Mobile World Congress 2014 was always going to be the biggest ever: eight halls of exhibitors at the congress itself, the Mobile World Live TV station featuring panels and interviews with stars such as Mark Zuckerberg, and numerous fringe events held at the old, prettier venue vacated when MWC proper outgrew it and moved up the road.
It’s virtually impossible to summarise everything and even now that I’m back in the UK I’m reading about new gadgets that I completely missed.
What this year’s MWC illustrated is that mobile technology is driving large-scale convergence, not into a single device as we once thought, but into multiple devices controlled centrally from a smartphone.
Nokia X range
Of course, MWC 2014 gave us new handset announcements from the usual suspects; Sony, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Blackberry and many new Chinese entrants. Apple never “publicly” attends this event but its employees are ever-present, probably gazing longingly at the self-healing case for the LG Flex - scratch it and it repairs itself in minutes.The Nokia X range of Android handsets caused a bit of a ruckus, however, truth be told, it wasn’t as much of a ruckus as it would have been had they released the phones a couple of years ago when the development and blogging fraternity begged them to. As a developer, the new devices might make sense. “Port your application to our phones and get access to a whole new raft of users” is Nokia’s sales pitch for the time-being. We can only wonder whether Microsoft will continue backing the competitor OS when their Nokia purchase goes through.It was striking that this year all the manufacturers now have families of gadgets that respond to and interact with each other. Last year each manufacturer had rows of tables, each with rows and rows of the same gadget on display. This year the tables had families of gadgets all being cross-promoted and sold together with apps – a combined package which enables creativity at a much greater scale.
Sony LifeLogger SmartBand
For example, Sony was showing off its new LifeLogger SmartBand, a concept camera that takes photos every few seconds (much like the Kickstarter-funded Memoto) and a watch, smartphone and tablet that are all (still) waterproof but better-specced. Sony TVs played 4K videos filmed on the phone, and the watch can be used to control playback.If you press the “bookmark” button on the SmartBand, say while running, the app on your phone takes a snapshot of the GPS coordinates, calculates how far you’ve run, snaps a photo with the wearable camera and will probably in a future release measure your pulse and temperature, creating the ultimate “memory” of that particular moment.
Sony LifeLogger SmartBand
Qualcomm went to great lengths to show-off its AllSeen initiative, enabling devices from any manufacturer to talk to devices from any other manufacturer. The lock on your front door can tell your living room lights to brighten as you open the door, and your TV can alert you when your missus has opened the door to your chilled wine cabinet, prompting you to shout, ”I’ll have a glass too, thanks love”. The key difference this year was the number of new manufacturers and devices that have lined up behind AllSeen, freeing you from the single supplier scenario I described above.Cars were liberally sprinkled across the exhibition this year. They showed off their ability to “see” people crossing the road in front of them, automatically slowing down to avoid an accident probably caused by the driver trying to turn down the temperature via his smartphone embedded in the dashboard. Again, there is a battle brewing between those car makers going it alone, and those signing up to a common platforms, CarPlay, the Car Connectivity Consortium’s MirrorLink or Google’s OAA.The apps and mobile marketing arena in hall 8.1 was the only disappointing area for me. Besides the incredible smartphone controlled home micro-brewery (I wonder if it’ll fit in the bar at DigitasLBi), the marketing and advertising platforms on show seemed to be stuck in the past.Generally though, there is no better time to be in the smartphone-car-tablet-watch-health-home automation business, otherwise known as the mobile industry. The internet of things is here and it’s well and truly mobile.