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Mobile World Congress 2018: Innovation and digital transformation

Alyson Edmunds, Head of Digital Innovation at O2, is reporting from Barcelona this week, home of Mobile World Congress 2018.

At MWC18 in Barcelona this week, innovation is highlighted as one of the core themes. MWC has always been about new products, new ideas and new ways of thinking. Innovation in this context is about technology that disrupts a market or changes the way we think. If we are to deliver on MWC18’s promise of creating a better future, we need to turn towards innovative and disruptive technologies to help us.

So what technology at MWC18 can be regarded as innovative?

It’s clear after my first day at MWC that it is the rollout of 5G, and the possibilities it offers, that is generating most of the headlines here. The combination of super-fast speeds and very low latency rates mean that the full potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) will finally be deployed on a massive scale, together with the innovation this will bring.

I was interested to see how much innovation has focused on infrastructure and transport. Middle Eastern countries will be among the first to launch commercial 5G networks, thanks to government support and high 4G adoption rates. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai, for example, is confident that 5G will deliver the high precision positioning required of an autonomous flying taxi service and see this as a solution to the problems of road congestion. They are confident that by 2030, unmanned sky transport will account for a quarter of all passenger transport in the region.

Samsung also discussed how innovation will benefit in transport, although the focus was more on the ground. With the fast speeds and low latency of 5G it will be possible to create mesh networks within autonomous vehicles. These, coupled with the vehicles’ sensors, enable cars to communicate with each other, as well as with road signs and other hazards, in real time. This could be the key to improved safety, better performance, faster commutes and fewer accidents.

Transport is just one element of Nokia’s innovative vision to deliver smart cities, by connecting machines, sensors and people to cloud based internet of things (IoT) applications. Nokia’s IoT for Smart Cities is a modular, scalable framework that manages services such as video surveillance, lighting, parking, waste management, and environmental sensing.

At O2, we understand that innovation is what will deliver the technologies of the future.

This week we announced our plans to launch a 5G test bed at The O2 later this year, bringing a 5G experience to the world’s most popular entertainment venue. Visitors will able to enjoy the technology from the second half of 2018, launching with a range of customer demonstrations of the latest ground-breaking 5G technology.

We also have the O2 Lab, our unit where talented technologists and creatives have the remit to be disruptive in their search for innovative ideas and approaches. Right now, for example, we are working on new business applications for machine learning, artificial intelligence and immersive experience tech.

And finally, we are proud supporters of our world-leading start-up accelerator, Wayra, and the work it does to galvanise innovation. Since 2012, it has helped more than 160 British and Irish start-ups take their businesses to the next level, helping them raise approximately $160m in third-party funding.


This is the first in a series of blogs I have written during Mobile World Congress 2018. Take a look at my other blogs on the in store benefits of AI for the digital consumer, and how technology in society is helping us to create a better future, all on the O2 Business Blog.

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