The business landscape is increasingly mobile. In fact, industry analysts project that the global mobile workforce will exceed 1.2 billion as early as 2013 and the overall mobility market will top $1 trillion by 2014. With the explosive growth of mobile and smart computing technologies, businesses have become more intelligent, instrumented, interconnected and dynamic. But to fully leverage the opportunities afforded by mobility and smart computing, CIOs need to take an end-to-end approach to ensure success in both internal operations and traditional business-to-consumer relationships.

This mobility and smart computing boom has been fueled by a convergence of innovations in software architectures, back-room data center operations, wireless and broadband communications, and numerous smaller and more powerful client devices that are connected to the network to empower all the stakeholders in the value chain, from the C-level to the front-end executives.

These innovations collectively make up smart computing, which has put the power into the hands of the end user, giving businesses the power to act in real time.

The Business Impact of Mobility and Smart Computing

The growth of mobility is indisputable and the application of mobility and smart computing is widespread, impacting industries from all verticals, transforming interactions of all sorts – from social networking and machine-to-machine communication to business intelligence.

Organizations have leveraged these emerging technologies – by both retooling their internal workforces and redefining their business-to-consumer models – and are now empowered to improve employee efficiency and influence consumer behavior. Mobility and smart computing has brought about the following changes:

1) Empowered business users. As employees are able to quickly execute basic tasks, like reporting, and even complex tasks, like using smart analytics from their phones and other mobile devices, both worker efficiency and effectiveness have improved and information-on-the-go has helped end users make quick, informed decisions.

2) Created new consumer channels. The smart phones have given a massive boost to virtual shopping, creating a brand new paradigm in the retail sector. In fact, as the online shopping experience improves through better, more scalable and user-friendly platforms, more and more brands are focusing their energies and marketing spend online, given the reach and convenience afforded by smart computing to both consumers and retailers.

3) Enhanced the customer/brand experience. With the use of location-based technology, businesses are now able to use GPS and wireless-network technology to send location-relevant information to mobile devices. Augmented reality apps have given businesses the power to give their customers a more inclusive, interactive and engaging brand experience by overlaying displays of real-world objects with digital information.

4) Improved transparency. Now customers no longer have to go to multiple stores to find information on prices and make competitive decisions. Mobile apps  enable customers to research prices from any location, compare prices from multiple vendors and purchase the product online based on real-time, on-the-go, transparent information. And because customers are now empowered to choose at their own convenience, businesses are pressed to give them the best deal. This increased price transparency and choice has created an atmosphere of dynamic competitive pricing. Because retailers now work on more competitive margins than ever, they have to focus their energies on operational efficiency to protect their bottom line.

5) Created digital cash. As Near Field Communication standards make contactless payment technology interoperable with smart phones, the day is not far away when you won’t have to dig into your wallet to buy anything. This, in fact, is happening as we speak in countries like South Korea and Japan.

Mobility is Trending in Business

InformationWeek 500's profile "20 Great Ideas to Steal" is an interesting indicator of trends in the business adoption of mobility and smart computing. I am particularly impressed by the mobility initiatives of Progressive and FedEx.

Progressive developed an e-commerce system that lets a competing car insurer send customers to Progressive for motorcycle, boat and RV insurance, but keeps Progressive from trying to sell those customers car insurance. Using a service-oriented architecture, Progressive integrated its apps with those of other insurers. The system also lets Progressive carry other insurers' products, so it can sell partners' homeowners insurance.

FedEx SenseAware combines a GPS sensor with a Web-based collaboration platform. With this platform, customers know the location and conditions endured by the sensitive, high-value goods they shipped. Customers put the SenseAware device in a FedEx package and it provides near real-time data on the vital statistics of the contents, including location, temperature and when it was opened or exposed to light. Customers can get alerts when any of those conditions change and share data on their shipments with supply chain partners. FedEx has extended the release of SenseAware to life science customers, such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and health care companies.

With the widespread use of mobility and smart computing, we are currently experiencing a fourth wave of technology innovation. Like all the prior waves of new computing technology, smart computing and mobility are starting out modestly. These technologies are not yet driving rapid growth in technology investment, but both technologies are addressing problems that were previously unsolved. Therefore, they are widely expected to fuel investment in technology. As companies look to align mobile technology with operational and long-term business goals, CIOs need to ensure they have the right expertise to support their implementation and manage successful deployments.