Top Ten Mobile Tech Predictions for 2014

2013 has been an eventful year for the mobile ecosystem in India, comprising mobile operators, device and equipment makers, mobile OS and platform providers, app developers, regulators, policy makers, and finally, the end users and organisations. Here, we are going to tell you how the year shaped up for all of them and also, what is in store for the industry in 2014.

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For mobile operators

1. Smart data pricing to the rescue:

Believe it or not, flat-rate eat-all-you can pricing is slowly going away in the US and Europe, thanks to wide variations in data usage sparked by the exponential growth in smartphones and tablets. The mobile operators are slowly realising that data traffic is much less predictable than voice traffic and that network engineering cannot be easily done using simple Erlang calculations.

Complex data plans that combine fixed and variable components are being deployed with cap or no cap on data usage. Some operators have also used tactics such as decelerating the speed if the data usage exceeds fair usage limits. According to the Smart Data Pricing Forum at Princeton University, Smart Data Pricing (SDP) will play a major role in the future of mobile, broadband, and content.

SDP can refer to:

(a) usage pricing with throttling/booster;

(b) time/location/app/congestion dependent dynamic pricing;

(c) two-sided pricing;

(d) WiFi offloading/proactive caching;

(e) quota-aware content distribution — and any combination of the above.

We are likely to see the semblance of SDP in 2014 with varied data plans being offered by the mobile operators, including “sachet” pricing already being announced in India.

Refer here for more on SDP.

2. High speed and small cells

The exponential increase in data usage is forcing the operators to relieve the scarce spectrum from macro cells by off-loading to small cells (e.g. Femtos, WiFis). This trend is likely to continue in 2014 with more operators building small cells to improve coverage and capacity. 2013 has been a year of the 4th Generation Long Term Evolution (LTE), with 200+ operators across 80+ countries commercially adopting the same to boost the Radio Access Network (RAN) capacity (see source).

2014 will see more deployment of LTE small cells to augment the macro cellular networks. At the same time, the erstwhile reluctant operators are hooking on to WiFi offloads for better spectrum management. It is expected that the operators will more proactively deploy carrier WiFi and use SIM based authentication for seamless offloads.

Refer here for more on WiFi offload.

For mobile OS/ platform providers

3. Mobile platform diversity: Open rules

Though Google’s Android dominates the mobile OS platform market by more than 80 percent share, there are indications that it may be short lived. Android continues to suffer from fragmentation due to the co-existence of several versions, and dominance by a few major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) who are breaking away from the subtle controls of the Google eco-system by establishing their own.

Mobile handset OEMs and Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) are looking at other open source platforms such as Tizen, Mozilla’s Boot-to-Gecko (B2G) as part of a de-risk strategy. The platform war is likely to get heated up over the next 18 to 24 months. Though the survival of RIM’s Blackberry OS is a moot question, the success of Microsoft Windows 8 cannot be ruled out. Apple’s iOS targeted at the high-end iPhones and iPads is expected to hover at around 22 percent market share.

The fragmentation of Android versions has been a thorn also for developers. The more stable and well-oiled Microsoft machine provides an alternative for dual-homing for the developers apart from iOS. We will see further fragmentation of mobile OS market this year with Tizen and B2G, and Ubuntu drawing some part of the pie from Android.

See here  for more on platforms.

For equipment makers:

4. Connected car: A reality

While telematics have been an important part of the automotive industry for some time, the latest techniques are set to become a standard element in all new cars. Historically, telematics has allowed engineers to connect to a car, initially through a cable and now wirelessly in more advanced models, in order to run diagnostics as well as disable the vehicle in the event of theft.

However, the use cases are now expanding dramatically as the industry strives to improve safety and tackle traffic congestion. There is much emphasis on enhancing driver safety, providing passenger entertainment, and driver assistance. Enhancements in these areas seem to be positioned as critical differentiators by global auto OEMs. There has been much progress in enhancing the prognosis and diagnostic capabilities within the auto and improved connectivity will mean auto manufactures can offer both preventive and breakdown maintenance services.

The latest systems combine Global Positioning System, cellular, and in-car connectivity such as Near Field Communication (NFC) to provide a wide range of services such as infotainment, road and passenger safety, traffic congestion and alerts, vehicle conditions monitoring, social media alerts, and ad-hoc networking with other connected cars. We will see more interest, both from auto makers and device makers, to take the connected car concept to greater heights.

For mobile app developers:

5. HTML 5 and WebRTC: Hype or Real?

With device and OS diversity, the question that is being asked constantly is: native apps or HTML5? Though HTML5 did not rise up to the occasion during 2012-13, developments and associated adoptions of Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) for peer-to-peer communication has enabled HTML5 to regain part of lost ground.

Though performance issues galore remain, with push from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), we expect to see the balance shifting in favour of HTML5. Gartner predicts that through 2014, improved JavaScript performance will begin to push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment.

However, we expect that the native apps will still deliver the required user experience and performance and outsmart HTML5.

See here for more on WebRTC.

6. Mobiles augmenting reality

With the developments of GoogleGlass and other related products, decade old Augmented Reality (AR) technology is moving from labs to mainstream adoption. AR that enables superimposition of digital content on real environment thus providing contextualised information to users is becoming the killer applications in retail, tourism, healthcare and education.

It is estimated that developer investment in AR applications will be about US$670 million this year, and is expected to exceed US$2.5 billion in 2018, as AR becomes an everyday part of mobile experience. Mobile continues to be the preferred device for AR application and is expected that more than 2.5 billion mobile AR applications will get installed by 2017.

We will see an increased spend by developers in building AR applications for a variety of devices such as smartphones, tablets and wearable devices such as watches, jewelry, and glass.

For regulators and policy makers:

7. Dynamic Spectrum Management to take on centre stage

World over, there is a conscious move away from the ‘Command and Control’ of spectrum management towards a flexible approach. Though confined to test labs, Cognitive Radio (CR) based Dynamic Spectrum Management technologies are getting deployed commercially.

An excellent example is the exploit of TV White Spaces (in the 700 MHz band) for commercial mobile basis (aka. Super WiFi) in non-exclusive licensed spectrum domain. As we speak, Super WiFi is being deployed in remote locations in the U.S. and Europe. It is only a matter of time before the regular WiFi antenna in Google Balloons hovering around New Zealand are being replaced by Super WiFi access points.

While the regulators in developed countries, especially U.S. and U.K., are proactively enabling dynamic spectrum regime, the EU is taking a cautious step-by-step approach, and regulators in emerging countries such as India are taking a hands-off approach. Due to technology and market developments, we can expect to see the initial stages of dynamic spectrum management – such as spectrum trading and sharing – in India as well.

See here for more on dynamic spectrum management.

For users:

8. Mobile social media: more in the offing

With the phenomenal success of Twitter’s IPO, 2014 will see more social media and peer-to-peer Internet firms entering mainstream mobile. Three of the world’s 10 largest social networks are mobile messaging apps – namely, WhatsApp, LINE, and WeChat. And now Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter are becoming more and more mobile-centric. With 8 billion inbound and 12 billion outbound messages per day, WhatsApp has become a must-have app for all youngsters on smartphones. In 2014, we will see more and more social media applications being built for mobile devices.

See here for more on how social media is replacing traditional communication channels.

9. Mobile (in)Security

With Smartphones and Tablets replacing PCs, the security environment around the user is rapidly changing, both at home as well as in organizations. As per by i7 networks (i7nw.com), alarming trends are seen: 600 percent growth of malware (35 percent growth of Android malware just in Q2 of 2013); 71 percent of all devices have some vulnerability; one in three android device is infected. From the latest Checkpoint survey: 79% of enterprises had mobile incidents just last year (2012) alone, costing them upwards of $500K per such incident.

The malware solutions developed for PCs over decades need to be tailored to mobile devices. What is more; mobile devices are more vulnerable than PCs due to the large number of 3rd party applications, access via multiple sources including Bluetooth, WiFi and carrier networks. We will see more and more incidents of havoc similar to the ones witnessed by MyDoom and Agobots, in the year to come, crippling the mobile infrastructure and panicking the users.

For organisations:

10. BYOD: a nightmare for the CIOs

Increasing adoption of smartphones and tablets, widespread broadband at last becoming a reality, and the need to make the workforce agile are key drivers for more and more enterprises enabling their information systems to be accessible on the move through 2013.

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon, while becoming a boon for the users, has become a nightmare for the CIOs. Gartner suggests that from now through 2018, a variety of devices, user contexts, and interaction paradigms will make “everything everywhere” strategies unachievable.

The BYOD programmes will continue to strain both the information technology and the finance organizations, continuing to haunt the CIOs. Security and privacy will be the key concerns to be addressed by the CIOs while adopting the BYOD strategies.

See here for more on enterprises on the move.

About the guest authors

SridharDr. V. Sridhar is a Research Fellow at Sasken Communication Technologies, Bangalore, India. He looks after idea incubation, knowledge management, and strategic initiatives. He is the author of the book, The Telecom Revolution in India: Technology, Regulation and Policy, and co-author of The Dynamics of Spectrum Management: Legacy, Technology, and Economics.

SwamiSwami Krishnan is vice president, chief marketing officer for Sasken Communication Technologies Limited. He is responsible for overseeing all marketing activities including communications, branding and analyst relations. He has held senior management roles both in India and overseas at British Telecom, and Tata. Swami has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s in management from Lancaster University Management School.

The views expressed here represent the individual opinions of the writers.

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