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These amazing 'things' will make a difference

As featured in Disruptive Views

There is no need to tell you what happened at the BIG event last week in Barcelona. You would have been bombarded by bombastic bulletins broadcasting a billion budding businesses banking on big breakthroughs before their bubble bursts – and all based on mobility (I ran out of ‘B’ words).

However, if you manage to sift through the impending rubble of Bluetooth-brushes, smart suitcases, baby bottles and diapers that warn you when one is empty, or the other full, you will find some absolute gems as the GSMA did in the final keynotes on Day 4 that I had the honor of moderating.

How could you not be amazed by a device that helps blind people ‘see’ through their tongues? I kid you not. Robert Beckman, the affable CEO of Wicab, demonstrated his company’s BrainPort technology that utilizes a small black & white camera attached to a glasses frame that transmits its signal by wire, via a small box, to a pad of electrodes (20×20) that sits on the tongue.

The mouthpiece acts like TV but with electricity instead of light by firing strong impulses where the camera sees white, medium pulses for grays, and none for black. The brain almost immediately processes electrical impulses as images. But the images are grainy; learning to use them takes practice. After 25 hours of training, test subjects have been able to differentiate objects, like a mug from a Magic Marker, with 80% accuracy; read individual words on flash cards; and navigate a 15-foot hallway. The next version will connect to a smartphone app and use location information to aid the wearer.

And for the sighted, Joerg Tewes, the CEO of Avegant talked his company’s Glyph Virtual Retina Display that looks like a hefty pair of black or white headphones. But when you pull the head band down over the eyes it reflects that light off of 2 million micromirrors, and then directly into your eye. There is no image, no screen; pictures exist only in your retinas and your brain. Avegant’s technology is more like looking through a window.

Thiru Arunachalam and Bala Krishnan, founder of Peel shed light on how they have garnered well over 100 million users of their app that can best be described as remote control on steroids! Peel works with 3,500 brands of TVs, including popular LG and Samsung models, and 600 set-top boxes, including those from Airtel, Tata Sky, Dish TV, Hathway, DEN and Siti Cable, along with air conditioners and other appliances.

Peel not only acts as a remote control it brings direct to the smartphone information in not only the programs available but also background information on them as well. We could see a live meter throughout the presentation showing how many users were online and how many programs they were selecting. Quite mind-boggling, to say the least.

Alvaro del Castillo outlined how his company, TAPTAP Networks had become the largest independent mobile advertising network in Spain and the first premium network at in the market.

TAPTAP has a team of almost 50 professionals whose main goal is to maximize user engagement and to monetize their partners’ content through the collection and processing, in real-time, of customer data, location, past buying patterns, etc. right down to their position in store aisles.

Lastly came Dr Davor Sutija, CEO of Thinfilm a company that is creating printed system products that will include memory, sensing, display and wireless communication-at a cost-per-functionality unmatched by any conventional electronics. Thinfilm’s roadmap will help enable the Internet of Things by bringing intelligence to disposable goods.

He demonstrated how sensor technology can be printed on smart labels for a fraction of the cost of silicon sensors and can be attached to a variety of packages that previously had no way of being tracked in real-time. The first commercial application of the technology was a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label whisky that allowed not only the high-value product to be tracked but with the associated smartphone app could provide details of where it had been and if the seal had been broken.

I asked if it was possible that in future the app would tell you if you’d had enough to drink! What this means for the future of shopping is that labels of perishable goods, in particular, would store all the info on how well it was stored, if it had thawed at any stage, in the case of frozen goods, and its condition of use by dates. The smartphone held close to the label would display everything you ever wanted to know, and more.

All of these innovations had relevant value today, and showed how we clever technology can transcend from the physical to the digital worlds, things we take for granted. And they all use mobile technology as an integral part of the process. Well done GSMA!

MORE COVERAGE OF MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2015