‘Digital wellness’ takes centre stage at Mobile World Congress 2019

Intelligent Connectivity’ was one of the central theme of this year’s Mobile World Congress. Many vendors were eager to show the latest developments in 5G, NFC and AI to create a smarter, more connected world. The theme that really stood out the most this year at both MWC and its sister event, 4YFN, was that of ‘digital wellness’. You only had to go from stand to stand to see how many start-ups in particular are committed to creating a smarter, cleaner, fairer and more democratic technology ecosystem in what many are coining the ‘tech lash’ era.

‘Digital wellness’ takes many forms and different interpretations that were on show in Barcelona. Many French start-ups, for example, are creating ‘empathetic’ AI software to help families take care of their elderly and vulnerable relatives and to assist employers in finding new hires based on behaviour analysis and intention mining. Other companies showcased everything from IoT connected bee hives to apps helping people with allergies and intolerances to find suitable food more easily. Using AI for good was at the heart of their, and many other start-ups’, very reason for existing, with an assured belief that they can grow and expand into other markets in the near future.

Perhaps one of the biggest topics that fell under the ‘digital wellness’ banner was that of restoring ‘data citizenship’ in the age of mass data breaches and waning customer trust in the tech giants. Eric Leandri, CEO of Qwant put it perfectly that in Europe we are treated as data citizens, whereas in the USA, customers over the years have been treated as consumers. Citizens have their privacy respected as a fundamental right, whereas consumers are buying into a data exchange (that often wasn’t transparent in the first place). Creating a safer and smarter internet has to start by restoring privacy and rebuilding trust.

There has never been a more perfect time for new companies in the ‘digital wellness’ space to get their message out there, telling better stories for bigger impact, and to capitalise on the widespread ‘tech lash’ sentiment. Being bold and communicating the clear differences between you and the tech giants is key, and critical to building a solid customer base, scaling up and attracting VC attention.

I certainly left Barcelona with a refreshed sense of optimism for the tech sector as a whole. We can’t reverse the negative fallout from mass data breaches or the damage done by high profile hacks, but technology still ultimately has huge potential as a force for good and we have reached a crucial tipping point in creating a fairer culture of ‘digital wellness’ for all. Long may it continue.

Written by Imogen Nation, Account Director, Business Technology

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