5G, IoT and the big news from Mobile World Congress 2019
CMO, Vodafone Business
I always look forward to MWC and this year was special for me as it was my first with Vodafone. In addition to the usual crowd of colleagues, customers and peers from across the industry, it was an honour to have King Felipe VI of Spain and the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez visit our stand.
The show itself was fit for royalty, with a whole host of new and interesting 5G and IoT applications on show. Here are my highlights.
5G was the star of the show
This year really felt like 5G is just around the corner. It was really inspiring to see the impact 5G can have on business and society in general.
Gastrointestinal surgeon Antonio De Lacy performed the world’s first 5G-mentored live surgery, guiding a surgical team that were operating on a patient with an intestinal tumour in a nearby hospital. As Dr de Lacy drew recommended incision points on a screen on stage, they appeared in real-time as directions on a display in the surgery room.
It’s an important step in enabling healthcare to take place remotely – meaning that in future, doctors will be able to look after their patients no matter where they are in the world.
MWC also marked the debut of the virtual pedestrian safety shield prototype. As our roads get busier and more and more forms of transport share the same space, the likelihood of collisions increase. One example could be pedestrians walking into the vehicles path. Through an artificial intelligence application developed by our partner Continental and Vodafone’s “network edge cloud”, we were able to demonstrate the processing of live video streams from connected vehicles in order to classify behaviour of pedestrians and alert a vehicle in quasi real-time.
The low latency connections of 5G meant that we could also showcase a band performing in real-time from two different parts of MWC – half the band on our stand, and the other half on the Ericsson stand! Check it out:
MusiConnect: The future of music with 5G (MWC19)
And before the show had even started, we successfully connected 5G smartphones to our network, which is the world’s first successful 5G smartphone trial – a serious achievement – and it all took place over a period of four weeks in Madrid and Barcelona. We were able to make a seamless 4K video call on our network during the trial, utilising 5G download speeds that will be up to 10 times faster than 4G is today.
IoT continues to inspire
I had the privilege of meeting Isidre Esteve during MWC. Isidre is a Repsol rally driver who has been testing cutting-edge in-car solutions at this year’s Dakar Rally. He was hospitalised in 2007 after a serious spinal injury, and has been wheelchair-bound ever since.
His transformation since that accident has been awe-inspiring. Isidre races on with the help of a range of new technologies, including a connected smart vest that measures his heart rate in real time and feeds the information to cardiologists, and a connected smart air cushion that helps him avoid pressure ulcers and stay racing behind the wheel for longer.
There were great examples of businesses benefitting from IoT too. With winemakers Emilio Moro, we showcased the connected vineyard - a winery of the future using narrowband IoT technology to help manage their crops more effectively.
We also made two big IoT announcements during the show. We announced a strategic partnership with Arm that will make it much simpler for organisations to manage massive numbers of IoT devices across global markets at a significantly lower cost. We have also teamed up with AT&T to jump-start IoT connectivity in the automotive industry across three continents. This will not only simplify the process for car makers, but make IoT more accessible to smaller businesses.
Connecting for good
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a fantastic story brought to life as part of the purpose-led Vodafone demos. The Women4Tech Summit at MWC highlighted a focus on reducing the mobile gender gap. At our stand, we displayed the number of additional women that we're connecting globally; currently at 14 million from our commitment of 50 million, made up of entrepreneurs and consumers in emerging markets. Currently women in low and middle-income countries are, on average, 10% less likely to own a mobile phone and 26% less likely to use mobile internet than men.