Mobile congress kicks off in Spain

Visitors arrive at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg will give the keynote address at the conference. Pic: Getty

Wearable fitness technology, smartwatches that play music and new products from Samsung, Sony and Nokia — welcome to the world’s largest mobile show.

The Mobile World Congress, the annual trade show for the mobile sector, kicks off in Barcelona today, attracting some 75,000 delegates, pumping €350m into the local economy and creating more than 7,000 temporary jobs.

Most of the buzz at this year’s event is around the launch of smartwatches and gadgets worn on the body.

Samsung yesterday unveiled two new computerised wristwatches including health sensors and related fitness features.

The new Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will have a heart rate sensor, a pedometer and various tools to measure exercise, sleep and stress levels. The low-resolution, 2-megapixel camera on the Gear 2 is being moved to the main body; it was on the strap on the original Gear. It’s not immediately clear if the Gear 2 Neo has a camera.

Taiwanese manufacturer HTC is expected to demo a new digital wristband that plays music, among three new wearables it is unveiling.

According to Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer of Mobile World Congress, wearable technology launches will also include fitness products worn on the wrist and “a shirt that measures your heart rate without sensors built into it”; instead it will monitor by fibres in the clothing. The shirts will be modelled at the congress by a team of basketball players.

Sony will give an update about its plans for Core, the fitness-tracking device it announced last month. The chip is the size of a house key, but a little thicker, and is probably the smallest device Sony has manufactured. It’s designed to be attached to other products, beginning with a smartband due out later in the spring.

Samsung will unveil its Galaxy S5 handset tonight. It is believed poor sales of its predecessor the S4 is prompting the fast-tracking of its launch. Press leaks suggest its features will include water- and dust-proof technology, “head-tracking gesture control” and a fingerprint scanner for security.

Users will have to press the pads of a finger against the “home” key on the smartphone to unlock the device or provide identity confirmation. It’s rumoured the South Korean electronics company will also launch the first flexible tablet, which is bendable like a paperback copybook.

Nokia will launch its first Android smartphone at the Mobile World Congress — believed to be called the X.

The company has been leaving hints about the phone, the latest being a teaser on its official blog that features four black arrow signs against a green background forming the letter X.

The handset — which is thought to be at the lower end of smartphone pricing — follows Microsoft buying Nokia’s struggling mobile business in September in an effort to “accelerate” its challenge to Apple and Google.

According to reports, the X will have an interface that looks more like Windows than Android and feature Microsoft and Nokia services rather than those made by Android-maker Google.

Instead of Google Maps it is expected to have Nokia’s mapping service and is not thought to run Google’s app store Google Play, instead using a Nokia store with Android apps.

The smartphone is expected to have a four-inch screen with a 1GHz dual- core Snapdragon processor, 512MB of memory, 4GB of storage, a microSD card slot and a 5-megapixel camera.

In a year in which global smartphone sales are expected to surpass 1 billion units for the first time, product launches are also expected from Huawei. LG will unveil its Google Glass rival product — a hands- free, wearable pair of spectacles called “Glasstic”.

The arrival of Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in Spain to give this evening’s key- note address indicates the mobile industry is the key battleground for technology giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Mobile ECG monitor

A new device which lets doctors monitor a patient’s heart problems through email will be launched this week.

The new electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor records the electrical activity of the heart and uses mobile phone data to send information back to doctors.

The ECGs can detect abnormal heart rhythms, damage caused by heart attacks or an enlarged heart.

Small metal electrodes are usually stuck on a patient’s arms, legs and chest. These are connected by wires to an ECG machine which records electrical impulses from the patient’s body.

ECGs are fitted to investigate complaints such as chest pains or palpitations, but are also performed as part of routine tests.

Manufacturers Aerotel say the new device is the “world’s smallest and most accurate hand-held 12-lead ECG monitor”.

A spokesman said the device is fitted with a “3G cellular module” which enables “seamless transmission of patients’ recorded ECGs to a call centre or directly to the doctor’s email”.

The company will present the HeartView P12/8 Mobile device at the World Mobile Conference in Barcelona.

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