MWC 2017 was all about 5G and IoT
By Chong Jinn Xiung March 2, 2017
- Focus on enterprise space as talk of IoT and 5G dominate
- Smartphone makers double down on camera innovations while wearables slip from view
AFTER nearly four days of excitement surrounding new technology, smartphones and the latest innovations, this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) finally draws to a close.
This year’s conference marked a shift towards a future where the Internet is everywhere and where everything is getting smarter. MWC is still very much about the mobile technology but it is also very focused on how the Internet will encompass all aspects of our lives.
The hype surrounding 5G or 5th Generation networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet, connected homes and cars were common talking points shown throughout the conference.
In fact, research house Ovum notes that there has been a shift away from the glitzy consumer launches of past years to focus the enterprise space.
Vendors like ZTE and Samsung were quick to the trigger by promoting their pre-5G network developments. Samsung looked towards a 5G home router base station and network-wide management system while ZTE collaborated with Intel on a fully virtualised baseband unit for pre-5G networks.
Ovum principal analyst for networks Daryl Schoolar, however, thinks that mobile operators need to be wary of promises of pre-5G commercial equipment because compliance with the completed standard is not guaranteed.
Coming to the consumer side of things, the absence of the Samsung Galaxy S8 at MWC left plenty of room for other Android players to grab the headlines such as Huawei’s photography focused P10 premium handset along with the updated LG G6 and Sony Xperia ZS.
A noticeable trend at this year’s show was the incremental improvements to smartphone camera technology, said IDC Asia Pacific vice president for client devices research Bryan Ma.
Interesting developments include slow motion video on smartphones like Sony’s Motion Eye camera technology that lets video enthusiasts shoot amazing looking videos at 960 frames per second almost freezing the movement of water droplets and fast moving objects.
Though the slow-motion video is captured at only 720p resolution it is 4x slower than current smartphone cameras.
Chinese phone maker Oppo also impressed with its dual camera 5x zoom technology. Though there isn’t an actual final product touting this new feature the technology is impressive enough as you get a much further optical zoom with hardly any loss in quality.
ZTE was expected to announce its Gigabit Phone that boasts the ability to download massive files in no time at 1Gbps. However, Ma expressed disappointment that it was still just a concept and a prototype device locked behind a glass cage at the show.
Tablets have taken a back seat at this year’s conference though Samsung still showed off their Tab S3 tablet. It is clear that not many device makers are devoting their resources towards tablets anymore.
Wearable devices were present too but were not prominently featured at this year’s MWC. Samsung brought the Galaxy Gear S3 Frontier from last month’s Consumer Electronics Show while both Huawei and LG announced two new models each.
Google is still vested in smartwatches with Android Wear 2.0 coming to more devices but it seems like there was significantly less hype and excitement over wearables this year.
Virtual Reality was present throughout the show. Almost every booth had a VR headset to showcase a technology or purely for entertainment. Samsung, as usual, had a mini circus of VR experiences for attendees to try.
Even booths like Qualcomm, Intel and Nokia had something to show in VR be it using an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or Microsoft Hololens to demonstrate or illustrate a particular technology.
IDC projects that the VR and Augmented Reality (AR) hardware, software and services will hit US$143.3 billion by 2020, denoting that there is still plenty of room to grow in the sector.
Another returning trend to MWC this year was the Internet of Things (IoT). Counterpoint Research calls it an IoT revolution as there were plenty of announcements around industrial and commercial projects based on LTE networks to deliver aggregated data to the cloud.
Though there are a growing number of smart devices on the market, the challenge for companies is to figure how to make this new technology available for everyone.
There was no shortage of IoT examples as companies like ZTE announced their own brand of IoT solutions to make cities smarter with smart lighting, air and water monitoring. Intel also announced its vision of an IoT future with the CityBeacon, an IoT platform that acts as an interactive point for visitors, provides air and noise monitoring as well as ensures public safety. The solution is soon to be deployed in the Netherlands.
Nokia also demonstrated how the workforce of the future won’t necessarily be replaced by robots and AI but work alongside them as its edge computing technology and Industry 4.0 solution will shape the factories of tomorrow.
(Chong Jinn Xiung reports from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the invitation of ZTE Corp . All editorials are independent.)