Mobile World Congress unmasked

It’s back, and it feels busier than ever.  Last year we had the Mobile “We’re not in lockdown” Congress, which was buzzy, but lacking the participation of most Chinese and Asian companies, and hampered by everyone having to wear masks the whole time.  This year, the masks are gone; it really is a Mobile World Congress and everyone is back promoting all that’s new in mobile. 

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The Superhero SIM

Almost everyone in the world knows what a SIM is.  It’s the little piece of plastic with gold bits on it that makes your mobile phone work.

Almost nobody in the world knows how a SIM works. 

That’s about to change, as over the next few years we’re going to see SIMs disappear.  Or at least the bits of plastic with gold bits on will disappear, as the things that a SIM does get integrated inside your phone.  It brings the prospect of changing the way phone contracts work, allowing your phone to do far more, and has the potential to disrupt the current business models of network operators.

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The Silicon Black Swan Event

There’s a very good one act play by David Greig called “the Letter of Last Resort” (which you can listen to here).  It’s based on the premise that one of the first tasks of any new Prime Minister in the UK is to write a set of letters that are sent to the Captains of our nuclear submarine fleet.  In the event of their losing contact with the country, it instructs them what they should do. Options include retaliating, by firing their nuclear warheads at whoever they believe were the perpetrators, surrendering, or sailing to some other country and offering them our nuclear missiles. 

It’s a gloriously far-fetched political black comedy, based on a modicum of truth.  However, it’s likely that a very similar debate is taking place in a boardroom in Taiwan at the moment, as TSMC and other leading silicon chip companies debate what they do in the event of a Chinese invasion.   I suspect there’s a parallel one being conducted within the Taiwanese Parliament.  Should these plans ever need to be realised, it will have very serious consequences on everyone’s favourite technology and put a stake in the heart of the smartphone industry.

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Auracast and the Evolution of the Earbud Case

Sometimes, it needs what seems to be a small, tangential innovation to make a product successful.  At the time, it may not seem much, but it can result in the product acquiring a life of its own.  One product which is making its way along that trajectory is the humble earbud charging case.

The history of the charging case is quite interesting.  Stereo wireless earbuds were a long time coming.  It needed some serious technical innovation by a couple of chip companies to make them possible – new technology by Cambridge Silicon Radio (now part of Qualcomm) to let them receive and render separate left and right audio channels, and small near-field magnetic induction chips from another silicon company – NXP to send wireless signals through our heads.  It then needed the brilliance of a German startup called Bragi to turn these concepts into working stereo earbuds, kickstarting the whole hearables market.  It has become the fastest growing technology product ever, eclipsing even the iPhone in its growth.

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PR, not PM.  The UK has a golden opportunity for Electoral Reform

While the Tory party seems to be fixated on finding a Prime Minister with a longer-dated “Best Before” label than Liz Truss, both they and the Labour party appear to have missed a more important point, which is that there’s never been a better time to effect electoral reform for the UK, but neither Party seems to have noticed, being too obsessed with the cult of premiership. 

Recent events have shown that the current two party system is even more broken than Liz Truss’ economic vision, and whoever wins the current Prime Ministerial beauty parade is in for a stormy ride, but nobody seems to ask why it’s all going wrong, and what can be done about it.

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