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Tribes and eco-systems: the future of mobile?

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Oh I do love a massive trade show. While I await Internet Retailing Expo on 26-27 March at the NEC with bated breath, I sought to salve my show-lust with a week in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress. Usually walking around the enormous Mobile World Congress, you get fatigued by endless handsets, people dressed as Android robots and, in the more hardcore halls, boxes with flashing lights on them (that may or may not go ‘ping’). But this year things were very different.

Perambulating the enormo-drome of the Fira Gran Via this year it was a festival of motor cars, unlikely mega-stands (MasterCard and Visa were there in small townships) and a raft of things set to make retail and payments through mobile even more mainstream. Frankly I doubt anyone paid any attention to any of the network equipment makers this time round… this show was all about m-commerce.

The show was fascinating as everything had a payments angle on it, with companies announcing a raft of payment products right through to a bevy of research reports into how consumers and merchants are ready for m-payments.

But what was most interesting is how the emphasis on who is innovating around mobile commerce is shifting away from the traditional mobile industry and seeing unique development ecosystems being created around vertical sectors, with banks, transport and retailers all looking at developing technology and tech solutions to bring about a mobile-centred shopping revolution.

At Mobile World Congress, car makers were out in force demonstrating how they were collaborating with start ups and smaller tech companies – not to mention their own in-house mobile tech ‘intra-preneurs’ – to create connected services from the car. In fact, one industry analyst was putting about the idea that Apple could buy electric sports car maker Electron – the ultimate tie up between desirable tech and classy green car action. I could almost hear Jeremy Clarkson’s head exploding…

Similarly, the likes of MasterCard and Weve here in the UK – as outlined in our video – are looking at developing their own NFC payments ecosystem, initially in the transport sector, but ultimately for the retail world at large.

And perhaps the most recent example, we see this week the launch of PowaTag from PowaTechnologies, which really does look to be offering retailers a bespoke super-mobile ecosystem that will let them use everything from stores to adverts on TV to posters to any location as a call to action that can actually deliver an actual sale and payment.

PowaTag is a great example of what was emerging at Mobile World Congress: it shows how, around the retail sector, this one company has created a development ecosystem and has pulled in all the tech at its disposal around mobile to enhance the whole retail environment. Powa clearly is gung ho in describing this as a “retail revolution” and for now I am going to reserve judgement, but it could well be. If nothing else it clearly exemplifies a mobile revolution – one where innovation is now centred around verticals creating what they need for themselves. I look forward to seeing more of this at IRX later this month.
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