If you did not have the chance to go to the Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, you may be interested in my experience that I am kindly sharing with you in this post.
As a provider of Corporate Advisory Services, the three words that best describe my feelings and thoughts about the event are: huge, alike and pointless.
2.400 companies, 107.000 visitors from more than 200 countries and 3.500 media and international analysts. The mammoth fair generated €471 million to the city of Barcelona. If figures talk by themselves, the 12 two-storey halls and the throng of people dwarf the visitor, who can feel lonely and lost in an ocean of lights, neon signs and flashy adverts.
It took me one hour and a half to get my badge and nearly half an hour to walk from the south entry to the northern halls. I went there two days and could hardly see more than one-third of the booths.
Despite the immensity of the venue, it was packed with jittering people, who, unlike me, looked as if they knew where they were going, and slowed the pace of the visit down.
Far from a revolution, the technologies exhibited looked pretty much the same as the ones end-users are already used to. I know that the devil is in the details, but let’s face it, there was nothing new under the sleat (the sun had taken a week off during the fair).
It is most of the same but faster – G5 supersedes G4 – bigger – more MIPS, more MHz, more pixels … – and more “things” to connect with few small ratchets of technologies such as 360º camera phones and 3D pictures:
- yet another payment solution
- yet another “smart” phone – designed for kids, waterproof, with facial recognition to sign in…
- yet another software to secure/scale up/manage your network
- yet another service company telling that the future is IoT, AI, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, Mobility, Cloud etc… and that you need them or you will be out of business in a blink’s time
- yet another presumably smart item for so-called smart cities, smart homes or smart cars
- yet another robot manufacturer designed for industry 4.0 to reduce cost and slash jobs
The only breakthrough that really impressed me was Hubei’s flying taxi:
When I first watched it on the TV, it did not inspire me much confidence, but when I saw it for real, I realised that this drone is closer to a helicopter than the toy I initially thought it was.
POINTLESS (for me and VC-A)
Had you realised that the most succesful mobile company in the world – Apple with its iPhone Suite – did not bother to attend the fair?
Apple may share my view that exhibiting at MWC is pointless.
Why organise a fair of that size? After only two days, I was exhausted, bone-tired and did not even have a chance to visit all the booths.
I was also disheartened. None of the exhibitors I had been talking to knew the reason why they had come, let alone, what their company was looking for.
The palm went to NTT. After a glass of sake, and asking 3 different people how I could help, a “techie” explained that they were not looking for anything because:
- they have enough financial resources in-house to develop their business themselves,
- they have their internal human resources to innovate,
- the technology they are showcasing is not for sale because it is only a prototype and
- they don’t need help on sales because they already enjoy a huge salesforce
Most companies have paid a fortune to attend the MWC with no other reason than parading their financial wealth.
Let’s face it, there is only a handful of telecommunication operators in the world. Why would companies selling EXCLUSIVELY to telco operators need to liaise with thousands of dissociated visitors that will never do business with them?
Why do companies selling smart cities solutions attended the event? An exhibitor from Intel told me very proudly that the Mayor of the city of l’Hospitalet visited his booth and it was an opportunity to sell their smart city dashboard. Knowing that the MCW was located at l’Hospitalet and that the Intel delegation had to fly from the USA, I fail to see the return on investment.
And last but not least, most of the gadgets presented, either did not work or were useless.
Who really needs an “intelligent” fridge to calculate the number of calories that were stored? [Yes, “stored”, not “ingested”, the fridge is not that clever to know who eats what].
Who really needs facial recognition that does not work? [The computer mixed me up with somebody called Ze Zhang in Hong Kong – and did not even come close to my age. With coloured people, recognition rate drops below 30%.]
Who needs to operate remotely a 360º camera embedded into a smartphone? [Just ask your phone partner to swivel his hand and at least you will be sure that nobody is spying behind your back].
Who needs a tedious robot to follow you with a tablet? [If you cannot carry the tablet by yourself, you are unlikely to be moving around on your own].
Yes, most of those inventions have still to prove that they will be useful to our society beyond pure entertainment.
Because, if there is a sector where AI, Augmented Reality and other new technologies are being successfully implemented, it is gaming.
I loved the roller-coaster, formula one, and sky simulators. Even if I felt a bit dizzy afterwards and even if those applications are pointless for my business.