Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

Context Aware and Lifelogging Devices seen at MWC 2016

If there’s one event which can be considered as the holy grail of the Android sector – after Google I/O, of course – it’s the Mobile World Congress. Held every year in Barcelona, this event sees the best of the best flagship offerings from reputed OEMs, and more often than not the products seen in this event hint at upcoming trends in the mobile sector.

But move beyond mobiles, and you’ll see a lot of activity in related sectors as well. Wearables, trackers and smart home tech saw some disruptive innovation this time around at MWC. And that shall be the crux of this article: we take a look at all the interesting developments in the contextual tech space, showcased at the Mobile World Congress.

SMART WEARABLES

Much like the developments seen at CES 2016, the wearable game was strong in MWC too. The onus was on tracking data, as well as providing contextual inputs when needed.

For instance, take the IOFIT smart shoe. Again, we’ve seen something similar at CES from Under Armour, but this smart shoe brings a few more innovations to the table. Manufactured by Samsung backed Salted Venture, the IOFIT shoe has dedicated pressure sensors and a pedometer inbuilt, to track data regarding an athlete’s routines.

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The data that is recorded includes the pressure applied on both the soles, and ergo the balance distribution of the athlete. This comes into play when we’re considering the target audience for this product : Golfers (for whom the shoe can actually calculate the swing angle and balance), power weight lifters and runners. The smartphone applications plays the role of the coach, where the athlete can see graphical representations of the data recorded.

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Besides the IOFIT shoe, we also saw a camera which instantly reminds the avid lifelogger of the Memoto camera. The Xperia Eye is a clip on camera which detects faces, snaps automatically and syncs to a smartphone. Probably the use case won’t be as specific as that of the Memoto, but it’s a good direction for Sony – lifelogging devices for the non lifelogger, if you will.

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Again, from Sony, there was the Xperia Ear. A unique ear bud – much alike the Moto Hint – the Xperia Ear has its own Artificial Intelligence which can intelligently read out email to the user, inform about notifications and alerts and also answer queries thrown at it by the user in a Siri-esque manner.

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And finally, there was the Epson BT-300. A take on Google Glass, the Smart Glass from Epson tries to figure out where Google Glass went wrong and hopes to amend it – the display is now Silicon OLED, which offers richer colours and more effective contrast levels.

Other wearables showcased included the Garmin Vivofit 3 and Vivoactive HR. The latter is the more interesting one between the duo, and it includes heart rate monitoring and smartwatch-ish notification alerts.

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CONTEXTUAL ACCESSORIES

In this regard, the most noteworthy device on store was the Xperia Agent. Inspired from the Amazon Echo, the Agent takes things a step further by incorporating a camera, speakers and projector within itself – while at the same time maintaining the connectivity features which would be necessary to connect to a smartphone or an internet connection.

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The projector in itself looks quite interesting, and use cases might include a visual representation of notifications, alerts or queries that are answered by the device. And while we’re on projectors, Xperia also unveiled their interesting take on turning any surface into any interactive one – the Xperia Projector projects UIs so that the user can actually interact with a smart device – all from one surface.

Then there’s the LG Rolling Bot. A BB-8 derivative, the Rolling Bot has an inbuilt IR module through which the user can control home appliances. It syncs with the smartphone application too, and might be the bridge between novelty and usability, but this author might be jumping at conclusions.

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CAMERAS

360-degree cameras are officially in, with brands such as Samsung and LG introducing spherical, 360-degree cameras. The use cases? Besides capturing the entire environment for a more immersive experience, it would come into play for street views and architectural visualisations.

BONUS: ANIMAL TRACKING

This is perhaps the most bizarre and most practical use cases of lifelogging. Trackers for humans are pretty commonplace nowadays, so why should animals be left out?

In this regard, there are two devices which caught my attention. One is the Verve Retrieve from Motorola, which is a waterproof tracker which keeps track of the pet movements and syncs it to the smartphone. Users can also create geofences to keep a track of whether their pets are within a particular demarcated area.

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The other one was personally more interesting for me, since it has a specific audience and a specific use case which can seldom go wrong. The Estrus Detection System for Cattle, developed by Fujitsu, is a wearable for cattle which detects when cows are in heat. By sending this data to the farmers, it can notify them of when would be the best time for sending the bull brigade in.

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BOTTOM LINE

We’re heading to a more contextual era, where smart appliances rule the roost. Going by the trends seen at MWC 2016, the future of context, lifelogging and trackers in general seems to be quite promising.

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