5 Things CIOs and CDOs Need to Know About Pokémon GO

Disclaimer: I was never part of the Pokémon craze back in the 1990s nor have I actually played Pokémon GO (the Guardian has a good Pokémon GO 101 guide here), however like many I’ve felt and seen the phenomenon both virtually in social media, and physically with people wandering around streets with their phones trying to capture them.

Because Pokémon GO involves a lot of SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud), and tons of data – topics I’m constantly immersed in given my role as CMO at Reltio – I have a few observations to which may help CIOs and CDOs.

#5. Security risk via BYOD or casual access via personal devices

If you have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, or employees occasionally accessing corporate data from their own devices, Pokémon GO increases the risk of security breach, data loss and intrusion.

One of the security or privacy holes that was uncovered involves permissions being granted to Google emails, docs and other areas by unsuspecting Pokémon players, when they used their iPhones and Google user accounts to authorize and play the game. While this issue has been addressed through an update by the game creator Niantic, to now collect only "basic" info like user ID and email address, anyone who previously downloaded the app will have to update it for it to take effect.

If you have employees who are outside the US or in geographies where Pokémon GO is not yet available, there are reports of “evil” APKs (Android Application Packages) that enable game play through “sideloading” which loads apps outside of the official app store. These apps could potentially spy on or gain access to data.

While the risks presented by Pokémon GO aren’t unusual as compared to any other popular application, its global phenomenon and ubiquity, coupled with increasing BYOD, and personal device access to corporate something that CIOs should be aware of. Not to mention theft of devices from thieves apparently laying in wait at locations.

#4. Data monetization could exceed in-app purchases in value

According to Sensor Tower, a company that tracks app usage, Pokémon GO had 10M+ downloads within the first week of launch and is now generating more revenue than any other iPhone app in the US. While Pokémon GO doesn’t charge a subscription fee, it offers in app purchases such as Poké Balls used in battle.

Oddly Nintendo, whose stock soared shortly after the release may benefit the least from these purchases. Estimates have it that out of the purchase price of 100 Pokéballs, Pokémon 30 would go to Apple, 30 to Niantic the company behind the game, 30 to Pokémon and 10 to Nintendo. Nintendo does own 32% of Pokémon company, and Google does have an investment in Niantic, having spun it out last year.

But the interesting thought which might make CDOs sit up and pay attention, is that the value in the game in the short term may come from the in-app purchases, the data being gathered (even after alleviating Google account identity concerns) may be significantly more valuable.

Geospatial data captured about a player’s location at a specific time has tremendous value for advertisers and can be analyzed to offer services. Similarly images captured from the augmented reality could be used to build up a library, similar to Google Street view, or other as yet untapped purposes. But much of this data may be unusable, unless it can be accurately correlated to other elements of a user’s 360-degree profile, and levels of privacy are respected and addressed.

Again this “latent” data captured during the course of mobile phone usage is already happening today, and Pokémon GO just serves to magnify the data collection at scale. Enterprise CDO’s tasked with thinking about how to monetize their own corporate data assets within their industry first need to ensure that their data is clean and reliable, with privacy, audit and licensing controls before attempting this at home.

#3. Gamefication drives activity with expected and unexpected results

It’s been written that Pokémon GO is the perfect storm of nostalgia (for millennials who grew up with Pokémon), competitive spirit, social interaction, and a desire in us all to just immerse ourselves in something fun. Intentionally or not, Pokémon GO has actually gotten people exercising, moving around and engaging with the outside world. Because of the varied locations, people have been walking more than they have in a long time, even jumping as directed to play the game. Others have used driving services like Uber in an attempt to move around their area in a safe manner, while the lazy (and resourceful) are using drones to do their Pokémon GO hunting. With every new craze, good and bad things can result. Gamers have reported being robbed, and even finding dead bodies when searching.

In a traditional business setting, something that can motivate, inspire and deliver excitement and gratification at a personal level would be refreshing. New data-driven applications provide the framework for social collaboration, and even gamefication (points or rewards) as individuals and teams can compete on tasks from improving data quality, to providing feedback and insight into the strength of hidden relationships between people, products, organizations and more. As CDOs look to rally everyone across the enterprise to help govern, manage, and enrich data as a valuable asset, such concepts can play a big motivational role.

#2. Cloud and elastic compute is critical to handle spikes in demand 

Even with the well publicized and documented value of public cloud and cloud computing, many remain unconvinced by the inherent value of public cloud. There are business reasons why companies due to real or imagined security concerns, are not ready or willing to adopt public cloud such as AWS, but the benefits of elasticity in both compute and storage are hard to ignore.

Besides being a cost effective way to dial-up and dial-down usage as needed, without incurring CAPEX costs, and having to constantly replace aging hardware, and migrating to new software releases, having the resources and backing of a public cloud entity such as AWS helps avoid the outages due to server overload that can disappoint customers, and lead to attrition. In a playful, yet poignant tweet Werner Vogels AWS’ CTO offered to help Niantic with their server issues while simultaneously complementing the game by showing his participation.

Continuous uptime and handling scalability spikes are just a small fraction of the benefits. Those mired in on-premise software are stuck upgrading once a year or longer, while multi-tenant platform and applications continuously deliver zero impact upgrades 3 times a year or more, giving companies the highest level of competitive advantage. 

#1. Simple, easy to use UX drives engagement

Pokémon GO’s success can also be attributed to a low learning curve. Like Facebook, LinkedIn and other mobile and intuitive applications, no training, or formal tutorials are required to play and participate. 

Continuous feedback through alerts and notifications when characters appear or are nearby, keep the user engaged, and as a cousin of gamefication, UIs that show Pokémons captured ensure gratification and encourages continued engagement.

Today’s business applications need to evolve into their data-driven consumer brethren that are mobile, easy-to-use, and responsive. Notably Pokémon GO launched on both, iOS and Android at the same time, this is also a prelude to the expectations of business users who expect access to their data, anytime, anywhere and from any device.

Increasingly “smart” data-driven applications that use the vast amount of data accumulated can also deliver Apple Siri or Amazon “Alexa” like recommendations, truly helping the business user beyond just capturing and returning back data as entered by users. 

One parting thought around Pokémon GO is the obvious question of when augmented and virtual reality will enter the business realm. Pokémon GO overlays characters on the screen in the location and setting, which could just be a precursor to the introduction of business UI in industries where a high-degree of immersion can be beneficial.

As ever thanks for reading and whether you’re a CIO, CDO or an avid player, here’s a guide to the 10 most rare and hardest to catch Pokémons.