Live from MWC: My first 5G-enabled robotic coffee
Already available at selected locations in South Korea, this convergence of café and digital technology is made possible by a partnership between Korea Telecom and b:eat2E. The advantages of a robotic barista are clear – it can work 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, serving up 90 cups of coffee an hour, preparing three orders simultaneously.
At the KT booth in the Innovation City at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the robot was certainly kept busy. Orders are placed and paid for using the b:eat app, and once the coffee is ready, the customer picks it up by tapping in a pin number, and the robot then places it in the self-service hatch ready to go.
The 5G enablement makes it easier for the dal.komm COFFEE franchise (who are behind b:eat2E) to monitor operations and introduce repairs when necessary. The robot is also uses artificial intelligence, such as facial recognition technology, enabling it to “see” if there are customers waiting. If there aren’t, the robot is programmed to wave at passers-by to tempt them into buying a drink.
In the panel discussions around 5G on the second day of Mobile World Congress, making the perfect cup of coffee actually didn’t make the agenda. Instead, operators discussed the progress being made on the road to widespread introduction of 5G. Verizon public policy senior vice president Kathleen Grillo said that in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had done a good job in releasing low-band spectrum and making small cell deployment easier in order to help promote the roll out of 5G. Now, she said, the FCC needed to release mid-band spectrum so as to further drive the spread of 5G. But to ensure successful consumer adoption of this new technology, Grillo added that operators had an obligation to ensure that the move to 5G provided end users with a new, transformative customer experience.
In Europe, Patrick Waldemar, vice president Telenor Research, said the situation was far less rosy. “There is no 5G without spectrum,” he said, “and we’re really behind here in Europe.”
Not surprisingly, operators are looking for light-touch regulation when it comes to 5G. Etisalat International chief legal and regulatory officer Kamal Shehadi said regulators should “err on side of caution and not over regulate. 5G is a new era and has to be commercially viable to survive, so regulators should wait before regulating.”
Shehdadi also predicted there would be more network sharing as operators could not afford to roll out more networks by themselves, a point that had been made on the first day of Mobile World Congress by Vodafone chief executive officer Nick Read.
The relatively new Vodafone boss told a keynote session that Vodafone would be sharing its network with O2 in the United Kingdom in order to improve coverage, environmental impact and the return to shareholders.
Read also stressed that in the 5G era, operators needed to be more transparent to the end user, providing simple, clear services and price plans, even noting that in the past “we’ve been opaque in our plans and services.”