Since the inaugural even in 1987, the GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) soon began to assert itself as the largest and most prestigious exhibition for the mobile industry on the planet. In February, the largest of the annual series of events took place in Barcelona, and some of the statistics from the three days reflect an industry that continues to flourish. Indeed, this year, the Barcelona MWC19 reached a significant milestone by becoming the single largest tradeshow certified to have a zero-carbon footprint.
Over the course of the 72 hours, the number of attendees in Barcelona topped 109,000 – the equivalent of the population of Exeter – and between them represented 198 countries and territories. Hosted at the sumptuous Fira Barcelona Gran Via, the 120,000 square metre floors provided space for 2,400 exhibitors to showcase their products and services.
As ever, some of the sector’s leading figureheads lined up as keynote speakers with CEOs, Directors and Presidents of some the largest conglomerates including Google, HTC, Groupon, Cisco and BMW sharing their thoughts. Altogether, 7,900 CEOs of companies large and small took part in the event, with 55% of attendees holding senior level positions.
Also incorporated was an exhibition within an exhibition as 4FYN, a forum aimed at discussing the technologies that will be making a difference four years from now, provided a platform for over 760 exhibitors including 600 start-ups. In total, the 4YFN conference itself attracted over 23,000 attendees.
An interesting feature of the MWC events is the themes selected for discussion. They are always intended to provide a glimpse into where technology is taking us, hence this year the focus on AI, immersive content, disruptive innovation, and connectivity generally. However, an interesting development is a shift in attention towards the effect evermore pervasive technology is having on us as people.
Digital Wellness was a key theme with speakers discussing the addictive nature of technology and its connection to mental health. Also explored was the concept of digital trust, how recent scandals have eroded trust in the digital ecosystem and the emergence of legislation surrounding privacy and the ethics of data usage.
These two themes were arguably the most important of the three days. The scale of the industry today, reflected in the enormity of the exhibition, is supported by the sheer pace of technological innovation today. Though designed to improve our lives this technology can elicit unhealthy dependencies and rogue behaviours the industry has a responsibility to mitigate.