Mobile World Congress is the grandaddy of mobile exhibitions and conferences and I will be attending for the 15th year. I will be scouring for innovation in the nooks and crannies behind and around all the huge booths and at the Applications Planet (Hall 8). Also at the Press-only events like Showstoppers and Pepcom (MobileFocus). There are always a lot of Innovative companies showing at these!
Although many others will report on what's happening in the middle - on the network side of things, my interest is at the edges, looking more from the consumer's perspective and trying to find things that are valuable and improve the user experience. Also obviously looking for technologies, products, services or ecosystems that let the consumer drive change a bit (or radically!) by just intuitively seeing the value and changing the way they do things.
At MWC this year I am specifically researching the emerging areas of Personal Mobility - accessories, APPcessories, Wearable Technology, Smart (AR) Glasses, mHealth/Fitness, Augmented Reality, Personal Cloud, 3D printing and the consumer mobility end of Infotainment and Transmedia propositions. So my mission is simply to find innovative stuff and update myself on the art of the possible in these sectors and possibly discover some new emerging market sectors of interest.
This was one of the interesting discoveries that caught my eye at the JETCO Japan Pavilion. A Google Glass-like wearable display which could be carried like a pen in the pocket, and then "transformed" into a one-eye display with camera, battery and software on board. On the table was a working Vuzix M100 I suppose to show how the concept model could be used in various applications. i found the concept interesting for someone who would use Smart Glasses off and on in the course of the day in their profession. Sort of like taking out your glasses to get a clearer, close up look at a situation, but in this case with image capture, remote assistance and relevant information on tap. A nice concept, but not sure of the useability aspects. I say, let's just move on quickly to the next phase - normal looking glasses with lenses that augment your vision with relevant info, and do a bit of life blogging and sharing at the same time!
There was an impressive demo at the Fujitsu booth showing how a maintenance engineer could observe and adjust flow rates in pipe and valves and make sure they were operating properly and even make adjustments to controls. Smart Glasses from Vuzix were coupled to a "smart gesture" glove to put the engineer in control of a number of complex operations. it was quite an impressive demo from the Augmented Reality perspective, but I'm hoping that the technologically impressive, but somewhat cumbersome "glove" will be replaced with hand gestures and voice command recognition in the near future.
DoCoMo had a very effective demo of face recognition at their booth. They were showing how headworn Smart Glasses with both camera and display on board can see, analyse and then display to the user info about the person being looked at. Leads to all kind of questions about privacy, etc. But the state of the technology is well demonstrated by this demo. It illustrated well the art of the possible in terms of image recognition and the resulting display of relevant information which has many applications and in professional and industrial terms, would be quite empowering especially in situations where the user needs access to info about what he is looking at and needs to operate in a handsfree mode. The demo was shown using Google Glass which is still in developer only mode ("Explorers") and commercially available Vuzix M100 which is already being deployed in several industrial applications.
Smart Glasses have graduated from the geeky gadgets phase to business enhancing use cases. The top three Smart Glasses in terms of commercial availability were present on many booths at MWC being used to show off real money making or saving applications. What caught my eye was the showing of workplace enhancing applications by many of the large corporations using Smart Glasses in real industrial and professional applications. Smart Glasses from the three Smart Glasses leaders, Google, Vuzix and Epson were on show demoing specific industrial applications such as warhousing operations, field repair, flow control, face recognition, security, and others. Often these were shown interchangeably with a single application being shown most often on Google Glass and Vuzix M100. Vuzix devices were shown exclusively on the Fujitsu, BarcodEye and Brilliant Services booths. SAP and DoCoMo were showing Applications on Google Glass and Vuzix M100 all three were used with various Augmented Reality applications on the Wikitude and Metaio booths. quite an advancement from last year where only prototype devices were on show.
Evidence of the Augmented Reality and Smart Glasses ecosystem forming for end to end solutions took major steps forward at MWC. Firstly, Layar, Metaio and Wikitude, the largest AR platform providers, have cooperated to make it easy for AR content to be shared across their technology platforms. There was a demonstration of AR content being used interchangeably by these browsers at an Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) event at the Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya (ICC) during the Mobile World Congress. This will greatly expand the scope of content creators and application developers to apply their innovations across multiple platforms. Secondly, was the joint announcement of AR software platform company Wikitude and Vuzix of an alliance to offer SDK and APIs for Wikitude licensees to develop AR applications directly on the Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses device. This follows a similar alliance announcement made previously between Vuzix and Metaio.
I have been yearning for a few years now to have my cake and eat it too. Basically, I am an info junky and have so much reading stacked up that pleasure and educational reading is my desire and certainly a relaxing part of my infotaiment when on holiday. Problem is, I also like to do this on the beach. My iPad is the collector of all content, stacked, prioritised and ready to read. So I have said for a few years now that tablet makers (in my case Apple) should put E Ink (à la Kindle, etc.) on the back of their tablets. There's nothing else there, it's reasonably proven, cheap, doesn't use much battery - seemingly a no-brainer. Finally a few innovative companies have caught on, but initially on smart phones. Firstly, Yotaphone. I will let others expound on the innovation and interesting new features of the Yotaphone, but I will point out that this is the first Smartphone (Android) to have displays on both sides. This is well designed and integrated implementation of E ink on a smartphone. But this means dumping your favourite phone for another just to get this innovation. Another company, Oaxis, has an…
Heartrate monitoring is becoming much less cumbersome and seems to be an important element not just of exercising, but to monitor your lifestyle as well. The new Mio Link is wrist worn, low power so batteries last and is continuously monitoring. Indicator lights on the unit give you indication of what zone you are in (heartrate-wise) but it works with the Mio Apps and others as well. Also has ANT+ for connectivity to other sports devices. Uses what they call electro-optical cell technology and replaces the more cumbersome chest straps used now. The styling is what caught my eye. Available this month (March) at $99.
I have observed over the past few years that devices are becoming much more sensible in terms of being rugged, protected from your daily encounters and lighter and easier to carry and wear. At CES I saw and reported on a few accessories that make your phone less prone to water damage and even turning your smartphone into an underwater camera. One that really caught my eye at MWC is a cas called "nüüd" from LIFEPROOF that is unique both in terms of the phone case itself and the fact that once on your iPhone, the iPhone touchscreen is exposed to the water so you can use it as normal. It's also stated to be good to 2m underwater. The case is about the size of a minimal protective case you would buy just to protect from drop tests, but is fully waterproof. The fingerprint sensitive home button is even functional and they supply a waterproof audio jack that when installed let's you plug in your (waterproof?) headset. Since LIFEPROOF is a division of OtterBox, they should know what they are doing! I have one to try and a place to try it over Easter and although I can see all…
InvenSense sensors and analysis software are in just about everything that moves in the mobile sector (I was told). Very accurate sound and motion sensing devices such as MEMS microphones and multi-axis motion tracking devices. Depending on application, InvenSense offers one to nine axis devices which include gyros, accelerometers and compass functions. These are their bread and butter, but of special note are their analysis software capabilities which make sense out of what is happening to turn raw data into situation and context terms. I spoke at length with Tanja Hofner, their Sr. Director of Hardware Applications and learned a lot about the art of the possible with sensors and why most simple step counters and other sensors being used in wearable products just don't deliver the value without proper in-context analysis and of course the UI to produce a genuinely valuable user experience. if it's temperature and humidity that is needed, than another sensor company at MWC, Sensirion caught my eye as experts in this area. The tiny speck of s sensor pointed out in the picture is all it takes to add those parameters to the context needed to figure out what is going on. This wonderfully scientific and…
Yet another amazing addition to iPhone in the form of a thin case that extends the capability of the device we used to call a cellular telephone! This iPhone case with a few extra sensors and image capture devices on board from FLIR Systems is a self contained, pocketable thermal imaging instrument with various analysis, storage and connectivity options on board. Although seemingly a serious bit of instrumentation, I can see this could be a real tool and potential money saver in the hands of a homeowning consumer. Somewhat affordable at $350. But a bargain for any profession needing this capability. A very interesting and potentially valuable APPcessory to iPhone.
The Martian Watches table at the Pepcom Press event was a breath of fresh air from all the large, geeky/ugly "wearable technology" watches I have seen at CES and MWC. I have often thought that devout watch wearers these days are sporting normal looking analogue watches and rather than replace it with a watch trying to be a mobile phone, it would make sense to add a few discreet features to a normal looking phone. Martian seems to have made that their key differentiator. Various watch configurations include a small display, hands free voice capability to keep your phone in your pocket, some voice command recognition and vibration alerts. Discussions with Martian president Stanley Kinsey revealed a high degree of user experience saavy evidenced in the clever use of coded vibration alerts and other features to keep you on top of things without visibly seeming to be constantly at the beck and call of external forces. It's worth watching these guys, and soon might the exclusive high priced watch brands take this type of connectivity on board without spoiling "the look" of their luxury brand?