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29 February 2016

Five Lessons from Mobile World Congress Show 2016

Written by: Justin Westcott, General Manager at Edelman

Innovation, Technology

So the sun has gone down on another Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, arguably now the most important technology conference in Europe and some may argue the world. Having now attended the show for most of my career it has been quite a sight to see the event grow, much like the industry, as mobile outgrew mobility and has been often referenced now “eating the world”.

The event sums up nicely Benedict’s Evan’s view that the mobile is now the “sun” at centre of the universe around which all things revolve.

Having walked the floors, spoken to technology companies from all sections of this universe that serves mobile it was clear that the industry is in flux. It genuinely feels that we are on the cusp of something perhaps not yet fully understood.

For this reason the event, at times, felt disjointed with no cohesion in thought or theme. Yes 5G, Virtual Reality, SDN were common platforms and messages that were being pushed but equally cars, public safety, pet-wearables, robotics, AI, smart meters, connected home, drones (less so than last year) were all on display fighting for attention.

As Peter Diamandis over at Singularity has written there are eight technologies that are currently developing at exponential speeds and increasingly converging – many of which are underpinned by the mobile industry – these are computation, Internet of Things (sensors and networks), robotics/drones, Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, materials science, Virtual/Augmented Reality and synthetic biology. The possibilities of the technologies, industries or breakthroughs from this convergence is hard to imagine, and at best still unimagined. However, I do believe next year’s show could give us a better glimpse into the near future that we are racing headlong into as each of these technology areas doubles in performance and scale once again.

So, 5 things I learnt at the show this year:

  • US and Asia continue to lead the industry. There is still, to my mind, much more needed to be done to ensure the next great technology company comes out of Europe
  • 5G is one year closer; but yet not fully (even slightly) understood outside of the telecommunications industry. There is a big job ahead for operators, regulators and other members of the supply chain to ensure business and social readiness for this transformative upgrade
  • Virtual Reality will very soon be our reality. It was head set a-go-go at the show this year, with lines akin to theme park attractions to just have a try
  • Peripherals will prevail. I’m not one for predictions, but I think all paths are leading towards the mobile becoming a pocket router bringing power and connectivity to an array of devices that we use in modular ways. So whether this is our VR headset, our HoloLens display, our hearable, our wearable
  • We need a new Philosophy. “A 16th Century philosophy prevails over 21st century technology “– so said the philosopher Humberto Schwab who was speaking at the wonderful IoT stars event – yes, an IoT event requires a philosopher. The implications of this world we are creating are far reaching, but we are constrained by outdated mental models. No wonder the tech companies on the West Coast are hiring and partnering with such thinkers to frame a new set of rules for humanity

Image: peresanz / Shutterstock.com

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