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The annual Mobile World Congress is a hotbed for mobile technologies and gadgets. These are often branded for consumers, but companies can divine a lot for their own futures.
Here are three trends from MWC 2016 that suggest where mobile technology in business is headed.
1. Mobile payments are rising
Mobile payments – the ability to pay at a point of sale using only a smart device – is still a small market. But it continues to grow and at MWC 2016 the momentum had clearly picked up. Samsung, which is one of the big three defining this market (the other two being Apple and Google) announced that its Samsung Pay system would be expanding to some Asian and European countries, including the UK.
But the big action came from Mastercard, which revealed its IQ anti-fraud system, a partnership with Coin to develop payment technologies for wearables, as well as an update on its trial to use facial recognition for payment authentication.
PayPal announced its plan to build third-party electronic wallets, which includes a trial with Vodafone in Spain. Yet Visa takes the cake for the most interesting concept: it has partnered with Honda to develop in-car payment systems. These will enable a vehicle to automatically pay for fuel or parking.
None of these are likely to impact soon on local businesses, but it is worth noting how mobile payments are shifting from largely being a pipe dream into a competitive industry.
2. Biometrics are the future of authentication
Fingerprint scanners on mobile phones are becoming commonplace, in turn opening some doors for businesses. For example, a device with a biometric fingerprint scanner is harder to access – some peace of mind in case a device containing company data is stolen. It is also feasible to use such mobile devices and vet employees who want to access the company network.
Apple and Samsung are two of the brands that adopted fingerprint scanners on some devices, but at MWC that field has suddenly grown much wider. Huawei, LG and Xiaomi all revealed new phones with fingerprint scanners – Huawei in particular is bringing the technology to mid-range phones. Lenovo also revealed that its new Moto phones, due later this year, will have fingerprint scanners.
Biometrics work: South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs saves a reported R300 million a month by using fingerprint scanners to reduce fraud. If there is a technology that may have an impact on your business quite soon, this is probably it.
3. Wearables are made for business
There is a clear trend developing among wearables: more companies are partnering to create ecosystems in which wearables can thrive, then try to attract third-party manufacturers. This is a shift away from the current approach, where everyone makes and brands their own devices. It is likely to open the door for more business cases around wearables, though only in specific situations.
MWC was crawling with virtual reality headsets, yet none have really shown much of a business case. VR is already popular in vehicle design, mine planning and architecture. It may yet make the leap toward training and customer-facing hubs such as call centres. But at the same time an infamous photo of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walking incognito among VR headset wearers has raised feelings that nobody wants that to be the future of their jobs.
Far more relevant are the children of VR, namely 360 cameras. Nokia’s Ozo and Samsung’s Gear 3D VR cameras capture 360-degree video. These may soon play a role in capturing spatial data for building sites, office audits and vehicle inspections at far lower prices than current options.