News & Views

Mobile World Congress / Debrief

by Patrick Jeffrey

Experience over innovation, the need for deeper cooperation and the rise of connected living were some of the key themes discussed at the world's largest mobile gathering

Last week, Contagious attended Mobile World Congress and walking into the new Fira Gran Via conference venue in Barcelona was almost an experience in itself - 1.8km of exhibition halls and auditoriums, frequented by a record-breaking 72,000 visitors over four busy days. 

Like previous years, the world's leading telcos and handset operators were all present (Apple being the notable exception), but unlike previous years, the 2013 Mobile World Congress didn't see a continual stream of industry-changing announcements or flagship handset launches. Nokia did reveal four new phones throughout the week - including an impressive looking $20 handset aimed at the developing markets, and Sony launched a waterproof tablet - the Xperia Z, but there were no Samsung Galaxy S4's or Google Nexus 5's to ogle. 

Away from the headline-grabbing big-players, here's a low-down of the interesting products, concepts and discussions that you may not have already read about: 


The Internet of Things was omnipresent at the congress. The GSMA's Connected City - a mocked up town in the exhibition hall - showcased a wide variety of exhibits from many of the major telcos. Both AT&T's Connected Home and Vodafone's Energy Data Management system showed users how mobile could be employed to control energy consumption at home. 

Meanwhile, Spotify also announced its partnership with Ford, which will result in voice-activated music streaming in any vehicle with SYNC AppLink. 'It wasn't a surprise,' said Mark Curtis, CCO and founder of service design consultancy Fjord, London, 'Spotify were obviously going to get into one car or another. But here we have a company that is atomising its product into a variety of different shapes, and that brings some very deep design challenges with it.' 

Curtis later warned about the difficulties of designing services that will seamlessly run through all connected products in the future, something Fjord has dubbed 'Living Services'


In his keynote speech, Deutsche Telekom CEO René Obermann warned that the biggest challenge facing operators is 'to do more with less'. People now expect more bandwidth, coverage and capacity with simultaneous reductions in price. Obermann also warned that over-the-top (OTT) services, such as ViberSkype and Whatsapp - are taking valuable revenue from the networks. From the perspective of the telcos, though, the future must be about driving innovation through collaboration - working with partners to deliver better services to customers. Deutsche Telekom's partnership with Firefox OS, announced this week, was a prime example of this commitment. 


Information on mHealth was surprisingly sparse at MWC, particularly in the product exhibition. It was sharply brought into focus, though, when Google's director of mobile, Ian Carrington, reminded attendees of Eric Schmidt's views on 'the four stages of mobile innovation': communication, entertainment, commerce, health. 

Marcus Sigurdsson, lead digital catalyst for McCann Health talked about the challenges businesses face in changing the perceptions of mobile health, saying: 'Healthcare is a medical challenge, mHealth is a communications challenge.' Sigurdsson then challenged brands to concentrate on the experience of mobile healthcare - something he called 'the diffusion of innovation' - rather than focusing purely on creating technological solutions. 

Qualcomm's VP Rick Valencia also presented the work of Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of the tech giant dedicated towards creating solutions in the wellbeing sector. Valencia warned that 80% of global healthcare spend is swallowed up by treating chronic diseases ($700bn annually in Europe alone), and with an ageing population this simply isn't sustainable. 'Currently you know more about the health of your car than you do about your body,' he warned, but mobile will drive change here. 'The cellular network is the most pervasive utility in the world,' he added. He then segued into an explanation of 2net - Qualcomm's wireless health solution that collects data from patients at home and transmits it to doctors, via the cloud. 

For more information on the speakers, conferences or exhibitors at the Mobile World Congress, head to the website. 

This story originally appeared on Contagious Feed. Contagious Feed is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious Feed contact