Data Not Devices – Mobile World Congress 2014 Recap

Held annually in Barcelona, Mobile World Congress is the world’s largest gathering for all things mobile. The Congress is both a meeting place for discussions about the latest mobile trends, as well as an exhibition of new, cutting-edge technology. Amid the 80,000-plus visitors, including more than 3,500 media and analysts who attended this year, the common topic of discussion was the explosion of data.

MCW 2014

The touch paper had been lit ahead of the show when Facebook revealed it would acquire the smartphone messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion. (See Danny Whatmough’s recent post on the deal here.)

Operators were already lamenting the loss of messaging revenues to such services, and then, as attendees stopped and crowded around TVs to hear the usurper Zuckerberg explain his focus on bringing connectivity to every single person on the planet, WhatsApp’s Jan Koum reveals he will soon allow users to make voice calls on the app too.

But it’s not just the messaging and voice data hullaballoo that garnered all the attention. Machine-to-machine data (M2M), sensor data – or context, location, direction, speed, humidity, temperature, heart rate, how you slept last night data – was everywhere.

Countless new wearable technology devices were on display, including a host of smart watches you might not feel so embarrassed to adorn on your wrist now. Various connected glasses, wristbands, rings, and now even clothing were all adding to the melting pot of data.

One of my favourite demos showed a new pair of cloud-powered glasses auto-translating a Japanese menu and displaying English in front of the user’s eyes via augmented reality. Another saw a mirror which detected that I was a male in my early thirties and served me an appropriate advert.

All of these new devices will offer great opportunities for innovation in context-aware marketing, but this is just the beginning. Imagine your mirror advertising energy drinks because your watch tells it that you didn’t sleep very well.

These examples highlight why security and privacy were also key themes at the show. Data is, “The world’s next natural resource,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO, in her highly anticipated closing keynote – and with great power comes great responsibility.

This was the breakout year for both the marketing and Internet players at the show. As the majority of the new phones on display were hard to distinguish from each other (unless you count the rainbow of different colours), content and services have become key. This is where brands can find new creative opportunities to engage with users.

Richard is an Account Director based in our London, UK office.