The next glimpse of the future of mobile commerce – and all its offshoots – took place this past week in Barcelona, where the product demonstrations and speakers’ comments at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) offered solid ideas about the development of 5G, the new wave of biometrics and other such areas.
The annual gathering wrapped up on Friday (March 1), but the ideas and devices from that conference will certainly help shape the near- and long-term futures of digital commerce and payments.
One the main themes of the conference, perhaps, was expressed by Jonathan Davidson, wireless executive at Cisco Systems. According to The New York Times and other reports, he said during the gathering that “5G was ready for prime time, and would enable new applications in augmented reality, healthcare and industrial factories.”
Indeed, new evidence recently emerged about the deployment of the latest generation of mobile technology – one that promises to bring significant changes to retail and payments thanks to bandwidth expansion and faster processing, along with new challenges and questions as early 5G case studies loom.
As PYMNTS reported in late February, right before the kickoff of the Mobile World Congress, Verizon will bring its 5G technology to 30 U.S. cities by the end of 2019. T-Mobile has also said it plans to launch 5G in 30 cities. As for AT&T, it reportedly launched 5G service in these cities: Houston, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Texas; Waco, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; New Orleans, Louisiana; Indianapolis, Indiana and San Antonio, Texas.
At the conference in Spain this past week, “the consensus message seems to be that with the worlds of artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing aligning, the momentum behind 5G is almost irresistible,” according to another conference report. For example, Mickey (Hiroshi) Mikitani, CEO of Japan-based Rakuten, told conference attendees that “we are building the first end-to-end, fully virtualized, cloud-based 5G network. New services can be deployed in a very nimble manner. We don’t have specialized hardware. Everything is software and virtualized and put in the cloud.”
More specifically, the conference demonstrated that the increasing energy behind what we at PYMNTS will gingerly call the foldable phone movement. In late February – amid growing concerns about the slowing sales of smartphones worldwide – Samsung officially unveiled its Galaxy Fold, a device designed to act as a smartphone or small tablet depending on consumer need.
Foldable phones are among the freshest trends in the smartphone industry, as demonstrated at CES earlier this year. In fact, with smartphone sales slowing, hardware makers are hoping the deployment of 5G and the introduction of new smartphone models will spark fresh growth.
At the MWC earlier this week, other companies showed off their own foldable phone plans. For instance, according to CNET, the show featured looks “at the Huawei Mate X, the company's (Huawei’s) first foldable phone. While the Galaxy Fold looks like two phones stacked together, Huawei takes a more streamlined approach with the Mate X, and the result is a foldable phone that's a bit more seamless.”
Biometrics, too, took some of the conference spotlight in Barcelona, as fingerprints, faces and other such metrics move further into the mainstream of payments and commerce, with more biometric initiatives making their way from the drawing board. Perhaps the conference star of biometrics and mobile technology was LG Electronics.
A phone called G8 ThinQ employs light sensors to scan the veins in a user’s hand or to recognize their face in order to unlock the device. The front-facing camera can scan in three dimensions, which should make it more secure than other biometric security measures, such as using fingerprints to unlock a phone.
According to Reuters, LG product evangelist David Montanya explained at a launch event that the G8 ThinQ technology would be more secure than the Face ID feature in Apple’s iPhone X, because there is less than one chance in a billion that one person’s vein structure will match someone else’s.
Much like CES, what happens at the Mobile World Congress helps to set the agenda for the rest of the year in payments and commerce. By this time next year, you can bet there will be an even bigger focus on 5G at the MWC – and perhaps some solid use cases and case studies that speak to exactly how that mobile technology will influence retail and online transactions.