What to Expect at MWC24

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Swathes of global tech and telecom pioneers will descend on Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this week to showcase the latest and greatest in technological innovation. The team at Cubic has been following the conversations surrounding MWC and, while AI will undoubtedly dominate proceedings, attendees should expect to learn about exciting advancements in connectivity which enable these innovations to flourish.  

Granted, the benefits of AI are many and varied, but without the connectivity underpinning it, these benefits cannot truly be felt.  As such, developments in connectivity – from 5G and 6G to OpenRAN and LiFi – will share the spotlight over the course of the week. 

Here are some key takeaways from the opening of this year’s event:

1. Generative AI’s influence on the autonomous vehicle market 
As expected, AI is one of the main themes at MWC this year. Microsoft took to the stage to explain how it is applying AI at scale to transform the telecommunications industry, while senior leaders at Telia and Verizon discussed their forward-thinking vision and current action plans for experimenting, implementing and integrating AI.

Mobility is one sector that is set to undergo significant transformation with the help of AI. Cars, for example, are fast becoming mobile phones on wheels and consumers expect all, if not more, of the functionality and experiences they get on their devices. Much in the way smartphones use AI to monitor a consumer’s daily activity and suggest healthy lifestyle changes, driver monitoring systems (DMSs) use facial recognition cameras and sensors to identify signs of driver distraction and fatigue, resulting in reduced road accidents.   
Still, the speed and responsiveness of the software has been cited as a main issue for carmakers wishing to implement AI. The future of software-defined vehicles (SDCVs), therefore, hinges on connectivity.  

However, maintaining the right level of connectivity is not simple. It is mired in complexity and regulations. Take data roaming. Without OEMs having agreements in place, the consistency of service and customer experience are severely compromised. OEMs ultimately need an easy way of connecting SDCVs no matter where they are in the world so they can be digitally enhanced. Therefore, fast, low latency 5G – and, eventually, 6G – networks will play a vital part in ensuring consumers received the full benefits of AI-integrated cockpits.

2. How LiFi could revolutionize the automotive industry
LiFi (Light Fidelity) is also a hot topic at this year’s event. Unlike WiFi, which relies on radio frequencies to transmit data, LiFi uses LED bulbs and light signals. To date, it has been used in indoor settings, but there are potential automotive applications as well, including vehicle-to-vehicle communication, in-car entertainment, and advanced driver assistance systems.

What makes it a more attractive alternative to traditional WiFi is its resistance to electromagnetic interference, higher data rates, and greater bandwidth. As the technology continues to develop, it is likely to become increasingly important to OEMs looking to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In fact, according to McKinsey, 95% of new vehicles sold globally will be connected by 2030, and connected car use cases could deliver 250 billion USD to $400 billion USD in annual incremental value. OEMs will therefore look to LiFi to deliver compelling user experiences, so they don’t fall behind as the market explodes. 

3. Seamless smartphone integration
Smartphones have become synonymous with simplicity. Connect it to a car, however, and you’ll often find the experience far from seamless. Because of this, drivers struggle to see the potential of smartphone integration beyond call features and music streaming services.

That’s why carmakers are trying to ensure the interaction between phone and digital cockpit systems runs smoothly. Some, like NIO, Xpeng and Li Auto, have even launched their own smartphones to enrich the automotive ecosystem. However, with mountains of data available on a consumer’s existing smartphone, carmakers could deliver a greater user experience by enabling seamless integration of smartphones already on the market.  

Still, issues around bad connections, poor rendering and slow responses mean the long-term vision for OEMs is to have a car’s infotainment system handle everything, so there’s no need for a smartphone. Seeing this opportunity, GM recently removed Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto from its vehicles and introduced its “Ultifi” infotainment software, which hosts a suite of fully integrated Google apps, alongside popular apps like Spotify and Audible. Getting rid of poor in-house systems and replacing them with reliable apps solves a major pain point for drivers, leading to greater customer satisfaction. Plus, the stickier the in-house system, the less likely drivers are to pick up their smartphones and become distracted behind the wheel.

There’s also a big data play for OEMs. By bringing the software in house, automakers can leverage enormous amounts of data on how their customers driver, where they go, and apps they like to use. Apps also exist that allow owners to spend money through the vehicle’s infotainment system, so here lies a huge opportunity for automakers to generate greater revenue while delivering memorable user experiences. 

We can’t wait to see what the rest of the week at MWC has in store. Connectivity without borders is generating plenty of buzz so far as software-defined, autonomous and electric vehicles grow in demand and sophistication. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog post at the conclusion of MWC on the biggest takeaways from the show!  

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