Mobile Future Forward: Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual/Augmented Reality

Last week, I had the chance to attend Mobile Future Forward conference in Bellevue, WA. MFF brought in top executives in wireless and connected technologies to discuss the future of mobile technologies including connectivity, Internet of Things (IoT), spectrum, AI, VR and robotics. The key draw was the conversation it enabled between the top minds of the mobile industry, and this year was no exception.

MFF is heavily attended by mobile operators and the first key-theme discussed was the future of mobile connectivity, especially 5G. We are currently in mid-stage deployment of 4G and the industry is already thinking about the next wave of connectivity and the scenarios it will enable. To understand 5G, here’s a quick cheat sheet on the prior generations of connectivity:

  • 2G – Designed for voice
  • 3G – Designed for voice and data
  • 4G – Designed primarily for mobile data
  • 5G – Designed for Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things

IoT is a fascinating space that explores the basic premise “What if all things were connected to each other and the Internet? How will our lives be better if that was achievable? How will it impact commute, cities, infrastructure, healthcare, fitness and education.”

The premise of IoT requires an order of magnitude of improvements in network latency and battery life. 5G has the promise of addressing these core issues. The general consensus at MFF was that the 5G rollout will start in 2018, and by 2020, 50% of consumers will adopt it in the US.


Artificial Intelligence

My second takeaway, was Artificial Intelligence, and how far we have come. In the last 3 decades, we have wrongly termed assisted intelligence as AI. Assisted intelligence helps augment human capabilities (think of Siri and Alex as assisted intelligence). AI is about machines thinking on their own, to do things on their own.

Google’s Blaise Agüera y Arcas gave a fascinating talk on the comeuppance of AI in the last 3-4 years, and how we now have thinking machines. The technological and societal implications of AI are mind bogglingly huge. We will see first instances of AI in self-driving cars, machine learning, language translations and smart assistants. I am both scared and excited about what the next wave of AI innovations will bring to the table.


Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual and Augmented reality was the last area of focus at MFF and it closed out a pretty happening day. The success of Pokemon Go and the hype around Oculus/Vive/Gear VR has made 2016 the crowning year for AR/VR. A number of startups are now exploring the next frontier – making magical moments possible for entertainment, communications and collaboration.

If VR was as ubiquitous as your mobile phone, how will these areas evolve and adapt? I am personally excited to see VR as means of reducing friction in communication and collaboration. Hiya has offices in Seattle, NYC and Budapest and we work with partners in South Korea, China, Western Europe and South America. The possibility of collaborating with all of them without leaving my cozy Seattle office will definitely quash any qualms I have about wearing the dorky VR headsets.


MFF’s closing reception overlooked the fabulous Newcastle Golf Course. The view, besides being incredibly stunning, also served as a reminder of the road ahead and the distant horizons we have yet to perceive. I am already excited about what next year’s event will bring to light.



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