Over 2,300 participating businesses. More than 108,000 attendees. Around 20km of walking every day…
The statistics for the 2017 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona are staggering, but now the dust has settled and the feet have stopped aching, it’s time to review what was on show and what it revealed about the future of the mobile industry. What was the most surprising innovation unveiled at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona? It certainly wasn’t anything that will fit in anyone’s pocket. It was a car. The second most unexpected, at the exhibition that’s traditionally a showcase for all that’s new and cutting-edge in mobile technology? A phone first launched almost 17 years ago.
So what on earth was happening at Mobile World Congress (MWC), and how does it reflect what’s happening in the mobile world today?
Mobile – The Next Element
The organising thought behind MWC 2017 was that mobile is the force behind every emerging innovation: it is The Next Element.
That’s certainly true – and most of the things seen at the Congress will sooner or later be seen in the shops and be playing their part in people’s lives. Or, in the case of the Internet of Things, even changing people’s lives. From wearables to smart homes to drones (many manufacturers of which were in attendance), the Internet of Things will connect a vast number of devices, and all the major players exhibiting at MWC have platforms to manage multiple connectivity.
Perhaps slowly at first, but with increasing speed and impetus, this connectivity and its potential will have an impact on the way we all work and live. Judging from the Congress, it will also have an effect on the way we drive.
Only a few years ago, a showcase for the mobile world would have been the last place you’d expect to see a car unveiled. However this year, BMW revealed their 5G-enabled car, equipped for autonomous self-driving as well as the very latest in infotainment. Reliable, low-latency 5G connectivity has a great deal depending on it for automotive applications.
(With a 15-minute walk from Hall 2 to Hall 7, BMW could have offered a useful taxi service for attendees at the Congress – self-driving or otherwise!)
Something else we may come to depend on are our digital assistants. Set to become a key feature of smartphones, they will evolve from gimmick to indispensable for work and leisure. By providing workers with an almost infinite knowledge base, they will increasingly help to drive speed, efficiency and productivity at work.
In two other interesting smartphone developments, Sony’s latest model on show at the Congress was less about the phone and more about the camera. Yet at the other extreme, with the relaunch of their 3310 phone (not a smartphone!), Nokia shunned cameras and data capability and offered only voice and text.
Is this a marketing stunt, a serious response to a consumer need, or the equivalent of a “collector’s edition” of an iconic design? Time will tell, but with video content representing the biggest growth area for data use on phones, players in the market who opt to look forward at video rather than backward at retro will certainly not be left behind.
Mobile Providers’ Changing Role
While MWC showcased how devices are developing and how connectivity is expanding into more and more areas of our lives, it’s important not to overlook the fact that network providers and telecoms companies are also undergoing a transformation.
Increasingly, providers are becoming digital service companies, going far beyond simply supplying a device and an associated connectivity plan. Three Ireland, for example, is not only looking at 5G but also has solutions in place already for the Internet of Things. We are going beyond mobile. It’s a transformational process that will bring some of the innovations unveiled at MWC out of the exhibition halls and into the real world.