March 4, 2014

2014 Mobile World Congress: Connecting Emerging Economies to the Mobile Internet

Attracting more than 85,000 visitors from 201 countries, the 2014 GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC14) took place in Barcelona, Spain from Feb. 24-27, 2014. As outlined in a GSMA press release, "The four-day conference and exhibition attracted executives from the world's largest and most influential mobile operators, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies and companies from industry sectors such as automotive, finance and healthcare, as well as government delegations from across the globe." While several themes were addressed at MWC14, this was the first year the mobile phone use and Internet connectivity in emerging economies and developing countries was a significant focus at a Mobile World Congress.

Low-cost smartphones designed specifically for emerging economies was a significant theme at MWC14. While they may not have the high-quality components installed (e.g., processors or displays), these smartphones will allow people in emerging economies to access the Internet via mobile broadband connectivity. Supporting this theme, U.S.-based Mozilla said it will launch a US$25 smartphone running its Firefox OS. Mozilla's press release said the SC6821 "redefines the entry level for smartphones in key growth markets."

Mozilla also announced that its "Firefox OS will be expanding into important new markets in 2014. Telef√≥nica will build on the list of countries where it's selling Firefox OS phones, with eight more launching this year: Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. Deutsche Telekom will also add four new markets: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia and Montenegro." Importantly for app and web-content developers like ROI3, Inc., "Firefox OS devices are the first devices built entirely to open Web standards, with every feature developed as an HTML5 application."

In his keynote appearance, Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, talked about connecting billions of people in emerging markets to the Internet by offering basic connectivity for free. "Why are the next two billion not on the internet?" he asked. "The reason is not because they don't have any money, it's because they don't know the value of having a data plan or the services they can access."

Photo: Mobile World Live
Launched in August 2013, is a global partnership, whose founding members include Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung, possessing the goal of making internet access available to the next five billion people for free. Referencing the aim of during his keynote, Mr. Zuckerberg said, "Only 2.7 billion people have access to the Internet and it's growing more slowly than you think. The main cost is not the smartphone; it's the cost of the data access. We are really not on a path at this point to connect everyone in the world." He suggests that connecting billions to the Internet for free can be achieved within 5-10 years in two ways: (1) significantly reducing network costs to deliver data and (2) building more efficient applications to reduce data usage.

During MWC14, GSMA and Facebook, through its partnership, announced "a joint initiative designed to connect the billions of men and women globally that currently have no access to Internet-based communications services." The press release further explains, "The joint initiative will focus on reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of mobile, given that mobile will be the enabling technology for the vast majority of people in developing markets." Moreover, "The activities undertaken by the GSMA and Facebook will entail working with governments in developing markets to address key factors that have an impact on affordability and availability."

With a focus on developing mLearning apps and web-content optimized for mobile phones and tablets for people in emerging economies and developing countries, it is very encouraging to see a focus on broadening Internet connectivity worldwide at MWC14. I agree with Mr. Zuckerberg when he said, "[Internet access] is really important, because connectivity is not an end in itself. It's what connectivity can bring."

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

March 2, 2014

Health, Wearables, and Mobile Shine at 2014 International CES

150,000 industry professionals, including more than 35,000 from outside the United States, attended the 2014 International CES from January 7-10, 2014. In a press release, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of Consumer Electronics Association, which owns and produces CES, said, "This year's show was an energizing display of where the future is headed, bringing to life cool new products from every industry that touches technology. One-third of the world’s population interacted with CES in some way this week as we experienced the future. From curved and flexible Ultra HD TVs and next generation smart phones to drones, robots, sensors, the Internet of Everything, Hi-Res audio, connected cars and 3D printers, it seems like the only thing missing from the 2014 CES was a time-travel machine." Here are some of my observations attending the event in Las Vegas, Nev.

Several companies exhibited their digital health and fitness, and wearable technology products and services, some of which are highlighted in these videos: "Digital Health & Fitness Highlights: 2014 CES" and "Wearable Tech Highlights: 2014 CES." I saw the Kolibree Smart Toothbrush, LG Lifeband Touch fitness activity monitor, Reebok CrossCheck, and Sleep Number X12 Smart Bed. I even witnessed Shaquille O'neal checking out the Fitbit booth. While an increasingly crowded sector, I do not have any doubts that fitness and wearable technology will grow rapidly in the coming years as people seek to monitor their health and daily activity.

Specifically to mobile technology, I saw the latest smartphones and tablets that will be available to consumers in 2014 including the Huawei Ascend Mate2, 4G Lenovo ThinkPad 8, and Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2. This year's devices possess faster processors and higher quality screens. Moreover, NVIDIA unveiled the Tegra K1 mobile processor, which, for the first time, next-generation PC gaming will now be available on mobile platforms. These developments will allow app and web-content developers like ROI3, Inc. to produce an experience for consumers on their mobile devices that they already experience via personal computers. Here is a video that provides highlights from the mobile tech sector at CES.

I also attended the second annual CEA MoDev Hackathon that featured nearly 100 developers competing individually and as teams for up to $100,000 in cash and prizes. As explained in this press release, "Apps were awarded for innovative integration with Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung, Sony and Modev." Furthermore, "App Projects from Travel Channel Cities Metro, Travel Offers, Travel Swipe, Travel Channel Navigator and Travel Live were awarded top honors. The Journey Live app was selected as the grand prize winner."

Lastly, the Mobile Apps Showdown competition featured four-minute elevator-pitch-style presentations from 10 semifinalist app developers selected ahead of time by a team of expert panelists and Living in Digital Times readers. Password Box, an innovative, free password manager, with secure digital wallet features for your iPhone, iPad and desktop devices, won the top showdown prize. Ballerz, an iOS app that helps players find pickup basketball games in their area based on skill level, was the online showdown winner. A group of active duty naval officers who found that playing sports reduced stress and boosted morale on the base developed Ballerz.

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.