Wireless technology might already ‘the biggest platform the world has ever known’ but there’s still plenty of innovation to come.That was the message from the first day of the 4th Future of Wireless International Conference, organised by Cambridge Wireless with UK Trade & Investment and Knowledge Transfer Network at Churchill College.
Twenty five years ago no one would have thought we would now have six billion wireless connections, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to imagine that in 25 years from now it will be normal to be driving down the motorway in an electric car that charges itself and your phone, said Joe Barrett, senior director of marketing of mobile technologies company Qualcomm.
“Trust me, it will happen,” he said. This was something Qualcomm was already working on – along with other ways of connecting “everything with everything”, including medical devices to connect patients with health professionals and proximity based peer to peer networking.
“Customers expect the amazing,” he said. To achieve it a three-way symbiosis between the network, the devices and the web, who all need each other and can all benefit, was critical. “Then we can let our children create something amazing,” he said.
For Olaf Swantee, CEO of Everything Everywhere, the future centered around 4G.
“The next generation of mobile network, 4G, is built for data, whereas 2G and 3G were for voice and data followed,” he said. While UK citizens were early adopters for new applications the country lagged behind in terms of digital infrastructure.
“Others are moving ahead of the UK and we must do something about it,” he said. The rural broadband issue could be solved by 4G as it was still strong even on the edge of the cell three or four miles from a mast. “It would also bring £5.5 billion investment and 125,000 jobs.”
Spectrum and regulatory issues still needed to be resolved but Everything Everywhere hoped to move to 4G before the end of the year following trails in Cumbria and Cornwall.
Chairing a session on the future for devices Peter Whale of Qualcomm asked if all the innovation was now coming from the cloud. “Some say cool stuff is in the cloud and the phone is just a ‘dumb terminal’. “So what does the future hold for devices?” he asked.
There was still plenty of innovation left in devices said Rory O’Neill, vice-president of Software and Services EMEA, Research in Motion (RIM), where the focus had to be on customer experience.
What people can and will be able to do with devices was just catching up with how they have always managed conversations in day to day life, he said.
“Once the response time for an email was 48 hours. Now we’re not just looking at having conversations in real time but predictive conversations. We’re looking at the ‘intelligent network of things’ that will simplify people’s lives.”
An example of this was a room number being beamed to a device as you arrived at a hotel and the device then opening the room’s door, linking to any screen in the hotel and paying the bill. Or the restaurant that charges your device, knows what you like to drink and how you like your steak cooked. “At Blackberry we exist to simplify that relationship,” he said.
The film 2001 Space Odyssey had got many things right about technology, said Richard Jacklin, business development director of device testing solutions company Anite, most notably the ‘black monolith’ that had become the smart phone of choice.
“The iPhone created a revolution and it’s form is now the most common for smart phones,” he said. This led him to look into whether there had been a trend towards fewer models since 2008.
What he discovered was that while the established suppliers had cut back on models to around 40 each, more manufacturers had come into the market – most notably Chinese manufacturers, niche products and operator branded products – resulting in no change in the number of models.
“This means the stakes are increasing for each launch and manufacturers must differentiate with operating software, applications, quality, price and performance,” he said.
“The cost of fixing bugs rises exponentially as you move through the R & D process and the user experience has an obvious correlation to customer retention and network operator churn,” he warned.