Mobile World Congress 2017, a global conference for the mobile industry, wrapped up a couple weeks ago in beautiful Barcelona, Spain. After four days of product launches and thought leadership speeches, I walked away with a feeling that mobile has already transcended its traditional role as “just a smartphone.”
While there weren’t any earth-shattering product announcements, the theme for this year’s conference featured mobile as “The Next Element.” Cheesy marketing slogan aside, there’s certainly truth to the fact that mobile technology is becoming the fabric of all technology in general, as evidenced by the vastly different presenters and vendors at the show.
As expected, a slew of traditional mobile companies were present, including app analytics, cell phone manufacturers, and the likes. The most unique was the abundance of technologies that aren’t typically described as mobile, such as refrigerator manufacturers, a dedicated “drone zone,” and of course — smart cars. Interestingly, Vice President of R&D at Motus, John Petrucelli, talked about the discussion around autonomous cars at the CES Show in Las Vegas, and all of those themes were echoed yet again at MWC.
One of the more interesting keynotes was given by Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son. In his presentation, Son discussed a not-so-distant future where connected mobile devices will permeate every aspect of life — from sneakers to eyeglasses. These devices, collectively known as the Internet of Things (IoT), are changing the way we interact with technology. According to Son, by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world (which is roughly 7 devices per person). By 2035, that number will jump even higher to 1 trillion connected devices (or about 100 per person). As the number of these devices continues to grow exponentially, so too does their computing power; and that’s where things get really interesting.
It’s hard to comprehend the technological changes and social challenges of a world with countless connected devices with nearly infinite computing power. In 2018, computer chips will have more transistors than neurons in the human brain, and it will only accelerate from there. As sensors become more prevalent and the software analyzing that data becomes smarter, we’ll start to see more and more use cases for connected devices that we never could’ve imagined just a few years ago.
We’re only in the infancy of this dramatic shift but devices like Amazon’s ECHO and the Nest Thermostat are shedding light on what this new world will look like. Unsurprisingly, security concerns and unanswered ethical questions will surface. We recently saw hundreds of thousands of connected teddy bears hacked with customer data published on the Internet for the world to see. How can we be sure that all this collected data is secure and won’t be used for malicious purposes? A question to consider: Should your Amazon ECHO be required to hand over data that could incriminate you? These are questions that will require thoughtful analysis over the coming years and will need to be answered as everything from our teddy bears to our cars store information about us online.
With mobile technology truly becoming elemental, Mobile World Congress may simply morph into “Technology Congress” or another CES. With mobile connectivity woven into the fiber of everything, there won’t be a separation between mobile and the rest of technology. With nearly 110,000 attendees and 2,300 companies attending this year, it seems we’re well on our way to seeing this conference become the epicenter of technology in general.