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Cars, cancer, plugs and payments – UK start-ups to rock Mobile World Congress

Allan Swann
February 13, 2013

Twenty of the UK’s most innovative mobile companies took part in the UKTI annual pre-Mobile World Congress event, SmartUK, to cull the group down to a final five for Mobile World Congress.

As with last year, a single winner will be chosen by an expert panel of judges and presented with the award by Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey.

Last year’s winner Datawind, the designers of the Aakash tablet, beat out high level rivals such as augmented reality app Blippar, and this year’s group looks even stronger.

As part of ‘speed pitch’ process, each of the companies were given a single minute to pitch their product – some better than others. What Mobile took its time to do its own runaround speed pitch process, and has come up with our picks to win.

The products demonstrated ranged from the boffin-ish (such as smartphone memory wiping for corporates) and creepy (such as products that can analyse a users mood for marketing purposes). There were others that attempted to solve app store problems (namely, how to differentiate your product amongst some 800,000 others) and other that attempted to solve real world problems (such as keeping kids safe when mobile internet browsing).

However, the winners going to Mobile World Congress are:

Real VNC
Real VNC is one of those ‘why hasn’t this happened already?’ pieces of technology – software that integrates your smartphone into your car’s onboard information centre. This means you can access apps such as maps and your contact list via your vehicle’s touch screen; you can even take calls through it. Apps can also be ‘locked out’ if they are considered dangerous while driving   – so no Angry Birds on the M1 then€¦

Skin Analytics
Health science on smartphones is expected to take off in 2013 – it just makes too much sense – smartphones are just small computers. Skin analytics’ app allows you to keep track of melanomas on the skin – useful as the growth rate for this disease doubles every decade. Skin analytics has a patent-pending on its image processing technology – it detects subtle changes in skin topography, accounting for different lightning conditions, focal lengths and camera angles. This is then logged in the cloud, and can be shared with your doctor.

OpenSignal
A bit cheeky as the Android version has been around for more than two years, the Apple version of this network mapping tool is due to be unveiled sometime before MWC (depending on Apple’s scrutinization process). Basically, Opensignal maps cellphone and wi-fi coverage across all the networks. You simply download the app and it uses signal strength readings from your phone (and everyone else’s) to produce a coverage map. This can be flicked between, 2G, 3G and 4G (and wi-fi hotspots) and each network, so you can choose which one suits your needs better next time your contract is up for renewal. Absolutely essential if you live in patchy coverage areas (or outside the big cities).

Made in Mind
We were a bit shocked that this one was included – while their presentation was very professional, it is little more than a foldable smartphone plug. It is pretty nifty and folds down into a tiny travel-friendly size, but hardly earth shattering. A nice design, it will be launching in Europe and US in Q2 2013 – an obvious barometer of success.

Paddle
A brilliant little mobile payments platform, that solves a lot of the problems inherent in the format. If Paddle gets its foot in the door proper, it could well take off it a big way – especially it’s boast of 10 second payments. It works by storing your card details in the cloud – only accessible by the app. When users click the “Pay with Paddle” button on mobile checkout pages, the app launches and completes the transaction securely with one tap. It is also available for desktop computer payments and scanned QR codes.

Our favourite?
After sitting down and chatting with each of the contenders, its probably got to be RealVNC, followed closely by Paddle and Opensignal in a tie. The potential of proper in car integration with smart phones is monstrous.

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