Technology is an inevitable ingredient in humanity’s future. The exact shape of that future will largely depend on the technologies that eventually shape our daily lives. MWC Barcelona 2019 (formerly the Mobile World Congress) has a fairly clear idea what some of these will be.
The latest edition of the leading global event for mobile technologies has taken the term Intelligent Connectivity as its motto because it will examine the crossroads where the hyperconnectivity enabled by 5G and the Internet of Things, or IOT, intersects with the intelligence offered by AI and Big Data.
Artificial Intelligence is taking its first steps with virtual assistants such as Alexa or Siri, while the Internet of Things has already produced multiple applications in urban planning and industry and the analysis enabled by Big Data has begun to produce results in fields such as medicine or marketing. The tide that will lift all these ships is the fifth generation of mobile communication technologies, 5G, which will enable massive progress in a number of fields:
Remote surgery will be a real possibility thanks to 5G. Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic is the first of its kind to have this technology. The operating theatre will use it for the first time on 27 February, during the MWC Barcelona, operating via streaming through a deal between the Clinic, the Barcelona 5G platform, Vodafone and the Advances in Surgery Channel company.
2. Connected vehicles
Fully self-driving, unmanned cars are advancing ever closer to becoming a reality. So far, we are at stage 3 in terms of vehicle autonomy; Stage 4 means that the vehicle would be fully automated during the whole journey under certain conditions, with passengers able to take over the driving where necessary. When we arrive at stage 5, the vehicles will have neither steering wheels nor pedals. We will be able to call the vehicle using our mobile app, climb aboard and be taken to our destination.
There are several companies, including Waymo, Uber, Tesla, General Motors / Cruise, Nissan, Mercedes, BMW and Ford with Google, who are testing stage 4 vehicles on public roads and who have got stage 5 in their sights. The low latency or time lag offered by 5G will be necessary to achieve the next stages.
The continuing advances in online commerce and smart last-mile logistics mean that the next step forward will be unmanned deliveries. We will be able to shop with our smartphones and receive the deliveries quickly, safely and at a lower cost. The purchasing and transport systems will engage with the security controls of our smart homes to enable drones to make large numbers of deliveries with total flexibility. Amazon Prime Air, Boston Dynamics and others are currently working to introduce fleets of autonomous drones that can deliver orders by road or air in practically any type of terrain.
Fast, mobile low-latency connections to powerful cloud-based game servers will enable players to enjoy the latest virtual reality games anywhere, without the cost or inconvenience of bulky equipment or consoles. Those playing will benefit from more exciting gaming experiences, with greater freedom of movement thanks to virtual and augmented reality and closer interaction between the real world and that of the game. Verizon and HTC Viu’s broadcasts of the Super Bowl have shown how 5G can allow viewers to enjoy a 180º view of the stadium in real time.
Smart connectivity means higher crop yields and quality and improved livestock handling through the monitoring of soil conditions, more appropriate use of pesticides and fertilisers, better animal welfare and more accurate forecasts of weather conditions. Big Data platforms, aided by IA, can absorb diverse sources of information in real time and take decisions about food production. Connected drones are already in use for fumigating crops, managing soil conditions and aerial observation.
One example of this is a project to monitor beehives, which are badly affected by pollution, because pollination is crucial for the success of many crops and can increase world food production by a third. Deutsche Telecom has developed connected beehives as a way of increasing bee populations. Bee Corp, NimbeLink and Verizon are testing LTE-M to link beehives to AI-assisted smart platforms to improve their management of the bee colonies in California.