Mobile World Congress 2018: 5G, AI and IoT on the fast track

Mobile World Congress 2018 saw at least a dozen smartphones with iPhone X-like notches and a plethora of consumer-focused solutions and services, but here’s what enterprise users need to know about the show, as mobile devices begin to outstrip the computing power of yesterday’s PCs.

Fastest device on earth

F1 driver Fernando Alonso explained how cutting-edge mobile technologies are already being used on the road. McLaren increasingly relies on connectivity and sensors as a critical tool in optimizing the performance of all of its cars.

“Every throttle input, brake pressure input is transmitted immediately in real time to staff at the team’s headquarters in the UK, who study and analyse the data. People at home watch the TV and maybe they see 22 cars running around the circuit, but I think each car is providing so much data in every single second that I think no-one can imagine.”

Fernando Alonso, Formula One Racing Driver

 All that data needs transmission in real-time, which is where advanced networks come in. “Connectivity has now become our oxygen,” said Zak Brown, Executive Director of McLaren Technology Group, who appeared at the same keynote.

IoT needs interoperability

Numerous stakeholders, including numerous oneM2M members demonstrate their latest innovations in the IoT space at the show. Gartner believes these technologies will reach full maturity within ten years, but conversation at MWC hinted at interoperability being a big concern, particularly as the market accelerates.

To boost collaboration between manufacturer, oneM2M maintains a universal framework for IoT deployments. The cross-industry group is supported by Orange as well as IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), iconectiv, Intel, InterDigital, Qualcomm, and more. The show saw demonstrations of smart city, smart agriculture and associated technologies like edge processing and monitoring over LPWA networks, alongside numerous other deployments of connected technology to promote real world efficiency gains.

Artificial intelligence and virtual reality

Amazon, Apple and Google are deeply involved in development of smart assistant technologies, but MWC saw other vendors (such as Bragi) join the fray. Samsung, for example, explained how it has started using Bixby alongside technologies for deep learning, AR and motion detection. The company isn’t alone. Huawei, and others are also exploring the space – the latter talked about its work putting AI inside a Porsche Panamera.

AI isn’t just about cars, we also saw some hardware manufacturers discussing machine intelligence for photography, with devices capable of identifying and categorizing images by face, place and location.

Augmented and virtual reality solutions were also visible across the show, WayRay Element showed the future of the car console, but AI is moving on from driving news and search feeds to providing intelligent, contextual help and behavior modification, which is where Oath’s MWC-introduced AR ad format taps the new technology opportunity. Baidu Search CTO, Alex Chung, observed that today’s consumers interact with dozens of digital services daily, arguing that AI will inevitably become critical to reaching digital audiences.

5G networks are coming

Fast, robust, reliable networks are essential for the evolution of all the transformative solutions seen at MWC. The need to provide these networks of the future continues to drive the industry forward, and that’s why we saw key announcements around 5G. Intel continues to put its weight behind 5G, promising plans to ship mobile PCs equipped with support for it next year and announcing its intent to deploy the technology at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Intel ran 5G trials with Huawei at the show, with the latter firm currently testing consumer deployments of 5G technologies in Canada. We’re expecting to see 5G deployed across mobile networks starting late 2018, intensifying next year. The GSMA predicts there will be 1.2 billion global 5G connections by 2025, with the industry investing around $500 billion in the technology across the next two years.

Enterprises will see serious mobile productivity gains – tests in Singapore saw 35Gbps speeds achieved on the trial network, plenty fast enough to support some of the next-generation connected services we also saw discussed at the show.  GSMA director general, Mats Granyrd, pointed to the productivity benefits of mobile. "Last year the mobile sector generated some €3.6 trillion for the global economy,” he said. “That is equivalent to 4.5 per cent of the world's GDP,” he said, predicting this would hit 5 percent “by 2022”.

Next generation networks

Orange, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile and NTT DOCOMO announced the formation of the ORAN Alliance, a worldwide, multi-carrier initiative to promote more openness in the radio access network of next-generation systems.

And Orange Business demonstrated how SD-WAN feeds into the evolution of these next-generation networks. New technologies, including SDN, LiFi, and net neutrality also drove discussion across the showfloor.

Learn more about the 5G strategy for the Orange Group.

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.