It is a bit unpleasant for Huawei that they find themselves in the middle of a minor scandal at a time when the network business is already surrounded by some kind of floating suspicion that the company is connected to the party and that it can use its networks operated worldwide to collect data that the respective countries management does not welcome you. These concerns led to various embargoes regarding Huawei, which hit the smartphone business spectacularly, but the network line did not escape either.
In comparison, Huawei was present at the exhibition with a grandiose stand this year, half of hall 1 was filled with a generous, clean, absolutely high-tech installation, which was then divided into two parts. The smaller, quasi-external half could be visited by anyone, mainly residential products and solutions were located here, those who wanted to go inside had to register separately to receive an access card that could be hung around the neck, with which you could also look around freely inside industrial 5G, network solutions, solar panels and other developments. We also visited, it was worthwhile, they presented an amazing amount and quality of technological development.
This also meant that we also received a personal ticket, but after the exhibition it turned out that there is a tracker in the small middle part, which hides a retractable solution similar to ski pass holders. Users were informed about this in small print on the back of the ticket, but they did not specifically try to draw attention to it, and what is worrying about the matter is that the tickets were given by name and although Huawei says that the tracker anonymously monitored the movement of visitors inside the stand , in order to improve the standard of expatriation next year, perhaps understandably this does not reassure everyone.
Huawei also sent a statement in European: The technologies (Bluetooth, RFID) used in the entry cards used at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona have been used for many years at events, exhibitions, festivals, or museums. The cards did not collect any personal information, but served to enhance the visitor experience. The card measures the time and movement of visitors at individual stands and locations of the exhibition space, which is important feedback for the organizers, helps in the safe organization of visitor traffic, and improves the quality of services. The RFID and Bluetooth functions worked exclusively at Huawei’s booth, with radio frequency identification (RFID) able to communicate at an extremely short distance of about 1 meter, while Bluetooth can communicate within about 10 meters. The information on the back of the card drew visitors’ attention to the above.
However, there are some worrying details in the whole situation. On the one hand, all the entry cards were for names. Although it may of course be true that the tracker attached to them has no idea whose neck it is hanging around, it is easy to see that this is not a complex configuration task in the process of issuing the card. The 1-meter RFID range set by Huawei is quite impractical, visitors did not go within one meter to all kinds of walls and installations, putting a 1-meter range RFID in a tracker is unnecessary. By the way, the RFID technology can bridge a distance of up to 70 meters, and Bluetooth, compared to Huawei’s claim of 10 meters, can cover several times this even with the LE standard.
We asked a cyber security specialist, who thinks it is unfortunate that there was not more emphasis on what kind of card the visitors will receive, and if Huawei wants to, it will send a dozen hostesses to walk around the exhibition area with a properly programmed phone/target device and all the entry cards in their pockets. its movement can be easily followed. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to know what other companies the visitors to Huawei’s booth visited anyway, even if it is really anonymized.
The most unfortunate aspect of the whole story, however, is that Huawei did not inform the GSMA, which organizes the MWC, about this solution, who have since called the incident worrisome and launched an investigation. This will probably not result in Huawei not being able to come next year, because those who rent out half of the first hall will be forgiven for this or that, but rather that Huawei will be banned from similar solutions in the future. Anyway, if the goal is really just to see which parts of the stand are the most crowded or popular, then for this purpose it is enough to put a few cameras on the ceiling, and then at the end of the event to draw a heatmap layer from the data onto the floor plan of the stand .