In just over a week’s time the wireless world convenes at the Mobile World Congress descends upon Barcelona. MWC19 Barcelona will attract more than 107,000 professionals from over 200 countries and territories, with over 2,000 journalists registered – each of them asking the same question: What’s new?
Many companies wait until the show starts to reveal their plans for boosting impact at the congress, but others beat them to the punch with sneak peeks. From what we can tell, intelligent connectivity will be this year’s overriding theme. This will be underpinned by the event’s primary focus: the rapid advancement and deployment of 5G.
The speed and flexibility of 5G will allow for greater performance and more services with higher reliability. Expect multiple announcements from handset manufacturers revealing new 5G phones and multiple announcements from service providers offering new services on 5G infrastructure. Smartphone news at the show will focus on 5G readiness: form factor with new foldable phones, handsets especially built for augmented reality and AI incorporation (technologies that run far better on 5G). Already both LG and Huawei have hinted that they’ll show foldable phones at MWC 2019. Other likely candidates appear to be Samsung, Oppo, and Xiaomi. OnePlus already confirmed it’ll have a 5G phone prototype on display. Microsoft, which for years has had a light presence at the show, sent invites for a major event; the new HoloLens 2, its next augmented reality headset, is expected to be announced. It’s no coincidence that Microsoft CEO Satyam Nadella is a guest speaker at the show this year.
Much of the world – including the U.S. and U.K. – will see 5G networks launch in 2019. Thus, many service providers will be focused on new services and the potential of 5G applications such as industry 4.0 developments, the confluence of IoT, and cloud and cognitive computing.
Another trend at MWC19 will be the innovation ecosystem. With these events so well attended by media, investors, start-ups and corporates, it’s a perfect platform for companies of all shapes and sizes to uncover new innovations. The 4YFN (Four Years From Now) initiative at MWC always reveals interesting and new technology as companies have found a creative, efficient way to disrupt the traditional “modus operandi” with tech. Unsurprisingly, the show has multiple initiatives purely focused on innovation like the Mobile World Scholar Program for early stage innovators and creators; the Graphene pavilion on bringing the benefits of revolutionary graphene to new applications; the GSMA Innovation City Hall on smart cities; the NEXTGen 8.0 hall on future technologies; and the Digital Planet Hall, which is new this year. Digital Planet will include over 200 app, ad tech, eCommerce, marketing communication solution providers and other organizations focused on creating connected experiences that will positively impact citizens’ daily lives.
As smartphones are increasingly embedded in our lives, there has been an industry-wide push to re-examine our relationship with the online world and its effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. After all, apps are designed to grab and keep our attention, causing us to check our phones up to 200 times per day. A recent survey found that 46 percent of us “could not live without our smartphones.” Digital addiction, social media dependency, connectivity compulsion and mobile enslavement are all terms and issues that will be addressed in MWC2019 under the Digital Wellness banner. The industry taking note of this and addressing it can only be a good thing.
In addition to digital wellness, MWC19’s intelligent connectivity ecosystem will be addressing the issue of safety and trust – digital trust. Trust has become a huge issue, not just because of its continued erosion following multiple cyberattacks and data thefts and privacy rights breaches, but also because regulation like GDPR has forced the industry to take this issue more seriously. In a world of rapidly evolving digital transformation, it can only be a good thing that digital trust is being addressed head on – without it, technology adoption and safety online will be hindered. Expect to see everything: AI-powered cybersecurity, new biometric recognition systems, digital identity protection initiatives, biocryptology, and a plethora on new eID national programs and standards.
One of my favorite things about MWC is the element of surprise such an event generates. From auto manufacturers’ greater presence to mobile-powered retail experiences to the Temi, a 10-inch tablet that wheels after you around your home, there are going to be many surprises. This year it’s difficult to predict what the surprises will be – they are, after all, surprises. But, looking at the speakers and participants, I expect interesting developments from automotive companies, new applications of AI and machine learning from start-ups, transformative new data applications, and the advanced use of robotics.
In conclusion, MWC19 promises to be another great industry event, but this year, more than ever before, there is a good balance between presenting intelligent mobility’s commercial opportunities and addressing concerns like digital trust and wellness. These can only be good things.
David Vindel is the Director and EMEA Practice Leader Technology for Hill+Knowlton Strategies. He is based in Madrid.