BARCELONA -It's been a cold winter in Barcelona but as the temperatures rise, it signals the arrival of...Mobile World Congress 2015, set to kick off on Monday 2nd March.
Last year's congress had a record-beating attendance of over 70,000 visitors and this year could go beyond that milestone. The sheer scale and length of the show (4 days) means that good planning and stamina are required to get the most of the event.
As a rule, I'm not very interested in the telecom operator's rhetoric and prefer to listen to content providers, innovators and outsiders at the show that can bring a fresh perspective on where the "connected world" is heading.
This year the conference track of the show has a tantalizing line up with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales keynoting on Day 2 together with ARM CEO Simon Segars. They will discuss how to get developing economies to benefit from inclusion in the connected world. On the same day, the Wearables session will provide insights from Pebble and Fitbit and address the question of whether Apple's iWatch will take wearables into the mainstream.
On the same day (Day 2 is clearly a key day at the show) the day will wrap up with a Keynote on Mobile Retail with VISA and Paypal. Paypal have always had smart insights into mobile payments so I'm eager to hear what Paypal has to say about Apple's move into their turf.
Day 3 considers the "explosion of imaging" with wunderkid Bernardo Hernandez from Flikr considering how image content will drive hardware needs in future.
Sadly this year's MWC will not have the traditional WIPJam developer event, so developers will be left to flock to branded development conferences and will thus need to keep their anarchic instincts at bay during the show.
In a continuation of recent year's trends, mobile devices are unlikely to be the stars of the show, with previously peripheral areas like connected devices and homes (and suppliers thereof) gaining prominence and providing a greater transformational impetus than the commoditised mobile market.
Google tends to pack a punch at its annual I/O and this year was no exception. Last month, it announced a raft of innovations for Android, with contextual awareness big on the agenda (you may remember this theme from my blog about the AWE Keynote by Robert Scoble below
What else is set to come?
In case you missed it, here are some of the bite-size highlights announced for Android 5.0 that are especially relevant for mobile app developers:
- A new UI Concept, giving more focus to meaningful transitions
- Expansion of "Android Wear" to include integration with Google Now and enhanced voice note taking. Also, support extended for round and square screens.
- Enhanced Notifications including the option to respond from the device home screen
- Set of new APIs to develop apps and track stats using the health sensors
- Better support for communication, navigation and music through a new Android Auto SDK
- Enhancements to analytics, testing and distribution
You can find out more and see the keynote videos by clicking through to the official site here
BARCELONA - If you’re into AR and have played around with the many AR-enabled mobile apps published in iTunes and Google Play, you have probably heard by now about Blippar acquiring Layar. This means different things for everyone involved in the AR industry, for consumers, for professionals and for the future of the AR industry as a whole.
I first came into contact with Layar at a startup event in Barcelona in 2009 and was impressed with Layar's vision and ability to market AR's potential for immersive experiences on mobile to both techies and marketeers alike. I also described Layar's use of geo-location in my book on Location Aware Applications.
If you’re not entirely certain what those companies do, the rundown is that they both provide an app which enables consumers to scan printed media or packaged products that have an interactive campaign or digital content attached to them. Typically users know about that content because there is a call to action. Those apps compete with others like Junaio or Wikitude, alternative ‘AR browsers’.
The most prominent advantage of AR browsers is that users need only one app for multiple content. Once installed, it pulls new content on demand from the cloud.The disadvantage when comparing branded apps and browsers is for content creators. Brands and publishers have limited control of the whole experience (as well as the branding) and they share the same space with competitors.
Blippar has been doing a very good job of providing high quality experiences on their browser. Operating like an agency, they take care of the end to end solution but publish on Blippar’s app. Layar is probably the king in terms of volume of experiences inside their platform. But with volume and scale, comes some limitations on the versatility of the experiences as you cannot go one-by-one. It remains to be seen if a new Layar-Blippar browser app will lean more towards volume or towards curated content.
So what lies in store in the future? Beautifully crafted, branded AR-capable apps are more likely to win hearts-and-minds of mobile users.A foreseeable option is that, just as happened with location, AR and image recognition capabilities will increasingly be embedded within a multitude of apps in a seamless fashion. (Credit to D.Marimon for parts of this post).
SANTA CLARA, CALIF. - Now my second AWE in a row, there is plenty to be amazed at this one-of-a-kind augmented reality (AR) conference set in the midst of Silicon Valley.
As the AR industry evolves away from a niche to being a concept more and more consumers are exposed to and understand, so does AWE evolve from an enthusiast's playground to a showcase for multimillion dollar businesses and opportunities.
You know things are a-changing when companies like Bosch join the expo floor and when more than one exhibitor brings along a connected car to showroom cool tech with. To boot, AWE has almost doubled in size from last year and this maturity was also clear from the visitors to the event (and the questions they ask). While last year I got a fair amount of "How do I use your tech" type questions, this year is more along the lines of "QR codes are not right for my business, what do I need to do to use your image recognition and augmented reality software instead".
Yes, businesses are now more comfortable with technology that enhances their physical products and links these to digital content. In fact, many brands understand today that unless their brand is connected somehow to their Facebook page, mobile apps, m-commerce store etc, some other brand will and so steal their market share. Consumers are overwhelmingly digital today and image recognition is a great way to connect the real world to the digital one (in fact, add an image to an ad and let users interact with it and you can expect 40x greater engagement than without it -that's ROI for you!).
AWE also marked a shift away from the Google Glass "geek-factor" to a point where Glass is cooler (though privacy still remains a concern). So much cooler, that Glass is no longer alone, and Epson want to give Google a run-for-their money with the BT-200 Moverio. These are clearly not commodity products yet, but we're a lot closer to this happening.
At last year's AWE, the audience loved actual case studies of consumer brands using AR -this year, it was more about wearables and how different industries can use AR to become more efficient.
It was great to see Robert Scoble on stage and his message of contextual awareness (as endorsed by Google at Le Web in 2010) is still relevant today and in fact, as AWE proved, we are one step closer to seeing that vision come true.
BARCELONA- Yes, it has been almost a month now since the end of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona so this post rationalizes a great deal on my thoughts about the event. As an exhibitor at the show this year, it takes that long to digest all the information and business leads!
As this is a short post, I will provide bit-sized thoughts only:
BEST DEVICE: No doubt, the device that impressed me the most was the LG Flex mobile phone with an ergonomic curved screen that maintains a great resolution and is an indication of things to come. We will eventually all want our tech to blend in unobtrusively with our environment and life, and being able to curve displays so as to fit our "round" world makes a great deal of sense to me. I hope we see more of this type of device and screen tech soon...
KEY TREND: This is not so much news, but more of a confirmation. It is here. "Connected everywhere" is no longer just a marketing slogan, but the presence of a whole range of companies that are not actually "mobile" is proof that connectivity is coming to a "thing" near you very soon (and this thing may include your iRoomba vacuum cleaner). This year, car manufacturers and connected cars on display have mushroomed at the show. This makes sense- the more expensive the "thing", the more justified is the investment in connectivity. Hacker attacks on Smart Fridges aside, this trend will continue and the MWC is likely to horizontally integrate more with a wide range of industries and products that will have nothing to do with the traditional mobile phone.
PRODUCT LAUNCHES: I was disappointed by Samsung's launch of the Galaxy S5 for two key reasons. One -we are at a Mobile show so please do not restrict access to your new device exclusively for the press. 74,000 other visitors wanted to get their grubby mitts on the device and couldn't. Annoying at best. Second- I'm not against natural evolutions of devices and agree that it is not necessary to re-invent the wheel at every product launch. However, do not make such a big song-and-dance over a product launch when in reality there are only gradual enhancements in the new product. This is just a way to raise expectations and then disappoint. And copying Apple is not an excuse to repeat this error.
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