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Human Lobsters and Other Sightings at Mobility Live 2016


Now in its fourth year, Mobility Live attracted a sizable crowd to the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta.

The lineup included 5 keynotes, 20 panel sessions, a reception at the close of Day 1 held at the recently opened College Football Hall of Fame, two hosted lunches (with hot food, not sandwiches – well done GSMA!), and 9 scheduled networking breaks. I am sure you get the idea of how there was a lot of great content to make it a very worthwhile wireless industry event. You can see the big picture at http://www.mobile360series.com/north-america/

With 3 conference tracks going on simultaneously over the two full days, it was impossible to attend every panel but here are a few take-aways that caught my eye.

5G. It is great that everyone is getting excited about the prospects of this next generation of technology. And great that the standards are shaping up and service providers and suppliers are making solid progress with early trials. But it is going to be a few years for 5G to begin to be rolled out, let alone reach national footprints or international roaming. Yet we already effectively have ubiquitous coverage with mobile broadband LTE and so, as Glenn Lurie (AT&T), Bob Gessel (Ericsson) and others highlighted, there is no need for business customers to defer mobile deployments for which there are viable solutions available today. And 4G will continue to be with us well into the 2020’s. However, what will help give confidence to customers and the ecosystem of suppliers, and so accelerate the willingness to invest, is if service providers will give public commitments on minimum network lifetimes and that those be time periods of significant length (think decades, not years).

IoT All You Need To Know On One Slide. The day following Mobility Live, there was a “full house” at the companion event GSMA Global LTE-M summit (http://www.gsma.com/connectedliving/event/global-lte-m-summit/) .

LTE-M and NB IoT are key 3GPP standards that address the low-power, M2M communications over the licensed cellular networks. Kudos to Cameron Coursey (AT&T) for saving the audience from “death by powerpoint” and instead providing the one slide (replicated below) as the total of his presentation to review the primary benefits of LTE-M.

What is it all about? LTE-M 1) will enable modules to be produced that are 1/6 the physical size of current-day LTE modules (and thus be more suitable to support the exploding demand for form factors such as wearables), 2) will have the RF ability to extend coverage by 15db (thus penetrate 4” more of concrete and so improve in-building service), 3) reduce the module cost by 1/2 (and make therefore a big impact on the cost model), 4) will have upto 10 years battery life (making long lived field deployments viable without needing a truck roll or maintenance visit). While these may not fully satisfy everyone and every use case (for example, utility companies operate with 15-20 year lifecycles on installed equipment such as residential smart meters), these critical features will be key enablers of new business models and the trigger for a wave of commercial LTE-based IoT deployments starting in 2017.

Mixed Reality. Media and brands are perpetually inventing new ways to do storytelling; to integrate sight, sound and motion in compelling ways that now also leverage data plus logic plus emotion as best they can while overcoming the limitations inherent in the current state of mobile technology. Daryl Evans (MediaLink), Mary Clark (Syniverse), David Smith (Home Depot) and others discussing Brands Go Mobile are right to point out a wide variety of challenges such as lack of robust tools to measure customer engagement in mobile experiences all the way to the need for organizations to restructure the responsibilities for mobile marketing out of it’s own silo and into a pervasive role across functions. And this mashup of complexity is only increasing as content goes from digital to virtual reality, now augmented reality, and soon to Mixed Reality (i.e. VR seamlessly overlaid in a transparent visual field onto the real world in a uniquely personalized experience such as via contact lens displays). Check out https://www.magicleap.com for a FL-based startup that is shaking up the field.

Oh yes! And as for those Human Lobsters – don’t worry! Apparently we have the inherent ability to adapt and learn how to make best use of all these new “realities” coming soon on our next mobile experience! Prof. of Advertising, Grace Ahn (University of Georgia) helped ease our minds by describing the Stanford University psychology experiment (a.k.a. “the Human Lobster experiment”) that demonstrated that people can easily learn how to comfortably control and effectively use unfamiliar and unnatural capacities such as the eight limbs of a digital avatar.

It is with that comforting thought that we left Mobility Live 2016 with much enthusiasm for the wireless industry and looking forward to next year’s event.

There was of course, much more going on than I have space for to cover here, but how about you? Did you attend Mobility Live 2016? If so, what caught your attention?

Bill Mayberry
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