19 minute read
Amber Mac: Jefferson, you wrote a book called The Future Home in the 5G Era. Let's dive into a couple of the main concepts in that book.
Jefferson Wang: So, Amber, I wanted to highlight three key points from the book. The first one is really around the user behavior, challenges and changes. The second one is really around new technology like 5G and what are the impacts on the home? And the third one is really around what is the actual vision of the future home.
So, let's dig into the first one around user behavior changes. So, we wanted to put the human at the center at the heart of the book. So, we conducted primary research and we actually finished writing the book well before the global pandemic. What we found is that the trends and the behavioral changes that we actually documented, were actually accelerated during COVID.
Now while this was validating, the most important part was really figuring out which ones of these trends would continue on in a post-COVID environment. So when you look at things like working from home more and the productivity increases that you get and the actual quality of life increases that you get for the people who can work from home, those are scenarios that we see continuing on even after COVID. We find that in an Accenture research that we recently conducted, that 53% of people who had never worked from home before actually want that option going forward.
Now when you look at other experiences that we do at home more than ever, things like virtual doctor's visits at home, so this is actually a pretty big problem. There's millions of people who are immune compromised and who actually don't even have transportation potentially to make it to in-person doctor's visits. So how can we solve that? And even still, what are the advantages of a virtual health visit? So, for example, avoiding the commute, actually having time and not waiting around for a doctor, but doing it on your time is actually incredibly beneficial. And when you actually look at this and dig down deeper, we found that from Accenture research 41% of Gen Z actually prefers these virtual doctor's visits over the in-person experience. So, we're starting to see a trend there change as well.
Then you're starting to see situations where digital has caused certain situations that we're trying to fix. So, when you look at alone while together with others, this becomes a problem that we could potentially solve. So, you're living at home with your family and we've all seen it at the dinner table no one can put down their smartphones, everybody's glued to a digital device. And even though we have the opportunity to interact with each other, we don't use that opportunity. So can a future home identify those usage patterns in those situations and find the right moments to create an activity or an event so that we actually put down our devices and we wanna spend time with those interactions in person?
Then there's other scenarios where digital can actually solve. So for example, together while being alone, is another situation. When you look at this, so we're very isolated. Some people actually don't live with people, and right now we can't travel. So can we close that distance? Can we actually create experiences or more frequencies where we connect with our friends and families and our loved ones? Also find new ways to be more immersive in those connections beyond just a simple video call. So we find that, you know, 49% of people now will and plan, to do more virtual connections with their friends and family. And what are the new ways to do that through immersive technology?
So then we move to the second point around new technology and what are the enablers that it can create. So when you look at a new tech like 5G and edge computing, is that a way that it can harmonize the current situation? So right now it's a really fragmented environment in our world. We have: Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, you name it, it's all over the place. And that creates this fragmentation. A lot of times this can take users up to two and a half hours to install and actually create the passwords and get these devices up and running in the current smart home environment. So does 5G provide an ability to harmonize all this technology? Does 5G provide an opportunity where you can just take the device out of the box, powered it on and go? So that you don't need to actually enter in a complex password, find the network, download an app and do all those things.
Then the third key point is when it comes to the actual future home vision, the actual core thesis that we have is making you feel at home anywhere. And this concept is really about hyper-personalization, it's about getting the actual data so that it's not in silos, and it's allowed to be used to benefit you in a complete manner.
So this sounds easy but it's actually incredibly hard to do. When you look at all the devices you have in your home today, some are shared like the actual TV, like the thermostat, like the smart speaker. Some of these devices are very individual like your smartphone or your watch. And each of these has different devices, different operating systems, different applications, and different silos of data. And it's difficult to break all these down to create that at-home anywhere environment. This is where we see the communication service providers actually have a pretty good opportunity here. And it's a moment in time where they can be the orchestrator and give the freedom back to the actual users.
So being that orchestrator to be able to actually break down those data silos, being the orchestrator to create the business model so that everybody's incentive to do that, and then finding a way to make this all work together for the actual user is an incredible benefit that we see and an opportunity we see and it's a way to make everybody feel at home anywhere whether it's around four walls or even on four wheels.
AM: I was counting in my home the other day, I think I have approximately 25 connected devices. Many people call those smart devices. Some of them may not be all that smart. So let's dig into that term in terms of a smart device. What is it that makes one of these devices smart?
JW: Yeah Amber, I bet that that 25 number is going to increase for you and everyone else in the near future for sure. You know, I'm glad you used the word connected devices because that's a big difference in what we're talking about right now. And you mentioned what makes a device smart.
You know when you look at just basic connectivity, when you look at some form of compute power, and you look at some data storage, that can create a capability or a potential to be smart, but is it really smart? Does it warrant that word smart?
So when you look at these situations, there's levels of smart. And in the book, we talk about these levels of smart. So you have devices that are more requests based today. And every time I wake up in the morning, I still have to ask the smart speaker what's the weather like? You know, and that's a very much request-based situation. There's devices that are strongly correlated but aren't working together. So when you think about a weight as an indicator, the amount of sleep that you get, what you're eating, and ultimately how much your fitness regime is working towards this, those are all strongly correlated, but I bet that you have different devices and different applications and different services on each of those so that they're not all working together correctly to make your life better.
And then finally you look at things that are automated but not really intelligent. So when I'm not feeling well, I couldn't make it into work and I'm still in bed, why does my vacuum have to go off at 7:00 AM without any regard for the situation? So again a situation of where it's simply just automated, and while that does save me time and save all of us time, it's not really intelligent. It didn't figure out that last night I took my temperature and I was running a fever. In the middle of the night I had to get up and actually change the thermostat more than the normal settings because I was getting chills. And I was still in bed at my normal time when I'm supposed to get up. As a result, when you add those up, vacuum cleaner you don't need to go run at 7:00 AM. You know, take a day off.
So I think those are things that we have to actually understand that these aren't necessarily smart devices yet they have the potential to be, but right now they're simply just connected devices and we need to get them to intelligence.
AM: What about the decision-making process in the home? Because when we talk about smart devices, now like you've said, we are assuming that the human is making a lot of the decisions. What about the machines? What is the role of the machine in that context?
JW: You know Amber, it's a really good point, that decision is just a conclusion reached after consideration. So you need the past decisions, you need their current context, in order to anticipate the future needs of those future decisions. So you need compute power, you need connectivity, you need the data, but right now you can't really have a natural experience cause a lot of those are all separated right now, separate data pools in different silos. So we have to find a way to break all those down. We have to put the right business context in place in order to incentivize everybody to work together. And we need an orchestrator to be able to get everybody working towards a common goal, which is improving the user experience in the home.
AM: How optimistic are you that that can happen?
JW: Yeah Amber. So I really think about this like a team sport. You need the connectivity providers, the communication service providers, to work with the device manufacturers, to work with the cloud providers, who are gonna work with the application developers. And really when you think about this, you know, it is possible if there is an orchestrator, that word that we talked about before. And an orchestrator has a team captain who can attract the best players to their team, who can get the most out of each player, get them all working towards a common goal. You know, that's really the opportunity in front of us right now and I think that's the really key role that we need is that orchestration role.
AM: Let's pick up on that in terms of the role of the CSP. How do you see that role evolving when it comes to the smart home?
JW: You know, many CSPs have tried smart home in the past with limited success. I think it's important to highlight there's some differences now. Though when you look at kind of the past, there was fragmented technology like we talked about. There was Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and all those things. And in the future can 5G harmonize those is the big difference.
Also in the past you had users who have to be – Amber, you and I talked about this – the users had to be the CTO of their homes, were solution architects of their own homes. And that's a hard job. You have to set up the connectivity and make sure there's no dead zones in the house. You have to actually read the labels of all these devices and make sure it fits in your ecosystem before you buy it and download the app, enter in the password and install it. You have to actually troubleshoot and diagnose issues, if something goes wrong. And being the CTO of your own home is really difficult. Let alone if you're trying to do this remotely for your mom or your aging parents – you want to throw yourself off a cliff.
But in the future can the CSPs actually help orchestrate this? You know, also in the past, there was really no ecosystem business model, but in the future can the CSPs create more of a sharing business model so that everybody wants to contribute, everybody gets incentivized to contribute, and we're all aligned towards building that common goal.
The other thing is, you know, CSPs really didn't have software development capabilities previously, and now that's changing. Software development is incredibly important. I think CSPs are seeing that and starting to hire and retain more software development capabilities. And this is important to get into more of a test and iterate culture which has got to change for this to be successful. You know, we wrote the book, 5G Future Home, in order to stimulate these conversations with the CSP, you know, as a key focal point of this. And I think that I believe that communication service providers have this opportunity or this right to play in the future version of the home.
And if you really look at the book as starting the stimulation and starting the discussion points, I hope that people read it and see that there is a roadmap that's laid out, and specifically in chapter six, seven, and eight, it lays out the blueprint of the business model, the value chain position, and hopefully gives the CSPs the courage to actually try again into the home environment.
“62% of consumers now trust CSPs with their data security. And that's a huge advantage right now that you can capitalize on.”
So when you ask the question, what's the role of the CSPs? Let's start it almost like the strength right now, which is trust. When you look at what's happened, CSPs have gained and built an incredible amount of trust over the past year. So number one, they've waived data caps, they've waived overage fees, and they've basically kept us connected at the most critical times. And certainly when you look at this trust, Accenture found that 62% of consumers now trust CSPs with their data security. And that's a huge advantage right now that you can capitalize on.
But what's also important to think about on the flip side is that trust is very perishable just like this opportunity in the future home for CSPs. That it takes a long time to build up this trust but only a moment to lose it. So that's just like this opportunity when you think about it.
So if you dive into trust as a point to capitalize on, and you think through what is the actual control points that CSPs can actually build together and drive into this right to play, the SIM and the ESIM is an incredible opportunity. The connectivity like we talked about from fixed to mobile and the seamlessness of that. The ability to have customer premise equipment like the modem as a control point. The billing relationship and the customer care and the service is gonna be incredibly important. And one real differentiator that I think a lot of folks miss is the industry conversions between the CSPs as well as utilities or regional health providers. This is a really differentiated point that can come through for the future home use cases like we talked about.
So after you get past the control points, you really look at where the value chain position is for CSPs and that really dictates the right to win. So the right to play we talked about and what's the role of a CSP, but what's the right to win? So if you look at 3G, CSPs tried first party services. In a 4G world, it was relegated a little bit more of a pipe position, but in the 5G world and in future home specifically, can CSPs move into that platform, into that orchestrator position, to try and have the right to win?
AM: Can you talk more about platform and define that term as you're using it now?
JW: Yeah. So when we talk about the word platform we generally describe it as a multi-sided platform. And when you think about that, there is in one side where it's all of the different solution providers, developers, and then the other side of it is really the customers you have today and the customers you want tomorrow. And the position of a platform provider is really number one to certainly connect all of the solution providers and developers to the right customers and making sure that they're relevant and connected easily so that everybody can enjoy the services and the benefits as a platform provider.
But then there's certain roles as a platform provider as a CSP can actually provide specifically to each side. So, you know, when you think about the developer side, extending things like your business services. If there is a smaller developer or a smaller solution provider that just wants to focus on the product, but doesn't really wanna build out a billing system or deal with customer care, can you extend your CSP billing system or AI powered chatbot over to them so that they can continue to focus on their product that you're now connecting to new customers.
There's other things on the network side, you know, can you expose certain APIs to actually improve their current products or their offerings, and what type of analytics and security can you provide to the developers so that they can actually again, continue to enhance their products.
And then there's a responsibility to the customer side, certainly as well. You know, number one, what are potentially professional services you can provide or different flexibility options that you could provide for, you know, do it yourself install, do it for me install, or even do it with me install. So how do you actually provide those different flexibility options for different levels of skillsets for your customers? How do you think about what types of security for physical and digital you can provide to the customers so that they can feel safe? So I think when you look at a platform position, certainly one is to connect the actual solution providers to the actual customers, but also serving each one differently so that you can actually all be successful.
AM: I'd love to end on that potential because one of the exciting parts of this conversation really is what the future home looks like. Walk us through a day in the life of the future home and the possibilities that exist.
“When we talk about the future home… a lot of it is basically putting the person at the center of the story.”
JW: Yeah. You know, when we talk about the future home, like we said at the very beginning, that a lot of it is basically putting the person at the center of the story. And when you think about what this could actually become and realize it's really exciting.
You know, let's do a day in the life as an example. And this is one of the descriptions in the book, along with several different use cases. But, you know, number one, you wake up and you look out the window and because there is both kind of sun and clouds, you know, it toasts up the weather. The home itself has looked into your calendar. It understands kind of where you're gonna be throughout the day, what activities you're gonna do. And it realizes that in those locations, the weather may not be directly predictable. So it toasts up the weather for you.
You know, when you walk into the bathroom to brush your teeth you know, certainly the scale, and I've got some vacation coming up on the weekend. And the scale realizes that I'm ahead of my weight loss goals for the vacation, the weekends, so when I get to the kitchen, I am able to get the sweetened creamer for my coffee without any type of guilt. When you actually moved to my regular commute and normally I take a bus, and all of a sudden that bus for some reason is late and I have to go into a completely new environment, I've never taken the subway before, but now since the home is now following me and can me feel at home anywhere, I'm not simply just given an opportunity to go to the subway, but I'm guided through it with augmented reality. I know where the actual station and the platform and when is the train gonna get there. I know when to get off and almost more importantly in this new environment when I get off, I know which exit to take that's closest to my destination.
And then even further when we talked a lot about alone together and together alone you know, situations where we're still very isolated we need that human connection. You know, what are the more immersive ways to do that? So I live halfway across the country from my mother. And instead of just doing a video chat FaceTime, you know, in the future home experiences, can we actually both take a virtual walk down the street that we grew up on in the old environment and how it looked when we did grow up on it. And does that give us the opportunity to connect and reminisce and really remember the memories and also have a deeper connection to talk about.
So those are some of the exciting use cases in the future home and you're gonna need all of the ecosystem players led by an orchestrator like the CSPs with new technology like 5G and Edge compute and ESIM and AI and ML, to be able to realize those things. So that's really the exciting part.
AM: How excited are you about the future home?
JW: Amber, I'm incredibly excited. It's a huge opportunity when you really look at all the people spending more time in their homes, creating much more data. It really is an important opportunity. And many people see that. You see a lot of different players working on expanding their position in the value chain or changing the actual value chains themselves. So it is becoming a very, very dynamic situation. And if you really think about if mobile was the must-win of yesterday, then home is the must-win of today.
AM: Thank you so much, Jefferson.
JW: Thank you so much, Amber.
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