PARTNER CONTENT: MWC20 is no longer taking place in Barcelona this year, but that doesn’t mean the telecoms and technology industry need miss out on the latest news and updates. Neither does it mean the industry players must miss out on sharing reflections on and predictions for their sector of the market. Events like MWC offer essential opportunities to exchange news and views which help to shape the future direction of the telecoms and technology markets.

So, here are our thoughts on what would have been driving discussion at the show, and what will almost certainly drive progression and investment through 2020.

5G roaming will unlock opportunities
Gatherings like MWC illustrate perfectly the need for reliable, consistent, global connectivity, with thousands of subscribers travelling from across the world and expecting to be able to use their phones as they would in their home country. Although we’ve seen an escalating number of 5G deployments since the 2019 event last year, most of us still rely on 3G and 4G connectivity. Demand for 4G roaming services continues to climb, meaning it’ll only be a matter of time before networks must be upgraded to support the growing number of subscribers and connected things.

5G will support the surging demand for mobile data, making it easier for subscribers to stream content, video call their friends, browse the web, play games against connected players, and use their handsets to manage other smart devices. As commercial rollouts continue, 5G roaming will empower subscribers to benefit from next-generation connectivity on a global scale.

In 2019 we saw several 5G roaming services launch. These included the first international service between Swiss operator Swisscom and South Korean operator SK Telecom, as well as a number of services within Europe. Monetising 5G will be a priority for operators, but in the meantime, there is still a lot which can be done to capitalise on trends which are enabled by current network infrastructure. These include the growth of the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), many applications of which are supported by 3G and 4G connectivity. This leads us nicely onto a second major talking point…

Robots to the rescue
We recently announced our partnership with German Bionic, the world’s first robot-as-a-service provider. The collaboration has seen the launch of Cray X, German Bionic’s first connected exoskeleton, designed to mitigate injuries and drive productivity for businesses.

Cray X is the first connected asset from German Bionic and marks the first instance of a European manufacturer developing, producing and deploying smart exoskeletons for use in industrial production. The suit, worn on the body like a backpack, combines human intelligence with machine power. It supports and enhances the wearer’s movements, reducing the risk of accidents and excessive strain. Embedded sensors and built-in IoT connectivity enable ongoing improvement and integration with smart factory systems.

The move highlights the diversity of IoT applications and industries that BICS supports, and demonstrates how our SIM for Things is powering the next generation of smart industry and augmented industry workforces. It also demonstrates the growing diversity of IoT applications being developed more widely and signifies an interesting shift in attitudes. Fears of a ‘rise of the robots’ have dogged many IoT and AI developments, as these ecosystems have largely been seen as technology- and data-driven. Integrating exoskeletons into the IoT, on the other hand, provides a means of augmenting, rather than replacing, human workers. Smart factories, warehouses and other workplaces benefit from increased productivity and efficiencies, while also being safer, more enjoyable environments for their workforces.

Why? Well, developments like Cray X are designed to reduce instances of workplace injury significantly. Musculoskeletal conditions are the leading contributor to disability worldwide, with low back pain being the single leading cause of disability globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The issue is a global one but is particularly acute in the US, where half of all adults are living with such a condition. That’s the same number as those living with cardiovascular or chronic respiratory diseases combined.

One cause of these conditions is workplace injury. Particularly at risk are those doing work that involves repetitive but unpredictable heavy lifting, just the kind of tasks done by those employed in warehouses or healthcare. Of course, Cray X, isn’t the only exoskeleton being developed to help solve this problem. Its development and deployment reflects a wider, global trend. The exoskeleton market is predicted to reach $5 billion by 2028, with the most significant opportunity identified in augmenting industrial production workers.

The global IoT is a mobile IoT
The IoT market more widely is also set to explode, reaching a predicted $520 billion by 2021, double what it was worth just a couple of years ago, meaning the opportunities for mobile carriers are enormous. The millions of sensors and connected devices (such as cars, industrial robots, patient monitors, energy monitors, et cetera.) will all require connectivity. And the success of a business wanting either to digitalise and launch into the IoT space or to expand operations globally will be dependent on ensuring its connected assets remain connected wherever in the world they are.

Embedding connectivity into devices and sensors will enable this global, mobile IoT. However, to ensure that this IoT is a success, these connected things will have to remain connected wherever and whenever they travel, unimpeded by borders and able to cross multiple operators’ networks. This is where the challenge for many enterprises entering the IoT lies. While companies wanting to launch or augment an IoT proposition are unlikely to be experts in connecting, managing and troubleshooting fleets of connected devices. This is where the telco opportunity lies. By providing connectivity, tools and establishing roaming agreements, operators and other industry players can get a slice of the IoT pie, by connecting and enabling this ecosystem on a global scale.

Core business benefits
In an increasingly global society, people and things are relying more than ever on seamless connectivity wherever they go. Yet, businesses and individuals are also realising the benefits of virtual communication services, as improvements in technology allow enterprises to scale quickly and affordably, without the costs associated with physical hardware and office expansions.

Be it physical goods or digital services, enterprises today depend on conducting business overseas. As the pace and scale of international operations grow, so does the cost of communications infrastructure. Rather than looking halfway around the world for different service providers in different countries, businesses should instead look to the cloud. Phone numbers hosted virtually in the cloud provide a means of secure communication for customer service contact centres, unified communications, conferencing services and more.

This approach to communications can massively cut OpEx and total cost of ownership and allows companies to scale into new regions by creating a local presence at country or city level. Outlay on new hardware is reduced (or eliminated) as cloud-hosted numbers are interoperable with all unified communications platforms and all device and media types so can be used by staff working remotely.

Those contacting a company through a call centre or customer care line also benefit: local numbers are provided for specific, defined geographic areas, so the caller only pays local charges, or none at all, regardless of whether they’re calling from a mobile or landline.

Where once businesses may have had to deal with fuzzy phone lines to far-flung countries, moving more communications to the cloud has elevated quality of service and introduced a range of enhanced means of staying in touch. From voice, web and HD video conferencing to chat, social media and virtual reality, cloud communications helps businesses to realise richer interactions.

Since the telecom and tech industries can’t go to Barcelona, we decided to bring all the best of Barcelona directly to customers and industry peers. Visit BICS’ virtual booth to (virtually) meet our experts and see, hear, and read about what BICS was planning to discuss in Barcelona, as well as where our company, and the industry, is headed in the coming months.