With visitor numbers topping 100,000, this year’s Mobile World Congress was the biggest and busiest yet. A host of new gadgets, apps and initiatives were launched and demoed alongside each other, creating a patchwork of slick designs and cutting-edge technology. Often pre-empting many of the year’s top trends, the effect is mildly dizzying and the buzz created never fails to excite.
1. Virtual Reality
This leads nicely to the first of the top trends at MWC 2016. Coming with a warning to ‘sit down the first time you try it,’ MWC’s virtual reality demos stole the show, proving to be a big hit with passing delegates. Walking down the halls, visitors could try out a range of hyper-realistic, digital experiences, including riding a roller coaster and skydiving.
For those wondering what place these slightly sci-fi headsets have at an event traditionally about telecoms – it is, of course, the mobile phone, which many are saying will take virtual reality to the masses.
Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg backed the trend, promoting it as the “most social platform.”
2. Connected Cars
Moving on from computer-generated experiences to an activity which has – until now – been very much manually controlled, the second biggest MWC 2016 takeaway was connected cars. The number of cars on display was enough of a clue – Samsung, Nokia and AT&T all showed off various solutions – but the topic also dominated this year’s conference to a certain extent, with Ford Motor Company, Mercedes-Benz and even Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton all taking part.
Ford, in particular, highlighted just how integrated the mobile and auto industry is becoming by announcing its new Kuga SUV during the conference.
“Today, we take on one of the most strategic shifts in our history by expanding to an auto and mobility company,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s President and CEO.
As a result of this, Fields went on, while Ford would remain committed to its core business of vehicles, it would also aggressively pursue emerging opportunities in the smart mobility market and become a transportation services company to “meet customer needs and become part of huge revenue stream.”
While most people threw out their VCRs long ago – giving this trend a bit of a ‘Back to the Future’ feel about it – there was no getting away from the fact that video is hot again. But before the thought of grainy pictures and settling down to watch a film that has not been rewound leaves you feeling cold, be assured that the video being talked about at MWC 2016 bears no resemblance to yesteryear’s format.
In fact, it couldn’t be further away, with the video solutions being proposed featuring crisp, clear HD video available to watch anywhere, everywhere and across multiple devices.
Again, Zuckerberg reinforced this vitality of video in the future, praising the format in his keynote on the first day of the show.
4. Mobile Enterprise
Away from the consumer sphere, a number of companies had taken the latest must-have items and applied them to the business space – earning enterprise more than a moment in the spotlight.
It was another topic which featured heavily at the conference, with representatives from DAQRI, ProGlove, Atheer Labs and Vuzix Corporation presenting in the session ‘Enterprise Wearables for Improved Productivity and Safety.’ Other GSMA seminars relating to this included ‘The Industrial Internet of Things’ and an ‘Enterprise Mobility CIO Roundtable.’
While last on the list, 5G deserves a mention due to its once again prominent role in 2016’s conference. However, its position at the bottom of the list is no accident as while it has the potential to transform our lives, it still seems a long way off, with the first versions of 5G are unlikely to be ready before 2020.
That being said, many of the technologies which will eventually be used for 5G are available today and were being showcased at MWC 2016.