What Youll See at MWC

As the mobile industry decamps en masse to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress,  Mike Short, Head of Research & Development at O2, offers his predictions for the show


Last year, as the last European Chairman of the Global GSM Association, I was asked by many people heading over to Barcelona, what I thought the big trends from the show would be. As Head of Research & Development at O2 and Chair of the UK Mobile Data Association, I see a lot of innovation and new initiatives in the mobile space. So I thought I would repeat the exercise this year. Below are my key takes about what will be the most talked about themes at this years hotly-anticipated show.

Mobile Data and Applications
There will be a lot of experience shared around the 3G evolution, mobile Internet and mobile email space again this year as we head towards a much richer and more comprehensive data market. The growing influence of the web will also come through in both business and consumer applications, touching new sectors such as Transport, Health and Education.

Mobile Commerce and Banking 
Support for the GSMA Pay-By-Mobile initiative took off last year with a range of handset manufacturers and operators such as Nokia, Motorola, O2, Vodafone and Orange pledging to examine the use of NFC (Near Field Communications) for contactless payments. With the UKs first large scale NFC trial the O2 Wallet going live in November 2007, Mobile World Congress will be a platform for further brands to review and discuss their plans for using NFC technology in 2008. This may also be complemented by GSMA-led money transfer initiatives, to help the unbanked around the world through mobile.

Mobile Advertising
2008 will be the year that mobile advertising comes of age. With more consumers than ever now browsing the web through their mobile handsets, there is a significant and largely untapped audience for advertisers to target customers appropriately with relevant messaging. At MWC, expect operators, partnering with advertising specialists, to discuss how they can provide better targeting and measurement for mobile advertising, campaigns, from behavioural- and demographic- to geographic- and channel-based targeting.

Screens, Eyewear and Accessories
When Bluetooth was first unveiled, largely for headsets, back in 1998, it did not achieve immediate consumer acceptance. It was around four years before that happened. Talk has now moved to the adoption of screens and video eyewear. MWC 2008 should see the debut of products such as pico projectors. With companies like Plastic Logic, Polymer vision, Vuzix, Microvision, and MyVu on show, it will be interesting to see how this market develops as we move from a verbal to a visual world of mobile. The idea of wearing video eyewear on the beach to watch the latest episode of Lost, whilst still getting a tan and protecting your eyes from the sun, may not be far off. 

Mobile Communities and Social Networking
The steady growth of Facebook, Bebo and MySpace means making these communities truly mobile will generate excitement as well. The mobile industry has dabbled in this area with messaging and applications that can be downloaded straight to a handset, and there are still a lot more to be understood and implemented. We will see further offerings coming down the line later this year, potentially around what the future holds for user-generated content (UGC) on mobile. The recent announcement of EyeVibe by O2 and 3 in the UK is just one illustration of this.   

M2M Forecast
Machine-to-machine, or M2M, will continue to grow, as mobile provides new opportunities for machine as well as people connectivity. Telematics services are already growing rapidly now that GSM/3G modules have fallen in cost, and can be designed into longer-term telematics applications, from health care to transport, from environmental management to energy .
With more (mobile) phones than people in most developed nations, the global forecast of M2M could be as high as 60 billion by 2020, based on there being 10 times more machines than people around the world, but this will only happen with broader cross-sector cooperation and partnerships. 

Barcelona Tapas Something for Everyone
    Mobile video and TV – expect many more demos and trials to be announced, but no one single standard adopted globally.
    Mobile bar code standards.
    GPS will be integrated more fully into networks and devices, enabling many new innovative mapping and location-based services.
    Environmental /climate change solutions the role that mobile can play in this.

I am sure there will be a million more thoughts and ideas that will come out of Mobile World Congress and I would love to hear your views on the big stories and trends.