Here’s why some people are staying away from MWC this year

on a clear day you can almost see MWC
Image credit: kurhan /

It is perhaps unfair to say this mid-show, but it seems as if more and more people are looking for excuses not to visit MWC this year. This very accusation could possibly be levelled at a certain member of the Disruptive.Asia team currently observing proceedings from a couple of thousand miles away in Scotland.

The reasons given for missing school MWC range from overload (there are simply too many things to see and people to meet) and relevance (there are simply too many things to see and people to meet to have a reasonable chance of finding anything useful) to finding the whole thing too scary and full of things that look real but aren’t (and we don’t just mean virtual reality).

One of the advantages of keeping your distance from MWC is that you see real articles and opinions, alongside the 50,000 press releases a day (that said, not many today). You even get a chance to glance at LinkedIn and Twitter.

In fact, LinkedIn provided our nomination for the best prediction for MWC. It came from Matt Hatton, ‘ex’ founder of Machina Research (How can you be an ‘ex’ founder? – Ed.) and now in Gartner Group’s grasp.

His predictions for this year’s MWC:

  • Inappropriate use of blockchain
  • Inappropriate description of things as AI

A few months ago we would probably have added 5G to this list, but things really do seem to be moving reasonably fast and sensibly in this arena – apart from the usual complete absence of devices (save one CPE device from Huawei, which one might argue doesn’t count). Even industry veteran and realist Niall Norton suggested that this might just be the year when telecoms and the internet actually come together in a meaningful way.

But blockchain has certainly not. It has become the equivalent of “there’s an app for that”.

“How about security?” you might ask a snake oil vendor as they demonstrate the latest hands free, eyes free, everything free VR payment method. “Ah, we use blockchain,” might well be the answer.

The same is true of AI. We completely agree with Mr Hatton that what many are referring to as AI simply isn’t. It is still fast, intelligent look-up. This is, of course, critical in some circumstances, but don’t believe for a second it is the AI that is still on the horizon and giving Elon Musk sleepless nights.

The other thing we would add to our list of snake oil solutions is automation. Not only should we not mix up automation with transformation, but we should also not mix up automation (‘AI driven for a better experience’ of course) with better customer experience.*

These few days in Barcelona will, of course, be as fascinating as they are exhausting, and our advice would be to concentrate on the real issues, the key one of which is whether telecoms and the internet are really coming together at last.

* Please feel free to insert the process of your choice in the space provided.

** Talking of hype: with VR becoming mainstream – or so ‘they’ say – will any of us need to go to MWC 2021?

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