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Digital Ecosystems

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Smart Cities and Transportation

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Mobile World Congress 2017: Process Improvement: The Next Element

Monday, 13 March 2017.

Mobile World CongressPerched atop an elevated seat in-between the upper walkway, a ‘lifeguard’ sat monitoring the flow of pedestrian traffic. With other 108,000 attendees I did wonder why a conference, which spoke so much on 5G, Automation and the Internet of Things, was unable to adopt a more effective mechanism for traffic management, but as with so many future technologies their wholesale adoption today, in the now, is often limited.

Opening the keynotes, Mats Granryd (Director General, GSMA) set the scene with a projection that b 2020, 41% of people will be on 4G, and that by 2025, there will be over 1 billion 5G connections. This ‘giant step forward, connection people, machines and things’ will include over 1 million connected devices per square kilometre, enabling new business models..

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez (Chairman & CEO, Telefonica) expanded on this vision, defining it as a ‘cognitive intelligence, a brain on the system.’ The challenges he said included ‘Transforming ourselves to serve our sector in a different manner. We were not born digital, we were born analogical,’ meaning that the telecoms industry must continue it’s transformative process. Adding that in the future ‘the network is smart, the network doesn’t sleep;’ the impact of which will be anything, anywhere, anytime.

Masayoshi Son (Founder, Chairman, CEO of Softbank) believes that within 30 years the ‘computer brain’ empowered with an AI, will surpass mankind’s brain, projecting that if the average IQ today is 100, with Da Vinci’s at 205 and Einstein’s at 190, then in 30 years, the computer brain will have an IQ of 10,000. This ‘super intelligence’ will dramatically impact our lives as we know them today, to the point where the chips in our shoes that we are stepping on will be smarter than our individual brains.

Here are a few key quotes from the event: 

Alejandro Agog Formula E HoldingAlejandro Agag (CEO, Formula E Holdings) shared how the innovations and creativity of electric racing are helping drive reach and research in car design that will inevitably impact climate change, reducing pollution, delivering energy efficiencies. Beyond just electric, connected and driverless cars, there is a wider more holistic vision, that it is possible to have fun while having a positive impact. Safety is of course one of the key features of driverless cars, and as Denis Sverdlov (CEO of Roborace and Charge) added, that will 24 trillion operations per second, the upcoming Roborace has a wider goal of helping people accept the notion of robots on the road.

Reed Hastings (Founder, CEO, Netflix) compared our obsession with books to our obsession with binge viewing TV shows. Older models of content distribution he argued with a single show released every week reflect mindsets of a bygone era. Consumers want control of their information choices, with the option to binge view a series; a model offered by Netflix, Amazon Prime and others. Reed’s prediction is that 10-20 years from now all of the video content we watch will be on the internet. And his honesty in this fast evolving industry was welcomed: “We have a lot of great content but we have a long way to go to serve all of you. We’re trying to learn how to do things well on the internet. And in five years the quality be new and exciting.’

Elsewhere in the conference program, Nick Snowdon (TNS Research) shared that high-level influencers play a role in raising a brands profile or specific product in a marketing effort, but it is the second tier which transition the influencers content into leads. The disparity between the high level influencer who is commissioned by the brands, and the next tier who is not, is astounding given that it is the latter who actually lead to a sale.

Amit Ahuja (Adobe) suggested two levels of content, the first to capture the attention, the second, longer, to deliver the message.

Per Borgklint (Ericsson) described consumer content usage as something very personal, ‘Some people eat more pizza, some people eat less.’ A sentiment shared by Jason Juma-Ross (Facebook) who added that ‘Context changes consumption.’

Jason continued to say that many people are driven purely by metrics, when in fact, what they should focus on in a key set of criteria, their specific target, and not worry about generic objectives which often do not deliver the return they expect.

Thomas Crampton (Global Managing Director, Social@Ogilvy) demonstrated the uselessness of advertising, ‘As soon as I buy something, they screen it again,’ showing that in addition to the $8 billion in ad-fraud, billions more are being wasted in advertising to those who have already made a purchase. In contrast to a sentiment shared by Helen Lawrence (Twitter) who complained about repeatedly being shown Clearblue adverts.

Today’s advertising methodologies, while generating significant income, if not suffering from fraud, suffer from delivering often meaningless, irrelevant and annoying adverts to the consumer. As Mobile World Congress touches upon speed, it is the quality of content and the associated advertising which needs a significant rethink. The former is certainly being delivered as leading organisations understand the need for different formats across different platforms. Little however is being offered in terms of digital on-line advertising. Moreover, there is very little connection between on-line advertising and the next step, which is the purchase of a physical product; the solution has yet to be built.

This leads to the closing keynote of #MWC2017 moderated by Edith Yeung (General Partner, 500 Mobile Collective Microfund). Brian Pallas (Co-Founder, Opportunity Network) and Julia Puig (Co-Founder, Opportunity Network) began stating that when building a business you need to add value to society, and that they believe that good things happen with good people connect. The holistic message was shared by Alexsey Moiseenkov (Founder, Prisma Labs) who said that ‘Your app needs to be magic, one tap, not two.’ And Farah Ramzan Golant (CEO, Girl Effect) shared that for every $1 invested in a girl, it delivers a 6x return, meaning benefit is arrived when the impoverished move from being recipients of aid, to becoming co-creators of content and opportunity.

The full Mobile World Congress experience is not experienced without Showstoppers and PepCom’s Mobile Monday events, where cool, new, innovative products from brands far and wide are showcased to journalists. Missing this year however was the Samsung new product launch, for the S8, but I give them full credit for opting to be more cautious and safe, than to rush a product to market; that takes courage.

This year I also joined the ‘Mobile Dinner’ hosted by Amadeus Capital Partners with Bankers, Venture Capitalists and other entrepreneurs. Across three hours we shared stories of past successes, opportunities, and life experiences: whether it was one UK based VC who injured himself while surfing, to another VC attendee who moved from the more serene Vancouver to the more business-like Toronto, to million and billion dollar deals, to entrepreneurs simply looking to deliver a service fulfilling a niche they have identified.

What this year at #MWC17 has shown is that innovation, along with automation, will impact significantly our lives going forward, no better embodied by the launch of Roborace, the world’s first electric F1 racing automated car race. Innovation is something truly beautiful, in that it pushes the boundaries of where we can go tomorrow. After their keynote at MWC, I was lucky enough to joining their launch party at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, where I had the time to meet and speak with the car designer, Daniel Simon (Tron Legacy, Oblivion, Bugatti, amongst others). When investment, funding and support meet people of vision, the most amazing results can appear.

But something that is often overlooked, is today’s opportunity. Which industries can be changed, with mass adoption, without needing the latest innovation, while delivering significant value to the end consumer? How do we change to accommodate consumer behaviour and expectation? Consider, why, for example, do we continue to insist on advertising which interrupts our digital content experience, when for most of us train our eyes to ignore it, or skip over it? Moreover, when every single one of us would go out of our way to save a penny, why would any brand pay, knowing how consumers skip or ignore their on-line digital advertising?

As the mobile industry pushes itself towards the next standard, 5G, let us ask ourselves what we can do today to improve the quality of life for individuals in the digital content space so that tomorrow, with increased automation, enhanced AIs and more, instead of worsening an already horrid digital advertising experience, we establish a new, better, norm, ensuring that as we transition to faster speeds, that the underlying experience is more meaningful, does not suffer from billions lost in ad-fraud, and moreover does not interrupt our digital on-line experience causing annoyance and frustration. The sooner we provide a meaningful alternative, the better it will be for us all.

So comes an end #MWC17 The Next Element. If any lesson is to be had, it is not the need for another element, but the refinement of what already exists today. Value does not exclusively come from the latest innovation, but the improvement of systems that do not deliver the correct experience. The strength of leadership goes beyond future predictions, it sometimes requires the courage to challenge and change existing norms. If digital advertising, despite its’s flaws and short comings today is already a billion $ industry, imagine, the impact a solution which actually does it better. The Next Element is a process improvement, and it is coming soon.


Additional quotes and thoughts from the 2017 Mobile World Congress:

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez (Chairman & CEO, Telefonica) expanded on this vision, defining it as a ‘cognitive intelligence, a brain on the system.’ The challenges he said included ‘Transforming ourselves to serve our sector in a different manner. We were not born digital, we were born analogical,’ meaning that the telecoms industry must continue it’s transformative process. Adding that in the future ‘the network is smart, the network doesn’t sleep;’ the impact of which will be anything, anywhere, anytime.

Chang-Gyu Hwang (Chairman & CEO, KT Corporation) shared proudly his nation’s vision of enabling the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic and Paralympics Games as being 5G enabled, a taste of what we can do with this new technology and how it will lead us into the future. 5G he said will being an ‘intelligence’ to the market, so much so that sophisticated and real time algorithms enabled with the Internet of Things will, through increased efficiencies, save in South Korea, the same amount of energy generated by 8 nuclear plants, and so have a positive impact on our environment.

Sunil Bharti Mittal (Chairman, GSMA and Founder, Chairman, Bharti Enterprises) returned us to the here and now saying that ‘People want to be at the destination but they are not enjoying the journey.’ Commenting that while a global network exists today, that roaming charges still exist, demonstrate that no matter how sophisticated a technological solution may be, that unless it is practical and usable, it causes unnecessary frustrations and cost. Sunil declared a ‘war’ on roaming charges, starting with the 17/18 countries that his own organisation has an influence, adding, ‘Roaming charges and bill shocks will be a thing of the past.’ - A reality every single one of us who steps outside our regular network wish to see realised sooner rather than later, irrespective of where we travel in this world.
Josep Maria Bartomeu I Floreta (President, FC Barcelona) shared his holistic vision of technology, ‘We are only leaders if we can chare it (our technologies) with the world.’ Projects and initiatives initially designed for elite athletes will now be open and available to the public. His personal vision? To transform the world through the technologies that enable better sport.

John Stankey (CEO, AT&T Entertainment Group) continued this philosophy of sharing saying, that the industry must ‘Rethink how we do business going forward. Value chains are compressing. They are being transferred back to the consumer through greater utility and value. It is not just about content but how people navigate content and the digital communities that they want.’

This first step to understanding how consumer behaviour is changing while important still however does not address the wider content industries continued adoption of outdated distribution practice. When a friend shares a video of The Daily Show on Facebook in the US and I click on the link, I get a black screen with the text ‘Content not available.’

John added that ‘We need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable,’ and until the industry develops distribution models reflective of the global-anywhere-instant era that we live in, they will simply lose revenues. ‘A customers key relationship is exactly what they want. It is the customers world and we are just living in it.’

Travis Johnson (CEO, Ansible) criticised the industry saying that ‘The experience on mobile is just not good enough.’ Citing discoverability and the ease of finding information, Ansible launched ‘Mdex’ a directory which evaluates the mobile stats for over 2000 brands, with key indicators to include the mobile experience, and the effective nature and style of mobile sites. Travis gave the example of one company, Anthropologie who after redesigning their mobile site increased sales by 24%. Understanding therefore the importance and impact of mobile across retail is still a steep learning curve for many.

Alexey Reznikovich (Chairman of Supervisory Board, VimpelCom) summed up consumer frustration: ‘Your call is important to us,’ but not enough to have sufficient staff who are ready to take the call, while you wait on hold, after eventually going through a complex automated system of button pressing while trying to communicate to exact needs to a machine. Alezey described this as ‘Running fast but staying in the same place,’ like a hamster in a wheel who eventually gets tired. ‘We need a newer view on industry,’ asking ‘Are they really our customers or are they customers of someone else?’ Having more data than Google and Apple is meaningless if it is not monetized e.g. if a customer spends 10 Euros a month on his phone, the same customer is spending 500-700 a month on other things, so why hasn’t the mobile operator changed to facilitate these transactions?

Anthony Levandowski (Founder, CEO, Otto) elaborated on the price of true innovation, ‘If you want to build future transport, it needs to be safer than what already exists today.’ If the objective is to reach a given destination the service offering must include additional value to validate a change in existing norms. Opportunity is not just about a new solution but creating one so easy and with such value that it becomes habit forming. Otto’s trials in Pittsburgh and Phoenix are demonstrating how self driving cars are slowly becoming the norm.

Takashi Niino (President, CEO, NEC Corportaion) reflected the growing awareness of responsibility in our age, ‘Corporate profits are no longer the bottom line, it is about sustainable benefits for a sustainable future. It is possible if we do it together.’ Takashi gave the example of a project in Tigre, Argentina, where digital imaging solutions with the local police force helped drop car thefts by 80%, having a knock on impact to local tourism, with income going up 300%. ‘Creating social value through partnerships is the only way to succeed,’ he added.

Strive Masiyiwa (Founder, Executive Chairman, Econet) spoke of the importance of delivering one’s vision. ‘You cannot work in Africa and separate yourself from the challenges around you. If you want to be successful you have to leverage the assets to hand... Mobile money wasn’t a success initially. If I turned away there would be guys who would shut it down. So you need commitment from the top. A culture of experimenting, innovation. We got the model wrong. We went back, we rebuilt it, now it works.’ Having the courage to adhere to a vision, even to rethink strategies to deliver on that vision, is not easy, particularly with pressures to demonstrate value to shareholders. The return however for staying the course – so long as the opportunity exists – are truly rewarding, not just monetarily, but through value created in the communities you serve. Speaking of the next opportunities Strive added, ‘It’s (all) about content now.’

Jeremy Oppenheim (Chair, New Climate Economy)s poke on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The seventeen goals outlined are not simply a means of addressing and resolving certain issues, rather they form a comprehensive commercial opportunity with $12 trillions a year in economic value, creating over 377 million jobs. ‘Charity’ has transitioned from ‘giving’ to ‘enabling’ and ‘empowering,’ while demonstrating ‘value’ for all of us in our increasingly globalised world. This is why Arun Gore (CEO, GrayGhost Ventures) defined this process as ‘Public private partnerships coming together,’ while Greta Bull (CEO, CHAP and Director, World Bank Group), said that ‘Connectivity and distribution will make it work.’

Andrus Ansip (VP Digital Single Market, European Commission) referred to 5G as an evolution and a revolution, casually referring to it as ‘More of the same, but a lot better.’ It is not just ‘about more speed,’ but ‘building the platform to enable the revolution.’ Andrus added that ‘If you don’t take advantage of it, others will.’

Ajit Pai, (Chairman, US Federal Communications Commission) painted an overview: ‘Never before in history has there been such opportunity for entrepreneurs to thrive.’ Like his current president however he delivered contradictory statements, ‘We will preserve a free and open internet’ then adding, with ‘light tough regulation.’ This anomaly aside, he sough favour with the audience adding ‘I come to you as a friend, the US comes to you as a friend,’ must needed assurances at this time of uncertainty. Ajit did however sum matters up perfectly, ‘Embrace what works, and dispense with what does not.’

Stephane Richard (CEO, Chairman, Orange Group) continued with the 5G baton adding that the new standard will deliver 22 million new jobs, adding that all organisations within the industry must ‘adapt networks to (the) changing needs of (the) digital society… We think that 5G is going to really give birth to a global and ubiquitous global digital economy.’

Arnaud de Puyfontaine (CEO, Vivendi) shared that with millenials spending 50% of their free time on mobile phones, that while ‘Content is everywhere, quality content is rare.’ Media, he added, ‘thought before as silos,’ but not it is simply about a ‘relationship with the consumer. ’ This he described as ‘a complete shift in the industry.’ In their own capacity, they have launched Studio+, a selection of TV series that are 10 minutes in length designed for mobile. Understanding changing consumer patterns driven by improved technologues such as mobile, not only enable them to remain relevant to platforms that are being adopted, but also allow them to innovate at the forefront.

Eric Xu (Rotating CEO, Huawei) followed this progression adding that ‘Video is becoming a basic service bringing enormous market opportunity.’ The shift is from reactive content to proactive content, a reflection again of changing consumer behaviour and partners. John Martin (Chairman, CEO, Turner) added that while more than half of video on demand in the US is on mobile, there is today no significant change in the content distribution licensing model. ‘We want them to pay more, they want us to pay less.’ John’s attitude was reflective of an industry clinging to a bygone era which tries to sustain itself. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, but the consumer will drive newer better content solutions.

John Hanke (Creator, Pokemon GO; Founder, CEO, Niantic) showed how technology is changing the way we interact with our environments. The hugely successful Pokemon GO , born out of Google Maps, was designed from the outset, and so was native for, mobile. Today they have over 35,000 sponsored locations e.g. at Starbucks, get a Pokemon Go Frappuccino. The wider holistic vision was to get children who spent far too much time watching TV, outside, ‘To be social in real life.’

Rajeev Suri (President, CEO, Nokia) opted to define this aspect of mobile as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Change he said ‘will happen because we innovate, invest and create.’ Buzz words include Hyper local Hyper mobile and Hyper scale, stating, ‘We need an approach beyond the use of technology to the user cases.’ Most worry perhaps, Rajeev’s statement, ‘In the factory of the future, humans will be working alongside robots,’ not the other way around. The implication being the impact of automation will drastically change our employment landscape.

Bob Moritz (Global Chairman, PwC) focused on usability: ‘How do I minimise disruption (when delivering innovations)…How can you get a better experience?’ It is not just about technology, or speed, rather interpreting value though the medium of better solution. Bob added that ‘Human intervention needs to happen as we bring concepts to life.’ Meaning that ensuring usability and practicality of every aspect will allow for something more beneficial to humanity.

H.E. Dr Aisha Butti bin Bishr (Director General, Smart Dubai) went one step further, identifying the nations desire to improve upon Bhutan’s thunder, ‘Towards becoming the happiest city on earth,’ where the end goal is simply, people’s happiness. Technology, she argued is simply a means to an end, giving the example of a mobile phone as being a tool. A nation that has undergone such drastic change but at times still struggles with an occasional controversial headline, Dubai continues to innovate, and it is this experience that can be exported around the globe, enriching the lives of other nations and their citizens. A sentiment shared by the session’s moderator, Mary Clark (CMO, Syniverse) who added, ‘How do we accommodate it, as it’s going to happen.’

Allison Kirby (President, CEO, Tele2) continued the focus on the individual: ‘Being a challenger means putting the customer at the core of everything you do.’ She added, ‘Come to Sweden, come to Stockholm. Don’t go to London if you want connectivity,’ a notion which I sadly agree with as still today I lose my signal when taking the train from my suburb into London. And despite wifi in some of our tube stations, we have no signal in the tube lines themselves; an ideal metaphor of how so much of what is rolled out in our nation is simply a partial fix, with little attention being given to a fuller, better, and continuous user experience. Troubling as Allison continued saying that ‘Connectivity will drive the revolution,’ which means that we as a nation here in the UK have a long way to go if we want to play a bigger part in the next technology revolution. Her bleak warning, ‘If there is no connectivity, there will be no fourth revolution.’

Jean-Briac Perrette (President, CEO, Discovery Networks) shared an honest reality, ‘We’re trying to experiment a lot… If it is not unique, it is difficult to use I as a differentiator.’ It was refreshing to hear him add that while they started on TVs, a billion screens today, their focus has shifted to mobile, which will soon have over 10 billion screens. Meaning that content for them is transitioning from broadcast on traditional platforms to the mobile/tablet generation.

Patrick Adiba (CEO, Olympics and Major events, Atos) mentioned that the Olympics are the only event in the world where you know seven years in advance where and when events will take place. Meaning that with this level of preparation time, ensuring an effective content delivery methodology is tantamount, not only to the organisations success, but also to deliver the best content experience for the consumer, irrespective of their chosen platform, be it TV or mobile/tablet. Patrick Gelsinger (CEO, VMware) added that you build the infrastructure to deliver, once complete, you return to the drawing board and build the new infrastructure to deliver. And in this way, you continue to remain relevant satisfying the needs of both the networks as well as the end experience for the user.

Shane Smith (Co-Founder, CEO, VICE Media) spoke of the impact of real time content: “If you want, you can tune in and see exactly what is happening,’ anywhere in the world at any time. And in an era of ‘fake news’ this ability to be present in real time is the perfect counter. Shane stressed that it is not ‘algorithms that make great content, rather, people make great content,’ adding that ‘It’s probably the most exciting time to be a content creator.’

Jeff Lawson (Founder, CEO, Twilio) adopted a more practical approach suggesting that you ‘Build the minimum bridge required to deliver.’ This pragmatic approach, he added, meant that you ‘Preserve agility,’ where agility is defined as your ability to adapt. The same sentiment was shared by Taavet Hinrius (Founder, CEO, Transferwise). Born out of frustration, their money sending service is faster, costs on average 8x less that traditional banks, and so delivers a better customer experience.

Ted Livingstone (Founder, CEO, Kik) is a firm believer in bots and platforms, stating that ‘There needs to be an alternative’ in the industry for if everything was simple, for example, Visa, there would be little competition and desire for change and improvement. Having Mastercard ensures that both will innovate and so deliver a better offering, ‘Enabling a new type of behaviour.’ Session moderator Marty Swant (Adweek) showed the growing tensions between publishers and platforms, with the former wanting half of the income that Facebook generates, while the latter currently does not wish to pay publishers so high.

Dave O’Flanagan (Co-Founder, Boxever) opined that ‘Organisations have to be where customers want to be,’ to ‘Connect the consumer across all these different places.’ While Takeshi Idezawa (President, CEO, LINE) looked into the future stating that AI will be everywhere, such as their solution, Clova, which is a Cloud Virtual Assiatant, initially releasing in Korea and Japan before a global roll out.

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