Single-tech solutions have dominated the showroom floor at Mobile World Congress over the past couple of years. Think biometric scanners or beacons for indoor positioning and you get the picture. This all changed at MWC19.
Exhibitors at the 2019 event presented a simple formula for anyone who are looking to ride the next technology wave. Seemingly all solution providers suggested the same blueprint for success. It read:
5G + AI + Technology Enabler + Service = Automatized Service
Throw in a Robot and you had hit bingo.
One, almost ironic, example of this was the 5G AI Robot Café presented in the Innovation City. In an age when coffee vending machines are being replaced by barista intensive coffee shops, the value proposition is clear.
Most cases were, however, focused on solving challenges for legacy businesses struggling with digital transformation. A good example of this was a video-orchestrated freight management solution from Intel, presented as 5G + AI + Image Recognition. Picture you have a warehouse filled with inventory, moved in, out and around the facility using forklifts. Now imagine that each box and every forklift has a QR code sticker attached to it.
In this example, the imagine recognition component is Intel’s Movidius visual processing units and a set of cameras placed around the warehouse ceiling. The cameras recognize and register the movement of each box and forklift. This data can then be processed through the 5G and AI components to give you suggestions on real-time inventory optimization, operation improvements and more.
At a time when Amazon is setting the standard of logistics for retail, and fully automatized warehouses are leaving the experimental stages, this is a fast solution to implement some level of automization and AI-supported supply chain management. It’s not going to be up there with the state-of-the-art case studies, but it will be good enough as a first step for many businesses that still work with manual entry processes across their supply chain today.
The same thinking was applied to a high number of use cases at this year’s MWC. So, is this truly the recipe for success?
Let’s break down the formula, one item at a time, to better understand the impact they will have on your business in the near future.
5G as a buzzword has been around at the congress for half a decade, but it’s not until recently that things shifted to a higher gear.
One can question why 5G is needed (and one frequently did) when many cases demonstrated for example doesn’t show a clear need for extremely low latency that can’t be solved with existing infrastructure, but one situation in particular stood out where it will have a big impact; in remote areas with limited existing infrastructure and where services with a high number of connected devices require a fast network connection (to e.g. leverage cloud computing).
Take the example of an Amazon Go store in a remote location, which will have multiple devices in place that need to quickly compute things such as facial recognition and payments. This could potentially unlock the economy to provide more 24-7 convenience stores in less populated areas, which could help in making these areas more attractive to live in again, and maybe contribute to helping to slow down the depopulation of many rural areas, a challenge many countries are facing.
More than anything, you can expect 5G to open up the doors for new business ventures in the developing world and remote areas over the next decade as whole countries can potentially leapfrog the need for built out fiber infrastructure.
Many of the individual technologies on display took a big step forward at MWC19, going from booth gimmicks with limited business value to becoming the vehicles of real change. AI was one of them.
Real change normally doesn’t happen overnight, but in the case of AI things move at high speed. Global business value derived from AI is projected to grow from $1.2 trillion in 2018 to $3.9 trillion in 2022, according to Gartner.
At the same time, AI is an often a misused, or misunderstood, technology. A good example of this is that nearly half of all AI startups in Europe are actually not leveraging AI, but leveraging the hype AI currently has, something that was highlighted by MWC and reported by Forbes and others. This means that just because someone slaps AI onto their products or services this might not necessarily be true, so stay vigilant when evaluating providers in this space.
What is very clear though, is that all organizations need to start building their data strategy and identify relevant business applications for AI now. You will soon join the long list of companies currently being disrupted by other mobile technologies if you don’t.
In the end, leveraging 5G and AI will not give you an edge assuming your competitors move at the same pace. Your “technology enablers” could be what sets you apart. These are the products and services you provide to your employees or customers.
Technology for technology’s sake is however not the path, in the end the path of defining the best services or products remain, and then leverage the most appropriate technology to give superior value to your end users, either as an enhancement of the service or product, or lower cost thanks to higher efficiencies. Customer experience is, and should be, leading the way for every solution created from here on out.
As it happens to be, the face identification technology used at MWC19 was a perfect example of this. Instead of having to wait in line with 109,000 other attendees while someon
e manually compares the names on your passport and badge, you could upload a photo of yourself before the event and walk right through at the entrance. The right technology used to solve what’s been a bottleneck for visitors for as long as I can remember.
5G, AI and your technology enabler all play a role in building the successful services of the future, but make sure you start with identifying the problem you’re trying to solve before you decide on which technology, if any, is going to solve it.
— Michael Eriksson, President, DMI International