MWC: Mobile’s Next Wave of Vertical Disruption

BARCELONA, Spain — If there's one thing mobile executives like to talk about at the annual Mobile World Congress love fest here, it's the vertical disruption mobile technology is causing.

And this year (MWC: Mobile Technology Madness), as in every year, executives have a few key disruptions they highlight. In the past there was a lot of talk around the impact of:

  • 2G and 3G migrating to 4G/LTE
  • Moving to quad-core processors
  • The global penetration of mobile devices in all corners of the planet
  • The mobile OS platform wars
  • The growing need for mobile money and things like NFC to make shopping and routine payments easier.

This year, in the main halls, the conversation focused on next-wave activities that could cause disruption (or the way I see, better cross-industry integration).

Working together
For instance, interoperability and standards that would help devices, software, apps, and mobile operators talk more effectively to each other came up often. Whether consumers use a phone, a tablet, a TV, a car, a glucose monitor, a solar-powered phone charging station, a housing security system, or a lantern with an embedded SIM card, the data residing on each individual gizmo has to be better integrated and accessible through a common portal, like your favorite smartphone.

This will become increasingly important if the next wave of vertical disruptions come into full force. So where could mobile technology have the most impact in the coming years? In your car, in your home, and in your healthcare, Rajeev Chand, managing director and head of research for Rutberg & Co. said during the week in a keynote.

Some of this is already playing out, and will scale even more in the coming years, he said.

Take, for instance, the car. Things like GPS and OnStar navigation tools have already changed driving. But what if your car operated more like a smartphone and could feed up all sorts of other info?

(Really) mobile hotspot: GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky says the  carmaker will build 4G LTE connectivity into vehicles as early as next year.

(Really) mobile hotspot: GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky says the
carmaker will build 4G LTE connectivity into vehicles as early as next year.

Out for a spin
General Motors (NYSE:GM) is going to find out soon enough how consumers will interact with and react to such technology.

Vice chairman Steve Girsky told MWC attendees that the carmaker will start building 4G LTE connectivity into their vehicles as early as next year, with every brand eventually having that feature from GMC to Chevy to Opel.

Read that again : GM is embedding WiFi connectivity into its cars. It won't be based on your phone or external — it will run LTE on its own, making your auto one big hotspot. AT&T in the US will be the first partner helping to bringing this to market.

Said Girsky:

Wireless technology has played an important role in automotive advances in recent years, helping to move people more efficiently, and more safely. Up till now, the automotive industry has focused largely on delivering entertainment, communications and safety capabilities within the vehicle, and on enabling many of the features that we love on our smartphones.

Our vision is to bring the customer's digital life into the car, and bring the car into the customer's digital life. To do so requires a new way of thinking in the automotive industry.

Mobile health was a big theme throughout many sessions at the conference, and Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, had a spot on the keynote speakers' list this year. With chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, on the rise globally, mobile technology offers appealing ways to educate people, monitor treatments, connect healthcare providers, and reduce costs.

In fact, she said mobile healthcare was “the essential intersection between healthcare and technology.”

Internet of “Everything”
Of course, too, there is the “Internet of Everything,” as Paul Jacobs, chairman and chief executive officer of Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM), said. He was referring basically to everything else touching the life of the average smartphone user and how devices interact with information coming from multiple points.

“It's like using your phone to stream interactive information coming from your home automation system, your heating system or your car,” he said.

“The best way to think of this is a vision we have for the digital sixth sense where you will augment your five senses with a wireless sixth sense,” he said. “It's all part of this Internet not of Things, but of Everything.”

Qualcomm's solution for bringing together this “Internet of Everything” came in the form of a press announcement stating that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Innovation Center Inc., will extend the AllJoyn software development project with new core interoperable services to enable richer experiences for consumers. These new services will be available on devices with different operating systems and from different vendors, the company said.

Where do you think mobile's next disruption will come from?

6 comments on “MWC: Mobile’s Next Wave of Vertical Disruption

  1. Brian Fuller
    March 1, 2013

    Jennifer, thanks for a great post. 

    Next disruption? That will come not from the mobile device designers themselves but from software and services, in my humble opinion. 

    The cost of these devices is falling fast (thank you Moore's Law!). 

    As for functionality? Multiple radios? (Check) Sensors? (Check) HD screens? (Check) Interface design? (Check). 

    One near term, not-quite-disruption will be more aware mobile devices that react to situations (phone been sitting in your pocket for 3 minutes? No pocket dialing). 

    The real problem is that the vast majority of existing internet content is not mobile-friendly. 

    I don't know how the disruption takes place, but I think chasing more bandwidth or lower cost runs its course from a business standpoint. 


  2. Wale Bakare
    March 2, 2013

    One key factor – infrastructure to drive the mobile connectivity would determine this. The next level would likely play a major role and determine it, a 3D integrated circuit – would provide more bandwidth as up to few terabytes, as well power reduction. This would help service providers in telecommunication industry, data center and value adding service in mobile sector.  

  3. Brian Fuller
    March 2, 2013

    Wale, do you think providers are ready to price that additional bandwidth for profitability? People expect to pay for mobile connectivity, but it seems to me it's unknown whether we'll pay for excellent connectivity (at least in the U.S. our situation as users is “just good enough” right now). 



  4. Wale Bakare
    March 2, 2013

    @Brian thanks for the question. I think it has been a debatable discourse at different forums all over the world, internet principle or Network Neutrality per say.

    Net neutrality is a principle whereby service providers and/or goverments treat data on internet fairly and equally so as to devoid of any bias or charges. A year or 2 that would probably become a mote debate.  Now, more service providers are emerging as more mobile users joining the internet.

    1) Telecom service providers

    2) Content providers – Google, Facebook, and others in software applications for mobile devices.

    3) Data center/cloud providers

    4) Mobile switching aggregators

    If all are providing top quality services consumers would be alright. But, I think the question should be would the charges not increase as more traffic increase with relative to pressure on infrastructure?




  5. _hm
    March 3, 2013

    Auto industry needs due delligence before introduction of this disrruptive technology. Road safety and risk analysis needs to be conducted before introduction of this technology. Insurance provider and law maker needs to study this in depth. This also can have big legal liability of getting sued.

  6. Wale Bakare
    March 3, 2013

    I dont think too many regulatory bodies could jeorpadise this development as vehicles have more ECUs and infortainment technology integration. Already, ECU has control body managing the design of software for automotive industry, the body's obejctive is ensuring high level involvement of safety in software design.

    And i think, a consortium of Mercedes Benz, Volvo and other has for wireless technology for auto sector. I trust this is a stricter regulations to adhere to by the technologists operating in auto space.

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