3 Key Takeaways from Mobile World Congress 2017

Mobile World Congress 2017
Fira Gran Via and Fira Montjuïc
Barcelona, Spain
February 27 – March 2, 2017

Attendees: 108,000
Exhibitors/Sponsors: 2,300+
Media/Analysts: ~3,500

More than 108,000 attendees from 208 countries and territories flocked to the world’s largest mobile industry conference and exhibition – Mobile World Congress 2017. Additionally, about 2,300 exhibitors and sponsors and nearly 3,500 media and analysts from every major and lesser known publications and analyst firms were on the scene.

The 2017 conference program featured 322 speakers from consumer brands, mobile organizations, mobile operators and industries touched by the mobile market — including automotive, advertising, banking, health, NGOs, entertainment and education. Keynote speaker Reed Hastings, Founder and CEO of Netflix discussed how content is in the midst of a period of disruption and change. 

Here are three interesting takeaways from this year’s Mobile World Congress:

  1. MWC is no longer mobile-focused

“The fact is that MWC is slowly but surely losing its reason for existing as a mobile-focused event.” – Mike Butcher, TechCrunch

Yes, we began this review by calling Mobile World Congress “the world’s largest mobile industry conference and exhibition,” but the fact is MWC is no longer a mobile-only focused show. In its humble beginnings, it was a show about mobile & wireless. Today, it’s about all the products and services which will connect our world.

As evidence, the biggest mobile announcements no longer happen at MWC. Apple has its own event, Google didn’t announce any big launches and Xiaomi was nowhere to be seen. Samsung is still lying low due to last year’s Note 7 nightmare – but not low enough, as Greenpeace protestors dropped in on their event, still quite peeved about the entire debacle. 

While it wasn’t so much about mobile, here’s what was prominently featured at Mobile World Congress 2017:

Cars – Automobiles have taken over the MWC show floor. Mercedes Benz had a stand  to promote its AI-enabled, in-car assistant with the ability to “Connect you to your car and your car to the world,” while Jaguar Land Rover and Shell announced the launch of the first in-car fuel payment system, enabling consumers to use the in-car touchscreen to pay for gas. A large percentage of stands had “connected cars.”

IoT – The Internet of Things is permeating all aspects of business. Most of the pure IoT companies were grouped in Hall 8.0, however, various IoT offerings could be seen in all nine halls at the show. Traces of IoT could be found within energy, transportation, connected cars, connected home, agriculture and enterprise targeted. Inmarsat and Vodafone displayed IoT satellite connectivity, showing how we can connect the most remote places on earth, while Taoglas touted its ability to help eliminate lost airline luggage with its antenna technology. In short, connecting devices to the internet – outside of mobile phones –  was a pervasive theme throughout Mobile World Congress 2017. And of course LPWA is still being hashed out as to who will “win.”

AI & Robotics – Robots were all over the exhibition hall, buzzing about the future of everything from industrial production to their impending use as retail customer service reps. An especially helpful robot called “Pepper” – which looked a bit like C-3PO from Star Wars – was on hand to speak to conference attendees, while carrying around an iPad used to provide additional information.

Virtual Reality – VR is still on the rise, especially within the gaming sector, but interest is growing its potential for military and healthcare applications.

Drones – “A personal summing up of MWC 2017 would be – I have never seen so many drones.” – Saverio Romeo, Principal Analyst at Beecham Research.

In a panel discussion featuring Mobeen Khan, IoT Strategy & Product Management Executive, AT&T; Lawrence Latham, COO, Everynet  and Sanjay Aiyagari, Solutions Architect, Telecommunications & NFV, Red Hat– experts weighed in on the question of where mobile operators fit in when the majority of IoT deployments feature non-cellular technology such as NB-IoT, an LTE-based solutions and LPWAN-type networks and short-range technologies.

  1. Nostalgia takes the cake

While Mobile World Congress 2017 was mostly not singularly focused on  mobile, one of the biggest announcements coming out of the show admittedly was. Nokia notably reincarnated one of its best-selling models ever – the 3310 – launched 17 years ago, making it practically like a dinosaur brought back to life. It’s clunky, with no apps and no touchscreen, yet, the crowd went wild.

Nokia did also announce all-new models – the Nokia 6, and the 5 and 3 have all the modern accoutrements, but they were a bit overshadowed by the Jurassic Park of phones. It’s unlikely that the 3310 will fly off the shelves, but that wasn’t the point. Nostalgia touches us on an emotional level. Attendees were excited once again about the Nokia brand, therefore the 3310 did its job.

Other throwbacks that made waves at MWC were the BlackBerry KeyOne, with a physical keyboard – revived by TCL and Lenovo’s promise to revive the Motorola brand name, unveiling the new Moto G5 and G5 Plus.

“Nostalgia, if not taken to the extreme, invites you to think about the past, appreciate and understand the limits of the present and build the future, hopefully, in a better way. In the case of the MWC community, that is a good approach, especially when reflecting on unsolved issues such as; IoT platforms, business models for IoT solutions, system integrations, understanding the specific features of verticals, building the new skill sets for the IoT, and making clear that regulatory conditions will be increasingly relevant because the IoT will influence directly people through the transformation of contexts and spaces.” Saverio Romeo, Principal Analyst at Beecham Research.

  1. Concepts are finally becoming reality

According to Santi Ristol, Atos Group, “This year saw more of a continuation of trends than truly new innovations.” But this is not necessarily a bad thing. For many, the Mobile World Congresses of the past have been about what could be – simply ideas or dreams of the future of mobile. Frankly, there was a lot of hype. Where this and many other shows have fallen short is in giving details on how these ideas would come to fruition. However, MWC has begun to move past that, finally offering attendees the necessary infrastructure, while putting the right systems, policies and regulatory conditions in place for these innovative technologies to thrive in the real world.

Up Next:
Mobile World Congress Shanghai: June 28-July 1, 2017
Mobile World Congress Americas: September 12-14 2017 – San Francisco
Mobile World Congress: February 26-March 1, 2018 – Barcelona

Articles of Interest 

Mobile World Congress 2017: the biggest news from MWC
The Verge
February 26, 2017

The Best Products of MWC 2017
PC Magazine
March 1, 2017

AI continued its world domination at Mobile World Congress
March 4, 2017

Highlights from Mobile World Congress 2017
March 9, 2017

MWC 2017: Everything you missed from the world’s biggest phone …
March 2, 2017

Everything from the first day of Mobile World Congress
February 27, 2017

10 IoT Products Turning Heads at Mobile World Congress
February 27, 2017 

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