Just Returned From CTIA Wireless 2011

Presenting At The CTIA Wireless Conference

I just returned from a three day trip to the CTIA Wireless 2011 conference in Orlando. I was there on behalf of the Digital Screenmedia Association to give a series of talks targeted at educating the mobile industry on the value of digital signage as a tool for promoting mobile context. We were pleased to have the sponsorship of Symon and Intel, which enabled us to get the digital signage message out to a new audience.

I won’t use this post to talk about “mobile context” but if you’re interested you can read the article on which my talks were based. What I will talk about in this post are my observations from the show and their implications to digital signage.

There were five key trends that I saw this year:

Talk of ever-increasing mobile data utilization and the unrelenting demand for wireless spectrum were again common themes of this year’s show. The T-Mobile/AT&T deal was held up as the poster child of the actions being taken by big carriers to secure enough spectrum to accommodate the incessant demand for data-supported services. There were a lot of new technologies on display for optimizing network utilization. Of course talk of 4G was everywhere and there was even talk of the actions being taken by the wireless carriers to increase the importance and role of WiFi. All in all, the carriers are bracing for exponential growth in mobile data usage, which as you know has been spawned by the smartphones and the new mobile ecosystems.

Mobile commerce continued to be a key topic with mobile payments being the common element among pretty much every discussion. There were several educational sessions dealing mobile payments and a lot of talk about it on the show floor. As it turned out, there were varying opinions about which type of mobile payments mechanism would succeed, but there was definitely agreement that the U.S. is on track to take a leadership role in this space. (It should be noted however that many countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are currently leading in the use of mobile payments. Particularly African countries.)

New devices were everywhere. Seemed like everywhere I looked was a new Android phone. Android-based tablets were everywhere as well. With over 33.3 million Android phones sold in the fourth quarter of ’10, it’s easy to see why everyone is jumping on the Android bandwagon. Windows Phone 7 had a presence, but it certainly felt overshadowed by Android. Apple of course was not there. They never are. I would love to be Apple — they just do what they want and grow like mad. (BTW, people are still lining up every morning at the Apple store by my house to be one of the lucky few who get a chance at buying the day’s allotment of iPad 2’s) Just goes to show: If you can build a better mouse trap, the world will beat a path to your door. Word of advice to HP, RIM, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, etc. It’s not just the device that the people are buying; it’s the entire ecosystem that is winning the day for Apple. Remember, the ecosystem, consists of a seamless integration of the audio and video content, the applications, the device and the commerce platform.

Mobile advertising and marketing were a key discussion topic. The talk – as I understand it — focused on how new models like iAd and Google’s AdSense platform. I did not attend any of these sessions because I spent the time in the mobile payments education stream, but the buzz around mobile marketing was definitely palatable.

Mobile health was also a key discussion topic at the show. Numerable advances are being made in using cell phones to monitor personal health. One of the show’s keynote speakers talked of being able to reduce medical expenses and improve the level of service by using wireless technologies to continually monitor and report on a person’s vitals.

In summary, all the talk and buzz around the show was about the cell phone becoming the one device that people use to manage their lives. It is clearly believed that the trend towards mobile payments and health monitoring is going to ensure that people will come to depend totally and completely on their phones in the next three to five years. Our message to the audience was that digital signage can play a role in enhancing the mobile experience.

As a side note. I got the opportunity to spend a lot of time with David Drain, the Executive Director of the Digital Screenmedia Association. It was David’s first time to the CTIA conference so I enjoyed hearing his observations and thoughts about the show. Next time you see him be sure to ask him about the experience. Ask him too about the 3D cell phones. Definitely unique.

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