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At Mobile World Congress, a Shoe That Calls for Help

Mobile World Congress is in full swing in Barcelona this week, featuring the latest innovations in—and news of—all things connected and wireless. Here are some of the highlights coming from the Congress so far.

A smart shoe that puts safety first

Given the number of industries that put employees in hazardous positions—oil and gas, mining, manufacturing and construction, to name just a few—worker safety is big business. French startup Intellinium is aiming for a slice of that piece with its IO smart safety shoe. The shoe features Sierra Wireless Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to give injured workers a simple, hands-free way to send out a signal for help—without the use of a smartphone. The smart shoe taps into a patented “force sensor membrane” constructed in the boot’s toe area. That’s what the injured worker uses to send a “mayday” signal. Touching a toe to the sensor confirms receipt of, for example, an evacuation alert. The smart shoe provides real-time incident notifications, using the sensors to detect shocks and falls, and automatically alerting the worker’s supervisor or co-workers of their location in order to accelerate response time.

Disruption: Be on the lookout

Who can forget BlackBerry’s infamous demise? Or the sad implosion of Blockbuster, once a staple destination for weekend movie nights? Companies that have come and gone make for great business school case studies, but according to new research from Accenture released at Mobile World Congress, disruption is something that can be identified and addressed before it wreaks havoc.

After analyzing 3,600 companies worth $100 million or more—63 percent of which are facing high levels of disruption—Accenture developed a “disruptability index” that businesses can use to identify where they’re positioned in their industry (and why) and determine the risks, opportunities and a strategic response. The index includes four positions: Durability, where signs of disruption are present but not life-threatening; Vulnerability, where the current level of disruption is moderate but designees are susceptible to future disruption; Volatility, in which traits that were traditional signs of strength have become weaknesses; and Viability, where disruption is a constant reality and competitive advantages typically are short-lived.

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“Disruption is continual and inevitable—but it’s also predictable,” said Omar Abbosh, Accenture’s chief strategy officer. “Business leaders need to determine where their company is positioned in this disruption landscape and the likely speed of change. The more clearly they see what’s changing around them, the better they can predict and identify opportunities to create value from innovation for their business and rotate to the ‘new.’”

Transcription as a service?

The Otter mobile and web app from AISense, unveiled at Mobile World Congress, lets users store, search and share voice conversations. It even autogenerates a transcription and summary of the call, meeting or conversation, leaning on artificial intelligence to distinguish between multiple speakers. This could be a game-changer for those who don’t want the often-unreliable hassle of taking notes during meetings, conference calls, interviews and more. A few commenters in the Google Play store noted that Otter’s punctuation abilities could use some improvement, but for a free app, it’s being considered a solid start.

Getting IoT under control

A new platform from AT&T, announced at Mobile World Congress, gives businesses a centralized location to manage their IoT devices across all operators, regions and cellular and satellite networks.

“Businesses are constantly deploying millions of connected devices around the world. Everything from asset trackers and connected vehicles to smart cities and industrial equipment,” said Chris Penrose, president of Internet of Things solutions for AT&T. “These customers come to us for help in managing their diverse portfolios. We built Multi-Network Connect to meet this need with one interface to manage all IoT endpoints through a single pane of glass.”

Searching the cloud

Jumptuit helps users find relevant data on their cloud platforms via a simple voice command. In the second half of 2018, it will be compatible with 18 new IoT devices and 50 additional cloud companies, Jumptuit announced at Mobile World Congress.

The service taps into AI, natural language processing and machine and deep learning to help users quickly and accurately find documents, photos, audio and video files across all of a person’s cloud services. Looking for mood board photos but not sure where you stored them? Just ask Jumptuit: “Did I save my mood board in Google Drive or Dropbox?”

Jumptuit dynamically connects a user’s data with her current location, activity and the people she’s with, according to Donald Leka, founder and CEO of Jumptuit, helping to bring personalized relevance into the mix.

It could save companies considerable time by keeping users from sifting through endless streams of irrelevant data, guiding them more quickly to the file in question.

Ring, ring: Virtual reality calling

Because even phone calls need to be an experience, Summit Tech’s VR Calling embeds voice, video calls and RCS (rich communication services) chat messages between any phone within a virtual reality environment–essentially bringing VR into the real world. It means that someone using VR Calling can share live 360-degree video with the person on the other end of the line, bringing faraway places that much closer. Summit Tech sees the potential for users to engage with virtual 3-D environments such as conference rooms and movie theaters, and participate in real-time RCS group chats, or voice and video conference calls with friends, family or colleagues. They’d be able to do this while watching a movie within the VR theatre or when whiteboarding in an AR conference room. In the apparel industry, it’s not hard to imagine this technology in the front row at Fashion Week.