Walking the vast halls of this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, I was truly excited by the many possibilities new mobile technology presents.
But putting faster, larger screened mobiles and waterproof tablets to one side for the moment, I felt the exhibition was lacking in customer focus. Simply looking at the scale of MWC – around 72,000 attendees, 8 exhibition halls and more than 1,700 exhibitors – mobile is of ever increasing importance to businesses across the world. And as MWC proved, there’s an ever dizzying array of technology and hypothesising around how mobile technology could shape human behaviour in the near future.
As we pointed out in our 2012 study Going Mobile, there is still surprisingly little detailed study around emerging user behaviours. With mobile we urge businesses to tread with caution; designing for mobile without customer insight is guesswork.
That said there were many interesting topics covered by MWC, here’s a small taster:
As expected NFC and the opportunity for mobile payments took centre stage. The buzz is that 2013 will be the year that NFC mobile payments will take off following the announcement of Visa’s partnership with Samsung.
During 2012, Foolproof carried out a number of research projects in the mobile payments arena to understand consumer attitudes and behaviours. While the technology is now more widely available consumers are still sceptical and are yet to be convinced that mobile payment solutions are more convenient and secure than current solutions.
Everyone from AT&T to LG was showing off their visions for a world where devices and services are inter-connected to facilitate and enrich our lives.
Scenarios included communicating with your fridge to ascertain the ingredients available and suggested meals to be created as well as coffee machines that could be manipulated at a distance. One of the more interesting angles was how a smarter home could support the elderly and their carers. One such scenario demonstrated how notifications could be sent to your smartphone or tablet should the oven have remained on longer than expected. Similarly, through an automated cap on your medicine bottle, a trigger could be sent to remind you to take your medicine and/or alert others if medication has been missed.
Automotive and data streaming
This year’s hot topic was streaming data on the move and the future of the automotive industry. Indeed, a lot of emphasis was placed on the ability to stream entertainment content such as music and video into the car.
Ford announced their stand point stating that in their mind, cars are becoming mobile communication platforms and soon there will be a time when computing and communications technology is no longer an accessory but instead a primary part of a vehicle. Technology offers a wealth of opportunities for businesses to make more of the time that you spend time in the car including placing emergency service calls, and feedback telematics to insurers and/or fleet managers.
These concepts led to much discussion around the role and ability of mobile operators to support such communication with T-Mobile announcing data plans which would provide users with a flat rate charges when accessing content whilst roaming. Equally, Ford identified the need to reduce the product cycle down from 5 to 7 years to 2.5 or 3 years to bring auto-industry developments more in line with the pace at which the technology industry operates.
I was particularly interested to see some of the demos showing how we’ll be interacting with devices in the future. New capabilities exhibited included close-range hand gestures, finger articulation, speech recognition, face tracking and augmented reality experiences.
Whilst none of these technologies are new, their combination could create more natural, intuitive and immersive experiences for consumers. Many of the displays exhibited focused on gaming experiences, however there was also discussion around how 3D gesture control could be used in business contexts where employees would be able to manipulate data and models on their screens. Minority Report doesn’t feel so far away any more!
This year’s event was a great showcase for the topics and areas of interest for anyone working in the mobile industry and I felt truly excited by some of the technological hypotheses being presented. As we all know however, the devil is in the detail and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to understand how these technologies can better support and aid consumers.