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Case Studies

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Digital Ecosystems

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Financial Services

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Smart Cities and Transportation

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Mobile is Everything: The Search for Manners

Farrukh Younus Tuesday, 08 March 2016.

mobile is everythingMobile has transformed people’s life, society and business –to refer to the Mobile World Congress’s (MWC) tag-line: Mobile in Everything. Laura Desmond, CEO of Starcom Mediavest, referred to this century at ‘the mobile century’ with ‘Mobile and brands reinventing themselves many times over in order to keep pace.’

Despite being in the mobile century, it’s clear by listening to WPP’s CEO Sir Martin Sorrell that some companies still view mobiles as an extension of a brand’s online presence rather than a stand-alone platform. The winners, as he identified, will be companies who ” understand the unit economics of the mobile economy.”

With over 100,000 attendees the 2016 MWC in Barcelona delivered through it’s keynotes, presentations and product launches.

Four major trends

Four big trends emerged from the event; the scaling power of the mobile economy, which is intrinsically linked to the move from eCommerce to mCommerce. There was also a great emphasis on consumer disruption and virtual reality.

First Trend

Vittorio Colao, the CEO of Vodafone, spoke about the economic opportunities the mobile world has to offer. He talked about the ‘Gigabit Society’ explaining that ‘Companies can get instant scale,’ such as Mpesa. The Kenyan-based mobile payment platform is responsible for over 40% of the country’s GDP. Today the digital economy is enabling ‘very different business models.’

Julie Meyer, the founder of EntrepreneurCountry Global concurs with Colao’s observations: “for the leading firms in the traditional industries to become leaders in the future ecosystems, they have to understand the Unit Economics of the transaction and how consumer behaviour is changing the business model which is changing the industry.”

Second Trend

The second trend to emerge is the increasing role consumers play in the economy. Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, held the view that while ‘People are disrupting the world today’ it will be ‘Devices that will disrupt the word tomorrow.’ AT&T’s CEO Ralph de la Vega shared these views adding that as ‘Barriers come down, businesses and consumers can get the same experience across borders.’

Third Trend

The third trend is that consumers are no longer passively digesting the content thrown at them, they are actively participated in its creation. The rise of the User Generated Content era means that every person becomes a content creator, and as such, every person will begin to play a role in how advertising is associated to their created content. Visa’s SVP Sandra Alzetta shared that today 30% of their transaction volume for shopping is on mobile, and this is expected to grow to 50% by 2020. Meaning that content, advertising and commerce will eventually converge, especially as Michael Jaconi, the CEO of Button shared that the daily spend is moving to the mobile device. Moreover, he added: ‘Internet on the mobile is completely different paradigm to the web. Traditional media advertising on mobile is being challenged, consumers are standing up.’

Fourth trend

1600x900zuckerbergIt was one of the hot topics at this year’s MWC. Virtual Reality (VR) serves as a perfect metaphor to demonstrate how easy it is to become immersed in something without being aware of the needs of your environment. The defining moment of the event is probably this iconic photo of Mark Zuckerberg walking past an audience so immersed in a digital experience at the Samsung press event that they were oblivious to the world around them; specifically, him walking past them.

We, today, have access to so many forms of technology, but we struggle to offer meaningful communication. In the case of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s speech, it was marred with failing communication equipment. Thankfully he recovered by sharing anecdotes of his daughter, demonstrating that even if things do not work out the way you intend, you can find a way to recover and, often, do better.

For me, MWC opened with innovation. Showstoppers and Mobile Focus Global showcased some of the best technology innovators. But it ended with a stark reminder.

In an age where we are all content creators, where we do not reject advertising outright, just, do not want it interrupting our digital experiences, mobile may indeed be everything. But instead of living autonomously along a linear path void of innovation, let us find better direction, and so ensure that all of our innovations also reflect the best of manners.

Here is a taxonomy of the topics covered at the event:

Data security

But Simon Segars (CEO, ARM) provided a valuable warning, ‘Unless we get it right, I do not think we can deliver on it’s full potential,’ adding, ‘we have to think about security in different ways.’ Data and information is a valuable commodity and last year over one third of US medical records were stolen. So better standards and trust in the digital economy are fundamental.

Anne Bouverot (CEO, Morpho) elaborated further saying that with 200 million smartphones having fingerprint technologies, the future of biometric recognition may actually rest in this generation’s addiction to selfies, with facial recognition. There are of course different solutions to digital security and while it is easy to replicate a fingerprint and break into an Apple iPhone (the internet has many such videos), Goodix have developed an industry first where they have integrated an optical sensor into the fingerprint sensor making those youtube videos obsolete.

Digital Economy – Business models

Returning to new business models, Pavel Durov (CEO, Telegram) spoke of how his platform has over 100 million active users and one offering named ‘Channels,’ enables brands to deliver digital content directly to an audience. For example, the BBC use Channels on Telegram to reach over 300,000 users worldwide today. Even the Pope uses their solution.

The rate of change was summed up perfectly by Sigve Brekke (CEO, Telenor) who shared that while it took ‘15 years for customers to adopt mobile (properly in their domestic market), in Bangladesh it took just 15 months.’ He continued to say ‘Markets are not different any more, they are more and more alike.’

Chuck Robbins (CEO, Cisco) shared a wider holistic approach: ‘We desire that what we do has meaning and provides benefit at the end of the day.’ William Ruh (CEO, GE Digital) added that ‘Everyone has to have a digital DNA,’ while Kaan Terzioglu (CEO, turkcell), said that we have to be ‘Bold enough to question things that no-one questioned before.’

Richard Fain (CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises) said that ‘It’s amazing how much cr@p we have to deal with. The cr@p gets in the way of your experience.’ He did however add an air of positivity: ‘It is the people who make us successful.’

Content/Media / Advertising

Addressing global growth is Buzzfeed whose CEO, Jonah Peretti observed that ‘Mobile flipped, from killing social distribution to being the key to social distribution.’ Three trends have converged: mobile, social and digital video. But as Ralf Reichert (CEO, Turtle Entertainment) confirmed, ‘the touch interface needs to improve on mobile to give as rich a game like experience (as possible).’ Usability is often misunderstood and can stop any meaningful solution which can add value, from adding value.

Gavin Patterson (CEO, BT) weighed into the ad-blocking discussion suggesting that ‘carte blanche blocking is not the way forward’ and that there should be a way to ‘find a happy medium.’ This conflicts with growing consumer expectation to not have their digital experience interrupted, especially on mobile. Transferring traditional advertising methodologies such as on TV, onto mobile, while profitable causes undue frustration.

Jonathan Skogomo (CEO, Jukin Media) shared that 60% of the 1.5 billion videos viewed per month through their platform are via mobile, with 80% of content being seen outside the US. ‘Content can be used on many different screens which can be repurposed,’ a strategy reflective of how viewers consume content differently across devices. He added that consumers are becoming ‘more smarter and innovative with regards to ad-blocking,’ and that ‘people will always find a way to ad-block.’

Dawn Airey (CEO, Getty Images) demonstrated this sharing that a significant number of photographs on their service, 25%, are actually from smartphones: ‘Two billion people in the world have a camera, the majority are in phones. The world is becoming an expert in taking a picture.’

‘Internet on the mobile is completely different paradigm to the web. Traditional media advertising on mobile is being challenged, consumers are standing up.’ - The latest report from Quantcast entitled Mobile + Me, shows that Millennials are paving the way for a new mobile advertising age.

Scott Snyder (President, Mobiquity) did ask, ‘How do we intervene at the right time without being annoying,’ adding that ‘47% of people are incentivised by financial awards.’ The truth is that no single person desires that their mobile digital experience is interrupted, no matter how sophisticated the algorithm.

In an article earlier this year Ethan Zuckerman, the man who created pop-up adverts wrote: ‘The simple truth is that web adverts don’t work vey well. People hate them – which is why they block them – and almost no-one voluntarily clicks on them.’


Dan Schulman (CEO, PayPal) shard that ‘With mobile blurring the distinction between shopping online and in store, ‘Retailers want to create value propositions to use mobile in a fundamentally different way, turning money from transaction into an experience.’ This was a philosophy Guo Ping (CEO, Huawei) shared as he said that a ‘Connection is like oxygen for the digital economy.’

Smart Things:

With over a billion 4G connections today, Mats Granryd (Director General, GSMA) touched on the Internet of Things, ‘Everything that has a benefit in the future will be connected,’ encouraging all, saying that the industry ‘Needs to be more innovative.’ The theme was echoed by Shang Bing (Chairman, China Mobile) who said that a ‘Technological revolution is taking place,’ and that ‘Information consumption is the new growth.’

Smart Vehicles:

With 73% of Europeans living in cities, Mark Fields (CEO, Ford) shared that on average a Ford owner spends 900 hours a year in their car, so their focus in and around the car experience is on ‘Making people’s lives better.’

Derek Aberle (President, Qualcomm) shared that the car of the future will be autonomous and the technology already exists today. On display just outside the main conference stage was the Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car. Having sat in and experienced the comfort and feature set within this reported $20m+ car, I share his sentiments that we must ‘Get these technologies commercialised.’

A glimpse of the car with it’s lead engineer can be seen here:

After extolling the virtues of how leading technology delivers a competitive edge to his racing, Lewis Hamilton (Cool Guy, F1) said, ‘I wish you could feel how I feel.’ And given that he loses up to 4kg per race weekend given the g-forces endured driving on track, I too wish I could feel the weight loss!

Paddy Lowe (Executive Director, Mercedes Formula One) said, ‘I want (us) to be the first at something, and I get annoyed when we’re not.’ ‘You can’t win without a great car, I’m amazed at how technology is advancing.’ – So it is with all entrepreneurs and innovators, driven by the need for change.

Societal impact:

Anthony Lake, (Executive Director, UNICEF) opined that ‘before, governments used to represent societies. Today, people talk to each other so governments need to adapt.’ Innovation empowered by mobile he added was ‘Making it possible to achieve results that I could not imagine a few years ago.’ This sentiment was contextualised by Ann Cairns (President, Mastercard) who said that we should seek ‘Full digital inclusion, not just financial inclusion’ citing that 90 million people in Europe still do not have a bank account.

Karim Khoja (CEO, Roshan), one of the network providers in Afghanistan, went futher saying, ‘People can call their families to say that they are safe. This is digital inclusion.’

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Farrukh Younus

Farrukh Younus

Farrukh I Younus has a background in mobile phone strategy across Europe and Asia, and has visited China on more than 25 occasions. Dedicated to understanding and delivering solutions based on new technology, Younus has spoken on the subject to the EU in Brussels, and regularly attends industry-leading conferences. He currently runs a video platform, Implausibleblog, delivering lifestyle content via social media; where his focus is on understanding consumer behaviour with regards to digital content and digital advertising. His interests include travel, nouvelle cuisine, and chocolate.

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