MWC 19: The future is 5G and foldable smartphones

by Carly Quigley & Leah Levenson

For years now, we have heard about the Internet Of Things and the impact this will have on how we use our everyday products and the impact this will have on our lives. This year, however, it does feel as though the imminent arrival of 5G will really power some impressive IOT use cases.

To get an idea of what 5G will allow us to do, we were first shown an example of the new 5G chipset, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip with 5G. The major difference for the consumer is that the device has on board artificial intelligence processing, which would previously have been done by the Cloud. This means it’s a much quicker and more seamless experience for the user when they are using apps such as Google lens.

For 5G, the US will be first market, however Europe is set to follow shortly after. The arrival of 5G and its processing power provides the foundations for the most exciting developments showcased at Mobile World Congress this year, from transport to retail and of course telecommunications.

5G powering our everyday lives

A manifestation of a lot of this year’s trends in one product comes from BMWs preview of a self-driving vehicle launching in 2021. The vehicle has a lounge style interior and looks pretty plush, but the real excitement comes from its use of ambient technology, which goes beyond voice control that we have seen in cars for some time.

This vehicle will be able to utilise multiple ambient inputs including voice, gesture and embedded touch control. Beyond this, it will intuitively pick up on which input makes sense for the action you are performing, for example if you are trying to turn the volume down, voice is not the best input, therefore it will detect gesture inputs. It also contains built-in projectors so passengers can enjoy streaming services such as Netflix during the drive. Of course, all of this is powered by 5G capabilities built in to the product itself.

Intel showcased how 5G will be powering new types of retail environments. We saw an automated retail experience which was delivered through a digital screen, powered by 5G. Interestingly these screens can also power 5G themselves to devices in proximity.

The screen can determine the age, gender and mood of the person in front of it, therefore sharing the most relevant offer for you. It can send this to your mobile device where you can then select item from screen and collect it there and then, vending machine style. The same screen can also be used to return goods as it will be able to access your data from the original purchase

We also saw an example of a streamlined shopping experience powered by 5G. This may seem similar to Amazon Go, however given this concept is all mobile enabled, it is much more simple to set up and replicate.

Foldable smartphone era

The next major trend in smartphone design is the foldable phone. We saw these showcased from a few big brands at MWC this year and we anticipate every major brand to have one out within the next two years. We’re only just entering the foldable smartphone era.

With the evolution of IOT, comes a change in the way we view and market smartphones. Until now, features have been a major focus (camera, voice assistant, etc.). The growing emphasis on connectivity means we see a shift in smartphone priorities. The next big thing will no longer be a single feature (like voice assistant), but instead it will be a broader ability to understand and predict human needs (for example, voice control will expand to gesture control).

Immersive technologies

For a while now immersive technologies, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality, have been showcased at conferences such as MWC. However, they have struggled to find their place in the mainstream world. Due to issues such as content development, practical application and a lack of connection beyond the gaming world, we have not seen widespread consumer adoption of these technologies.

Interestingly at MWC this year, Microsoft presented their latest product in the Mixed Reality space, Hololens 2, with a clear statement to move away from the consumer audience and put the focus on marketing to Enterprises.

At around $3,500 per unit, the product is fully immersive (a critique of the previous model) but flips up when not in use making it more practical than other products. The headset contains cameras which not only look out at the world but also look back at the wearer. It can detect emotion and can also scan for various inputs such as signs of fatigue, which could have interesting implications for safety in factories or driving. Given Microsoft’s exploration into research on brain signals, we also expect them to include EEG brain tracking at some point.

The real rise of AI

One of the most interesting, yet understated topics at MWC was AI. Whilst it manifests itself across everything, it is such a hidden technology that it never feels as present as it actually is. It often gets misconstrued in the consumer space as voice control (Google, Alexa, Siri) but there’s a lot more to it; AI powers the technology to enable smarter tech, e.g. computers mimicking the way in which the human brain organises information.

This year, we also see AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) come into play. This allows computers to process data, set a goal and meet it. The rise of 5G will bring an insanely and overwhelmingly large amount of data. This data will need to be collated and processed. We can then use AI to make sense of the data.

Right now, AI is a luxury. In the future, it will be a necessity.


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