Mobile World Congress 2018

As day one of Mobile World Congress (the largest mobile conference of the year) draws to a close, we are starting to get a pretty good idea of the trends that will dominate our industry for the year to come.

The much anticipated product launches from the major Android handset manufacturers that traditionally open the show are back once again. This year Samsung (who noticeably sat last year out while they rectified their exploding battery problem) joined in with their latest flagship model, the Galaxy S9, offering a new and improved super-slow motion camera. Nokia have again re-introduced a retro classic in the 8110 (as featured in the Matrix), alongside the ‘unbendable’ (their words, not mine) steel framed Scirocco that runs pure Android. Sony meanwhile has focussed on the gamers as the Xperia XZ2 rumbles in much the same way as a PS4 controller.

While the above are incremental improvements (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that), some new trends are starting to gain commercial traction (judging by this year’s exhibiters at least). Augmented Reality is breaking out of the box that Pokemon Go inadvertently put it in, with several stands offering industrial and commercial solutions – I fully expect Mozenix to be joining us in Barcelona next year.

Another theme that has a noticeably larger presence this year is Geolocation with companies such as Sensewhere offering indoor location solutions for enterprise and Beacon Inside offering retailers the data that could lead to the holy grail of knowing where a customer is combined with what they want to buy when they are actually there!

As was wonderfully illustrated in the film Minority Report, this could potentially present some problems (assuming you are Tom Cruise) which would explain why so many companies are offering to secure and protect your digital identity online. They are still out-numbered by the number of companies offering App Publishers their holy grail of targeting acquisition at the audience of related apps. Will be very interesting to see if Verizon’s new AOL/Yahoo combo Oath can deliver on its promise of brand safety at scale.

One solution that could solve all of this is of course blockchain (not BitCoin or other crypto-currencies, which are a different thing built on top of blockchain). For the first time specialist blockchain solution providers such as Wallet Services were exhibiting at Mobile World Congress 2018. I expect they will be back and will have much more company next year!

However, as with Mobile World Congress 2017, 5G is once again dominating the overall show. While the actual rollout remains two years away, at least, what is interesting is that the focus is starting to turn towards performance monitoring and management. Not just traditional carrier-level Quality-of-Service Assurance but across the entire… and I mean the entire technology stack!

Over the next three days, I’ll be meeting three different agencies (and there’s another two more on my hit-list) who specialize in helping their clients optimize the performance of the app listing in the stores. Ciqual can tell you the latency your app experiences on different carriers. 51Degrees can tell you what it experiences on different hardware and chipsets. The massive bandwidth of 5G will be of little comfort to a user if their app is crashing.

Which is why Kumulos is happy to be back here on the Scotland stand in Hall 7. From what I can see, no other platform gives developers the complete visibility of how their app is performing technically, how this is impacting their audience and the analytics to power automated, targeted push campaigns to increase user engagement. As a result, I have a very busy few days ahead meeting software development companies at Mobile World Congress to show them how Kumulos can help them win more projects, retain their clients and grow their app development business.

Speaking of the Scotland stand, it was great to see so many other different countries sponsoring stands and bringing delegates that would otherwise not be able to afford to exhibit at Mobile World Congress… Brazil, Columbia, Morocco, Tunisia, France, Denmark… the list just goes on. Economic development agencies around the world provide a valuable service for companies in their country and if you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to reach out to your local representative.

What was also good to see was a noticeable decline in “Booth babes” as the mobile industry, like others, finally modernizes to align with the times. This doesn’t necessarily mean there were fewer female delegates at Mobile World Congress. It just means that we’re getting close to a fair situation where all delegates attending are there because of what they know and what they do rather than how they look.

However, the biggest thing I have taken away from Mobile World Congress 2018 is that our collective appetite to socialize, do commerce and conduct business within mobile apps is undiminished. From healthcare to enterprise mobility, the growth we have seen in apps shows no signs of stopping. This presents both opportunities and challenges for the software development companies who specialize in building apps. As the space becomes more crowded and clients’ and users’ expectations rise, it is those developers who can demonstrate how they work with their clients to optimize an app once it has been launched who will prosper.

While many exhibitors have commented that footfall may be down on previous years, that may not necessarily be a bad thing – quality of interaction is preferable to quantity of interaction and, judging by how full my calendar is for the next two days, I certainly think that Mobile World Congress is worthwhile attending.

Final thought for anyone who might be thinking of attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2019… please be aware that Universitat and Universitaria are two completely different Metro stations… much of this post was written on the Metro re-tracing my steps back towards my hotel once I realised!