Highlights, hangovers and headlights – a review of Mobile World Congress

Remembering the highlights of last week’s Mobile World Congress is like trying to remember real images in a crazy flashing disco scene from the 1970s. More of it seems like the hangover afterwards than the buzz of the party itself.

But nuggets stay with you.

The connected house was interesting because it was a physical demonstration of things that our industry has been discussing for many years. But the information boards were pedestrian. Instead of clicking and finding yourself in some interactive scene or guided tour, you found yourself looking at a white paper, with a list of contents. Not that we object to white papers, but they are hardly leading edge at a trade show in 2014. The show lacked proper interaction, unless you liked football.

There were, as we have said, the usual ‘new’ devices and some pieces of ‘wearable tech’ that looked interesting. But those were less than exciting, on account of them being a black band. Just that, a black band. If ‘wearable tech’ is to take off then the design needs to be handled by Porsche or Gucci, not a telco or tech device manufacturer. And the innards need to be designed by Disney, who already use wristbands on their properties. In them you find your hotel key, food vouchers, your parking entrance, show entrance and a whole lot more. All of it is carefully designed to make your Disney experience as seamless and frictionless as possible.

The thing that always strikes us as truly mad is our industry’s obsession with connecting cars and everything in them. Given that there are, apparently, going to be between two and four billion by 2050, we wonder whether cars will soon outweigh people at MWC?

That concept is as mad as some of the ideas being demonstrated. In one car, for instance, there was what looked like a giant iPad stuck on the dashboard. In fact, there are now giant iPads stuck on dashboards.

It is one thing to use remote diagnostics to understand and possible optimize the performance of a car. It is quite another to put large, distracting displays in places where the driver will, er, become distracted by them. Governments and consumer groups have spent years trying to outlaw drivers making calls, or worse, sending texts, while driving. Why is that different from using a computer while driving?

And if the concept of the driverless car takes off, which presumably is when the driver (or the person sitting in the seat formerly known as the driving seat) is safe to use the computer, then it will be a dark, dark, day for people who actually like to, um, drive their cars.

Leafing through the pages of Wired on the way back to BillingViews HQ, where broadband is a distant dream, there was a half page feature on connected cars.

And which bits are hackable…

– Locking system – yup.

– Windows – uh, huh, easy.

– Brakes – oh yeah.

– Engine – obviously. All or part of it, take your pick.

– Lights – sure.

– Entertainment system – the kids could do it, probably will. Probably have.

As we and many others have said before, the only truly un-hackable system is one that is not connected to anything.

Let us, please, not let our obsession with connecting anything that stands still long enough, get in the way of common sense. Again.


Meanwhile, here are some light hearted reflections from @sevendotzero – an #MWC14 novice.

As a first time visitor, nothing prepares you for the scale of #MWC14.

Best free WiFi is the Apple Store in Placa de Catalunya.

Don’t try to get a Metro train at 01:00 in the morning.

Don’t book a hotel on the wrong side of the city centre.

Do book your hotel several years in advance.

Don’t expect anyone to get to your meeting on time as they will always be running late.

Expect to consume prodigious quantities of pork based foodstuffs during your stay.

Puzzle over the lack of vegetables with your restaurant meals.

Enjoy the irony of a telco event where the keynote speaker is someone who wants to trash your business and steal your customers.

And finally … make sure you return next year.


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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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