4 March 2016 by Sue Balatoni

Mobile World Congress 2016 – What was it all about?

So Mobile World Congress 2016 is over – a mad, hectic 4 days of “Mobile is Everything”. What were the main themes this year? Well… everything! From payments to cars to virtual reality. It’s certainly been Helixion’s observation through the years how mobile technology is finding its way into more traditional sectors as the world becomes more connected. In many ways that was the key theme of #MWC16.

It’s certainly true in one sector Helixion is heavily involved – payments. There was no doubt that payments continue to feature strongly; with Visa and MasterCard both taking a strong presence on the Congress floor. There’s been a lot of talk about the “pays” over the last 12 months but Helixion found there was a definite buzz about HCE (Host Card Emulation) based payments. We’ve observed before how momentum is building with HCE. In part, as a result of banks wanting to take control over the experience they offer to their customers – this is something that the OEM-pays don’t allow. Given that Helixion specialises in putting banks in control of their user experience, we found a lot of people wanted to talk to us about the how they could make it work for them.

After several years of stop/start there seemed to be a real appetite and acknowledgement that mobile payment is here and businesses need to get on board ….or risk being left behind. It was a great opportunity for Helixion to showcase its solutions and talk to visitors and other exhibitors about how it has already achieved Visa Ready status and is currently undergoing full testing for both MasterCard and Visa security certification.

Although HCE was a hot topic, let’s not forget Vodafone and their wallet which they broadened to include SIM-based NFC payments last year- launched initially in Spain before spreading across Europe. Just before MWC this year, it was announced their wallet was being opened up to millions of PayPal account holders throughout Europe. Chatting to staff on the Vodafone stand who were promoting the wallet, it appears to be the wallet success story of 2015; and with the PayPal hook up announced, it’s looking good to build further on that success in 2016. Contrary to what some people think, SIM-based payment is not dead yet!

Talking of PayPal, as well as their tie-up with Vodafone, they also recently announced that they would be launching NFC mobile payments in Mexico. PayPal were once strongly in the “no” camp when it came to NFC – publicly at least. It demonstrates how far acceptance of NFC and NFC payment has come in the last 18 months that it is now recognised as the standard for in-store payment.

What else was happening? Well, the big guns were out in force. Launching and promoting their latest mobile devices from notepads to tablets to mobile phones. Samsung unveiled their Galaxy S7 – very smart it looks and feels too and anyone looking for photo capability may be impressed by its 360 degree camera and night time picture capability. It also has Samsung Pay built-in. If you recall, Samsung Pay was introduced just before MWC last year and has officially launched in South Korea and the US during 2015. At Helixion though, we remain firmly of the opinion that the best mobile payment option is the one where the individual business has control of the User Experience for their customer rather than relying on a 3rd party product. It’ll be interesting to see what option the customers pick. Ultimately, it’ll be the end users who will decide the experience best for themselves.

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Mobile World Congress isn’t just about payment though, walking around the many halls the “Connected Living” theme we wrote about in our MWC 2015 review continued this year – but on an even bigger scale. Connected living – Connected homes – Connected cars – even Connected cows (yes really!). Qualcomm asked the question “When will everything think and talk to every other thing?” Judging by MWC this year – it might not be that too far away.

Some of you may recall a recent blog we wrote about wearables – well, the array of wearables and applications on display at MWC 2016 was phenomenal. In our blog, we questioned how well they would be taken up given the personal nature of jewellery and watches etc. But yours truly was pretty impressed with some of the wearables on display.

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3D and 4D virtual reality featured prominently this year and brought a fun factor to the event. Samsung promoted their Gear VR by having a 4D Theatre seating some 30 folk and treating them to a thrilling roller coaster ride. SK Telecom had its “extreme yellow submarine” providing an immersive 4D journey for those brave enough to face sharks and whales!

So in the gardens and squares around MWC there was plenty of conversation about what was hip and what was not.

We couldn’t finish our review though without mentioning one other key event that took place: the traditional whisky reception hosted by Scottish Development International which takes place every year on the Scottish Pavilion. As usual, the evening went down a treat as lots of old and new friends came along to enjoy a dram of Scotland’s finest drink. MWC would not be MWC without this event!

Scottish Pavilion at Mobile World Congress 2016

Helixion, as a company on the Scottish Pavilion, would like to thank the team at Scottish Development International for their hard work and support before, during and after MWC.

So foot sore and tired we left MWC and a pleasantly warm Barcelona to head back home to (a much cooler) Scotland. Hasta el año próximo MWC!