Four hopes and expectations for MWC20

MWC Barcelona is coming up once again, with Cerillion demonstrating its full product suite alongside the latest industry developments, innovations and more. Brian Coombs, Cerillion Product Director, shares what he hopes to see around the exhibition and compares this with what he expects to be the reality!

Since 1987, MWC (and its previous incarnations) has been the largest exhibition in the mobile industry calendar, with another 100,000+ delegates expected this year at Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via. Having ballooned in recent years into a four-day tech extravaganza, rather than just a ‘mobile’ show, the theme of this edition is “Limitless Intelligent Connectivity” as 5G and a slew of tech trends threaten to upend the rules of business connectivity for every company with even a cursory link to mobile technology.

While many eyes will be on consumer product launches from some of the world’s leading manufacturers, MWC also plays host to the latest in AI, Big Data and the Internet of Things. Amid the much-anticipated debuts and rampant speculation, here are a few of my personal hopes and expectations for this year:

Devices – new forms taking shape

Hope – A beginning to the end of the tyranny of slab handsets, and for more interesting models to debut as the initial problems with implementing folding screens start to be ironed out.

Expectation – The same old incremental improvements we’ve seen every year: bigger handsets, faster OSes, better screens, better cameras (with manufacturers trying to cram in even more, no doubt). Meanwhile, the not-so-incremental Chinese takeover of the mobile market continues, with product launches from several prominent companies no doubt on the cards.

5G – it’s live, and out there

Hope – Some real-life examples of where these previous promises are beginning to be fulfilled would be nice, as would some discussion about how to monetise the advantages, given how it seems operators are spending increasing amounts of money to upgrade their networks, but with no ROI in sight.

Expectation – I’m not holding my breath; the hype around 5G has been sustaining many exhibitors at MWC over the past 2-3 years, and I don’t expect that to change this year. I expect more out-there demos that essentially show it’s faster, and with lower latency, even though the initial consumer impression will be of an incremental upgrade that’s still a far cry from the utopia we’ve been promised.

AI – from “clever” to “intelligent”

Hope – Image recognition is clever, but understanding the nuance of what you’re seeing is intelligent. Humans are good at it, but just about every “AI” demonstration I've ever seen has fallen flat, particularly when dealing with the unexpected. For example: last year’s paper aeroplane folding robot that could “see” the paper to pick up and fold, but as soon as the paper ran out, it happily kept folding and throwing non-existent planes.

 

 
In the short term, machines that augment the things people are good at and increase efficiency will be a much more successful route for companies to pursue. I look forward to the day this becomes more like IoT is now; not so much about the tech itself, but how it can improve your day-to-day life.

Expectation – I think this will be the year that we hit peak hype for AI at MWC, with everyone screaming that everything is now intelligent: phones will be smart, networks will be intelligent, self-driving cars will be everywhere, random inanimate objects will have AI embedded in them for no perceivable benefit, and probably in a not very intelligent way. But, after all, Limitless Intelligent Connectivity is this year’s strap line.

Artificial Reality – in all its guises

Hope – Better demos of the real use of virtual and augmented reality from those companies pushing on with it, complemented by lighter, more comfortable headsets. I’d hope to see further improvements in mixed reality, a combination of VR and AR, which is where the real future of this area probably lies. I'm looking forward to seeing what improvements Microsoft has made to its HoloLens 2, as that was the clear winner last year.

Expectation – While Samsung are likely to have some crazy rides again – with equally crazy queues to get on – VR generally seems to be on the wane. It hasn’t taken off like many expected, partly I'm sure because most demos are a severe disappointment, leaving you feeling underwhelmed and a bit sick!

Will my expectations for this year be accurate? Will my hopes be pleasantly met, or even exceeded? Look out for my post-MWC blog for the verdict on how the reality lives up, or otherwise!
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