The European Sting @ Mobile World Congress 2014, Creating What’s Next for the World. Can EU Policy follow?

MWC14It was the end of February and the time for the world’s biggest annual mobile technology event had come. The rendez-vous was given at the same place as last year; at the beautiful capital of Catalunya, Barcelona, that is also the Mobile World Capital.

The European Sting was media sponsor of the world’s most magnificent event on technology and mobile, the Mobile World Congress 2014, and was there to capture and share with its unique readers a glimpse of the mobile future. The organizer of the event, GSMA, the organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, truly surpassed our greatest expectations this year. Bigger and better than ever, this year’s MWC gathered once more the attention of the world’s biggest media and multinational giants. More than 85,000 attendees from over 200 countries all across the globe made it last February to one of the most magnificent expo centres in the world, Fira Barcelona.

We believe, though, that in Mobile World Congress 2014, 24-27 February, four days were not just enough for the visitor that shared the excitement and the passion for mobile technology and evolution. How can they be anyway, when GSMA had prepared for us more than 40 unique conference sessions with keynotes from CEOs of the world’s biggest companies and at the same time more than 1,800 companies were exhibiting, spread in more than 8 massive halls?! The specialized reporters of the Sting who covered the event really felt like kids in wonderland last February in Barcelona. Either you like mobile technology or not, one thing is for sure; in Fira Barcelona you couldn’t help it feeling overwhelmed with enthusiasm and at the same time panic to be able to see as much as possible from the present and the future of mobile world. Whoever claims, at the same time, that was able to cover and see every corner of this unbelievably massive event, is nothing but a terrible liar, as this was not possible for one human being alone!

The MWC14 Conference

The conference of the event was the most concise stimulating input on mobile technology and how it is bound to change our societies, lifestyles, and even the way we think, in the present and future. We hope and pray that a substantial amount of specialists from the European Commission had reserved a seat for each and every session of the four days of this majestic Conference. If only they had done that! Then policy making would have been as straight forward as river flow. They would have been able to grasp and incorporate inside EU policies the most important policy element after the interests of the citizen and consumers are secured and protected, and that is the trend and heart beat of the market.

Day 1

During the first day of the conference at Fira Barcelona visitors’ expectations successfully passed the first crash test during the opening keynote of MWC14, “Industry Perspective: Mobile Operator Strategies”. The first session of the first day of MWC14 posed the most primordial question of this year’s conference; how current business models and strategies get to be obsolete to face the “mobile revolution” and how the world’s CEOs need to think out of the box to give birth to this new extraordinary market and develop it. The second keynote of the day had the title “Mobile, Disrupted: Challenging the State of Play”. This session was focused on telecom operators and how they are facing modern regulatory environments. Emphasis was put on how regulation can accommodate the mobile revolution. Later on, the time for the next session of the event came, “Exploiting Enterprise Applications & BYOD to Enhance Productivity”. This session was focussing on the new trend of corporate policy called “Bring Your Own Device”, where the employees are allowed and encouraged to use their own mobile devices for professional use too. The issue of security was treated there.

Moving on to the next session of the first day of MWC14, the title was “Creating the Next Access Networks”. This session stressed the importance of how future networks need to evolve in terms of spectrum and infrastructure to effectively accommodate  the “mobile revolution”. Our interest was kept constant with the next session titled “Media Unplugged: The opportunities of Mobile Video”. This fantastic discussion explored the market of Mobile Video and gave insightful ideas on how to investigate growth opportunities. “The Road Ahead for Mobile NFC Services” was a very crucial session of MWC14, as it stimulated the participants with fruitful thoughts on how Mobile Near Field Communication Payments can grow in a sustainable and profitable manner. What is more, a session at another auditorium was themed “Successful Strategies for Managing the Mobile Enterprise”. This was a session of utmost significance on how to manage and operate the modern mobile enterprise of the present and the future.

Another auditorium, another session. This time the topic was “Building the Future Network” and it was discussing the mobile network of the future and how it will be possible to contemplate with the technical “headaches” that this will entail. The organizer had prepared one more session at another auditorium just before the big star keynote speaker, Marc Zuckerberg, came to the stage, with the title “Exploring the Scope of the Mobile Multimedia Services Opportunity”. This fantastic session gave some unique food for thought on how innovative business models can make the novel mobile multimedia market grow and expand.

And, as everybody was feeling the impact of one endless first day at MWC14 on her feet, the thrill to listen to Marc Zuckerberg’s social media jargon prevailed, and gave everybody extra strength to proceed. The Facebook founder dominated the scene with his unique style and way of talking. Everyone was excited to hear the big boss of the social media giant talking about the recent acquisition of the world’s biggest message mobile platform, Whatsapp, and also his mysterious aspirations for the future. The European Sting was captured by Marc’s statement that his ultimate goal is to connect the world, and if he achieves to do so then there will be certainly some profit for his company. Companies with vision are numerous but companies like Facebook are one of a kind, and all the courageous participants that awaited Marc to come to the scene know that very well.

Day 2

The second day of MWC14 had began and whoever thought that the most important sessions took place in Day 1 was terribly wrong. Flirting with the idea to leave Hall 4 and start exploring the new gadgets that the world’s biggest companies had to demonstrate at their pavilions is a risky thing to do. Whoever stayed in Hall 4 and particularly in auditorium 1 was very much paid off with the Keynote Number 3, “The Connected Lifestyle: Transforming Industries”. This extraordinary keynote presented the mother of all mobile topics, the “mCity” of the future. The participants of the panel explored how the connected lifestyle of the citizen will change health to mHealth and all sorts of social services. The big question is how telcos need to transform to accommodate this huge change in the modern society of the future.

The time for the Keynote Number 4 had come. Its title “Moving money: Rethinking Transtactions” left no doubt to the attendee that mobile payment and mFinance would be the topic of this important session. Later on, there was another session that attracted the interest of a good number of participants, “Loyalty & Retention Strategies to Improve the Bottom Line”. Customer churn was the main topic of this intriguing discussion. Mobile loyalty seems to be something hard to get nowadays. The session was focused on how operators need to reconsider their segmentation and marketing strategy in order to be able to gain loyalty among their users/clients. At the same time, a couple of auditoriums further, there was another very interesting session on “Interior Refurbishment: Making Business Transformation Work”. During this session stimulating opinions of key executives of the market were heard on how they had to transform their companies to accommodate the “mobile revolution” effectively.

The time was always stuck at 14.00 and the choice for the attendee of MWC14 continued to be vast, as far as the conference was concerned. Just around the corner, at auditorium 4, the extremely interesting “Media without Borders: Driving Rapid Innovation with Mobile, Social, Cloud & Big Data” was taking place. This was a particularly interesting session for the European Sting’s team as key executives of the market discussed how modern media need to evolve in order to satisfy the changing needs of the modern mobile reader for quality content from his device, especially in times of cloud computing explosion and big data release.  Simultaneously, at another auditorium of Hall 4 a great session was starting, “Smarter Cities: Smarter Living”. That was a special session devoted to how our existing societies are being transformed more and more to mCities and how the lives of modern citizens are changing rapidly.

At 16.00 the attendee of MWC14 had not one, or two session options to chose, but 4! At auditorium 3 she had the opportunity to attend “Driving New Revenues & Relationships for Operators & Brands”. This stimulating session was on mobile marketing and how pricing can be structured in this fast growing market. At the same time, another choice was “Business Transformation: M&A Integration Strategies and Investments to drive Growth”. We keep from this session the panel discussion on the new mobile start-ups that come to the surface in the “mobile revolution”. The third choice for the 4 o’ clock session was “Mobile Retail: The One-Stop Shop”. During the session retailers, payment providers and operators discussed the risks and opportunities in mobile retail. Last, but not least, the last choice for the 4 o’ clock session was “The future of Smart Buildings”. This was a rather important session on how the buildings of the future should stay “connected” to be sustainable.

Day 3

The third day of Mobile World Congress 2014 began with the fifth keynote of the event, “Up Close & Personal: The Power of Big Data”. This keynote addressed the hot global issue currently on Open Big Data and how the issues of security and privacy can be accomodated. Later on, the sixth keynote of MWC14 followed, “The Battle for the Multi-Screen Home”. The CEOs of the most exciting companies of the industry came together during that session to discuss how the “mobile revolution” will transform connectivity in home entertainment.

At 14.00 the 4 auditoriums of the MWC14 were full of “thirsty” attendees for 4 different sessions. The first one at auditorium 2 was: “The Future of Voice”. This session lead one of the most interesting current topics of the industry, the evolution of VoIP and how operators re-adjust their business model to make profit in this market. The second choice for the afternoon sessions was the “Mobile Innovation 2014, The Future…What’s next” and contributed to the dialogue on mobile innovation by various stakeholders, towards the Mobile Innovation 2024. All this was happening, while at the same time in auditorium 3 the session “Emerging Markets: Bringing the World Online” was taking place. This session examined how the mobile innovation can help the developing world grow further and faster. The last session of the 2 o’clock sessions had the title “ Complementing coverage with Small Cells & Wifi”. Here the panellists showed the ways that WiFi can complement LTE (4G) from the operators.

The visitor of the conference sessions at MWC14 also had to choose between 4 sessions at 16.00. The first one was “Mobile Health Solutions for Diabetes”. This fascinating session showcased how mHealth applications can help to manage successfully diabetes, a disease that makes nowadays 382 million people in the world suffer. The fans of the Machine To Machine (M2M) dialogue were able to attend the session “Spotlight on Business Models for M2M Services”. The possible business models for M2M were discussed. The third choice that the participant of the 3rd day of MWC14 had was the session titled “Emerging markets:  Delivering Universal Access to Essential Services”. During this session the panellists discussed how Mobile Technology is changing rapidly education, healthcare and agriculture in the society of the future. The last session of this afternoon was “Optimising User Experience with Intelligent Network Assets”. In this one, the participant had the chance to engage in the dialogue of where and how the operators should make investments to improve the traffic management and capacity of networks. As for the Mobile World Live Keynote of the day, Mrs Virginia M. Rometty, Chairman, President & CEO of IBM shared insightful ideas on IBM’s performance in mobile technology and infrastructure.

Day 4

The Mobile World Congress 2014 was coming to an end but the visitor had equally interesting opportunities to get exposed to some very interesting debates and panel discussions. The last keynote of MWC14, Keynote 7, had the title “Innovation Unleashed”. Leaders of the industry gathered to discuss how the mobile market needs great out of the box ideas to develop and grow against unexplored competition.

The keynote was followed by 4 panel discussions, available to the visitor. The first was titled “Disruptors in Mobile Payments”. The panellists teamed up to discuss how the Omni-channel payment strategy can be developed successfully in the mobile ecosystem according to the needs of the modern mobile consumer. At the same time, another Machine to Machine (M2M) discussion was taking place at auditorium 2 with the theme “Steering the Automotive Industry into the Future with M2M”. This was a truly unique opportunity for the visitor to see how the connected vehicles of the future can serve extended needs of modern drivers and passengers that are “fluent” in mobile technology. The other option at the same time was the session named “Service Opportunities for Mobile Identity”. This session was an open dialogue on eGovernment and mGovernment and particularly on how the citizens will be able to manage their multiple “e” and “m” identities. Finally, the last session was named “Building the 50-Billionth Connected Device”. Inspired by the 50 Billion user study by Cisco, this session attempted to reply to the question on whether the existing infrastructure can meet the 50 Billion challenge.

At the last day of MWC14, the last sessions of this superb event started at 14.30 and not at 16.00 like in the previous days. The first of the last panel discussions had the title “Emerging Markets and the Next Wave of Digital Entrepreneurs”. In this session the panellists agreed that the next “Zuckerberg” shall be coming from the emerging world. At the same time in auditorium 2 there was the choice to attend the panel discussion “Rise of the Machines: Enabling the evolution from M2M to an Internet of Things Future”. The panellists of the session embarked on a dialogue using the sector’s two hottest words currently, “Machine to Machine” and “Internet of Things”. The other session available for the visitor to end the MWC14 was “Redefining Reality with Screens, Storage & Wearables”. The participants of the session had the opportunity to discuss about the mobile devices of the future that have more durable and better resolution screens and also bigger storage capacity. Last but not least, the Mobile World Congress 2014 had a last session option for the Day 4, “Developing the Ecosystem for Mobile Identity Services”. There the attendee listened to an interesting discussion on how to manage multiple identities in the complex mobile ecosystem.

Conclusion

All in all, the Mobile World Congress served its reputation well again this year for being the world’s biggest Mobile Technology event. MWC14 is the best forum for businesses and policy makers to receive the most valid input on mobile industry. We hope that our specialized EU regulators took the chance to be there to listen carefully to the voice of the market and regulate effectively, encouraging the mobile development in Europe and not hindering it with bureaucracy and anachronistic policies. Moreover, what is of utmost importance is the right education towards the European citizen on the power that she possesses as mCitizen of the future, just with one single smart-phone in her palm.

The 85,000 attendees from 200 countries all over the world gathered in Barcelona last February with one aim: to change the world through one simple mobile device. We believe they can do it just fine! The European Sting and its team look forward to MWC15 in Fira Barcelona, to be able to cover once more from a unique, critical angle, the one event that has the power to change the world with a single tap of a screen…

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