Mobile world congress is one of my favorite events of the year and following it from year to year you notice the underlying change and the most apparent trends each year are often not the once giving the biggest impact to companies when developing their business and product strategies right now. This year is no difference the biggest things according to me was 5G, VR (still), IOT everywhere and LPWAN (LoRa, NB-IOT etc). Just to give my view on the topics before I go into the secrets:
- 5G has come further from concepts to more concreate things but are still trying to find the use cases where currently the reason for increased capacity is VR streaming (anybody remember video calling for 3G ;-)), the real time communication is for controlling robots and autonomous cars and then they try to solve the small device problem for IoT natively.
- VR has come far from last year and every second booth had a device (more or less) but there is still many problems to solve like the "pinch to zoom" for VR, wire free VR including performance and the content both user generated and commercial.
- IOT everywhere, the fair is almost more a IOT fair than a telecom fair :-).
- LPWAN (LoRa, NB-IOT etc) was part of (especially LoRa) our secrets from MWC last year and now it is actually part of the hype, but for most of my clients there is still the problem with the global coverage and roaming that needs to be solved before a product company should build it into the products. However, the local/regional case is there, when you can be sure of the usage area you can build your own network or use a local network.
When it comes to the secretes I often try to find trends which will give an impact to my clients. This year we formulated three areas which I will illustrate below:
- Artificial intelligence & machine learning for everybody
- Augmented Reality coming alive
- Robotics (and drones) everywhere
So let's go through the areas one by one.
Artificial intelligence (AI) & machine learning (ML) for everybody
AI & ML has been growing in force over the last 5 years and is often used within product features from the big players like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple. But for the normal company that can't put 5 to 10 PhD's to work on something new without knowing the outcome it is very hard. Most companies are struggling with that software is very important for their business today even if they do hardware products, so how can they use AI & ML? The answer is that other companies needs to put the capability in an API or SDK and provide that to the product companies. This year we have seen that within many area but especially these illustrated with one example
- Motion intelligence - imagimob (SDK to embed into products to detect movement patterns)
- Computer vision - eyesight Technologies (ready applications to embed into products for specific verticals), imagry (generic object detection with ability to train on your data to embed in products)
- Digital Assistants - Smartassistant (give you ha structure where you can change response and knowledge without programming and deliver it in a digital assistant or a bot or a chat),
- And since before you have many capabilities in the cloud via API's in IBM Watson, Google Cloud, AWS and Azure
All this will enable companies to include AI & ML when developing their products features in a much easier way than before.
Augmented Reality coming alive
One of the best (free) product placements ever at MWC has been the Microsoft Hololens, they are hardly there themselves but there was easily 1000 pieces of Hololens on display in different usage at different companies. They were used to show the technical capabilities of AR and the potential for the future which will be 10x of that of VR according to me. The best demo was in the Intel booth where they have more than 15 Hololenses.
Apart from Hololens we had Google tango which gives an accurate 3 dimension view of the physical space which has now matured and are increasingly coming into hardware. One of the better demos of this technology was at the Lenovo stand where you could with a phone walk around and enter (by opening a door) a BMW. You can change all the physical aspects of the car just by selecting from buttons being displayed when looking at a specific surface. I believe that Google Tango will come into much more devices but it will also be interesting to see what will be possible with the dual back cameras which is often present on most phones launched the last 6 months.
Robotics (including drones) everywhere
This area is enabled by the massive volume in smartphones driving down cost on vital components and the massive investment in autonomous cars which gives the software enhancements needed for the behavior. Here we have everything from autonomous drones for delivery and surveillance but also the softbanks social robots and utility robots like window wipers.
There is also all the 5G demos where you have industrial arm robots like the ABB yumi to illustrate what the secure communication in 5G should be used for.