From Wearables to CEO Healthchecks, APAC Leads Mobile World

China and India account for over two billion of the world’s mobile phone users while mobile operators’ interest group GSMA claims that the Asia-Pacific region now accounts for half of the world’s mobile subscribers and will remain one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets through 2020 and beyond. While many Western countries have hit a plateau in mobile penetration, Asia-Pacific’s continued growth due to its larger, untapped population signals a potential power shift. What could this mean for the global mobile market and would it have any influence on developing wearable computing and Internet of Things products and services? We asked Asia Pacific mobility expert at consulting firm Cognizant, Sowri Santhanakrishnan.


Q: Does the dominance of mobile use in India and China signal a power shift in tech development? Will these regions start to emerge as mobile innovators to compete with Japan, Europe and US?

A: Today we are facing a paradigm technology shift, one that is propelled by social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) technologies. One of the key game changers in SMAC technologies has been the explosion of the mobility space in our day-to-day lives. Currently, the US, China and India have the greatest potential in the next four years to drive technology breakthroughs. The rapid spread of mobile technology has had a profound impact on the economic development of all countries within the APAC region. The Asia-Pacific region has become a powerhouse in driving the mobile sector globally, already accounting for nearly 55% of the global mobile phone ownership total – some 2.5 billion users. In 2016, Asia-Pacific is predicted to account for 57.7% of the world’s mobile phone users, and as much as 40% of global mobile data traffic by 2015.


Which is the most interesting region in terms of attitudes to mobile use?

Where mobile is completely embedded within everyday life, proliferation of smartphones and tablets has given birth to new models of computing that were impossible just a few years ago. While smartphones and tablets are the catalysts for the BYOD movement, applications and services are the fuel feeding the BYOD fire. One of the outcomes of massive technology adoption is that much of daily technology use is embedded into unremarkable daily life routines. The APAC region boasts five of the top 15 countries with the highest smartphone penetration rates. In addition, smartphone penetration in developing Asia-Pacific markets is gaining traction. Thailand’s smartphone penetration is at 49% followed by Indonesia (23%), India (18%) and the Philippines (15%).


Does this then naturally extend to other forms of mobile tech such as wearables?

Mobile use in the APAC region naturally extends to other forms of mobile tech such as wearables. Businesses that have started bring your own device (BYOD) programmes have discovered how beneficial it can be to allow employees to use personal smartphones and tablets for work purposes. Soon, CIOs will face a new issue - the introduction of wearable technology in the workplace - which, according to experts, will create an $18bn market by 2019.

We’re already working with organisations to help them exploit the potential of wearables. Healthcare is one of the sectors where we see them having most impact; one example is doctors being given the ability to view 3D scans and examine patients in detail without fear of infection spreading through contact. As companies improve the disclosure of their leaders’ physical health, wearable technology could mean that, rather than sending their CEOs for a check-up twice a year, they instead monitor CEO health remotely and consistently. Information would be fed back to the board regarding a CEO’s exercise and sleep patterns and wearable devices could flag when the leader’s health is in decline.


So will we see a very fragmented market where some forms of wearable tech will suit specific regions?

The wearable tech trend is driven by consumers’ desires to simplify their lives by storing and analysing data to better interpret the world around them. However, the key in this transformation is usability, and consumer electronic devices will need to evolve to provide the symbiotic experience wearable tech can offer. Currently, North America dominates the wearable technology market. However, Asia-Pacific is expected to soon be the fastest growing region in wearable tech due to technological advancements being made in Japan, India and China, the geographic segment that poses huge growth opportunities for almost every global industry.

This region is expected to have nearly 49% share of the wearable technology market in the coming years. Low production cost in India and China is expected to further augment market growth in the APAC region. Germany and the UK dominate the market in Europe, enabling the European region to exhibit growth potential in this space.


What is the most exciting and potentially most popular item of wearable tech at the moment or in the pipeline?

There are six kinds of wearable devices: smart glasses, smart watches, cameras, healthcare devices, sports and activity trackers, and 3D-motion trackers. Of these, healthcare wearables, smart glasses and smart watches will dominate in the enterprise, with companies purchasing them for use by employees. In addition, smart glasses with augmented reality and head-mounted cameras will increase the efficiency of technicians, engineers and other workers in field service, maintenance, healthcare and manufacturing.


Which business sectors are being most receptive to wearables and why? Does this tend to be region-specific?

Insurance companies are exploring how their agents can take videos of damaged property and then check for the replacement value of their items with visual search functionality. Wearable cameras can help create a visual record of what they inspect, while their hands are free to take notes to enhance productivity.

Similarly, security personnel are using wearable cameras to share images of suspects to get an instant report on any criminal history and to create a digital record of interchange between the officer and people involved in the incident.

Sales clerks at retailers, including the American chain Crate & Barrel, are already beginning to wear monitors on their wrist to check details like inventory status and help a browsing customer without needing to walk halfway through the store to a computer.

For the healthcare industry, wearable devices are facilitating telemedicine and expert consultations. Many surgeons are experimenting with smart glasses for expert consultations or training in a remote location. In addition, several device companies are working on solutions to offer surgeons hands-free access to information such as radiographic images without needing to leave the operating table.

In this way, the ‘SMAC attack’ is changing how people, organisations and devices interact; leaders who want to harness the power of this information need to (finally) break down the barriers between IT and the business. Digital leaders are now harnessing the power of Code Halos - our virtual identities - to deliver curated, individualized experiences based on our unique needs, wants and history captured from the data we all share. We see wearable technology as just one of those devices that can capture and display this information and offer insight to its users.


What can other countries learn from mobile use in other regions?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is turning out to be bigger than the internet itself. Mobile and connected devices made possible by the IoT are here to stay – and the trend will only grow. As such, IoT presents unprecedented opportunities across industry sectors and processes. Leaders are already investing in IoT solutions and are reaping benefits such as improved asset utilisation, process efficiency, productivity, cost savings and of course, revenues.

Currently, North America leads the market, with an estimated 50% market share. High adoption rates in this region are a result of good consumer awareness, excellent marketing and retail channels.

Cloud computing - The undeniable power of cloud computing to enable mobility, foster innovations and improve productivity is now accepted by both IT vendors and their customers. While the financial services and government sectors are mostly moving to a private cloud model due to information security concerns, other industries like healthcare and retail have adopted public cloud. Moreover, their existing infrastructure has helped telecom players to emerge as providers of cloud computing, leading to erosion in boundaries between IT and telecom vendors.

Cloud services market size and market growth vary substantially across the different regions of the world. In general, the emerging markets in Asia/Pacific, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa show the highest growth rates, while representing the smallest overall markets. China is the exception, being both a large and growing market. Likewise, the mature markets of North America, Western Europe, Japan and the mature Asia/Pacific countries constitute the larger, but slower-growth, markets.

Augmented reality - Over the past few years, augmented reality has moved from the world of science fiction, to our everyday lives. The spread of smartphones and tablets gave rise to the spread of location-based augmented reality applications, and now everyone from retailers to healthcare providers have embraced augmented reality. Augmented reality enhances the customer experience, and enables enterprises to add a fourth dimension to their products. The application of augmented reality includes markets such as automotive, e-commerce and retail, marketing, medical, military and defence, and education. It is expected that by 2017 more than 2.5 billion mobile AR apps are going to be downloaded, with North America and Europe currently embracing the potential benefits of this technology at a much faster rate.


Marc Ambasna-Jones is a freelance writer and communications consultant that has written about technology trends and issues for over 24 years for national newspapers, consumer and business magazines. He can be found on Twitter @mambjo


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Marc Ambasna-Jones

Marc Ambasna-Jones is a UK-based freelance writer and media consultant and has been writing about business and technology since 1989.

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