Last week, 100k+ people descended on Barcelona for the annual Mobile World Congress. Exhibitors included device manufacturers who use the event to launch flagship devices, companies providing the hardware inside phones, businesses working in the Internet of Things (IoT) space and mobile media and ad tech businesses. The 3 main themes of this year’s conference were: the rise of virtual reality, the increase in connected objects and ad blocking on mobile.
Details and Implications:
The rise of virtual reality: As an industry worth an estimated $70bn by 2022, VR took centre stage at MWC. Samsung and Mark Zuckerberg announced the new Samsung Gear VR will be powered in part by Oculus. The Gear VR will ship free with pre orders of the Galaxy 7S and 7S Edge devices. Zuckerberg envisages a world where VR will power everything from gaming to films, conference calls and social networking. He also announced a new "Social VR team" that will focus entirely on exploring the future of social interaction in VR. Samsung and Facebook weren’t the only companies showcasing VR at the conference. HTC demonstrated the Vive VR headset and LG also launched its LG 360 VR headset.
Connected objects, connected lives: The Internet of Things revolution is gaining momentum. Many of the consumer electronics brands were demonstrating smart home devices such as Sony’s Experia Agent prototype – a smart home hub designed to take on the Amazon Echo. Many of the innovations in the Internet of Things arena came from businesses developing infrastructure needed to connect IoT tech together. Ericsson showcased networks built specifically to facilitate machine to machine communications. Alcatel-Lucent, Sigfox, and Aeris were also showcasing this technology that will in part be powered by new 5G network technology, which itself will be rolled out in phases over the next 4 years.
Ad blocking causes friction at the conference: The rise of mobile ad blocking is such a hot topic that ad blocking companies like Shine exhibited at the event and clashed with Google and Yahoo. The focus of the adblocking provider’s presence was how they monetize their service. Shine works directly with mobile networks while Adblock Plus charges businesses a premium for access. While network-level ad blocking is a great consumer-side play, it shouldn’t worry advertisers who will increasingly be the primary source of revenue for networks.
Although the conference was underpinned by concerns surrounding data privacy and poor user experience, innovations in the VR and IoT spaces show that we are past the point of these devices being gimmicks. They now offer ways of communicating and consuming media for users and represent new advertising channels for our clients.