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The Good Thing About A Recession ....; ... is that it will no doubt encourage far more meaningful wireless applications. Stay tuned.


March 1, 2009  


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Here we are, in the newer, slower economy. I guess it is okay to use the “R-word”: even the wireless sector, which for more than a decade has been hotter than a blast furnace in July, is feeling the aches and pains of this recession. Sales are slowing as Canadians decide that, hey, that phone they bought last year still works just fine.

But there is good news in this too. Just as some of the best legislation is a product of minority governments, I predict recessionary times will spur on the development of some of the best wireless applications we have seen in ages — because a market that is more critical in its spending decisions will force those vendors in the wireless world to work harder to deliver truly useful services.

From an industry observer’s perspective, I expect to see fewer announcements of “revolutionary” advances that turn out to be trivial. Yes, many in the industry will still obsess about introducing fun applications like ring tones and games that add little in terms of lasting value, but we should also see more services that fulfill real needs, because only those that do will attract those now-constrained corporate telecom and IT dollars.

Smarter healthcare: Here is a really great example of a wireless application that does just that. Earlier this year, IBM and the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada (VON) announced a two-year, $10 million agreement that is going to improve how the VON delivers home and community health care services.

This agreement includes an assortment of behind the scenes improvements to help VON better manage its human resources, accounting and other requirements.

But most excitingly, it will also put mobile devices into the hands of hundreds of the VON’s home healthcare providers so they can schedule appointments and manage electronic health records in real time.

In announcing this agreement, IBM and VON did not provide specific examples of how these devices will improve health care but it is easy to imagine the possibilities. For example, a nurse visits a patient at home to change a dressing and notices signs of a potential infection.

With technology like this at her disposal, she can arrange an on-the- spot consultation with a doctor, and, by streaming video of the infected area, enable the consulting physician to make a diagnosis and prescribe a course of treatment.

Meanwhile, the nurse could download information to share with the patient about how to keep the infected area clean and promote healing.

Smarter spending: It is important to note that in addition to the primary goal of improving healthcare delivery, projects like this can reduce costs in a sector that requires enormous amounts of money to function.

The most recent federal budget includes $500 million just to digitize health records, a necessary and long-overdue step, but that is only the tip of the healthcare iceberg. Go ahead: Google “Canada healthcare spending” and look at the stack of reports and warnings that turn up about how much we are spending on health.

A report from the Fraser Institute last October warned that by 2036, provinces will spend more than 50% of their revenue on health care.

In a report released in November, the Canadian Institute for Health Information predicted that health care spending in this country in 2008 would outpace inflation to reach a new record of $171.9 billion once all the receipts were added up.

As the Canadian population ages, demand for home health care is going to increase, making it ever more imperative to find ways — as VON and IBM are doing — to leverage mobile technology to improve delivery of services and manage costs.

This kind of partnership demonstrates the real potential of wireless to transform essential services. As Canadians demand that health care and other publicly funded sectors do more with less, I expect to see more announcements like this.

Meanwhile, for private enterprise and for individuals, the questions should be: What compelling wireless services do I need? And who can provide them?

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‘Just as some of the best legislation is a product of minority governments, I predict recessionary times will spur on the development of some of the best wireless applications we have seen in ages.