Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Future is Connected: Takeaways from Mobile World Congress 2019

Jason Cimino, Senior Director, Strategic Sales
Innovation / Mobile / Technology

I left Barcelona just over a week ago, and have needed the entire time to recover. For those who haven’t been, Mobile World Congress is an amazing event whose sheer size will overwhelm you. Over 100,000 technology enthusiasts flood to Barcelona, so there is absolutely no shortage of meetings to schedule, interesting people to connect with, or booths to visit. I took over 80,000 steps and walked something like 30 miles during my 5-day stay. The goal of this blog is to share some of the key takeaways from the event. Consumer-facing products had some flashy moments, namely foldable screens, kid-friendly smart watches with cellular, but the advantages for the enterprise stole the show.(Editors note: It will take every amount of willpower I have not to write further about foldable phones and tablets because for some reason I am absolutely infatuated with them).

5G, 5G, 5G, 5G…. 5G

Coming into the show, I knew it would be strongly focused on 5G as this year was titled Intelligent Connectivity. I left having a much better idea of why technologists are so excited about the network upgrade. For starters, 5G’s virtualized pipes will better suit the enterprise. This really boils down to ‘guaranteed’ connectivity & reliability. For over a decade, Rightpoint has been helping organizations across the healthcare landscape transform their businesses to meet consumers’ rapidly changing expectations and for our dozens of hospital and medical clients, the topic of 5G is very important. One of the keynote speakers at MWC was a surgeon conducting remote surgery over the 5G network. The improved latency and quality enable real-time communications where connectivity is so important to happen. We also see 5G strongly affecting the Internet of Things (IoT Devices). Having built many connected devices over the years, connectivity/latency/scalability of the network are issues we have had to design around. With 5G, the user experience will vastly improve. One of my favorite areas at the show was an outdoor space showcasing a robot lawnmower.*

In conclusion on 5G, one of the most discussed use cases is autonomous vehicles. Experts say that the 5G network will allow vehicles to have human-like reflexes. As we traveled exhibit to exhibit, it was fascinating to hear all of the excitement around 5G and hard not to get caught up in the advantages.

*If anyone wants to create the robot snow sweeper/salt dispenser for our winters in Boston, you have customer #1 right here.

Speaking of Autonomous Vehicles…

Mobile World Congress - Speaking of Autonomous Vehicles

One of the most interesting things I saw during my trip was a conversation between Dieter Zetsche (CEO, Daimler) & Satya Nadella (CEO, Microsoft). Both CEOs are fascinating speakers and had very insightful things to say about business model & digital transformation. It was empowering to hear Satya say a line Rightpoint theorizes with our clients all the time Every company is either becoming a technology company or needs to transform themselves to be one to succeed. Satya and Dieter expanded on this idea by saying that modern companies won’t be considered ‘tech’ companies because building and shipping great digital products will be so ingrained into their DNA. You could tell Dieter and Satya have a friendship through their true candor and rapport. Bridging the gap between customer expectations and technological innovations also applies to the evolution of agencies. You can read more about Rightpoint’s POV on what the agency of the future looks like here.

On The Subject of Partnerships…

An interesting trend coming out of MWC is some of the partnerships and joint ventures taking place. Mercedes & BMW announced that they will be teaming up to build autonomous vehicles and enhance the infrastructure. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint announced a Mobile Authentication Taskforce to help secure consumers’ digital identity. AT&T announced another partnership with Vodafone to accelerate IoT Connectivity. Partnerships are super important to sustain long-term economic success. We advise our clients to constantly be on the lookout for smart, mutually beneficial alliances.

Security & Privacy

As a consumer, I was very pleased with some of the discussions around security and privacy. Users are going to own their own data. It’s only a matter of time, and companies should start preparing for that reality. Today, it’s still somewhat the wild wild west in terms of the massive amount of data that is generated annually. According to one-panel expert, roughly 90% of the data in the world has been created in the last 5 years and a majority of that data is unstructured with limited security protection. (In this instance, data was being defined as location & tracking data, application usage habits, historical search data, etc.). As more apps, IoT devices, and autonomous vehicles sprout up, data will continue to exponentially pour into companies. What companies do with that data is going to come under massive scrutiny (and rightfully so). For the first time, there is a healthy debate happening around what a user owns vs. what your company owns. It’s imperative that you’re having these conversations internally right now a strategy to secure data is needed.

4YFN (Four Years From Now)

A short bus ride from the main conference hall led to the 4YFN section of the conference, which features hundreds of startups from around the world wide-eyed and ready to change the world. Part of the charm of MWC is the eclectic background of the attendees and exhibitors. While walking the halls at 4YFN, there were several noticeable trends amongst the startups:

  • AR/VR Startups are plentiful. There are some very interesting use cases around fashion and remote customer service, but the vast amount of them will lead to some consolidation.
  • Low/No Code Apps. There’s been some activity in this space with some of the major players who should look out for some of the young upstarts in this area. We saw some pretty slick tools.
  • Healthcare is going digital.* We saw several very interesting healthcare startups, and couldn’t be more excited about the innovation happening here. There was a startup that enabled you to quickly chat with a vetted doctor via text message, just like you’d do if your neighbor or best friend was a doctor. We also saw innovative takes on telemedicine & mindfulness applications that could take off.

*We’re extremely passionate about healthcare, and recently received our ISO-13485 certification which allows us to build software that controls medical devices. Healthcare applications are finally putting the patient first, and we feel as though our 10+ year experience building user-friendly consumer applications positions us well to help healthcare clients get ahead.

A Continued Look Into the Future

Microsoft’s Hololens 2 was the talk of MWC, and rightfully so. Having tested several different Virtual Reality devices, the Hololens 2 was the best form factor for Mixed/Augmented/Virtual reality that I have yet to play with. We did a demo of the Bentley Systems prototype, which allowed us to see a construction site being worked on overtime. A key functionality was the ability to move/share virtual reality objects with another person who was wearing the device. In my opinion, enterprises will really latch onto this technology over the next few years. I could see a world where there is a Hololens 2 conference room that your employees will enter to hold meetings, showcase projects, etc. This technology lends itself to several industries right now education, healthcare, construction, employee training but many more use cases will begin to take shape because of how much better the user experience has gotten. I still look goofy, but it’s not as bad as it once was:

Hololens at Mobile World Congress

We left Barcelona with some incredible experiences and more importantly, having identified exciting opportunities for our clients to help transform their customer experience with design and technology. Let’s connect if you’re interested in applying these ideas to your business. Looking forward to Mobile World Congress 2020!