The Green Sheet Online Edition
March 23, 2015 • Issue 15:03:02
Mobile World Congress 2015 extols innovation, inclusion
More than 93,000 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors from 200 countries gathered in Barcelona, Spain, March 2 through 5 for Mobile World Congress 2015. Event host Groupe Speciale Mobile stated the event achieved an attendance record for this coalition of mobile operators established in 1982 and focused on Europe's expanding mobile ecosystem.
Innovations in mobile network connectivity, apps and hardware were showcased during the three-day event. Believing this augurs well for the future, GSM Chief Executive Officer John Hoffman, stated, "The industry has come a long way over the last decade, and we look forward to seeing the changes that will occur over the next 10 years."
Additionally, several technology leaders introduced programs designed to bring mobile technologies to underdeveloped countries. Payments industry analysts expect many of the new products and financial inclusion initiatives will drive mobile payment adoption in both existing and emerging markets worldwide.
Following are key trends explored at the conference that will impact the emerging payments sphere.
- Smarter phones: An array of new smartphones from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., HTC Corp., and BlackBerry Ltd. address growing consumer demand for security, durability, ease-of-use, increased functionality and easier charging methods.
Samsung Galaxy S6 phones feature Gorilla Glass casings, faster processors, improved cameras and wireless chargers. Samsung, which recently acquired LoopPay, also showcased its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, which employs LoopPay technology. It is slated to hit the market this summer and is expected to give other mobile payment schemes, including Apple Inc.'s Apple Pay, a run for their money.
The HTC One M9 has a futuristic, high-gloss, metallic look. LG Corp. and ZTE Corp. also previewed new handsets. BlackBerry's Leap and Slider phones are part of a corporate rebranding strategy that includes cross-platform enterprise software in the company's BES12 Cloud.
- Stronger networks: Magnus Frodigh, Ericsson's Wireless Network Research Director, said he expects 5G (fifth generation wireless systems) to outperform current mobile data volumes consumed by connected devices by a large margin, with far less power consumption. He suggested the basic goal is to build a technology that is 10 times better than the 4G network.
Similar comments by Deutsche Telekom AG, Telstra Corp. Ltd. and the European Union about the need for 5G highlighted the global community's commitment to improved standards for the mobile infrastructure. Kate McKenzie, Chief Operations Officer at Telstra described the 5G initiative as going beyond connecting mobile phones to supporting the vast population of connected devices that are part of the Internet of Things, which she said will have "different requirements in terms of latency, and power, speed and capacity."
- Expanding array of apps: While Apple and Google Inc. have been dominant in the mobile app space, Amazon Inc., with close to 400,000 mobile apps, is also a major player in this realm. In his presentation at the conference, Mike George, Vice President of Apps and Games at Amazon, said the company has almost doubled its app count and expanded its global footprint over the last 12 months.
- Changing fashions in wearable technology: The conference showcased new smart watches from Huawei Technologies Co., LG and a payments-enabled prototype from Singtel Optus Pty Ltd. called Cash by Optus, which sports a built-in Visa Inc. debit card users can wave over near field communication-enabled POS terminals. Optus plans to pilot test the product in 2015 in select transportation and payments environments.
Other crowd-pleasers included the retro-looking Runcible pocket phone that looks remarkably like an old pocket watch, and AVG's Invisibility eyeglasses designed to outfox facial recognition software and help its wearers remain incognito.
Apple Watch is predicted to hold majority market share for the foreseeable future, according to a report by Strategy Analytics. The research agency forecasted 511 percent growth in global smart watch shipments, with Apple Watch accounting for about 15.4 million orders in 2015, and an estimated 55 percent of global market share.
Emerging markets join the mobile bandwagon
A number of strategic initiatives and products designed to bring mobile connectivity to emerging markets were also a focal point of the conference. An array of affordable mobile devices included the $23 Cherry Mobile Ace, $40 Orange Klif mobile phones, and Microsoft Lumia 640 and 640XL smartphones priced at around $200.
Noting that only one-third of the civilized world has access to the Internet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook seeks to collaborate with technology leaders, nonprofits and local communities to improve those numbers.
In his keynote address, MasterCard Worldwide CEO Ajay Banga said,
"[B]ecause of technology, because of the roles we in this room play, we can help shape the arc of history to bend it towards financial inclusion and greater human progress."
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