A lot has changed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona over the last 5 years.
In the past, we frequently saw ‘nearly there’ products and services. Connected cars. Smart homes. IoT devices. Live mobile streaming. Products and services that sounded great but, were in fact, not quite yet ready or widespread enough to be utilised impactfully by our clients.
2016 was very different. Unlike other years, most, if not all of the technology we saw is available now. Which is quite refreshing because we’re able to talk to clients about what we can/should be doing now, not when we might want to do something.
We heard this quote at SXSW a few years ago and think it’s particularly salient at this year’s Mobile World Congress:
Determining what to do next is relatively easy; working out what to do now is hard.
Beneath this broad theme, we noted five key trends this year:
1. Now…not next
For the first time at Mobile World Congress, almost every technology discussed and gadget demoed is available now—not at some undefined point in the future. While this may be disappointing to the technorati and early adopters, it should be music to the ears of big brands. Our job now is to understand the opportunities—and challenges—these ‘ready now’ technologies provide and take action.
2. Live mobile broadcast
Mobile networks are now capable of delivering real-time, live broadcast video from brands, or consumers. Although Facebook is dominant here, with Facebook Live, this opens up both the possibility and challenge for brands—and their consumers—becoming broadcasters of real-time video content. Think about live branded content with real-time calls to action. Broadcasting and amplifying live events. The possibilities are many.
3. IoT everywhere and everything
Internet of Things are everywhere at MWC. Cars (MWC almost feels like a motor show), drones, watches, glasses, vending machines, gloves and glasses are connected through low cost smart devices, while anything can become part of IoT through image recognition.
So, what’s new? What’s new is the software platforms developed by companies like Microsoft (Azure) and Jasper that make it cheap and easy to connect the world around us to cognitive capabilities of machine processing.
4. Ubiquity of experiences and services
With Microsoft’s Windows 10 currently at 200 million users and aiming for 1 billion, we can embrace the ethos of create once, display on infinite screens and devices. This reduces the time—and money—spent creating content for multiple screens / OSs and the consumer spending too much time navigating multiple OSs and how to use them.
5. The next wave of data: From big-data processing to cognitive-data understanding
Perhaps the most interesting—if not exciting—trend we saw this year was in the area of cognitive computing. IBM’s Watson team has created dozens of open-source data-processing tools that enable brands to move beyond analysing structured data (sales, number of page hits, and so on) to analysing unstructured, ‘human’ data, such as personality types and emotional cues. IBM demonstrated this with a Watson-driven robot developed with Softbank that ‘learns’ what people want and need. A version of this robot will be launched in an unnamed hotel franchise, and in over 2,000 retail locations this year.
Because these are available through an open API and low-cost pricing model, this ultimately enables brands to deliver even more valuable content and experiences that take into account both observed human behaviours and the emotional context of these behaviours.
So, finally, 2016 is the year of ‘now’ not ‘next’. This is incredibly exciting for us and the many clients I talked to in Barcelona. Our challenge, then, is to stop talking—and writing—about these trends and to start acting now to take advantage of them.
Patrick Rona is chief digital officer, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific