Once more, the mobile industry has got together in Barcelona for the annual Mobile World Congress. The beginnings of the congress reach back to the year 1987. I myself have now been there ten times as a visitor. In the early years, the event was primarily a technological performance show of, at that time, pure mobile and infrastructure providers. So companies such as Nokia, Sony, Alcatel, Samsung and co. presented their latest models, and T-Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica and co. did some purchasing. On the sidelines Cisco, Qualcomm and other system vendors showed their servers, masts and the like.
Especially in recent years, since smart phones have taken over the mobile phone market completely, the event has increasingly evolved from a technological to a technical performance show. This year it is particularly noticeable that manufacturers such as Sony, with a wide range of devices from TVs to cameras, are showing us every possible application scenario and operation of their devices.
The top theme of 2015 is the Internet of Things: smart wearables, smart home, smart PoS, Smart Car, Smart City, Smart-anything And the message on the side — yes, we still have a few very chic, new smartphones!
But at the time when smartphones are only being tweaked. Features such as waterproofing, powerful processors, NFC, Dolby Surround and the like have almost become standard everywhere.
The shape factor has also been resolved; it stays with the touch / slate format. The screen diagonals have grown, but should stabilize at about four point seven to five inches as everything else is somewhat unwieldy.
Depending on manufacturer and model, there are a few special features in the high-performance camera direction such as 4K recordings on Sony, curved display at LG or casing upgrades such as the S6 devices from Samsung, which are now delivered in high-quality aluminium – but all this is still only fine tuning. There have been no major innovations this year.
We will need, however, to get used to being flooded in the coming months by smart watches and smart bands. Every manufacturer has dozens of different models on offer, from pure fitness trackers to the fashion statement. Even the classic watch manufacturers such as GUESS watches or Kronoz were there, showing their smart watch interpretations. The crux of the matter is, however, that most people currently don’t actually see any benefit in smart wearables.
Fitness trackers can obviously record their own movement and provide data for analysis, but beyond that things get vague. The development of these devices will depend on what benefits are attributed to them by end users.
Megatrend: The Internet of Things
What was really new at the show was that manufacturers have comprehensively adopted the theme of cross-linked life and the Internet of Things. How do I network my living room, control the TV or manage audio, video, and photos? How can I dock my phone, for example, on the Playstation 4 and take my games directly from the large to the small screen without much effort? Where will it all lead to and whether every toaster really needs a Wi-Fi connection remains to be seen. But as so often, manufacturers tend embrace the theoretical possibilities with their enthusiasm for technology leading them to overdo it at first
The central device, which breathes the intelligence into all the new IoT (Internet of Things) gadgets, remains the smart phone. We all take it for granted and it stands at the centre of every application. It is the basic prerequisite which allows watches, toothbrushes or houses to be smart at all.
Further innovations are expected in the coming years on the software side. The device itself has developed into a swiftly changing tool. The operating system, the Internet and a couple of particular apps bring it to life.
As in previous years, the Google’s green Android bot was almost omnipresent. The operating system dominates the smartphone market in an almost frightening way. However young, fresh operating systems like the Linux-based Ubuntu Phone or the Firefox OS are more than confident. But for users it continues to be a major to impossible effort to change the operating system on their smartphones or to change so as to have about an alternative to Google’s Android.
Real competition for Google could develop in the coming years – from Samsung, which currently produces about 70 percent of all Android smart phones. Samsung is a company with healthy aspirations which feels its dependence on Google as rather suboptimal. Not least for this reason, Samsung has become a major developer of the independent operating system, Tizen. It has presented a complete Tizen Eco System ranging from smart phones and smart watches up to apps and cameras in Barcelona. It is only a matter of time until Samsung feels strong enough to consider turning their backs Android. At least then the balance of power caused by a reshuffle in smart phone operating systems will make it really exciting again.
The Potential of the Outernet
The question arises for us today what these developments will mean for us, but more importantly for our customers, the advertisers.
Well, first of all we need to understand that the Internet is no longer trapped in a box called a PC or laptop. It is small-scale, colourful, exciting and “happens” absolutely anywhere, anytime. There are devices that generate data or content (e.g. wearables, clothing, etc.) and there are devices (e.g. TV, screens, sound boxes, etc.), the process or output such content. Mobile terminals have brought the Internet to places that have been completely analogue to date. Many speak in this context of “Outernet”.
This trend was particularly clear in Barcelona at a side event of the exhibition, “4YFN – 4 Years From Now – Connecting start ups,”.
The current generation of business founders work in some cases with completely undeveloped markets and will develop business models that will appeal to new audiences and which we still do not dare to dream of today.
Already disruptive business models have emerged from these developments, such as car sharing á la car2go or DriveNow, which were made possible by the mobile Internet. Also services such MyTaxi or Uber have completely overthrown old business models. It’s no longer about digitization; it involves mobilizing – and we are still at the very beginning of it.
And all these new and in some cases really fascinating business models will attract more people to a more intensive use of smart phones. So many more target groups will be devoting more and more time to the screens in their hands!
Until now brands have presented their messages on their websites and other media channels. In future this will be complex. Users or customers are using the Internet increasingly and the diversity of devices continues to grow. Critics see this as an even more fragmented device market, which makes mass communication more difficult. I see it more as a great opportunity for companies to take their first steps with the likes of Branded Services or Content-Marketing and to live the much-vaunted customer relationship. That is because the “bombard everything with advertising until the last person knows the claim” approach is not about customer relationship! Whereas so far a company website optimized for desktop or laptop was the focal point, now it will be the “touch-friendly” website or apps for smart phones and tablets.
At the moment, many companies see mobile Internet as only just another media channel for bannering or search. In my opinion this is a fatal miscalculation that ignores the vast potential of the mobile Internet. Many smart people are currently worrying about how to connect the analogue world of brand communication, i.e. print, radio, OOH or TV, to the digital world, and then invent such great things such as the Red Button on TV. The problem is: No one needs this Red Button. Why? Because we already have one in our pockets: our smart phone. It can see (camera, image recognition, etc.), hear (microphone and sound recognition, is always connected to the internet and, moreover, is absolutely personal.
But also the other way, i.e. from the network to the analogue world, can and should be ventured by companies. A major area is, for example, “ROPO” (Research Online – Offline purchase). Consumers can use their smart phones to get “Real World cookies”, e.g. digital loyalty cards with which customers can take their search and purchases history from the online store into the dealer’s shop.
This could finally give each channel its proper meaning in the customer journey! This in turn will lead to massive structural changes. Dividing retail stores and online shops into separate channels or even companies will, in future, make a lot less sense. Instead, intelligent, networked solutions are required. We have already shown how some examples of this can work in our weShop (www.weshop.vision) – but there are still many other ways. The “Outernet” will be the big trend in the coming years.
My tip for the advertisers: mobile marketing will permanently change the way we have, till now, communicated with customers and call into question ecosystems, billing models, departments, etc. which have evolved over the years. For this reason, it is advisable that mobile receive complete “management attention”, as that is where foresight is required, not to miss out on such developments, but to position ourselves and our companies for it.