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Making the Phones Ring


Young women professional talking to her smartphone
Image: Jacob Lund -
Our sister brand, Enterprise Connect, is holding its annual conference and expo next week — virtually, of course — and we’ve pre-recorded some of the sessions. One is a discussion led by my colleague and conference co-chair, Beth Schultz, with three leading experts on collaboration technology. Much of the discussion centered on the team collaboration software that enterprises are using to keep workgroups in touch and productive during the pandemic — your Microsoft Teams, your Slacks, etc. These tools have become so prevalent for knowledge workers over the past few months that one of the panelists, Zeus Kerravala of the analyst firm ZK Research, remarked that nowadays he’s almost surprised when his cellphone rings.
That comment struck me not just because it rang (so to speak) true, but because it hearkened to another session we’ll be presenting next week in the virtual event. Mobility expert Michael Finneran of dBrn Associates will give an update on 5G and other wireless technologies, and in his presentation, he mentions that providing wireless service is, fundamentally, the work of a utility — in his phrase, “Making the phones ring.”
I think these two comments actually fit together pretty well, and here’s why: When Finneran says, “making the phones ring,” that’s a metaphor, saying that the main job of a wireless network is to deliver connectivity with no interruption or outage. Per Kerravala’s point, that mission-critical mobile service is less likely to be a voice telephone call, but we’ll all need reliable, resilient mobile networks more than ever as we negotiate the uncertainties of a seemingly never-ending pandemic response.
Mobile devices, particularly phones, have already become much more versatile than just, well… phones. They’ve become the computer in your pocket or purse. Now they have the potential to be the device that lets you navigate your world while keeping as safe as possible as long as social distancing is the order of the day.
The fact that few other people touch your phone, combined with your phone’s ability to act on your environment, make it the ideal device to open doors — literally. The next killer apps for your phone may be those that can let you summon help or service from people, companies, and buildings — directly, not by making a phone call to someone.
Conversely, as analyst Jon Arnold of J Arnold & Associates points out in our virtual event’s session on speech technologies, in the future you may spend more time speaking into devices attached to the places you go. Speech-controlled interfaces for building controls, for example, are likely to be a major growth area as offices, stores, and other facilities try to reopen and prepare for potential future health issues.
Bottom line: This pandemic may have people talking to the walls, but as innovations in wireless and speech technology continue, it won’t just be because we’re going a little bit crazy.
A final note: We’d love to have you join us at next week’s Enterprise Connect Digital Conference & Expo. You can check out the full program here, and register for free here.