Ericsson Predicts a Mobile-Networked Society by 2050

Ericsson Predicts a Mobile-Networked Society by 2050
CEO Hans Vestberg on Three Things Changing Everything
What 5G Is and Isn't
Slicing Up the Possibilities
First Innovation, Then How to Make It Happen
Big Data Meets Anthropology
Snip to Help Americans Avoid Crashes
Miami-Dade as Model City
The End of the Industrial Age
Connected People, Social Change
Connected or Not, People Like to Talk Face to Face
Predicting, With Care
Collaborating On a Better Future
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Ericsson Predicts a Mobile-Networked Society by 2050

By Michelle Maisto

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CEO Hans Vestberg on Three Things Changing Everything

"Mobility, broadband and the cloud change everything," Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg told eWEEK, offering examples from how the ways we buy music has changed to how in the future it will be common for people to cobble together trips using app-organized ride shares. People think we've come so far, as though we've crossed an innovation finish line, he said. "But in 10 years' time we will have evolved enormously."

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What 5G Is and Isn't

"So, 5G is not another radio spectrum; it's a way to integrate the different [existing] radios together—WiFi, LTE, software-defined networking," said Don McCullough, Ericsson's director of strategic communications. "What you're going to see is, while with 4G carriers said, 'We've introduced 4G,' aspects of the fifth generation [or 5G] are already in place."

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Slicing Up the Possibilities

McCullough also talked about network slicing, first defining a slice as consisting of a "network piece, a cloud piece and a dynamic price point." Slices offer a new kind of control and accommodate different kinds of thinking. "Today, operators sell you a bucket of data and you figure out what you can do with that amount. With network slicing, you take it the other way around: What would analysis of jet engines look like? What would that require?"

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First Innovation, Then How to Make It Happen

Two years ago, Ericsson performed trials with several German automakers that entailed equipping cars with sensors and a virtual brake light of sorts, to alert drivers when cars ahead were braking, to avoid pile-ups. It worked beautifully, but it's not yet available because, as with many innovations, the business model doesn't exist yet, said Olle Isaksson, Ericsson's head of Transport and Automotive. Ericsson is "match-making the different actors" and "considering how to help the operators make services available in operator-agnostic ways."

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Big Data Meets Anthropology

Snips, a firm that specializes in predictive modeling, did a study with the Paris railway. Snips was able to give Metro users mobile information about the busyness and comfort levels of trains, which actually caused people to take trains that they normally wouldn't have. "Cities don't scale the way they're currently being managed," said CEO Rand Hindi. "We're trying to analyze data to predict the patterns of people so that [they can be offered] better services."

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Snip to Help Americans Avoid Crashes

Snips is launching a service in the U.S. in February, with a car company that it can't yet name. The service will be able to predict a driver's risk of getting in an accident, based on his or her location and the time of day, and provide instructions for minimizing the risk.

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Miami-Dade as Model City

Miami-Dade County CIO Angel Petisco has led efforts to put free WiFi in public transportation and get city businesses to offer bus riders special coupons and incentives. The county is also able to track its vehicles and wants to update its traffic lights to make better use of sensors. "We've offered to be a use case for white coats," said Petisco, suggesting social scientists. "We want an arrangement with academia and the local university," he said. "We need an ecosystem that makes it sustainable."

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The End of the Industrial Age

The Internet is a technology genie that's out of the bottle again," said Don Tapscott, an author, media theorist and consultant. "The printing press gave us access to the written world, but the Internet gives us access to ... more importantly, the cranium of the world. ... This is the age of networked intelligence."

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Connected People, Social Change

Among other things, Tapscott also talked about the power of connectivity and social networks to create social change. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We need to make [governments] naked, because when they're naked, they need to get buff," he said. Regarding the need for global problem solving, Tapscott said, "Problems don't have borders. We need solutions that don't have borders either."

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Connected or Not, People Like to Talk Face to Face

"There's a myth that we'll perfect telepresence and never need to go anywhere," said Greg Lindsay, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute (and the only person to go undefeated against IBM's Watson on "Jeopardy"). "We're still going to travel, it's just a matter of how." On a panel with Ericsson CEO Ulf Ewaldsson, the topic of wireless, over-the-air charging came up. Ewaldsson said it "could be a couple of years away."

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Predicting, With Care

"We have to be careful that we don't project our own experiences onto the world," said Ben Hammersley, a writer and "futurist," speaking to the need to take care when making predictions. While there are things that online shopping is perfectly suited for, he also said, that doesn't mean in-person shopping will cease. He offered the example of Square. "That simple thing enables a whole new class of payments, and soon you end up with a food truck or a farmer's market or a [craft-sale] revolution."

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Collaborating On a Better Future

It's tempting to think Ericsson should be quite content, given that it's the world's primary provider of mobile communications infrastructure. But Vestberg, in his closing remarks, said the opposite. "I've learned that we need to collaborate," he said. "To be relevant, we need to speak to other industries and to governments." But primarily, he added, "we want to invest in research and development."

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