Overview: Mobile World Congress 2012

This year’s GSMA Mobile World Congress 2012 brought together last week in Barcelona an industry that has been working during the past year to guess and meet the mobile needs of consumers and businesses.  Over 65,000 attendees and 3,000 journalists were asked ‘How do you redefine mobile?’  This theme was much more than about new handsets or associated technology.  It was about how the industry can continue to embed itself in our daily life.

While handset manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Nokia and BlackBerry grabbed the headlines at this year’s congress, it was the operating systems and the application of these that grabbed a lot of the discussion.  Mobile commerce was one such subject that was hotly discussed.

Mobile connects people with people.  It connects business with people, opening a host of opportunities for news and media outlets, as well as businesses that rely on direct to consumer sales.  Just look at the new Guardian advert about the Three Little Piggies to see how new is now shaped by the opinions of people on the move.

While Google and it’s Android operating system was everywhere, Apple and it’s non-attendance were the still benchmark for the many handset manufacturers.  Samsung unveiled not just the Note handset, but also a partnership with Visa that would facilitate it’s Near Field Communications (#NFC) capability.  With a NFC-sim in place, Samsung will be providing athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games with handsets through which they can pay for goods, educating the public about the benefits of contactless mobile payments.

Samsung London Olympics NFC enabled mobile

Athletes will just need to open a pre-installed app and with just the swipe of their phone over a RFID Visa reader they’ll be able to pay for purchases of up to say £20.  Any purchases over a set preset amount will require the user to enter a security PIN number.  Visa hopes to launch this NFC payment service to the public later on in the year, though with a few conditions: you will need a Visa debit or Credit card associated with the service, you mobile operators will need to send you an approved SIM card and your NFC enabled phone will need to be approved by your bank.  Seamless it isn’t, but a step in the right direction it is.

Meanwhile, Japanese Mobile Operator NTT DoCoMo unveiled their own NFC offering, which was more consumer-friendly and has been in use in Japan since 2004.

NTT DoCoMo pioneered mobile payments by ‘encouraging’ Sony to design what is now the NFC FeliCa chips that have become the contactless default payment system in Japanese handsets.  NFCTimes.com reports that today ‘more than 60 million phones in Japan pack the contactless FeliCa chip, which comes from DoCoMo’s joint venture partner Sony Corp. The chips and associated secure memory can support a range of payment, ticketing and other applications.’  The operator makes it’s money by collecting transaction fees every time a subscriber uses the NFC system.

Extending the service beyond payments, NTT DoCoMo unveiled services where NFC could be used across borders and for mobile ticketing through the Boardwalk Mobile Ticketing, which uses NFC on mobile devices to create a seamless way to engage with events that require ticketing and through which event promoters can further push additional content.  In Japan, NTT DoCoMo also provides the subscriber with the opportunity of charging purchases to their monthly bill.

With the continued rise of geo-location marketing pushed by the likes of Foursquare and Facebook, the missing piece in the payment and promotion system is appearing in Asia, where seamless services have produced high consumer sign-up numbers, something that Samsung and Visa need to consider when they roll their own services in western markets

According to Ovum the ‘GSMA estimates that there are now over 100 deployments around the world.’ High-adoption for mobile payment in emerging markets is partly driven by the fact that mobile phone ownership in these markets vastly outnumbers payment card ownerships.  In developed markets, the incentive to use NFC and other mobile payment options need to be established through promotions to the user – discounts and coupons that can be redeemed with ones own handset.  Location services such as Foursquare could add value and increase sales.

Brands today require a mobile strategy as part of the communications activities.  Reaching people wherever they are is going to be central, especially when you consider that at some point within the next 24 months more people will be accessing the web through a mobile device than a desktop.  Views and opinions will be in real-time, offers made when target customers are in location.

Mobile and telecoms have embedded themselves in our daily life.  They are the channel for business and real-time comment and opinion.  They are wire that connects people on social networks.  Mobile is redefining itself, and it will continue to do so.  Develop a mobile strategy and accept that real-time business is already upon us.



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