Last week, people from every corner of the globe flocked to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest conference on mobile technologies. This year’s show drew more than 93,000 people from 200 countries.
It’s a gargantuan reminder of a basic fact that we all know: Mobile is revolutionizing everything. The conference isn’t just about phones anymore. It’s about cars. Wearables. Connected gadgets. Attendees try to take stock of what has happened to the industry — and try to get a bead on what might come next.
Mobile now touches nearly every industry. As their use grows, mobile devices generate a ridiculous amount of data – and just about everyone, everywhere, is struggling to make sense of it. Yet, for all that, the show provides a definitive feeling that we stand at the very beginning of this phenomenon.
If there were a motto to the show this year, it might be, ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.’
Although the conversations, panels and exhibits were wide-ranging, four trends stood out from the event.
- Connecting the World: There are about 3 billion people connected to the Internet, and another 4 billion that aren’t. Tech giants like Google and Facebook, along with a long list of telecom partners, are focused on getting more people connected. In the short term, it means you can expect to see a growing wave of people from developing countries, particularly Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, come online. For people whose business is data, that’s going to trigger a whole new wave of information from places many people don’t know or understand very well.
- Mobile Payments: Last year saw the launch of Apple Pay. At Barcelona, Samsung announced its own payment service. And Google is expanding its own mobile payment efforts. None of these have entirely caught fire with consumers, but when they do, they’re going to generate new layers of personal financial information as well as data on consumer buying behavior. Figuring out how to leverage this information is both a challenge and an opportunity.
- Mobile Enterprise: Lots of companies have embraced mobile in the enterprise, most notably cloud-focused leaders like Salesforce.com. Employees receive and are encouraged to use tablets and smartphones, while the company develops apps. Still, there was frustration here that more companies aren’t moving faster and doing more to fundamentally rethink their workflows to leverage mobile. Expect a lot of new companies to try to tackle this by automating the capture and movement of information from email, calendars and location-aware devices.
- 5G: You may be living somewhere that’s still waiting to get high-speed mobile broadband 4G. But the telecom industry is looking ahead to develop plans for 5G, which is 100 times faster than 4G. There still need to be agreements reached on protocols, technical specifications, cooperation and deployment. This is at least several years away, and probable more likely a decade. But there were plenty of 5G demos at the conference, showing what it’s like to tap a button on your mobile device and download a Blu-ray movie in roughly five seconds.
In another 10 years, the world of business is going to be moving at mind-bending speeds. Two-way mobile video, inconceivable amounts of data. And there’s no time like the present to start getting ready.
Image credit: AJ LEON