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Advanced drones, smart robots, connected vehicles, 5G and new user interfaces… My key takeaways from MWC 2017

Last week, thousands descended on Barcelona, the city in which I live, for the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC). Device manufacturers, mobile operators and technology providers flew in from around the world. They gathered to demonstrate their latest solutions, discuss the hottest mobile trends and debate about which products will have the biggest impact over the next few years. Over 108,000 attendees from 208 countries were given the opportunity to explore and immerse themselves in some of the most cutting-edge mobile technology on the planet; being showcased by over 2,300 exhibitors.

Our stand, with demos on display from Atos, Worldline and Unify, was exceptionally busy, with lots of different clients and prospects coming to see our capabilities in smart packaging and proximity services, in-vehicle payment solutions and connected health. Here I take a look at the key trends capturing the crowd’s attention on the show floor this year:

Connected cars set to take centre stage

Autonomous vehicles were one of the hottest topics, with all of the major car manufacturers descending on the show halls. We also saw car payments being promoted by companies like Seat, Mastercard and Worldline; which could soon enable drivers to stay in their vehicle when paying for petrol, making the process more secure and efficient.

5G connecting public services more seamlessly

With more smart devices in our pockets than ever before, faster connectivity speeds are needed to keep up with our demands for mobile services. Lots of discussion at MWC focused on how 5G will drive a new generation of engagement between consumers and brands, with Atos’ CCO and CEO Olympics & Major Events, Patrick Adiba, presenting a keynote on this theme in relation to sporting events at the show.

Internet of Things enabling us to interact with devices in new ways

This year, I got to see for my own eyes how the IoT is being used across many different platforms for different purposes. Wearing a helmet that measures changes in haemoglobin levels in the brain, I was able to control a toy car around a track, using signals from my brain alone. There was also a pilot on display, to monitor tourist movement and behaviour around Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia temple in the heart of Barcelona, showcasing the potential for sensor technology and big data solutions. Technology such as this could pave the way for how we interact with connected devices in the future.

Virtual reality experiences progressing to mass adoption

We also saw many VR use cases at play, across different industry verticals such as transport, entertainment and manufacturing. Further development in this area will rely on smartphones having more processing power and 5G connectivity being made widely available.

Advanced drones exhibited for many different purposes

Organizations from sectors as far reaching as filming, gaming, safety, logistics, industrial and entertainment, were all demonstrating their drone capabilities. We saw one example from a Japanese company able to deliver a packet from one island to another using a simple drone. Expect to see further clarification on regulations surrounding drones before they can become mainstream.

Robots in action on the show floor

Everywhere you turned in the different show halls, robots were on display. Chinese company, Leju, presented its Aelos robot for learning and entertainment, with Japanese firm, Softbank, encouraging visitors to interact with Pepper, its humanoid robot designed to engage with humans in professional environments (such as customers in a store or to display products). Other robots playing drums could be found on Korea Telecom’s stand, with local companies from Barcelona also showcasing their humanoid robot capabilities, through solutions like PAL Robotics.

So what learnings can be taken from this year’s show?

What struck me is MWC is becoming less of a telecoms event year by year, and more of an event that touches all sectors – from manufacturing, logistics and retail, to healthcare, entertainment and automotive. This year saw more of a continuation of trends than truly new innovations; and I expect to see these incremental changes at next year’s show as well. Conversations around cyber security were central on the show floor, and I predict these will only grow over the next 12 months. With increasingly connected devices, concerns over cyber threats are growing; and individuals with new skills will be needed to protect organizations’ and customers’ core assets and data. What’s certain however, is this is a truly exciting time for the industry, and I look forward to seeing which trends discussed in Barcelona last week make it big over the next few years!

About Santi Ristol

Santi Ristol is Director of the Mobile Competence Center in Worldline (the European leader in the payment and transactional services industry), member of the Atos Scientific Community and member of WIN (Worldline Innovation Network). He has been working in Atos since 1992, he started working in satellite communication projects, then he worked in internet/eBusiness projects and later focused in R&D Activities in Atos Research and Innovation. Since 2010 he leads the Mobile Competence Center providing mobile solutions to Atos and Worldline clients worldwide. Santi is Telecom Engineer from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and holds a Master in eCommerce by La Salle – Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona.