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Apr 14 2016

Is creation of time the next Shannon-esque disruptive innovation?

Twitter: @MarcusWeldon

It is often the case that great insights happen from a seemingly random coincidence of events or meetings.  This happened to me about 18 months ago, when three independent conversations led to the same idea: that the ultimate “value” in future would be the saving or effective “creation” of time.  The first conversation I had along these lines was with Erik Hoving, the CTO of KPN, who was musing on the concept he called “48 hours in a day,” where you would live 24 hours in the physical world, but this would be complemented by a companion 24 hours that would take place in the digital realm and augment your physical existence to make it more “manageable.”

The second conversation was with a renowned French economist, Jacques Attali, who had just returned from the World Economic Forum when I met him and was positing that the most valuable commodity was “time” and it was comparable in value to food, water, shelter, etc.  He further argued that you could judge the real value of a Web service (or any service) by whether or not it saved you time (Facebook perhaps not, Google more so, etc).

The third event was in Nokia Bell Labs.  We had been working on new mathematics with the goal of making facile connections between people, objects, and information, and after much debate it occurred to Chris White (who leads the Network Algorithms, Analytics, Control and Security Lab in Nokia Bell Labs) that the ultimate goal or challenge was to find ways to create new knowledge that would augment human lives and save time.

Since this temporal “epiphany”, I have been pursuing this idea and using it as a new metric for value, and for the ultimate goal of everything we do or create.  It is in many ways a fundamental value or limit for humans and therefore something that is very typical of a Nokia Bell Labs-type problem.  And indeed it seems applicable in multiple dimensions. At the highest level the goal of the network of the future is to provide connectivity to everything and everyone so that time can be saved in accessing data or systems or people.  At the next level, the movement of things in the network can be used as the basis of new behavioral knowledge that can predict likely outcomes and make recommendations to save time.  And at the lowest level, the new cloud-integrated network will support ultra low latency and ultra high bandwidth to allow the saving of time in the transfer of control and data packets.

Imagine the future and we will help you invent it
Recently we have been considering the profound impact that the work of Claude Shannon has had on communications networks, as we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 68th anniversary of his classic paper entitled ‘a mathematical theory of communication’ that detailed the fundamental information carrying capacity of any communications channel for a given signal-to-noise ratio and channel width.  This legendary paper forms the underpinning of everything we know about network capacity today and in the future network we are innovating.  Oddly enough, there is a another connection between Shannon’s work and the idea of saving time beyond simple networking; the first Bell Labs Prize was awarded to Professor Emmanuel Abe for work on the Shannon theory of Social Networks, which was work to find the fundamental information content of social graphs.  This work further stimulated our own on finding the shortest path between two ideas or concepts in a graph of data, to efficiently connect ideas and therefore create ‘knowledge’ that can be used to save time.

All this comes together this month since we are hosting three events that celebrate our 90 year history of innovation and which are highly relevant to the above discussion.  They are:

  • The Shannon Centennial Event on April 28th and 29th,  celebrating the centennial of Shannon’s birthday — April 30th, 1916 — with a unique 2-day conference focusing on a discussion of the future digital information economy and the impact of information theory on society today and in the digital future. This special event celebrates Shannon’s life and influence, while also commemorating his continuing impact with the awarding of Shannon Visionary Awards to innovators who have led the discovery and development of new science, technology, engineering or mathematics.  We will also have the premier of a new experiment in Art and Technology (EAT) event that makes the invisible network visible and audible.
  • Brooklyn 5G Summit: Together with NYU Wireless Research Center at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, the third Brooklyn 5G Summit will be held on April 20 - 22, 2016. The Summit discusses the next steps for making 5G a commercial reality including overall 5G system design, progress in 5G channel modeling and 5G regulatory aspects as well as exploring use cases for 5G in the evolving Internet of Things (IoT) space.
  • Nokia Bell Labs Prize: On March 30, 2016 we officially opened competition for our 3rd annual Nokia Bell Labs Prize rewarding game changing ideas that have the power to disrupt the future of communications, collaboration, content, contextual search and knowledge creation. Global researchers compete for cash prizes up to $175,000 and the opportunity to collaborate with renowned Nokia Bell Labs researchers to develop their ideas

So, April really is an Innovation Month at the new Nokia – and one that charts a path from Nokia Bell Labs foundation 90 years ago and Shannon’s work 68 years ago to the present and the future networks we are building to ‘create time’.

Looking for more information about the Nokia Bell Labs Prize? Check out this video and read the Press Release.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #innovation #5G

About Marcus Weldon

Marcus is the President of Nokia Bell Labs and CTO of Nokia. He has championed many technological disruptions in telecommunications networks, from the evolution and convergence of networks to “all IP,” the evolution of copper-based Access networks to support sophisticated interference cancellation (so-called vectoring), the evolution of wireless networks to highly-distributed networks of small cells and the emergence of virtualization and Software Defined Networking as profound industry changing forces that will drive a new integrated and federated network architecture and economics.  He has also been at the forefront of the thinking on the new value creation that will be enabled by the 4th industrial revolution, and is the architect of the associated Future X architecture.

Tweet me at @MarcusWeldon

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