This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC)—appropriately named for the swaths of people and industry experts that flood the halls of Fira de Barcelona—did not disappoint. With more than 120,000 exhibitors, from data cloud managers and solution providers to mobile retailers and operators, this year’s mobile technology show highlighted the most innovative products and services that will not only influence the future of communication and business, but change it.

Three key themes that were evident throughout the four-day showcase were 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), and the overall consumer experience.

5G: The Future of Connectivity

While the discussion around 5G is not a novelty, its application in the very near future felt more real at MWC 2018. Mobile operators at the show were discussing and showcasing the future application of 5G, bringing increased bandwidth and low latency to devices. One of the biggest challenges around this, however, is its return on investment. Mobile operators will have to pump in huge investments and effort to actively and successfully reach this next step in connectivity.

The real question around 5G, though, is its application. MWC 2018 was full of demos showing 5G improvements in throughput and latency, but consumers can already stream high-definition video and hold video calls on their mobile devices with current networks and connectivity. Just like the iPhone sparked demand for 3G networks at its launch, there needs to be a compelling use case for 5G networks beyond “more bandwidth.” This “killer application” of 5G, be it consumer or enterprise driven, will be key in determining the business model and commercial success of this technology.

 

The Internet of “All” Things

Despite the fact that we are already living in a world where we’re seeing and feeling the connections between people, devices and things, the use cases of IoT are rapidly expanding to enable entire smart cities. And while a lot of what we see in the IoT arena revolves around its application in consumer technology, the focus at MWC was on the technology’s industrial application, such as manufacturing, logistics, smart cities, and autonomous cars.

Even more so this year than previously, the connected car was in evidence everywhere. Mobile operators, solution providers and technology vendors showcasing IoT technology had a car and attendees could witness a plethora of demos on connected vehicle use cases.

IoT is one of the main pillars of digital transformation among enterprises, and with its rapid implementation throughout various industries and markets, some of the companies present at MWC were newcomers—businesses built on IoT. And while the business outcomes from the applications are the driving force behind IoT interest and adoption, one complexity facing enterprises is that of IoT connectivity. Enterprises must choose from a range of connectivity technologies and providers in order to get the desired coverage and price in a way that avoids lock-in. Simplicity for the enterprise will come through working with partners that can take this complexity away with transparent business models.

Enriching the Consumer Experience

This year saw a few new mobile devices from retailers—with new features, enhanced design and special functions—all aimed at enhancing the overall consumer experience. But, the majority of the changes that were evident on the MWC floor did not center on the device itself, but focused around the software within it; in particular, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). There were some engaging and compelling demos that combined VR, IoT, and 5G in which robots were guided by human actions using VR. Seeing it all work together showcased the meaning of very low latency.

Behind all of this software—machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality—lies the question of how an enterprise can improve the customer experience and effectively engage with everyone, everywhere.

Businesses have these emerging technologies at their fingertips and can engage with consumers in any way and through any channel. What consumers now expect is a rich experience that will allow them to retrieve the answer or solution they need, quickly, and conveniently. This is where companies are learning best practices for digital marketing and customer service, and where we will see the march towards successful customer engagement continue at MWC 2019.

This article originally appeared in the SAP D!gitalist magazine and has been republished with permission.