Mobile World Congress offers a deep dive into wireless technologies from 4G LTE networks to devices that connect to them, which are connecting more people across the globe.
One of the world’s biggest mobile-technology geekfests, Mobile World Congress, hits Barcelona every March. For many, including Nicole Scott and Sascha Pallenberg, co-founders of tech news and review site Mobile Geeks, the event has become an annual pilgrimage.
“It’s the only real mobile show,” said Pallenberg, who with Scott will be livecasting from the Intel booth at Mobile World Congress (MWC).
This will be their eighth year attending the event.
“There’s nothing else that’s focused on the world mobile market.”
Over 100,000 attendees and nearly 2,000 exhibitors are expected to attend MWC this year. Pallenberg said the show just keeps getting bigger.
“About eight years ago it was held at an amazing castle with about 50,000 people, but they had to move to a new venue to accommodate growth.”
In the past five years, Pallenberg has seen the show change dramatically.
“It was all about communication network infrastructure, but there’s so much more to it now.”
A recent report by analyst firm CCS Insight outlined what to expect at this year’s show. First and foremost will be the continued rollout of 4G LTE and related new wireless network technologies built to satisfy the soaring demand for mobile data.
The CCS Insight report also pointed to low-cost, LTE-powered smartphones, new personal wearable devices, and discussions set to shape the issue of Net Neutrality and future 5G wireless technology, which is expected to become available in 2020.
These technologies are increasingly becoming the underpinning of the global middle class, according to Aicha Evans, vice president and general manager of the Intel Platform Engineering Group.
“Mobile technology is becoming a core element of humanity,” she told iQ. “It’s about the problems and opportunities in our global community.”
Evans will be speaking on an industry panel during MWC titled Connected Citizens, Managing Crisis. MWC is where Scott and Pallenberg meet people from the wireless spectrum industry and learn firsthand about new services and devices before they become mainstream.
Scott said the conversations can get intensely focused, allowing her to dive deep into new technologies before they hit the mainstream. While mobile phones are mainstream now in many parts of the world, she expects to see innovations such as smartphones with curved, transparent or dual screens and better front-facing cameras. According to CCS Insight, the biggest breakthrough to hit mobile devices will be 3D cameras that employ perceptual computing techniques. The analyst firm expects to see more devices like the Dell Venue 8 tablet, which has built-in Intel RealSense 3D camera technology, allowing the tablet to capture depth photography.
“Most exciting is what’s happening in sub-$100 smartphone range,” said Scott. “I’d like to see what [kind of functionality] we can get at this price point. Imagine how much more accessible these will be for everyone.”
These lower cost smartphones will help the next 1 to 2 billion users more quickly join the internet. This has peaked Scott’s curiosity about what Africa and other developing places in the world are doing with the mobile Internet, things from so-called frugal innovation or innovation born out of necessity like Kenya’s wireless money transfer service Saraficom, something that the Economist dubbed the world’s leading mobile money system back in 2013.
CCS Insight points out that while the United States has capitalized on its early adoption of LTE technology to remain the most valuable market in the world, there will be subscriber growth in already big markets such as China, India, Indonesia and across Europe.
Beyond seeing all of the new smartphones, tablets and even wearable devices displayed at MWC, Scott believes software will be an interesting thing to watch during the event.
“It may not be so sexy for consumers, but the cloud and how it can help manage all of our data is increasingly useful for people,” she said.
Pallenberg wants to see how companies are tackling interconnectivity of so many personal devices — and the data or media they create — across platforms so that all of these wireless-enabled devices can work together. “It’s becoming much easier to track my daily life with a fitness device, or use my phone to connect to my home or car,” he said.
But he sees the way these devices interconnect as rudimentary.
“At WMC we get a little glimpse into this interconnectivity transformation that we’re just beginning to see in our lives,” he said.
Still, smartphones will be the key to everything, said Pallenberg.
“Smartphones are going to be like our electronic ID. It is how we connect with people, travel our commute, and smartphones are the most important devices allowing people to step into the internet of things.”
CCS Insight marks 2015 as the year when telecom operators become increasingly active in connected home services and machine-to-machine technologies that power so-called smart, connected cities companies to track and monitor logistics.
Worried that the mobile technology industry has become predictable, Pallenberg said that the companies and technologies that will stand out from the show will need to have some unexpected about them.
“You make a big splash when you do something that’s surprising, something like what Intel did with the Edison-powered smart Spider Dress at the Consumer Electronics Show. That brought together design, fashion and technology. That’s the kind of thing others need to do in order to excite people.”
Pallenberg and Scott will interview people behind some of the most compelling technologies and livestreaming them during MWC at their Mobile Geeks site. Here is the MWC 2015 preview by the GSMA, which hosts the event.