Originally appeared on Connections+ Magazine on March 22, 2016
Barcelona, Spain – The 2016 edition of Mobile World Congress showcased many technological advances, but the two that clearly stood out from the rest were 5G and the Internet of Things.
In the exhibit halls, during keynote speeches and at press conferences, both topics were front and centre and dominated discussion.
Speaking on Sunday night prior to the start of the four-day conference, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri predicted that necessity will force the industry to implement the updated mobile network faster than expected and it will happen.
“All too often, we see opportunities turn into money traps, but 5G is different,” he said. “The industrial Internet can bring massive efficiencies to companies everywhere, but they cannot rely on the existing networks.”
“5G must happen fast because important IoT use cases demand it. If we know that (it) can help save lives, improve our environment and make our lives better, we need to move faster, not slower.”
As for the show itself, which attracted a record 100,000+ attendees, Sylvain Cornay, service assurance marketing manager with Quebec City-based EXFO, a manufacturer of test and service assurance instruments for fixed and mobile telecom networks, discussed its merits on the second day. “The real value is in the people that come to the show,” he said. “Everybody is here – all the major players and operators from across the world come each year, which makes for a special atmosphere and quite a buzz.
“There are some really interesting concepts coming out of the IoT industry, but it’s still relatively early days. The challenge around M2M communication is very different to the type of communication the industry is used to. We use a lot of bandwidth with things like video, but M2M is different. It could be a signal once a day or week, or once every second. So how does the network handle the peaks that will come from billions of connected devices?
“5G is clearly on the way, but ultimately it’s not going to make it without NFV (network functions virtualization) and SDN (software-defined networks. It’s really that simple.”
Greg Collins, founder and chief analyst for Exact Ventures, a Burlingame, Calif.-based market intelligence firm that tracks the networking, telecommunications and wireless sectors, said a lot of people are excited about the direction all three areas are heading.
“IoT is a big topic and for the first time I have been noticing a lot more health devices and people understanding how to digitize their traditional bricks and mortar types of businesses.
“As for all of this talk about 5G, when I first heard about it I was skeptical thinking, ‘Oh my God, does the industry really need a radio upgrade. What does this do to the business model of the carriers? Do they want the capital-intensity of such an initiative, which will be a burden for many of them.
“But 5G is different. It represents the intersection of a lot of things. It’s going to force carriers to transform what they do as well as their business models. What they need to do now is hash out the details.”
Meanwhile, according to Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, no industry will be able to avoid the digital disruption coming their way this year. He said that three fundamental ICT forces -– broadband, mobility and cloud – are rapidly reshaping value chains, digitalizing business models and creating possibilities that were previously unimaginable.
“Along with our industry and our customers, Ericsson is on a transformation journey,” said Vestberg. “Today, 66% of our business comes from software and services; just years ago, the majority was hardware. The majority of our principal competitors are ICT players, rather than telecommunications businesses.”
He added that 5G, IoT and cloud are the ICT industry’s hottest topics
According to Ericsson, the IoT is quickly becoming a reality and its impact on both industry and society will be profound. The company forecasts that the number of IoT connected devices globally will more than triple from under 5 billion today to 15 billion by 2021. A recent IDC study predicts that global IoT spending will reach US$1.3 trillion by 2019 and the McKinsey Global Institute concludes that IoT will have a potential annual economic impact of up to US$11 trillion by 2025.
Prior to the show, the chair of oneM2M Technical Plenary warned that vendors rushing to be the first to release IoT gadgets and ecosystems need to urgently increase collaboration and treat the IoT race as a marathon, rather than a sprint.
Dr. Omar Elloumi, a member of the Nokia corporate CTO group, said the full potential of IoT could only be realized if service providers and vendors alike look at it as a customer-centric opportunity while remaining focused on the bigger picture.
Without this, said Elloumi, IoT growth will be stunted and the market will become heavily fragmented, leading to security issues and vendor lock-in.
“According to the 2015 McKinsey report ‘Unlocking the potential of the Internet of Things’, interoperability will unlock 40% of IoT revenue – that alone shows just how damaging launching products could be without carefully considering interoperability,” he said.
“The time required to create globally harmonized standards can create frustration for many of us, but this is nothing compared to the frustration consumers and industries will experience if their newly installed IoT system requires multiple controls for multiple devices and actually complicates their lifestyle or operations rather than simplifying them.”
Security is another major obstacle that detailed and well-documented specifications can overcome, he added, with security functions covering identification, authentication, authorization, security association, sensitive data handling and administration.
“The IoT is still a nascent market,” Elloumi said. “The ability to spin up a new solution can be quite daunting; there is a lot of effort involved in integrating a complete solution especially if you have to deal with legacy systems; this is the case for smart cities in particular.
“Standards-based solutions give you an eco-system of multiple solution providers which is the only way to ensure multi-vendor interoperability and supplier choice and, therefore, deliver on the actual promise of IoT.”
Formed in 2012, oneM2M is the global standards initiative that covers requirements, architecture, API specifications, security solutions and interoperability for Machine-to-Machine and IoT technologies.
On the 5G front, one week before the conference, Ottawa-based Mitel announced it was investing in a new initiative focused on advanced 5G cloud connectivity. The new unit will be headed by Pardeep Kohli, former CEO of Mavenir, a software-based telecommunications networking provider, which Mitel purchased last year.
“Wireless connectivity is now an essential aspect of everyday life, but we’ve only just scratched the surface of the economic and social impact it will have in the future as mobile technology continues to advance,” Kohli said. “Mitel’s 5G platform is focused on building that future.”
There was no shortage of other news at MWC 2016. Highlights included the following:
Nokia announcing purchase of Ottawa-based security firm Nakina Systems: The companies previously had a five-year partnership where Nokia used Nakina’s software in several customer projects. The announcement will see Nakina, which specializes in security and orchestration software for virtual and hybrid networks, become a fully-owned division once the acquisition closes sometime this quarter. “Security is an integral part of any network,” Nokia said in a release. “(This) helps us support customers facing increasing threats coming from 5G networks, Internet of Things, big data, Software Defined Networks and cloud services.
Company CEO Mary O’Neil said “Nakina bridges the security and operational gaps between the promise of cloud networks and operational realities of running high performance heterogeneous networks.
Wedge Networks launching IoT security platform: Calgary-based Wedge Networks launched a new line of new Security-as-a-Service packages it said provides “urgently needed” security and compliance enforcement services for IoT in enterprise networks. The new packages are available immediately for implementation using Wedge Cloud Network Defense (CND), which can be deployed by enterprises with their own data centre cloud, and by communications service providers (CSPs) to offer Security-as-as-Service to their business customers.
“The explosive growth of wirelessly connected monitoring and control devices is ushering in an era of increased productivity and effectiveness, and creating gaps in conventional security and compliance enforcement systems for many enterprises,” the company said in a release.
Wedge CND’s IoT Security and Compliance Enforcement packages provide IoT optimized security and compliance services with enforcement at the cloud layer to consistently apply policies to all network connected devices, both physical and virtual.
Packages are available to address different vertical markets, such as healthcare which is subject to compliance obligations and manufacturing which is far less regulated but increasingly dependent on the IoT, it added.
“IoT, compliance, and Security-as-a-Service are all hot topics at Mobile World Congress and the networking industry at large”, said Alan Zeichick, principal analyst of Camden Associates.
“IoT innovation continues to push new boundaries here at Mobile World Congress, 2016”, said Dr. Hongwen Zhang, chief technical officer and co-founder of Wedge Networks. “Establishing plans to address the unique security and compliance challenges for the IoT is becoming a critical concern for many businesses.”
The security platform can provide advanced network security applications such as Web filtering, anti-malware, anti-spam, data loss prevention, mobile security, application control and server security, application filtering.
RX Networks introduce new beacon business unit: Vancouver-based RX Networks predicted it will “redefine” the beacon and IoT space with Fathom, a hardware and software system the company said is designed to address the challenges of managing large-scale beacon deployments.
The Fathom Hub “transforms existing, standalone Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons into a managed proximity network, reporting on the location and status of all beacons in the coverage area.
If beacons are moved, lost, or if the battery runs low, an alert is trigged and updates are displayed in the cloud-based Fathom control panel in real-time.”
In addition, Fathom renders location data from other nearby BLE devices such as wearables and smartphones, to improve customer engagement, resource monitoring and real-time analytics, the company added.
Guylain Roy-MacHabee, president and CEO of RX Networks, said he is confident Fathom will solve a “very real and very painful problem for a lot of companies deploying beacons today: ease of operation and location-context integrity. The very same challenges the IoT industry at large will face, albeit potentially dealing with billions rather than millions of devices.”
HP unveils ‘new mobile ecosystem’: HP Inc. unveiled the HP Elite X3, a Windows 10 mobile device it said will revolutionize the mobile computing experience. The X3, which is expected to be available this summer, “bridges phablet, laptop and desktop use cases.”
According to the company, today’s worker expects a different style of computing, yet is forced to rely on multiple different technologies and devices to get work done.
“Commercial mobility is prime for disruption,” said Dion Weisler, president and CEO of HP Inc.