In 1996, Vodafone Spain operator slogan was “We carry the voice”. Many things have changed since then, not only the world history, but the role of the mobile operators in the society and in the world we live.
Initially it was just the voice what transformed our lives, making our day by day easier, calling anyone from anywhere. Data continued that transformation, sharing pictures and videos with our friends or sending emails at any time and any place. In the last two decades mobile phones have transformed the way people are connected and in the next ones we will see a revolution in the way objects are connected, with a big impact on Active and Healthy Ageing.
This revolution has started in Vodafone, with “V by Vodafone”, monitoring what happens at home, being closer to our parents and grandparents with “V-SOS Band”, receiving notifications when they need help, or just been able to locate their dogs with V-Pet. “V by Vodafone” is just a start, that will follow with innovative ideas; we foreseen some of them and others we can’t even imagine today.
One of our recent areas of innovation has been wearables, to help elite athletes to break the 2 hours marathon barrier, one of the greatest challenges in sport. In a first phase, we added our expertise to a group of scientists developing an innovative mobile application to provide precise real time measures of distance run and speed. In a second phase we worked with different partners to enable body sensors to communicate with the app over our mobile network to measure parameters such as core and skin temperature and heart rate among others.
The app was connected to a cloud-based portal, so that the athlete’s training team can view the data on a desktop, tablet or smartphone in real time. The team can use the mobile network to communicate with their elite athletes to optimise their training. This project has showcased Vodafone’s ability to provide connectivity and innovative services for standalone wearable devices.
One complete different project we are being pioneer is in the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in our networks for quicker optimisation. With AI we will also be able to predict network behaviour to solve problems before they happen, based on data processing and pattern recognition. For instance, the network will be able to identify if there is high traffic at a mobile cell site every Sunday evening, maybe generated by football matches in the area. The network could automatically increase the capacity of the area before the match starts, and return to normal after it. Customers would enjoy sharing videos and pictures to friends thanks to AI.
With experience in wearables and Artificial Intelligence, our industry should be able to merge them in the health area to predict some medical problems before they happen, sending all needed information and parameters to the closest hospital so that people can receive medication or advices to avoid certain illness before they happen, improving the quality of our lives.
Moving to a different area, we announced recently the start of trials for air traffic control drone tracking. Vodafone has developed a technology called Radio Positioning System (RPS) , that enable real tracking of a drone using mobile network information, a 4G modem and a SIM embedded. RPS combined with AI enable very large numbers of drones to be tracked and controlled remotely. Vodafone has placed its RPS research and associated intellectual property in the public domain with licensing fees for re-use in order to accelerate the pace of geolocation innovation.
The technology behind RPS can also be utilised to boost the functionality of other IoT devices in future, as for example to locate people that are lost, even when they are in indoors areas, as RPS enables better location indoor tracking than GPS.
To pick a few more ideas, there are ongoing researches to know if someone has fallen at home using innovative technologies over the Wi-Fi routers, what will allow to know when exactly it happens and at what position, facilitating assistance. Other area of research are holograms. Won’t be cute a grandmother can talk to her granddaughter seeing here just in front of her just wearing special glasses?
All projects above will be speed up with the introduction of 5G, the next mobile generation. 5G will be more integrated and more integral to the world we live and the way the world works. 5G will improve the capacity of our network, will reduce the latency, that is the time between performing an action and getting response, allowing devices to become more responsive favouring Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. With 5G, also more devices will be able to connect to a 5G cell site, supporting the expected explosion in the number of devices as part of the Internet of Things.
We can clearly say that the technology is improving our quality of live in areas such as health, security, prevention of social isolation or cognitive stimulation. Decade by decade humans break the limits of the technology. Maybe, there will be a time, where the biggest limit will be our own imagination.
Author: Santiago Tenorio Sanz
Organization: Vodafone Spain
Role: Vodafone’s Group Head of Networks Strategy and Architecture