What makes Internet of things, wearables, cars, 5G and privacy the top themes at MWC? Whats the significance for your business?

mobiThinking in Barcelona

Attempting to find themes at a huge and disparate event such as Mobile World Congress (MWC) is almost as difficult as trying to establish a WiFi connection. MWC is such a large event, with an estimated 75,000 attendees – too large, arguably – covering everything vaguely mobile from the technology that powers telecoms networks to mobile ad networks and lots of shiny gadgets, including cars. The only thing that attendees have in common is an interest in mobile. That’s what makes analysis of social media chatter interesting, as it gives you a snapshot of what a lot of people with very varied agendas are thinking about.

Hotwire/33Digital has come up with the top five themes talked about on Twitter, within 477,268 tweets related to MWC. This becomes more interesting when you analyze what was happening at MWC that got people talking about these themes, and why, or if, they are or should also be important to the wider business community i.e. companies that aren’t part of the mobile sector. Hotwire also analyzed the top 10 brands, which is of less interest, beyond noting that they are predominantly device manufacturers and that Apple is absent from the list. Facebook is the anomaly, but this is to be expected considering Mark Zuckerberg’s opening keynote at MWC came hot on the heals of the $16 billion acquisition of WhatsApp messaging app and the creation of Internet.org, a joint venture to help bring affordable Internet connectivity to people without it.

Top 5 trends mentioned: Internet of things, 3,697 mentions; Wearables, 2,191 mentions; Car, 1,527 mentions; 5G, 1,434 mentions; Privacy, 1,103 mentions.

Top 10 brands mentioned: 1. Samsung, 41,519 mentions; 2. Nokia, 33,599 mentions; 3. Sony, 24,392 mentions; 4. HTC, 14,392 mentions; 5. Facebook, 11,276 mentions; 6. Huawei, 9,709 mentions; 7. BlackBerry, 9,313 mentions; 8. Firefox, 8,709 mentions; 9. LG, 6,588 mentions; 10. ZTE, 4,758 mentions.

Internet of things: 3,697 mentions

What is the Internet of things?

This is the connecting of machines to a mobile or wired network via a SIM card and/or an IP address and cable, so that machine can send and receive data automatically, without requiring a human being to operate it. So this includes everything that isn’t a handset, tablet or PC. This is also described as machine-to-machine (M2M) and the Internet of everything (which is one of the most misleading misnomers in recent tech jargon history).

Where is it used?

Examples include smart gas and electricity meters that can send a reading without anyone needing to come round; smart thermostats that you can turn up remotely when you’re nearing home – Google bought Nest for US $3.2 billion last month suggesting significant potential here; vending, ticketing and many other remote-location machines that can alert the owner when it is running low, full of cash or faulty; cars that automatically send an alert when a car is involved in an accident; buses that update real-time timetable systems or request priority at intelligent traffic lights and m-health device/applications that can alert doctors or carers to issues with the barer.

Who’s talking about it/doing it?

It was impossible to avoid Internet of things at MWC, it was plastered to exhibition stands all over – mobiThinking even spotted one company giving away an Internet of things high-energy drink. It was liberally sprinkled through presentations, most notable was John Chambers, CEO of networking company Cisco, who prophesied that the Internet of things will have five to 10 times the impact on society as the Internet itself, bringing in $19 trillion in economic benefit over the next decade. Cisco estimates there were 10 billion devices connected to the Internet in 2010, this will grow to 50 billion devices by 2020.

What does it mean for businesses?

Most business glancing at the examples above should see possibilities for automating parts of their business and/or improving customer service. One potential concern is data management – with lots more devices sending back messages to base, companies will have even more data to deal with. Where data is being sent from customer’s devices – i.e. any smart device in the home or office – there will be issues with privacy (see below). This all comes under the topic of “big data” – which you’d expect to be a contender for top themes at MWC.
The big question for businesses is this: do your customers want everything to be smart and connected and sending data back to you? Companies need to prove that there is a real benefit to the customer. The benefit is clear with m-health services that could save your life or reduce your insurance payments. But do customers, for example, really want a smart/connected toothbrush, that shares scrubbing data with the dentist (and do dentists want the info?), such as the one announced by Oral B at MWC?

Wearables: 2,191 mentions

What are wearables?

Wearable technologies are smart, connected items that adorn the body. These include bracelets, smart watches and glasses. It’s closely related to the concept of the Internet of things. The important thing to note is that most of these wearable things aren’t directly connected to the Internet. They connect to a smartphone, usually via Bluetooth. On their own they’re not very smart either. But this could change as miniaturization of technology and battery life improves and the introduction of the virtual SIM may facilitate the connection of smaller devices – this virtual SIM announced by Simgo at MWC, may be a hint of what’s to come.

Where is it used?

Fitness has been the main player here, driven by Nike with its Nike+ FuelBand and sports watch, as it continues to build on its 18 million plus Nike+ community. Other fitness bands have followed such as Sony’s new SmartBand launched at MWC. According to Berg Insight 64 million wearables will be sold in 2017. Today 97 percent of the wearables are activity trackers, by 2017 this will fall to 55 percent, as smart watches, glasses and other items start to make some impact.
Beyond fitness you can see applications in m-health, but mobiThinking didn’t find much at MWC to write home about.
Sony is pushing a slightly different angle for wearables with a compact wearable camera (it’s a concept and not for sale), which Sony suggests people could use for life/micro-blogging, i.e. document their entire day in pictures.
Today the main purpose of smart watches and glasses is as a new interface to the smartphone in your pocket, but even then the functionality of both is fairly limited. Both markets await developers to come up with original and revolutionary ways to justify the existence of these devices – people won’t buy smart glasses just for navigation and taking photos.

Who’s talking about it/doing it?

There are lots of companies talking about it, but there are only a few companies, today, that are actually using the technology in a convincing and compelling way.
There are a bunch of new wearable gadgets such as Samsung’s new watch Gear 2 and Gear Neo. There are also some interesting concepts and prototypes such as Fujitsu’s smart glove, which provides a good insight into how wearables could be used in the workplace.
Sony and Garmin have done a deal that brings navigation to a Sony smart watch, which is one of the most obvious services to bring to the wrist.
Blipper did a live demo on stage at MWC of augmented reality working with Google Glass, which included turning a print picture into a singing and dancing music video. While this was just a proof of concept, it was an interesting insight into where AR could go with smart glasses.

What does it mean for businesses?

Wearables is a fascinating market, but one that is in serious danger of being overhyped. As mobiThinking has pointed out before, part of the excitement is that this is the first hint of departure from the mobile phone, which hasn’t really changed much as a form factor in a decade or two. The best advice is to watch how the market and technology progresses. Be aware that your customers may well be using a myriad of different devices and form factors to interact with your business in the future and consider how your company might use such technologies internally. Arguably smart glasses show more potential in the business environment than in the consumer space, where it can be used to guide workers with instructions before their eyes, but not interfering with the tasks they are performing, e.g. as they maintain a machine.

Car: 1,527 mentions

What have cars got to do with MWC?

Apart from traffic jams and huge lines for taxis, cars are not something that you’d expect to be associated with MWC. So it is remarkable to find the car manufacturer Ford not only exhibiting but also launching a connected car. And Ford’s weren’t the only cars in the halls.

Where is it used?

The connected car is part of the Internet of things. This connectivity takes the vehicle’s onboard computer to another level, enabling it to download the latest maps and access real-time services. The new Ford Focus – launched at MWC – comes with an 8-inch high-resolution touch screen and two new voice-controlled apps – Parkopedia, which searches for the closest or cheapest parking in 3,000 towns and cities in 20 countries across Europe, and when you find the place the car will then parallel park for you, hands free; and Aupeo! allows a search of over 200 worldwide radio stations by artist, genre or period.

Who’s talking about it/doing it?

Speaking at MWC, Steven Odell, executive vice president, Ford Motor Company said 79 percent of industry experts believe connectivity will soon be the primary decision in car purchases and 80 percent of cars will be connected by 2020.
Most car manufacturers are now starting to make noise about the connected car and there is a host of industry vendors lining up to help, these include AT&Ts Drive Studio connected car facility. The connected car even has its own association: the Car Connectivity Consortium is an initiative to create and maintain standards in the connect car/smartphone space and was running a developer event at MWC. For more on this and all other things connected car, see GPS world.

What does it mean for businesses?

The main advantages of the connected vehicle to the business is with the companies own vehicles. The more intelligent and better connected the vehicles on-board computer, the more the company can build bespoke services that help employees when they are on the road, communicating directly with the vehicle computer or via the employee’s mobile phone. The more functions that are voice-activated and can read aloud new emails, background on the next client etc have obvious application.
The B2C applications in the near term are harder to visualize, though as the market progresses there will be no doubt plenty of opportunities to market to cars via the mapping and navigation for example. Ford’s system, for example, will give restaurant recommendations, with Michelin Guide reviews, prompted by an I’m hungry command from the driver.
Of course, the most important thing for car manufacturer and customer alike is reliable nationwide mobile network coverage – how many countries can boast that? It doesn’t matter how connected the car is, if the 3G/4G networks they rely on are substandard.

Ford Focus interview with IDG:

5G: 1,434 mentions

What is 5G?

Fifth generation mobile Internet or 5G is the name given to the next major upgrade to wireless networks. 5G will supercede 4G, which is currently in the early stages of global rollouts between 2020 and 2030. Huawei’s 5G a Technology Vision says: “5G wireless networks will support 1,000-fold gains in capacity, connections for at least 100 billion devices, and a 10 Gb/s individual user experience capable of extremely low latency and response times.” In theory 5G networks are so fast that people will be able to download a full-length film in a second and access the Internet on trains travelling in excess of 300kmh.

Where is it used?

Nowhere. But the country to watch is probably South Korea, which has led the world in adoption of 4G. The South Korean government has announced that it will invest $1.5bn in 5G, and is, reportedly, hoping to be testing a full range of 5G services at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in 2018.

Who’s talking about it/doing it?

It’s not entirely clear what’s causing the buzz about 5G on Twitter. There have been a few announcements and demos, for example, from Nokia Solutions and Networks of 5G equipment by telecoms equipment vendors. If Neelie Kroes, vice president, European Commission, is to be believed then the most important event at MWC is the joint venture between the EU and telecoms companies (such as Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent) to invest €3.5 billion ($4.8 billion) in 5G. Part of the research will help to work out what 5G actually is! The EU hopes that 5G will help improve Europe’s competitiveness and help reduce youth unemployment.

What does it mean for businesses?

It is far too early to get excited or worried about 5G. Most operators have barely got started with 4G, geographical coverage and 4G subscribers, except in hotspots such as South Korea are still low. As Ericsson’s CEO Hans Vestberg cautions: it is still too early to say what form the technology might take and it is unlikely to appear before 2020.

Privacy: 1,103 mentions

What is privacy?

Privacy is the user’s right to control what information companies collect about them and how that data is kept secure, used and disseminated. Regulations have been introduced in different regions in an attempt to enforce privacy standards, but regulation and standards of practice vary greatly between geographies. Privacy is closely tied to the concepts of big data, which considers how to manage and make appropriate use of the massive amounts of information they collect – in particular about customers – and the Internet of things, which means that as more things are connected to the Web, the more data will be fed back to companies.

Where is it used?

Privacy touches mobile in multiple ways, these range from managing opt-in databases of SMS and email subscribers to dealing with customers’ personal and banking details, from m-commerce purchases to the use of tracking and profile through mobile ad technology. Privacy has been kept to the forefront of public attention with news of government agencies’ collection of personal data, security breaches leading to loss, theft of customer information and mobile applications that farm data unbeknown by their users.

Who’s talking about it/doing it?

Privacy, Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom tells MWC, is the mobile industry’s Moral Responsibility. He said people need to know what happens to their data and people need to be warned that if an app is free, the customer’s data becomes the product to be sold for a profit. The success of the Internet of things depends heavily on a more transparent and harmonized approach to privacy issues between industries and across geographies.
Tying nicely into this background came a product launch that received considerable press coverage – the Blackphone, a mass-market super-secure, privacy-friendly smartphone from Silent Circle and Geeksphone. It will be fascinating to watch if sales of the Blackphone match the media attention its launch received.

What does it mean for businesses?

Customer privacy is a major issue for any business that that operates online or by mobile. Businesses need to stay on top of ever-evolving regulations, standards and public perceptions in every geography that they operate. As companies inevitably start to amass more and more data, it becomes essential that they establish a strategy for collecting, maintaining, securing and using customer data.

Blackphone interview with numerisTV and promo video:

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