Barcelona congress shows the smart and the surreal

Traditional companies are now moving into the Internet of Things era of smart devices

An employee waves her arm to demonstrate command of a 5G Mission Critical IoT wireless robotic device manufactured by SK Telecom Co at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

An employee waves her arm to demonstrate command of a 5G Mission Critical IoT wireless robotic device manufactured by SK Telecom Co at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 

Did you hear the one about the consultancy firm and the credit card company that developed a connected car? It turns out that it is not just the car-makers and tech giants that are moving into the Internet of Things era of smart devices – even the more traditional companies are trying to get in on the action.

On the Visa stand at Mobile World Congress, the payments firm unveiled its proof-of-concept connected car. The company has teamed up with Accenture and Pizza Hut to enable drivers to order and pay for their pizza using car dashboard software.

A feature called interactive voice control (IVR) will let you talk to your car (hands-free) to place an order for a pepperoni pizza, wings, garlic bread or any other items from Pizza Hut. Beacon technology will be used to let Pizza Hut know when a customer has arrived to collect their order, while Accenture will oversee the system integration, managing all these technologies.

A pilot test will run in northern California for three months later this year, but Visa ultimately envisions a world where consumers can seamlessly make lots of everyday purchases from the car.

On your (smart) bike

Ronseal does exactly what it says on the tin, but few others do. Google announced it was going to become a mobile operator in the US, Visa is getting into connected cars, Samsung unveiled a new payments system, LG has developed a watch to unlock your car (as long as it’s an Audi) and computer company Lenovo unveiled a smartphone flash just for selfies!

And, as tech companies and others examine opportunity in the car market, the car companies are looking at bikes. Ford had huge stands at the event, but it was its electric bikes that were attracting all the attention.

The company unveiled two prototype electric bikes, one for commuters and the other for couriers. The sensor-laden bikes have electric pedal assistance, which can detect how much assistance you need depending on your heart rate. If you’re on your way to a meeting, you can turn on the “no sweat mode”, meaning the bike will do nearly all the work, and can go at speeds up to 25km/h.

The bikes also have handlebars with tactile feedback to tell the cyclist which way to turn and a rear-facing ultrasonic sensor, which can detect any overtaking vehicles and notify the cyclist through vibrations in the handlebar.

While Ford focuses on bikes, Volvo is looking at helmets. The car company has teamed up with Ericsson and POC to create a connected helmet, which aims to warn drivers and cyclists of a possible collision. The helmet vibrates and lights flash under the visor to warn cyclists of approaching and overtaking vehicles.

Password pain

GSMA

This year’s event was littered with wearables of every shape and size, alongside connected cars and smart devices, all vying for attention. There were virtual reality headsets, fitness bands, smart bicycles, Bluetooth toothbrushes and connected tennis rackets.

To keep pace with the proliferation of devices and applications, the world needs to move beyond passwords and pin numbers and thankfully that is already happening. Passwords may soon be thing of the past and you won’t need to draw a pattern or scan your fingerprint to unlock your smartphone instead. Iris recognition and electrocardiograms (ECG) will dominate the future.

Irish company B-Secur was at the event talking about its technology, which uses medical grade ECG technology to authenticate an individual. Everyone has a unique ECG pattern and no one can steal your heart (at least not physically), so B-Secur’s technology is perfect for protecting for personal information, unlocking your smartphone, and conducting mobile banking.

Eye don’t believe it

On the subject of eyes, you will soon be able to eye the contents of your fridge from a supermarket, to see if you’re low on milk or any other item. Bosch is readying a smart fridge with embedded cameras, so owners can remotely observe what consumables it contains. The fridge is expected to be on the market next year, so you’ll never again wonder if you’re low on milk.

Fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks may have been one of the main themes of Mobile World Congress, but the tech firm unveilings and gadgets were the real talk of the town. Well, aside from the hot topic that was the number of people who fell asleep during Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote address.

The mobile giants agreed that the next big thing will be 5G, which promises superfast internet speeds and the capacity to hook up objects to the internet from cars to health-monitoring devices. That’s about all anyone knows about the 5G, which has also been compared to the emperor’s new clothes. When asked about it, Tom Wheeler – the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in the US – said it was like a Picasso painting: “We all look at it and see something different.”

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