As operators move towards the next generation of mobile, incorporating greater intelligence into their systems will be vital to turning their massive data assets into knowledge that enables real innovation.

This was the key theme of the opening keynote presentations at Mobile World Congress.

Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA, talked about how increased intelligence and ubiquitous networks will enable mobile to drive the so-called 4th industrial revolution.

“At the core of this revolution will be hundreds of billions of connections, sensing and communicating key information about their environment, allowing the digital economy to spread into every aspect of our lives,” he said.

Granryd gave the example of self-driving cars that can sense both their surroundings and the movement of other vehicles, reacting in milliseconds to critical information, reducing congestion and eliminating accidents.

“Logistics companies will deploy augmented reality solutions such as intelligent glasses in warehouses to speed up the picking process and reduce errors. And manufacturing companies will deploy robots that interact with each other and their environment to optimise industrial processes.”

Chang-Gyu Hwang, chief executive of KT, also drew attention to the growing importance of artificial intelligence, which, combined with growing amounts of data, would be a driving force for the 4th industrial revolution.

5G, he said, would play an important part in this transformation. “5G is not only about speed, connectivity and capacity, but also intelligence. The challenge is turn this concept into real-life innovation.”

Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank, outlined his long-term technology vision, predicting that IoT connections will hit one trillion in 30 years, with super-intelligence chips that will be smarter than the human brain.

“This is why I acquired ARM last year,” said Son, who has long forecast that computers will surpass the intelligence of the human brain by 2018, something referred to as singularity.

The CEO also believes the number of smart robots will exceed the human population in less than 30 years.

Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete, chairman and CEO of Telefonica, also emphasised the need for added intelligence as operators undergo massive digital transformations.

The operator has been working on its so-called fourth platform that is based on cognitive intelligence and promises to empower customers by transforming information into knowledge.