Mar 1st 2017

MWC: The guided tour

We’re at the midpoint of Mobile World Congress, and as there’s so much to see and such little time left, I decided to turn technology tourist and take part in an ‘Emerging Technology’ guided tour at the show.

The first stop for our group was the Samsung stand. Traditional handsets took a back seat, with the electronics manufacturer instead reserving the spotlight for its tablets and wearables, including the new Galaxy Tab S3 and S Pen stylus, and the LTE Gear S3 smart watch. This device could potentially replace your smartphone and wallet, allowing the wearer to send texts and emails, make calls, and pay for goods via Samsung Pay technology.

MWC is no longer just about smartphones, and the Samsung stand echoes this loud and clear. With its range of solutions for security, retail and marketing, VR, automation, as well as accessories segmented into consumer lifestyle types, Samsung showed how its tech could power any aspect of consumer or enterprise life.

Next up on the tour was a visit to Ericsson. Here the focus was firmly on 5G as an “innovation platform”; “we want to make 5G a living technology,” explained an Ericsson rep. Demos included an “internet of skills” application that could revolutionise healthcare and training. This involved a VR headset and haptic glove that remotely controlled a robotic arm, and demonstrated how medical professionals could touch, hear and manipulate procedures and patients from a remote location.

We are not quite there with 5G yet, and Ericsson remained rightly reticent to estimate a future adoption date. Whenever it arrives, 5G is sure to usher in exciting new possibilities, across all industries.

The Emerging Technology tour was greeted at the next stand not by a human, but by a robot. SoftBank’s Pepper, with its distinct Disney-esque eyes and humanoid movements, is capable of analysing facial expressions and voice tones. “Pepper is not intended to replace a human”, our SoftBank guide reassuringly informed us. It offers extensive memory and information-gathering ability, but emotion and interpretation remain “impossible to do with machines”.

Finally, the Graphene Experience Zone, which focuses on innovative uses of the material discovered in 2004. We saw a graphene-bodied supercar, data bracelets, environmentally-friendly electronic key made with paper, a spray-on heater, and even an example of how graphene could be used to improve retinal implants, allowing people with sight loss to recover up to 15% of their vision.

Most guided tours in Barcelona will typically take in the Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas and Park Güell. A guided tour MWC-style also offers an opportunity to see some interesting sights, and whilst you may not get to see much history, you’ll certainly see the future.