by Anthony Plewes, live from Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona
Innovation was a recurring theme in many of the keynotes at Mobile World Congress as the industry rushes to meet the burgeoning demand by consumers.
Operators in particular are positioning themselves as supporters of innovation by setting up incubators for new ideas and opening up their networks with APIs for third parties. Other examples include the competitions being run for innovative new apps, such as the HTML5 hackathon supported by a number of operators in North America, Europe and Asia throughout 2012.
Keeping in with this theme, there was an elevator pitching session where four companies had 10 minutes each to introduce their innovations to the keynote audience, who then voted for their favorite. The winner would then be invited to bring their innovation to a North American mobile operator, which would help them launch their service in that massive market.
The first one up was a company called Audience that has developed a noise reduction technology called Earsmart. The idea is that background noise is eliminated from the call when you use it in noisy places. The first generation of its technology is already present in more than 60 devices including Samsung, LG and HTC.
While my experience of nose reduction technology has been mixed, and in fact I have turned it off on my own smartphone, the demo of this second generation of technology was very impressive. A staff member stood on stage speaking into a tablet held at arm’s length with a loud recording of background bar noise playing. There was no chance of hearing him over that noise, but when played back, he was easily understood.
Next up was Expert Maker, which was developing intelligent agents that seek out information that is relevant to you at the time you need it. He demonstrated a prototype application that pulled in information from unstructured data across the web, which can be played or read directly in the interface. The type of information it presented depended on the time of day and date to meet your specific requirements. The technology uses artificial intelligence techniques to help hyper-personalize the information presented.
Third pitch was Fiksu, which was all about supporting app developers stand out in a very crowded market. In 2011 there are over 18 billion apps, with 15,000 new apps launched every week. There are lot of companies out there to help you promote them, but the market is very fragmented. Fiksu helps app developers by aggregating all download sources into a single area.
The final presentation was from Blippar, the eventual winner, although they were run very close by Audience’s noise reduction pitch. The beta version of the technology already appeared to be used quite widely in the UK by brands such as Tesco, Shreddies and Heinz. Essentially it is an augmented reality advertising tool. What it does is present very rich marketing content on your tablet when you snap a product it recognizes.
Amazingly enough it doesn’t need to be an official advert or something that could be perhaps done with a QR code or similar. The technology can actually recognize the packaging to pull up the information. He demonstrated by taking a shot of a Heinz ketchup bottle, which then pulled up a recipe booklet and other downloads. These are overlaid directly over the product, giving the marketing departments amazing flexibility over designing campaigns. Everything appears to be possible such as games, videos and downloads. Some brands are already printing the Blippar logo on the product, so that consumers know to snap it with their device. Looks very promising.