MWC 2014: big data, wearables in the spotlight at the mobile show’s largest-ever edition

In a record-breaking performance, more than 85,000 people attended the 2014 edition of Mobile World Congress, which took place at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona from 24-27 February. News of the final total (up by 13,000 from last year) did not take this first-time MWC attendee by surprise, taken aback as he had been by the sheer size of the eight-hall event and the elaborate (and surely terrifyingly expensive) nature of many of the stands.

The Mobile World Live conference programme that runs alongside the trade show alighted upon several significant trends with huge implications for sports broadcast – not least the emergence of big data. In her MWL keynote IBM CEO Virginia Rometty described data as “the world’s new natural resource” and predicted the dawn of “cognitive computing”. IBM, she added, will be part of this revolution by delivering its Watson platform to businesses and developers via the cloud.

Wearable computers hold the potential to transform the mobile sports experience for fans all over the world. With Google’s hotly-anticipated OHMD (optical head-mounted display) Google Glass expected to launch later in 2014, wearables were inevitably the subject of several major announcements during MWC. Motorola – which is currently in the process of being acquired by China’s Lenovo from Google – revealed plans to introduce a wearable device later this year. Telefonica, meanwhile, disclosed details of a three-way collaboration to ensure integration with LG, Samsung and Sony Mobile wearables. This alliance could expand considerably in the future with the group stating its openness to the possibility of “agreements with other market players, manufacturers, content providers, companies in the fashion industry […] to ensure that these devices are commercially available.”

The gradual migration towards all-IP structures much in evidence at IBC and ISE over the last 12 months continued with a flurry of landmark announcements. As well as reporting significant progress for The Shift Plan – which was launched in 2013 and aims to transform the company into an IP networking, cloud and ultra-broadband specialist – Alcatel-Lucent discussed an expanded collaboration with Intel that will accelerate the development and delivery of optimised virtualised cloud, wireless and IP network functions using Intel architecture. Elsewhere on the showfloor, Deutsche Telekom highlighted its goal of having around 8 million IP-based lines across its footprint in Europe by the end of 2014. At present undertaking what it describes as “immense efforts” in various European countries, the operator is planning to transform its traditional fixed-line network to one based completely on IP.

The IP revolution will, of course, help to pave the way for seamless availability of content across all manner of platforms – the ‘anytime, anywhere’ vision made manifest. But this step-change in accessibility also brings forth new challenges, including the need to combat content piracy. Eye on Piracy – which provides a suite of services targeting the illegal distribution of live TV content over peer to peer networks – was therefore a primary focus of Viaccess-Orca’s MWC presence, with CEO François Moreau de Saint-Martin highlighting the suite’s “clear and substantial relevance” to sports.

No doubting the relevance to sports of Vizrt’s graphics solution. One of relatively few SVG sponsors to take a stand at this year’s MWC, Vizrt highlighted – among other developments – its interactive studio solution for the World Cup. Using interactive elements via touchscreen or iPad, the package makes it possible to guide viewers through a tournament with pre-game statistics and lineups, in-game analysis and post-game discussions. The solution can be combined with Viz Libero, a 3D analysis tool for sports.

Returning to the security theme, Michelle Munson – CEO and founder of another stalwart SVGE sponsor, Aspera – addressed the subject of ‘Media Technologies & The Cloud: A Need for Security and Reliability’ during the conference. In conversation with SVG Europe, Munson confirmed “ongoing rapid adoption” of its fasp data transfer technology. Aspera, of course, has lately been the subject of an acquisition by IBM that completed in January.

MWC will again take place at Fira Gran Via in 2015, from 2-5 March.

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