By Jamie Conlon
In March the Kx team along with 93,000 plus people attended the record-breaking Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Kx exhibited alongside 2,200 other companies who descended upon Barcelona for the telecoms extravaganza where anyone who was anyone in the world of telco went mobile for a week of product launches and exhibitions.
Aside from the glitz and glamour of the keynotes and product launches, there was an overwhelming sense from the stands of an industry undergoing significant change with major challenges afoot; challenges which require next generation solutions and disruptive technologies. I came away from the conference confident that the “Kx for Telco” solution will play a pivotal role in transforming businesses of the future. I summarize the key trends and observations from the conference:
5G: Instant Latency
5G was by far the key announcement at the conference with serious fanfare from all the major network providers and palpable excitement in the air. In a nutshell, 5G is the new frontier for wireless technology claiming to be over 10 times faster than LTE, with potential to be over 100 times faster, with near “instant latency”. This would eliminate the delay for say starting a high-definition video on your phone and enabling a new breed of applications that previously were available only on wired networks.
IoT is driving the requirement for this ultra-low latency network where connected cars and devices require connection to parts of the network where there are slower data speeds. The resulting explosion of data volumes which 5G will bring with a greater multiplicity of devices connected to the networks is a challenge for Telco companies as they begin to deploy big data solutions to perform advanced analytics and transform complex data into easily actionable insights.
What became clear from the conversations on the stands was that classical computing systems cannot deal with such a massive volume, velocity, and variety of data which 5G will bring. Firms have a requirement to achieve significantly lower network latency than the current 10 msec today to support key 5G use-cases like autonomous vehicles and real-time remote control. The infrastructure required to support real-time remote control will be pivotal if operators are to offer the resulting uptake of services
Kx is ideally placed in offering an unrivalled solution for optimal speed and performance in capturing, processing and analyzing the resulting big data explosion.
Of course the true limit to 5G will be how much data the carriers are willing to offer and how much you can afford to buy!
IoT: Connected Everything
The MWC stage was set with an array of cutting edge connected devices offering a glimpse of the future. IDC predicts the global market for IoT will virtually triple to $1.7 trillion, with the number of connected devices jumping from nine billion to fifty billion by 2020 – at MWC, if it didn’t connect, it wasn’t on show.
After one lap of the conference, one thing was clear: IoT is here and now, it’s not hype. Some questioned we were getting ahead of ourselves considering the commercial take-up of the cloud and as-a-service was not as great as predicted – but it’s clear the growth of IoT is accelerating much faster in comparison. Mainly because IoT now supports so many mission critical systems across telco, energy and utility sectors, whereas the cloud started off supporting HR, CRM and emails – all non-critical systems. We are becoming dependent upon IoT, and with the cost of sensors and storage decreasing, and clear signs of computing power and machine learning capabilities increasing, the market opportunity for fast data solution providers, like Kx, are endless. Analytics systems are essential to turn data into smart data from the “things” getting more intelligent across the network. It’s critical for those with the relevant capabilities act now if they want to lead the future.
With major Smart Meter roll-outs across the utility sector, IoT is already playing a major part, but firms in other industries need to begin taking steps now, so they can adopt the technology later on and not get left behind.
The rise of “Disruptive technologies” around AI, machine learning, biotechnology and robotics, compounded by the rise of mobile internet have accelerated the spread of service models built around IoT.
Nokia’s mantra for the event was to “make tech human”; a fearful thought for some who worry IoT will lose control of processes as we become more dependent upon robots and algorithms. Some of the displays prompted memories of HAL 9000 from Kubrick’s, 2001 Space Odyssey or any SciFi movie signifying the rise of the machine and AI. But in reality, IoT driving machines to become more complex can only lead to an upturn in productivity as machines become collaborative partners for humans. Key themes from IoT at MWC as follows:
- Connected Cars: it’s estimated by 2020 all new cars manufactured will be connected and manufacturers were out in strength. Ford, Mastercard, Ericsson, Jasper, Qualcomm and AT&T were all displaying their wares with some fascinating interactive demos.
- Smart Cities: the 2,000 square meters “Innovation Cities” stand depicted a future smart home were every device, from your fridge to your dog-flap is connected and speaks with each other.
- Drones: Ericsson and Deutsche Telecom presented live scenarios of drones being used to perform visual inspection and mapping for a wide range of applications.
All of these IoT applications require analytics to turn data generated by these devices and services into insights and decisions. Data combined with technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics can be used to deliver new and innovative services to customers but also to disrupt entire industries.
The promise of 5G and IoT requires that companies capture, ingest, process and analyze large volumes of data to deliver actionable insights and decisions in real-time. Kx is positioned well to help telecommunications, service and application providers deliver on that promise.
Virtual Reality: Approaching the Matrix
Long queues snaked around the Samsung stand as attendees queued up for a turn in the Gear VR Theatre with 4D, where attendees received a full safety briefing before fastening their seat belts for a fully immersive roller coaster experience without ever leaving the building. Random screams echoed across the hall, as head-gear donning adults, senses tricked by VR footage and imaginary G force, gripped their seat rests, while being rocketed across a virtual track. Stomachs were left churning as punters timidly left the stand.
VR was a big draw with interactive stands from SK Telecom, Ford, Lenovo and T-Mobile, but Samsung and its partnership with Oculus was by far the star turn. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, was met with some skepticism when he said VR would be one of the “killer applications of 5G” during his keynote, but naysayers ate their words after stepping shakily from the rollercoaster and back to reality.