Reflections on Mobile World Congress 2013
After Mobile World Congress, I elected to remain in Europe for other business, and thus spent last weekend basically recovering from a whirlwind week. MWC continues to gain momentum. This year there were over 72,000 people there, with over 1700 exhibiting vendors. I believe the momentum at the conference is because the world of the mobile network operators and their supporting cottage industry of vendors is intersecting now with the broader world of the Internet of Things. Evidence of this is everywhere. The booths of Gemalto, Telit, Jasper Wireless, and other M2M players were packed throughout the show. Then there are the market’s mega players. From the mobile side, that would be Cisco, Nokia Siemens Networks, Ericsson, Alcatel Lucent, Huawei, and others. The device side includes, first and foremost, Samsung, as well as Fujitsu, HTC, ZTE, and others. Then there are the big technology stack providers, including IBM, Oracle, HP, SAP, and others. Noticeably absent every year is Apple, given their huge impact on the market, but that seems to be viewed as an opportunity by Samsung, if the size of their presence is any indication.
So with 1700 vendors, do you suppose there were any common threads? By in large, yes, and this was more than obvious. The Internet of Things. The Semantic Web. M2M. In short, it is the connected world. The common thread was that you could walk into Ericsson, IBM, Fujitsu, or for that matter, many of the 1700 vendors there, and see displays about connected cities, smart grids, mHealth, smart cars, etc. The innovation was cool, and the momentum was evident. GSMA sponsored the "Connected City", with several suppliers taking part. I was able to watch a very compelling smart city demonstration by Ericsson, then walk over to a smart Volvo, then see wired cabinetry in the Vodaphone room. And if that wasn’t enough, the show featured booths from the likes of Ford, Corning, and Caterpillar—not exactly head-on threats to Oracle, but companies who see value in engaging in the connected world nonetheless.
I had a very interesting conversation with one of the primary M2M suppliers where we discussed this momentum. There is no doubt this trend was evident in 2012. But the significant increase in the number of vendors framing their messaging in this light suggests we are moving from a point where all of these concepts, from smart grids to mobile health and more move from what is possible (which they all are today) to what is practical. Because technology is possible does not mean widespread adoption, and it never has. But when the cost and the ease of deployment shifts so that implementation of a particular technology becomes practical in an economic sense, we start to see widespread adoption.
The Internet of Things is on its way. There is no doubt in my mind. And I would be surprised if any one of the 72,000 people at MWC this year did not share that view.