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MWC2014: What in the World is Going On in the Mobility Space
With 80,000 attendees from every part of the globe coming together in one place, the Mobile World Congress show is overwhelming to say the least. But beyond the marketing hype, the consumer announcements, the multilevel glitzy booths/pavilions/theaters/business mansions, and the sheer size of the event itself, there is an amazing amount of B2B activity in the midst of all the commotion.
Trying to cover the event in a single blog post is impossible, so I decided to focus on just a few aspects and to try to answer at least in part, what--in the world--is going on in the mobility space.
The Makeup of the Event is Global
For those of you who have never attended, this is truly an international event. I met professionals from every populated continent on the planet. And if you were to look at the event from a high level, it was dominated by Asian companies: Huawei, ZTE, Samsung, Sony, LG--just to name a few.
The absence of Apple was hardly even noticed at the event. I know they play by their own rules, but I am not sure of the wisdom in ceding this week to the Android players. Samsung dominated the event, showing off their new wearable tech and announcing the Galaxy S5.
And while so much of MWC focuses on hardware, service providers, and MDM players, I found the Applications Hall to be of most interest. Companies like Lleida.net, from a small town in Spain, have game-changing apps addressing payment authentication using existing government-issued IDs. Another service they offer is certified email and SMS. We are in desperate need of these applications, as many businesses and governments are still stuck in the past, demanding hand-written checks and mail-delivered documentation.
How the next generation will demand these services in the next decade is a coming megatrend--and a post for another day.
Folks like Lleida.net are not on the main floor and get eclipsed by the Galaxy S5 announcement. But the Galaxy S5 isn't going to offer transformational capabilities to our world. Folks like Lleida.net will.
Mobile Device Management is Huge (and a Commodity)
The sheer size of the AirWatch pavilion gives an indication of the importance of MDM at the event. With its acquisition by VMware completed during the week, they join the club of MDM providers acquired by enterprise IT management businesses.
The push for MDM is getting so important, even Samsung is getting in on the action with KNOX. KNOX is an MDM application provided by Samsung, giving users a secure "container" for their business applications that are separate from the rest of the phone.
While KNOX was announced at the last MWC, it is now out there and had a significant position in their pavilion. Folks like CA Technologies and Citrix are already supporting it, and it will be interesting to see if competitors like Microsoft/Nokia, Motorola, and Apple move in that direction with their own native apps.
MDM has gone from niche, to wide acceptance, to a necessary tool very quickly. Conversations used to be centered on, "Do we need MDM?" With the move toward BYOD, the answer to that question is becoming a given. And now that it is reaching maturity, the next step is how to better leverage it.
My first annual "Tom Brannen Best in Show Award" goes to a company called AirPatrol. I met its CEO, Cleve Adams at a networking event hosted by AirWatch and was genuinely excited to hear what the company is doing.
One of the services it offers is using sensors to add location information to enforce AirWatch policies. Through this integration, certain applications on users' devices can be enabled/disabled based on where the users are located in the building.
For example, you could limit data that doctors could access to certain floors of the hospital. When they leave the building or enter the cafeteria, their access is restricted. Another example is to disable the mobile device's camera when the user enters sensitive areas of the building. And because their solution does not need GPS location or even Wi-Fi to be turned on, it can work indoors and can pinpoint a user within a few feet.
The technology can also detect, identify, and locate rogue phones that enter a facility or campus. This allows organizations to monitor and enforce areas where cell phones are not allowed, which is a huge challenge for places like prisons.
The company is also working on location-aware applications to help drive revenue, which continues to be an underexplored opportunity. The opportunities available with their technology are limitless.
Mobility is not Just About Phones
I was surprised to see how many companies not normally associated with mobility were at the conference. Devices ranged from smart cameras, wearable tech like watches, and even Bluetooth toothbrushes.
Fitbit, who makes fitness trackers, had a challenge where attendees could buy/register a device and track their walking at the MWC. I haven't seen the results, but I would bet I walked at least 25 miles during the 3 days I was there.
The AT&T pavilion was mainly demonstrating not business applications, but "The Connected Home." And beyond the home, its pavilion was one of many that showcased cars, including Ford, running mobile applications. Think about this for a moment: Apple and Microsoft were not at the MWC, but Ford was.
Of course, in the days that follow an event like this, we immediately start to look to next year. What will we see in Mobile World Congress 2015? A Galaxy S6? Wearable tech that I might actually want to wear? How about Microsoft/Nokia making a splash?
As a consultant, none of that is particularly interesting to me. What I will look forward to, other than the sunshine, Tapas, and joy of being in Barcelona, is the applications that continue to be the real drivers of innovation and can help propel my clients forward.
I am already looking forward to next year.
The Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC) is an international organization of independent information and communication technology (ICT) professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.