Author(s): Ben Wood
The CCS Insight team prides itself on going the extra mile to find the tech demos typically missed by day trippers visiting Mobile World Congress. The high-profile launches from LG, Huawei, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and others receive exhaustive coverage, while some less prominent highlights are overlooked.
Here are my top picks of technologies that grabbed my attention but were missed by others.
New User Experiences
Top of the list is Fogale Sensation's demonstration. The small company is based in Switzerland and has a background of high-precision measurement and camera technologies used in complex segments like the nuclear industry. It's exhausted the potential for its solutions in these niche segments and is looking to expand into other areas. The allure of the mobile devices market is clear.
Our video of Fogale Sensation's technology shows how the company uses its capacitive multitouch and touchless technologies to deliver a highly innovative user experience on a smartphone. It's very early days and the examples showcased were more for demonstration purposes rather than full commercial implementations, but it's now rare to see something that offers a completely new approach to user experience and interface design. This is one worth watching.
The Remote Digger Driver (over 4G)
Ericsson's remote digger was my favourite demonstration of the show. The company has evolved the concept over the past 18 months — I had the chance to use the scaled-down Lego version at International CES 2015 in January and was hugely impressed, but never thought that just a few weeks later I'd be sitting in Barcelona driving a digger in northern Sweden.
It was one of the coolest video games I've ever played (my 13-year-old son was certainly very jealous), and was by far and away one the most impressive Internet of things displays I've seen.
Digging pipelines in remote areas is big but dangerous business, and skilled drivers are a finite resource. This solution would make it possible for a fleet of machines to be controlled remotely with minimal involvement from the workers on site.
The potential is clear, but the solution is still some way from becoming a commercial reality. The demo at Mobile World Congress used a dedicated LTE link — something that couldn't be justified in the real world but is a prime example of the need for the higher bandwidth and lower latency of 5G communications.
Enterprise and Specialist Wearables
Apple's recent announcement has raised the hype and expectations about wearables to new levels, but there's a quiet revolution taking place in the segment.
There were several demonstrations at Mobile World Congress aimed at particular industries. Sony announced a deal with Virgin Atlantic to equip its ground staff with smart glasses and smartwatches in an effort to speed up turnaround times, for example. However, I believe that Fujitsu presented the most impressive demonstration in this area, showcasing an augmented reality example that on this occasion focussed on an automobile production line. The operative was guided through every step of the manufacturing process, from picking a part to placing it correctly in the engine. It's early days for the technology, but Fujitsu's implementation shows the broader potential for smart eyewear.
The 3D Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensor
Qualcomm showcased this unassuming but attractive technology. Its 3D ultrasonic fingerprint sensor recognises the growing potential for fingerprint recognition, building on the momentum of Apple's Touch ID solution. Apple's astute purchase of AuthenTec meant the best-in-class fingerprint technology was no longer available to other phone makers, who were left with the less-reliable and so less-favoured swipe technology. However, Qualcomm's solution claims to offer a better solution than Apple's. The use of an ultrasonic sensor means the fingerprint reader can be placed under glass and will work with moist or greasy hands — something Apple's Touch ID sensor struggles with. It's only a prototype, but the interest it garnered at the show indicates that it could be a contender.
The Kairos Watch
The Kairos Watch had already been announced, but this was the first time we'd seen it in the flesh. The device had been hand-carried by a member of the ARM team to Barcelona, and offered a refreshingly different smartwatch screen technology. Kairos has implemented a transparent LCD screen that sits on top of a standard analogue watch. The concept delivers the best of both worlds in principle, but it's often the case that solutions like this are a compromise — the concession here is that, in order to make the LCD screen readable, the analogue screen is too dark to use. Further iterations of the concept are bound to follow, but the idea needs more development.
This technology has been mooted for several years, but the demo offered by Ericsson and Qualcomm was impressive. This was not least because it used commercially available handsets: LG's G3 and Samsung's Note Edge. Consumer demand for linear TV content like live sports and news is strong, but even latest-generation LTE networks can't cope with huge number of consumers wanting to simultaneously stream high-quality video content. This is most acute at venues like sport stadiums, where consumers are increasingly using their mobile phones as a second screen for additional information on the game they're watching.
Ericsson also showcased a D-Link LTE-broadcast adaptor that's been developed exclusively for Verzion. The black box can be used to deliver real-time content to almost any screen, be that a giant billboard or an advertising screen in a taxi. It's a further great example of the progress being made to support the Internet of things, and a technology I expect will gather significant momentum in coming years.
For all our coverage of Mobile World Congress 2015, see here.