Innovation for connected world: MWC sets stage for collaboration to tackle the big issues

by Nitin Dahad

With everyone in tech talking about connected devices, connected cities, wearable technologies and so on, it seems we will all be connected and be able to access information about our homes, lives, environment and public services at anytime and anywhere.  This sounds great but there are also lots of issues – for example, how to make the devices talk to each other in a standard way, and how to make access to those devices secure.  The recent high profile cyber-attack just demonstrates the potential impact of a breach in network and data security.

The fact that everything is connected makes most connected devices vulnerable to access and manipulation by unwanted forces.  So the announcement by ARM last week that it is acquiring Offspark, a Dutch company specializing in IoT communications security technology, is timely, just ahead of Mobile World Congress where over 80,000 people from the mobile industry will converge in Barcelona for its annual gathering.

MWC2015 PR image from GSMA-small
The Mobile World Congress creates a whole mobile innovation ecosystem in Barcelona for a week

The congress will of course talk about connected devices, smart cities, mobile tech for health, wearables, and much more, so security will be an important topic to also consider. The Offspark technology acquired by ARM is just one step towards that security, with its technology already deployed in sensor modules, communication modules and smartphones. Now as part of ARM, whose processors are embedded into a majority of the world’s mobile and many connected devices, the acquired technology will help it provide a level of communication security and software cryptography that should help ensuring people trust IoT technology.

Innovation in the mobile economy

The conference will address the whole innovation ecosystem for the mobile economy, including the app economy, and more interestingly, ‘4 Years From Now’, or 4YFN as it is being labeled. This is an international program of talks, interactive workshops, exhibition and networking that brings together mobile start-ups and entrepreneurs with investors, accelerators, incubators and corporations from the mobile ecosystem, looking at the future of mobile.

There will also be a connected city showcase, in the form of the GSMA Innovation City, to bring a ‘fully immersive mobile experience’ – demonstrating how mobile-connected products will continue to transform personal and working lives across the world. There are expected to be experiential demonstrations from AT&T, Jasper, KT Corporation, Oral-B, Sierra Wireless and Vodafone; and the GSMA will also present its key initiatives that pave the way for a more enriched, secure, connected future for global citizens.

Reliance on M2M (machine-to-machine) connections

All of the above of course require connected devices, and ‘machine-to-machine’ (M2M) communications, often using the cellular network. Many applications of M2M are found in various industries – for example in real-time monitoring of temperature for pharmaceutical and food products, to ensure the quality and safety of the products being delivered to patients or consumers.

Recently published research from GSMA Intelligence suggests that at the current rate of trajectory, global cellular M2M connections will reach close to one billion by 2020, growing at 25 percent per year (CAGR) over the period 2015 to 2020.  The report, ‘Cellular M2M forecasts: unlocking growth’, also forecasts that if a number of current growth inhibitors are addressed by both industry players and governments, it could potentially lead to a faster growth rate of greater than 40 percent per annum if a range of favorable market conditions are achieved. The best case upside forecast scenario indicates a potential two billion cellular M2M connections globally by 2020.

A survey across leading mobile operators, vendors and adjacent ecosystem players highlighted several key growth drivers that could each contribute to this increase in the number of cellular M2M connections by 2020. These include:

  • Low power and low data use wide area network opportunities in areas such as utilities, smart cities and agriculture, utilizing 2G/3G/4G modules
  • Connected consumer goods market growing significantly through mobile ecosystem players establishing partnerships with consumer goods manufacturers and providing seamless connectivity through open standards/protocols
  • Government policies driving M2M – such as for eCall, smart metering, and environmental regulation
  • Global big data analytics emerging rapidly, with the ability to extract insightful information and value from that data
  • End-to-end security being assured, with trusted security credentials between different applications and parties
  • Sustainable M2M business models being developed – moving away from product focus, and being more service focused for example

The Mobile World Congress, as I have written before, creates its own Silicon Valley-like ecosystem in Barcelona for a week, and there is no doubt that the conversations in coffee shops, bars, restaurants and of course the conference itself, will look at how to resolve the big issues highlighted here for the mobile industry. With the world heading towards ‘connected everything’, the conference again demonstrates the importance of bringing together key elements of the ecosystem in a ‘live environment’ to create a melting point for lively discussion and debate and help resolve or formulate thinking on the big industry issues, as well as spark innovative new ideas.

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