My First MWC
This year, I had the pleasure of being Microsoft’s guest at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) here in Barcelona. What follows are my thoughts on what I saw, and what we’ll be seeing soon.
Wearable technology was everywhere you looked at MWC. Microsoft were showing off their Band. LG, Samsung, Motorola and others were showing off their smart watches. Intel had a basketball player wearing a shirt brimming with sensors. FitBit had a woman spending her days walking inside a giant version of their popular fitness band.
The recurring theme with nearly every wearable device I saw, especially those that were shipping products, was a lack of fit and finish. Every single one had something that made it look cheap and tacky or that was badly thought through. Whether it be the band connections of the Moto 360, which look awful where they connect with the watch body, or the 4G LG watch that requires it’s own SIM and number to make and receive calls and texts.
It’s no secret that wearable technology is going to be the future of how we interact with computers (which is what all of the things I mentioned above are). I just don’t think we’re there yet.
The Internet of Things and Smart Cities
I’ve bundled these two because I believe they belong together; the latter relies on the former. A big theme of MWC this year was the Internet of Things and Smart Cities. There was even a dedicated area for smart city tech.
Barcelona is already taking steps to become a smarter city
Technologies such as sensors, internet-connected lights and bins, connected buses and trains and more allow cities to become smarter and react instantly to changes. We’ll see a lot more of this going forward and the reliance on mobile technologies (WiFi, 4G, 5G, and more) will keep smart cities as a stalwart presence at MWC for years to come, I’m sure.
The Internet of Things, or Everything depending on who you ask, is about connecting everything to the internet. By doing this, devices can become smarter and interact with each other. Your house can know where you are, what the weather is like outside, or who’s inside it. Based on this, it can make decisions on the temperature, if windows should be open, lighting, and more. Your oven or fridge can be remote connected, allowing you to get dinner cooking as you leave the office or query your fridge for “Do we have any milk?”.
It’s very early days on the consumer facing parts of this, but I’m sure we’ll see more very soon.
Everywhere you looked at MWC, there was something about 5G. With the rollout of 4G underway and the definition of 5G likely a few years away, I didn’t even attempt to get involved with discussions about this.
One thing was very clear at MWC, we’re at a mid-point. Smartphones have become boring, with most iteration being very small between generations or being part of the software. We’re not seeing the radical changes we’ve seen in the past. In many ways this is good, it means we’re building stable foundations, but that does make it a bit boring when you’re at a trade show.
This boring-ification of the smartphone has happened before the next exciting things, the Internet of Things, Wearable Technology, 5G, etc have become useful to a point of being interesting. We’re in a mid-point between the excitement of smartphones in the past and the excitement of new technologies in the future.
A lot of companies are currently betting on what the next 5 to 10 years looks like. Will we see iBeacons everywhere? Will every trash can be connected to the internet and tell the city when it is full? Will we all wear sensors that tell us how we’re doing and alert us to any possible issues? These are all very good questions and it was clear that MWC 2015 was about the beginning of exploration into these fields. About trying lots of things and hoping that we find the ones that work.
Personally, I’m much more excited about actual, shipping products that are thought-through. That’s why I was much more excited about what happened the Monday after MWC. But that’s another story ;)