This could easily descend into a rant. It’s been a long day, but one that’s thrown into harsh relief how “connected” we all really are.
I have two smart phones on two different UK networks. I have a PC, a Macbook, an iPod touch, countless email addresses, and quite a few social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, Flickr, YouTube, etc). I’m pretty good at accessing information on the go from a wide variety of sources. I travel a lot and know the pitfalls. I check-in online and check flight information before I leave home. I’m signed up for SMS alerts from Transport for London and British Airways. My travel agent has my email and mobile numbers. Today’s weather was predicted, with great accuracy, 24 hours in advance.
And yet…, and yet…, I still left home at 0530 this morning to get on non-existent public transport for a flight that was canceled from an airport that was shut-down. At no point, until I actually got to Heathrow and spoke to someone face-to-face, could I get in touch with my travel agent or airline. (I think a few other people were ringing).
(For those that don’t know, London was today paralyzed by a bit of snow…)
The only reliable, up-to-date information I received today came from two sources.
One was my Twitter stream. This was up to the minute, amusing and diverting, but not always entirely relevant. (Still, enjoyed #uksnow)
The second was through word of mouth from a person stood in front of me at the location where the situation was live. Relevant, yes, but a three and a half hour journey across snowy London to get hold of it. Incidentally, getting information turned out to be the only benefit of traveling to Heathrow. All subsequent arrangements and travel changes were made over the telephone. They could have been made from anywhere. But I needed timely information to make the right decisions. And I could only get information, by physically getting to the source.
This is where I seem to be with information in 2009. Tons of it about, but I don’t seem to be getting any.
This is the challenge: who should take ownership of putting together my Ben-relevant information?
I try to. Believe me, I try. But the Transport for London texts I’d thought would alert me that snow had brought a halt to bus and tube, weren’t sent. Information from British Airways to my phone and email about canceled flights was never distributed. Online information? Fail. Phone information? Engaged, fail.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the technology to take control. (I mean that literally as we, Nokia Siemens Networks, have it). An intelligently managed subcriber data management platform, with the right third-party links would have known my travel schedule.
With the right interaction between my mobile operator, Transport for London, my airline carrier and my travel agent I could have been saved an eight hour round-trip, that began when i stepped onto that snowy road in NW6 at 0530 this morning.
One day (if I want it to) my operator will know my travel schedule. I will even rely on it to set my wake-up call for me to make my flight knowing where I am, the latest transport information and the best route. If bad weather hits, or flights are delayed, my travel agent would ‘talk’ to my operator client and change my flights, or at least, reset my alarm, giving me a lie-in and the opportunity to consider my options in the morning.
This thought-experiment in how to avoid personal disruption caused by a snow-causes-London-transport-chaos situation, is a very privileged one to indulge in. But the ideas underlying it, the linking together, the empowerment, of information has implications and applications for the five billion people that will be connected by 2015. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to see how it could be applied to market information, or to combat the spread of disease.
In these economically tight times, as operators look to improve customer retention, it will be the ones that can exploit new technology to link their users’ information in a meaningful way that will thrive.
Until then, I’m packing my snow shoes and hoping to make a flight tomorrow night.