MobiAD Archives

Mobile World Congress – 2014 Wrapup

mwc2014-wrapup.pngAs always, the MobiAD team attended the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona to uncover the key trends in the world of mobile. This year more than 85,000 attendees from over 200 countries were there, making it by far the largest MWC ever.

Here is our take on four of the most interesting trends that we spotted at the show, subjects that we believe could well be important for MobiAD subscribers to follow over the coming year, including Internet of Things, m-Payments, Mobile Marketing, and Mobile For Development.

Altogether there were more than 1,800 companies showing their products and services at MWC, so trying to cover everything is never possible. However, over the course of the show there are always a few themes and trends that become evident and we have picked the following four to discuss.

IoT – The Internet of Things

mwc-2014-iot.pngAlso called M2M or Connected Life, this is clearly an area that many operators are hoping will provide substantial future business as their other revenue sources erode. Unfortunately, just as it seems that no one has yet to be able to firmly settle on the right name for this market, it seems that the market itself is still some ways off in terms of becoming an actual consumer phenomenon.

The business use of M2M has been around for quite a few years, and seems to be growing well. Fleet tracking, cargo tracking, utility meter reporting, etc are all well known applications. Given the growth of economical higher speed networks, we are also seeing some video based applications becoming mainstream (think security cameras or remote video advertising screens).

mwc-2014-ericsson.pngEricsson showcased new infrastructure designed to help operators offer advanced M2M services. One development stressed was the increasing ability to enable communication with remote devices be two-way for control purposes rather than simply one-way for tracking purposes.

For example, they cited a fruit shipping company that monitors the temperature of their fruit containers during shipment. They can also remotely adjust the temperature of the containers depending on the speed achieved by the ship so that the fruit ripens exactly when the ship arrives at the port.

On the other hand, the Connected Street part of the MWC exhibit was definitely less than exciting. It was intended to showcase how connected devices can impact many facets of our lives from education to health to transportation. However, with very few exceptions, the applications shown seemed to be more ‘science fair’ type projects, not things you would actually see using today.

mwc-2014-auto.pngCar manufacturers were also exhibiting at MWC once more this year, with promises of the Connected Car. However, from what we saw the real focus at the moment seems to be how best to integrate a smartphone into an automobile, rather than offering really compelling new services.

mwc-2014-ford.pngFor example, the ability to use a voice recognition front end to control your iPhone apps while in the car (as shown by Ford) is an interesting idea, but somehow it seems to fall short of the full promise of Connected Car.

Our summary: this will be a really interesting industry over the coming years, but the consumer angle is not ready yet.

Mobile Payments Everywhere

Payments is a special interest of ours, so we have been tracking mobile payments carefully over the years. At previous MWC’s there were usually just a few companies focused on payments, but this year there seemed to be dozens, including both Visa and Mastercard who were both present in a big way.

mwc-2014-visa.pngVisa was focusing quite a bit on their offer. Basically this is a way for consumers to store their card details in a cloud based wallet. Then, when shopping online, if the merchant accepts, they can purchase by simply signing in with email address and password.

This is a good idea which could make life easier for everyone, but as always the hurdle will be to get a critical mass of both merchants and cardholders enrolled so that it it worth everyone’s time.

mwc-2014-mastercard.pngMastercard featured their participation in the HCE announcement. Briefly HCE (Host Card Emulation) is a system which should allow for more flexible implementations of NFC, because it makes it easier for people to develop and run the NFC app.

Mastercard also demoed a system they are proposing to those operators who run mobile money systems (e.g. sytems like M-Pesa). The MC solution would allow the mobile operators to offer credit cards (pre-paid) to the subscribers that have these mobile wallet accounts. This would allow the subscriber to make purchases in retail establishments or online using the card, with the funds coming from their mobile wallet account. An interesting step for such a big player as Mastercard.

mwc-2014-samsung.pngSamsung and PayPal were showing a technology first – mobile payments authenticated by fingerprint. Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 incorporates a fingerprint reader, and this is connected to a PayPal secure wallet in the cloud. No biometric information is stored by PayPal, but users can make purchases at any PayPal merchant with no login or passwords to remember!

Beyond these these giants, there were dozens of smaller companies offering every variety of mobile payments you can imagine. One thing that is true about essentially any payment system is that you need to achieve a certain scale in order to become an accepted alternative, so its not clear how all of these companies will survive long term.

Our summary: Clearly this is a new hot-spot for the mobile industry, and there is a lot of innovation. At the moment there are many players and many systems, so we may well see some consolidation soon.

Note: MobiAD will soon be publishing an in-depth article on Mobile Payments, please enter your email address and company name here if you would like to receive a notification when it is available.

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Mobile Marketing is Mainstream (at last!)

This year – at last – it seems very clear that mobile marketing has finally become mainstream.

A large number of key mobile marketing companies were at MWC with very substantial stands, seemingly bigger than in previous years, indicating that business must be going fairly well. Millenial Media, InMobi, Urban Airship, Airpush, BuzzCity, xAd, Fjord, mBlox, Smaato, Sofialys, and Velti were all there, and in fact Hall 8, the App Planet, actually looked like a mobile advertising show.

mwc-2014-gekko-fiksu.pngWith over 200 companies listed in the category of mobile advertising & marketing, it can be hard to know which stands to visit. One good idea – this year mobile agency GoldenGekko gave guided tours of what they considered to be the most interesting companies & mobile marketing demos at the show. One example was Fiksu, a fast growing company in the area of mobile app marketing. Their specialty is a very tightly integrated approach for mobile app user acquisition.

MWC also included a special seminar featuring executives from some of the biggest brands (e.g Kraft, Unilever, Nestle, Citigroup, Intel, L’Oreal), plus essentially all of the major advertising agencies, as well as many of the mobile marketing specialist agencies. (for more information see the Mobile Media Summit website).

Some of the topics were those that have been discussed regularly for a number of years – such as optimal use of location and navigating the barriers to mobile measurement. But other topics reflected the most recent developments in the field such as effective second screen advertising or an updates on the best ways to understand, recognize, and reach today’s digital audience.

Our summary: Mobile advertising and marketing are now fully mainstream, with substantial companies providing the key services. There will still be room for some new entrants, but it will be getting more difficult.

Mobile For Development (M4D)

The GSMA defines Mobile For Development as “serving the underserved through mobile”.

mwc-2014-m4d-quote.pngFor the past several years, the GSMA has had an internal group whose mission is to bring together mobile operators, the wider mobile industry, and the development community to drive commercial mobile services for underserved people in emerging markets. And this year is seemed to finally become one of the major topics at MWC.

A lot of this is driven by the fact that much of the world has essentially reached mobile phone saturation. In fact, 4 out of every 5 new mobile connections now being made are in the developing world. Because of this, there is now a very big focus on delivering products and services that are tailored to this sector of the world’s population.

mwc-2014-mozillaphone.pngOne big announcement at MWC was Mozilla’s low cost smartphone. The phone will cost only $25, yet will have mobile internet, the Firefox OS, and the ability to run simple apps.

This device could greatly speed up the penetration of smartphones in resource poor regions, and lead to an explosion of services.

mwc-2014-zuckerberg.pngMark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, also addressed M4D in his MWC keynote, focusing on the initiative he supports. is working to bring affordable internet to everyone on the earth, and in fact advocates that MNO’s offer basic internet – including Facebook – for free.

During his keynote he commented, “Why are the next two billion not on the internet? The reason is not because they don’t have any money, it’s because they don’t know the value of having a data plan or the services they can access.”

mwc-2014-qualcomm.pngIn addition, many other major mobile companies are keen to show that they are putting serious resources behind the M4D effort. For example Qualcomm with their Wireless Reach program was demonstrating m-Education projects from both developed and developing regions on their stand.

The GSMA also emphasized M4D in their Global Mobile Awards program, where they awarded numerous prizes for projects in M4D topics such as m-Health, m-Education, m-Women, and m-Agriculture.

Our summary: Low cost feature phones and smartphones, better local networks, specialized content services, specialized payment services – all of these are now coming together to drive a boom in Mobile For Development projects which will bring benefits to low income parts of the world.
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