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The highlights from Barcelona
VKY Intelligent Automation is creating Robotic Process Automation with the council © Connect world / Shutterstock
Business & Economy

The highlights from Barcelona 

Showcasing the latest digital products and services emerging from Scotland’s tech sector

The technology industry held its annual conference at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona earlier this month. Showcasing, celebrating and debating the direction of the mobile industry, MWC is now the tech industries’ leading conference and exhibition, with more than 108,000 delegates and 2,300 companies attending the week-long event.

At an early stage, Scottish Development International recognised the significant impact MWC had on the tech industry and was one of the first countries to have created a leading position at the conference. Showcasing the latest digital products and services emerging from Scotland’s tech sector, publication of Scotland’s Export Statistics by the Scottish Government has highlighted that exports from Scotland’s professional, scientific and technical sector increased by 9.0% in 2015, the largest annual increase in the nominal value of exports from the services sector.

Supported by Scottish Development International, more than 30 of Scotland’s leading digital technology companies attended this year’s conference, gaining face to face access to sell direct to the industry’s leading buyers. Demonstrating the importance of this conference to Scotland’s digital economy, 50% of the Scottish companies attending this year, visited the conference for the first time. Having direct access to the key issues influencing the growth of their business, Scotland’s tech sector gained recognition at MWC as an innovator, with PureLiFi securing Digital Trends – Top Tech of MWC 2017 award for Cool Tech.

On the theme of connecting everything, the University of St Andrews secured a prominent demonstration at the entrance to MWC’s Connected Living Zone. Demonstrating the application of monitoring data from the behaviour of seals, many of the products showcased by other organisations were “in development”. It’s a positive indicator for Scotland’s tech sector that the GSMA, the trade association for the international Mobile Industry and organisers of MWC, selected the St Andrews to demonstrate a real-world deployment of Internet of Things (IoT).

Tracking disruptive innovation that influences our lifestyles, MWC no longer focuses just on mobile phones and networks. The fourth industrial revolution, connected vehicles, artificial intelligence, 5G, mobile VR, machine intelligence, connected vehicles, digital finance, connected citizens, and Internet of Things were key debating points amongst the tech leaders and at conference sessions. Although the showcased products and market roadmaps point towards a broader set of services like connected cars, mobile connectivity remains central to enabling all applications, as depicted in this year’s conference theme titled ‘The Next Element’.

Emerging themes …

Digital societies:

In 2010, there were two Internet-enabled devices per person i.e. a computer and a mobile phone. By 2035, it’s predicted this will increase to 100 things per person. With ARM predicting they will produce 1Trillion IoT devices by 2040, SoftBank recognised that investing in ARM would help them support
the development of the IoT industry. However, security remains a big issue. Cyberattacks against IoT devices are increasing 4.5 times year-on-year. Last year, there were 64 billion attacks on IoT devices; in 2015, there were 14 billion. ARM recognised that designs are not secure and have introduced their Mbed Cloud service which provides over the air software to connect, manage and update the security software on IoT devices.

IR, Round 4:

Internet connectivity is dominated by the mobile and today’s generation is used to an always connected lifestyle. Through the development of 5G, low power sensor networks like LoRa, advancements
in sensor technologies, development of gigabit internet speeds over mobile, and 5G’s low latency rates, new services that digitise manufacturing, control self-driving vehicles and monitor our cities infrastructure were demonstrated at the conference. We are at the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era that’s influencing the creation of the ‘smart’ manufacturer. 5G networks, IoT, machine intelligence and data services were key elements discussed in conference sessions that will enable the development of new industrial applications, also known as ‘Industry 4.0’.

Connected everything:

Six years ago, Ford became the first car manufacturer to present a keynote on the future of automotive transportation. Last year, Ford announced it was no longer a car manufacturer but a ‘mobility company’. A variety of sensors are now designed into all vehicles with artificial intelligence being used to monitor and control autonomous vehicles. Trials of self-driving trucks and autonomous cars are taking place at a variety of test sites across the UK, Europe and US. Safety and security concerns remain central to the adoption of self-driving vehicles.

In his keynote presentation, Eugene Kaspersky, chief of Kaspersky Labs, said that “all the cars are vulnerable”. Security is also the single barrier to the growth of IoT applications; Softbank recently launched its London-based $100bn tech vision fund to support the development of new technologies, including IoT security.

Conversational commerce:

The app boom is over. During the ‘Disruption in Finance’ conference session it was highlighted that consumers are on average ‘downloading zero mobile applications per month’. There’s a shift towards looking at the number of mobile applications consumers don’t use and monitor how many they are now removing from their devices. The market has shifted and is now dominated by messaging apps like Slack, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WeChat. Conversations amongst our friends and colleagues is where we share our thoughts and create new experiences. Messaging is now the dominant channel for communication and an area where cognitive computing i.e. artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied. The HTC U Ultra demonstrated cognitive software that learns from the things you do every day. The device’s user interface monitors the locations you visit, the applications you interact with and the conversations you hold and adapts its messaging to you.

Mobile reality:

Aside from the launch of new handsets like Sony’s Xperia XA1 and the re-launch of the Nokia 3310, Samsung previewed its Galaxy S8 providing a hint that smartphones will continue to evolve beyond just being a phone. Advances in display and sensor technology is pushing the adoption of mobile virtual and augmented reality. Verizon Labs demonstrated its Envrmnt content creation toolkit, a single platform to stitch stereoscopic images and create streamable, immersive 360 video content. Amit Singh, Google’s vice-president of business and operations for virtual reality, said the growth in its VR channel led the company to create its own VR platform, called Daydream.

Your data:

Putting your own data to work and making it generate revenue, was the opening conversation at the session, “Consumer Data: Privacy and Opportunity”. It focused on the new EU General Data Protection Regulation directive (GDPR), due to come into force on 25 May next year. Although the UK plans to leave the EU, Matt Hancock the UK Government Minister, responsible for digital and culture policy, reaffirmed at the recent UK Parliamentary EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee that GDPR will come into effect in the UK in May 2018.

For companies developing mobile applications or services, that control or process data, GDPR strengthens the rules for obtaining consent and management of consumer and personal data. It also highlights the need to have robust cyber security arrangements and breach handling processes in place.

Designing disruptive finance:

With mobile being the primary technology to access financial services for millennials, banks, insurance and wealth management companies are all investing in designing their services to engage with this highly educated, media-savvy and diverse generation. There is a shift from investing in business to consumer fintech start-ups towards companies who develop platforms that transform existing financial systems.

Chatting to the bot:

Artificial Intelligence is this years most talked about technology, influencing all application and service development. However, at MWC there were not many prominent demonstrations that will shift our interaction from touch to voice. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Google are all pushing to release their AI-based voice intelligent services onto the devices and services we interact with. Voice intelligence is the new search engine, which in turn supports the development of voice commerce services. The challenge for application developers is to ensure these intelligence systems are secure. As virtual assistants learn and create your own story, the AI central to the system will become more natural, aware of external ideas and influences, adapt and personalise your applications.

Alisdair Gunn is a consultant to Scottish Development International and was a lead member of the Scottish delegation who attended this year’s MWC.

SDI Breakfast Briefing: The Next Element for Mobile – Insights from Mobile World Congress is in Edinburgh on Tuesday 28 March (bit.ly/2mIrdqb) and Glasgow on Thursday 30 March (bit.ly/2nDek5J)

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