AT&T, Ericsson & Intel see IoT potential in connected world

AT&T, Ericsson & Intel see IoT potential in connected world

AT&T, Ericsson & Intel see IoT potential in connected world
AT&T, Ericsson & Intel see IoT potential in connected world (Image: Ericsson)

The head honchos of AT&T, Ericsson and Intel talked up the future of the connected world, and IoT, at MWC today.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – The future is bright, and it’s going to be powered by the Internet of Things (IoT). That was one of the messages delivered by the the leaders of some of the world’s biggest technology companies at the Mobile World Congress exhibition in Barcelona, Spain earlier today.

In a keynote panel entitled ‘Mobile is Disruption’, AT&T vice chairman Ralph de la Vega, Ericsson president and CEO Hans Vestberg and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich discussed the future of mobility, and ended up focusing predominantly on 5G cellular connectivity, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the need to manage the data being collected from all of these new, connected devices.

“Mobile is the enablement of disruption,” said de la Vega, before citing how devices and software are becoming faster, with Agile computing, mobile broadband and cloud pushing mobile devices into becoming more responsive.

And it’s clear that he believes IoT is the way forward, giving the example of how AT&T has worked with Georgia Tech in developing a nano-sensor that is injected into the bloodstream in order to help detect cancer.

“Before IoT, we would treat [cancer], but now we can make it manageable disease, as opposed to a terminal disease.”

Vestberg added that “we’ve talked for quite a long time about the fifth industrial revolution” but says that technology habits are changing and use cases are much different than as we envisaged them. Citing today’s mobile phones, he said: “We use data for something totally different. Voice today is the noise in the network.”

He said that mobile broadband subscription numbers have grown from one billion in 2010, to three billion with six billion by 2020-21.

“This will change our world dramatically. We underestimate the effect it will have.”

IoT of people – and snowboards

The panel agreed that mobility, IoT and the cloud entwine and will change every industry in the coming years.

There is not one industry doesn’t have an IoT strategy,” claimed Vestberg.

5G is expected to be one of the big drivers here. Krzanich said that 5G could well end up in the car, in smartphones, autonomous cars and IoT sensors which can last continuously for two years. At the same time, it could offer data rates up to 25Gbits/second.

“The capability of 5G is enormous, but do we need to find the use cases. Is it in healthcare, mobility or autonomous cars?” asked Vestberg.

“The disruption is coming, it’s not over yet. This is just in the beginning of ICT transformation,” added de la Vega.

AT&T’s chief then showed off a $15 IoT device chipset, only to be outdone by Intel’s Krzanich who pulled out a $10 connected chipset that offers cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as six sensors and an AI engine. It is, as the Intel CEO said, “about as powerful as a five-year-old PC.”

On mobile disruption, he said:

“I think about it as connected, it’s a bit broader than just mobile. Think about connected and cloud and what that’s done, and think broader than 6-7 billion connections…we’re probably talking 50 billion or more.”

On the chip, he said that it can already be found on snowboards, and says that connectivity is ultimately about connecting people through technology.

AT&T further upped the ante on its own IoT credentials, detailing how it has been working with Red Bull Racing F1 to use sensors and data analytics to analyse race data in real-time to get pit stops just right.

Tyre condition and temperature are tracked, as well as track condition, and the driver is then told of the optimum time to pull in and change their tyres.

5G challenges aplenty

The panel then tackled the potential of 5G and whilst the experts agreed that standards and capabilities are ahead of time, they admit that latency is key to future deployments.

At this point, Intel’s Krzanich showed off a drone that has LTE connectivity to fly for longer, and “real-sense computer vision” to see and avoid objects. However, he says that while cellular sometimes falls down on spotty network coverage, this is less of an issue for 5G. “To me, 5G is solving this problem.”

He believes that 5G will power IoT: “5G will be a balance between us and machines, and machines will probably outnumber us 10:1”.

AT&T and Ericsson were keen to detail other IoT case studies, the former having built a energy-saving cargo container out of 3D printer to track goods on the go, while Ericsson has connected water sensor in Atlanta (a smart city) to check water quality in real-time.

Yet all panelists agreed that hardware, network and connectivity must be aligned in order for a connected future to become reality. Intel’s Krzanich said that chip manufacturers must look to reduce the costs of the hardware, while carriers must invest in the infrastructure.

Healthcare and smart cities potential

At the end of the discussion, the industry experts were quizzed on the future of mobility in industry, with most agreeing that healthcare could use these technologies to encourage self-care.

De la Vega says: “You cannot discount healthcare, I personally think, before too long, cancer will be manageable disease…Smart cities are another one, we’re working with three smart cities; Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago.”

He highlighted financial services and retail as other areas for growth, with retailers in particular having great insight into what customers do “before, during and after” they visit a store.

Vestberg continued that “healthcare is probably needs the most disruption” but with it also highly regulated, this is “going to take a bit longer.”

“Healthcare is one we’d all like to see happen,” said Krzanich. “We’d all like to see it disrupted but the question is if we can we get past the regulatory concerns.”