Mobilization: 4 trends to watch

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This morning John Donovan, AT&T’s CTO, spoke to the Mass Technology Leadership Council about four trends that will shape the future. For each trend, Mr. Donovan described the trend, illustrated it with some examples, and provided data on how fast the trend was accelerating. Here are my notes.

Always on networking

"Always on networking" has shortened the distance from intent to action.  Now, that people can get information immediately and effortlessly, consumption of applications has exploded.  An increase in WIFI connections has also caused consumption to increase since people can now access the network from more places.

As application consumption has increased, network demand has soared.  Mr. Donovan pointed to people addicted to watching the stock market as examples.  In the past, due to delay and access issues, there were limits to the information they could consume.  Now that they can get updates immediately, they check the market at every opportunity.

Similarly, as an outdoor enthusiast, he checks the weather constantly.  Moreover, because he can, he checks the weather in each of the places his family members live.  His parents, on the other hand, could only get weather reports for the next day on the nightly news-and not until 20 minutes into the program.

To give us a sense of the growth rate, Mr. Donovan said that the range of error in AT&T's demand forecasts now exceeds their total activity 3 years ago.  Nevertheless, he noted that the pace of growth, while still strong, is now slowing.


Mr. Donovan sees video as the next frontier.  Now, rather than "talk to me" it's "show me".  Asynchronous communication enabled people to time shift work.  Video allows you to place shift work.

Demand for video is growing so large, we'll need to find new ways to carry more data on the network.  The number of YouTube videos doubled in the last six months.


A common language drives integration.  IP and interoperability caused network growth to explode.

Application Program Interfaces (APIs) can eliminate the silos of voice, wireless, and Internet data because they now speak the same language.  The availability of standards has caused the pace of development to accelerate.  What IPs did for network growth, APIs now do for consumption.

The Cloud

The shift from the cloud to the network is an emerging trend. Today, people have duplicate systems on their cell phones, PCs, etc.  Moreover, each of these devices has its own processor, power cord, etc.

We're wasting a lot of storage and too much processing power goes unused.  The situation is even worse at the enterprise level.

Standards will enable device independence and will increase efficiency.  Intelligence will move from the device to the network.

We'll be able to put computing power and storage in the cloud.  Availability, search, redundancy, and latency will all improve.

The network will manage storage, security, consumer applications, business applications, and personas. You'll no longer need both a home and work device.  Content and applications will adapt to users' needs rather than the other way around.


Mr. Donovan is a great speaker.  If you have the chance to hear him, I recommend you do so.

His presentation was well organized and useful.  Thanks to the examples and growth data, it was easy to understand the message and the implications.


There was a brief Q and A with a panel.  I've included three of the questions, Mr. Donovan's response to the first question, Hassan Ahmed's response to the second question (because he had sold a company to AT&T), and Mr. Donovan's response to the third question.

  • How will companies monetize free apps?

The early applications were experimental.  They killed time and didn't save it.  Development is straightforward; the value is in the design.  Advertising will pay for consumer applications.  Enterprises will pay for improved productivity.

  • What advice do you have for entrepreneurs that want to sell their businesses to one of the large players? 
  1. Need to "move the bar" in a meaningful way, need to do 10x what the incumbents are doing
  2. Need to integrate with their infrastructure
  3. Need to understand their strategic direction and make a contribution at that level
  4. Need to solve their problem in the way they want it solved.
  5. Need to be at the right place at the right time.
  • What innovation would you like to see?

Mr. Donovan said he is looking for integrated medical monitoring.  Now, there are apps to report his weight, blood pressure reading, sleep restlessness etc.; but they are all point applications.  He wants his clinician to see an integrated report.

His response was timely.  The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council will present Emerging Technologies for the Silver Tsunami: Aging in Place through the use of Integrated Technology on the morning of September 23.

Perhaps Mr. Donovan will visit Boston again.  After all, he did refer to Boston as "a hub of technology that provides opportunity" in his opening remarks!

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