Is there a future for Edge Data Centres? 

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By Blue IoT Founder and Chief Innovation Officer Bob Sharon

For those of us that have been around I.T. for a long time, it wouldn’t take much to hark back to the old days when it all started from centralised computing, “The big mainframes”.

With the innovation of desktop PCs, we migrated to decentralised computing and then client server architectures appeared, thin clients, centralised computing again and so forth.

Network traffic will continue to change shape as new technologies place new demands on existing networks. This means that infrastructure and our approach to it must adapt accordingly. Edge data centres bring lower latency and higher bandwidth to towns and cities, away from the core’s of the networks. Therefore, increasing the number of edge data centres could be a way to meet these demands.

Below we look at some of the key challenges we face and how the edge can help. Gartner goes so far as to say that data centres are “Toast”. Gartner maintains that “80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data centers by 2025, compared to just 10% today.” 

Joshua Au Head (Data Centre) Information Technology Shared Services :: Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore state, “We are living in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. That makes it all the harder to predict the future, but I think the stakeholders (including policy makers and consumers) would do well to be more deliberate and strategic to talk about how to shape the direction edge compute is headed”. 

Seagate Technology’s Rags Srinivasan says “The rise of edge computing could see the advent of a rapidly growing array of smaller data centers built closer to population centers.” 

The internet of things (IoT) ecosystem of devices that add sensors and other capabilities to objects continues to grow exponentially. Smart Cities which is predominantly based on IoT is forecast to be worth $2.57 Trillion by Grand View Research.

IoT is exploding all around us and will required multitudes of edge compute power while central compute power will be required to conduct the macro analytics across all the industry sectors. With everything from cars to temperature sensors sending data across the network, the requirements for processing this data close to the source are increasing exponentially. 

Edge data centres can will increase performance while reducing the amount of data transiting networks. Both colocation and managed service providers offers fast and scalable provision for IoT providers, which is one reason that new data centres with smaller footprints are opening up around the network edge. 

As the industry 4.0 expands and grows, Big Data and connectivity are becoming more crucial to business success. However, industrial sites are often located far from the network edge, making latency an issue for connected machinery and systems. 

Bevan Slattery – Founder & Executive Director of Superloop says that Edge data centres will proliferate and increase the points of interconnect and deliver services to the last mile very much like the telephone exchanges of old. 

Mark Thiele – Director Engineering, Edge Computing, Ericsson USA says that the Edge market, not just an example of edge computing or edge cloud is on the precipice of creating 10s of 1000s of new business models and use cases for technology.

We will need data centers that are like ATMs (Cash Machines) that are just stuck in the corner of a building and we’ll need data centers in Central Offices and in Cell Towers and we’ll even need more of the hyperscale data centers. Data center builders will need to consider the ramifications of greater numbers of smaller DCs distributed over a wide area and what that means to efficiency and automation. 

James Braunegg, Managing Director Micron 21 says “The nascent IoT and 5G space has garnered a lot of debate on the role of Data Centres with a proposed shift in compute away from central services to edge devices as data will need to be processed and produced locally. While the latter is true, we doubt we will see a shift but rather a complimentary increase in compute and data.

There are two major factors that need to considered that play to the strengths of Data Centres. Firstly, individual data sources provide limited information, and a lot of them produce noise. The aggregation and summation of disparate data sets provides information and meaning.

This requires a convergent point that logically sits at a Data Centre where hosted AI and machine learning tools leverage the economies of centralised resources and data throughput. Secondly, the plethora of different IoT standards and the pace of change creates a hotbed of security concerns. 

Edge Computing and data centres are indeed a hot topic and will remain so for some time to come. It is the opinion of the author that Edge data centres will indeed grow dramatically in the coming years while hyperscale will slow down in growth and will remain constant for a period of time. After that, well that will require another long article. Watch this space. 

Winner of the 2019 Australian IoT Pioneer Award 2019, Blue IoT is a disruptive smart buildings and cities integration services firm who delivers substantial reductions in energy, maintenance and operational costs while improving,safety, security and human comfort in buildings and facilities of all kinds. In a nutshell, Blue IoT delivers smart and intelligent buildings and cities utilising a systems thinking approach and disruptive technologies.

Cisco, La Trobe University join in push to step up tech innovation, global collaboration

Cisco has struck a partnership with La Trobe University to drive technology innovation, and equip students with the industry-ready and digital skills required in the knowledge economy with a focus on IoT.

In addition the agreement, which will feature a new position of a Cisco Chair of the Internet of Things, will also showcase what is possible in research and learning through a range of education initiatives.

The partnership will also include a Co-Innovation Centre presence at the University, bringing together researchers and industry to facilitate collaboration and create opportunities to solve real world problems, through technology innovation.

Under the agreement, La Trobe University will be able to access Cisco’s best in class global programs such as its Networking Academy modules with IoT, cybersecurity and entrepreneurship, as well as its Digital Schools Network enabling local educators and students to digitally connect with their peers locally and globally.

The partnership builds on Cisco’s ongoing focus on innovation and research in Australia and expands the company’s Co-Innovation Centre footprint. There is currently an Innovation Central in Sydney, and in Perth.

xvgq6ixj2xt3hybl2jsa_400x400“By teaming with La Trobe University we’re supporting the development of industry ready skills that are required, today,” said Cisco ANZ VP Ken Boal.

“The Internet of Things presents new research and innovation opportunities and will transform industries right across the globe. The Chair of IoT combined with the world class co-innovation capability, further our collaborative approach to innovative teaching and learning and open up the door for world leading research.”

 

Managing the explosion of IoT and IIoT

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By Lionel Snell, Editor, NetEvents

There has been, and there will continue to be a whole lot of discussion in ICT circles about how to manage the explosion (or should we say tsunami?) of devices that are forming the Internet of Things (IoT).

Little wonder, because this particular explosion is barely controlled by the IT industry – so much of it is arriving left field from other business sectors. Previous big, impactful explosions – personal computers, networks, smartphones, the Cloud etc – have been created and driven by IT.

The industry was responsible for persuading people to buy these products and responsible for building and delivering them. But in the case of IoT the industry is offering as much a service as a product – and there is a whole population of devices out there just waiting to be fitted with chips and connected to the IoT. Sell a PC or smartphone and you are selling a complete package that complies with a host of regulations and standards, but sell 5G connectivity and you may not be certain if it is for a medical device, for tracking containers, for a utility meter, a drone controller or whatever.

So the IT industry is feeling anxious about opening wide the Internet to a vast population of newcomers. Kevin Restivo, IDC’s Research Manager, European Enterprise Mobility led a conference session at NetEvents EMEA IT Spotlight entitled They’re Everywhere! Managing the Incredible Explosion of IoT and IIoT Devices.  

His introductory presentation was summed up in the figure below: “Framing the market – that’s what we do IDC. We size, forecast markets, describe the drivers and inhibitors.  At IDC we believe IoT is one of the fastest growing markets or collection of technologies relative to the ICT spectrum”.

FireShot Capture 003 - Managing the Explosion of IoT and IIoT - FINAL - Google Docs_ - docs.google.com

“First and foremost, what does IDC mean by the Internet of Things? … It is a network of uniquely identifiable endpoints… that autonomously connect bidirectionally using IP connectivity. The ecosystem is really a complex mix of technologies and services… server, storage, analytics, IT services, security and a range of other technologies… essentially a wide span of the ICT spectrum”.

This diversity makes it harder to pin down the elements of spending, he explained. Up till now, about a third has been on IoT devices and similar amounts on software and services. But in the future forecasts he expected much more spending on analytics, as business begins to extract value from its IoT and optimize its processes.

As to drivers: obviously the explosion of devices is a major factor, but complexity might sound more like an inhibitor, until you consider the vast array of systems and protocols involved: “That complexity is driving a lot of spending”. The third driver, Enterprise Readiness, reflects that almost limitless population of devices and systems already out there and waiting to get connected.

As to the inhibitors, lead by security fears, he explained: “Lack of coordination between operations and IT is very much an inhibitor to deployment. Close collaboration between IT and operational departments is necessary and yet it doesn’t happen. Everyone wants to protect their fiefdoms or they’re simply not able or willing to cooperate… IT is often left behind during the project planning and budgeting and the piloting. That lack of coordination can really stall the successful deployment of IoT initiatives”.

After that brief sketch, Kevin, asked the panel for their views on drivers and inhibitors, but it quickly became necessary to break down the IoT into broad categories. Peter Galvin, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, nCipher Security, compared the fast growing consumer segment, with very little focus on security, to the Industrial IoT (IIoT) – which is “a little more thoughtful” – as well as the already highly regulated medical segment, used both by consumers and healthcare professionals.

Kevin suggested putting aside the consumer market for this session and focussing on business, government and industry. Jan Guldentops, Director, BA Test Labs, pointed out that there was still a massive difference between parking sensors – sending tiny amounts of non-critical data – and industrial systems with hundreds of sensors controlling millions of dollars worth of equipment: “It’s like cloud all over again”.

On the question of security, Philip Griffiths, Head of EMEA Partnerships, NetFoundry, said that security was the greatest inhibitor but that some organisations are actively seeking solutions: “I’m working on an engagement at the moment where a Fortune 10 company is rolling out an IoT solution. They’re not involving IT because they want to move as quickly as possible. But the partner we’re working with, who’s an ISV, came to us and said, we need to make sure the solution is very secure so that, when IT do come along, we can say ‘this is more secure than your corporate network so there’s nothing for you to worry about’. At the same time, we don’t want to have to manage 50,000 VPNs – so we’re going to use your [NetFoundry’s] solution because it automates that secure connectivity”.

Moving on to business benefits as drivers, Professor Martin Curley, Director of the Digital Academy and Open Innovation, The Health Service Executive, said we should expect a consumerization of healthcare on a scale to match the recent consumerization of IT. Referring a book  with the great title The Patient Will See You Now, he suggested: “we will have patients routinely showing up to their cardiologist or to their nephrologist with much better information than the consultants themselves have. The Apple Watch with its ECG is already an FDA-regulated device. It can detect atrial fibrillation. It could be lifesaving.”

He explained that ‘vital signs’ is the term for the key predictors that nurses use to determine if a patient is deteriorating and, in a traditional manual system based on handwritten notes, over 50% of those scores can be wrong. Whereas SyncroPhi had developed a solution to automatically connect, collect and display these vital signs. He saw so many diverse opportunities in healthcare: “Another company is developing technology to track equipment in the ward. One of the key issues is there’s so much time spent by nurses and doctors looking for equipment that somebody else has borrowed. They’ve developed a smart solution that RFID-enabled tracks where the equipment is in the wards. I can probably give you 10 other examples… I think the biggest untapped market is going to be healthcare”.

Peter Galvin came up with other examples, notably industrial automation: “giant wheat harvesters out in the mid-west, there’s nobody in those. They’re all remotely controlled. They’re considered an IoT device and they’re giving telemetry data and also data about what’s the soil like? What’s the content like?” He also quoted an Australian mining company automating extremely remote and inaccessible mining sites.

Jan Guldentops quoted smart cities: how those unpopular traffic cameras, used to fine motorists, also collect vital traffic data, as do automated parking systems. Philip Griffiths doubted that smart cities was such a hot market, because it does not offer the clear revenue opportunities promised by an industrial manufacturing plant where, for example, thousands of cameras can monitor for defects in real time and save a fortune. Guldentops reponded that might be true in the US model, whereas in Europe there is serious government money available for smartening up cities.

Griffiths made an interesting point about how IoT is best sold: not so much a product sale as bringing together an ecosystem of technology providers to deliver a full turnkey stack for the end company to pay for as a service rather than assemble it themselves: “it’s fundamental to IoT because otherwise it’s far too complex to pull together as one business”. And Galvin referred back to the sheer value of data collection and collation to be analysed for scientific research that could have major applications in the future.

Michael Kagan, Chief Technology Officer, Mellanox Technologies, came up with a rather horrifying example of the importance of well-considered policies: “If I’m building the algorithm for a self-driving car I need to take into consideration the fact that if I have two bicyclists in front of me and an accident is unavoidable, how do I choose which one to hit?… One of the options can be, we’ll hit the one that wears a helmet because he has a higher chance to survive. Once this algorithm becomes known, nobody is going to wear helmets anymore because you’re going to be hit by the car if you wear a helmet… Once we make the decision, we need to figure out the implications.”

Guldentops argued that security was not really holding back IoT, simply because not enough people were considering it. For example: “A certain brand of speed cameras runs a Debian 6 operating system that hasn’t been patched since I think 2010. It takes me around three and a half minutes to become root on that system… I talked to the guys and they said, we cannot patch it because we need to validate the system and every change we make the speed camera is not valid anymore. But still there are around 400 ANPR cameras in Belgium that are using it.”

Griffiths warned of the risks when IT networks merged with industrial networks: “most of the attacks we’ve seen have been some sort of phishing campaign turning into malware, laterally moving from the IT network into the OT network because someone didn’t think about security enough, and then blowing up a billion dollar steel facility or something as happened in Germany a few years ago… If we create secure connectivity with software-defined perimeters, zero trust, all these things, then you can get the benefits of both worlds.”

Martin Curley feared that we all  need some big catastrophe to wake up the industry and its customers: “Similar to the Boeing 737 Max with its angle of attack sensor – that is an internet of things device. For the IoT industry that is a road to Damascus moment, where software resilience and software validation has to be done in a much more thorough way”.

We already have these catastrophes, notably in compromised healthcare systems and Curley agreed there was severe under-resourcing: “There’s barely enough staff to just get the systems functional never mind thinking about security”.

For Guldentops, bug bounties was one of the best innovations within the security industry in the last couple of years: “you can get a community of people who like to get into your system but not break it, who do it as an intellectual challenge. So, they can report their problems, earn sometimes a living with it. It’s something we should start using in IoT. If you’re a company developing a device and you want to put it on the market, hire one of those bug bounty companies and get some people to play with it, to break it… you’ll know there’s a security problem in it before you roll it out to 10,000 people”.

The snag with this idea, especially in medical and industrial IoT is that it’s the legacy problem.  As the devices are already in place bug bounties aren’t going to provide a simple solution as they either  can’t be patched, or it’s inefficient to patch them, or it’s too costly to patch them.

To deal with this legacy problem Griffiths suggested overlaying the legacy system with a secure greenfield solution. Taking Guldentops’ speed cameras as an example: “How do we throw NetFoundry on there so that someone can’t get into it? They’ve still got that underlying, flaw but you at least layer over a more secure solution on that so you make it much harder for someone to get access to that and root password it”.

Michael Kagan rounded off the session by proposing the need to identify and understand the interfaces and not mix too many things together: “With the segregation of the infrastructure, computing and application it enables you to update these two tiers absolutely independently… Don’t tie things too much together, so you can update them and manage them and provision them independently”.

Kids GPS tracking watch flaws bring ongoing IoT security shortfalls into focus

By Contributing Editor Leon Spencer

Australian cyber security expert Troy Hunt has expressed frustration at the seemingly persistent refusal of smart device manufacturers and distributors to take seriously the potential security flaws in the products they make and sell.

Working with UK-based penetration testing collective Pen Test Partners, Hunt helped to uncover purported security flaws in the TicTocTrack GPS tracking smartwatch for children, the primary product offering by Australian company iStaySafe, founded by CEO Karen Cantwell.

TicTocTrack claims on its website that its software platform allows users to monitor their child from “anywhere in the world”.

The company temporarily suspended access to its service on 15 April after security flaw concerns were raised by Hunt and Pen Test Partners. On the same day, it issued a notice to users that it had temporarily restricted access to its service as it worked to confirm the validity of the security flaws flagged by the researchers and to fix them.

According to the cyber security researchers, the TicTocTrack watch hardware is produced by Gator, the company that came under the scrutiny of the Norwegian Consumer Council as early as 2017 due to security issues.

“Strangers can easily seize control of the watches and use them to track and eavesdrop on children,” the Council said in an online post, dated 18 October 2017, referring a number of smartwatches for children, including a model by Gator.

Now, well over a year later, the issues with Gator-made GPS connected smartwatches appear to have lingered, this time in the form of TicTocTrack’s product offering in the local market.

According to Hunt, Pen Test Partners’ security researchers were able exploit vulnerabilities to make it look as though the wearer of the watch was in an entirely different location and to allow an unauthorised person to call the watch and speak to the child wearing the device, among other things.

“By using either the app or directly accessing API [application programming interface,] you can access, manipulate and delete anyone’s data and snoop and [two-]way communicate with any watch,” Pen Test Partners security consultant Vagelis Stykas said in a blog post.

“All in all we can see that the developer of the backend took no consideration into authorizing any of the requests, and cared only that the application was working effectively, leaving all the data available to access and manipulate.

“This is unacceptable for a product that is supposed to keep children secure and a trend that we constantly see in the IoT market that products are rushed to the market,” he said.

According to Hunt, the development of the app for the TicTocTrack service was outsourced to Sri Lankan software development company Nibaya. This is an important point, as it underpins one of Hunt’s major gripes about the apparent ongoing lack of attention to security by those who make connected devices and the systems that tap into them.

“I’ve been involved with a bunch of really poorly implemented “Internet of Things” things in the past that presented serious privacy risks to those who used them,” Hunt said in a blog post.

“What’s infuriating about this situation is that not only do these egregiously obvious security flaws keep occurring, they’re just not being taken seriously enough by the manufacturers and distributors when they do occur,” he said.

While the discovery of the TicTocTrack vulnerabilities are likely to raise immediate concerns for consumers and their children in the local market, it is perhaps Hunt’s frustration with the ongoing carelessness with which device manufacturers and distributors view security considerations when they build and sell their products.

And, perhaps most disturbingly of all, it is those products targeted at children and their parents that seem to be among the worst offenders when it comes to failing to meet even basic security requirements to protect their users.

Indeed, in his wrap-up of the TicTocTrack research, Hunt mirrored Stykas’ comments about the particularly worrying trend of security issues popping up in products intended to keep children secure.

“A huge number of both the devices and services I see being marketed either directly at kids or at parents to monitor their kids are absolute garbage in terms of the effort invested in security and privacy,” Hunt said.

Hunt mentions, in passing, the likes of VTech, CloudPets, mySpy, SpyFone and Mobiispy in his blog. And who can forget the string of vulnerabilities that have been found in dozens of connected baby monitoring devices over the past several years?

“I want to finish on a broader note than just TicTocTrack or Gator or even smart watches in general; a huge number of both the devices and services I see being marketed either directly at kids or at parents to monitor their kids are absolute garbage in terms of the effort invested in security and privacy,” Hunt said.

“These products are simply not designed with a security-orientated mindset and the development is often outsourced to cheap markets that build software on a shoestring,” he said.

It should be noted that the researchers were keen to stress some of the things that TicTocTrack did right when notified of the security vulnerability, most notably, restricting access to the service within one business day of being notified of the flaws and alerting users of the issues as soon as practicable.

“This is yet to be confirmed as an issue beyond the penetration testing conducted by Ken Munro [from Pen Test Partners],” Cantwell said in a statement, according to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald.

TicTocTrack had not responded to Telecom Times’ queries at the time of writing.

NETCOMM UNVEILS NEW INDUSTRIAL IOT ROUTER TO UNDERPIN MEDIUM BANDWIDTH APPLICATIONS

NetComm has expanded its Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) portfolio with the launch of the 4G LTE Category 1 Industrial IoT Router (NTC-220) that will deliver reliable and secure medium bandwidth connectivity using universally available LTE networks.
The introduction of medium bandwidth IIoT connectivity via the NTC-220 – offering speeds in the order of a few Mbps – will enable faster deployment of IIoT applications in the market.

lN2FTNlZ.pngIn addition, the use of widely used LTE Category 1 technology in the NTC-220 will also provide near ubiquitous network coverage which will enable greater IIoT deployment.
The medium bandwidth capability provided by the NTC-220 enables machines to send data over the network faster while also still ensuring an optimized battery life, thereby increasing the performance lifetime of the IIoT product in the field.
The fast-increasing number of applications being deployed in the IIoT space means a greater number of connectivity requirements for end-users – therefore requiring a greater range of devices to be available.
To meet that need the addition of the NTC-220 to the NetComm IIoT portfolio means that NetComm is now offering IIoT solutions covering low-bandwidth NB-IoT applications, over LTE Category-1, right through to higher bandwidth applications that need the extra capability of LTE Category-6.

The NTC-220’s Linux based NetComm operating system (OS) also allows solution architects and system integrators to create their own applications using NetComm’s Software Development Kit (SDK) whilst built-in GPS enables the NTC-220 to track on-the-move assets from anywhere.

Els Baert, Director of Marketing & Communications at NetComm said:
“NetComm is very proud to expand our IIoT product range with the launch of the NTC-220 that will deliver best-in-class reliable connectivity and offers an additional medium bandwidth tier to support a wide variety of applications.

“Companies around the world are really starting to wake up to the significant productivity gains made possible by embracing IIoT applications with Gartner forecasting that the global IIoT market will be worth $123 billion by 2021.

“With our long, well established record in the IIoT area of delivering high-quality products the NTC-220 will enable connectivity right across this fast-growing sector from vending machines to security cameras to agriculture sensors and so much more.”

MWC 2019: TELSTRA GOES ALL OUT WITH 5G BANKING TRIAL, EXCLUSIVE HANDSETS AND IOT RANGE EXTENDER

Telstra has unveiled plans for a 5G banking trial with CBA, along with a slew of new offerings – including exclusive 5G devices and an IoT extender – at MWC

In what the telco is heralding as an ‘industry first’, Telstra, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Ericsson will trial 5G edge computing technologies for the financial services sector, testing end-to-end banking solutions over 5G over the coming months.

The trials are expected to showcase what the ‘bank branch of the future’ might look like and how 5G edge compute can help reduce network infrastructure currently required at individual branches.

Nikos Katinakis, Telstra group executive networks and IT, says 5G edge computing is all about bringing the network closer to the user or application.

“For financial institutions like Commonwealth Bank, it will help to enhance existing banking applications as well as deliver new use cases such as artificial intelligence, all supported by a range of software defined networking solutions.”

Pete Steel, Commonwealth Bank executive general manager of digital and retail operations and technology, says 5G and edge computing have significant potential to enhance the availability, stability and performance of CBA’s network infrastructure.

“We hope they can help us provide quicker and better digital experiences for our customers,” Steel says.

Katinakis says learnings from the trials will be applied across other industries.

Samsung, Oppo and LG 5G exclusives for Telstra

Meanwhile, as the 5G race heats up, Telstra also revealed that it will be providing 5G smartphones from Oppo, Samsung and LG first, or exclusively, in Australia.

First tipped at CES earlier this year, the telco this week confirmed that its 5G lineup will include the LG V50 ThinQ – exclusive to Telstra – Oppo’s first 5G offering and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G, which will be available on Telstra first.

“There are two key components to bringing 5G to life – you need the network technology and you need compatible devices,” says Telstra CEO Andrew Penn. “Our network has been ready for some time, and we’re now even closer to having 5G-compatible devices available for our customers.
The phones are all due for release in the first half of 2019.

“Telstra is 5G-ready now,” Penn says. “When we began rolling out 5G technology across Australia back in August, we also started working closely with the major mobile brands and leading manufacturers of 5G handsets. This was so Telstra customers would not only be the first to access to 5G smartphones but also have a variety of products to choose from”.

And a 100km IoT range extender…

Also announced at MWC was a partnership between Telstra and Ericsson to integrate Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator connectivity management services into Telstra’s IoT offering.

The deal means from March 30, Telstra’s enterprise customers will be able to manage, access and track IoT devices and networked assets at a local, national or global level via access to Telstra’s cellular network, including the telco’s Narrowband-IoT and CAT-M1 technology.

This builds on Ericsson and Telstra’s successful deployment in September 2018 of NB-IoT Extended Range, that increased Telstra’s NB-IoT coverage to over 3.5 million square kilometres and which allows data connections up to 100km – 60kms more than 3GPP standards-based limits.

Emilio Romeo, Ericsson Australia and New Zealand head says the partnership means enterprises can integrate their business processes with the managed connectivity services offered by the two companies to create ‘highly reliable IoT solutions which will help to drive digital transformation of industries in Australia and internationally.

“We are enabling enterprises to launch IoT services on a global scale and helping the industry to capitalise on the tremendous potential that IoT brings,” Romeo says.

5G, FOLDABLE PHONES TO DOMINATE MWC19: FORRESTER

Ahead of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month, Forrester’s Thomas Husson and Paul Miller share their thoughts on the key themes and trends they expect to come out of the key event.   

Husson takes a look at the state of 5G and the buzz around foldable phones, while Miller delivers his insights on the future of digital services, and how connectivity is creating a foundation for innovation.

 

The buzz around 5G and foldable phones is likely to cast a shadow over Mobile World Congress,” said Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Thomas Husson.

“There is no denying that 5G is the infrastructure of the connected world, and precisely the reason why it is at the centre of the economic and political war between the US and China. However, the reality is that it will take another five to seven years before it reaches critical mass among consumers in most countries.”

Telcos and network equipment providers should learn lessons from 3G and 4G roll-outs and not overpromise on the technology. While we will hear a lot about the first 5G smartphones, the challenge is to simultaneously roll-out the infrastructure and it will take time, especially in Europe where spectrum allocation remains a mess at a country level. 

“The same is true for foldable phones as the consumer benefits are still quite unclear. It is likely top smartphone brands will claim to have reinvented smartphone design. However, it will take longer for these foldable screens to reinvent the smartphone category and deliver differentiated experiences. With the evolution of new technologies such as voice and facial recognition, I’d expect the role of smartphone to evolve.”

“They will remain the hub of our connected experiences for several more years but will progressively act less as a remote control initiating experiences and less as an identity layer connecting the dots between our connected worlds. However, foldable screens will accelerate the convergence between smartphones, tablets and laptops, progressively unleashing a new form factor.”

“Beyond the 5G and foldable phone hype, brands should expect a lot of innovation at Mobile World Congress. Mobile will activate many adjacent technologies at scale, especially conversational interfaces and augmented reality.” 

Meanwhile, Senior Analyst serving CIO professionals Paul Miller noted how the focus at MWC had increasingly shifted to include digital services.

“Not too long ago, MWC was just the place you went to see the latest shiny mobile phone handset, or to understand trends in the design and operation of telecoms networks,” said Miller.

“The focus has shifted, as digital services get baked more deeply into every aspect of business. The interesting conversations, today, don’t focus on connectivity for connectivity’s sake. Instead, they see connectivity as a foundation on which far more interesting – and valuable – things can be built.”

“The Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality, service-based business models, and richer – stickier – relationships with partners, suppliers, and customers all become feasible when connectivity can (almost) be taken for granted. At Forrester, we work with our clients to identify, interpret, and understand these emerging opportunities. And there should be plenty to see at this year’s event.”

“Early experiments in augmented and virtual reality have matured, and we’ll see tangible proof points of real value. Endless pilots and proofs of concept in IoT are also maturing, reaching beyond the operational teams where they began into the mainstream business, where they simplify existing processes and open the door to new service-based business models.”