The key themes this year at MWC are the Internet of Things (IoT or Internet of Everything), Wearables, Personalised consumer experiences based on big data, 5G, Adtech, Analytics, Privacy, Security and the big device launches.
I’ve been spending the last couple of days guiding people through the enormous halls of MWC and this is what you need to know.
Internet of Things
MWC has four key themes/areas around IoT:
- Consumer devices/electronics connected to the Internet at home or anywhere else where they might be useful
- Connected cars
- Connected infrastructure and devices in public spaces and enterprises
- Infrastructure solutions to manage connected devices
Generally most of the exhibitions were of (2) to (4) with connected cars from Audi, Porsche, etc., examples of how IoT is used to cut energy costs in connected cities through smart grids and hundreds of companies offering software and cloud solutions to manage IoT devices. The only exception was the connected toothbrush from 2014.
The main reason for the absence of consumer devices is that most of these are by startups that are still in their infancy or by companies like Sonos that doesn’t place itself in the mobile industry.
Everybody talks about wearables but few people, even at an industry event like MWC, is wearing one. All the device manufacturers have smartwatches and health bands in their stands and there are also lots of companies that we’ve never heard of before offering wearables. What excites us the most however are the specialist wearable devices such as Garmin for extreme sports.
Personalised Consumer Experiences
Everybody talks about it but few consumer-oriented companies actually do it very well (except maybe Amazon). IBM talks about Watsons, the operators are talking about how their customer data can be used to personalise the customer experience and target offers, the telecom network manufacturers are selling these benefits for the equipment and services and the consultants are talking about how they can support with the strategy and execution. One of our predictions for this year is that we will start seeing the results of some of these initiatives but it’s still early days as it requires a lot of testing to perfect.
It’s not agreed yet exactly what it is, but everyone wants to leverage the marketing buzz of 5G. The only thing all the vendors and operators seem to agree on is that we need better and deeper network coverage, more bandwidth, support for an exponential increase in devices, better utilisation of spectrum and lower latency. And hopefully that’s exactly what 5G will do. In the meantime we’ve got at least another 5-10 years for 4G / LTE to continue to improve and serve these needs.
AdTech & Analytics
Last year the growth in mobile advertising was close to 100% (and is still growing like never before), but advertising spend is still far behind when you look at how much more time people spend on their mobiles. When companies do spend money on mobile advertising they want to make sure they are getting return on their investment, which is why there are more and more specialized analytics providers at this year’s MWC. We thought this sector had reached is peak, but it’s continuing to develop with the help of more niche analytics tools. SK Telecom showed off interactive billboards that change content based on the audience in front of it. This will potentially change the whole way ad targeting in a physical space looks like today.
Security & Privacy
Everyone wants to give their employees access to company data, but they are very worried about the security when opening up use of company platforms. The ones that give access often add such a high number of authentication layers that it soon becomes impossible to use. We spotted some new ways of getting around this which were quite interesting. Examples include eye recognition (not using the iris, but the blood veins in your eye this time) which only required a 1 megapixel camera to work. Interesting for banks and other entities that operate all around the world with different maturity levels when it comes to devices.
As for privacy, we were constantly tracked while on the show room floor. By using the event app, the MWC organizer can presumably actually pinpoint your location down to 3-5 meters. In theory they will be able to see how each visitor using the app is moving around, which stands s/he spends the most time at and or the time it takes you to finish the sandwich you have for lunch. Whether this is a good or bad thing we’ll leave unsaid for now. Hopefully the data can be leveraged to create an even richer experience for next year’s event!
Big Device Launches
For all the big device launches this year, make sure to check out our previous blog post.