Getting a feel for the future at Mobile World Congress 2019.

Nicola Mortimer
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On: 28 Mar 2019
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Every year it’s exciting to get a glimpse of the future in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress (MWC), the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, with over 100,000 visitors and every major vendor in attendance.

From the first steps into the venue this year, we were surrounded with near-future technologies that are set to become commonplace. With my smartwatch tracking my health and wellbeing, new facial recognition efficiently managing a speedy entrance and the loan of an electric scooter for my commute I was ready to go!

Below are 5 key trends from MWC 2019 that I feel are set to have the biggest impact on work and home life in the near future:

5G everything.

The ultrafast mobile data speeds of 5G — potentially up to 10Gb per second and the pervasive mobility that 5G will enable felt much closer to being realised at this year’s Mobile World Congress. It’s well known that 5G will bring major improvements in mobile connectivity speed and bandwidth, but the 2019 Congress also displayed interesting use cases and hardware, from the 5G Ooredoo Aerial Taxi and Seat’s Minimo, a 5G concept car, right through to 5G-enabled surgical operations.

What 5G means for business is connectivity and the opportunity to be significantly more productive: giant strides in speed and bandwidth will make wireless a viable alternative to fibre, even for the heaviest traffic loads. But more importantly this connectivity can be delivered to a building at a fraction of the cost of a fibre dig in rural locations.  For these rural based companies, who may have had difficulty accessing fixed-line fibre broadband, next-generation Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) powered by 5G will allow them to leapfrog over fixed-line altogether and secure Gigabit-speed connectivity wirelessly.

5G, Three

Foldable phones for next-generation portability.

There was real excitement on the device side this year, as we were given the first glimpse of foldable phones; Huawei’s Mate X foldable smartphone and Samsung’s Galaxy Fold flexible-screen device were both on display for the first time at MWC. These new devices, which double as tablets, are set to become precious productivity tools, especially for workers who are constantly on the go.

For me, the advent of foldable phones combined with the unprecedented speeds and bandwidth 5G will deliver, emphasise the need for enterprises to develop or further enhance their mobility strategy. The new devices coupled with 5G connectivity will allow employees to have a more desktop-like experience anywhere and the time to plan how to exploit those tools is now.

Smart cities.

IoT works in tandem with smart city technologies, another key trend at this year’s Congress. Some of the solutions on show were an inspiring mix of technology and creative thinking. A solution called the CityTree, showcased by the startup Green City Solutions, is an IoT-connected piece of urban street furniture, reminiscent of the size and shape of the end of a bus shelter, but covered in soft, green moss. Designed to filter and purify city air through the natural process of the plant’s growth cycle, the CityTree is already in place in cities including Oslo.

It was notable at the Congress that large providers in the telecommunications industry are partnering with startups like Green City Solutions to develop point solutions for key vertical markets. Innovation is not the exclusive preserve of in-house R&D teams any more, and in fact the race to bring viable new concepts to market seems to be driving a more open approach to innovation and collaboration, right across the mobility sector. 

CityTree MWC 2019

Intelligent mobility.

Intelligent mobility was a watchword at the Congress, and the Seat Minimo car, an electric concept car aimed at city transport which leverages 5G and voice recognition was an excellent example of this. The Minimo looks like a tiny car and it seats two, but its small dimensions give it the agility and ease-of-parking of a motorcycle.

The car, as well as the IoT-connected scooters on display at the Congress, made it clear that the world’s largest mobile vendors are ready (with the help of innovation partners) to fill the gap for green concepts that can reduce emissions while also enabling micromobility. 

Pervasive IoT. 

The Internet of Things continues to prove its value: IoT was a big trend again this year with vendors demonstrating a wide range of IoT applications from smart cities and smart agriculture to robotic manufacturing and cloud VR. There were vertically focused solutions in manufacturing, medicine, agriculture, transport…just name the industry, and there are clear emerging business applications for IoT. 

IoT can enable affordable visibility and control of everything from vehicle fleets to office buildings, digital signage to environmental sensors. We see this in our own engagements with Irish organisations who are implementing IoT solutions. Our customers are realising the power of collecting data using IoT technology and putting this into data analytics packages to develop insights to better manage large and complex systems. The use cases run across retail, utilities, healthcare, security and more. 

There is always so much to inspire at MWC, and I left with a definite sense that the real-world impact of these technologies is close at hand and will be significant.

The next Mobile World Congress is set for February 2020. If you’d like to learn more, visit https://www.mwcbarcelona.com

Interested in discovering more ICT trends? Visit Three’s Business Learning Centre.