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Seven key ideas from Innovation 2017

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22 June 2017

Global Services

Blogs by author: Global Services, We’re a leading global business communications provider

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Our Innovation 2017 event was designed to celebrate creative, forward-thinking technology — and help businesses use digital transformation to thrive in a changing world. And, as the event wraps up, we can safely say that it achieved all of those aims, and more.  

To give you an idea of what came out of the event, we've put together a list of seven key moments and pieces of insight gleaned from the event.

1. Just because it's impressive doesn't mean it's a safe bet

Smart worldDavid Rowan from Wired UK Magazine described how the development of innovative technologies has helped drive significant social and economic progress. But innovation is often confused with gadgets or trends which aren’t fully understood. Take the 1950s, when flying cars were considered the next big thing and the answer to any number of transportation issues. Over 60 years later, we still don’t have flying cars.

Communications technologies have often exemplified — and driven — true innovation, and are central to several general-purpose technologies which we all rely on in today’s digital age. One reason flying cars never materialised is because new communications technologies addressed the obstacle of geographical distance. Nowadays, you can use Skype to hear and see, in perfect audio-visual quality, your aunt in the Australian outback, while you’re in the fields of Glastonbury using your 4G device.

2. 180 years since the electric telegraph was patented

Patent pending: the five-needle electric telegraph CREDIT: SCIENCE MUSEUM
Patent pending: the five-needle electric telegraph CREDIT: SCIENCE MUSEUM

We couldn’t ignore the fact that Innovation 2017 celebrated 180 years to the day since the patent of the electric telegraph. It’s a piece of technology that changed the course of history, and had a phenomenal impact on society.

William Fothergill Cooke, an inventor, and Charles Wheatstone, a scientist, made the first electric telegraph communication between the station rooms at Camden Town and London Euston.

Cooke and Wheatstone went on to become the founding fathers of The Electric Telegraph Company, of which BT is a direct descendant. They also pioneered the close relationship between rail and telegraph networks.

Their work, which enabled the first point-to-point digital connection, birthed the digital world we enjoy today. And we’re sure that some of the technology shown during Innovation 2017 will have a similar impact over the next 180 years.

Find out more about how the electric telegraph revolutionised communications.

3. Everything starts with your network

In the exhibition area, our Agile Connect demo showed visitors how to simply and securely set up new sites on a corporate network utilising our online My Account portal. Agile Connect offers all the benefits of an SD-WAN, including rapid deployment, security, self-service simple provisioning and application-aware routing. This, along with our Virtual Services on Demand services, are just a couple of the ways we’re creating the flexible platform needed for a modern digital business.

During Innovation 2017, we also looked at the networks of the future, and carried out a world first by trialling the use of a 400G single-carrier based technology solution to transmit vast streams of data over core fibre-optic networks. Building on our previous 5.6Tbps speed record, this new technique means that speeds of more than 13Tbps can be achieved using the same amount of light spectrum as the previous record. These speeds are the equivalent of downloading up to 500 HD films in a single second! It’s unlikely to be commercially viable immediately, but this trial is an example of how our innovation goes from the drawing board into real production.

4. Disrupt or be disrupted. AirBnB or be AirBnB'd

Robot ArmsIn Tuesday’s opening keynote, our VP of customer innovation, Steve Masters, described how digital disruption is happening in every industry, changing the way people, business and physical things interact with one another. New entrants, not encumbered by legacy, are disrupting our customers globally. And it’s happening fast because user expectation is extreme, and loyalty is increasingly becoming less likely.

Innovation must therefore be a key part of your digital transformation strategy. It’s everyone’s role to enable innovation, but we can help. We run immersive, tailored events which present the cutting-edge solutions we develop in our R&D centres. These events aim to help your teams become more creative in the way you use and incorporate new technology, to improve efficiencies, to develop applications critical to your success, and to keep your systems secure. If you’re interested in finding out more about one of these visits, please get in touch with your account manager.

5. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) play a role in the future of customer experience…

 Seven key ideas from innovation 2017…but AI is only really as intelligent as the data we feed it. This means that it isn’t really ‘intelligent’, and can exhibit similar biases to us humans.

In ‘Botman vs. SuperAgent’, Dr Nicola Millard explored how, despite all the headlines, AI is more likely to augment us than replace us. This is because we can do things that machines can’t do well, and vice versa. Innovation, creativity, caring, empathy, conversation, negotiation, and gut feeling are all uniquely human talents. For that reason, AI is more likely be ‘Augmented Intelligence’ — combining human and machine to make us super human.

If you were at the event, you may have interacted with Bo, a social robot with state-of-the-art human-robot-interaction capabilities. Bo is an example of innovation used to enhance the customer experience at physical events, whether that’s an exhibition like Innovation 2017 or a retail store. Find out more about Bo through BotsAndUs.

6. Mobilise your business to collaborate wherever, whenever

EE BaloonIn advance of industry standards for 5G backhaul being agreed, we demonstrated the technology by connecting to EE’s unique Helikite ‘air mast’ mobile coverage solution. This patent-pending technology uses mini mobile sites attached to a helium balloon to provide 4G mobile coverage where permanent sites have been damaged by extreme weather and other disasters, or in areas where there's no 4G coverage.

The demonstration is a great example of how the EE network will go from strength to strength thanks to the R&D capabilities and our commitment to delivering what our customers need. We know that we need better solutions to keep customers connected in the most rural parts of the UK and during disasters, and we can make that solution even more powerful by developing groundbreaking pre-standard 5G technology.

You may have also experienced our interactive EE network model, which brings to life how we're building out our 4G network (the UK's biggest, with 4G in more places than any other), giving you the tools and technology you need to unlock new ways of working.

7. Innovation can be sustainable

Those of you who went to the event will have noticed the Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) catamaran on show, or even had a go on the sailing simulator.

What you might not know is that, as BAR’s Technology in Sustainability Partner, we helped create the Virtual Chase Boat. This technology lets the Land Rover BAR team monitor the real-time performance of the catamaran, without having to take to the water.

Every test day, 16GB of uncompressed data from the Virtual Chase Boat flows into a master database, hosted in the BT cloud. Specialist software at mission control in Portsmouth then analyses the data and displays it as actionable information for design engineers and team coaches. They can review the day’s results and be ready with feedback when the sailing team comes off the water.

This data allows the team to make constant adjustments to the boat — making it faster and more efficient. And, on top of what the technology brings in terms of improving performance, the really outstanding fact is that it does everything sustainably. The Virtual Chase Boat means that the team doesn’t need a physical chase boat — usually a speed boat that uses lots of diesel. Find out more by watching our video case study.

Need some help in solving your business’s digital challenges?

Innovation is at the heart of our business. Whether it’s creating new products, refining the way organisations work, or directly improving customer experience, this is how we enable businesses to do more. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you solve a business challenge.