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If you're a tech investor, you already know the impact of mobile technology on almost everything it touches. But some investors may not see how mobile is impacting everything from retail sales to the auto industry. If you're an investor of almost any kind, mobile will -- or already has -- changed the way companies run their business.
Much more than apps and mobile sites
Talking about mobile and investing conjures up trendy devices with apple silhouettes glowing on the back of them (and with good reason), but mobile technology touches on almost all industries. Let's take a look at a few examples of how mobile is impacting retail, the automotive industry, and manufacturing.
Mobile has transformed the way retailers approach advertising, and how they interact with their customers. During the 2012 Black Friday weekend, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) posted 50 million mobile Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) ads over a 72-hour period. The ads were displayed on tens of millions of Facebook news feeds. During that time, the Arkansas-based company received over 100,000 comments (some negative, obviously) from the mobile postings and gained 164,000 additional new likes on its Facebook page.
But those numbers aren't the most impressive thing from Wal-Mart's mobile push over the holiday. During that 72-hour period, Wal-Mart shifted its Facebook ads to focus on products that weren't selling that well. Because of the flexibility of Facebook's mobile ads, Wal-Mart sold out of many products that would otherwise have remained on store shelves. Wal-Mart directly benefited from the real-time mobile ad flexibility by increasing ads for a product when they noticed it wasn't selling as well as they anticipated. Wal-Mart's focus on mobile ad spending may have helped Facebook as well. The tech company, which has previously had a hard time with mobile, saw mobile ads account for 23% of its total ad revenue this past quarter, compared to 14% in the previous quarter. Though retail advertising may be an expected way to integrate mobile into a business, there are plenty of companies thinking outside of the box.
The automotive industry has caught the mobile bug and has been working its tail off for the past few years to incorporate mobile technology into its vehicles. Just a few days ago, General Motors (NYSE: GM ) announced it would roll out 4G LTE connectivity to many of its 2015 models for its Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands. High-speed wireless Internet connections in vehicles allow car manufacturers like GM to offer new infotainment offerings like rear-passenger video streaming, Wi-Fi hotspots, and future updates for vehicle software.
Wi-Fi-enabled cars have been around for a few years, but the level of wireless connectivity future vehicles will have is monumental. The real future for mobile in vehicles won't come from entertainment offerings, though, it will come from vehicle-to-vehicle communication, or V2V. This type of mobile communication between cars will allow them to share vehicle data like speed and location in order to calculate how likely a collision is if the factors within the scenario aren't changed. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration released a report back in 2010 stating that V2V communication could address about 4.5 million police-reported accidents.
Car-to-car communication is only one way mobile is changing machine communication, though. The manufacturing industry is beginning to shift toward what GE (NYSE: GE ) calls the "industrial Internet." GE is looking ahead to machines that communicate wirelessly with each to share information, and inform workers when they need to be fixed before they breakdwon. This is what many have dubbed the "Internet of Things" where devices are capable of real-time communication and manufacturing efficiencies are optimized. According to Compass Intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, called M2M, is expected to grow from about 30 million connections right now to over 116 million by the end of 2016. GE believes it can save the airline, railroad, manufacturing, health care, and other industries $150 billion by using M2M communication.
The mobile investor
With mobile technology impacting so many industries, investors need to keep an eye on whether or not the companies they invest in are shifting their attention to mobile trends. Focusing on mobile technologies may seem like an obvious step for companies right now, but even Microsoft fumbled its shift to mobile several years ago -- and it's a technology company.
GE is one of the largest companies well positioned to benefit from the move to M2M because it's already implementing Internet-connected machines in its manufacturing processes. The company already has nine technologies onboard with M2M connectivity, with 20 more coming on board this year. The company's massive size gives it an advantage to implement new technology across a vast array of industries, with the potential to increase manufacturing productivity while saving billions in efficiency processes.
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