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Mobile World Congress 2018: AI benefits in store for the digital consumer

Alyson Edmunds, Head of Digital Innovation at O2, was reporting from Barcelona this week, as she attended Mobile World Congress 2018.

As one of the core themes at MWC, The Digital Consumer focuses on the way that consumers interact and transact with businesses through digital channels. It’s a rapidly evolving marketplace, driven primarily by mobile first, always on connectivity.

Meeting the expectations of today’s digital consumer requires businesses to create and deliver an experience that makes the customer want to come back. And, if the buzz at MWC is anything to go by, then this experience will be delivered with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

It’s exciting to see the number of applications for AI that are available right now, and the day-to-day use and benefits they bring to consumers. On the LG stand, for example, I watched a demonstration of the AI Cam on the latest V30 smartphone. The AI software embedded is able to detect the subject of a picture, a flower for example, and adjust the camera settings to ensure it produces the best results. With a couple of clicks, the AI Cam will identify the flowers that are being photographed, and link to websites like Pinterest and Amazon where you can then buy a bunch of them.

Similar technology is being developed to assist in other sectors. Samsung, for example, see valuable applications for the technology in the food sector. So if someone has a particular food allergy, or are lactose intolerant, they need only point their phone’s camera at a product on the shelf and it will display a red or green light to guide them. Watching the calories? No problem. The technology will also give consumers instant access to sugar and fat content, and other nutritional values, and will link to other health apps, using only the technology they are carrying in their pockets.

Mercedes Benz also demonstrated a prototype this week of a digital avatar called Sarah, which uses AI to understand natural language as well as having emotional intelligence embedded. This means it can recognise emotions in voices and faces and respond accordingly. I believe we will see technology like this being employed in call centres one day, to interpret a caller’s emotion or mood, and improve the experience advisors offer them.

This week, O2’s parent company, Telefónica, launched the first release of Aura, its artificial intelligence-powered digital assistant. Aura uses cognitive technology to transform the way customers interact and manage their digital life with Telefónica. Whilst at launch it will be used for mobile network requests like checking customer data usage Aura’s capabilities will grow day by day as it’s in constant evolution. Its cognitive capacity also means that it will be able to provide more and more personalised services, as well as anticipate what customers need

As a mobile network with 470 stores across the UK plus our online shop, we understand that our own business depends on our ability to engage with today’s digital consumer.

We want our stores to not just be about buying a mobile phone, but also a destination for people to learn about and be inspired by the latest technology. A place that is a home for cool tech, where people come in to read up on the latest gadgets, demo the latest tech and have fun. Every store has a Guru who is on hand to give free advice in store, online and over the phone. Our Gurus also bring life to the latest tech and demonstrate what it can do.


This is the second in a series of blogs I am writing during Mobile World Congress 2018. Take a look at my previous blog which looks at innovation and digital transformation in business. And keep an eye out at the O2 Business Blog as over the coming days I will report on more technology insights, and what they mean for business.

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