Mobile World Congress update – Wednesday and Thursday

MWC is almost over – 94,000 people walked the exhibition halls, wore VR headsets, made deals, met clients and listened to thought leaders of the mobile industry. After the excitement of ‘Media Tuesday’, Wednesday and Thursday offered a look at some different aspects of mobility – in particular mobility in emerging markets and ‘cognitive technologies’ applied to mobility.

Mobility in emerging markets

Chinese start up Xiaomi launched the Mi5 the new and much-awaited flagship smartphone on Wednesday. The Mi5 is the company’s attempt to turnaround handset performance after missing target by 12% in 2015. The new model will be targeted at the Chinese domestic market which continues to grow, as well as international markets – India was called out specifically. Key features of the Mi5 include the 820 Snapdragon Chipset from Qualcomm, lighter weight than the iPhone 6s and a better screen to body ratio. The neatest user functionality of the Mi5 is the optical image stabilisation which reduces blur when taking photos. The phone’s proposition is unique for emerging markets boasting the latest design elements, technology hardware and for 1/3 the price of the iPhone or Galaxy.

Companies like Xiaomi continue to impress with their design and ability to put commoditised components together at a cheap price. Looking at the growth still to occur in emerging markets for smartphones it is easy to see why they have been so focused on China and India. For Australians (and the US/UK for that matter…) don’t expect to see a Xiaomi available anytime soon.

Another company addressing mobility needs in emerging markets is payments company Stripe. Patrick Collinson CEO of Stripe used his keynote on Wednesday to speak about Atlas, a beta product designed to help entrepreneurs based in developing markets “gain access to the same business infrastructure enjoyed by tech companies in Europe and the US.” All in all, Atlas allows companies in emerging markets that can’t access a bank accounting, legal advice, cloud storage etc. to sign up to Stripe and its partner group allowing them to accept payments in a matter of days. This will allow companies to charge customers from anywhere in the world making e-commerce universal.

Cognitive technology @ MWC

An area which I am currently working in was on display at MWC Thursday morning – namely applying cognitive technology to mobility. Cognitive technologies include things like machine learning, speech recognition, robotics and natural language processing.  This last technology (Natural Language Processing) was on display with a keynote address from Swiftkey, who had previously won most innovative app at MWC in 2012.

Swiftkey provides processing of human textual interactions and predicts characters and words based on how you type. John Reynolds, Swiftkey’s CEO, spoke about his ambition to eliminate the need for a keyboard and how mobile devices of the future will be intelligent enough to predict communications based on touch or movement alone. Laying out the path for Swiftkey, he sees their mission as moving from character prediction, to word to whole concepts.

That’s the wrap from coverage of MWC keynotes. I will be providing a summary of the major topics from MWC shortly. Hasta Luego!

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