Recap of “Tomorrow’s Wireless Future”

Recap of “Tomorrow’s Wireless Future”

Tomorrow’s Wireless Future

One of the reasons I love what I do is that I get a chance to work with really smart people around the world on some cutting-edge projects. Additionally, I get the opportunity to interview some of the brightest minds in the industry. This year has been particularly rewarding. I probably did close to 25 events which were a mix of keynote addresses, panel moderation, panel participation, university lectures, and other speeches. Add in the 20+ client project visits and it all translates into more than a trip every other week to the SeaTac airport. My suitcase has been permanently positioned at the doorstep in my house.

Earlier this week, I had the distinct honor of moderating a panel of some of the most eminent senior wireless research scientists and CEOs of wireless companies from Finland where we explored the future of the wireless landscape from user interface to reduction in carbon footprint to privacy and security issues and much more.


Also, had the privilege to do a Q&A session with Dr. Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel Corporation after his keynote address. This note summarizes the topics discussed during the “Tomorrow’s Wireless World” event.

Many people might not be aware but the City of Oulu in the central part of Finland is a leading epicenter of wireless activities with many major industry players setting up shops for doing R&D work. In fact, it is quite likely that one of the companies out of Oulu has had an impact in some way on the mobile phone you have in your pocket (and we are not including Nokia).


The topic of our panel was “Your Wireless Future” – a broad topic that is always difficult to cover in 60 minutes or less. My illustrious panel included (from R to L):

· Prof. Juha Röning, Head of the Dept. Electrical and Information Engineering, Oulu University. A leading edge research center, many companies in Oulu have been spun out of this department

· Markus Asplund, VP, Sesca Technologies. A major services firm in the mobile industry

· Ari Pouttu, Director of Center of Wireless Communications, University of Oulu. A leading research center in doing work in access technologies.

· David Chartier, CEO, Codenomicon. A major player in the network security space. Their tools are used for hardening their products by companies such as Cisco, Apple, IBM, Nokia, and others.

· Craig O’Connell, Sr. Manager, Elektrobit. Working with pretty much all OEMs around the world

· Dr. Jussi Paakkari, VP, R&D ICT, VTT. Doing some cutting edge research in the area of network protocols, security, access, machine vision systems, and much more

· Purnima Kochikar, Director, Software and Services. Nokia. Well, you know Nokia

I started by asking the panelists about what in their view have been some of the defining trends over the last 12 months. Summary of answers – iPhone; android; move towards full mobile browser; browser will reduce fragmentation and more innovation will happen on this front; with the rise of smartphones, security and privacy have become an issue,

Some other salient points (read issues and opportunities) from the discussion:

· It is forecasted (by WWWRF) that in another 10 years, we will have 1000 radios per every subscriber. That would translate into few trillion nodes around us. The level of complexity and carbon footprint will be enormous. One has to figure out a way to address both.

· City of Oulu has first of a kind experiment with NFC where the technology has been embedded in day-to-day life from home, school, train station, restaurant, probably every object in the city. Pretty interesting experiment that will lead to interesting use cases and technology implementations.

· There are so many protocols being integrated into the device that hackers are targeting not only the data but the protocol weaknesses to gain access. IT finally starting to address smartphone issue in their networks.

· The role of Cognitive radio and SDRs will gain prominence as more access technologies get introduced.

· In a ubiquitous environment with finite spectrum, “sensing” technologies will have a great role in optimization. Sense and do the best for the consumer, the device, and the network. Hyper connectivity will become the norm.

· In addition to touch, gesture and face recognition will add to a better multimodal experience.

· Mobile payments is coming and going to make a big impact. We have to of course sort out the business models.

· 3Cs of mobile – convergence, context, and community (Nokia’s Mantra).

· The very business of R&D has changed significantly with corporations choosing to outsource R&D and the cycle of concept to market launch has shrunk from 6 years or more to 12-18 months.

· More innovation will come from integration of existing technologies rather than some big breakthrough.

· Demand for bandwidth will keep growing.

· Significant opportunities in medicine, enterprise, and other industry verticals.

· In developing countries, while consumers are willing to pay for expensive devices, they don’t have any appetite for expensive service plans.

Some discussion points from Craig’s speech and our Q&A session:

· World will go to free MIPS and free baud (computing and communications). What happens then?

· Moore’s law is good for another 15 years based on 5 generation of future chipsets that they have in the labs. And it will probably keep going after that.

· Awareness of context really important.

· Many types of devices will proliferate including MIDs, education devices, some designed specifically for special purpose (medical monitors) and geographies (emerging markets).

· Global challenges are education, health, computing, and communication.

· In the developed world, wireless technology can help reduce the cost which is increasing at the rate of $200B/year and in the developing world, technology can help provide access to health care.

· Convenience and access trumps security concerns.

· Areas of opportunities – Telemedicine, education, economic development, governance, energy and environment.

· This is Craig’s 11th recession. Principle to tackle has been the same every time. You cannot save your way out of recession. You can only innovate out of a recession. Intel R&D budgets will remain the same.

· Innovation is key to surviving and competing in the global economy, now more so than ever.

· The fact that so much can be done in these tiny piece of electronics is just amazing and the drive to do better and more using technology keeps him going, keeps him inspired.

Craig is passionate about education and innovation and he serves on more global committees than he would care to admit. His work outside of Intel has been equally impactful.

It should be noted that the Matti Pennanen, Mayor of Oulu who also graced the event with his presence is a technologist at heart and understands the role of innovation in the growth and strengthening of their economy. How many tech-savvy Mayors do we have in other countries? I thought so. I have noticed similar trends in Korea, Ireland, and Israel. They all have something in common – great early education system and maniacal focus on innovation and desire to succeed. It was great chatting with Mayor Matti about technology trends and opportunities. In this global economy, politicians better become tech-savvy really fast or they won’t be serving their constituents well. Cities, states, and countries need to start thinking like startups and compete for every dollar.

My thanks to my friends Victor Vurpillat and Brenda Fox at Global Connexus and Pauliina Pikkujämsä at Oulu Innovation for inviting me to participate in the discussion.

Image Courtesy: Global Connexus