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On the ground at Mobile World Congress

05 March 2018

On the ground at Mobile World Congress

Ellie Fixter,
Senior PR & Content Manager,

As a first timer at Mobile World Congress, I had no idea what to expect - but let’s just say I was ill prepared. If you’re ever thinking of going, my biggest tip would be…walking shoes. Never mind mobile phones, laptops, tablets, limitless Wi-Fi etc, it’s walking shoes that you need.

Fira Barcelona Gran Via, the exhibition centre in Barcelona, is what I can only describe as ‘mind-bogglingly huge’. Eight halls, several rooftop gardens, 2,300 exhibitors and over 100,000 attendees. I needed trainers and gym kit to make even a dent on visiting all the stands in three days.

Regardless of the cries of pain from my feet by the end of Day 2, I was determined to see as much as possible during my time at the conference and get a good feel for what this year’s conference was all about.

With the help of a TechSafari , hosted by McCann Worldgroup, I was able to discover some of the key themes for 2018, as well as seeing some of the more innovative technology from unexpected players.

If there was a stand-out quote from the TechSafari, it was ‘convenience makes hypocrites of us all’. So much of the technology on display was based on making day-to-day life easier for the average person. Whether that’s faster shopping, staying healthy, added security at home, an improved driving experience etc., it can all be a lot more seamless, IF we’re willing to sacrifice a little, or sometimes a lot, of our privacy - and from the sheer volume of new technology that’s based on customers providing high levels of personal information, it would seem the market thinks that convenience trumps all else..

One demonstration that was garnering a lot of interest was a vending machine that provided prescription medicine. Leveraging Mobile Connect’s double-layered security – phone number and then finger print – it could access your prescriptions via mobile app, connect to the vending machine and then dispense your medicine instantly. Are we concerned about disclosing our medical requirements, as long as we can get our medicine quickly and conveniently without having to queue in a pharmacy or at a doctors? I’d certainly consider it.

Another theme that emerged was collaboration. We, together with Mastercard, have long been industry collaborators, and Mastercard’s latest partnership with M-KOPA Solar was a highlight at the conference. M-KOPA Solar is leading the way with pay-as-you-go solar energy for off-grid customers in Africa. Via a mobile plan, access to energy has never been easier. Now, with the support of Mastercard’s Quick Response (QR) payment technology, even more homes and businesses can access affordable, safe and clean energy.

Other collaborations included, Vodafone and Samsung, working together on a new smart home launch and SEAT and Amazon Alexa on a voice enabled car (with Shazam thrown in there for good measure!). It seems the industry believes increasingly more, that working together to leverage each other’s expertise, is a winning formula for success.

This reminded me of an interview I watched with Bill Gates. He was asked the question by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, ‘What advice would you give your younger self?’. He responded saying that he was naïve about different skill sets. He thought that if somebody had a high IQ they could be good at everything. So this advice was to be aware that there was a need to blend these different skills together. This felt particularly apt at Mobile World Congress this year – just because you have the knowledge that enables you to build a car for example, it doesn’t mean you have the same high skill it takes to build an intelligent personal assistant. By collaborating, you take the best of both, and build a world class offering.

As I continued to walk around the stands - maybe next year they will have an Alexa enabled Segway - the overall impression I had was that companies were striving to provide the best experience for the customer. It was less product-led and more use-case focused. Companies such as Nokia created whole smart cities that you could enter and walk around, testing and experiencing products as you would at home, such as Nokia Activity and Sleep Watch. This led to a demonstration on how the data which measured your exercise or sleep pattern could then be sent to your Doctor via its Patient Care service, enabling remote support, where it was needed. It felt that their stand was less about showcasing a high tech product for products’ sake, but rather illustrating how these products could enhance your life, in multiple ways.

One of Mastercard’s missions is, ‘Empowering you in the digital economy’, which felt very universal at the conference. Mobile World Congress was all about the individual – how can these latest technologies help you? How can we make these technologies more accessible to everyone? And how can people use our services for the greater good? It will be interesting to see how this narrative develops for next year’s conference…

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