Last night we hosted our Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017 predictions event in partnership with analyst firm CCS Insight.

It was a lot of fun, with a big crowd of bloggers, journalist and PR and marketing decision-makers turning up to hear about the hottest trends likely to be hitting MWC this year.

Here are some of the most exciting predictions from the night…

1. Nokia’s triumphant return

Kicking off the discussions was CCS Insight’s resident device specialist and chief of research Ben Wood, and his first prediction will be music to your ears if you were the proud owner of a 3210 or similar.

Anyone who was of the right age when mobile phones really began to take off will have a nostalgic soft spot for Nokia. It used to have a massive market share, but since its sale to Microsoft in 2014 it gradually became no more than a brand. But a strong one. And Ben believes it’s set to make a comeback – so expect some kind of announcement at MWC.

“We think (Nokia) could take 5% of the global smartphone market by the end of 2019,” he said, citing the brand’s backing by Foxcom – the largest phone manufacturer on the planet – as a driving factor. “But it needs to get big quick or it won’t work.”

2. Screens get bigger – phones don’t

Ben’s next prediction was that smartphone manufacturers will be talking a lot about bigger screens – not bigger devices overall, but a larger useable screen on a smaller physical footprint.

The way people use mobile devices is changing, he argued, and as our appetite for consuming content on our phones has grown exponentially the amount of screen we need has expanded with it.

3. 360-degree cameras

Could we see the end of the selfie and the rise of the ‘surroundie?’ Ben certainly seems to think so, and 360 cameras could be a big talking point at MWC.

360-degree content has become increasingly common on Facebook and YouTube. This trend is likely to continue as content producers strive to make the most of this eye-catching format and virtual reality becomes ever-more mainstream.

Ben Wood CCS Insight

4. Analogue smartwatches

Smartwatches may not have seen the astronomical sales figures some people predicted, but Ben believes another device is beginning to gain momentum: the smart analogue watch.

“We’ll see a whole host of announcements in this area,” he said. “And a bunch of fashion brands will be entering the market.”

The smart analogue watch is essentially a traditional watch but with a Bluetooth module built in, so it will be sold through those fashion and jewellery retail channels.

As a result, they could “outstrip smartwatches in sales volume by the end of 2018,” Ben predicted.

5. Voice recognition

“After years of being the most unfashionable subject at MWC, voice is going to be a huge topic,” Ben said.

“We saw this at CES already – we’re on the cusp of a new wave of voice interaction.”

And while Amazon’s Alexa is clearly out in front when it comes to voice-recognition devices, the competition, Ben argued, is extremely hot. You’ve got Google’s assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana – there’s loads going on in this space.

6. Gigabit LTE

We’re going to hear a lot about Gigabit LTE – an enhancement to existing 4G networks that uses added technology to deliver download speeds of up to 900mb per second (in theory).

Ben called it a ‘”game-changer.”

“You’ll be able to do stuff on mobile you simply couldn’t before,” he said. “But it also means you can get people on and off the network much faster.”

Everyone from handset manufacturers to network operators and chip-makers will be talking about Gigabit LTE, he said.

There will also be talk of 5G, although Ben was quick to stress that we won’t see much progression on that front until at least 2020. For now, Gigabit LTE is the hot topic.

7. Verticalised IoT

Next up was networks expert Martin Garner, and his first predictions was a general observation about how companies will discuss the internet of things (IoT) at MWC.

“This time there will be a much stronger emphasis on verticals,” he said. “On how the technology is being used in specific industries.

“Not all suppliers have caught onto that yet,” he added. “But we’re expecting the discussion to be much more sector-oriented.”

Martin Garner CCS Insight

8. Narrowband networks

When you look at something like flood monitoring where IoT sensors play a role, those sensors don’t generate a lot of data overall but they need to last a long time and be useful when needed.

GSMA and other network operators have put together a network called NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT), which is optimised for exactly this type of use.

Martin pointed out that the network has gone from being non-existent to commercially available in just two years – something that’s never been done before.

Expect to hear people talking about NB-IoT during the event.

9. Cloud-managed IoT

“This isn’t sexy, but it is really important,” Martin said, talking about the up-and-coming convergence between IoT cloud and mobility.

“Old IoT platforms has no management behind them,” he said. “You had to update each device manually. But we can do better than that.”

There are now a bunch of companies – more than 300 by CCS Insight’s count – that are ready to help businesses manage their IoT in a virtual and much more efficient way.

Martin called it one of the fastest-growing areas of network technology, so we’ll be sure to hear more about it at MWC.

10. Security and privacy concerns

“Suppliers will increasingly make security and privacy a key part of their positioning,” Martin said. “There’s a fear a big enough IoT hack could stop the market dead in its tracks.”

And with GDPR looming ever-closer, companies are racing to make sure their data handling won’t land them in hot water.

“The IoT world is just not ready for it,” he said.

He also predicted there will be an “absolute scramble” for compliance in 2017, so it’s likely plenty of people will be dishing out advice at MWC.

***

So there we go – 10 things you’re likely to hear about at MWC, according to the people who tend to get these things right. Hopefully some food for thought as you gear up for the main event.

Are you going to be in Barcelona? We’d love to hear from you – what you’re excited about and what you think the big talking points will be.

To everyone who attended the event last night, thank you – we’ll see you at the next one!

Check out our very own Phil Szomzor interviewing Ben Woods live on the night!

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