Four key technologies could steal the show at Mobile World Congress, writes REMI DE FOUCHIER, mobile solutions specialist at Gemalto.
We’re at Mobile World Congress (MWC) to hear about cutting edge developments across the increasingly complex and diverse mobile landscape. The theme of this year’s show is The Next Element, so here are the four biggest next elements we’re expecting to see:
- Stronger commitments on 5G
We all know that 5G is on its way. Many organisations are working hard to bring the technology to the masses, with the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, committing £740m to its development in the UK last November. While over in the US, AT&T and Verizon have begun trials. But as yet no firm promises regarding full-scale commercial launch have been made by anyone.
We’re expecting this to change at the show, with operators making stronger commitments that truly fulfil the entire promise of 5G. This means a revolutionised network that offers ubiquitous connectivity and network slicing – which allows operators to spin up autonomous, customised, isolated networks on demand for their business partners – not simply further discussion about testing new radio technology, which is just an evolution.
As part of this, we hope to see greater elaboration of use-cases for 5G beyond consumers’ smartphones and enhanced mobile broadband use cases. The improved reliability and ultra low-latency that 5G provides will have a huge impact on a big number of industries and governments and MWC should provide the forum to further the conversation. Security and standardisation will both be critical parts of this discussion, for the market to realize its business potential.
We’ll also see many more structuring partnerships being announced between device manufacturers, IoT players, infrastructure providers, systems integrators and cloud providers as the IoT ecosystem continues to develop with the promise of 5G and the flexibility introduced by this revolutionised, virtualised, sliced network core.
- Consumerisation of biometrics
Last year saw MasterCard introduce “selfie” payments, marking a shift in both corporate and consumer trust in biometrics. We believe that the forthcoming year, starting with some big announcements from payment and hardware organisations at MWC 2017, will see wider consumerisation of biometric solutions. Smartphones will ship with several sources of biometrics, including heart beat detection, iris scanning and veins network mapping. OLED display makers will announce on-screen fingerprint readers as the desire for bezel-free displays on smartphones grows.
And of course, along with the hardware developments, so too must standards follow. We expect FIDO to announce standards, or at least a roadmap for standards, for biometrics on Android devices. It will be interesting to see how easy OEMs make it for developers to access all of these APIs, so that third-party apps can use them without compromising security.
- Network-proof connected cars
In recent years MWC has become a showcase for connected car technology and mobility applications, too. Last year’s event was the launch pad for Qualcomm and Mercedes-Benz’ self-driving car, and revenues from the sector are predicted to quadruple in the run up 2020. Both, the technology and new business models are evolving and are transforming the Automotive Industry into what is called New Mobility.
The big theme on New Mobility is to link connected cars with the digital life of the driver or passenger. Car IDs to be linked with the digital IDs of the end user. The Virtual Car Key (VCK) is a first example where the key as part of a digital Car ID will need to be securely stored on the end user mobile device. Opening a car and starting the engine is a crucial element of any comprehensive mobility app.
This year’s MWC is where we’ll start to see applications that will offer and end2end management of the end user ID and its storage into connected car. We will see concepts of further elements of the end user’s ID such as his very personal data plan that can be seamlessly used for infotainment applications in the vehicle. Secured and aimed for providing great user experience.
- Improved on-demand connectivity
The IoT ecosystem requires devices – whether for consumers or for industry – to be able to access connectivity on demand. eSIM and Remote SIM Provisioning will be the key to connecting to the cellular network the surge in consumer devices (think fitness trackers, personal drones, VR headsets, smart watches etc), but will also play a key role in enabling the Industrial IoT. For example, imagine a rent-a-car company that wants to switch the connectivity service provider of its entire fleet in one go.
However, this requires interoperability and common standards across devices. Huge progresses have been made in the past months for industrial IoT with multi players testing done by GSMA. Our products and solutions successfully completed these testing demonstrating the strength and depth of our commitment to the development of the M2M and IoT markets.
Now IBM’s Watson joins IoT revolution in agriculture
Global expansion of the Watson Decision Platform taps into AI, weather and IoT data to boost production
IBM has announced the global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, with AI technology tailored for new crops and specific regions to help feed a growing population. For the first time, IBM is providing a global agriculture solution that combines predictive technology with data from The Weather Company, an IBM Business, and IoT data to help give farmers around the world greater insights about planning, ploughing, planting, spraying and harvesting.
By 2050, the world will need to feed two billion more people without an increase in arable land . IBM is combining power weather data – including historical, current and forecast data and weather prediction models from The Weather Company – with crop models to help improve yield forecast accuracy, generate value, and increase both farm production and profitability.
Roric Paulman, owner/operator of Paulman Farms in Southwest Nebraska, said: “As a farmer, the wild card is always weather. IBM overlays weather details with my own data and historical information to help me apply, verify, and make decisions. For example, our farm is in a highly restricted water basin, so the ability to better anticipate rain not only saves me money but also helps me save precious natural resources.”
New crop models include corn, wheat, soy, cotton, sorghum, barley, sugar cane and potato, with more coming soon. These models will now be available in the Africa, U.S. Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, as well as new markets across Europe and Australia.
Kristen Lauria, general manager of Watson Media and Weather Solutions at IBM, said: “These days farmers don’t just farm food, they also cultivate data – from drones flying over fields to smart irrigation systems, and IoT sensors affixed to combines, seeders, sprayers and other equipment. Most of the time, this data is left on the vine — never analysed or used to derive insights. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture aims to change that by offering tools and solutions to help growers make more informed decisions about their crops.”
The average farm generates an estimated 500,000 data points per day, which will grow to 4 million data points by 2036 . Applying AI and analysis to aggregated field, machine and environmental data can help improve shared insights between growers and enterprises across the agriculture ecosystem. With a better view of the fields, growers can see what’s working on certain farms and share best practices with other farmers. The platform assesses data in an electronic field record to identify and communicate crop management patterns and insights. Enterprise businesses such as food companies, grain processors, or produce distributors can then work with farmers to leverage those insights. It helps track crop yield as well as the environmental, weather and plant biologic conditions that go into a good or bad yield, such as irrigation management, pest and disease risk analysis and cohort analysis for comparing similar subsets of fields.
The result isn’t just more productive farmers. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture could help a livestock company eliminate a certain mold or fungus from feed supply grains or help identify the best crop irrigation practices for farmers to use in drought-stricken areas like California. It could help deliver the perfect French fry for a fast food chain that needs longer – not fatter – potatoes from its network of growers. Or it could help a beer distributor produce a more affordable premium beer by growing higher quality barley that meets the standard required to become malting barley.
Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is built on IBM PAIRS Geoscope from IBM Research, which quickly processes massive, complex geospatial and time-based datasets collected by satellites, drones, aerial flights, millions of IoT sensors and weather models. It crunches large, complex data and creates insights quickly and easily so farmers and food companies can focus on growing crops for global communities.
IBM and The Weather Company help the agriculture industry find value in weather insights. IBM Research collaborates with start up Hello Tractor to integrate The Weather Company data, remote sensing data (e.g., satellite), and IoT data from tractors. IBM also works with crop nutrition leader Yara to include hyperlocal weather forecasts in its digital platform for real-time recommendations, tailored to specific fields or crops. IBM acquired The Weather Company in 2016 and has since been helping clients better understand and mitigate the cost of weather on their businesses. The global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is the latest innovation in IBM’s efforts to make weather a more predictable business consideration. Also just announced, Weather Signals is a new AI-based tool that merges The Weather Company data with a company’s own operations data to reveal how minor fluctuations in weather affects business.
The combination of rich weather forecast data from The Weather Company and IBM’s AI and Cloud technologies is designed to provide a unique capability, which is being leveraged by agriculture, energy and utility companies, airlines, retailers and many others to make informed business decisions.
 The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”
 Business Insider Intelligence, 2016 report: https://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-smart-agriculture-2016-10
What if Amazon used AI to take on factories?
By ANTONY BOURNE, IFS Global Industry Director for Manufacturing
Amazon recently announced record profits of $3.03bn, breaking its own record for the third consecutive time. However, Amazon appears to be at a crossroads as to where it heads next. Beyond pouring additional energy into Amazon Prime, many have wondered whether the company may decide to enter an entirely new sector such as manufacturing to drive future growth, after all, it seems a logical step for the company with its finger in so many pies.
At this point, it is unclear whether Amazon would truly ‘get its hands dirty’ by manufacturing its own products on a grand scale. But what if it did? It’s worth exploring this reality. What if Amazon did decide to move into manufacturing, a sector dominated by traditional firms and one that is yet to see an explosive tech rival enter? After all, many similarly positioned tech giants have stuck to providing data analytics services or consulting to these firms rather than genuinely engaging with and analysing manufacturing techniques directly.
If Amazon did factories
If Amazon decided to take a step into manufacturing, it is likely that they could use the Echo range as a template of what AI can achieve. In recent years,Amazon gained expertise on the way to designing its Echo home speaker range that features Alexa, an artificial intelligence and IoT-based digital assistant.Amazon could replicate a similar form with the deployment of AI and Industrial IoT (IIoT) to create an autonomously-run smart manufacturing plant. Such a plant could feature IIoT sensors to enable the machinery to be run remotely and self-aware; managing external inputs and outputs such as supply deliveries and the shipping of finished goods. Just-in-time logistics would remove the need for warehousing while other machines could be placed in charge of maintenance using AI and remote access. Through this, Amazon could radically reduce the need for human labour and interaction in manufacturing as the use of AI, IIoT and data analytics will leave only the human role for monitoring and strategic evaluation. Amazon has been using autonomous robots in their logistics and distribution centres since 2017. As demonstrated with the Echo range, this technology is available now, with the full capabilities of Blockchain and 5G soon to be realised and allowing an exponentially-increased amount of data to be received, processed and communicated.
Manufacturing with knowledge
Theorising what Amazon’s manufacturing debut would look like provides a stark learning opportunity for traditional manufacturers. After all, wheneverAmazon has entered the fray in other traditional industries such as retail and logistics, the sector has never remained the same again. The key takeaway for manufacturers is that now is the time to start leveraging the sort of technologies and approaches to data management that Amazon is already doing in its current operations. When thinking about how to implement AI and new technologies in existing environments, specific end-business goals and targets must be considered, or else the end result will fail to live up to the most optimistic of expectations. As with any target and goal, the more targeted your objectives, the more competitive and transformative your results. Once specific targets and deliverables have been considered, the resources and methods of implementation must also be considered. As Amazon did with early automation of their distribution and logistics centres, manufacturers need to implement change gradually and be focused on achieving small and incremental results that will generate wider momentum and the appetite to lead more expansive changes.
In implementing newer technologies, manufacturers need to bear in mind two fundamental aspects of implementation: software and hardware solutions. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which is increasingly bolstered by AI, will enable manufacturers to leverage the data from connected IoT devices, sensors, and automated systems from the factory floor and the wider business. ERP software will be the key to making strategic decisions and executing routine operational tasks more efficiently. This will allow manufacturers to keep on top of trends and deliver real-time forecasting and spot any potential problems before they impact the wider business.
As for the hardware, stock management drones and sensor-embedded hardware will be the eyes through which manufacturers view the impact emerging technologies bring to their operations. Unlike manual stock audits and counting, drones with AI capabilities can monitor stock intelligently around production so that operations are not disrupted or halted. Manufacturers will be able to see what is working, what is going wrong, and where there is potential for further improvement and change.
Knowledge for manufacturing
For many traditional manufacturers, they may see Amazon as a looming threat, and smart-factory technologies such as AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a far off utopia. However, 2019 presents a perfect opportunity for manufacturers themselves to really determine how the tech giants and emerging technologies will affect the industry. Technologies such as AI and IoT are available today; and the full benefits of these technologies will only deepen as they are implemented alongside the maturing of other emerging technologies such as 5G and Blockchain in the next 3-5 years. Manufacturers need to analyse the needs which these technologies can address and produce a proper plan on how to gradually implement these technologies to address specific targets and deliverables. AI-based software and hardware solutions will fundamentally revolutionise manufacturing, yet for 2019, manufacturers just have to be willing to make the first steps in modernisation.