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Why Mobile World Congress is not the same

By Carl Uminski

BARCELONA, Spain – Mobile World Congress 2015 has just wrapped up, and it is clear that the event is no longer only a meeting place for the mobile industry.

The event in the Spanish city of Barcelona, as a whole, has changed. It has become mainstream, not because it tried to, but because customers have embraced mobile and therefore CEOs and marketing executives at leading brands know that they will lose relevance if they do not embrace the connected world.

Brand new audience
Mobile World Congress (MWC) is now where chief marketing officers and chief information officers can go to understand:

? What technology their customers are using today
? How to market to these customers and make use of the data they collect
? Who to partner with to make it happen
? Future innovations that are emerging and see the signals for the future

This changes the entire conference from what was traditionally a mobile-only industry meetup and business collaboration.

Now, brands have to attend and make their way through the massive amount of information available, determining what will be relevant for their business.

Our team at Somo tackled this by splitting disciplines among 18 staff at the event to curate handcrafted tours that answered the above questions by sector and territory. We ran eight 2-hour tours across two days and were completely oversubscribed.

Home suite home
One huge change from last year was the more cautious presentation of the connected home, connected cars and Internet of Things, in general.

Large players such as Qualcomm and Samsung removed a lot of reference to the connected home from what they had done in previous years and there were far less cars on show.

The connected home and car are both coming. However, the home still has some time for customers to catch up.

Two-thirds of U.S. consumers with broadband are not very familiar with smart home services or products. And while cars are solved with solutions for both Android and iOS, the cycle of adoption and new cars in market means they still have a year or so to really take off.

Watch out
There has also been discussion around whether MWC has become Europe’s answer to CES, held in January in Las Vegas. It could be CES’ equivalent, but it really is not.

CES is used for the large electronics launches of major brands for televisions, connected ecosystems and the major brands to show the world what is coming and what they think the future holds.

At MWC, these brands use their televisions to get presence on stands, but it is still about devices and innovation.

From the evidence of what was on show, smartwatches and wearables are getting sleeker, with fashion and technology starting to blend together.

Fashion brand Guess had a stand showing off its smartwatch Guess Connect, and other luxury smartwatches including the Huawei Watch and LG Watch Urbane promise to give Apple a run for their money.

Elsewhere in the wearable category, fitness devices are helping to advance the quantified self.

Gamification and connection with multiple aspects of fitness and life as well as technology merging with textiles to create smart clothing means the quantified self is truly starting to take off.

There was plenty of technology on show that had been created just because it is possible, but not because it solves a true consumer need.

In coming years I would expect to see more of a focus on real-world applications of technology, rather than cool gadgets created just for the sake of it as manufacturers start to think more like marketers.

THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE, in my opinion, between MWC and CES is that MWC clearly owns the global perspective on marketing and the technology required to power it in the mobile-first generation.

MWC would benefit from changing its layout and themes next year now that the industry has become mainstream and the event has new audiences to consider.

Carl Uminski is cofounder and chief operating officer of Somo, London. Reach him at [email protected]