Mobile World Congress – Highlights

Mobile World Congress - Highlights

With 2,300 exhibitors and over 300 speakers, Barcelona’s Mobile World Conference (MWC) is mammoth. Even if you attended in person, you couldn’t have seen all of it, but that’s not a problem. Whether you made it to the Catalonian capital or not, we’ve picked out the most interesting – and important – stories from the show.

The fourth industrial revolution

MWC is about so much more than just phones. It’s an essential gathering for manufacturers and operators of anything – and everything – that connects to a mobile network.One of the key themes this year was the fourth industrial revolution, a snappy shorthand for the way that the physical, digital and biological worlds are merging. Think wearables and biometrics.

FotoNation’s FaceSafe technology is set to extend Apple-style facial unlocking to a wider range of devices. FotoNation’s implementation not only recognises users on sight – it also checks that they’re alive and alert, with a state-of-the-art anti-spoofing mechanism that only makes a mistake for one in every million scans.If you used it to unlock your phone twenty times a day, you’d need to stick with the same handset for 136 years before it slipped up. It’s been optimised to use the least memory and processor power it can, but still processes a face – and acts on it – in 150 milliseconds. That’s twice the speed of the average blink.It looks to us like thumbprint readers are living on borrowed time.

Tech in society

On the wearables front, Coolpad used MWC to showcase its 4G LTE-connected smart trackers. Not only targeting physical assets, like cars and plant equipment, Coolpad has been working on a range of watches for kids and the elderly so that worried family members can keep an eye on their movements. With bi-directional calling, long battery life, and both indoor and outdoor positioning using GPS, Wi-Fi and 4G triangulation, they could be the first trackers anyone would actually want to wear.

One thing they can’t do is process payments, but then not everyone wants to pay with a tap of their wrist or phone. That’s why Dynamic Inc’s Wallet Card caught our eye. With 200 internal components including a cell phone chip and antenna, a battery with organic recharging and a 65,000-pixel display, it’s smarter than your average credit card and allows two-way communication between a bank and its customers.This should mean fewer failed transactions, as shoppers can respond to fraud alerts immediately and verify that a transaction really is valid. And, if they’re trying to spend beyond their credit limit, the bank can use the card’s integrated screen to offer an increase, which the shopper can accept or decline on the spot.

GLOMO award winners

Wallet Card was shortlisted in three categories in the event’s Global Mobile (GLOMO) Awards, which are judged by a panel of 250 industry experts. It didn’t win but it can go home with its head held high: no single product received more nominations at the show.

Samsung Pay clinched the Best Mobile Innovation for Payment award for being “highly secure, widely available, accepted almost anywhere that you can tap or swipe a card, [and having] ATM compatibility and an integrated awards programme”. It was, said the judges, “a worthy winner”.But the star of the show was Huawei, which is flying back to China with eight GLOMOs in its excess baggage. After the first seven, which included both the Best Hardware and Best Network Software categories, it can’t have been a surprise that it won the overall crown for Outstanding Contribution to the Mobile Industry. Recognised for the way it’s pushed the industry forward, its advocacy of cloud-centric business and its leadership in digital transformation, it was not only one of the biggest winners, but also one of the biggest exhibitors, taking eight stands in three different halls.

Privacy on parade

Huawai used the event to debut one of the best-looking Windows laptops we’ve ever seen. The MateBook X Pro has a 4mm bezel for an almost edge-to-edge touch-sensitive display, and a 12-hour battery for all-day working. It also has a smart camera that pops up from beneath the keyboard, so it’s immediately obvious if someone is snooping on you.It sits alongside the Mate10 Pro, a smarter mobile built around the world’s first AI (Artificially Intelligent) processor with built-in neural network processing. Aside from boosting efficiency – by 50x, according to Huawei – the on-board neural processing chip performs a lot of functions that some rivals offload to the cloud. A good example of this would be speech recognition. Decoding it on the device rather than remotely is a welcome privacy boost.

Securing the Internet of Things

It’s not just laptops and mobile where security counts. Avast, best-known for its AVG antivirus products, used MWC to announce its Smart Life platform, which protects the smart bulbs, plugs and thermostats that are becoming increasingly common at home. With news that the number of connected devices – the so-called Internet of Things or IoT – is set to treble by 2025, the launch is perfectly timed.Smart Life uses artificial intelligence to ‘learn’ how you use your IoT devices and, when it spots any deviation, it throws up an alert. So, if it notices lights coming on, the temperature dropping, or a door being opened, it might assume you’ve got an intruder and send an alert to your mobile. This is a logical extension to Avast’s existing activities. It’s already skilled in detecting virtual Trojans; now it’s looking out for the real thing.

Alexa, turn off the Internet

While Avast was announcing Smart Life, one of its biggest rivals, McAfee, was showcasing its Amazon Alexa integration. Users of McAfee’s Secure Home Platform and Amazon’s connected Echo speakers, can scan their network, block devices and pause internet access at will, using nothing more than their voice. Secure Home works with a range of routers to block threats before they get as far as your network – so despite its name, it’s something we’d recommend small business users take a look at, too.

Broadband on the road, wherever you are

Outside of the home and office, Kymeta demonstrated a seamless connectivity solution for public and private vehicles. Staying online on the road isn’t a problem in cities and urban areas where 4G – and soon 5G – is common. Out in countryside it’s a different story, and that can be a problem for emergency first responders. Kymeta has the solution, with a vehicle that automatically switches to satellite broadband as soon as the cell network drifts out of range. Kymeta personnel flew to Puerto Rico to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, so to illustrate its technology it brought its Mobile Rapid Response Vehicle to MWC. With a satellite connection provided by Intelsat, it doesn’t need traditional dishes on-board, which makes the solution equally suited to buses, trucks and even high-speed trains where bulky exterior hardware would be vulnerable to damage or wind resistance.

An old favourite, updated

While these are all exciting steps forward, one story dominated in the world beyond the mobile industry.Samsung used MWC as the forum to launch its latest phones, the Galaxy S9 and S9+. The biggest update isn’t to the networking chips under the hood, but the camera on the back, which now supports dual apertures to emulate the human eye. In the dark, it opens up to maximise the light it captures and minimise grain in your shots. In daylight, it narrows again to increase the amount of the scene that’s in focus. For globe-trotting business users, there’s also a smart visual translation tool.

Point the camera at whichever text you can’t read, and it’s translated on the fly. If you’re trying to navigate a foreign subway, or impress clients by ordering like a local in their favourite restaurant, it’s a must. Prices start at £739 and the phones ship this month. This year’s Mobile World Congress has had something for everyone. Businesses and consumers alike will benefit from increased security, faster devices and new ways to get online – and stay online – wherever they happen to be.

At Sales Force Europe, we’re already thinking about the ways they’ll help us collaborate and stay in touch, and how we can help our clients implement them in their own organisations. Whether you made it to the show or you’ve been watching from the side lines, I’d love to know what you thought – and how these developments are going to change the way you work over the next 12 months.Get in touch or call my mobile on +34 659 449 202.

Rick Pizzoli, CEO & Founder

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