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The Seeds of IoT: Plant Them Today

The Seeds of IoT: Plant Them Today
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The French strategist Hubert Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree and was told that it would take 100 years for the tree to mature. Lyautey’s reply: “In that case, there is no time to waste – plant it today!”

The Internet of Things (IoT) won’t take nearly as long to arrive. All the more reason to start digging now.

Telecommunications used to be simple. Its ecosystem consisted of a few well-defined players: the telcos that built and ran the networks, and the manufacturers that made phones or computers. Then there were customers: the industries that used these devices and their associated services. They waited to see what the telecom suppliers would make available, then figured out how best to use it.

Ken Hu_167x250

Ken Hu

That world is no more. The Internet of Things is spurring the growth of a complex digital ecosystem of interconnected people and objects. Many of them will be in motion (e.g., cars, and the people in them), necessitating millions of mobile connections and data transmission at gigabit speeds.

In such an environment, technical progress moves not in a straight line, but in overlapping waves of change. New technology emerges and is quickly adopted. Regulatory policies start to catch up, by which time the technology has changed again, creating another wave.

Given this dynamic, we must discuss how these technologies will work for the dozens of industries that use them. And because the future tends to arrive suddenly, we must start these discussions now.

Huawei recently announced a new strategy for mobile broadband to do just that. A central part of that strategy involves open collaboration and continuous innovation – the only way to ensure that the strategy actually delivers what customers need and want.

The ICT industry is already forming alliances to prepare the mobile foundations of the IoT. Huawei, for example, is meeting with industry organizations, chipmakers, device providers, app developers, telecom operators, and others for their input.

The only way to design technology that integrates smoothly across such disparate industries is to collaborate closely with industry leaders, and with governments and universities that influence them.

We’re also cooperating with global partners to promote the development of unified 5G standards around the world (5G is the fifth generation of mobile telecommunications standards. Much of the developed world uses 4G at this point.) To test emerging IoT technologies in real-world situations, Huawei has established facilities such as the 5G Vertical Industry Accelerator in Munich, which conducts research across a range of applications:

  • connected vehicles with Internet access
  • smart manufacturing that collects factory-floor data to ensure quality
  • smart-grid technology that allows electricity meters to be read remotely
  • intelligent traffic management that eases rush-hour congestion and reduces air pollution
  • e-health solutions that help doctors make better diagnoses

The only way to design technology that integrates smoothly across such disparate industries is to collaborate closely with industry leaders, and with governments and universities that influence them.

Many 5G advances will occur after 2020, and probably well into the 2030s. Given such a distant horizon, some might be tempted to concentrate on more near-term issues.

That would be a mistake. Some things take time – the jump from 3G to 4G, for example, took about 10 years.

Other time-consuming issues include spectrum, the very basis for mobile broadband. Spectrum is like land: If it isn’t made available for development, nothing useful will grow or be built. Policymakers hoping to kick-start the global economy must increase spectrum availability by 50% to 100% over the next five years.

The 5G era is just five short years away. Huawei believes that, through an emphasis on collaboration with diverse partners, our mobile broadband strategy will plant the seeds of the IoT, ensuring that business and government are ready when the future arrives.

As Hubert Lyautey said: There is no time to waste.

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About the author

Mr. Ken Hu is Deputy Chairman and Acting CEO of Huawei Technologies. He is a member of Huawei's Board of Directors and Executive Management Team (EMT) and is also Chairman of Huawei USA. With 20 years of experience in the telecoms industry, Mr. Hu is integral to the strategic direction of the company and instrumental to Huawei's efforts to expand its business in the global markets.