Internet of Things (IoT) Director, Vodafone Business
The strange thing about Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress [MWC] is that you can walk past dozens of stands without a phone in sight. The world’s largest telecommunication show has now become the window on a whole connected ecosystem of companies and technologies who are all helping to create a better future. Here are my specific observations from the event:
The imminent arrival of Fifth Generation mobile networks or 5G was one of the biggest focuses of this year’s Mobile World Congress and its impact on IoT will be enormous.
5G’s ability to handle more data, connect more devices, significantly reduce latency and bring new levels of reliability will be the definitive enabler for the truly smart city, the driverless car, smart homes, cloud-controlled smart buildings and a plethora of other applications. Even now the current 4G LTE standard is getting close and MWC 2018 was full of use cases.
AR and VR applications move forward
Improvements in the speed of data transmission will also have big implications for virtual reality [VR] and augmented reality [AR] technology. In anticipation of its arrival, VR and AR demos at this year’s MWC had moved beyond the typical gaming applications to include things like healthcare and the treatment of phobias, augmented medical training and smart glasses to help on-site engineers identify problems.
Automotive leads the way
Perhaps the fastest industry to respond to the coming of 5G is the automotive sector, driven in part by the promise of autonomous driving. At this year’s Congress there were more connected cars on display than ever before. But the real appeal of 5G’s speed, capacity and reliability is its potential to improve road safety and traffic congestion. At last year’s MWC, Vodafone launched its revolutionary V2X technology, allowing cars to communicate with each other, their environment and the pedestrians around them. And this year, we expanded the technology to include 2-wheeled vehicles with our new Giga Bike. Whether for safety or convenience, we are increasingly seeing vehicles becoming part of a shared mobility platform.
LPWA has raised its game
Low-power, wide area network [LPWA] technologies were also very present at this year’s MWC as the other key enabling connectivity for IoT. With its battery efficiency and penetration, technologies like Vodafone’s Narrowband IoT [NB-IoT]Vodafone’s Narrowband IoT [NB-IoT]have gained momentum and are connecting things around us previously too inaccessible or costly to reach.
As the number of applications on show increases, the technology itself is not the focus. At this year’s Congress it was clear that clients are moving beyond a purely technical interest to focus more on what it can do. With its ability to connect water meters deep underground, vineyards on the remotest hills or thousands of street lights, waste bins and parking spaces in the smart city, the possibilities are almost endless and a clear sign of NB-IoT’s continued maturation.
Artificial intelligence tackles data overload
Artificial intelligence [AI] was also a hot topic at MWC 2018. Research from McKinsey suggests that up to 90% of IoT data is already either unused, or underused. By enabling truly smart machines, which can simulate intelligent behaviour and make well-informed decisions with little or no human intervention, AI makes it possible to unlock the value from large volumes of digital data. Indeed, Vodafone’s 2017/18 IoT Barometer found that 79% of IoT adopters think that more than half of enterprises will be using AI and machine learning to make sense of their IoT data by 2022. If this year’s MWC is anything to go by, we’re likely to see a massive increase in the use of AI and machine learning to analyse data, and turn it into actionable insights.
And this last point is fundamental to any of the technologies mentioned here. What is increasingly coming out of Mobile World Congress and other tech shows is that our focus should remain on specific business outcomes and solutions. It is not the technology that counts, it’s what you do with it that will help create a better future for us all.
Subscribe to our blog
Explore the possibilities a Gigabit Society can bring to your business. Receive a monthly digest straight to your inbox.