The Mobile World Congress provides a glimpse into what’s hot and exciting in the mobile world this year as well as in the future, writes Izwan Ismail
THE mobile communications industry has always been one of the most interesting of all the IT branches, and the recently concluded Mobile World Congress exhibition in Barcelona, Spain, proves that there will always be exciting new innovations when it comes to mobile technology.
Global mobile technology vendors, except Apple (which has its own technology showcase), used the four-day event, from Feb 26 until March 1, to showcase what they have in store for the year, while some provided a glimpse of what’s to come in the coming years.
The lines between mobile technology and other areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, smart cars and homes, 5G and the Internet of Things are blurring. So this year’s event shows how all these are related or can be connected to each other.
How smart can smartphones be? Year after year, these devices keep getting better at what they do.
The current trends are full-screen display, curved glass, slimmer body and dual back cameras, which all vendors have adopted on their premium phones by now. The only way to create a difference is through software capability.
Korean tech giant Samsung, for example, showed how smartphones can be more useful with its new Galaxy S9 and S9+.
Besides sleeker designs, the phones offer an on-demand translation feature which allows users to get translations for upto100languagessimply by hovering the phone over the texts.
The Augmented Reality emoji is also making its way into these phones, and it’s expected to be the new social media craze.
GalaxyS9’smachine-learningalgorithm analyses more than 100 distinct facial features, including eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks and forehead, and uses that data to generate a personalised 3D avatar that looks just like you.
Artificial intelligence such as Bixby has also improved to an extent where users only need to point their camera at an object, and Bixby will recognise what it’s looking at and instantly present information related to that object.
Samsung has also confirmed that it will be releasing a premium smart speaker in the second half of this year.
NOKIA NOT DONE YET
Once a champion in the mobile arena, Nokia is slowly trying to win consumers’ hearts with its refreshed Nokia 8110 4G a.k.a the Banana Phone.
This is the second time the Finnish company, now owned by HMD Global, has come out with new versions of its legendary phones. The first was the successful introduction of the new Nokia 3310 at last year’s MWC.
The new 8110 features 4G connectivity as well as apps, including Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Search, Facebook and Twitter.
It comes in an additional yellow colour and will be available at around 79 euros (about RM380) excluding taxes.
The curved slider phone, made popular by the movie The Matrix in 1996, will be available here between May and June this year.
The company also launched four new Android phones at the event — the Nokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia 7 Plus, new Nokia 6 and Nokia 1.
IOT AND 5G
technology is not prevalent yet, which may be because of the absence of better connectivity like 5G.
According to market research company Juniper Research, this year’s MWC emphasised how IoT could be facilitated through the use of 5G.
MWC explained how 5G will be utilised by technology providers, and emphasised the importance of collaboration between players in this space.
Telecommunication companies and device makers are beginning to collaborate on how to take on this next wave of communications.
For example, China Mobile has announced its plans alongside Nokia to start large-scale 5G trials.
The research will focus on how industries could benefit from the growth of smart cities, smart transportation and intelligent video analytics.
Networking giant Cisco used MWC to push its approach for 5G, focusing on services, infrastructure and automation.
There were a slew of 5G announcements at MWC 2018, with Qualcomm leading the way.
The company’s Snapdragon 5G Module solution will cover areas such as memory, application processor, RF, antennas and battery optimisation.
According to Juniper Research, 5G stakeholders are hoping the technology will be critical for the expansion of IoT, providing a backbone for these emerging applications and technologies.
“We expect companies to reveal more partnerships and studies into how the needs of IoT can be met. However, we caution that the costs associated with 5G will create barriers to integration and uptake,” it says.
Additional emphasis was on IoT security and the importance of this keeping pace with newer technologies such as 5G and AI.
Juniper says with IoT’s complexity and fragmentation raising costs, users are keen to have simplified options and low power solutions.
CARS WITH AI
Better and faster connectivity like 5G, Ai and IoT will eventually give birth to new things, such as driverless cars.
Huawei proves that this is one of the new things to come with its AI-powered smartphone that is able to drive a car.
The “RoadReader” project pushes the boundaries of Huawei’s object recognition technology and puts the learning capabilities, speed and performance of its AI-powered devices to the test.
Unlike other driverless cars, which simply detect obstacles, Huawei has transformed a Porsche Panamera into a driverless vehicle that does not just see, but also understands its surroundings.
This means that it can distinguish between thousands of different objects including animals and items and learn to take the most appropriate course of action.
The “RoadReader” project takes advantage of the AI capabilities already in the Mate 10 Pro phone. The device uses AI to automatically recognise objects like food and animals such as cats and dogs to help people take pictures with a degree of professionalism.
Most autonomous cars currently being developed rely on the computing power of purpose-built chips developed by third-party technology providers.
However, as part of its ongoing mission to make the impossible possible, Huawei uses readily-available technology in its smartphones, demonstrating its superior functionality and ability to stand up to even the most advanced technologies developed for use in autonomous cars.
Besides Huawei, car manufacturers like Mercedes Benz also displayed its latest mobile-related technology in cars at MWC.
VIRTUAL REALITY AND ROBOTICS
VR headsets are a staple diet in big shows such as MWC but the uptake among consumers is still slow, probably due to VR content.
However, VR headsets made a good display at many booths, especially those who want to showcase new technologies in gaming. After all, VR headsets give that extra “kick” to players.
On the robotics side, the emergence of robots that can assist humans in daily chores is taking prominent space.
While the mass usage of these robots may still take a few more years, the concept and capability of these high-tech humanoids can already be seen and experienced today.
The mobile communications world will continue to surprise with new and improved technologies.
Global-scale shows such as MWC is one of the best platforms to showcase and summarise what’s in store for the whole year and the future as well.