Marc Schader, group chief executive, global growth, at Havas Media Group, reports from the show floor at Mobile World Congress 2017 on an event where the future is bubbling just under the surface.
Yes, we’ve had the obligatory phone launches, including the return of the Nokia 3310, complete with an upgrade on the classic low-pixel game Snake.
Plus, a big announcement from Google means that its voice-activated Google Assistant will now be available on nearly every Android 6.0 and later phones in the US, Australia, Canada and the UK by the end of this week.
But, for me, the big show at the MWC is the one you cannot see. And you can taste its potential as you walk the floors. Fast-forward a year to Mobile World Congress 2018, as that’s when I believe the really exciting announcements that will drive future business will come to fruition.
This year in Barcelona, the promised applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) beyond the likes of Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant are still at the planning stage, being discussed in excited whispers over espressos in every corner of the show.
AI’s true potential to drive business services will be realised first and then 5G connectivity will make its grand entrance onto the world stage a year later. And for the mobile industry, this stage in its evolution can’t come quickly enough.
That said, this week, around two dozen carriers, chip providers and device makers including Qualcomm, Intel, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom have vowed to reach a standard for 5G by 2019 – a whole year earlier than anticipated.
For now, however, companies on the conference stage are left talking about next-generation 5G wireless at pretty much every opportunity but can’t really offer much more. Despite the noise, 5G is still in our future.
“No-one is in any doubt that this is just the beginning for AI and its potential to drive meaningful services”
The potential applications of AI are at least more visible here at MWC2017.
The roll-out of Google’s virtual assistant (previously exclusive to Pixel phones) onto phones running Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 6.0 Marshmallow is a big step forward for the mass adoption of AI, and paves the way for the smart connected home.
Besides smartphones, Assistant is already available on the Google Home smart speaker, Android Wear 2.0 devices, and will soon come to TVs and cars as well.
Telco companies are also playing their part in driving the connected future for this technology and this week, significantly Telefonica has given us Aura – its new intelligent voice-recognition technology.
Aura will allow users to manage internet-connected services such as Wi-Fi and smart energy meters, as well as check how much data is left on an O2 phone or the amount of an upcoming bill. This opens up the potential for brands to make individual value exchanges with their customers which is extremely exciting.
No-one is in any doubt that this is just the beginning for AI and its potential to drive meaningful services. Until then, we will continue to carefully watch the deals and developments from the show knowing that these deals will mean that we will soon be able deliver a new connected solutions on behalf of our clients.