It wasn’t that long ago that people asked themselves if they needed a mobile phone. I remember hearing, “Well, maybe for safety.” Now we’re in an era where having a mobile phone is deemed more critical than a wallet, and we literally can’t live without it.
Some of us recall the early days of the “bag phone” and the emergence of the “brick” type of phone. The freedom to be unleashed from a landline or a fixed-point payphone was an absolute breakthrough at the time.
Today we’re at the tipping point of an equally unprecedented change where we’re witnessing the start of the convergence of technologies. No longer are companies limiting their market or offerings to the traditional “swim lanes” based on technologies.
The blurring of connections between wireless, wirelines, cable, broadband, satellite, and over-the-top services is only beginning. The real winner in this stitching together is the end user — whether consumer, enterprise, or government — with greater services and capabilities than ever before.
For decades, the technologies were separated, creating massive issues on data transference, division of services, and limited connectivity. The unleashing and blending of new technologies and convergence of existing technologies raises capabilities and opens the door for the connected everything/everyone scenario.
Already mobile operators are forming partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions to bring a consolidated package of connectivity and great movies, business applications, alerts, and data dashboards. Cable companies are extending their reach beyond traditional fixed lines and providing on-demand, mobile-accessible content.
Media companies are quickly forming deals to partner with all types of communication platforms and leverage their investments through uniquely developed selective content that challenges the traditional business model.
Smartwatches, exercise monitoring, and biometric readers are just the start on the “distributed” wearable. No longer is it necessary for data to reside only on the command and control point of the phone. Instead, these specialized application devices and services are affordable, successful ways to reach goals and to solve problems.
The move to the cloud opened a central repository or the ultimate database of knowledge. With it came new challenges — the need for enterprise- and military-grade security at the forefront as crime quickly moved to the databases of information to scale efforts. The benefits of the cloud also transformed how software is deployed, ensuring the latest release and capabilities.
As we continue to progress, the cloud will mean further centralization and data analytics. These trends of unique/targeted content, distributed user interface, and centralized data are setting the foundation for seismic shifts ahead in telecommunications.
Alexa and the Amazon model have turned the shopping and retail experience upside down — not only to never return, but also to set a new standard on how to do business and touch the true needs of consumers. They want something now, and they want it personalized for them, directly to them.
If you think about the automation of the “one button” ability for reordering supplies, it’s brilliant. For the retailer, it captures loyalty and future business stream in a service model for increased revenue. For the consumer, it means instant. Instant means a parent can move onto the next step, such as preparing his or her child’s school lunch or preparing for a field trip and not trudging off to the store for routine supplies.
From a mobile standpoint, one button means the transaction can take place anytime, anywhere — on the train commute, standing in line, or during the downtime we fill with random activities. This insatiable desire for now will continue, paving the way for further opportunities and innovation.
We started out connecting homes with the first landlines. It was nothing short of a miracle for communication to take place across town, across the country, and across the world with a dial and, later, the press of a button.
Then we went wireless and started connecting people through mobile phones and networks. The internet also started connecting people, homes, and businesses through machines with computers.
Next, we blended the two and created mini-computers in our hands. A smartphone by about every definition, specification, capability, and data is more of a computer than a phone.
Data started to take over and became an effective and efficient means of communication. The same idea or concept no longer had to be dealt with instantly if someone answered a call but could be queued up for a sense of order and increased volume — whether requests to a real estate agent, banking transactions, personal email, or travel planning.
Expand this notion internationally, and the “follow the sun” concept was born to leverage teams to work on solutions around the clock.
We’re only beginning the connected everything/everyone journey. Homes are becoming connected, and sensors are providing security, meter readings, alerts, cameras, thermostat controls, and energy efficiency. And these are just the start.
Smart cars are already collecting more information than ever before. When the smart city is ready for smart cars to interact — through redirection for upcoming obstacles and accidents, the ability to stop quickly for a pedestrian, or to self-park to save time and inconvenience — it will mean moving on from siloed data collection to truly end-to-end flow of data across the community.
Virtual reality and virtual assistants are taking hold and becoming mainstream. No longer is it a question of human or machine, but rather human and machine. The question isn’t voice or data; now it’s a combination of voice and data and soon to be other senses where emotion, feeling, and thought play roles.
Blockchain as a core technology will continue to evolve. The possibilities for telecom to benefit from this technology are vital to the business and the customer. At the heart of it, blockchain will provide much needed security across the network to better prevent identify theft, data compromise for the internet of things, and other critical data — and also simplify and further secure mobile payments.
When we’re truly connected, there will be ubiquitous coverage for people, things, machines, and sensors. The past limitations of bandwidth and premium service will become the standard as each new phase is revealed and evolves.
It was a premium to have a cellphone or computer in the beginning. Then it was a premium to be able to have data and see web pages.
Expensive roaming charges are being displaced by over-the-top internet services and text by programs such as WhatsApp. The market always finds a way where there is strong interest to make the premium the norm and move on to the next.
Our interest to be connected, to have instant information, to do more, to be more, to see more, to go more places, and to achieve more will continue. We’ll each play a role in the evolution in the future of communications, which is all about solving problems, being connected, and enhancing the human experience.
How ironic that we use a myriad of machines, code, and technology to create these connections. And yet, how powerful to find the balance to enhance the human experience through technology that bridges these gaps.
Now we’re at the forefront of Industry 4.0 — primed by digitalization versus energy or physical sources of the previous industrial revolutions. We’re in the age of the internet, the cloud, big data, analytics, and empowering the virtual world as it interacts with the physical world.
5G technology with telecom leading the way and providing an order of magnitude change will be central to convergence and the new technology landscape. Opportunities will abound across all industries with new types of customers and use cases coming on board.
It used to be that companies also stayed within their domain and expertise, very siloed by industry. Today we see a blending where every business in every industry is starting on a digital journey to survive, and the winners to thrive.
Telecommunications is at the heart of Industry 4.0, helping power and connect the sensors, cars, cities, smart factories, telemedicine, and tele-education. Technical limitations previously held back these advancements, but the insatiable appetite of the digital world will free itself to unleash the capabilities and continue to disrupt.
Price points will continue to drop where connected sensors that once seemed a luxury or nice to have become mainstream. How many lives will be saved in the future from further early detection of toxic chemicals or gas or the ability to get quick medical assistance virtually — redirecting the time of the doctor toward other work and helping other patients?
How much more will be learned when virtual classrooms and virtual workers in the office truly take hold? A connected world means a blend of humans and machines and multiplies our efforts. We have to be ready to accept control in some areas and give up control in others.
Imagine the population more evenly served outside our core cities with smart farming and the ability to interact across the globe. Digitalization will naturally spread itself out and be inclusive outside central city points. Isn’t the centralization a reflection of face-to-face human contact? The technology will be there for a truly connected planet.
We have to be ready to solve the nontechnical societal questions that surround it. Will insurance companies reimburse a telemedicine visit in the same way? Will tele-education opportunities drive down the high costs of education and make it more available? What happens to the data collected from your smart house?
How do we stay ahead of cybercrime and bad actors working on a larger scale? Can connectivity to impoverished areas provide new opportunities for commerce and lift the quality of life there? Why can’t connectivity improve education, healthcare, poverty, and quality of life?
Telecommunications and the convergence of technology play a major role in solving these and other questions with the connected everything model. We can use these advances to further look at what’s possible and needed by empowering people, communications, and technology to foster thriving societies.
Heidi Hattendorf, an accomplished international telecom leader, is senior director and global industry leader for telelcom/media. She has experience in services, networks, applications, devices, and enterprisewide digital transformation initiatives.