It’s been over a week now since Mobile World Congress (MWC) ended in Barcelona. Now all the loud hype over new product releases, partnership announcements and wild parties has settled down, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my experience at MWC 2012. Actually just last night, I presented my experience at Mobile Monday Beijing organized by Orange Labs.

Disney World for Mobile

My first impression of MWC was “WOW!” I’ve been to many conferences here in Beijing, but nothing like MWC on a global scale. Comparable events are CES in Las Vegas or SXSW in Austin Texas which is on right now.

First of all, MWC is set in an amazing location at the Fira, a beautiful area with grand buildings, fountains and art museums. You will realize how historical and cultural Barcelona is, just by being there.

Instead of energetic kids with their parents running around Disney World waiting to go on rides, MWC is packed with 60,000 business

professionals running around a huge space trying to cram as many meetings, keynote speeches, product launches and demos into 4 days.  Even the queue waiting for Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt’s key note speech felt like waiting in line in China, with very little order.

There were also many cool networking opportunities outside the fountain at the end of each day, nice entertainment with a girl floating around the congress attached to a big white balloon and many great after parties to go to.

My favourite pavilion was App Planet for checking out all the creative and innovative apps from different countries.  Notably, the Japanese came up with some clever applications for mobile augmented reality, perfume emitting devices and virtual assistants.

China pushes itself to the forefront

Even before arriving at MWC when I arrived in Barcelona airport, I saw huge poster for Huawei, a Chinese ICT provider.  It emphasized the message Huawei was trying to send to MWC and the world; that Chinese companies are a real global competitor and can indeed go international.  Arriving at MWC, Huawei again had a dominant position with the largest branded hall and the cherry on top was a large scale model horse, made up of Huawei smartphones overlooking the conference which everyone marvelled at.  ZTE, another Chinese company that supplies telecommunications equipment and network solutions, also stamped their authority by putting ZTE on every participant lanyard, as if to say “We own mobile…and you.” Clearly big Chinese companies are pushing themselves to the forefront of the world and will in time, control more power.

A mobile life

One thing that became apparent to me during MWC was that mobile has permeated nearly every facet of our lives. I know for a long time, smartphones have empowered us to do more than just messaging or calling, but think bigger.

Mobile technology is increasingly set in new cars as a standard. I listened to a presentation by Bill Ford, the real grandson of the famous Henry Ford who made a car that everyone can own. He announced Ford’s mobility strategy to better integrate our “digital lives into our vehicles” in a move to give drivers more control over the vehicle through voice.  One example he gave was if you were driving your Ford car in another country on holiday and your car broke down, the call would automatically call the police and notify them of your exact location to come help you. Google’s Eric Schmidt also talked about cars that drive themselves, improving both convenience and safety. Already tests have proven it is possible, where cars drove themselves for 320,000 KM without any accidents.

But what is even more exciting, is what is going to happen in the future. The buzz term that is flying around now in the tech world is the ‘internet of things’, where sensors will always be connected to the internet to feed data and produce insights into virtually everything around us. Eric Schmidt visions that holograms and robots will literally become an extension of ourselves and let us be in two places at once through the sensibility of sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. One simpler example is a weighing scale connected to the internet that will be able to track your weight and tell you if you are getting fatter or not. At MWC, Ericsson in partnership with Lego, created Lego robots that perform tasks sequentially and simultaneously. They have a robot that waters plants, a robot for picking up dirty laundry, and another that picks up glasses.

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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