Mobile World Congress and the Next Big Thing

Last updated: 02 June 2021


As the Mobile World Congress wraps up, I’m struck by a theme of impending maturity. A decade ago, the smartphone revolution was building up a head of steam facilitated by the global roll-out of 4G. Both supercharged the success of the other. It was so exciting to be at the center of this movement, watching as great companies launched new technologies and services. There were huge milestones such as maps and streaming video, as well as hundreds of new ways to connect, to do business and to pay for things. But most of all there was always something new to try.

Ten years after the first 4G launches, it feels like we’re on the cusp of the next big wave of innovation. If you’ve been to Barcelona over the past few years, you might share my opinion that there has been a feeling that we were reaching the end of a cycle. Nothing highlights this more than the incremental changes in smartphones which have remained basically the same since the launch of the iPhone.

However, this year feels different. The jury is still out on foldable phones but I’m convinced this next revolution will be powered by three core drivers: 5G, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. These three technologies are intrinsically linked by one thing – data. And, as I arrive home from Barcelona, my takeaway from the show is that one market should be the first to benefit from a combination of all three of these tech trends – the automotive sector.

Juana Catalina-Rodriguez at MWC panel discussion

The catalyst for the next generation of data analysis

Deloitte forecasts that up to 25 wireless operators will launch 5G services this year, and Gemalto is at the heart of this next cellular generation with the launch of a 5G SIM. And though it was undeniably exciting to try out 5G devices and see its use case first hand at MWC, the real revolution will be what this new generation of connectivity does beyond the consumer layer.

The Internet of Things is maturing quickly, and we’ve seen exciting concepts for what it can do to address issues such as climate change, crop production and energy generation. It is already revolutionizing business, and with 5G behind it, those concepts will become reality. The long-hoped for smart city where dozens of services, devices and platforms are inter-connected is nearly here, and demos were all over Barcelona.

All of these connected objects and services will be generating and transferring massive quantities of data. 5G networks will bring more intelligent ways of managing all this data but the real value will be in analyzing and acting on the data.

Machine learning and the road to artificial intelligence

Devices and services are more capable and autonomous than ever and we’re also increasingly comfortable communicating with machines, as shown by the boom in smart speakers and other connected devices for the home. Advances in machine learning will soon allow us to create reactivity and action at the edge, in the device itself, powered by an embedded AI, making some industrial applications even more efficient.

AI will make a difference in the way we deal with service providers, for example we’re already seeing its benefits for providing silent authentication of financial transactions, and in the wider finance industry. However, when linked to the Internet of Things it will make the next wave of smart service possible such as truly autonomous cars that use V2X technology to interact with smart city infrastructure.

Gemalto's stand at MWC

We need to think about securing this new world

5G, the IoT and artificial intelligence are about to radically change our lives. So much data will be generated, transferred, analyzed and recorded. The business world and society at large will be impacted.

In a world increasingly impacted by the decisions of machines, we need to ensure that we can trust both the data of our surroundings, the data relating to ourselves and the cloud infrastructure where the data will be stored. We have already seen security breaches and identity theft soar as new devices and services come online. The risk of fraud and malicious actors will only intensify as we mix in the next generation of connectivity with the capabilities of machine learning and AI, and it is those self-same technologies that will provide the defense against them.

The benefits of a fully connected world are many, but it is clear that we must all work incredibly hard to secure this digital future so that businesses and citizens are safeguarded.


This article originally appeared on Philippe Vallée’s LinkedIn profile.

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