March is Mobile World Congress month in Barcelona, and once again the circus rolled into town to put on the largest mobility event in the world. With well over 100,000 attendees and 9 football-field sized halls, MWC seems to get bigger and more intimidating every time. As always, the event attracted some of the biggest names in tech including the likes of Google, LG, Sony and Samsung, and as always the usual suspects were missing [Apple?]. This year’s tech gathering presented an interesting range of the old and the new, with companies such as Nokia and Blackberry making a comeback at the show.
The MOBGEN team was lucky enough to have some prime real-estate at the Accenture Digital stand in Hall 2 for our showcase of a world first connected-car project. In collaboration with Shell and Jaguar Land Rover, we exhibited our in-car payments system, powered by the Shell Motorist app and an eye-catching white Range Rover. We were also pretty chuffed to be presented with a 2017 Global Mobile Award in the Best Use of Mobile for Retail, Brands & Commerce category, for the Shell app.
Highlights from the event
So what else was going on at the event? Actually it felt like the trends of last year were still mostly the same, but maybe with a little more focus. 5G is still effectively an idea, but a more tangible one. VR is everywhere but there is an even bigger focus on AR or MR. Connected cars were popular, but Carplay and Android Auto were not. IoT stands seemed to take up about half of all the real-estate within the expo halls, and the tech buzzwords were in abundance. Wearables were popular, but they seem to be more sensible now that we have actual sales trends to learn from. And graphene will definitely save the world.
One of the biggest hits was a huge slice of nostalgia: Released in 2000, the Nokia 3310 was one of the best-selling mobile phones of all time and quickly became an iconic gadget in the modern technological world. Nokia announced the rebooted version at the event, showcasing its near-original design and the classic Snake game we all know and love in a new and updated format. It feels good in the hand, has killer battery life, and we are sure it will sell like hot cakes as a starter or ‘festival’ phone.
One of the big mobile hypes was of course around 5G – the fifth generation of wireless technology – with expected speeds to be significantly faster than current home broadband. It goes without saying that this is something that is causing excitement in the mobile world, as it can unleash the potential of many other contemporary technologies such as streaming virtual reality. Concrete details are still not fully defined, but 5G feels closer than ever.
Our favourite part of the whole event is hidden in the last hall, where they keep the scientists in their lab coats: the ‘Graphene Experience Zone’. Graphene is the world’s first 2D material that is immensely tough, flexible and cheap to use. If it were possible, I imagine Elon Musk would coat himself with graphene and become even more like Tony Stark. The focus of the Graphene stand was on five key innovation areas: Datacom, Energy, Composites, Wearables and Health, and IoT and Sensors. Each area involved awesome specialised prototypes and demonstrations, and the PhD candidate behind each of the research topics was on hand to try to explain it to the rest of us. Learning about how graphene can be used to revolutionise energy storage, wearable technologies and electric sportscars got us truly excited to see where this material could take us in the future of technology.
VR/AR/MR headsets and drones were front and centre at the event. The hype surrounding these products in the technology industry was certainly clear, with new and already established devices around every corner. Of course the MOBGEN:Lab team is experimenting with these technologies on a daily basis, but there were still a few surprises that grabbed our attention, particularly in the new DJI pro-grade drones and the proliferation of cheap but capable robots. The post Google-glass game is also quite strong, with AR glasses clearly evolving to focus on industrial applications rather than mainstream appeal.
In the end, it is the people that attend that are the main reason to be at MWC. The handshakes and card exchanges, the networking, the awards and the parties are next-level, as we essentially have the collected global mobility expertise in one place at one time. Once you get away from the stands and the brands, the discussion is not about the technology but about the experience and the ability to deliver. There are still many strategy demonstrations and prototype services being shown, but the real appetite is for what is available now, or within the next 6 months. The speed of innovation is so great that it felt like only the actual, tangible products were able to raise their heads above the noise. Yet another reason to be extremely proud of the MOBGEN team who delivered one of the few real connected-car products at MWC 2017.
See you next year!
Images credits – Morgan Mullooly. Video credits – Nick Mueller & Meeuwes van Dijk.