What can we take away from the Mobile World Congress 2016? From 5G to virtual reality: mobile is everything. A report and comments from Myriam Debahy, Tech Industry Analyst for Google, on four days of tech immersion in the Catalan capital. Olé, mobility!
What were you hoping to find at the Mobile World Congress (MWC)? Food for thought and action? An insight into tomorrow's mobile world? New contacts?
I came here mainly because I was looking for an overview of the mobile ecosystem. Tomorrow's innovations also depend on business developments (B2B service providers, suppliers and so forth) that we, as end clients, rarely get the chance to explore on a daily basis. MWC is a unique place where mobile players come together to show off their latest innovations and build on partnerships. Going along offers me the chance to get involved with the technology of the future, and also with tomorrow's living spaces including houses, cars and shops.
What was the hot topic of conversation with regard to smartphones at MWC: devices or features? Or even both?
Aside from LG, who presented the very first modular smartphone with swappable parts, no decisive technological device breakthroughs were announced. The major mobile revolution is expected to come from how we use them, particularly in the interaction with the ecosystem of connected objects. Volvo presented a system that will lock and unlock vehicle doors via a mobile app from 2017. Payments are also being digitalised. And, this summer, MasterCard will be launching a facial recognition system to make mobile transactions secure.
How will consumers continue to be inspired and change how they use their mobiles in light of developments like virtual reality, 360° cameras and connected printing?
MWC has provided confirmation of new mobile uses currently in development such as the 360° camera and virtual reality.
Virtual reality was at the heart of the various demonstrations and debates. The trade fair made it possible to discover various virtual reality headset models such as Samsung Gear VR and the LG headset, which can be connected to the brand new G5. HTC also announced a launch date and price for its headset, Vive.
And that’s only the beginning! The development of the 5G is intended to support the surge of new uses like immersive virtualisation using 3D headsets, for example, or 4K video.
Peaks of 10 GB/s, full HD films downloaded onto smartphones in only a few seconds, 3D 8K streaming: the 5G experiment is well advanced, and South Korea promises that it will be available for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. So, does 5G inspire you?
5G stimulated debate at MWC 2016. Its commercial launch is not expected until 2020 in Europe. However, things are advancing quickly in terms of technology and standardisation through public-private partnerships. From operators to subcontractors, all players within the ecosystem were present. Nokia also used the event to provide more information, for the first time since its takeover by Alcatel-Lucent, about its strategy for 5G and the Internet of things.
Smartphones here, smartphones there. And tablets? Any new innovations?
There were no outstanding innovations regarding tablets this year. On the other hand, the PC has made a comeback, particularly with the MateBook 2-in-1 PC from Huawei. A tablet equipped with a proper detachable mechanical keyboard, the MateBook combines the mobility of a smartphone with the power of a laptop.
Mobility is not limited to just mobile devices. Automobiles, home automation and connected health are also deep-rooted trends. How were they represented at the trade fair?
As a strong trend of MWC 2015, connected objects were noticeably present this year, particularly with connected watches and other portable accessories. Initially developed to follow sports activities, connected accessories have many other applications. For instance, MasterCard presented several bracelets for contactless payments in shops.
There were also a lot of adverts in the automotive sector! For example, the forthcoming launch of the Ford SYNC in-car system in Europe, which makes it possible to control music and calls while keeping your hands on the steering wheel. It can also read out messages and control mobile apps with simple voice commands. At the same time, Qualcomm has fitted Mercedes cars with a wireless system to download data on the behaviour of the car in real time, using thermal image cameras pointed at the wheels. Data analysis in real time makes decision-making faster.
What’s your executive summary of MWC 2016? And are you interested in the 2017 fair?
Unlike previous trade fairs, MWC 2016 was rather lacking in terms of innovations in mobile terminals. Organised around the 'Mobile is Everything’' theme, MWC 2016 gave virtual reality and 5G pride of place. We also saw the development of by-product uses such as advertising and mobile commerce.
MWC remains key for players in the mobile ecosystem. It’s a single venue where operators, suppliers, mobile terminal manufacturers and service providers come together to forge and consolidate partnerships, as demonstrated with the major announcements made this year at all levels: 5G and connectivity, virtual reality and the Internet of things.
Given the speed at which technology is evolving, I am definitely curious about the congress in 2017, the year of the first 5G tests in Europe. A decisive role will be played by 5G in the revolution of the Internet of things and in opening up the way for new uses such as watching videos in ultra-high definition. The future looks bright for future MWC events!