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June 23, 2014

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Merger of wireless with industry

MOBILE Asia Expo 2014, China’s biggest annual telecommunications fair, might have been mistaken for a car show or a healthcare exhibition when it was held in Shanghai last week.

Tesla cars, the Fitbit wristband and a FingerQ privacy protection accessory took the spotlight, edging aside the smartphones and base stations that once dominated this event.

That didn’t really surprise me. The wireless sector is converging at a fast pace with new technologies and industries, such as automotive, wearable computing and security.

It means the beginning of a new era for the handset, which has become the device used by more people anytime, anywhere.

China is the global leader in adopting “machine-to-machine technology,” with over 50 million connections, accounting for 27 percent of global volume last year, according to industry association GSMA.

Machine-to-machine, or M2M, technology allows both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices. Its applications include the Internet of Things and Smart Cities projects in China.

“China is investing in communications technologies that will make its cities smarter and provide a better quality of life for its citizens,” said GSMA analyst Alex Sinclair.

Wearable computing devices provided a fancy touch to Mobile Asia Expo. Some visitors were wearing Google Glass, the most well-known wearable computing gadget.

NTT Docomo showed clothes equipped with three sensors  that could detect the pulse and heart rates of the wearer and send results to a smartphone via Bluetooth. This next-generation of “healthcare” clothes can be washed up to 50 times.

Fitbit Inc, which recently entered the China market, displayed wristbands able to track a person’s sleep and sports activity, and store the information on mobile devices and online servers, making it accessible anytime, anywhere.

“Combined with design and wearability, we believe Chinese users will be inspired to track their activity 24/7 and make healthier choices,” James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit, said during the expo.

BMW’s i3 car, connected and controlled by smartphones, and Tesla’s Model S, with its 4G network connections, were the stars in the show. The related booths of China Unicom, Qualcomm and NTT Docomo attracted crowds of visitors more interested in car connections to smartphones than in the smartphones themselves.

Safe environment

China Telecom’s mobile applications for car owners featured locations of points of interest, such as gas stations and restaurants, and quick checks for traffic violation records. New applications of wireless technology also focus on security. After all, people want to use the latest technologies in a safe environment, free from privacy leaks or mobile malware.

FingerQ, a Macau-based start-up firm, has developed devices with fingerprint recognition that help users protect the privacy of messages, e-mails, photos and other content. FingerQ’s staff raised some eyebrows and amused smiles when telling visitors: “Your wife can see only what you want her to see.”

Intel Security warned visitors to be more vigilant about malware and privacy invasion on mobile phones and tablets. It now offers free mobile applications to help users deal with mobile banking and other handset usage.

At the expo, the exception to the “beyond handsets” trend was Sony and its flagship Xpedia Z2 phone. Sony was offering games and gifts linked to its sponsorship of the World Cup.


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