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 Feb. 24-27. 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 program that runs alongside the trade show highlighted several significant trends with huge implications for sports broadcast — not least the emergence of big data. In a 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, 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 this year, wearables were inevitably the subject of several major announcements during MWC. Motorola, which China’s Lenovo is acquiring from Google, revealed plans to introduce a wearable device 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, 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 past 12 months continued with a flurry of landmark announcements. Besides 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 development and delivery of optimized virtualized cloud, wireless, and IP-network functions using Intel architecture. Elsewhere on the show floor, Deutsche Telekom highlighted its goal of having about 8 million IP-based lines across its footprint in Europe by the end of 2014. Currently undertaking what it describes as “immense efforts” in various European countries, the operator plans to transform its traditional fixed-line network to one based completely on IP.

The IP revolution will, of course, help 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 new challenges, including the need to combat content piracy. Eye on Piracy, which provides a suite of services targeting 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. Offering interactive elements via touchscreen or iPad, the package makes it possible for broadcasters to guide viewers through a tournament with pregame statistics and lineups, in-game analysis, and postgame discussions. The solution can be combined with Viz Libero, a 3D-analysis tool for sports.

On the subject of security, Aspera CEO/founder Michelle Munson addressed a gathering titled Media Technologies & the Cloud: A Need for Security and Reliability during the conference. In conversation with SVG Europe, she confirmed “ongoing rapid adoption” of the company’s fasp data-transfer technology. Aspera, of course, has lately been the subject of an acquisition that IBM completed in January.

The next MWC will take place March 2-5, 2015, at Fira Gran Via.