Accelerating Technology Advancements with the 4Es Framework
The recent emergence of new age digital technologies has redefined businesses across sectors. The telecom sector too is part of this transformation. Rapid evolution of 4G technology around the globe over the last two years highlights this progression. While this 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 gap between development and commercialization of the different wireless generations is self-evident. The transition from 2G that was introduced in India in 1995 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 less time, around four to five years. And within just a couple of years since 4G’s inception, the road maps and action plans for deploying 5G services in the country are already underway.
Telecom companies are pursuing innovations not as a differentiating quotient but a survival measure. For the consumer, the technological evolution is tangible in terms of advancement of features and ease of use. However, from an engineering and R&D standpoint, there are four futuristic technologies, 4Es or ‘four-pillars’ that are playing a vital role in shaping innovations, namely digital engineering, smart engineering/manufacturing, pervasive engineering, and perceptual technologies. These elements are enhancing the value proposition to the end-users at a rapid pace.
A Sneak Peek into 4Es
Digital engineering – The importance of delivering a digital experience in today’s world cannot be overemphasized. Organizations that comprehend this are already working on making their product design digital to improve productivity and minimize cost. Digital engineering is empowering companies with new digital tools, providing the means to build an advanced line of services and deliver remarkable value to consumers. Organizations are using digital engineering to create an ecosystem of products and solutions, a system of systems for end customers, which is helping themselves grow in the right direction. With the advent of Industry 4.0, organizations are embracing digitalization to seize opportunities and unlock untapped business potential to make their transition into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) era.
Smart manufacturing – Smart manufacturing is revolutionizing product development through the concepts of virtual and connected manufacturing. The convergence of 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. Instead, they will function as intelligent integrated plants that enable real-time responses with sensors and visualization technologies and create a manufacturing ecosystem that goes beyond traditional factory floors. As the trend of Industry 4.0 gains traction, maturing technologies like automation, advanced human–machine interaction (HMI) and augmented reality (AR) are ensuring safety compliant factory floors and reducing the dependence on manual labor.
Pervasive technologies – The concept of pervasive technology is based on a very simple idea—as technology advances, computing equipment and sensors are bound to get more compact and have more power. For instance, while wireless communication was pioneered around the end of the 19th century, advances in telecommunications technology and devices since then have led to an unprecedented growth in the use of mobile phones and the widespread popularity of rich media. Today, similar progress has been achieved elsewhere too. Embedded systems connected with wireless computing, voice recognition, internet capability, and artificial intelligence (AI) have become the building blocks of pervasive technology. Encompassing these technologies, companies are using sensor fusion to produce data and signal computing to analyze and connect systems, thus enabling businesses to transform into true digital service-led models. Software and embedded technologies have virtually become omnipresent across business functions. Leading technological organizations are now 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. This reality is closer than we think. Perceptual engineering leverages the transformative potential of AI, machine learning, image and voice processing, neural networks, virtual reality (VR), sensor technology, and collaborative robotics to replicate the perceptions and cognition of living biological systems. It will engineer human senses (touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell) and enable machines to self-learn and correct themselves without human intervention. Self-driving autonomous cars are a good example of how companies are using perceptual engineering. Recently, a startup integrated common sense into autonomous cars, making them smarter and enabling them 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 toward adopting the ‘four-pillars’ framework. For instance, digital engineering is ensuring a foolproof and advanced ecosystem for manufacturing telecom equipment and devices. Global OEMs are embracing smart manufacturing measures to not only optimize their productivity, but also ensure a safer work environment for their workforce. The influence of pervasive technologies in driving rapid advancements in the telecom sector is evident in the data services world that we live in. Perceptual engineering similarly, is making telecom networks more intelligent and capable.
Spearheading the Future
As these technological advances gain momentum, new ideas and opportunities are surfacing for businesses with the eventual beneficiary being end-users. This rapid race for innovation-based differentiation will require companies to embrace a framework that can respond to unexpected changes. The ‘four-pillars’ framework augurs well considering this objective. The coming times will certainly be as exciting as ever for the telecom industry.