This article was authored by Jouko Ahvenainen, and was originally posted on telecomasia.net.
Simplicity is one important theme at MWC 2019. It is, of course, not a solution as such, but it a success factor for all solutions. This is nothing new, but it is becoming very relevant with 5G, IoT, data and security. Many parties can build technology, but who can offer simplicity to users will win.
IoT enables the collection of data everywhere and control of devices everywhere. It will create billions or trillions of data and control points. But it is a very long way from all these sensors and devices to smart homes, smart cities and applications to help peoples every day life.
5G enables fast data connections to all those devices, creates local networks and communications everywhere and get many solutions to talk to one other. How users can really use them in an optimal way, use networks whenever wherever needed, but also manage privacy, use one way at home, another way when traveling or in the office. New opportunities will come from more versatile ways to manage the use of networks.
Data and privacy have become real issues and discussion topics. Still many experts say people don’t care too much, they are ready to share data on Facebook, loyalty programs and online shops, and they are too lazy to be active to protect their data and take control of it. But the question really becomes what is the simplest solution. If data control and better security becomes as easy as buying from Amazon, posting on Facebook or showing your loyalty card, then we can expect people to take data control back.
Technology companies haven’t always been good at thinking about simplicity. Of course, Apple is the famous example in terms of how they were able to bring simplicity to devices. Simplicity really doesn’t mean simple technology, almost the opposite. How to make really advanced technology that makes it easy to use services. It is especially about the user experience.
Telcos are rarely leaders in simplicity. I still feel my mobile carrier’s app is one of the most complex apps I have, and hard even to check my monthly bill. Internet companies have been able to become successful in mobile too by offering simplicity and great user experiences.
When mobile internet really started to arrive with 3G, then carriers talked a lot about walled garden models with their mobile portals. It was a kind of simplicity model. It was a nice model for carriers, but it was not really conceived from the user’s point of view. Now we hear comments about how 5G, IoT and Edge can give control for carriers in services. Yes, they can, but most probably they won’t give control until carriers are able and willing to give control to users and design services so that they are easy to use and simple for normal users.
Commercial product management and UX are areas that would need much more focus, when we think the future of mobile and digital services. Now 5G and IoT presentations are often full of boxes representing tech nodes and lines between them. This technology view is needed, but it is not alone the solution, not even the starting point to design new services.
A growing business area that offers a lot of opportunities is to offer solutions and platforms that make it easy for other companies to build new services and put less effort on building the technology from scratch. Vimeo is an example of this, their CEO spoke at MWC, and told how their goal is to make it easy for any company to make video communications and marketing. She summarized it as “any company can be like Netflix,” having no need to build its own technology, but focusing instead on their actual business.
Similar solutions are emerging to develop, for example, digital finance and gaming services; finance and gaming engines and back offices. We will most probably see more solutions and platforms to build actual services and applications utilizing IoT, 5G and personal data too. Those services must also focus on how to simplify the actual services.
It is positive to see simplicity is now an important theme at the event, but it is not yet the main theme. Most probably we still have a long way to go to see it in practice in all services. It is, anyway, quite sure, the winners of future 5G, IoT, data and security services are those who offer simplicity, not those who offer the most complex and messy diagrams.