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What’s going to be on show in Barcelona?
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What’s going to be on show in Barcelona?

Posted by Zenobia HegdeFebruary 1, 2016

A number of trends will be visible at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016. Here Dr Kevin Curran of Ulster University, describes some of the features.

We can expect to see in Barcelona this year.

Connected Cars

The tech giants are all increasingly putting effort into making their product the hub of the future connected car. Apple has Car play and Google has Android Auto. Others including the giant car makers are creating their own apps and in-car hubs. Ford are going down the open source route hoping instead that others will create a universal standard. MWC 2016 should see more entries into this market. Some early prototypes are beginning to communicate with the grid, the cloud and other vehicles. It will not be long until smartcars by default will likely keep an activity log for service and debugging. Privacy, of course, will be an issue, however – whether it is the insurance company, the car maker, a local dealer, or even police authorities all seeking other means to track our every coming and going. Crucial components of the future will be the mobile networks, ad hoc (car to car) networks, vehicles to/from road sensors and satellite communications. We can expect a significant portion of the Internet to be consumed by vehicle communications.

In the future, all smartcars will have network connectivity. It will possibly become part of the national MOT – that your 4G/Wi-Fi is active & working – otherwise you could fail. This will allow them to receive firmware/software updates and synchronisation over the local home/network of music, GPS data etc. It is only a small step for much of the telemetry data associated with that vehicle to also be uploaded so as to allow a city to optimise traffic management. So basically, not only will it be important to keep our communication gadgets updated but it will also be as important to keep our smartcars updated to the latest OS rollout. Hopefully, MWC 2016 will reassure us that security in cars is not an afterthought.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) also known as Web of Things (WoT) is a concept where everyday devices – home appliances, sensors, monitoring devices – can be accessed through the internet using well known technologies such as URLs and HTTP requests. We can expect to see many IOT devices at MWC 2016. The Internet of Things (IoT) will offer the ability for consumers to interact with nearly every appliance and devices they own. For example, your refrigerator will let you know when you are running low on milk and your dishwasher will inform you when it’s ready to be emptied. It’s possible that consumers will be getting more text messages from their devices than human beings in the near future. We are seeing elements of the IoT in the marketplace already, with home automation having a strong consumer pull, from controlling the lights and temperature to closing the garage door while away from the home. In a more comprehensive way, IoT transforms real world objects into smart objects and connect them through internet. We’re still years away from creating a scalable solution were products from different vendors can communicate with each other. Security is also a looming challenge for IoT. In 2016, the industrial industries will be the first to achieve some form of integrated IoT solutions because business value (e.g. preventative maintenance, better equipment efficiencies etc.) can be measured and quantified.

Wearables

Wearables will become more pervasive in 2016. The wearable technology market is a growth area for mobile technology as smartphones reach a 70% saturation point in developed markets including the US and UK. The latest wearable trend is single function devices such as activity-specific clothing, such as Hexoskin which monitor workouts or indeed wearable medical devices such as Vital Connect, which is a patch that tracks your vital signs and lets doctors access the data. Another example of a single function wearable are earbuds that simply block our much of the background noise in daily life. Basically 24/7 noise cancellation. There are many other multi-function wearables such as the Basis multisensor watch that monitors movement, heart rate, and skin temperature to track your activity and sleep. In 2016, we can expect to see watches, fitness and health bands still being the leaders. There will also be a market for wearables monitoring the health and fitness of our pets. We expect greater emphasis on aesthetics and more social Interaction between remotely paired devices.

Mobile payments

The mobile payment space is on the increase in no small part to the mobile tech giants. There will be plenty of activity on the floor at this MWC 2016 in this space. The mobile payments market is estimated by the Centre for Economics and Business Research forecasts to be worth £14.2bn in 2018. The main contributors to the growth in the number of transactions have been the ongoing migration of low value cash payments to cards, enhanced by contactless and online spending. The number of contactless purchases now account for about 5% of total purchases. 2016 might truly be the year mobile payments go mainstream. Google, Walmart, Samsung, Apple are betting big on this space. Even the Apple Watch enables users to pay for goods and services using the smartwatch like a contactless credit card (US at present). Others are entering this space as well. PayPal acquired Paydiant in 2015- a leading mobile payment processor for $280 million. They also released an NFC enabled mobile payments terminal for accepting payments from NFC-enabled cards and NFC enabled mobile devices. It is interesting to note that PayPal will charge higher “card not present” rates (3.5% plus $0.15 as opposed to 2.7%) for contactless payments whether made using a physically present card, or a mobile device.

Last year, there were over 300 million individual contactless card payments made last year. A major limitation at the moment is the lack of deployment of contactless payment terminals. What may address this at least in the USA is the legislation forcing merchants to support EMV cards. If they fail to upgrade, then they will be liable for all fraudulent use of counterfeit, lost, and stolen cards in their stores. Currently, almost 9 out of 10 US merchants do not support EVM therefore, there is expected to be an explosion in the roll out of new NFC enabled terminals supporting contactless payments. For instance, according to Jupiter Research, Canada’s contactless infrastructure is much more mature than in the U.S. with some 75%of major retailers accepting such payments with the proper terminals. This high contactless-terminal penetration is mainly the result of the country’s transition to EMV back in 2007.MWC_Barcelona.Fira.

The other limitation of course is that people need to own an NFC-enabled smartphone or token to partake in contactless payments. There also needs to be incentives to force people over. Stores like Starbucks do offer minor incentives but perhaps this needs to change. It is worth noting that the field of contactless payment is littered with the graves of many companies who attempted to usher in their ‘perfect’ system but a wind of change does seem to have arrived. Virtual cryptocurrencies are poised to take over online payments likewise contactless payments are poised to dominate the hybrid payment sector where humans interface with cyberspace.

Recently as well, Microsoft introduced a “tap-to-pay” feature that will be in its forthcoming Windows 10 for phones and small tablets. This also supports Host Card Emulation (HCE). Taking Apple and Android, there are a number of factor that come into play when comparing their offerings. First of, Android Pay works with a hell of a lot more phones than Apple Pay. Apple Pay does work with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It does not work with earlier iPhones. It does, however, work on the Apple Watch and this can be paired with iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s to allow them to work. Google’s however, support all Android 4.4 KitKat phones with NFC chips, not just its own Nexus devices. This therefore, means the Galaxy S4, HTC One M7, LG G2, original Moto X and Nexus 5 range of phones which stretch back to 2013. That is a much larger potential market. Google is playing catch-up to Apple but Android Pay has over 700,000 store locations in the US and over 1,000 Android apps planning to use the mobile payment platform. Google is also integrating retailers’ loyalty programs into Android Pay. This saves customers retrieving their loyalty card. On the other hand, Apple Pay supports over 750 banks and makes up more than $2 out of every $3 spent on purchases using contactless payments.

Multi-factor authentication

Most current approaches are flawed on mobile. Going forward, companies will embrace better contextual security services that are based on the content and the user. User authentication will move beyond password and leverage multiple types of context, such as proximity of registered devices, device state (jailbroken, malware-infested) and even biometric data (e.g. fingerprint, heart rate etc.) to verify the identity of a person that’s trying to use an app or service.

One of my favourite products in MWC 2015 was Fujitsu’s miniaturised iris recognition technology which was built into a prototype smartphone. Recognition took barely a second, meaning the phone could be unlocked with just a look, and the device could be held at normal viewing distance, not the 10cm required by most iris scanners. While codes and fingerprints work well, the technology means gloves can be kept on in cold weather and firing up the phone with one hand is that little bit easier. The phone itself was able to register its owner’s iris pattern for the first time, a process which takes 10 seconds, using an LED light that shines into the eye and a small infrared camera. In MWC 2016, I suspect we will see more in this space.

5G

Still a concept. Networks are focused on increasing coverage and data speeds but no standards have been agreed upon yet. What we do know is the International Telecommunication Union allows carriers to call anything 4G so long as it offers a “substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities” over 3G. So we can speculate that 5G will simply be anything significantly better than 4G. Samsung has already delivered impressive data speeds of 1GB per second using the technology and it has been suggested mobile users connected to a 5G network could download an entire film in just one second. Multiple input multiple output (MiMo) technology is set to be a key part of these efficiency measures, according to researchers. MiMo uses several small antennae to service individual data streams. 5G is also likely to use many more base stations, including macro sites and smaller stations employing a range of radio technologies, to ensure better coverage. The Australian minister for communications has said that there could soon be a 5G base station on every home and lamppost. Data prices have been steadily falling, from around 46 cents per megabyte in 2008 to just between one and three cents today. However, it is unclear whether data rates will stay low once 5G takes hold.

Existing smartphones and mobile devices are not equipped to take advantage of 5G technology. Samsung, LG Uplus and Huwaei are already playing with new 5G technologies. New 5G phones might also have multiple antennae for fewer dropouts. Current devices can house no more than two antennae, but there is no telling how many future devices could have. It is unclear at this point what other features 5G devices may have, but experts suggest that there will be plenty of connected gadgets in our homes. Given the natural life cycle of network development, we would have expected to see 5G arrive around 2021. However, the mobile-loving South Korea government has invested $1.5bn in upgrades that should see a trial 5G network rolled out in 2017. The rest of South Korea should be connected to 5G by 2020. It is not likely to be a mainstream service until 2025. MWC 2016 will see a lot of demos of 5G.

The author of this blog is Dr Kevin Curran of Ulster University.

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Zenobia Hegde

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