Chinese New Year is barely behind us — we’ve entered the Year of the Snake — and we’re already preparing to celebrate Mobile New Year, i.e. Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month.

If you’re interested in how the world is changing, these are two events you should pay attention to.

This year, the Asia-Pacific region will overtake the United States to become the world’s No. 1 market for B2C (business to consumer) e-commerce, according to research from eMarketer.

China is the primary driver of growth in the region. In 2013, the country will surpass Japan as the world’s second-largest e-commerce market. China will take an estimated 14% share of global sales, valued at US$181.62 billion — up 65% from 2012!

The United States will remain the country with the single largest share of e-commerce, estimated at 29.6% in 2013 — but down from 31.5% in 2012. This gap will continue to close fast, eMarketer predicts. In 2016, China will have 22.6% of the worldwide market, versus 26.5% for the U.S.

Back in 1964, Bob Dylan — born, coincidentally, in the Year of the Snake — wrote the famous lyrics to the title track of his album, “The Times They are a-Changin’ ”:

“The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Some other mind-boggling perspectives to ponder, from Cisco’s Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, as we look toward the Mobile New Year ahead:

  • This year, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on Earth. That means more than 7 billion mobile-connected devices.

  • By 2017, there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per person – more than 10 billion devices — including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules. The world’s population is estimated to reach 7.6 billion by that year.

  • Last year, mobile data traffic was 12 times the size of all Internet traffic in 2000.

  • Mobile data traffic grew 70% in 2012, to reach 885 petabytes per month, up from 520 petabytes per month at the end of 2011. (One petabyte is about the amount of data that Google processes every hour.)

  • Mobile data traffic will continue to grow at an annual rate of 66% from 2012 to 2017.

  • Smartphone usage grew 81% in 2012. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2012 was 342 megabytes per month, up from 189 megabytes per month in 2011.

  • The average smartphone will generate 2.7 gigabytes of traffic per month in 2017, an eight-fold increase over 2012 usage. Smartphone traffic in 2017 will be 19 times greater than it is today, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 81%.

  • Mobile video traffic reached 50% for the first time in 2012. Video was 51% of mobile traffic by the end of 2012.

  • Two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2017, a 16-fold increase between 2012 and 2017.

  • The Middle East and Africa will have the strongest mobile data traffic growth of any region at 77% annual growth, followed by Asia Pacific at 76% and Latin America at 67%.

The Times They are a-Changin’. So what’s in store for the Mobile New Year, the year starting March 1, when Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013 has closed the doors?

I will just add some perspectives to what INMA blogger Mark Challinor included in his post “Mobile platforms: The landscape ahead in 2013,” using the Gregorian – our western – calendar for my point of view.

Big blur. It’s getting harder to differentiate a smartphone from a tablet. The difference in screen sizes is now less than an inch (2.54 centimeters).

With the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 — with a 6.3-inch screen — destined for MWC, only seven-tenths of an inch (1.78 centimeters) will separate a tablet from a phone.

So the smartphones are getting bigger and the tablets smaller. Soon you won’t be able to tell the difference. This will affect the multi-screen strategy for news media companies.

The Internet of Things. Mobile is not just about smartphones and tablets any more. With more connected devices than human beings, we’ve truly entered the era of the Internet of Things.

The shift from machine-to-machine communications (M2M), which has been a theme of MWC for some years, to the Internet of Things is not just a play on words. Whereas M2M emphasised the business-to-business opportunity — basically vertical silos and niche markets — the Internet of Things aims much wider. 

At MWC this year, one of the new highlights is “The Connected City,” where the latest technological advances applied to households, public transportation, and retail and urban services will be demonstrated.

Every screen will become a connected screen. This will further affect the multi-screen strategy for news media companies.

Mobile wallets. This is a thing I’ve been barking about in past blog posts — “Mobile transaction tipping point is right around the corner” and “Sooner or later, the future is mobile payments.” The reason being that mobile wallets are at the intersection of payments, retail, and advertising. And the opportunities presented are exciting.

Online players, network operators, financial institutions, and retailers fight for position. This will probably intensify at this year’s event with new product announcements and partnerships.

News media companies need to pay attention, because mobile wallets are going to change the traditional model for advertising.

So these are some of the areas I will follow at the Mobile World Congress for the fifth consecutive year. What more is in store?

Well, what better way of wrapping up all this new year’s celebration and speculation than with another song, “Only Time will Tell,” from the rock band Asia (such an appropriate name):

“Only time will tell 
One thing is sure 
That time will tell 
Only time will tell 
If you were wrong.”