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November 30, 2016

How smartphones and the IoT can build an always connected world

The head of the devices business at Huawei looks at what telcos and device manufacturers need to do to prepare for 5G and other developments.

By Alexander Sword

Throughout our lives, we find ourselves in moments where connectivity isn’t just something we want, but something we rely on. There are moments in our kids’ lives we want to capture and share with family, an important work project you need to work on remotely while traveling, and of course we want to be able to stream a movie or TV show on Netflix, anytime, anywhere. And we want to be able to do these things on any device in our technology ecosystem.

People’s expectations for connectivity are at an all-time high, and they’re only going to increase further. Connectivity isn’t a luxury or pleasant surprise anymore, it’s a necessity. For technology companies looking to meet the needs of today’s consumers, it’s important to create devices that allow people to stay connected reliably and seamlessly, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

The mobile revolution of the past several years has brought with it a rapid growth in connectivity technologies – from 3G to 4G and beyond, from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi and various other standards. There are so many technologies that keep us connected and allow our devices to talk to each other and work together. But for most consumers, what’s happening under the hood is less important than the experience – Am I connected? Is that connection reliable? Can I transfer my experience between devices?

huawei-kevin-ho

Kevin Ho, President of Huawei’s Handset Business.

To ensure that the answer to all of these questions is yes, we must holistically design technology that works together as seamlessly as possible – tablets, phones and computers, connected infrastructure, and smart devices. No longer can we think of a phone and a laptop as separate devices but instead as different form factors of the same device that warrant the same kind of connectivity as we move between them throughout the day. We must promise and deliver an always-connected experience in which data can flow freely between devices and global borders are never barriers to personal connection.

Increasingly, the divides between device categories are growing murky. If a tablet can snap on a keyboard, is it a laptop? If I can make a call from my smartwatch, does it become a phone? As innovators and device manufacturers, we need to be cognizant that this loosening of barriers also means consumers will expect a comparable experience across devices. This means that all devices should be equipped to talk and share data in a way that ensures work being done or media being consumed on one device can be picked up on another with as little hassle as possible. It also means ensuring that connected devices – the many nodes in our Internet of Things – can easily share their data with our phones, our tablets, our PCs and more.

Connectivity does not simply stop at the home or office. In fact, increasingly, the office is expected to span time zones and borders. A recent survey showed that 84 percent of travelers worldwide want to have the ability to access information no matter where they are. In fact, more than half of the survey respondents said they would be lost without a mobile device while on holiday. And so, as technology companies we must tackle the issues that create barriers to this type of global connectivity.

Devices should be equipped to work out of the box on a number of bands and standards, ensuring that –for the user – the experience of travelling is not marred by non-existent or subpar connectivity. In an increasingly globalised world where individuals rely on a bevy of connected devices, it’s paramount that travelers maintain the greatest possible degree of connectivity wherever and whenever they are.

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We need to build devices that deliver on the always-connected promise across a variety of form factors – phones, phablets, tablets, laptops and more. This means equipping hardware with antennas that can hold a cellular data signal on a fast-moving train. It means ensuring that devices work internationally, taking into account a wide number of bands and standards, and making sure that global borders are not borders to productivity. It also means investing in a product ecosystem where files and processes can be shared easily and seamlessly between devices.

We always look for opportunities by trying to meet people where they will be – not simply where they are right now. The trend lines show that seamless and constant connectivity is not only in demand, it’s a necessity. As technology companies, we must make a promise to consumers that they will never be disconnected, no matter where they travel or what device they choose to use.

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