Following a couple of tricky years in the events industry, it was exciting to see over 60,000 people in attendance at MWC Barcelona. However, it never felt like we were sharing any of the event, as stands, speakers and inventions spread across seven enormous halls. With an equally huge array of topics on the table, the event was divided into six core themes, under the principal topic of ‘Connectivity Unleashed’. In this blog, we share how each of the themes came to life.
5G was by far the biggest, most fascinating theme at MWC Barcelona. Not to be mistaken as an advancement of its predecessors (2G, 3G and 4G), it was truly awe-inspiring to see how 5G is set to evolve every sector to new heights of connectivity – while being up to 90% more efficient. Thanks to low latency and greater speed, the network opens up the potential to implement the things that industries have been crying out for such as smart cities, autonomous vehicles, VR (without the motion sickness) and more. In manufacturing, 5G integrates into cranes and vehicles, to improve employee safety. Similarly, for mobility, BMW discussed new technology, utilising 5G, that will help vehicles understand and accommodate daily road conditions. Hayes Mackaman (from 8i Reality) even used biometric video to connect via 5G to our screens. This showcased an impressive use-case first hand!
In the race to 5G, speed would traditionally be considered the key metric. However, now the evolution of networks is looking to improve customer experience, as Meta shared. Reduced latency, symmetric bandwidth and ongoing consistency are now priorities to make our interactions using 5G richer. But what’s next? There were a lot of questions about the future of 5G, and even some conversations about 6G. Holographic transmissions, broad-based digital twins, the metaverse of everything and 6th sense networks were all on the table. But will 6G be more evolutionary than revolutionary? And are these kinds of conversations too early? Possibly, in the eyes of the round-up panel, with 5G set to cover just one-third of the world by 2025.
A key driver of industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is just scratching the surface when it comes to transformative impact, with much more to come. Its use across industries is widespread, making products and services effective, reliable, and safer. In the future, experts predict machines will learn to work with us, as opposed to being something we learn to accommodate.
We found that the cloud is a key enabler of large-scale transformation and, at MWC, was overwhelmingly regarded as something users wish they’d adopted earlier. When coupled with edge computing, the experience for all is vastly improved, and the benefits are clear. Greater efficiency, scalability, transparent cost models and capacity planning are all key features of a cloud-based network, allowing the eventual move to everything as a service.
Internet of everything
The recruitment of tech into the cloud has been a resounding success, with almost everything we can think of connected, and more to come (especially in the case of B2B tech). Using IoT, innovators are looking to transform traditional spaces into the virtual world, and not only because it looks good. Digital twins were a huge talking point at MWC Barcelona, offering the ability to look to the future with true-to-form models capable of stress testing, supporting health and safety and optimising logistic workflows. Despite these valuable use-cases, Accenture shared an interesting statistic – 65% of companies are “underusing” digital twins, seeing it as just a visualisation tool. Wait until they find out what more they can do with it.
Wearable tech was also a huge talking point throughout MWC Barcelona, with a marked shift from B2C to B2B uses. Real-time brain scanning headgear was tipped to make (brain) waves in the healthcare sector, while AR and VR could be found at every turn to show a glimpse into the future, more specifically, the metaverse. Before we all pack up and join the aforementioned, we sussed out a pretty interesting use-case for AR a bit closer to Earth in soft skills training, used to show the effect of racial bias and employee side-lining.
And we shouldn’t forget that it’s not all about replacing physical events with virtual ones. Although the pandemic fast-forwarded the reality of metaverse, Meta states that the work they’re doing is to make what we do online “better and more meaningful”. Likewise, Godmother of the Metaverse Cathy Hackl shared how the experiences and connections made online are just as real as for those that experience them in reality – both highlighting how the online universe adds to our lives, rather than replacing anything.
Fintech was also a welcomed topic, as growth has accelerated over the past 5 years. Digital currencies, NFT’s and blockchain were huge talking points, and an acceptance that mobile connectivity must embrace new methods of payment was shared among attendees.
Going beyond industry developments, this theme focussed on how mobile is transforming our future. Further inspiring the next generation of innovators to re-invent and re-imagine our world. But first, making sure that the current online space is accessible to all is key. I-Stem, an AI-powered platform for students with disabilities, reiterates the importance of inclusivity. The brand looks to understand how we can make both the online and physical world more welcoming to all, using technology. It was great to see this investment in inclusivity was already realised at MWC, as all the key sessions were supported with sign language.
Security and trust are further barriers to adoption. Technology has always suffered from mistrust (“TV’s will make your eyes square” – that aged well), but if we truly imagine metaverse as the future, we need to build transparency, personalisation, and context-rich experiences – putting users at the heart of the connected world.
Finally, NTT Global shared some really provoking thoughts in the event wrap-up. First, on sustainability – how do we stay in touch with Earth when we are entwined in the digital world, and will we care less about land-based issues such as sustainability? And on privacy – technology should allow us to live our best lives, not predict our every move. A lot to think about.
To sum up
We enjoyed every moment of this impressive event. From the people on stage to those exploring and networking, it was truly a week of insight to remember. It was eye-opening to discuss our favourite subject with many new faces, and we hope this blog has given just a taste of the topics explored. To see it all in action and truly feel connected to the future was mind-boggling. Thank you to the event organisers (GSMA and 4YFN), the speakers and everyone who inspired us. Now, we take it all back and share our experiences with colleagues.
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