Mobile World Congress 2022: How the ‘first’ big in-person tech event goes contactless

If you turn back the clock two years ago, the world was a very, very different place in almost every aspect. People were carefree about travel, eating out, meeting others was business as usual. However, the coronavirus struck and the world as we knew has never been the same. For tech companies, in-person media events were a big deal about making a splash, showcasing new products and technologies. Not that Covid-19 stopped innovation or product launches were put on hold but the ‘sheen’ was taken off, the buzz that in-person events generated evaporated in thin air.
Cut to today and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is underway. It is the ‘first’ big event where tech companies have made their presence felt. Technically first as the Consumer Electronics Show in January 22 in Las Vegas was also an in-person event but a lot of biggies backed out as the Omicron variant of coronavirus had just started to take the world under its vice grip. Not at MWC though as this seems like a return to normalcy. Take a look at some of the names that are out there. There’s Samsung, Microsoft, Oppo, Qualcomm, OnePlus, Google — almost every big name is out there putting out a show for the world.

MWC 2022: Welcome to a ‘contactless’ world

The event is in Barcelona, Spain where Covid-19 guidelines have been somewhat relaxed. As long as you’re vaccinated and depending on where you’re from a negative RT-PCR report is good enough for you to enter the country. Enter the country and you need to have a health declaration form — along with a vaccination certificate — uploaded on the government health portal. A QR code is saved on your smartphone and all you need to do is scan the QR code and you get an email from the government within seconds welcoming you to the country and certain guidelines that you need to follow in case — god forbid — you develop any symptoms of Covid-19 during your duration of stay.
At the Mobile World Congress venue, from entry to exit, it’s all about QR codes and facial recognition tech. Masks remain mandatory inside the venue and you can’t take them off except for facial recognition. To enter inside the venue, you need to show the QR code of the venue access badge and the ushers and volunteers stand at a safe distance to scan if of your smartphone. Once inside, a facial recognition scanner gets down to work to allow you inside the venue where people are buzzing around various booths, checking out all the new tech that’s on offer. Even at food stalls — both in indoor and outdoor settings — people are queuing to grab a bite or have a quick drink and making contactless payments as much as possible. While all this has become a part of life, it is still a rather different experience to see at an in-person event where thousands are expected to attend over the next few days.

And people have turned up in numbers. It is as if the shackles have been broken but there isn’t a sense of abandon as you can see people cautiously sanitising their hands, not taking off their masks and trying to maintain social distance as much as they can. It’s futile to expect to go back to normal life as we knew before 2020 but at the same time, it’s rather encouraging to see the world opening up, embracing the challenges that come with it and getting back to business as usual. In 1987, popular band R.E.M came out with an album called Document.
Being at an in-person event after a gap of two years, seeing people go about their business with caution — and yet with an air of confidence — one can’t help but think of a song from the Document album. The song title is enough to explain what it means: “It’s the End of The World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”

(The writer has travelled to Barcelona, Spain to attend Mobile World Congress on the invitation of Oppo India)