MWC 2016


Mobile Is Everything: The Search For Manners

With over 100,000 attendees the 2016 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona delivered through it’s keynotes, presentations and product launches, a stark reminder summed in it’s tag-line: Mobile Is Everything.


Three themes underpinned most discussions I had heard this year. First, the future with 5G, the next communication standard delivering lower latency and so a richer experience for the consumer on their mobile phones. Second, Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, made that much more iconic by a photo of Mark Zuckerberg walking past an audience so immersed in a digital experience at the Samsung press event that they were oblivious to the world around them; specifically, him walking past them.


And third, the theme of the moment, ad-blocking, where the discussion remains stuck on improving the way we interrupt consumers digital experiences. Thankfully inspiration was to be found in the various keynotes, stretching all four days of the conference, beginning with the first set of speeches where Cesar Alierta (CEO, Telefonica) said that ‘Companies need to adapt to the new digital economy.’


With over a billion 4G connections today, Mats Granryd (Director General, GSMA) touched on the Internet of Things, ‘Everything that has a benefit in the future will be connected,’ encouraging all, saying that the industry ‘Needs to be more innovative.’ The theme was echoed by Shang Bing (Chairman, China Mobile) who said that a ‘Technological revolution is taking place,’ and that ‘Information consumption is the new growth.’


Vittorio Colao (CEO, Vodafone) referred to the ‘Gigabit Society’ sharing that ‘Companies can get instant scale,’ as today the digital economy is enabling ‘very different business models.’ More importantly he talked about ‘The relationship between individuals and companies, how the nature of the job is changing: flexible hours, flexible working, all of which results in higher productivity.’


Hans Vestberg (CEO, Ericsson) believes that a digital ‘disruption is coming, and we haven’t (even begun to) see it all.’ A by-product of which will be borders between countries coming down even further. Brian Krzanich (CEO, Intel) held the view that while ‘People are disrupting the world today’ it will be ‘Devices that will disrupt the word tomorrow.’ Ralph de la Vega (CEO, AT&T) shared these views adding that as ‘Barriers come down, businesses and consumers can get the same experience across borders.’


With 73% of Europeans living in cities, Mark Fields (CEO, Ford) shared that on average a Ford owner spends 900 hours a year in their car, so their focus in and around the car experience is on ‘Making people’s lives better.’


Dan Schulman (CEO, PayPal) shard that ‘With mobile blurring the distinction between shopping online and in store, ‘Retailers want to create value propositions to use mobile in a fundamentally different way, turning money from transaction into an experience.’ This was a philosophy Guo Ping (CEO, Huawei) shared as he said that a ‘Connection is like oxygen for the digital economy.’


But Simon Segars (CEO, ARM) provided a valuable warning, ‘Unless we get it right, I do not think we can deliver on it’s full potential,’ adding, ‘we have to think about security in different ways.’ Data and information is a valuable commodity and last year over one third of US medical records were stolen. So better standards and trust in the digital economy are fundamental.


Anne Bouverot (CEO, Morpho) elaborated further saying that with 200 million smartphones having fingerprint technologies, the future of biometric recognition may actually rest in this generation’s addiction to selfies, with facial recognition. There are of course different solutions to digital security and while it is easy to replicate a fingerprint and break into an Apple iPhone (the internet has many such videos), Goodix have developed an industry first where they have integrated an optical sensor into the fingerprint sensor making those youtube videos obsolete.


Returning to new business models, Pavel Durov (CEO, Telegram) spoke of how his platform has over 100 million active users and one offering named ‘Channels,’ enables brands to deliver digital content directly to an audience. For example, the BBC use Channels on Telegram to reach over 300,000 users worldwide today. Even the Pope uses their solution.


The rate of change was summed up perfectly by Sigve Brekke (CEO, Telenor) who shared that while it took ‘15 years for customers to adopt mobile (properly in their domestic market), in Bangladesh it took just 15 months.’ He continued to say ‘Markets are not different any more, they are more and more alike.’


Addressing global growth is Buzzfeed whose CEO, Jonah Peretti observed that ‘Mobile flipped, from killing social distribution to being the key to social distribution.’ Three trends have converged: mobile, social and digital video. But as Ralf Reichert (CEO, Turtle Entertainment) confirmed, ‘the touch interface needs to improve on mobile to give as rich a game like experience (as possible).’ Usability is often misunderstood and can stop any meaningful solution which can add value, from adding value.


Gavin Patterson (CEO, BT) weighed into the ad-blocking discussion suggesting that ‘carte blanche blocking is not the way forward’ and that there should be a way to ‘find a happy medium.’ This conflicts with growing consumer expectation to not have their digital experience interrupted, especially on mobile. Transferring traditional advertising methodologies such as on TV, onto mobile, while profitable causes undue frustration.


Laura Desmond (CEO, Starcom Mediavest) referred to this century at ‘the mobile century’ with ‘Mobile and brands reinventing themselves many times over in order to keep pace.’ 41% of millennials are using ad-blocking and this is said to grow. Commerce she said is ‘exploding’ as people spend on average 11 hours a day with their mobile. The key she said is to find a way to ‘Stitch it all together from media to commerce.’


Jonathan Skogomo (CEO, Jukin Media) shared that 60% of the 1.5 billion videos viewed per month through their platform are via mobile, with 80% of content being seen outside the US. ‘Content can be used on many different screens which can be repurposed,’ a strategy reflective of how viewers consume content differently across devices. He added that consumers are becoming ‘more smarter and innovative with regards to ad-blocking,’ and that ‘people will always find a way to ad-block.’


Derek Aberle (President, Qualcomm) shared that the car of the future will be autonomous and the technology already exists today. On display just outside the main conference stage was the Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car. Having sat in and experienced the comfort and feature set within this reported $20m+ car, I share his sentiments that we must ‘Get these technologies commercialised.’


A glimpse of the car with it’s lead engineer can be seen here:


After extolling the virtues of how leading technology delivers a competitive edge to his racing, Lewis Hamilton (Cool Guy, F1) said, ‘I wish you could feel how I feel.’ And given that he loses up to 4kg per race weekend given the g-forces endured driving on track, I too wish I could feel the weight loss!


Paddy Lowe (Executive Director, Mercedes Formula One) said, ‘I want (us) to be the first at something, and I get annoyed when we’re not.’ ‘You can’t win without a great car, I’m amazed at how technology is advancing.’ – So it is with all entrepreneurs and innovators, driven by the need for change.


Chuck Robbins (CEO, Cisco) shared a wider holistic approach: ‘We desire that what we do has meaning and provides benefit at the end of the day.’ William Ruh (CEO, GE Digital) added that ‘Everyone has to have a digital DNA,’ while Kaan Terzioglu (CEO, turkcell), said that we have to be ‘Bold enough to question things that no-one questioned before.’


Richard Fain (CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises) said that ‘It’s amazing how much cr@p we have to deal with. The cr@p gets in the way of your experience.’ He did however add an air of positivity: ‘It is the people who make us successful.’


Anthony Lake, (Executive Director, UNICEF) opined that ‘before, governments used to represent societies. Today, people talk to each other so governments need to adapt.’ Innovation empowered by mobile he added was ‘Making it possible to achieve results that I could not imagine a few years ago.’ This sentiment was contextualised by Ann Cairns (President, Mastercard) who said that we should seek ‘Full digital inclusion, not just financial inclusion’ citing that 90 million people in Europe still do not have a bank account.


Karim Khoja (CEO, Roshan), one of the network providers in Afghanistan, went futher saying, ‘People can call their families to say that they are safe. This is digital inclusion.’


Sir Martin Sorrell (CEO, WPP) observed that companies still do not understand mobile, believing that mobile is an extension of digital on-line instead of a platform in itself. Dawn Airey (CEO, Getty Images) demonstrated this sharing that a significant number of photographs on their service, 25%, are actually from smartphones: ‘Two billion people in the world have a camera, the majority are in phones. The world is becoming an expert in taking a picture.’


It is this expertise which is driving the User Generated Content era where every person becomes a content creator, and as such, every person will begin to play a role in how advertising is associated to their created content. Sandra Alzetta (SVP, Visa) shared that today 30% of their transaction volume for shopping is on mobile, and this is expected to grow to 50% by 2020. Meaning that content, advertising and commerce will eventually converge, especially as Michael Jaconi (CEO, Button) shared that the daily spend is moving to the mobile device. Moreover, he added:


‘Internet on the mobile is completely different paradigm to the web. Traditional media advertising on mobile is being challenged, consumers are standing up.’ – The latest report from Quantcast entitled Mobile + Me, shows that Millennials are paving the way for a new mobile advertising age.


Scott Snyder (President, Mobiquity) did ask, ‘How do we intervene at the right time without being annoying,’ adding that ‘47% of people are incentivised by financial awards.’ The truth is that no single person desires that their mobile digital experience is interrupted, no matter how sophisticated the algorithm.


In an article earlier this year Ethan Zuckerman, the man who created pop-up adverts wrote: ‘The simple truth is that web adverts don’t work vey well. People hate them – which is why they block them – and almost no-one voluntarily clicks on them.’


Consider, how rude it is to interrupt a person mid-conversation? If we do not accept such interruption in our real lives, why should we be expected to accept such on our digital devices?


In my faith, we have a number of sayings in the subject of manners. From the best of people are those with the best manners, to, a person raises themselves in paradise in the next life based on how good their manners were in this life. So why have we accepted bad manners as the norm across digital?


Many of us live autonomously, we have established a routine, which more or less works, and we sit in comfort often accepting the status quo. Others amongst us seek to challenge the accepted norms with a desire to add value and seek improvement. While Virtual Reality was one of the hot topics at this year’s MWC, it serves as a perect metaphor to demonstrate how easy it is to become immersed in something without being aware of the needs of your environment; to me is a reflection of bad manners.


We, today, have access to so many forms of technology, but we struggle to offer meaningful communication. In the case of Mark Zuckerberg’s (CEO, Facebook) speech, it was marred with failing communication equipment. Thankfully he recovered by sharing anecdotes of his daughter, demonstrating that even if things do not work out the way you intend, you can find a way to recover and, often, do better.


For me, MWC opened with innovation. Showstoppers and MobileFocus Global showcased some of the best technology innovators. But it ended with a stark reminder.


In an age where we are all content creators, where we do not reject advertising outright, just, do not want it interrupting our digital experiences, mobile may indeed be everything. But instead of living autonomously along a linear path void of innovation, let us find better direction, and so ensure that all of our innovations also reflect the best of manners.

Autonomous Car F015