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Big small tech

Big small tech

Oulu is in many ways a typical Finnish city.

It has a lovely old market hall, and an excellent ice hockey team, Kärpät. In the summer, you can catch a ferry from the city to the sand dune island of Hailuoto, while in the winter, as the Gulf of Bothnia freezes over, you can drive there yourself.

It is a beautiful place – and it is also one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world.

Nokia has its ‘conscious factory’ just outside the city center and advanced telecommunications technology and engineering are researched at the University of Oulu.  

A cluster of high-tech companies, from start-ups to multinationals, hire from the pool of skilled graduates, as do the superb hospital and research labs.

Perhaps most important, all these businesses, facilities and institutions send staff to talk at the local schools. This involvement ensures Oulu’s children grow up just as excited about technology as their parents.

This is the reality of good innovation. Big tech, with a local impact.

By extension, the more investment you can channel into technology and research and development, the greater the benefits for communities, public services and, critically, industry.

Industry is the engine that drives job creation, productivity gains and increased living standards. It also forms the majority of Nokia’s customer base all over the world.

In the first two months of 2021, Nokia announced a stream of new deals with our traditional customer base of telcos, others with webscales, government agencies, commercial ports, transport hubs and other partners.

Our work with this diverse and global base of customers has shown us what businesses of all types want from their connectivity in the time of COVID-19 and beyond. Increasingly, they are looking for three key characteristics.

First, they want carrier-grade performance that can transport and process vast amounts of data quickly and with six-nine (99.9999%) reliability. Customers want connectivity that can provide wired levels of performance and resilience wirelessly.

Second, customers want connectivity with the elasticity, flexibility and self-definition that you would normally associate with webscales. It must adapt, evolve and maintain peak performance no matter what demands are placed on it.

Third, crucially, customers want connectivity that can underpin their most important functions on what we call “critical networks.”

This is a really important point. For consumers, a network outage can be annoying. But for industry, it can be deadly, as safety programs lag or autonomous robots can no longer track nearby people. The threat of network outages is one of the main reasons why mission-critical industries such as railways and mines often choose to build their own private networks.  

Until recently, industries only had access to licensed narrowband spectrum and, as a result, they could only deploy voice and low-speed data on their private networks. But with private and public 5G, industries can support a whole host of new applications and use cases.

Some of these use cases are wide-area, such as connected fleets of trains, while some are hyper-local, such as specific factories or solar arrays. That fusion of big capacity with specific needs is the future. We are back to big small tech.

It is exciting, but it can seem a bit abstract. To get a clearer idea of the potential of this future connectivity, look at the numbers that we see from early use cases.

Our partners saw unanticipated breakdowns and production line defects drop by 30% after installing smart video sensors in our manufacturing deployments. In the logistics sector, deploying augmented reality devices cut machine monitoring costs by half. In ports, remote-controlled cranes doubled productivity and eliminated staff injuries: an incredible 100% drop.

Remember, we are still early in the cycle of digitalization. So as positive as these early results are, we can realistically expect them to get even better as 5G beds in.

As Nokia Bell Labs explained in its recent paper, ‘Industrial IoT networks: how 5G is transforming industry verticals’, 5G can replace wired Ethernet in standard industrial control protocols, support real-time service alteration, enable private edge cloud, power machine learning and analytics, and, perhaps most important of all, unlock widespread deep slicing.

All of these have huge, positive implications for CAPEX, OPEX, productivity, sustainability and worker safety.

Yes, it will take work and time. But there is a huge appetite for change and improvement across business, enterprise and industry. We predict that every dollar of investment in network and cloud infrastructure will provide more than four dollars of end-user value creation.

The result is we are looking at an economic gain of up to seven percent of global GDP, or $8 trillion, by 2030. Elsewhere, if the gain is that high in economic terms, imagine what it means for productivity, equality or sustainability.

This technology is a game-changer. It allows us to look to the future with optimism, in the knowledge that connectivity will make people safer, communities more prosperous and businesses more innovative.

A future of big small tech awaits us. I am proud that Nokia is making it a reality.

Pekka Lundmark

About Pekka Lundmark

Pekka was appointed Nokia’s President and CEO in August 2020. He previously worked for us between 1990 and 2000, before embarking on a 20-year journey through the technology, energy, manufacturing, machinery, retail and finance sectors. This broad experience gives him insight into new technologies and techniques that will be at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Connect with Pekka on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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