As the name suggests, Mobile World Congress focuses on connectivity, telecom, and communications. The topics covered at the event, however, span a wide range of electronics industries and applications.
Intelligent Connectivity is the theme for MWC19 Barcelona. Image from MWC19 Barcelona
MWC19 is hosted by the Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association, better known as the GSMA, the mobile network operator’s trade group. According to CEO John Hoffman, the hyperconnectivity of 5G and the IoT, coupled with the nigh-omnipresent themes of intelligence in big data and AI, serve as the foundation of this year's theme.
As John Hoffman’s introduction suggests, mobility nowadays means a lot more than mobile phones. The unprecedented breadth of the show is apparent from these published core themes.
- Connectivity. The promise of 5G, and the technological and regulatory challenges that must be answered to make 5G a reality.
- AI. The transformative effects that AI will have the science of communications.
- Industry 4.0. The fourth Industrial Revolution, and how it is made possible by the confluence of the IoT, cyber-physical systems, cloud computing, and cognitive computing.
- Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality and the unprecedented demands that they will make on network capacity.
- Disruptive Innovation. The challenges presented by the sheer speed of the diffusion of knowledge and innovation.
- Digital Wellness. Are people spending too much time with technology?
- Digital Trust. Privacy and legislative attempts to mandate it.
- The Future. Ten years and beyond.
There are 39 keynote speakers listed at this time—and their affiliations are not limited to telecommunications companies. Their identities indicate how the new advances hyperconnectivity and intelligence will be for actors on many different stages.
A complete list of the keynote speakers is here and a sampling is listed below.
- Thomas Bach, Chairman of the International Olympic Committee
- James Forese, President of Citigroup
- Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group
- Amina Mohammad, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
- Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
- Guo Ping, Rotating Chairman of Huawei
- Simon Segars, CEO of ARM
- Cher Wang, Founder and CEO of HTC
- Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG and Mercedes Benz
In addition, there are literally hundreds of other speakers on tap, listed here. The number of speakers representing governments, regulatory agencies, and businesses not directly involved in electronic design underlines the fact 5G and associated technologies are set to burst out of the research labs and onto the mainstream.
An example from the regulatory sphere is a talk by Mustafa Jabbar, the Minister for Posts, Telecommunications, and Information Technology for the nation of Bangladesh.
Conference Agenda: An Engineer's Focus
There will be far too many exhibits, workshops, conferences, and gatherings for any one individual to attend, so the conference goers will have to plan their viewings in advance. A link to the complete MWC19 Agenda is here.
There's plenty of events and opportunities for industry investors. But what is there for EEs?
MWC19 is presenting a range of topics on trends and future tech that may interest the industry-minded engineer.
- 5G Devices: When Will they be Ready?—A chance to look at the demands that 5G will place on devices, such as battery life, and other trends such as AR/VR
- RF Propagation Modeling for 5G Design—NETSCOUT summarizes their experiences with RF propogation modeling for network design in the sub-6Ghz and mmWave ranges
- Aligning 5G Technology and Policy—A look at the challenges facing 5G in policy, such as infrastructure and spectrum sharing
- Intelligent Connectivity with 5G—Applications and challenges of 5G NR (New Radio), Network Slicing, 5G Core Network, etc.
- First 5G tele-mentored Live Surgery—A real-time example of a surgeon guiding other surgeons in a remote location via 5G
- 5G: The Energy and Infrastructure Challenges Ahead—Discusses the more practical parts of 5G implementation, including infrastructure designed to move processing from the core to the edge
- Future Networks: 5G Cloud XR Summit—What is extended reality (XR)? How will 5G affect AR/VR?
- Adaptable, Intelligent – 5G Infrastructure—Xilinx presents their work on 5G radio and mMIMO deployment in terms of hardware, from micro base stations to their new RFSoC portfolio
- Future of the Robotics Sector: New Tendencies and Opportunities—European robotics startups cover trends and success stories
- AI & Robotics for Smart Cities and Smart Gardens—A casual event for discussion with experts on outdoor robotics (e.g., robotic lawn mowers), cobots, sensors, and automation
- Reskilling for the Robots—How are robots going to impact the workforce and how will humans need to adapt to their presence?
- Blockchain on a SIM—ubirch and G&D discuss porting a blockchain IoT client onto SIM cards with an eye towards predictive maintenance and "Machine as a Service"
- Industry 4.0: Blockchains, Supply Chains and Logistics—Focusing on data security and transmission, this presentation posits that a "parallel evolution" of supply and delivery chains comes along with automation
- Blockchain Networks & Shared Economy Model for Telcos—Applications and infrastructural needs for the implementation of large-scale blockchain
- Democratizing AI and Attacking Algorithmic Bias—A discussion with an analyst on identifying and eliminating bias in AI
- The Ethics and Accountability of AI—Focuses on the development of transparency and standards of conduct for those designing AI
- AI Reshaping the IoT and Automotive Markets—Presented by the VP of Intel's Platform Engineering Group
- AI at the Edge vs in the Cloud—A discussion about data latency, data speeds, and how to move AI to the edge
- Intersection of AI + Blockchain—How the combination of these two technologies will affect data security and storage in the mobile industry
Also of interest may be this year's eSIM seminar on the challenges of deploying the IoT (identified as security, scalability, and connectivity), led by industry experts from Gemalto, Microsoft, Google, and more. Another session, led by Afilias, discusses the challenges of counterfeit devices, including regulation and data security. Chinese industry giant, Huawei, will also present several sessions, including a presentation of new 5G products.
Do any of these topics stand out as particularly interesting to you? As an engineer, what topics would be helpful to you at a conference like this one?
Why MWC19 Is Different
MWC19 stands out from other technology conferences in that its focus is not only about technology, itself, but also on the impact that the technology in question will have on a wide range of human endeavors. Overall, it is geared towards policy, marketing, and business, but it also features some relevant discussions about upcoming
5G and associated technologies have benefited from the huge amount of hype by the trade press as well as by the general press. There have also been a plethora of devices that manufacturers are now offering to exploit its capabilities. However, there are very few up-and-running implementations of 5G technology at the time of this writing.
5G and hyperconnectivity will link the factory floor, vehicles in motion, businesses, governments, and many other ventures into tighter links than ever before. As such, the effects of developing standards, and the competitions between governments to control those standards will be on stark display.
For these reasons, MWC19 should be thought of as a show not about the present, but about the future—the very near, fast-approaching future.
Are you at MCW19? Have you attended in the past? Share your experiences in the comments below.