It’s been customary for me to make the yearly pilgrimage to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress (MWC) for what feels like a decade. It’s one of the few mobile shows where real business happens -- deals get signed, partnerships blossom, and more importantly, sets the stage for where the mobile business is headed for the rest of the year. It still surprises me how many people in the Valley who are focused in mobile don’t participate. As someone who not only lives and breathes the mobile ecosystem but has built a marketing agency around it, not attending isn’t even a consideration. Year after year it’s proven to be a worthwhile investment.
Anyway, enough about that, GSMA is not paying me to do their PR. On the business front, there were many hot topics people were talking about -- mainly security, 5G, virtual reality and the devices we play with everyday. VR/AR in particular really dominated this show -- Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg outfitted an entire auditorium hall making a picture tell a story like nothing we’ve seen in a long time. The Dystopian Future we all read about in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World has finally arrived.
On a lighter note, but just as creepy, I got the chance to talk with “Pepper”, a robot assistant. The brainchild of Aldebaran (a Softbank company) I couldn’t help but want to reach out and give it a hug. I tried to chat with it, but as you can see in my video, Pepper might need a hearing aid. Everything presented at MWC, regardless of the type of product, all about connected devices, showing how smart they are, and how easily you’re going to adapt to them. You could even hear it in Pepper’s voice -- filling a void for loneliness or companionship. In essence, devices like these continue to push our boundaries and emotions, even our comfort zones. They offer a brand new way to experience life, but also take away from part of our humanity.
Regardless, the “future” has arrived much, much sooner than most of us thought. And that has created an impasse because... *drumroll* we’ve created all these amazing “SMART” everything devices. Yet, even with their intelligence, very few can talk to each other, maximize each other’s data, and deliver truly connected and meaningful experiences. And so although MWC 2016 focused on the theme “Mobile is Everything”, mobile has been everything for a decade. And while we can all oooh and ahhh and watch the press just salivate on stories about IoT (which to me is false advertising), Oculus, and even Pepper, it’s still going to be a long road on the software side before we make the progress needed to really benefit from these devices as meaningful, connected aspects of our daily lives.
Hope to see you in Barcelona in 2017.