Mobile World Congress 2014: In Search Of Values
With an estimated 85,000 visitors, Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona across 4 days showcasing the best of mobile technology, thought leadership and opportunity. Unlike previous years, the platforms mandate expanded to include specific programs addressing digital media and mHealth, two leading genres empowered by mobile re-shaping the world in which we live.
Attending the keynote speeches one theme stood out beyond the typical progression offered by technology: values. While mobile function’s as a facilitator enabling opportunities and delivering change for all within the eco-system, hearing both Jan Koum and Mark Zuckerberg speak, I felt a sense of calm as both spoke not of pure technology but on the values they sought and seek to empower.
There is inherently nothing wrong with the pursuit of wealth. Every billionaire that I have met is involved in either technology or art. They have all been down-to-earth personalities, approachable. But above all, their objectives have been to address problems with a solution, with a wider holistic overview centered around values.
Jon Matonis, the chair of the Bitcoin Foundation spoke, ‘We are disruption in disruption.’ Poignant words reflecting acknowledgement throughout ,that the mobile industry is doing just that, disrupting the established norms of communication. But disruption often comes at a price as Michelle Gallen of Schmooze spoke, ‘I learn best, when I fail biggest.’
Whether it is LG’s new flexible screen which when viewed from the side looked like the crescent of the new moon, or a battery pack sized attachment for your phone by FLIR delivering real-time infra-red imagery, or a solution offered by guard2me, a tracking system designed to locate patients who suffer from dementia, innovation is at the core of improving capabilities and experiences.
Both Showstoppers and MobileFocus, initiatives the night before MWC, showcased a variety of interesting products and services. But the one which caught my eyes, literally, were smart glasses from Vuzix, a wearable computer, initially designed for the Enterprise market but soon to be released for the mass consumer. Similar to Google Glass, the key differentiator beyond design is that Glass pushes everything to the cloud while Vuzix enables you to store on-device.
MWC 2014 was the year for all things wearable with almost every leading brand offering a product, particularly those aimed at collecting health related data, from heart rates to aiding in the monitoring of diabetes. Crucially, all of these objects are just part of a wider offering from these brands where technologies compliment one another.
Bob Sell, CEO of Accenture’s Communications, Media & Technology arm shared that the Internet Of Things – that is objects that are connected to the internet – will have 5-10 times the impact that the internet itself has had. Unsurprising as Bob Bakish, CEO of Viacom, shared that already the average household in the US has 7-8 devices.
If digital devices have changed the human experience, as Michel Combes, CEO of Alcatel opined, and we see that in some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, that 75% of the 8 million population have smartphones, as shared by Ahmed Julfar, CEO, Etisalat, then what we are witnessing is a shift in societies value structure as Sirgoo Lee, co-CEO of Kakoo, the largest messaging service in South Korea best illustrated this point.
Up until recently, the consumer mindset particularly in the Western world has focused on ‘You and I’ vs the more family orientated approach of the Eastern world, where focus is on ‘We’ or ‘Us.’ One of the by-products of social media is that we have changed the way we interact and engage with information. A community approach of sharing is redrawing the lines of societal engagement across all levels, empowered by technology.
MWC remit is of course far and wide. Leading non-tech specific firms also had a presence such as Golla, a brand delivering a variety of products for your technology, along with Japanese brand Elecon whose design led accessories have made the mundane, such as a sd-cad reader to micro-usb charger, frankly, look good.
Elsewhere the Connected City showed how technology can be integrated into the everyday home, though perhaps what I personally found to be of the greater interest, is how cars are now mobile-digital-content enabled. Between Ford’s demonstration of it’s test car providing a visual of how the car ‘sees’ objects around it, to a gorgeous yellow Corvette where the user is able to download apps directly into the dashboard. I do however wonder whether at times we go too far as one of Audi’s offerings enabled Facebook status updates to be read out!
Whether networks optimized for delivery, whether devices with the latest innovation, whether services showcasing the best of imagination and creativity, everything boils down to a single concept: values. From all the product launches, all the parties, all the networking opportunities, one set of words stood out to me when speaking to an executive at the Airpush party at the W, celebrating success is not so much about gains, but about saying thank you to those who put their trust in your ability to deliver the values they seek.