In August 2017, at midnight Houston time, Jake Lewis woke up to the sound of water at his feet and stepped into a murky pool of flood water. This was the most ferocious storm Houston had seen in decades, and it brought a mass evacuation of residents to higher ground in Austin.
Thousands of miles away, a group of men had caught on. They were busy examining anonymous mobile network data streaming over the Internet. It depicted a strange movement of mobile devices and their signals from flood-hit areas in Houston to higher ground. Artificial intelligence-based algorithms crunched through real-time data to show the path of the mass exodus from Houston over a period of a few hours. This analysis would pave the way for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other aid organizations to plan their deployment strategy around natural or man-made catastrophes. One thing is clear from the destructive Hurricane Harvey: big data and AI are shaping our future.
MWC 2018 examines how big data and AI will impact our daily lives.
- Getting people home faster
- Saving lives
- Creating an equal society
At the conference, these three benefits of AI were explored with several real-life examples. Three of them that piqued my interest included the future of 5G, advancements in drone tech and the intersection of motorsport and mobile technology. Here are my key takeaways from each of these topics of conversation at MWC 2018:
5G is here to stay.
Some believed that 5G would be the hottest topic at MWC ’18. And based on the glitzy booths of the various telecom giants – this was true to an extent. 5G is a tech game changer, there’s no doubt about that.
“Telcos” (telephone companies) are right to sing 5G’s praises and laud its benefits. For example, the recently concluded Olympic games in South Korea made extensive use of 5G technology to stream the games, provide 360-degree instant replay and zoom in on the action with 100 cameras around the ice rink (and cameras even worn by athletes). In addition to the impact of 5G at the Olympic games, it also has major implications for autonomous vehicles. Looking forward, they’ll be able to collect and stream data more effectively, further lowering risk to drivers to increase safety.
The message at MWC was loud and clear – with 5G, the speed and volume of data acquired will be exponentially more than anyone has experienced before. This means companies must step up their game for data procurement and storage, customer privacy and consent (GDPR), analysis using AI and gain actionable insights leveraging Business Intelligence (BI) tools.
MWC 18’s greatest hits were a constant reinforcement that 5G is coming with lots of data — and there’s nowhere to hide. RealNetworks discussed their advancements in facial recognition and computer vision technology. But given today’s political climate, the idea of balancing data protection with data availability fell a bit flat with MWC’s audience.
Drone tech is making great strides.
No tech conference is complete without a good representation of drone technology. Ran Krauss, CEO of Israeli-based Airobotics, showed some spectacular imagery of a completely automated, self-sustainable drone platform. This showed a drone’s ability to replace spent batteries and fix mechanical issues, making it possible to fly and monitor high-security industrial complexes such as mines and oil rigs.
The intersection of motorsport and mobile tech is right before our eyes.
My favorite session saw the F1 team from McLaren. As a passionate follower of F1, I’ve been sorely disappointed by the performance in the last several years of this once formidable team led by its magnificent Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso. Some believe he could be the best if he had a machine compatible with his awesome driving skills. Dogged by numerous engine failures from their primary supplier, Honda, they parted ways at the end of 2017 and now have the proven Renault power unit, the same one used by Red Bull and others.
The team discussed the process by which large amounts of telematics data are streamed in real-time. Basically, a small amount of oil pressure change is captured and analyzed by the McLaren engineering team at its headquarters, no matter where the car is being raced. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, F1 teams are pioneering vehicle technology telematics and data computations in a major way.
With all the high tech around him, Alonso joked about getting on the wet-weather Pirelli tires by sticking his hand out and feeling the raindrops. Which, to me, encapsulated MWC 2018 nicely – we as human beings are naturally social, curious and constantly evolving. Rather than labeling artificial intelligence a terminator or dystopian overlord, we must continue to explore and advance in areas of mobile, data, infrastructure and automation – not with a goal to harm, but for the benefit of human society. That way we can all get home to our families and loved ones faster, sometimes turn off our devices, get out of our connected homes and smart cars and turn our faces to the skies and feel the raindrops.