I recently attended Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, along with over 100,000 others who were all there sharing or listening to what’s new and next in our mobile world. With almost all telco CEOs in attendance—along with leaders from the finance, automotive, retail, and travel industries—the four days I went proved to be a great investment of time.
While the start of Mobile World Congress focused on the unveiling of new handsets—notably, the Samsung S9—it then gave way to much insight about how telecom operators and partners are shaping the connected world we live in today.
Here are my top five takeaways.
Last year at the Congress, 5G was a buzzword with little to no direction as to how operators would empower the end consumer. This year was totally different. On the back of 5G success trials at the South Korea Olympics, the show was dominated by talk of how we will all benefit from 5G moving forward. With speeds up to 100 times faster than today’s networks, 5G is expected to kick-start the internet of things and advance us from smart homes to smart cities.
Shang Bing, executive director and chairman of China Mobile, the country’s largest wireless carrier, shared his view of a “smart and connected new life” (PDF) across the various areas of entertainment, education, household, and healthcare. Meanwhile, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao spoke about the London-based company’s pilots with the connected ambulance and improved safety and surveillance via drones.
It is clear to me that 5G is close to reality; with even more partnerships being formed across industries, we all will benefit in our day-to-day lives. What does this mean for 4G? It’s heading to the moon, thanks to a partnership between Vodafone and Nokia.
Internet Of Things
The GSMA, which produces Mobile World Congress, predicts there will be 25 billion connections across the internet of things (IoT) globally by 2025, a threefold-plus increase over 2017. This growth is fueling collaboration across all sectors, including automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, and retail, to name a few.
Rashmi Misra, Microsoft’s general manager of IoT and AI solutions, stated a need for simplification and consistency within the IoT chain. His advice: Connect, gain insight, and take action. However, just by looking at my own list of IoT devices, it is evident to me that we have our work cut out for us. My devices work in silos, preventing me from having a great, single experience designed with me in mind.
To that point, Johannes Kaumanns, vice president IoT strategy and business development at Deutsche Telekom, stressed the importance of developing services with the customer in mind.
With continued collaboration and the customer at the centre of design, I believe truly relevant experiences are in our very near future.
Dieter May, BMW’s senior vice president of digital products and services, spoke about the German automaker’s customer-centric pursuits. Its focus is on seamless interactions across the lifecycle, personalised and contextual experiences, customer-driven value creation, and a new way of working—in other words, the entire buying experience.
It was clear to me that BMW understands the needs of its users and is adapting to what they want, rather than making them adapt to its cars. For example, by moving key services to the BMW app, it’s enabling drivers to interact with their cars even when the vehicles are locked away in the garage. It certainly has changed the way I interact with mine, through multiple touch points and just a single customer ID.
The importance of customer experience was discussed throughout the event. Differentiation by network quality, devices, or price has become a thing of the past, with many operators offering the same products, sharing the same infrastructure, and offering contracted devices for free. As a result, ensuring the end user has a relevant experience is becoming top-of-mind, from device design to the purchase and, more importantly, to day-to-day brand interactions.
Getting this wrong will drive away consumers, who more than likely will never return again. And with so many channels to discuss and share experiences, you risk losing more than the person impacted by a poor experience. Always remember: The consumer owns your brand.
With the birth of 5G, billions of new IoT devices, artificial intelligence, and collaboration across industries, the volume of data being collected is only going to increase. Add that to the data already being collected across the industry today, and it will be ever-more important for brands to not only report on activity, but also to move to analysis and machine learning to make sense of what is collected and, more importantly, activate those learnings across the customer lifecycle.
Having the intelligence and using it correctly will fuel standout, personalised brand experiences, which in turn can move customers to become advocates. Of course, it’s all the better when you can improve them in near-real time. As we move with the speed of 5G, brands that get this right will have a great future and will no doubt take the high ground in this sector.