participants for their participation. Fiona Blades from MESH Planning and Louise Sharp from BSkyB told delegates how they had used mobile surveys to get instant feedback on an advertising campaign to promote the Sky Atlantic channel. And Sabine Stork from ThinkTank and Polly Stevens from Hello! magazine showed how the power of the modern-day smartphone is enabling brands to conduct up-close and personal ethnographic research on their customers without any of the research team leaving the office. Just give your panel some instructions, let them shoot their own videos on their smartphones, and then get ready to draw the insights from it.

As someone who has written on market research in the past, and attended plenty of market research conferences, I know only too well how fusty, dry and academic a discipline it can be. And there are many old school market researchers out there who believe the only way to get real insight from people is by accosting them with a pen and clipboard, or sitting them in a room for two hours and observing them from behind a two-way mirror.

But for all this, the market research industry has embraced online research with a vengeance, even if its practitioners seem to be engaged in an on-going debate about the rights and wrongs of it. From what I saw on Monday, it seems equally enthusiastic about research on mobile. Expect a lot of activity in this area going forward.

From the Mobile Research Conference, I headed straight for Mobile Mondays. This is always an enjoyable evening, but the format of this week’s was new to me. It was Intel App-up Demo Night, in which 15 companies got three minutes each to demo their world-changing mobile solution, with another couple of minutes for questions.

Some of the demos were more interesting than others, depending who you were and what your agenda was, but the quick-fire format was excellent, and an ideal way to uncover new stuff, in a world where dozens of new mobile apps and services are being launched onto an unsuspecting public every day. My personal favourites were QRPedia and Threedomphone.

QRPedia’s mission is to tag museum exhibits with QR codes linking to the Wikipedia entry for the artefact in question, the point being that it offers a shedload more information than the average plaque alongside the display piece. QRPedia’s Terence Eden demonstrated how the QR code technology would sense the country that the user’s phone was registered to in order to display the Wikipedia page in the correct language. He snapped the same code with a UK phone and a Korean phone, returning a Wikipedia page in English on the first phone, and in Korean on the second, for which he got, and probably deserved, a round of applause.

Threedomphone is a Government-backed project to design a simple-to-use phone for elderly or dexterity-impaired users. It’s in the safe and talented hands of Ribot, who designed the Tesco grocery shopping app, and the concept they have come up with is a phone with just three buttons.

As someone who has researched a decent mobile phone for my mum, and failed to come up with anything better than adequate, Ribot’s three-button phone solution looks like an inspired idea. I look forward to seeing what comes out of it.

We are clocking off shortly for the Easter weekend. Normal service will be resumed on Tuesday. Whatever you’re doing this weekend, have a good one.

David Murphy