Observations from the Mobile World Congress 2011 Part 1

Will Wireless Payments Help you Sleep at Night?

Fira de Barcelona Site of 2011 Mobile World Congress
Fira de Barcelona Site of 2011 Mobile World Congress

I was not alone, over 60,000 people attended this years mobile congress held at the Fira de Barcelona in Spain. With over 1300 exhibitors and 40+ keynotes, panels and awards held over four days, this was full immersion experience into the global world of mobility with all its players.

Walking through the gates of the Fira with its two towers, I felt a happy rush of excitement as I left the fair city of Barcelona behind and joined the global mobile ant colony. 

A week after the congress, I am still processing the experience and coming to appreciate the implications for what the brave new world of mobility might offer to us the consumer. It has provided much food for thought. Rather than blog about technology, I want to provide some design thinking around what the technology means to us the consumer. So here goes.

Cordless Phone Charging

A very practical device at the  exhibition was a wireless charging pad. Made by Powermat, you put your cell phone on the pad and it gets charged. For a traveler who carried power cables for a camera, laptop and smartphone to the congress, along with electrical adaptors for European and UK standards, a wireless charging station seems like a great invention. But wait, there’s more….

Powermat went one step further with their product and business model. They included a technology called NFC enabling people to exchange power and information between their cellphones and the mat turning the Powermat into a reader.

Powermat Wireless Charger at MWC 2011
Powermat Wireless Chargerat MWC 2011

To use a wireless reader, consumers put their NFC enabled mobile phone (the initiator) 4cm or less away from the an NFC enabled reader (the target). Both devices are able to receive and transmit data at the same time. They can be used to send information, read information or to exchange information.

Likely scenarios for consumer usage of these readers include purchasing tickets for events, accessing a public transport system, boarding pass verification, accessing a hotel room, buying goods, sending money, or receiving information wirelessly about retail opportunities in your proximity.

Global Trend in Wireless Payments

NFC (near field communication) is an emerging technology gaining rapid global adoption. For example, 40% of the worlds mobile network operators back the technology because it holds the potential for creating new business opportunities. In Japan 60% of purchases are made by consumers using mobile NFC devices.

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel have a joint venture, ISIS, which is a single platform on which NFC specifications can be used by their customers to make mobile payments in the US. Even the English can look forward to buying their MacDonald’s this way in the near future.

Smart phones including Googles Android, Apples iPhone and RIMs Blackberry will all have NFC capabilities shortly, allowing the consumer to use their phone similarly to a credit card.

New industries will emerge around this eco system. My example, using Powermat, is one of many stories illustrating how the integration between emerging technologies supported by network operators and device manufacturers integrated with cloud computing have the potential to deliver seamless mobile computing experiences for consumers.

Moving Toward a Networked Society

Hans Vestberg, CEO at Ericsson said it best “We are moving to a networked society where we impact peoples lives that are built on mobile coverage and broadband connectivity and the cloud. That together builds a society that brings benefit to all things that are connected.”

Footnote: As I left the conference at the end of a long day and walked back through the twin towers into a heaving throng of people waiting for taxis, buses and the subway, I encountered promoters and protestors. From Firefox its free coffee (thank you by the way). A Catalonian gentleman promotes the merits of Alo Vera; a woman hands out information on the risks of EMF’s (Electromagnetic Frequencies).

Her flyer reminds me that not so very long ago,  I used to measure the amount of electro smog in peoples home as part of my environmental design service. EMF’s are a real health concern particularly for the very young, sick and  frail. I would like to quietly raise a flag about EMF’s, particularly around new devices like the Powermat that are creating new design standards for transferring electrical power to devices.

The accumulation of electrical devices into the home and business environment is happening fast, in the US today people consume the same content from at least three different digital sources in a single day. May I make one suggestion, that you keep all your electrical devices turned off and outside the room where you sleep.  Do your body a favor and allow it to rest uninterrupted by electrical stimulation. You can rejoin the networked society next morning feeling better rested by doing this simple act of kindness for yourself.


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