Design thinking

A UX perspective on mobile innovations

Daniel Sjöblom





It’s all about connecting and shaping the future of mobile. And it’s massive.

“We took in 10 million last month.” “So what’s the business proposition?” his friend asks. “Well, eh, monetization is something we’re going to figure out this year.” We’re lining up for coffee, it’s the first day of GSMA 2015, and the two guys behind me haven’t seen each other since last year’s Mobile World Congress. Sure, they stay in touch on LinkedIn, just enough to know how old each other’s kids are, but after some meet-and-greet it’s right down to business.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the guy behind me in line trying to create the next Uber-for-everything or debating regulations or 5G (hot topics this year), it’s all about connecting and shaping the future of mobile. And it’s massive. We’re talking about +90 000 people hankering for a view of the new double-curved Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge or reflecting on Mr. Facebook himself when he announces that Facebook will give free connections to developing countries. It’s fair to say that just trying to cover GSMA in a single post like this is doomed to fail. But if apparently only 20% of customers are completely satisfied with their user experience (CA Tech/ Vanson Bourne global survey), we still need to remind ourselves of the “people first” perspective in shaping the services of tomorrow. Organizations can reap huge rewards by taking a holistic approach to securing the end-to-end mobile experience, and here are three reflections from GSMA on how to achieve that.

Where are the wearables for professionals?

Wearables for the consumer market, yes. They’re here already; they emerged some years ago and manifested at GSMA this year with major players like Huawei launching their first smart watch. But what about wearables for professionals? GSMA 2015 lacked innovation in a field that will dramatically change the way we work. Wearable devices will help create more efficient, convenient and easier ways for people to work and connect, which would also benefit businesses since they’ll be able to monitor real-time behavior and data.

For example, work situations that require repetitive body movements will benefit greatly from reduced workloads and the connected KPI data that drives improvement. Luckily, a few prototypes were to be found at GSMA: Fujitsu showcased augmented reality technology coupled with wearable devices. ProGlove – a start-up and finalist in the Intel Make It Wearable Challenge – unveiled their connected working gloves prototype that showed how enterprises could take advantage of wearables. However, the gap we’ll see when wearables emerge further on is that development is mostly technology driven and designing for professional usage requires a deep understanding of user case, ergonomics and physical/digital converted interactions.

The future is a crowded sky

Google talked about how they bring connectivity to rural areas. With project Loon, they’re in large-scale testing mode: balloons that lift cellular radios into the air to augment coverage in remote and rural ground areas have remained in the sky for up to 200 days. Recently, Google also started experimenting with project Titan, which outfits lightweight drone aircraft with cellular radios.

Bringing connectivity is a positive initiative for sure. But from an emotional point of view, when it comes to the future consequences of having all these flying objects in the sky – how do we design for that? We’re not only talking about balloons and airplanes delivering connectivity, we also see the venture development of drones that would deliver goods, secure our homes, entertain us and so on. All these devices would claim space in the sky. Will it be crowded up there? Will they crash into each other? What happens if they’re hijacked? Sure, flying objects would improve our quality of life. But one thing’s for sure: as human beings, our emotions will be affected by these balloons, airplanes and drones flying over our heads. How do we design for a future with a crowded sky?

The 5G Hype – from a UX point of view

The 5G hype continued all throughout GSMA this year. So what does 5G mean for those of us that design future mobile services? At GSMA, not too many had that angle when discussing the topic. Not surprisingly, the emergence of 5G is technology driven but from a design point of view, it’s a catch-22 situation: to fully succeed with profound social and economic impact, it won’t matter how clever and sophisticated technology and networks are if development doesn’t include understanding and designing for the use cases they are mean to serve.

Take the use case of the connected car. It’s at the top of the list for new high-bandwidth applications. The connected car will demand new ways of rolling out 5G for all stakeholders involved, and will require them to think and work differently. If we take a look in the rearview mirror, since development of services happens where the money is (in urban areas right now), the same level of technology would have to roll out across rural areas in order to provide the necessary bandwidth coverage. Other massive mobile machine-to-machine (M2M) deployments would hopefully lead the way, too, with up to an estimated 2 billion M2M connections by 2020 according to GSMA.

5G will represent a significant jump in design capabilities. We’ll design for augmented reality, sensor-based communication and immersive reality – video-based data overlaid via wearables and driven by real-time data. We’ll design holograms for mobile devices. The list goes on. Yes, as designers 5G can give us incredible opportunities to create meaningful new services. But that’s of course if 5G will fix the latency issues that cause the motion sickness effect. Let’s hope the leading companies developing 5G consider taking direction based on design thinking. What would have happened if they’d done so with development of 4G, for instance? Which direction would we have gone if they kept Facebook in mind? (Both emerged the same time.) At GSMA, Mark Zuckerberg reached out a hand to all operators to partner up with services such as Facebook when shaping the bandwidth of tomorrow. Will we learn from the past this time?