A PEEK INTO THE DISTANT, AND NOT SO DISTANT, FUTURE

Mobile World Congress 2017 - San Francisco 

For years I’ve heard the stories of MWC Barcelona. The connections forged. The names dropped. The nightlife enjoyed. But as the President of MEDL Mobile, a mid-sized mobile development shop in Southern California, I’ve personally never felt the need to attend. A week abroad is an expensive trip for many reasons - both in terms of time away from the business and in terms of international flights. So when it was announced that MWC would be held in San Francisco this year, I jumped at the chance to attend.

For me, digital, mobile, telephony and even marketing conferences are important opportunities to stay connected to the cutting edge of our industry. But MWC was different from many of the conferences I regularly attend in that, at first blush, MWC seemed to be focused far more on the distant future - rather than focused on today. 

By contrast, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which happens every January in Las Vegas, is a shmorgasborg of what’s happening NOW. It’s a chance to see the entire spectrum of products and apps and services and hardware and drones and automobiles and the technologies that are ready for us as developers to build upon, and enhance and leverage.

MWC did have its fair share of market-ready solutions. But if I had to say there was a theme, it was this: the future will be different. Get ready for it. 

I saw booth after booth touting “5G Readiness” and I heard expert after expert debate when 5G would actually arrive. The consensus seems to be 2020. It can be difficult for a business like ours to put plans in place today based on tech that’s coming in three years.

I saw booth after booth touting the coming ubiquity of robotics - and I heard pitch after pitch showing why a robot makes the perfect companion for the elderly - or a great personal assistant. Again, I found it difficult to wrap my head around the practical applications of this technology that is still well beyond the realm of the clients who we work with regularly.

But I also saw some areas in which the gap between today and tomorrow are not as wide. Such as in a fascinating speech from Robert Scoble (a former Alliance Board Member as well) who showed how Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are impacting everything from entertainment to the enterprise. And for me, most notably gave an example from one company that’s building 3D VR charts and graphs from corporate data, allowing people to visualize and experience (literally walk around inside of) their company’s information in a way that’s never before been possible. I left the speech, and the conference, ready to dig deeply into the opportunities that AR and VR can afford a company like ours - and our clients.

I used to have a colleague who told me that the goal of every conference was to come home with one thing. One connection. One contact. One new piece of valuable knowledge. And if you did that, you could count the conference as a success.

My one thing from MWC: It’s a new appreciation that the distance between where we sit today and the future is different for each of us. But until you truly explore the gaps between what you know now and where the world is going next, you can’t possibly find your own comfort zone. And more importantly, how to step out of it.