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In today’s ultra-connected world, it is evident that Mobile has become an essential element in our everyday lives and the driving force behind most new technologies and innovations. This year, 5G is one of the hottest topics.
More than just a buzzword, 5G presents many exciting opportunities – although, in relation to travel it is still early days. A lot of ground needs to be covered before it becomes widespread (see “The promise of 5G is still years away ”), but it is already having a tremendous impact in a wide range of innovations taking place. Ultimately, 5G will enable a truly connected world through larger and faster transmission of data.
A number of exhibitions and discussions at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this year - the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry - revolved around 5G. Combined with 4YFN (4 Years From Now), the MWC brought together more than 100,000 attendees and over 2,200 exhibiting companies. While the conference continues to be an opportunity for device manufacturers to feature their new products, it is now clear that Mobile extends well beyond devices and communications to more transformational developments.
Among the innovations related to 5G, the one that surprisingly had a big presence at the conference was connected and, often driverless, cars. From automakers to telcos and tech companies, it seemed like almost everyone brought in a car to showcase their capabilities of connecting things. By far the most impressive and “fastest” innovation in this area came from Roborace, which announced its connected and autonomous racecar of the future!
Aside from racing, the adoption of connected and autonomous devices will have a major impact in our daily lives as well as the travel experience. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Grab are already investing and testing in this area, meaning that in a matter of years, many travellers will likely be escorted from airports to hotels by a driverless car. Similarly, renting a connected and autonomous car during a trip will open up new possibilities for those who do not own a driver’s license or prefer not to drive in an unknown or chaotic city.
The benefits of 5G go well beyond cars. Some of its earliest applications will be in smart homes and indoor settings, as it will be easier to implement 5G in such cases before it is launched across mobile networks. In travel, this creates an opportunity for airports and hotels to provide a smoother check-in for instance and other enjoyable and personalized experiences.
Other applications include the wider use of virtual and augmented reality devices - both for pre- and in-trip tours - as well as high media consumption on smartphones at sports and entertainment events. In fact, it has already been announced that 5G services will be made available at next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea as well as the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.
Interestingly, this summer’s Mobile World Congress Shanghai is themed with the phrase ‘The Human Element’, which serves as a reminder that in today’s mobile world, connecting everything - via 5G or by any means - includes one key component, which is people. Indeed, when we work on building new technologies and innovating in the world of travel, we shouldkeep up with the latest mobile trends but not lose focus of the most essential element of all, which are travelers themselves.