I have been taking a look the the mobile banking space as it relates to CRM for financial institutions. Many major banks offer mobile solutions today and often cite mobile technology as their top innovation initiative. Expect the growth will continue alongside rising smartphone popularity, younger consumers’ spending, and comfort with mobile payment systems. American consumers have nearly doubled mobile banking use in the eighteen months prior to October 2010.

ClairMail caught my attention as the early leader. The company offers a mobile banking and payments platform that is in use at 8 of the top 12 US banks. There is a pretty good chance your bank uses ClairMail’s technology. The platform offers messaging, mobile web and smart client applications which provides 100% mobile coverage. Interestingly, the mobile phone is more secure than a web transaction and gives the bank and customer, real-time, actionable alerts and notifications. This ticks 3 big CRM boxes, acquisition, retention and conversation. Because of these capabilities the company has been successful in deploying at those 8 banks as well. 800% increase in customer adoption for their clients is truly impressive. Joe Salesky, Chairman, Founder & CSO has stated often that the challenge is to determine, “How can you (the bank) expand a relationship, when you have very little interaction with this customer (the bank customer)?”

The banks are ready and the customers of those banks seem to be ready. The company has a strong first-mover advantage. I would expect a shake-out of the space in the next 12-24 months. It remains to be seen; however, if this technology can adapt to lower cost footprints like the cloud. Banks are understandably fanatical about security. They may not have any interest in moving to the cloud.

ClairMail recently released fraud management product to more quickly identify fraudulent transactions. This is a very interesting company and one to watch. Check the TechCrunch article: Clairmail Brings Fraud Management To Mobile Banking Technology.

Great read on the future of mobile payments. I have been digging into this area lately and will have more on the subject soon.

iSmashPhone:5 Reasons Mobile Payments Will Become the Norm

Updated: November 28
Another good read on the space as competition heats up: WSJ Phone Firms Make Mobile-Payment Contact

Reading bar codes with mobile phones is very popular in Japan. It has yet to catch on in the rest of the world. Interesting read at the Economist on the topic. I have spent a decent chunk of time researching and prototyping QR Codes for use on mobile devices. When it works it is very cool. It does not work all the time. Even open source QR Codes and EZcodes have limitations. The real problem is the devices themselves. Third party providers cannot work on any and all devices that supports a camera. There are just too many phone/carrier/operating system combinations and permutations to do so profitably, and every new phone adds to the matrix. Third party application providers, like ScanLife, claim they work on 80% of phones. Naturally, ScanLife only just recently added support for my Samsung Epix that has a 320 x 320 screen. Device issues are only going to become more complex in the future; however, the camera technology that will allow for better scans will improve.

Interestingly ScanLife used to support QR Codes, but current versions do not. They use their proprietary ScanLife format. More formats, mean more issues and yet another dimension to the phone/carrier/operating system matrix.

Economist: Snap it, click it, use it

Microsoft to mobile developers: Your app is worth more than 99¢

The business model of 99 cent applications is not good for application developers. There are many other issues with the iPhone development. It is refreshing to see another vendor take it on. Competition is good. Check the above link from TechFlash.

With all the furor of the Google Voice iPhone app situation going on. I have had a few conversations about people wanting to port iPhone apps to other platforms mainly, Android and Windows Mobile. Going cross-carrier and platform seems to be the goal. Easier said than done especially depending on the app.

Check this case study: Ready to Port your iPhone App to Windows Mobile?

Most mobile applications are content based. Personally, I would like to see less content specific applications and more applications that solve existing problems (i.e. cross-platform, carrier) with mobile devices. Having researched the space, I understand why most developers choose to go with a content based application. Application development is not easy to begin with and the phone technology will change. Now it appears that a king of content, Amazon (Disclosure: The wife is an employee) is blocking mobile applications from using their content, or rather more actively enforcing its own existing rules. Amazon is defending its turf. Expect no less from any content provider.

Expect to see more of this strategy from large content owners. Seriously think about any type of content dependencies before you build that next, great mobile application. Check TechCrunch: Amazon Killing Mobile Apps That Use Its Data for more details.

Happy Tuesday.

Solid read at the New York Times: Apps Are Booming as Companies Seek a Place on Your Phone. No surprise that apps are booming. This trend has been happening since the iPhone App Store was announced. A closed platform on one network with limited hardware versions gives the developer a tremendous advantage. Developing cross-platform and cross-carrier is extremely difficult if only because of the myriad of certifications required on each carrier network. After certifications the complexity can actually grow depending on the application. The App Store has caused carriers (including ATT Wireless) and handset makers to scramble and re-brand their existing “app stores”. ATT Media Net? Nokia’s Ovi? Just to name 2. Every major carrier and handset maker has announced their own “app store” initiative. None are likely to capture the development community’s attention they way the iPhone App Store has.

Jenna Wortham’s article features local Seattle iPhone App Store success story UrbanSpoon. I certainly congratulate UrbanSpoon on their success. First they created one of the killer apps for iPhone and then sold their bootstrapped startup to IAC. They have an enviable position. Personally, I would like to see less content specific applications and more applications that solve existing problems (i.e. cross-platform, carrier) with mobile devices. Try sharing a vCard from a non-iPhone to an iPhone. This type of problem is only going to grow as mobile devices become more complex.

Interesting read over at Ars Technica: Canonical developers aim to make Android apps run on Ubuntu.

As computers get smaller and phones become more functional, it seems to be a natural step to run the same applications on multiple devices. Interesting that this would start in the Linux domain given Microsoft’s huge head start and Apple’s closed environment advantage. This trend would be great for developers as the article points out.