Attendees flocked to yet another Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this month, attracted by the buzz of new devices, new technologies, and new business opportunities. This year 108,000 registered attendees and 2,300 exhibitors contributed to that buzz.
While the new devices themselves drew much attention, the full impact of these new toys lies in what is done with them. Some of the opportunities on display reflected what I started to see as a Marvelesque duel of good versus evil. Here are a few examples.
It's Time To Put Mobility To Good
Yes, some are for entertainment purposes only but many hold the potential to “do good.” GSM Association (GSMA) promotes the use of mobile technologies to advance the UN sustainability goals. GSMA’s Big Data For Social Good (BDSG) initiative seeks to leverage the networks of 16 operators and 2 billion connections across 100 countries. That might be using the data for analytics and insights on how to improve provide financial services to the unbanked or extend health services to remote rural areas or to better protect marine mammals. Examples of these solutions on the show floor included:
Recently, the largest annual get together of the mobile industry, Mobile World Congress (MWC) took place in Barcelona. In my opinion, the biggest themes at MWC in 2017 that are relevant for enterprise customers were the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), platforms, collaboration, and connectivity. These themes underline how mobility is becoming part of the broader digital transformation initiative. I discuss this shift in this separate blog and report. MWC provided several valuable insights for business and technology leaders to align their mobile to their digital strategies:
-> Not everything that claims to be AI is true AI. Many vendors that claimed during MWC to be AI-proficient are in fact able to deliver true machine-learning solutions to generate transformative customer and operational insights. Most solutions that were branded as AI at MWC rely on preprogrammed responses and statistics rather than machine learning.
This year’s big technology themes at Mobile World Congress (MWC) can be summarized as big data, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR). These themes will be important for B2B players and especially for revolutionizing customer experiences, optimizing industrial and operational processes, and boosting service enhancements. My recently published report, “Brief: Observations From Mobile World Congress That Will Shape Your B2B Digital Transformation,” summarizes our observations from MWC 2016 and the key takeaways for developing B2B digital transformation strategies. We observed that:
The main MWC themes are increasingly intertwined. VR and AR will enhance user experiences on mobile devices and expand mobile moments. Big data will provide context-based, and more relevant, insights and use cases — including for VR and AR solutions.
Mobile data is driving digital customer experience. Enterprise apps are increasingly integrated with business processes. In turn, enterprise apps help generate data-derived insights from mobile objects and devices. This will help transcend app silos to generate a single view of the customer who benefits from a better end-to-end user experience.
Bigger is not necessarily better. MWC feels near its zenith in terms of visitor numbers and industry impact. In 2016, nearly 101,000 attendees from 204 countries made it to MWC — more than ever. Yet, for business users MWC still falls short of translating mobility into tangible business benefits for digital transformation.
More than 100,000 people descended on Barcelona, Spain last week to be part of Mobile World Congress (MWC), one of the world’s largest annual technology events. My new report,IoT And Insights Are Two Sides Of The Same Coin, recaps some of the MWC 2016, including expectations for new 5G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), and applications that will deliver value from the multitude of connected things — and people. A few of those highlights include:
5G Networks Promise Speed But Require Patience.
Telecom operators and network equipment providers eagerly discussed the faster speeds and lower latency of new 5G networks. And, fast it will be. While reports vary, network tests show download speeds peaking at more than 20 Gbps; average 5G speed is expected to be 100 times faster than current 4G networks. With that kind of speed, true video streaming becomes a reality for consumer and business uses. And, that reality can be with virtual or augmented: AR and VR were all over the exhibit hall. I successfully fought with a dragon but had to bail out of the helicopter I was flying as the experience got a little too real.
But alas, these good things only come to those who wait. The 5G standards will not be finalized before 2018; and commercial availability not before 2020 at the earliest. Large-scale network rollouts will likely take much longer. For now, we’ll all have to live with 4G reality as it is.
Interest In The Internet Of Things Is Exploding – Well Beyond Things.
After experiencing some of the most exhausting days in the life of a “mobile” analyst, I am back from Barcelona. Here are my key takeaways from the 2016 event.
MWC 2016's "Mobile Is Everything" theme summarizes two ideas: the disruptive power of ubiquitous mobile devices and their ability to connect things and objects in our surrounding environment. This year, innovation and key announcements did not so much come from new flagship smartphone manufacturers but instead focused on solutions that enable mobile devices to activate adjacent technologies — like VR, 360-degree cameras, 5G, and the IoT — to build the next generation of connected experiences. Let's cut through the hype to look at what the headlines really mean for B2C marketers:
VR is really still hype. Samsung massively surfed on the VR "wow" effect and heavily promoted its Gear VR headset while Facebook's CEO insisted that VR is the next-generation platfrom and will shape the future of social. After the distribution of five million of Google's Cardboard VR Viewers since June 2014, the buzz will continue with Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR (to be launched mid-March at the Game Developer Conference), creating awareness for digitally immersive experiences. But reach will be extremely limited, as the technology will only attract a niche set of users — especially gamers — in the first two years. However, marketers at retail, automotive, travel, or luxury real-estate companies with a digital innovation agenda should keep an eye for signs of VR adoption beyond the "techno-few."
Use mobile to unlock IoT consumer experiences. IoT remains first and foremost a B2B and industrial play. However, B2C marketers can combine mobile and IoT to activate new brand experiences.
We’re now only a week away from the Mobile World Congress 2016 to be held again in Barcelona. As the excitement builds and we plan our schedules, it serves us to reflect back on last year’s event and to explore what we expect this year.
Mobile World Congress remains the pre-eminent event of the mobile industry and now one of the largest global events across all industries – a fact which illustrates an ambiguity in the meaning itself of “mobile industry.” Last year, over 94,000 people attended the event – a 10% increase from the 2014 event but a 30% increase over the 2013 event. Interest in “mobile” continues to grow – for now. But the most interesting stat about past attendees is diversification. Yes, the event continues to draw representatives from mobile operators, device manufacturers, network equipment providers, software vendors, and other usual suspects. But representation from other industries is growing. Last year almost ¼ of attendees came from industries other than telecom and technology, including 4% from finance, 3% from government and others from automotive, pharmaceutical, retail, education, and entertainment. I expect even more diversity this year.
From February 22 to 25, Barcelona will be the center of the business world. Do not expect a specific industry focus but expect announcements impacting any industry: from payments to automotive. Why? Because “mobile is everything”.
The last year has flown by: In just a few weeks the Mobile World Congress (MWC) is on again. So what can we expect from the leading global get-together of mobile-heads this year? In my view there will be:
Less hype concerning mobile device launches. The leading smartphone and tablet providers will announce or showcase new models of established product lines, including more wearables and watches, like Samsung’s Galaxy S7, Sony’s Xperia Z6, LG’s G5, Huawei’s P9, HTC’s One M10, and Microsoft’s Surface Phone as well as newcomers like the Nextbit Robin or the OnePlus 2 Mini. Yet, I expect more of an evolution than a revolution. Blackberry might provide more insights into its future as device manufacturer beyond the Priv. Both Apple and Google will announce their upcoming devices at their own respective events, not at MWC. I am interested to see which way the pendulum is swinging: device commoditization or real new innovation. I expect the former.
Increasingly intertwined messaging of big data and IoT vendors. Big data will play an important part in most IoT solutions. Ultimately, IoT is not really about things but rather about data. Mobile-connected objects create scale and various channels for sensor data that flows back and forth. I will listen to how the messaging for front-end, customer-facing and back-end operational activities are emerging among IoT vendors like Nokia, Telstra, GE, Ericsson, and Salesforce but also among firms like ABB and John Deere. I expect AI and machine-learning to play a growing role for big data and IoT initiatives.
This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona brought together 90,000 attendees, including 4,500 CEOs and a growing number of CMOs and marketing leaders. Let’s face it: MWC, unlike SXSW, Cannes Lions, ad:tech, or dmexco, is not a leading marketing and advertising event. However, because mobile is a catalyst for business transformation, MWC is progressively morphing from a business-to-business (B2B) telecom trade show to an event that affects all industries, from automotive to payments.
I think MWC 2015 was still too technology focused. Too many announcements and headlines at MWC 2015 focused on the launch of new hardware devices, from the new Galaxy S6 to virtual reality headsets; centered on telecom technologies, such as 5G; or focused on the technology OS wars, which will be irrelevant for marketers this year. However, marketers could get a glimpse of what it means to deliver contextual experiences. By cutting through the hype and taking a look at innovative, specialized mobile marketing and ad tech companies at MWC, marketers can get a better sense of how they can act on data to deliver more-contextualized and more-personalized experiences across new connected devices and objects.
My colleague Dan Bieler put together his observations of what MWC means for CIOs in his blog post. Together, we will host a free Webinar tomorrow (Thursday, March 12) at 4pm CET / 3pm GMT / 10am ET, you can still register here.
For clients willing to know more about this, you can access my new report.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) was a real marathon: According to my wearable gadget, I walked 70,278 steps, or 53.7 km, in four days. So was it worth it apart from the workout?
MWC was certainly busy; it attracted more than 90,000 attendees, including about 50,000 C-level executives (of whom 4,500 were CEOs) — making it the largest MWC event to date. While MWC does not attempt to cater to CIOs’ requirements — only about one-third of the attendees come from outside the technology sector, mostly from government, financial institutions, and media and advertising firms — the event deals with all the critical topics that CIOs will have to address in the years ahead.
This year’s MWC focused on innovation, which is arguably the single most important business priority to ensure business survival in a rapidly changing marketplace. As a business enabler, every CIO must meet the expectation of today’s business customer that he can get what he wants in his immediate context and moment of need. MWC highlighted that:
Mobile is critical to provide a great user experience. Therefore, mobile is becoming a critical factor for CIOs in driving product, service, and process innovation and enhancing customer and employee engagement.
Consumerization is redefining enterprise mobility. At MWC we saw more and more vendors targeting the mobile mind shift taking place in the business segment. This is reflected in the shift of most mobile business solutions away from traditional sales and field force automation toward delivering mobile moments.