Barcelona ready for Mobile World Congress 2018

Key themes at this year's event, kicking off on Monday, include artificial intelligence, drones, robotics, and augmented reality

Outside the Fira de Barcelona, where MWC is to be held (by ACN)
Outside the Fira de Barcelona, where MWC is to be held (by ACN) / Alicia Egorov

Alicia Egorov | Barcelona

February 25, 2018 01:39 PM

The biggest event in the mobile industry world kicks off on Monday. More than 108,000 people from 200 countries are expected to attend this year’s edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, with around 2,300 companies exhibiting their latest technological innovations.

Mobile technology is constantly evolving. Since the creation of the first smart phone, the way we communicate has been revolutionised, and this year some of the themes will be key to how the future of technology shapes our world.

Technological trends

Among the main technological trends, the future of 5G technology is highlighted as a vector for the development of the internet of things, intelligent cities and autonomous driving. Recently, the Catalan capital revealed plans to turn the city into a hub for the research and development of the next generation mobile network.

The initiative, 5GBarcelona, will implement an action plan allowing the deployment of the experimental infrastructure, as well as incorporating the involvement of other organizations, companies, and even citizens.

Other major developments will also be showcased at this year’s MWC, some bringing science fiction a little closer to reality. New innovations in the realm of artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, and augmented reality are also set to be hot topics at the event in the NexTech hall.

Looking to the future

This year, the MWC´s main motto is “Creating a better future,” divided into different themes including the fourth industrial revolution, the provision of future services, the role of technology in society, the digital consumer and more.

Big names

Among the main speakers include the CEOs of the big companies in the sector such as AT&T, BT, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, HTC, Telefonica, Huawei and Nokia. The chairman of CNN Worldwide, Jeff Zucker, will also be offering insights into the future, as well as representatives from major car companies such as BMW, Mercedes, Seat, Toyota, as well as Formula One.

Innovation city

After receiving 30,000 visitors in the previous edition, this year Innovation City will show the main advances of the sector in a functional environment, especially in the field of 5G technology and artificial intelligence. Similarly, the MWC will host a space dedicated to the most disruptive technologies.

Gadgets galore

Just having a portable computer in your pocket these days isn’t always enough. There is always room for further evolution of the mobile, and this year some of the latest releases are due to be announced.

Samsung is to present the Galaxy at an external event, with the Korean company revealing improvements in the camera. There will also be news in the presentation of new HTC devices (HTC Ocean), LG (V30 AI), Nokia (Nokia 9), Oppo (Find 9), Sony (the new Mirai, and Xaomi (Mi7 and Mi Mix 2). Things such as dual cameras, as well as fingerprint and eye recognition systems are some of the innovations to be included in the next phase of mobiles. 

Economic impact

The economic impact of the Mobile World Congress is estimated at €471 million, with 13,000 temporary jobs also created thanks to the annual conference. Since the first Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2006, the congress has generated €4.4 billion euros for the economy as well as 115,000 job posts. 

The event, taking place for the thirteenth time in Barcelona, will occupy a 120,000 square meter exhibition space. It runs from February 26 to March 1.

Different strategies

Security will be a key issue at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. The congress has a security program run in conjunction with the Catalan police and other international specialists. More protective barriers will be installed, as well as a pilot face recognition programme that will be carried out on some of the attendees.

For the first time ever, the Catalan police will incorporate the use of drones in the security measures throughout the event. 

Security measures have been adapted as the terrorist attack warning in Barcelona is high, currently set at level four out of five. In order to incorporate drones into the management of the safety of MWC, an aeronautical study was carried out.

Political controversy

The King of Spain has travelled to Barcelona to attend the event. Neither the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, nor the Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, will attend the official reception. Colau justified her decision by criticizing Felipe’s stance towards imprisoned Catalan leaders and victims of police violence on October 1, while Torrent argued that the king “has not addressed a single word” to the victims of Spanish Police charges during the referendum.

From Brussels, Carles Puigdemont said that "Felipe VI will be welcome when he apologizes for his inconstitutional role last October." 

Other members of the government who won't be attending the king's reception dinner include the Secretary of Information and Communication Technologies, Jordi Puigneró, and the Secretaryof Enterprise and Knowledge, Pau Villoria, as well as Joan Aregio. The latter two stated that they will not attend as neither Carles Puigdemont, nor Oriol Junqueras, the jailed vice-president are able to due to Spain's application of Article 155.

The Spanish government has said that the move puts the future of MWC in Barcelona at risk. Protests were called for the arrival of the Spanish king on Sunday evening. 

The political situation in the country is not a concern for attendees who spoke with the Catalan News Agency.

Barcelona is a fantastic city, I hope the Mobile World Congress will stay here forever,” said Georgios Avrmadis of Huawei, coming to the event for the eighth time.