M-commerce heralds new era for internet businesses

M-COMMERCE – the delivery of advanced services via mobile phones and other devices – will be a central part of companies’ e-business activities within a few years, an internet conference was told.

David Birch, a director of consultancy Hyperion and respected web commentator, said the potential of m-commerce to communicate in new ways with customers and suppliers is huge. The present limited range of applications offers only a small glimpse of what is to come.

However, Birch said the security implications of using what is essentially a radio-based network to transmit sensitive data presented one of the biggest challenges to the development of mobile applications.

‘How the security problem is solved will tell us an awful lot about how m-commerce develops,’ Birch told delegates at the recent E-business Convention in London.

Birch said one thing firms setting out on an m-commerce strategy do not need to worry about is the availability of bandwidth. ‘This is growing inexorably, and will continue to do so.’ Birch believes it is worthwhile for organisations to develop strategies using currently available applications such as WAP and SMS, even though these are only staging posts on the road to a far more advanced future.

He said: ‘They are relatively cheap and easy to implement, and at least allow you to get on the m-commerce path.’ According to Birch, mobile phones will eventually join PCs, laptop computers and even televisions in a ‘pervasive computer’ environment in which a large range of devices are internet-enabled. He said the development of m-commerce was no longer primarily a telecoms issue: ‘The mental shift has been from seeing mobiles as primarily a voice device, to a data device which just happens to do voice.’