infographic-imageWe are now only a few weeks away from Mobile World Congress, historically the pre-eminent event of the mobile industry and now one of the largest global events across all industries. Last year’s even attracted almost 90,000 attendees from over 200 countries.  The event draws representatives from mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors, content owners and governments from across the world.  Executives from all industries pay attention to products demonstrated and announcements made.  While “mobile” remains in the event title, last year’s event marked a changing of the guard:  The large presence of car manufacturers and the buzz around Facebook reflected that shift away from the event’s telecom roots.  This year that shift will be even more pronounced as the reign of mobility gives way to the new rule of connectivity.  Yes, we are mobile but the key is that while we are roaming the halls at work or the streets of a foreign city, we remain connected to the people and things we want and need to interact with. 

Much has been said about the explosion of devices with many vendors sounding like the McDonalds of the 1980s with their “billions and billions served.” As McDonald’s has discovered it’s not quantity that counts these days.  It’s more about what you do with those devices: to whom and to what you are connected, and the data that is collected and transmitted by them. As Forrester predicted in the fall, attention in 2015 will shift from the devices to a focus on the software applications and platforms that put these devices to actual use.

We will see this shift  at the upcoming Mobile World Congress. This year I had the opportunity to judge the Best Mobile Innovation for the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) in the Connected Life Awards category of the Global Mobile Awards – wow, that’s a mouthful! These entries clearly reflected the shift from mobility and devices to connectivity and its enablers.  The field was open to any “mobile based products, systems and services that advance a world of intelligent communication between everyday objects through mobile network connectivity.”  Yet only one of the twenty-four entries was a hardware device. This year’s innovation in IoT is about the software – either enabling platforms or applications to address real-world issues.  The platforms facilitate the management and monitoring of the devices, and enable the capture, governance and use of the data they generate.  The applications put those data to work in use cases from home automation and life maintenance to operational improvement across all industries.   

Broadly speaking, the award entries fell into four categories:

  • Connected Work Solutions – to transform business by improving access to information and insights through connectivity, analytics and decision-making tools.
  • Connected Home and Car Solutions – to facilitate the management of the home and vehicle environments by enabling connectivity and remote access.
  • Connected Services and Things – to provide services to make life tasks easier, more efficient and ultimately more effective – from doing laundry to brushing teeth.
  • Platforms and other enablers – to provide the foundation for a connected environment, and provide the linchpin to achieving the promise of IoT.

With that shift in focus from hardware to software – from devices to business platforms and applications – comes an important role for the CIO in coordinating IoT investments and use across business units.  CIOs must also keep an eye on innovations outside of the workplace, as experience has shown that consumer technology creeps into the expectations of the workforce.  “Home” automation finds its way into facilities management and personalized workspaces – workplaces of the future – and connected vehicle technologies clearly benefit fleet management.

These innovations, and the other products and technologies we will see at the upcoming event, are clearly not about being mobile – “able to move or be moved freely or easily." They demonstrate the power and the value in being connected – “joined or linked together.”

Dare I propose that next year’s event be renamed Connected World Congress?