Smartphones Meet Remote Control in the Cloud: The Channel Opportunity

By Pedro Pereira  |  Print this article Print

Developers have created apps that enable smartphone users to remotely control lights in industrial or commercial buildings, take orders at restaurants, or make payments. Here's a look at the opportunity for the channel.

At a recent family function, I noticed one of my cousins at one point fiddling with his smartphone, looking as if he was about to devour the display. Ever the helpful relative, I wasted no time schooling him on the etiquette of ignoring the people around you to mess with your smartphone.

We both laughed at my faux lesson in politesse, and then he told me he was turning on the lights at his place of work, a shopping mall some 70 miles away. As it happens, the lights are on a timer but occasionally he is asked to turn them on at off times for one reason or another. Lucky for him, he can do so through his smartphone.

Three days later, I was talking to a solution provider about the use of smart mobile devices to access POS systems. A restaurant or store manager can use an iPhone or Blackberry app to check daily or weekly specials, review sales reports or view alerts.

Mobile devices, in fact, are finding plenty of uses in restaurants. Servers can use them to take orders and patrons to pay their bills so they never have to hand over a credit card. The technology is already available, and it shouldn’t be long before we start seeing it in our favorite dining spots.

Meanwhile, for those of us who get frustrated at the number of remote control devices we have to keep by the couch just to watch TV, help is already available through smart mobile devices. Downloadable, customizable apps turn your iPhone into a universal control device, allowing you to put away all the single-device remotes littering your coffee table.

In time, it’s safe to conclude that remote control will be available through smartphones for a staggering array of day-to-day and business-related electronic functions, from reading utility meters in your front yards to turning off the lights at a stadium following a sporting event or rock concert.

The implications for the IT channel, of course, are far-ranging. What is making so many of these functions available through smart devices is the same phenomenon that is transforming solution providers’ businesses – the cloud. Without cloud computing, some functions would be either prohibitively expensive or altogether unavailable.

Cloud computing and mobility go hand in hand. Which makes infinite sense when you think about it since, clouds – the real vapor kind – are mobile, after all.

But discussions of cumulus and cirrus clouds aside, any solution provider investigating cloud computing opportunities should also keep an eye on the potential for business generated by the marriage of remote control and mobile computing. Clients are bound to be just as intrigued about the possibilities of remote control through their mobile devices as they are about cloud computing itself.

Their users, accustomed to relying on their smartphones for myriad purposes, will want to use the same devices to handle work-related functions. A manager will want the flexibility of being able to access a report during off hours without having to drive into the office or firing up the laptop. Likewise, a maintenance worker will welcome the convenience of turning on or off the AC or heating system in an office on a Saturday from the comfort of his living room – or from a family function somewhere.

Solution providers who offer their clients the technology and services that allow them this kind of flexibility, mobility and convenience have a leg up on the competition. As sure as the earth will continue to rotate on its axis, business users will demand this functionality.

And that’s just one more reason for solution providers to jump on the cloud if you haven’t already done so. Meanwhile, if you see a relative pull out a smartphone during dinner or cocktail party, don’t be too quick to assume the person is being rude. He or she may actually be doing something useful.


Pedro Pereira is a columnist for Channel Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at pedrocolumn@gmail.com.