Day 1 at Mobile World Congress 2018 has been notable for a change of emphasis by the big tech vendors. For the first time the majority of their messages have been about the value of solutions rather than the wonders of the tech. Far fewer megapixels, upload rates, and sensors (although they're still there - we're nerds after all, this stuff gives us goosebumps). More demonstrations of use cases and talking about solutions and their value to people.

Which got me thinking about one app that continues to delight me more and more -Google maps. Stay with me here... I know you use it all the time. But the value that Google keeps layering on top of its ostensibly main feature - direction finding - is fantastic. Where it goes next is a great mind game. And it's a model for thinking about almost any next-generation solution.

On Sunday afternoon we set off to Barcelona from Andorra, that unlikely country of 75,000 people living in about 450 square kms, most of which is covered in ski resorts. And restaurants. Turns out that about 75,000 people from Barcelona were leaving with us to go home.

So, like we do in Sydney, we turned to Google maps to guide us. And it took us a back route. A very beautiful one as it turned out - including deep gorges, tiny villages and fun roads.

We arrived in Barcelona about an hour quicker than the main route we would have taken. THAT'S the value statement. I know Google told me that, but I believe it was pretty much true, because they've built my confidence up over time. Enough to take roads that didn't have any signs to Barcelona for considerable periods of time and not feel nervous.

And along the way it re-routed us again (and it gave us enough information and reason to accept the re-route of the re-route). Just calling it Google maps is very humble. But calling it "Google real-time route optimiser and visualiser" would be a bit of a mouthful.

But not as much of a mouthful as "Google personalised travel concierge with real time route optimisation" which is surely what it will become.

It's all about layers of value isn't it? Because every Google maps user is feeding back GPS data and date/time they can work out average speeds achievable on every section of road on every road that Google maps users are on. And there's a lot of users. It's brilliant crowdsourcing. Plus, obviously, they know my destination. And they've been clever enough to build in re-checking of the optimum route on a regular basis. And then they hit me with the VALUE of taking their recommendation. How much time I'll save.

Next, surely, they'll be mapping routes based on my preferences and giving me a choice of prettier routes that may take a little longer (and letting me know why I may be interested). And recommending places to stop along the way. Good restaurants or pubs that might delight me for lunchtime or dinner. I'd love that.

Google can do this because they laid in place a great foundation. They have the data. I don't know whether the Andreessons (from Seaforth in Sydney for anyone who still doesn't know our local connection to such a great service) ever considered where this would all end up. Perhaps they did, and if so good on them. But layering value is the key.

Taking this data driven, layered approach approach opens up huge changes that can be made to so many other processes in our everyday corporate lives - like how we reduce waste by using the things that will go out of date first. Like making sure we don't run out of stocks of things. Like being able to provide options for providing additional service because we know where people have been. But we need data about the things we want to manage.

That's the revolution that's happening at the moment. There are loads of ways to pick up data. They don't all have to be using "smart" devices fitted with IoT chips that speak to the cloud (although there are loads of places where that makes sense).

What I'm going to be interested in at MWC this year are technologies that will allow our customers to gather the data they need to do a "Google maps" to their business solutions. To put in place the data gathering that they need.

But more than anything else I'm going to consider value rather than feature. As a nerd that can be more difficult than you think.

First published here.

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