New innovations and digitization at MWC 2019

27 Feb 2019

MWC is an event to launch new products and solutions. At the same time, it is not really a place for disruptive innovation. It is more a place for the industry players to update their evolution. There are also startups, but not the kind that aim to truly disrupt anything. So, what is the innovation update for MWC 2019? And how will the good old digitization provide for something new?

5G, IoT, AI, and Edge are probably the most used abbreviations in this year. All those areas are making clear technological progress and there are new products available. But it is hard to see anything that would really be innovative and a game changer. Maybe foldable phones are something new, but actually rumors and pictures about a foldable iPhone looked more innovative (at least cooler) than anything at MWC.

4YFN is again dedicated for startups and future solutions. There are probably some companies that can make something significant in the future. But most startups are in those booths that are subsidized by different governments and they don’t really represent new innovation. There are companies that offer some data analytics for marketing, some technology components for networks and healthtech and all kinds of business application platforms. They might have nice technology and grow their business, but most of them don’t disrupt anything.

With innovation we have also a question, if it is new technology or is it a truly new and valuable offering to customers. MWC has many things that can represent new technology but much less fundamental innovations that are already smooth consumer services. But on the other hand, there are things that are not very innovative technically anymore, but are now mature enough to offer value to users.

Digitization is a strange topic. Some people seem to think it is something corporates must finally start with. Some other people say that it is the transition that is now on-going in most of companies. And then there are people who say we should not talk about digitization anymore, when it has been reality everywhere for years.

What is even stranger is that all those people might be right. We have a lot of information in digital formats and data processing is a core of many activities nowadays. But it doesn’t mean that all activities are already digital and there are still many surprisingly old fashioned activities in most industries, including banking, telcos, logistics and retail. In some cases processes might be already digital, but they are not really designed for digital business. They are the old processes that just utilize computers and data. The difference between real digital companies and companies utilizing digital is huge. This might sound like a cliché, but just think about Amazon versus a smaller local retailer and their processes and use of digital technology.

Industry 4.0 (including all other name variations in different countries) is one of those things that is very much linked to digitalization and also getting different industries to work together. The classical example, how production, logistics, retail and finance transactions must work smoothly together is still a good example, how cross-industry digitization and processes should work.

Citi’s Global Head of Treasure and Trade Naveed Sultal emphasized at MWC especially the customer experience, and how it must be the starting point of digital services, including industry 4.0 solutions. He pinpoints the problem of many digitization projects. When traditional companies try to change the old processes to use computers and data, new challengers can build the whole company and customer experience based on the latest technology.

Mr. Sultan also highlighted that “digital disruption poses an existential threat to some companies.” I would say it is like that for many companies. This can sound strange, when some people think digitization has been reality for years. But you can just look at how many retailers in the last and this year have been in trouble and even in bankruptcy in the US and UK, and many of them blame Amazon and online shopping. Things often take longer than we think and the big impact on industries comes with a delay. Retail and publishing businesses are seeing it now, but e.g. for finance it is still in a very early phase.

MWC doesn’t typically have things that are game changers. But it is a place where many parties introduce and agree on small steps that are changing industries. It is an industry event, but one area many companies there should study more is how to become really customer oriented. Technology is an important enabler, but companies must really design their digital future based on the customer offering and experience. It is the real intelligent connectivity as this year slogan states.

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