Discover in this special post on the Mobile World Congress 2016 my personal list of the very best of apps & technology, interesting trends, anecdotes and analysis.
ANALYSIS: HOW TO STAND OUT FROM A BUNCH OF APPS
By visiting the Mobile World Congress and its little brother, the startup programme 4YFN, I realized how huge the market of apps is. I found many interesting apps, some amazing apps and a few wow apps. The remaining 90% were sadly forgettable, reminding me of those fun but completely useless Japanese inventions.
Niklas, Zennström, CEO at Atomico and co-founder of Skype, offered one of the basic keys to stand out: It’s not enough to have a great app. The important thing is to really solve a problem.
I’d add one extra tip: know who your customers are and where they are. During these days, I could chat with the developers of very different apps and one of the things that most caught my attention was that they often were unaware of the many applications of their own product, thus limiting the scope of its potential market. Sometimes we need to leave that place that is so familiar to us and go meet other seemingly unrelated contexts.
Returning to the issue of problem solving, during one of the Fireside chats at 4YFN, Nicola Mendelsohn, VP EMEA at Facebook, said something I found very interesting. Sometimes, the challenge is not how to solve a problem, but simply how to “take that friction away”. Interestingly, many of these frictions are originated by the apps themselves, so we find apps whose utility is to coordinate or manage other apps. A crazy thing.
Still, this 10% of apps with real potential continue facing the big challenge of standing out. In one panel, Roy Ramon, Managing Director for Ingenuity partner program at Intel, explained that we don’t use regularly more than 5 apps and we only come to discover the Top 10 apps of the App store. There are many applications and finding the one that really is useful for us is as difficult as finding a website in the 90s. Google solved that problem then. It remains to be seen how the app market evolves.
Finally, it may be useful to consider the keys for a good marketing strategy according Jess Stephens, CMO at SmartFocus: marketing must be triggered by customer behaviors and should be based on data, time and proximity.
THE VERY BEST OF THE MWC
This is my personal selection of the most interesting applications and technology that I’ve seen at the MWC and 4YFN. Most importantly, in all cases I had a chat with the developers and representatives at the congress to know a little more about their inventions.
Immersion definitely enters in the category of wow apps. This application based on haptic technology is the answer to the question of whether the future is in mobile devices.
While I was taking a look at the booth, they gave me a mobile placed horizontally to hold it with both hands. A video of a roller coaster was launched and … wow! The video was taken from one of the wagons, so it was as if I were right there. I also could hear the people and the sound of the machine, but the best was the vibration of the mobile, absolutely realistic, synchronized with movements.
The uses of this app (for Android) are huge. Amusement parks or car manufacturers, for example, can promote their latest products saying: “Visit our site and experience our new attractions or the new car CCC”. I cannot imagine what could do the creators of video games, series … whatever.
Tinkerers Lab developes Geospatial Blended Reality System (GBRS), a multi-system projection for a 3D high-resolution topographic models based on digital fabrication and geospatial technology.
With the combination of digital fabrication and satellites, they generate topographic models on which it can be projected, with the help of drones, data on temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, etc. This technology is really useful in case of emergency management, as it also allows the real-time geolocation of each of the members of rescue corps.
Its uses are not limited to rescue management (for example, urban planning or extreme sports) or even to the Earth. The European Space Agency is using it to create detailed models of the surface of Mars and the Moon and plan the landing and route of rovers.
Nextome is an indoor positioning and navigation system that allows users to know their own correct position on a digital map and achieve indications to reach a point of interest.
I saw other similar applications, but Nextome caught my attention for several reasons. First, because it doesn’t work with Wi-Fi but with detectors infrastructure, which can be an advantage when there are Internet connection issues. In addition, the app “follows” the users as they move, updating their real location. Nextome also collects automatically statistics in order to know which are the most visited areas, has proximity notifications and allows sharing position through the social network.
Its potential for large events, airports, train stations, hospitals, museums, etc., is immense. Although the MWC had a very good app with a map of the exhibition area, localization was very complicated. It’s a pity that the organizers didn’t take the opportunity to innovate in this regard.
Photomath reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your mobile device. In fact, the app not only solves formulas, but also shows you the steps followed to reach the result.
When I saw the application running I thought “Magic!”. It would have been very helpful during my student days. I asked about the opinion of teachers and they told me that some people are reluctant, but their reaction is similar to those who were against the calculator.
Keezel is a portable personal device that enables users to connect to any Wi-Fi network with the protection of a VPN, having access to servers in over 160 countries. Keezel stands out for several reasons: security, privacy, it operates completely wireless, it’s user-friendly (it works with only one button) and a great design.
With its small size it can easily be carried in the bag, being very useful for people who travel often to countries with a poor internet connection or censorship of certain sites such as social networks. I’m thinking of the press, but also companies exhibiting at fairs.
R3coms is a spin-off from two German engineering universities, that has developed a real-time radio communications system that replaces cables in scenarios in which they are indispensable, but increase costs and limit functionality or flexibility.
Currently, its main use is in the industry, especially automation, automotive and planes, but it has a huge potential. While James Gross, Founder & Researcher, was explaining me the product, I realized that cable manufacturers should keep an eye on this. Future is wireless. R3coms is a clear example of what the Industry 4.0 and the IoT applied to the industry can offer in the coming years.
WE SHOULD NOT LOSE SIGHT OF THESE TRENDS
During my visit to the MWC I could see not only interesting projects. I also detected some trends that should be taken into account. I show you two of them.
Design applied to invisible accessories
The first to realize that design cannot be limited to devices were the headphones manufacturers. At the MWC I could see something similar. These are the mobile chargers by KSIX, available in different colors. We must not lose sight of this trend that can turn our normally boring and invisible accessories into elements of distinction.
When the traditional know-how goes smart
Another product that caught my attention was the smartwatch by MyKronoz, whose motto is “Smartwatch designed in Switzerland”. I found very wise the fact that the country with most know-how on the design of watches is also adapting to the new smart era. Although the United States is at the forefront of the smartwatches, Switzerland shouldn’t be relegated in an area where its brand has always been synonymous with quality and design.
This made me think that those countries that excel in other traditional areas would do well to move up a gear and not be overtaken by competitors with less experience but more capacity for innovation.
THE ANECDOTE OF THE CONGRESS: THE CLOAKROOM
This special article comes to its end with an amusing (but significant) anecdote of the 4YFN. At the end of the first day, I went to get my coat and I found the cloakroom turned into a chaos. The staff were totally overwhelmed, surrounded by a mountain of luggage and coats and harassed by a crowd of people who couldn’t find their belongings.
The cloakroom management system was based on two small pieces of paper with a number. The first piece of paper was hooked onto the hanger and the second piece was delivered to the owner of the coat.
Although I’m very careful with these things, those papers kept me uneasy throughout the whole congress. Sometimes I wasn’t able to remember where it was and I occasionally I had to check if it was still in my pocket.
On wednesday, I found a handwritten paper on the wall of the cloakroom with this message: “Please, take a picture of your tickets”. When I asked the staff on its meaning, they explained me that many attendees had lost the damn piece of paper and then, of course, it wasn’t very easy to find a “black coat” among a mountain of black coats.
My conclusion is how is it possible that no one has thought of using an app to manage the cloakroom in a congress of mobile apps?