We talked about Zuckerberg; we discussed 4YFN; we looked at what happened after hours in Barcelona’s bars and hotels; so now that Mobile World Congress is over for another year in Spain (although it starts all over again in July, in Shanghai, with the theme “Mobile Is Me”) it’s time to look at the key takeaways and questions the event raised, and what they mean for worlds of mobile, tech, entrepreneurs and disruptors who are helping to create the future.
Connected or disconnected?
Sure, there are more smartphone users than ever before, but remember, like talent, a mobile is a nice to have but useless if it is not being constantly challenged and developed. Can the connected mobile world solve the problem of 30m child refugees with nowhere to call home?
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake believes it can play a significant role – for example, the global tech hubs the charity has created along the paths dispossessed families are forced to travel include charging stations and mini tech hubs so children are able to maintain a relationship with the outside world – one that can help keep them going when things are at their toughest.
Karim Khoja at Roshan spoke about how mobile networks and operators can help keep families in touch with one another, and safe, during the daily bombing attacks that plight the country of Afghanistan. Ann Cairns, President of MasterCard’s International Markets division suggested that a connected world that ignores elements of the world’s population is in danger of creating “have’s and have-not’s” which leads to our regression as a society.
Digital inclusion is perhaps the single biggest challenge that the tech and mobile world faces today – 1000’s of entrepreneurs are telling us they can solve the world’s problems using tech – now is the time to stand up and be counted, and continue the fight to ensure that the world’s population is free of unnecessary suffering, the threat of violence, and are guaranteed food and shelter at all times.
5G Is Nearly Here; Will It Be Transformative
Intel’s 5G media event, rather than making bold yet empty promises about a nebulous future where “anything is possible” instead focused on existing products and services and partnerships with the likes of SK Telekom, Ericsson and Verizon. The company is integrating 5G into its mobile, Internet of Things, wearable, smart building and design functions and progress has been palpable, they say.
BT chief Gavin Patterson was on hand to explain how, after the acquisition of EE, the company plans to work alongside the University of Surrey – which is home to the UK’s only research centre dedicated to 5G – and continue to roll out its Fixed Mobile Convergence strategy – an area in which Britain, despite its dependence on the digital economy, lags behind the rest of Europe.
Meanwhile the European Commission, which has already announced partnerships with South Korea, China and Japan, announced that it is adding Brazil to the list. The agreement was signed at MWC and will focus on making 4G more efficient whilst it works to implement 5G which the EC believes it will start to implement across Europe sometime in 2020.
Industry Finally “Gets” Mobile
Will independent “disruptors” receive the news that the world of industry – which has been creakingly slow to adopt new, connected ways of working thanks to their somewhat ancient infrastructures and traditional methods of working, warmly or with trepidation. There’s no doubt they have played a role in helping industry wake up to the fact there are better, more modern ways of doing things – but will the work of transforming them now move in-house?
William Ruh, CEO of GE Digital, used his Keynote to suggest that levels of productivity at large corporates had fallen from 4% in the 90’s to just 1% since 2011. Some of the world’s biggest companies, he said, “haven’t got to grips with technology in a meaningful way, but are finally trying to address the problem and restore productivity by leveraging tech.
Meanwhile Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins says the pace of technological change is “something we’ve never witnessed before, and stated his belief that the number of connected devices will rise from 18 billion today to 50 billion by 2020.
“The next decade is the industrial internet”, insists Ruh – adding that companies who do not embrace this paradigm shift fully risk extinction. Robbins spoke about the government’s pre-eminence leading the charge to address global issues such as health, education and the economy. Can major multi-nationals follow suit, or, like the age of oil, is their time in danger of running out?
Out With The Old Products, In With The New?
Many companies took the opportunity to launch new products at MWC – Xiaomi introduced their new flagship smartphone, the Mi5, Samsung showcased its new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, Sony launched the affordable new Xperia X and Xperia XA, whilst LG kicked off the spate of unveilings with its G5 “modular phone”, from which parts can be replaced and newer versions installed– a handy way to get around costly upgrades.
Motorola unveiled a new set of accessories including wearables under a new banner, VerveLife, including wireless headphones, a wearable camera and even a pet tracker. Huawei launched a new 2-in-1 tablet for Windows, the Matebook, Intel Core M-series processor and a fanless design.and accompanying MatePen Stylus with laser pointer to make it the perfect tool for presenters.
Back in the world of 5G, Ericsson showcased a 5G Radio Test Bed which includes 5G radio prototypes set for operator field trials in 2016, as well as a prototype helicopter which uses Haptic technology to give users the chance to experience its interaction with its environment via visual and audio technology.
The list of new products, ideas, future plans, discussions and, perhaps most importantly, collaborations between major players goes on and on. And on. And don’t worry, this isn’t a case of “you had to be there”. Like London Fashion Week, all of the ground-breaking products on show will be yours to own and trial in the not-so-distant future.
A final word of warning, however – with the turnover of digital products so overwhelming, we have a responsibility not to be like kids at Christmas, tearing open our new pressies only to quickly become bored and demand another.
Every phone, tablet, PC or headset built takes something out of our planet, be it a natural or a human resource, and puts something back that is not always good news – dumping grounds of mobile carcasses, wires and long-forgotten technology that didn’t quite make the grade. So if you’re engaged in building a new product, make sure it’s built to last – we want wearables, not disposables – because we’re running out of places to chuck our unwanted, crappy goods.