Mobile World Congress has grown immensely over its lifetime and has now become the go-to event for the mobile industry. Businesses are now starting with mobile technology as the focal point in their communications/ IT journey and looking around the halls in Barcelona it was easy to see why. The term ‘mobile’ now covers so much of the market there is little left untouched by what is now an essential business technology. See how David Dungay got on at the show below.
When Samsung decides to launch its new flagship smartphone models at Mobile World Congress (MWC) you can assume a lot. Throughout the year there are several large global events which the tech giant ploughs significant funds into and yet they save their heavy hitting, Apple munching, mobile products for MWC. The Congress is now the show to attend if you are in mobile… and by ‘mobile’ we are talking everything from devices, wearables and virtual reality to networks, cloud and the IoT (Internet of Things).
The Internet of Everything
The IoT was extremely prevalent this year again, the money some of these companies are investing into this market is phenomenal. If you don’t believe this market will be a significant opportunity to your business somehow over the next five years then I suggest you invest a bit of time into researching how IoT is changing the way businesses operate.
Speaking to Charles Towers-Clark, Group Managing Director of Podsystem, on why he makes the journey to this Mobile Mecca, he said “Mostly ideas, this is a great place to get ideas! We have done other shows but they don’t yield the same sorts of ideas, or the ability to learn about any part of the industry, that you can get from this show. Virtualisation of networks is one key trend I’m seeing, there are many more companies talking about virtualisation and networks this year.”
Dan Cunliffe, MD of Pangea, added “MWC is a hotbed of opportunities for us with new technologies. We are very open about being a partner channel and I think partners want us to bring new products to them. We are looking at solutions here, what providers are doing, what competitors are doing. Before we came here we identified about 50 potential opportunities we wanted to follow up on.
In the M2M market there is currently a difficulty to migrate. Often in M2M the SIMs are already deployed in devices. So the challenge is how you bring those over to your business, it’s not very straight forward right now. So we are looking at how we can make that process easier.”
Towers-Clark said, “If you look at the market, in my mind there is a clear power shift going on with firms like Apple starting to use eSIMs, we are seeing this situation where it is becoming Google, Apple and the rest of those types of players versus the networks. With these types of shifts going on we have to consider how we move forwards in a world that is potentially very different. We don’t want to be in a situation where we are reliant on any one provider, as a result we are looking at using an IMSI instead of the usual SIM cards for our IoT solutions. We can write our own applications directly on the SIM card which effectively takes the control away from the network as you don’t need to swap out SIMs if you change provider. This also has the added benefit of making it easy for customers to leave us if they want to, if we are doing our job properly that shouldn’t happen too often though.”
Last year the GSMA announced they were working with several industry giants to produce an Embedded SIM Specification which provides “A single, de-facto standard mechanism for the remote provisioning and management of machine to machine (M2M) connections, allowing the ‘over the air’ provisioning of an initial operator subscription, and the subsequent change of subscription from one operator to another.”
In this market changing SIM cards in devices is difficult for a number of reasons, physical access to devices may be limited or it can even be economically unviable to swap SIMs out of large deployments as engineers are required to carry out works.
Chris Smith, from plan.com, commented on his time at the show. He said, “We were looking for someone that could crisply explain the IoT ecosystem and put it together in one package…. We left disappointed! We did realise there will probably be 100’s or 1000’s of smaller IoT players in the market. You will get small start-ups that will do tracking for dogs or smartwatches for children etc. We are not so fussed about that, we are more fussed with providing the connectivity. We are focusing on making our portal really easy to use for partners needs when it comes to connectivity.
In terms of exciting things I saw at the show I think Graphene is very interesting. We are always trying to think 24/36 months ahead and right now handsets are quite commoditised. They are very similar across the board. With Graphene you can have something thinner than a piece of paper which can be folded into a mobile phone, tablet or a laptop. That is very exciting.”
Philip Cole, European Sales Director and Co-Founder of Wireless Logic, says “We are finding a lot of partners are now interested in using 3G and 4G as a back-up to fixed line. If you are a retail outlet and your chip and pin machines go down that is costing you money because you can’t operate. In the past, people have used a second fixed line as back-up which comes in from the street. This isn’t much good if a digger digs up the road outside your shop!
We are quite successful at implementing this and applications like EPOS back-up are really starting to resonate in the Channel. Some of our resellers are seeing up to a third of their base going into a back-up mode because it is so mission critical for customers.”
“There has been a hell of a lot of IoT and M2M stuff on every stand but on some stands actually not a lot of substance behind that. I get ideas for new products here, like security for example. We are looking at Security as a Service, we are trialling that right now. We are also about to launch Monitor Pro which is a network monitoring tool which covers real time usage. If you are putting SIMs in mission critical devices that control things like utilities it’s really important.
Monitor Pro will be released in the next quarter. These are crucial for things like defibrillators. The last thing you want is to need a defibrillator and come to use it and find it isn’t charged. We are allowing users to manage things like this at a network layer in mission critical applications.”
James Maynard, Offering Management Director Global IoT and Innovation Global Product Business Fujitsu “The approach with all the channels we deal with tends to be a consultative throughout. A big part of that is giving something tangible; the view is still very much of IoT in the future rather than IoT in the present. The biggest thing we wanted to get across here is that IoT is in the present.
MetaArc, our platform, is about delivering slow and fast IT and a key part of that is in order to deliver these IoT solutions, which is a key part of our customer’s digital transformation journey, the tendency of businesses is to focus on the new and modern, but actually a lot of value and the data we have been talking about sit within that legacy piece. The MetaArc platform is all about delivering the IoT whilst doing the transformation work on the legacy systems they have and bringing that into one platform. This allows them to build on it in the future but also bring in the value and the data they have got in their existing infrastructure and utilise that as value in the IoT arena.
IoT solves real world problems, and they don’t have to be the biggest problems in the world either. We have a connected cow on the stand here which is being deployed around farms today. It can track cows, record temperatures to identify the sex of a cow and also tell farmers when cows are pregnant and are about to give birth which has numerous benefits.. The productivity of the cow actually increases 10% as a result of this solution.”
“On our services side we are looking for an increased ability for our partners to sell our services. Traditionally we have had to do direct deals just to get traction in the market. Now we are at the point our solutions need to be available to our hardware providers and system integrators to push the business forwards. We want to see partners able to sell in the UK.”
VR could be the next major evolution in computing, at the moment several companies are pouring millions into their development teams and opening up their software to allow third party developers to build applications on top of their hardware. The results are starting to come in but are currently confined to the consumer world. However, the business world awaits and we could see the first business applications in just a few short years.
Dan Cunliffe commented, “This year promised to have an intense focus on Virtual Reality (VR) and collaboration and we were not disappointed. One such collaboration was the announcement between Facebook, Samsung and Oculus Rift, the outfit Facebook purchased for $2 billion in 2014. It was clear from the way that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and the Mobile Chief of Samsung, DJ Koh, were hand in hand on stage to publicly show what an alliance they had but also how a collaboration of this size should be delivered. Virtual reality is the next wave in consumer mobile and is estimated to be worth $70 Billion by 2020 according to the market researcher TrendForce.
What is the impact of VR for businesses? We think that the move towards making Video Conferencing more immersive and more accessible is one of the more obvious choices. Perhaps VR helps to paint the first office of the future, which is effectively the office of the present but represented through a VR platform right in your home. That could tick quite a few boxes to save money within the economy and help drive a reduction in carbon emissions.”
Platform as a Service
GENBAND were in Barcelona in force this year promoting their Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) message. Sanjay Bhatia, Vice President Solutions and Marketing & Strategy, GENBAND, commented “We have a lot of activity on the Nuvia and Kandy front here. Some people aren’t even aware of the full capability of our technology so the show is good at providing a platform where people can come and engage with us and see some demonstrations.
GENBAND has been working with one large Channel Partner in the UK which is a great model for us. When a vendor can work with providers to take a service to market it’s always good for the value-add piece. Timico Partners have white labelled our UC offering.
The rapid amount of change excites me, some people thrive on it and some people don’t. I think GENBAND is a company that thrives on change and we are able to adapt to that change quickly. We are all about creating value for the end subscriber and giving them a better experience.”
After Acquiring Mavenir for $560m last year Mitel now have a new focus centred around mobile technology which they are delivering to the market.
Graham Bevington, EVP and President of Mitel’s Enterprise Division, commented “I come from an enterprise background and I am amazed to see lots of my customers here. We think of MWC as a mobile carrier/ mobile guru event, but actually there are lots of customers from tier 1 and tier 2 carriers I have from around Europe.
There are also end users here from the enterprise side looking at how they can use mobile to deal with some of their challenges around things like security and cost. It’s amazing how the channel partners around Europe are now seeing this as the go to event.
If you take a look at our own business, prior to the Mavenir acquisition, every application we built started at the PBX and moved out. Now it starts with the mobile device and works back. The mobile device is the first thing you do in the morning, because you turn your alarm off, and the last thing you do at night. If you think about from the end user perspective we are in better place if we start with the mobile rather than the office based PBX, or even a cloud based PBX.”
By 2025, Huawei estimates that the world will have about 100 billion connections. Roughly 55% of them will stem from business applications such as smart manufacturing and smart cities, with another 45% coming from consumer areas such as smart homes, the Internet of Vehicles, and wearables.
Guo Ping, Deputy Chairman of the Board and Rotating CEO, at Huawei said “Today, 99% of all equipment remains unconnected to the Internet. That will change, however, and as it does, we must improve connectivity by increasing the number of connections that can be supported.”
Operators are recognising that 5G needs to offer more appeal to users and ultimately enable new business opportunities.
“We know ultra-fast and efficient 5G technologies will be meaningless if it doesn’t promise an enhanced customer experience compared with 4G,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, CTO of SK Telecom. The higher speed, he said will of course be important for 5G, but the operator’s ultimate goals are improving the customer experience, creating new business opportunities and enabling more intelligent operations.”
SKT’s Choi believes 5G will change people’s lives just as 4G has. He expects immersive media services to be the frontrunner use case, e.g. 4K live streaming and Virtual Reality.
Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT Group, spelled out his intentions to invest in the next phase of connectivity following on from the acquisition of EE. When it came to 5G Patterson was quick to point out BT’s links with the research centre at the University of Surrey. “I’d anticipate we’ll be at the forefront of the delivery of 5G services when they come to the UK, which I think will be around 2020,” he said.
In contrast to a lot of the focus around 5G, which has centred on connecting ‘things’ and making existing connections faster, Mark Zuckerberg expressed disappointment that the industry was not making enough inroads on connecting the remaining four billion people on the planet who currently have zero internet access. The Facebook initiative, Internet.org, has attracted 19 million subscribers in 38 countries around the globe. The CEO also presented his thoughts on the Apple vs. FBI case, and described his personal aspirations to build a Jarvis-like artificial intelligence for his home.