The GSMA reported that 85,000 visitors attended Mobile World Congress this year, breaking all previous records for the show. Andrew Skinner, Relationship Director of the Technology, Media & Telecoms (TMT) team at Barclays, reflects on his time in Barcelona and some of the key themes to come out of this year’s show.
Security and privacy was a big focus at MWC 2014, with industry leaders Samsung announcing Knox, a secure solution for mobile devices. Whether they are owned by corporations or employees smart phones and tablets are increasingly used to access sensitive corporate networks and data, and an interesting product launch was the super secure Blackphone. Whether or not companies are genuinely planning to place more emphasis on mobile device security remains to be seen, but it will be fascinating to see how uptake and adoption of secure devices and services changes over the course of the next 12 months.
Wearable technology was everywhere at the show, and many devices had healthy living as the technology driver. This is a market that will eventually evolve beyond fitness bands and heart rate monitors and Sony’s SmartBand promises to track every aspect of a user’s life. Meanwhile, Samsung unveiled no less than three different variations of smart watch, all of which extend the functionality of mobile technology, although one of these is still fitness and wellbeing-centric.
For both carriers and handset manufacturers, 4G is still being pushed as huge investments are made in the infrastructure to support it, and a variety of handsets that are 4G enabled. LTE isn’t without its issues at the minute but user adoption does seem to be picking up pace. As for 5G, while some people at the show were certainly talking about it and it’s being invested in heavily, we’re probably a few years off this becoming a reality. The EU is pushing for 5G roll-out plans to be ready by 2015 though and the speeds data could be whizzing around the globe at in the not too distant future are extremely exciting prospects.
The GSMA was keen to promote the benefits of Near Field Communications, with mobile accessory manufacturer Incipio offering attendees free NFC enabled sleeves for iPhones, so users could make use of the NFC access points in the conference hall.
The Internet of Things is slowly gaining traction and, with 2014 touted by many as the year it could go mainstream, it was a common theme throughout the show. The number of ‘connected cars’ on display at MWC this year goes to show just how intertwined disparate industries are becoming as connectivity becomes an essential component of virtually every piece of hardware on the market. From the connected home, to the GSMA’s Connected City stand, every ‘thing’ is being connecting to everything else.
As ever, a really compelling few days at the mobile industry’s premier event, characterised by some fascinating key note speeches and product launches. Barclays will be watching with interest to see which of these technologies companies invest in this year, and whether they can drive widespread adoption.
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