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Jan 09 2019

Fubini’s law and the innovation of telecom services

In their transformation from Communication Service Providers to Digital Service Providers, telecom operators will need to offer services that go far beyond their traditional, network-centric portfolio. Innovation, time-to-market, and customer experience will be key differentiators in the race for the digital customer.

In today’s hyper-connected and computerized world, people’s life unfolds in ‘digital time’. Consumers and enterprise customers expect business to happen immediately, systems to react intelligently, services to be personalized, and interactions to be intuitive. People no longer buy products; they expect experiences.

A few years ago, I came across a simple and compelling vision on the adoption and evolution of new technologies, known as Fubini’s law (not to be confused with Guido Fubini’s theorem that describes how to compute a double integral):

1. People initially use technology to do what they do now – but faster.

2. Then they gradually begin to use technology to do new things.

3. The new things change life-styles and work-styles.

4. The new life-styles and work-styles change society …

… and eventually change technology.

Network evolution to 5G and technology advances like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, etc. are enabling service providers to benefit from Fubini’s law to deliver a ‘right here, right now’ experience to their customers, compete with webscale players and OTTs, develop new business models, and create new revenue streams.  

Sensors everywhere and every-thing connected

Today’s average smartphone contains approximately 10 sensors, ranging from proximity detectors to fingerprint scanners and your car contains significantly more of them. Sensors are capable of measuring environmental parameters, monitoring people’s physical condition, or supervising the status, health, and location of all kinds of physical assets – including the infrastructure that is critical for the digitalization of industrial processes and operations.

No less than two years ago, the Internet of Things was topping the technology hype cycle. Today, IoT applications have become (almost) a commodity in many industries and enterprises. Together with cloud, mobile edge computing and AI, they are recognized as key enabling technologies for the 4th industrial revolution.  

‘Data is the new oil’ and ‘AI is the new electricity’

In digital transformation, data is an immensely valuable and often (still) untapped asset. “Data is the new oil”, because just like crude oil, the more the data is refined, the more sophisticated applications it can fuel, and the more value it will provide.

Many companies have already started relying upon cognitive analytics to support planning, decision making, and predicting behavior of products and assets. And, once you can predict behavior, then you have gotten to the point where the data is pure enough to be transformed into knowledge that lets machines, systems, and applications make autonomous decisions.

Just as electricity transformed industries in the past century, AI will profoundly change our world in the next several years. As machine learning pioneer Andrew Ng states: “pretty much anything that a normal person can do in less than a second of thought, we can now automate with AI.” Doesn’t this apply to much of the decision making we do every day? If you have 30 spare minutes, I warmly recommend watching Andrew Ng's talk about the state of Artificial Intelligence on YouTube.  

Why 5G is so much more than radio

Traditionally, the evolution of mobile networks has mainly been driven by hardware and radio technology advancements. The (r)evolution to 5G will be different, with software playing a critical role. 5G brings the promise of making spectrum, hardware and software technologies (like SDN/NFV) work together better.

Thanks to its high density, peak bandwidth, low latency, and its capability to support up to a million connected devices per km2, 5G will deliver the connectivity foundation for realizing Fubini’s law. 2G mainly brought us mobility, 3G gave us data and LTE added multimedia and video. But 5G will unleash ubiquitous access to a wealth of new applications, content services and business models.

The consumption of video streams, like Netflix, over mobile telecom networks that took off with the introduction of LTE is expected to grow even faster on 5G. At the same time, new human interaction technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality will bolster a wealth of content service innovations. Last year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang gave the world a first glimpse of the next generation of mobile broadband and content services, like 4K video streaming, 360° VR and omni-point view. And the best is yet to come.  

Forget the Negroponte switch

In the 1980s, Nicolas Negroponte formulated an idea that came to be known as the “Negroponte switch”. The founder of the MIT Media Lab predicted that devices like telephones, that – up to then – were transmitting data over wired networks would soon become wireless, while services, such as television broadcast, that were receiving their content via airwaves would be delivered over cables.

5G networks, with their ubiquitous mobile access, abundance of bandwidth and low-latency transmission capabilities, are making the Negroponte switch, well, kind of obsolete. In fact, any current or future content application can now – if the economic context permits – be delivered over wireless access. While network slicing and the migration to the cloud will offer unprecedented flexibility to develop new ecosystems, to speed up time to market, and to grow business – without bounds.

The late Steve Jobs once said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”  Which of the two do you plan to be? At Nokia, we’re ready to help you innovate in digital time!

5G-powered innovation will be all around at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We’re looking forward to welcoming you on the Nokia booth and show you how our end-to-end approach to 5G and innovative technologies will transform business, industry and the human experience.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #innovation #IoT #5G #digitaltime

About Marc Jadoul

Marc Jadoul is Strategic Marketing Director at Nokia. A computer scientist by education, and technology evangelist, storyteller, speaker, and blogger by vocation.

Author/co-author of 200+ papers, magazine articles and conference presentations, and a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events, Marc is an advocate of Albert Einstein’s dictum “if you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”

Tweet me at @mjadoul