“The Next Element” 2017 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain was yet again blessed with great sunshine. The key focus this year was once more on IoT with more cars, motorbikes, bikes and even trucks. Virtual reality (VR) and 5G also vied for top billing. Other areas of interest were Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) (with a record number of on-stand robots present), payments/mobile banking, mobile security/authentication and biometrics.
This annual mobile industry event, the biggest in the world, has once again flown by, showcasing all the latest and greatest developments in the current and future digital worlds, with less focus in 2017 on mobile and a lot more on connected devices and IoT. The event was larger and definitely busier than ever, with more than 108,000 visitors (up from 100,000 in 2016) and there were again questions over whether the event has outgrown the city’s infrastructure and ability to cope.
The Human Chain team lead by Tim Jefferson, supported this year by Richard Warren and Tony Lillico, was in the Catalan capital throughout the week, meeting with the key decision makers in the industry. We had insightful conversations with current and potential clients and partners, and as always it was good to meet face to face to capture comments and feedback directly from industry stakeholders. The Human Chain discussed our business and technology consulting - focusing on how we help clients understand the changing market conditions. This included present legal and regulatory changes and new business models, understand emerging technology and developing new value/business propositions. Specific themes for 2017 that were important for our clients and partners were open APIs (being led in Banking by PSD2/Open Banking Initiatives in Europe) and IOT - payments, security and authentication. Digital identity and the increasing ‘business as usual’ use of biometrics in strong customer authentication, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT was vying with 5G to dominate most of the major vendor and MNO stands, notably, those of Nokia, Intel, IBM, AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone and Orange. Industrial IoT, connected health, connected home, smart cities, security, drone delivery, and of course connected vehicle use cases and demos featured heavily with the MNOs promoting a mix of LPWA and Cellular IoT deployments and pre 5G hype. This is partly driven by the reduced latency of 5G networks compared to existing networks, which makes the realtime control of connected vehicles viable. With the significant automotive focus, network operators were focusing on this specific vertical, combining it with 5G potentially to drive significant new revenue streams and keep themselves relevant.
What was also really interesting was the demonstration of IoT solutions with the addition of AI and ML, with voice activation being a common theme.
SK Telecom covered the key bases with some novel twists. These included an AI driven barista robot with a slightly strange humanoid on screen face and rudimentary mag stripe reader and thermal receipt printer payment capability, a 5G connected car that will form part of a “dense urban” trial during 2017 and 360 degree live TV broadcast facility transmitting from a glass walled studio on the booth. The stand also included an English speaking version of SKT’s IBM Watson powered digital assistant Nugu.
Canonical was making a strong play positioning Ubuntu as the OS and orchestration platform of IoT and cloud/edge computing environments, showcasing Ubuntu powered robots, various industrial and consumer IoT applications and deployments with hardware and carrier partners including Nvidia, Dell and PCCW.
The event also had some unusual use cases we found amusing such as the IoT mousetrap, with capture detection and the AI Toothbrush!
The major identity vendors also had a big focus on IoT. Giesecke & Devrient used MWC to present its corporate rebranding and a consolidation of its proposition around end to end identity management solutions for connected devices, industrial IoT and financial services. Its Convego Hub solution is now integrated with Mastercard’s MDES tokenization service and claims to be the only issuer provisioning solution supporting both major schemes, own branded HCE wallets, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. Oberthur also featured a number of secure IoT solutions. These included car entry using an encrypted key delivered to a secure element on an NFC mobile phone, secure device provisioning and management, and a partnership with Sierra Wireless to secure LPWA networks.
Security and Authentication
Security and Authentication continues to be a hot topic at MWC, cutting across all areas of the digital ecosystem. In addition to the focus on building end-to-end security into IoT use cases, there was considerable focus on improving the security and its related user experience in market segments such financial services and banking.
Mobile Connect driven by the GSMA, got major attention again this year, with both a prominent position in both the Innovation area and also in official Seminars, where it was discussed alongside PSD2, Blockchain and authentication. There was positive news with many more countries now engaged with the programme. This mobile network-based authentication toolkit still has to find country specific use cases to drive real B2B and B2B2C interest, investment and ultimately mass adoption. A really good use case has been in Canada with all the major carriers involved in the successful Mobile Connect Canada Pilot. This trial allows users to log into relying parties websites using their Mobile Connect based-Smartphone App Authenticator, with identity verification based on the users mobile phone records.
This year, Open Banking API initiatives are driving increased interest in strong customer authentication (SCA) processes and technology. The Human Chain provided updates to clients and partners on the European PSD2 Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) Requirements Technical Specification (RTS) that was published the week before MWC. This major regulatory change in Europe was a key focus for many of the payment exhibitors, technology providers, GSMA seminars and also major brands and e-commerce providers, who could exploit the potential new business models that PSD2 opens up with third party access to end users bank accounts.
The GSMA has now released the second version of its global specification that enables Remote SIM Provisioning in any consumer device. This enables the device to be provisioned with more than one operator profile, which will extend the specification to a wider range of devices beyond the single companion device enabled by the first release of the specification in 2016. Device manufacturers and operators will now able to offer consumers the ability to select the operator and the device of their choice, and then securely download that operator’s profile to their device, this is a major step forward. The Human Chain spoke with wearable technology providers, smart card vendors and financial services organisations at MWC, all keen to exploit this new specification.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality (VR) was everywhere and it felt like you had to have a VR demo on your stand regardless. Most eye catching was Samsung’s booth with fresh from CES 2017 ‘fairground or theme park’ style experience for show attendees to enjoy. With the market for VR headsets still very nascent, this showcasing of the technology is just driving market interest at this stage. Interesting to see how the VR market develops during 2017, but do we really need to see smartphones offering a high enough quality VR experience, before we see a step change in market penetration?
Mobile networks and 5G
5G was even bigger this year than in 2016, with a large number of announcements of pilots (quoted at 38 by a number of industry experts) and target launches. With the 5G standards not being fully agreed until the end of 2017 at the earliest, we saw technology providers and network operators announcing updates to existing infrastructure to LTE-A and LTE-Advanced Pro. These aim to set the foundations for 5G, whilst bringing real benefits to end users and ROI in the next couple of years.
One network operator key-note speech that may have significant affect on the bottom line of network operators, was Sunil Bharti Mittal’s (Chairman of Bharti Enterprises and the GSMA) call for end to roaming charges. He said “What have we done to our industry? This must stop. I can promise within my term at GSMA roaming charges…will be a thing of the past.”
While Nokia grabbed the headlines and the crowds with its re-launched (but not quite original) 3310, there was real compelling nostalgia on display in Hall 8.1, where a sculpture by local artist Arantxa Rueda had visitors reminiscing over the vintage handsets they had owned in years gone by. Few other industry changing handset announcements were made at the event, which is telling as does this show that smartphones and tablets appear to be a commodity with differentiation from a consumer perspective limited – cameras, audio, screen resolution is good enough for most purposes on all devices.
At one end of the materials evolution scale, and in defiance of the expensive shining white surfaces, glass and bright lights dominating the big vendor booths in the main halls, LPWAN vendor SigFOX featured a stand constructed of brown corrugated cardboard in Hall 8. This was a marketing statement, but a clever one, choosing a low impact, recyclable material to emphasise the low power consumption of the technology. The construction of the arched centre piece was also intriguing and a refreshing antidote to the ostentatious architectural posing of some of the vendors.
A selection of announcements and news articles that caught our eye:
AI driven barista robot
Ubuntu powered robots, various industrial and consumer IoT applications and deployments with hardware and carrier partners including Nvidia, Dell and PCCW.
Operators Place LPWA Bets
Oberthur secure low powered networks
Accenture – Competing in the digital economy means owning the smart home
IOT finally grows up
Security and Authentication
G&D Secure Digital Payments with Tokenization
G&D demonstrate end to end identity for connected society
5G on track for 1B connections by 2025
Mobile heavyweights back plan to speed 5G NR
Nokia Unveils 5G First to Provoke Early Adoption
MNOs call for slack to afford 5G capex
DT Chief says Europe not behind on 5G
HMD debuts new Nokia devices
Samsung doubles down on tablet line-up
Sony aims high with new flagship
Huawei takes fight to rivals with P10 launch
TCL hails BlackBerry KeyOne as most secure Android handset
Mobile Network Operators
GSMA Chairman calls for end of roaming charges
Mobile Leaders Say Intelligence key to innovating
Mobile Financial Services
Mobile Money Reaches Half Billion Milestone
Mahindra and Ecocash win GSMA MFS Award
VR, AR and AI
Huge opportunity for operators in AR
Line wants ‘Clova’ to be leading AI platform in Asia
Telefónica presents cognitive intelligence platform
Big Data and Cloud Technologies
GSMA launches big data for social good
Orange sees huge upside in public cloud
For more information on how The Human Chain can help your organisation scope, define and deploy new digital services and products in the areas of financial services, payments, mobile, identity, authentication, biometrics and IoT please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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