A Fitter, Healthier Mobile World Congress?

As day two of Mobile World Congress comes to an end, the key themes of the show have become very apparent. While the obligatory plethora of devices have launched, and network congestion has been discussed, an overriding focus has been on health and fitness in one shape or another.

Take, for example, the most significant device launch of the show, the Samsung Galaxy S5, and two Gear devices. While the S5 stands tall and proud on its own, one of the key hardware enhancements was the addition of a heart rate monitor on the back of it.  This is in addition to the heart rate monitor on the new Gear Fit, a new Samsung wearable that is somewhat of a hybrid between the Gear and a fitness band. But just – if not more – importantly, the devices come with fitness tracking software – the Samsung Fitness Coach, aimed at making sense of all the data that is received.

Sony demonstrated its solution to the data input, highlighting the Life Blog, software that shows not just your fitness regime, but also the other activities and actions that you participated in during the day. This includes activity via the wearable SmartBand, as well as the phone, such as photos taken, emails sent, friends contacted, and so on. The goal: to provide a complete view of your daily life without you having to lift a single finger to make it happen (if you do, undoubtedly the SmartBand would notice and log that too).

Even toothbrushes are becoming connected and part of the information stream. Oral B is launching a Bluetooth-enabled electronic toothbrush that will track how long you brush for, on what setting (sensitive, and so on) and if you push too hard on your teeth. All of the data is tracking via a connection to the smartphone and – of course – the data is stored in the cloud. Medals are given for consistently brushing well, and other such habits that would make your dentist proud.

Of course, the next big trick will be making all of this data inter-connectable into one big source of personal data. What was missing from the show was a “big data” solution to tie it all together. All personal, relevant (and what wouldn’t be relevant?) data needs to be tied together to make true sense of our habits. In others words, we all need “My” big data (and no one else’s). Perhaps it’s a little premature, but it is safe to say that these applications will be one of next year’s “big things,” especially as we see more wearable and connected devices enter the fray.

Back to the Show:

As mentioned above, the show did have its more traditional launches and highlights. On the devices side, the biggest splash was clearly made by Samsung with the much anticipated Galaxy S5, a logical extension of the Galaxy range with no major surprises, but many incremental enhancements. Sony too launched a new portfolio of Xperia devices, including the flagshipZZ2, which possesses advanced Sony technologies such as digital noise cancelation, 4K-resolution video capture, and Playstation gaming platform.

And Nokia took a small step back from Windows, launching the Nokia X. Based on Open Android, the device is positioned as a lower-priced “bridging device” that will help introduce customers to some of the key benefits of Windows devices (maps and some Microsoft apps) while still providing an underlying base of Android. The catch is that links back to Google are heavily curtailed: the cloud is not Google, but rather Microsoft’s OneDrive, while the app store is a curated Nokia solution. Android apps can be side-loaded, however, but that is clearly a second-tier solution in a world that expects the instant gratification of an online app store.

Beyond smartphones, the key launches were wearable bands. Huawei, Sony, and Samsung all put their wearable bands front and center. Clearly, the OEM market will soon be delineated by those OEMs that have wearables… and those have nots.