10 things you may have missed at MWC 2018

10 things you may have missed at MWC 2018
The Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the showpiece event for the telecoms industry and is in many ways, the perfect launchpad for future technologies. So, what were some of the key trends emerging from MWC 2018? Brian Coombs recaps the event by picking out the themes that caught his attention.

MWC is a melting pot of product launches, innovative digital experiences, engaging discussions and back-to-back meetings, all within a short span of four days. Amidst this brouhaha, it is quite easy to miss out on some of the key events and announcements from the show. So, here is my countdown of 10 stories that caught my eye in Barcelona:
10. RIP Smartphone innovation? – Android phones from Chinese manufacturers you've never heard of were ten a penny again. They all looked the same, they all did the same thing - it makes me wonder if innovation is really dead in the smartphone market? Will it stay like this forever or will someone come along to disrupt it again?
9. The smartphone everyone was talking about – Undoubtedly, the biggest launch of the show was the Samsung S9/S9 Plus. While it is a high-performance device, the headline feature was a super slow-mo camera – is anyone even excited by such things anymore?! However, the best thing about their floor show was the table that interacted directly with the phone, including a seamless display across the two and automated reactions based on what was happening on the phone. It was only built for display purposes at MWC, but going by the reaction of people around me I am sure that we'll see more of such innovations in the coming years.
8. Taking a quantum leap – In a previous blog we looked at the possibilities quantum computing brings for BSS, and one of the more drastic leaps in computing power was demonstrated by Fujitsu. Their Digital Annealer takes the concept of a quantum computer and then assembles it using classical computing architecture. The result is that certain types of problems that took forever to solve can now be solved almost instantaneously. What was more exciting was that all this was achieved whilst bypassing the problems that are keeping genuine quantum computers from becoming a reality. Clever stuff this!
7. The Cerillion Touch - Of course, our very own Hall 7, Stand B61, where we demonstrated our digital transformation solutions, was right in the thick of action. Cerillion’s famed Tapas bar event reached new highs as popular singer Claudia Steccato enthralled everybody with live music. For those of you who missed it, we promise to make the experience even better at MWC 2019!
6. The Sixth Sense is Augmented - The ‘reality’ this year was definitely veering more towards the augmented (AR) kind rather than the virtual (VR) one. Apple gave this a boost by putting ARKit right in the front and centre of iOS 11 and Google launched the ARCore at MWC 2018 to bring similar functionalities to the Android ecosystem. I see AR having many more use cases in the business world as opposed to the full immersion of virtual reality. Plenty of companies showcased interesting AR ideas - AR-specific glasses, healthcare applications and even the ability to visualise network signals flying through the air. Looking at these demos, it does feel like AR gives you a sort of a sixth sense!
 5. 5G is here, well almost – As expected, 5G was definitely one of the main themes coming out of MWC 2018.On a side note, I counted at least 10 ‘world's first 5G launch’ claims around the show! However, there were some interesting live demos that were showcasing throughput of 4-6Gbps, and how this will help everything from manufacturing to autonomous cars to gaming and VR. Everyone is expecting the first handsets to launch around this time next year, but when will the revolution come to a network near you? To be honest, in all my discussions with MNO CTOs, I didn't find many European operators with solid plans for a 5G rollout. With the manufacturers targeting the larger Asian and American markets and a solid business case yet to be written for a full-scale launch, I wouldn't cancel that fibre broadband contract just yet!
4. Four years from now (4FYN) - 4YFN is the side show to the main MWC, held in a separate location in Barcelona. As the name suggests, it’s all about giving start-ups a space to show their wares and scout for potential investors. The key theme here was Artificial Intelligence (AI) - from health diagnostics to chatbots and other interesting AI APIs – we saw it all. If you've never ventured to 4YFN, make sure to check it out at MWC 2019. Added bonus – it is in the much more picturesque Fira Montjuic where MWC was held until 2012!
3. The evolution of MWC - This was my third time at MWC, however, it surprises me to see the pace of change over the past three years. The Internet of Things (IoT) has moved beyond just a concept, and we are seeing some real-world applications now. There may still be a bit of gimmickry going on (a smart skipping rope anyone?), but the connectivity layer is now a given and it's more about how you use everything in conjunction with each other. The main trends that came out of MWC 2018 were 5G, AI and VR/AR.
2. It takes two to tango - Having one camera is so passé; two is the real deal these days! Dual cameras were everywhere - with the second one doing a lot more than just taking photographs of course: enhanced pictures, better performance in low light, wider focal range and bigger zoom, among other features. I must admit that some of these dual camera phones did have some impressive results. My winner for the best innovation in the smartphone space, however, has to go to ZTE for its dual-screen foldable phone. Sure, it looks a bit clunkier than some of the other phones out there, but when you fold it out and double your working space on a phone it suddenly looks very appealing to smartphone addicts.
1. Formula 1 at MWC 2018 - Formula 1 got the top billing across a range of sessions held at MWC 2018. There was McLaren F1 driver Fernando Alonso's keynote, three actual Formula 1 cars on display, multitudes of simulators and one interesting Augmented Reality (AR) demonstration where you could follow the cars around a virtual track, watch the output on TV and get all the technical information just by looking around. The key message from all these events was that fast communication and data transfer is placing Formula 1 motorsport on the cutting edge of technology. With each car generating upwards of 3TB data per race and races being won in the order of milliseconds, the ability to shift and sort through this data quickly is a key component of team strategy. Looking at all this, I expect them to lead the 5G bandwagon as well.
0. Blast off! – We saved the best for the last! The announcement which drove people over the moon, quite literally, was about the moon getting its own 4G network. While few commentators missed the opportunity to highlight the irony of the moon getting a 4G network before many rural areas of the world, the real story was the small and light network equipment that’s made this technological innovation possible. This is bound to filter down to earth-bound 4G networks and bring some unexpected benefits in the future.
Did you attend the MWC 2018? Do let us know your favourite moments in the comments section below.