THE BLOG

Mobile World Congress Is About Everything but the Phone

11/03/2014 12:42 GMT | Updated 10/05/2014 10:59 BST

Amongst the sleekest handsets and most technical toothbrush you've ever seen, there were also some real initiatives to put technology to good use at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona: increasing accessibility, aiding healthcare and supporting the developing world. As the conference hall doors close behind me for the final time, I begin to digest the impact of this year's theme - 'What's next'.

After treading the 54 miles of displays, seminars and sessions at the Fira Gran Via, what's next for me is that mobile is increasingly about the heart of modern humanity. The products and services on show were geared towards enabling the age of universal connectivity; where mobile will be very much at the center of our work, lives and future.

Even with countless prestigious stands and shiny technology on show, it was clear there's no longer a gaping divide between the handsets and tablets of the big players there once was. You'd be forgiven for mixing up not just the letters and numbers of the different monikers - like the new Samsung S5, Sony Xperia Z2, Yotaphone, Huawei Mediapad X1 or Lenovo S860 - but also the mobiles themselves. As was highlighted by Mark Zuckerberg on day one, hand held devices will be at the centre of the wider connectivity movement,

And it goes far beyond phones - smartwatches, fridges and even toothbrushes took pride of place on displays alongside handsets. As the CEO of Deutsche Telekom, Tim Hottages, remarked: "Everything that is connected will be connected". With wider connectivity comes even greater innovation. 'Wearables' were prominent, such as the Samsung's Gear range and Sony's SmartBand and the Fitbit products. Even tooth-brushing can be made mobile, with Oral B's app-controlled smart Bluetooth 4.0 toothbrush.

We saw also the start of connectivity across land masses. In the Connected Cities arena the future reality of connected cars, stadiums, and homes was revealed.

It's refreshing to see that the mobile industry is starting to put its considerable clout into transforming the developing world as well. As with the first days of digital, there's a race to deliver accessibility to everyone - the launch of affordable smartphones, like with Mozilla's $25 device created in partnership with Spreadtrum, and Facebook's 'mobile first' Internet.org and its philanthropic call to action to offer messaging and communication as a basic human need could be transformational for billions . But also for the network operators, who worry that Facebook's vision, and its purchase of WhatsApp, could leave them as no more than 'dumb pipes'.

The global mobile health (mHealth) market is set to reach $20bn by 2018, so it's clear that this channel is revolutionising the way in which the sector operates. Not only is an ever expanding array of apps helping users become fitter, sleep more and eat better, but mobile technologies can also provide advice and best practice tips to those who don't necessarily have access to GPs or medical assistance in the developing world.

What was clear was that the intangible is being replaced by real examples of mobile technologies adding value across the board. Mobile is more than a digital communication device; it is a personal assistant, a doctor, an alarm clock, a music player, a social connector, an enabler. It truly underpins every business every global market, every operator, every investor, developer, and now, if Mark Zuckerberg can realise Facebook's vision of a connected reality, together with the support of government and operators, then every single person living on the planet today.