It’s been a great year for innovation in mobile, with brands embracing new technologies to try and find different ways of engaging with consumers.

Location-based services, social tools and augmented reality apps have been among the most prominent trends, and there have also been some interesting developments in mobile payments and m-commerce.

To round-up some of the most impressive examples of mobile innovation from 2012 I asked several brands and agencies for their input. 

Which mobile innovation that you’ve been involved with in 2012 are you most proud of?

Jay Altschuler, global director of media innovation at Unilever:

Our OMO (Persil) team in South Africa partnered with Brandtone to develop an amazing mobile CRM program that drove a 20% uplift in sales and a 3.5x ROI.  

Based on the consumer insight that in this market, mobile minutes are considered the most valuable currency, we created unique codes and put them inside the product packaging.

In exchange for answering a few questions about themselves and their purchase habits they received free talk time, which allowed the OMO brand to develop a direct relationship with our most valuable consumers and be nimble enough to respond in real time based on market conditions.  

We could segment audiences based on their purchase habits and reach them at that critical moment of purchase. A perfect example of data driven marketing. 

This is a brilliant campaign because it is so simple. It also proves that mobile marketing can be easy to execute, isn’t overly technical, can work in any market for any phone and can drive real meaningful results. 

Terence Eden, mobile industry consultant:

QRpedia has gone from strength to strength. We’ve signed up more museums, art galleries, and even some botanic gardens.  

The global reach and positive customer feedback has staggered us. We’re moving cultural institutions and Wikipedia closer together – and that makes me feel very proud.

Olivier Ropars, senior director of mobile at eBay:

Technology, and particularly mobile, have become catalysts for growth and have changed the way that we shop for good. Consumers now carry a global store in their pocket allowing them to shop anytime, anywhere.

Our research shows that consumers are now checking their mobiles around 40 times a day, and on eBay UK, an item is purchased every second through a mobile device.

Last year we supported $5bn in purchases on mobile devices – and we expect that number to double in 2012, to $10bn. So as a business, we’re constantly looking at new ways to test and evolve our mobile offering.

2012 has marked a number of developments for eBay in m-commerce. We built image recognition in to our eBay Fashion and eBay Motors apps, allowing consumers to virtually search for the items they want by uploading a picture through their mobile device.

It puts more control in the hands of consumers, helping them to make more informed buying decisions.

We began trialling a Click and Collect service through the eBay mobile app. And we simplified our selling flow on iPhone and Android, to make it even easier for sellers to list on eBay.

Adam Levene, CSO at Grapple:

At Grapple, we’re really proud of Halifax Home Finder, a property companion app to help people find and buy a home.

The app is not only one of the first genuinely useful applications of augmented reality (AR), but it firmly establishes Halifax as an innovative, challenger brand; the original client brief.

Tim Dunn, director of mobile strategy at Isobar:

To be honest, most of the bigger more jaw-dropping stuff I’ve been doing this year won’t see light of day until next year, so I can’t really reveal yet, but there are a couple of humdingers coming up.

Probably my favourite one though shows that small can sometimes be beautiful. I worked with my team, especially @joelblackmore, to develop an awesome microsite for Toyota GT86.

We really wanted to push the boat out and deliver a brand experience that matches the GT86. This QR code links to our favourite page.

Maani Safa, global innovation director at Somo:

I think that up to this point, the mobile innovations I’m most proud of include the work we’ve done for Audi. The iPad app we produced for the Audi A3 has a superb 360° visualiser which uses the iPad’s gyroscope function to show the car’s interior from every angle so you feel like you’re sat in the driver’s seat looking at the car.

And we included an ‘on your drive’ augmented reality section so users can resize and rotate the car to see how it would look parked on at home. All-in-all a pretty cool app for Audi fans.

The rich media advertising we’ve done for them has also been great. We’ve been creating contextual, luxury and innovative mobile marketing including interstitials, weather contextual ads and 360 degree interior shots.

These have had a significant effect both for brand engagement and for performance metrics.

Luc Jonker, chairman and CEO at Intrasonics:

The innovation we’re most proud of is the packaging of our audio watermarking technology for second screen apps into a really easy to use software development kit for app developers, broadcasters and TV production companies.

Of all the projects we’ve been involved in, the one we are most proud of has to be Channel 4’s Facejacker companion app, developed by Widebeam Digital and Hat Trick.

It was the first time a major UK broadcaster used audio watermark triggers to control the behaviour of a second screen app for a large public audience and used its pre-show ads to encourage the audience to run a companion app while watching a show.

In the case of Facejacker, the watermark triggers inserted at special points in each episode unlocked extra bonus comedy content within the Facejacker app. The more episodes each viewer watched, the more they were rewarded with bonus content.

What is the best mobile innovation you’ve seen this year that you weren’t involved in?

Jay Altschuler:

Unilever has ambitions to double the size of our business whilst halving our environmental impact. And we believe data driven marketing will allow us to become more connected with our consumers to ultimately deliver on this ambition.  

To that end, I love the Fiat Ecodrive program, which is a great example of harnessing the power of data to drive sustainability. 

Fiat built an in car analytics that fed data to a mobile application based on the way the owner was driving the car.

The application told the consumer how much CO2 and money they were saving as well as giving them handy tips about how to drive even more economically for their pocket and for the environment moving forward.

Consumers could see how they were doing versus other people on a leaderboard and post their results to Facebook and Twitter.

People who used the service saved 500EURO a year which resulted in less emissions and also saved money.

Terence Eden:

Two factor authentication apps have really taken off this year. Security is getting serious as people realise just how much of their digital life is protected by “p4ssw0rd1”.  

Gmail and DropBox have pioneered these services and pushed them into the hands of security conscious users – as opposed to paranoid businesses.

Olivier Ropars:

I really liked Sainsbury’s trial of its Mobile Scan & Go service, that lets customers scan items as they shop using their smartphone, and pay at the till all without having to unload their bags.

This is a giant step forward in using mobile to improve the customer journey and drive efficiencies for retailers in-store.

Adam Levene:

It’s been a fantastic year for mobile innovation, but one notable product is Nike FuelBand.

We’re not only fascinated by the hybridisation of mobile technology and the human body, but from a brand perspective how the product is essentially “digitising” the athlete and evolving a traditional, non-digital business.

Tim Dunn, director of mobile strategy at Isobar

I think I liked most the Muppets augmented reality plasters from Band-Aid.

They answered a really human need, like the best mobile innovation should, and nicely blurred the line between marketing and product.

Maani Safa:

In terms of best mobile innovation we weren’t involved with, I’d probably pick the progression of mobile triggers – augmented reality has come a long way from black borders and we’re starting to see how TV and mobile can work together.

Dual screen triggers and the introduction of high frequency audio triggers outside of the living room will provide a really innovative platform for out of home, event and in store activity and has already provided some excellent proof of concepts for our clients.

In terms of apps, Hailo has been one of my most used apps this year and I really admire they way they’ve solved a real problem using the latest tech.

Hailo works for cabbies and passengers alike, making the whole process of finding a cab a million times easier and more pleasant. A really innovative business.

Luc Jonker:

The most remarkable innovation we’ve seen this year lies right at the intersection of toys and mobile apps for kids. It’s called ToyTalk and its only just coming out of stealth mode.

Founded by Oren Jacob, ex-CTO at Pixar, ToyTalk is a combination of a cuddly bear and a very smart iPad app with conversational AI.

Their stated mission is to create entertainment powered by characters and conversation. The idea is to enable a child to talk to an AI version of the bear in the app.

It could be as simple as asking the bear to read a bedtime story, but the really exciting thing is the possibility of a truly convincing two-way conversation between the child and the toy.