‘More evolution than revolution’: move over, smartphones, IoT tipped to be the big dog at next week’s Mobile World Congress

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 February, 2016, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 February, 2016, 8:51pm

Participants at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona are expected to sharpen their focus on the fast-developing Internet of Things (IoT) market, while seeing less hype around the latest mobile devices.

Analysts at Forrester Research have predicted MWC, a weeklong industry event that starts on Monday, will show “more evolution than revolution” in new smartphones and other mobile devices to be announced there by major brands. However, Forrester analyst Thomas Husson said “mobile will remain at the centre of new connected experiences”.

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“I believe mobile is the key to unlock IoT,” he said. “We will hear a lot about this theme.”

IoT is generally described as a vast new network of connected things, which includes parts of machines and smart wearable devices like fitness trackers now used by many consumers.

In a report, technology research firm Gartner said the rapidly growing interest in IoT was entirely justified and backed up by numbers.

Gartner estimated that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide this year, up 30 per cent from 4.9 billion last year. About 5.5 million new things will get connected every day, it said.

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These things are not general-purpose devices, such as smartphones and personal computers, but a dedicated network of objects that include vending machines, jet engines, connected soap dispensers and a myriad other examples that track, store and send data.

Total spending on IoT devices this year is forecast to reach US$1.4 trillion, up from last year’s estimated US$1.2 trillion.

“Smartphones have become a sort of black hole integrating a huge array of sensors, but mobile is now exploding back out to our environments,” Husson said.

“Sensors and connectivity are expanding beyond smartphones, on our wrists, bodies, cars, TVs, washing machines, but also in invisible places in buildings and the world around us.”

Forrester’s recent IoT deployment survey of more than 3,600 business and technology decision-makers showed that China and India lead all markets, with 72 per cent of respondents reporting use of, or plans for, IoT applications.

Start-up accelerator Brinc, which has invested in IoT companies in Hong Kong, said in November that more international IoT firms wanted to be based in the city due to its proximity to contract hardware manufacturers in Shenzhen and distribution networks in Guangzhou.

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The hottest IoT enterprise applications included fleet management in transportation, security and surveillance in government, and inventory and warehouse management in retail.

Forrester enterprise mobile analyst Dan Bieler said the anticipated interest in IoT at MWC also reflected the composition of attendees, who were mostly technology suppliers and enterprise tech managers.

“This underlines the challenge that MWC is likely to face in the coming years as it tries to stay relevant in a world where technology decisions increasingly involve business leaders,” Bieler said.