Reflections on FWIC14 – by Richard Claridge, PA Consulting Group

 

Four key discussion points on the future of wireless from Richard Claridge, PA Consulting Group.

 

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I would have liked to write about the future of wireless conference immediately, but I’m glad to say that it was a sufficiently rich meal that, like Monday’s dinner, it needed a little digestion. I went along looking to try and work out where the future was headed and the conference did not disappoint.

I would have liked to write about the future of wireless conference immediately, but I’m glad to say that it was a sufficiently rich meal that, like Monday’s dinner, it needed a little digestion. I went along looking to try and work out where the future was headed and the conference did not disappoint.

 

So here were my 4 key takeaways, most of which, like all good discoveries, just lead to more questions but hopefully will give you the reader something to think about:

 

  1. The proliferation and ownership of information

 

We are generating more and richer data than ever before and we need to find a way of harnessing it for business and social gain alike. One of the talks discussed the idea of putting Wi-Fi in shops to gather data from shoppers while allowing them to shop online.

 

As our data become more interconnected and intertwined, there is the opportunity to really make progress on smart grids, smart communication, transport, healthcare and of course trade. This all paints a really interesting picture of the future but one where the question is, who actually owns the data, your data, how do we ensure that conclusions drawn from the data make sense and who controls the interfaces between these conglomerations of data. Who sits in the background controlling the aggregation and flow of your personal information. An interesting question now, an explosive issue in a few years?

 

  1. Corporate Social Responsibility, but not as we know it

 

I was struck in a couple of talks by speakers saying “this is not CSR”, that programs were meant to be sustainable and bring about new business while giving people, particularly women, new opportunities in their own communities.

 

Cherie Blair’s speech (name dropping I know) about the enabling power of mobile technology, apps, and access to information for the sake of their businesses, highlighted the potential transformative effect for women in more developing economies. I think the statistic quoted was that virtually all participants in Qualcomm’s new scheme recognized increased self-confidence and independence, and this is most certainly a good thing.

 

The question for this segment: is this what the next stage of responsible corporate growth looks like; not just selling products but trying to actually create new, symbioses underpinned by technology?

 

  1. Small scale internet(s). Who pays?

 

I guess that this rather ties in with my first point; there is a predicted rise in connectedness, both between items and places. Small, micro-, femto-, pico-, metro (etc) cells seem to offer a way to keep ourselves continually plugged in (usually without physically plugging in) while balloons, drones and satellites help to reach some of the most inaccessible locations in the world, though I see Everest has fairly good 4G coverage… Is this the sign of a growing disjoint between the capabilities of new technology, and the commercial incentives to roll out existing technology? The question with any service – how do I make money out of this; just because it’s technically possible, it does not mean that anyone is willing to pay for it

 

It wouldn’t be a technical conference without mentioning the Internet of things really. As with the various sizes of cell, the points of discussion weren’t really whether this new paradigm was going to appear (or when, so far as I could see), but how, and what it would actually look like (and which applications are profitable enough to cross the chasm from trial to production). For me though, the thing I am trying to wrap my brain around is what the impact will be; these two allow us to connect more easily and constantly to each other and our environment, what will this actually do to how we interact?

 

Jack Lang’s “I don’t understand why the Government needs to know the temperature of my greenhouse” was very thought provoking. The technologist’s hope is that they will retain control of their home, life and associated information, however, ease of deployment seems to imply that cloud-based solutions will continue to proliferate. It will be interesting to see who wins the future battle to provide the electronic ‘soul’ of the home.

 

  1. Generation Y is coming…

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the average attendee at FWIC14 was male, appear to be in mid 40s and (hopefully), not likely to read this blog. Listening to a talk on the attitudes of my group (I am 24) was interesting, everything that was said felt true but I’ve never actually heard it being said.

 

IMG_2356We have grown up with easier access to more information than any previous generation, our world is smaller and more selective, but probably more impatient; the Internet isn’t really a tool for us, more an appendage, As several of the talks and forums said, we have a lot to think about; there simply is not enough energy or raw material to go around any more, economic and political maps are being redrawn, security around information is more a concern than ever, as is what we do with the ever increasing well to which we have access.

 

So, to conclude. First a statement: wireless, and the industries that it has spawned are growing and changing, expanding and not just creating new technologies but new opportunities for new technologies to be born, collecting more information than we are really sure how to handle, any one person’s reach can now be truly global.

 

My second conclusion is more of a plea to the established community: CW is making an effort to make sure that this generation is the first to listen to, and teach, those that preceded it. We are interested, we are opinionated and we sometimes speak a different language but please keep trying to level the playing field, because we have a lot to do.