The Mobile World Congress (MWC) is becoming the “new CeBIT” – MWC19 served as a stage to present many new connected devices and announce what is new around platforms

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) was initiated in 1987 by the GSMA, the global association of the telco industry. It has always been a big hardware show, especially around new smartphones, and of course it still is.

However, the event is more and more ascending to a new level, which becomes visible by three aspects: firstly, apart from smartphones, many more connected devices, such as wearables, smart glasses, cars, robots or drones, are presented. Secondly, the big telcos, such as Deutsche Telekom or Orange, as well as the big hardware device manufacturers, e.g. Huawei or Samsung, are leveraging the IoT topic as a way to expand their footprint from hardware and connectivity to software and IT services. And thirdly, thanks to IoT, the GSMA is repositioning the MWC, by combining mobile devices and connectivity solutions with other growth areas such as AI, AR/VR and even Industry 4.0. The slogan of MWC19, “Intelligent connectivity”, represents this evolution very well, combining the current hypes around 5G, IoT and AI. Behind the scenes, something of a rebranding is occurring, too, the new name, “MWC19 Barcelona”, now standing for “Mobile World Capital Barcelona”. It certainly makes sense to eliminate the word “congress”, given that the MWC has always been closer to a fair than a congress. The event’s overall ambition is clear: assume the topic areas of the previous CeBIT fair and give its vendors a new home in Barcelona. In fact, MWC already is the new CeBIT, and because it includes Industry 4.0 and mobile robots, it is even competing with Hannover Messe. However, while forming itself into a broader structure definitely presents a large opportunity, it also poses a risk to lose focus and become irrelevant – the fate suffered by CeBIT.

What makes the MWC very interesting is that this year it served as a stage to make all sorts of announcements. From a hardware perspective, there have been two major novelties: in the consumer space, the new smartphone from Huawei, featuring a foldable screen, and in the enterprise space, the HoloLens 2, the new AR glasses from Microsoft. In addition, robots of all kinds, especially for the smart home context, had a bigger presence this year. However, let us focus on the software side: the MWC presented a lot of news around various kinds of platforms – from IoT, to digital platforms, to data sharing/monetization platforms, to AR.

SAP, too, announced important news around Leonardo: 1. SAP is opening Leonardo towards IoT device management, so that clients now have the freedom to choose between Microsoft Azure IoT Hub or Leonardo IoT; the IoT data management part stays within Leonardo IoT. 2. SAP Leonardo IoT will be embedded in existing SAP solutions (from SAP HANA, to SuccessFactors, to Ariba). Leonardo is currently evolving from a technology-centric platform (around analytics and IoT) to become a rapid application development platform for industry-specific use cases.

Telefónica introduced its new IoT platform, KITE, which is basically a connectivity management platform in combination with integrated, industry-specific applications to address mid-market clients. HCL announced a new device management platform, “ICE.X”, a full IoT platform complimenting the company’s existing capabilities around analytics and rapid application deployment. Alibaba Cloud demonstrated its new Industrial IoT Platform, which of course runs in the Alibaba Cloud and is also tightly integrated with the AliOS Things operating system. We have observed that Alibaba Cloud is becoming the cloud vendor of choice for several other IoT platforms wishing to enter the market in China.

HPE and Continental are working on launching a data monetization platform, expected to be released in 2019, for sharing vehicle data and thus enabling new digital services on top of it. Huawei Enterprise Business Group, who was present at the MWC for the first time, took the occasion to introduce its new Digital Platform, which provides broad technical capabilities around cloud, AI, IoT and big data, to provide holistic digital transformation support to companies of all sizes.

In addition, we see the emergence of an increasing number of low-code AR platforms, to build AR applications via drag and drop around the connected worker. Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, gave us a personal demonstration of PTC’s AR platform, Vuforia. Accenture, too, showed us their AR capacities, with voice control working in even very noisy environments. Microsoft has enhanced its AR application portfolio with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides. Guides contains an app that allows to create learning experiences with interactive content, to attach photos and videos and import 3D models.

All of this makes it quite clear that the MWC has already quite successfully assumed the role and position of CeBIT.

For a closer analysis of what happened at the MWC in the context of Industry 4.0/automotive, please have a look at the blog post by Klaus Holzhauser.

If you are interested in reading on about the subject of 5G and the news presented at the MWC, please click here for the blog post by Wolfgang Schwab.