I do think I have a bit of a problem — I seem to be about a donkey’s whisker away from flying off the handle in outrage, annoyance and frustration when it comes to the mobile marketplace.
Last night if you were following my tweets, you’ll have noted my ‘shit, I need a dentist’ messages. The first thing I did after realising this need was recognising that I’d have to do the sodding work for myself — that is, go and find a 24-hour dentist, phone them up, check there’s space for me, try and locate the nearest one, etc. I blamed the mobile industry — I should be able to query basic things like local dental or medical availability real-time from my handset.
Quite a few people replied pointing out that it wasn’t mobile technology to blame — it was stupid dentists for not surfacing their locations/availability/services into some kind of API that could be queried. Fair point. It’s a fundamental failure of the industry though. We are, it seems, at least 5-10 years away from me being able to book a dental appointment through a real-time auction of locally available assets.
When I say it’s a failure of the industry, fundamentally I mean the operators. They are too busy dicking about rearranging their calling price plans to squeeze an extra 16p out of me every month to recognise that, last night, at 7pm, I’d have paid them 50 pounds to have been able to locate and book a dental appointment there-and-then. The operator would also have been able to take a commission from the dentist too. But no.
“This isn’t their primary business!” Hundreds will cry.
Of course not. But it’s a good second-tier service business that would support the operator’s… Oh I can’t be bothered even writing it out, it’s so patently simple. Why isn’t there a Vodafone LifeTools service that I subscribe to for a fiver a month offering me real-time stuff like this, when I really need it? If Voda jumped into the market and started originating demand for emergency dental, medical, plumbing and locksmith services, they could do some damage.
But as we know, the standard operator viewpoint is that they couldn’t innovate themselves out of a wet paper bag. Which is why Google, Apple and a host of third party independents are busy treating the operators like the bit-pipes they so clearly wish to be.
Which brings me to today’s bollocks experience at Ascot railway station. I didn’t even bother running for the train as I saw it pull in. Because I thought the queue at the ticket office would have made it pointless.
I was correct.
As the train had pulled away I wasn’t surprised to see a line or plebs queued up, credit cards in hand. Nowadays it seems to take 30-seconds minimum for a credit card transaction to complete — which is highly frustrating when you’re in the queue willing it to move quicker. I try and do my transactions really fast however others seem to be quite happy to plod along.
I used cash this morning and my total transaction time was, I reckon, 8 seconds. I slowly counted in my head.
Why do I have to do this? I could have ran for the train but then I’d be subject to possible buffoonery at the other end when I arrived without a ticket. I’d most probably be fined. Explaining “there was a queue” would, I suspect, not excuse the fine.
I’m happy to pay: I just want it faster, more seamless. I don’t mind using an Oyster card but that doesn’t work out of London. I just want this done. Dicking about with paper tickets is highly annoying.
Enter Masabi. The chaps there have developed some phenomenal mobile ticketing technology. Chiltern Railways deployed it a little while ago. Kudos Chiltern. With the Masabi-developed app, you can buy your ticket in a few taps and even use the resulting QR code to get through the ticket barriers.
What about the other railway companies in the UK? I’ve no doubt Masabi are busy pushing them. Meanwhile I am being exposed daily to this 18th Century ‘paper ticket’ model and I am finding it highly frustrating.
I do have to wonder why one of the big operators hasn’t snapped up Masabi or done a licensing deal to help push the market forward. Why can’t they all band together so that if you’re a contract customer, buying a train ticket is fully integrated into the device? One would imagine the railway companies would be receptive to a five-way operator consortium wanting to make life better and faster for their customers (and, take a slice of profits obviously).
But no. The operators will largely be sticking to the tried and tested formula of tinkering with the price plans.
I’m being far too forward thinking. Far too open minded. Far too ‘rose-tinted’, right?
Meanwhile keep at it Masabi. I will try and keep my frustrations in check every time I have to buy paper tickets, stand in inane queues and carry cash in the mornings to buy my tickets faster.