Dr Keshab Panda, CEO & Managing Director, L&T Technology Services Ltd.
The emergence of new age digital technologies in the recent past has redefined businesses across sectors and the telecom sector too is part of this transformation. Rapid evolution of the 4G technology around the globe within the last 2 years highlights this rapid progression. And while the 4G technology is still maturing, the 5G wave is already upon us, promising up to 10,000 Mbps of wireless broadband speed, 10× faster than the current 4G capability.
The diminishing time period between the developments and commercialization of the wireless generation is self-evident. The transition from 2G that was introduced in the year 1995 in India, to 3G took over 15 years. Apart from the fact that it took consumer preference toward mobile services this long to change, the complementing technology evolution also took fairly long to upgrade. The subsequent transition from 3G to 4G took comparatively lesser time, that is, around 4–5 years. And today, while the potential of 4G technology is still maturing, the road maps and action plans for deploying 5G services in the country are already underway.
Telecom companies are pursuing innovations no more as a differentiating quotient but rather as a survival measure. While for the consumer, the technology evolution is tangible in terms of advancement of features and ease of use, from an engineering and R&D standpoint, there are four futuristic technologies or 4Es that are playing a vital role in shaping innovations namely digital engineering, smart engineering/manufacturing, pervasive engineering, and perceptual technologies. These elements are assisting the evolution of value proposition to the end-users to be enhanced at a very rapid pace.
Digital engineering. The importance of delivering a digital experiencing in today’s world cannot be overemphasized, and organizations that comprehend this fact are already working on making their product design digital to improve productivity and minimize cost. Digital engineering is empowering the companies with new digital tools providing the means to build an advanced line of services and deliver remarkable value to the consumers. Organizations are using digital engineering to create an ecosystem of products and solutions, a system of systems for the end customers and it is helping them grow in the right direction. With the advent of Industry 4.0, organizations are embracing digitalization to seize opportunities and unlock untapped business potential, making their transition into the IIoT era.
Smart manufacturing. Smart manufacturing is evolving to become a revolutionary new way for making products that incorporate the concepts of virtual and connected manufacturing. The convergence of multiple technologies like big data analytics, advanced robotics, and IoT in the realm of manufacturing is driving us toward an era where factories will no longer be places for mass production, but function as intelligent integrated plants enabling real-time responses with sensors and visualization technologies. Consequently, the domain is witnessing the emergence of manufacturing as an ecosystem, a system that goes beyond the traditional factory floors. Also, the trend of Industry 4.0 is gaining traction and technologies like automation, advanced human–machine interaction (HMI) and augmented reality (AR) are maturing, making the factory floors safer by addressing the workplace safety concerns and reducing the physical demands from the workers.
Pervasive technologies. The concept of pervasive technology is based on a very simple idea, as the technology advances, computing equipment and sensors are bound to get more compact and have more power. For instance, wireless communication was pioneered around the end of 19th century, the advances in the development of telecommunications technology and mobile devices since, have led to an unprecedented growth in use of mobile phones and a widespread popularity of rich media available to its users. Today, similar progress has been achieved in other technology parameters as well, and embedded systems connected with wireless computing, voice recognition, Internet capability, and artificial intelligence have become the building blocks of pervasive technology. Encompassing these technologies, companies are using pervasive technologies that use sensor fusion to produce data and signal computing to analyze and connect enabling businesses to transform to true digital service-led models. This trend is influencing the present business scenario. Software and embedded technologies have become virtually omnipresent in all spheres of business and a number of leading technological organizations are exploring pervasive technologies to perform useful tasks in a way that minimizes the end user’s need to interact with computers.
Perceptual engineering. Over the years, numerous movies have depicted machines and robots seamlessly performing tasks and activities that require the use of human senses and thinking abilities. The day we see this happening in reality is closer than we think. Perceptual engineering involves using the transformative potential of artificial intelligence, machine learning, image and voice processing, neural networks, virtual reality, sensor technology, and collaborative robotics to replicate the perceptions and cognition of living biological systems. It will make machines and products intelligent by engineering the human senses (touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell) and giving machines the ability to self-learn and correct themselves without human intervention. The recent advancements in self-driving autonomous cars are a very good example of how companies are using perceptual engineering. Additionally, it was also reported that a recent startup has taken a new approach to making autonomous cars smarter by integrating Common Sense into machines, giving vehicles the ability to deal with new situations on the fly.
How Telecom Companies are Triggering Innovation and Advancements using These Four Pillars
Telecom companies already have a head start in adopting this four-pillars framework. For instance digital engineering is ensuring a foolproof and advanced ecosystem for manufacturing of telecom equipment and devices. Global OEMs have already embraced smart manufacturing measures to not only optimize their productivity but also to ensure a safer work environment for the workforce. The influence of pervasive technologies in driving the rapid advancements in the telecom sector is even more evident in a data services world that we live in. The elements of perceptual engineering, that is, artificial intelligence, machine learning, VR, and automation are making the telecom networks more intelligent and capable.
As these new technological advances gain momentum, new ideas and opportunities are surfacing for businesses with the eventual beneficiary being the end-users. This rapid race for innovations-based differentiation will require the companies to embrace a framework that takes care of any unexpected change as well. The four-pillars framework augers well considering this objective. The coming times will certainly be exciting as ever for the telecom industry.