Mobile World Congress 2011

February 28, 2011

Recently I had a pleasure to be at the huge event in the world of mobile technologies and probably the biggest show I ever attended. Hosted at the amazing Fira de Barcelona – Mobile World Congress 2011 gathered key players in cell phone market, telecoms, IT companies and everyone else connected with mobile business. Here I’d like to share my impression, some thoughts (and photos on Picasa) and try to sum up everything I heard and listen there.

I intentionally skip the gadgets part. The reason is simple. There are dozens of smart phones and very similar tablets around. So after fifth one you loose a track of discrepancies and hardly can distinguish two devices. I believe everyone filled the same and even when the BlackBerry guy was showing Quake, Need for Speed and other cool 3D stuff running simultaneously on the exciting PlayBook – I didn’t hear any ‘wow’ around instead someone snoring nearby.

The same diversity among OS platforms. According to Mobile Europe report the leading platforms in terms of sold units are as follows:

This however might change significantly due to the recent Nokia&Windows deal. And of course this figures shouldn’t be considered alone. The choice of the platform also depends on the dynamics of the appropriate application market i.e. how intensively users are buying, installing and using apps. Anyhow, the developers are forced to code under 3 or even more OS to support the majority of clients’ phones. In this conditions cross-platform solutions which are logically found in web applications are getting more and more popular. Obviously HTML 5 with all of its features considerably accelerates the spread of the approach. Thus MWC 2011 was full of different web oriented frameworks and SDKs.

On the other hand telecoms who are currently out of the apps selling business also found this approach promising and now are trying to explore it to get something more from mobile internet market then just selling traffic to their subscribers. The initiative they formed and announced at the event is called the Wholesale Application Community (WAC). Among with the web-based SDK available for free developers also get access to the location-based services, in-application billing and other features provided by operator through OneAPI. Finally they get simplified way to distribute their apps among operators’ application stores. Personally, I belong to those skeptics who would hardly believe that web-based solutions will ever bit native apps – but, let’s see what will happen in one-two years.

We’ve visualized these tips in the one-page infographics. Download.

Embedded mobile

I must admit this part was full of new terms for me. So, here I’ll try to sort out the most important of those and to highlight the trends. The buzz words are ‘M2M’, ‘connected devices’, ‘mobile broadband’. All this concepts are based on the 4 generation (4G) of mobile network technologies, data transfer speed in which is expected to be as high as to replace all other broadband internet solutions. The bravest one can imagine the future without cable internet and wifi – but only through cellural networks. Having this backbone operators are naturally thinking of extending connectivity to other devices and plugging vehicles, street cameras, consumer electronics into the network. These gives a way for developing new systems such as advanced traffic control, mobile health care etc. which are generally called machine-to-machine (M2M) systems.

The field is being highly developed by communication operators (e.g. telecoms, ISP) as well as IT corporations (e.g. IBM). The GSMA Embedded Mobile initiative defines main focus of the market in four directions: automative, health, utilities and consumer electronics. Thus for example in future all european cars will be equipped by eCall system – a ‘block-box’ which calls emergency services in case of a crash. Another example is a healthcare deployment by Telefonica for people with chronic diseases. The system includes mobile sensors that measures patient’s physical state and calls the doctor in case of a peak situation (e.g. heart atack). Even more impressive it becomes in the concept of ‘smart cities’. Without additional comments – just take a look of the clip below.


Inspired and excited by all of this innovations I was however surprised (primarily as an academic person) to see that all of this solutions are limited to the networks with the fixed infrastructures (e.g. cellular networks). For example in the evacuation from disaster or in conflict scenarios cell networks neither can withstand high load nor be safe from damages. Imagine now network which is partially or fully managed by mobile devices themselves i.e. in a distributed manner without fixed infrastructure. The pair-wise contacts between them allows delay tolerant delivering of the data packages and thus propagating of the information. Being highly developed in the academic world this concept (known as Opportunistic Networks) is however doesn’t yet achieved enough attention in the industry. Partially because of the lack of technology (e.g. aspects of package routing, privacy management etc.) but mostly because of the absence of killer application scenario. Personally, I’m confident that we will definitely see something like this in 3-5 years.

That’s probably will be a nice point to finish. Thanks everyone who have reached the end of the story. I’m looking forward to hearing your comments. Feel free also to watch some photos from the event on Picasa.

By Anna Iurchenko