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MWC2018: up to an everything connected world

We have been attending the Mobile World Congress for many years. It has always been a good indicator of the trends coming our way. However, over the years we have learned not to jump the gun because many of the showcased technologies are still in their early days or just entered the hype phase. Our feeling about this 2018 edition is a bit different, we could not really find new shocking technologies but more an evolution and maturation. Therefore, we have baptized 2018 as a transition year.

mwc2018

Authors: Thomas De Vos and Geert Michiels

It’s all about apps

Apps are becoming even more big business these days. This is reflected in a huge number of companies that offer services to monetize, promote and analyze your applications. However, we were disappointed with the number of companies that had a focus on (automated) app testing and quality assurance. Fortunately, we found our partner - and one of the most promising players in automated testers - in the Belgium Pavilion, namely: Quamotion.

belgian-village
The Belgium Pavilion full of fresh startups

Where is the AR?

We guessed that we would encounter a lot of augmented reality (AR) companies because our gut feeling indicated that this will boom in 2018. On the contrary, not much was demonstrated regarding AR. Neither on mobile devices or via glasses. Leaving us a bit confused whether or not this is going to become mainstream soon. It is probably a bit too early or it is because the main players like Apple, Google, Facebook and major game platform companies like Unity and Unreal were absent from the exhibition.

In this domain, the usual main players were present such as HTC (Vive), Oculus, Samsung… We have seen a clear focus on educational solutions (industry, medical) and - of course - gaming. Samsung took it a bit further by connecting Virtual Reality with extra sensations such as a moving platform, snowboards and other stomach unfriendly moving things. It is common knowledge that the game industry is heavily investing in VR and is shaping the general acceptance of this technology. 

Download our whitepaper on Virtual Reality

5G

This dominated the exhibition because it was omnipresent in each vertical sector. The different hardware solutions were overwhelming. Ranging from carrier grade transmission towers to consumer chips that can be embedded in the next generation of smartphones. Mobile data speeds of 3 GB/s were being demonstrated. It is clear that 5G is created to answer the demand for high bandwidth and services that require many simultaneous connections, such as live video streaming and different high volume cloud services. Restoring a GB backup or downloading a Blu-ray movie in a couple of seconds seems to be possible. Certainly good news for the TV/Movie/Video streaming services such as Netflix, but what’s most important: 5G promises to break open the world of Internet of Things (IoT).

LIFI (Light Fidelity)

Maybe you don’t know yet but LIFI is a new technology that promises a 100x higher connection speed than WIFI by just using light. Existing lightbulbs can be replaced by LIFI enabled ones and when you sit underneath it, a bidirectional network connection is established if you have a LIFI [embedded] modem. It’s still early days because we only found a handful of chip manufacturer and devices that are supporting this technology. The manufactures expect that the laptop and smartphone market will pick up this technology soon.

In addition, LIFI offers indoor location-based tracking without any need for extra hardware of the end users. It is done by using the camera of the smartphone to detect the unique ID of the lightbulb and thus your location (no triangulation yet though…). The accuracy would be much higher than (i)Beacons.
 
LIFI
By just adding a chip to the lights you can enable indoor location based tracking services

IoT

There is no doubt: IoT is becoming mature. Many connected IoT devices were being demonstrated. Many of them are focusing on the connected home: switching your lights, heating, smoke detector, door locks … The consumer will have plenty of choices. After talking to many of the suppliers, it is clear that a lot of them are still working on their island and their own ecosystem. There is a clear need for standardization and interoperability.

Connected (self-driving) cars and drones are a hot topic. They are combining 5G, IoT and interactive screens, all nicely integrated to optimize the driver’s experience. We saw a lot of systems that are focusing on driver assistance systems - using sensors such as LIDAR and other sensors - and driver safety such as attention detection. All connected of course, in real-time using 5G.

IOT
*Samsung connected home appliances running Tizen OS
*Exploring the 5G connected car using VR glasses
*5G connected One-person drone


In addition to this, we discovered a lot of exhibitors showcasing their Smart Cities concepts full of sensors and 5G mesh networks.

Download our whitepaper on IoT

Bots & AI

Chatbots were present, although not highly visible on screens but integrated into physical voice operated robots and devices. Many of them are combining the chat functionality with AI features such as face recognition, emotion detection and other cognitive services.

robot-chatbot

Interested in bots? Then you gotta read our Bot Chronicles series!

Oh there were smartphones too

We were flooded with cheap, more of the same, Android based smartphones. It gave us the impression that the smartphone market is saturated. All the smartphone manufactures tried to differentiate themselves by focusing on great camera, speed, storage and mainly battery life. We could not find a big game changer on this hardware platform, also the newly top-of-the-line devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 are just a little step up of what was already there.

samsung-galaxy-9
Samsung Galaxy S9 launch

Summary

We are heading to an ‘everything connected world’ with 5G as the magic glue. The Internet of Things is becoming reality at a rapid pace and hard/software platform vendors are trying to convince you to get in their ecosystem of connected devices and services. 

Finally, the internet as we know it today, becomes tangible and gets a human touch using voice operated interfaces and chatting robots that will learn your needs and habits using cognitive AI services. Real time, Smart, Predictive, Intuitive and advanced personalization will be the USP’s of the newly offered services. 

We think that 2018/2019 will become one of the most significant years in unlocking the true power of the internet that lives outside the screen interfaces we know today.

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