Press release

Greater customer focus needed at the core of mobile growth, says leading technology innovator

23 February 2016

Mobile subscriptions will jump by 1.7 billion over the next five years but global service providers need to work harder at helping consumers overwhelmed with data. That was the message from Robert Schukai MBE, Head of Applied Product Innovation at Thomson Reuters, who delivered the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) / British Computer Society (BCS) Turing Lecture 2016 in London last night.

With overall mobile subscriptions set to grow to 9.1 billion, including 4.1 billion people signing up to 4G technology and almost 70% of all mobile traffic data projected to be video by 2021, data is now ‘everywhere’. “Imagine how today’s professional differs from those of past generations,” Mr Schukai explained to the audience packed into the IET’s Savoy Place HQ. “Arriving at work at 9.00am to start the day, slugging through for eight or nine straight hours, and then heading home is a thing of the past.

“Today, many people kick off their day by reading emails in bed and getting a start on the day before their commute. The day blends between work and personal as our devices let us remain in contact with family members and friends throughout the day; much like when we go home at night, colleagues still reach out and contact many of us until bedtime, especially in this global economy as some team members and peers are waking as their colleagues are off to bed.”

And this shift in how we live and work presents major challenges in balancing the delivery of information and content to people without it becoming overwhelming, Mr Schukai said.

“Companies of the future must be ready to deliver information and answers on any screen at any time, but they must also respect the boundary lines demanded by the end user. This will compel companies to better understand their users, gain their trust and enable them to opt in to the ‘dayflow’ with relevance and usefulness.”

Cognitive computing, defined as the stimulation of human thought processes in a computerised model, is part of the solution going forward. Mr Schukai revealed: “Machines must learn. Machines must think – artificial intelligence. Machines must interact with people – natural language processing. And machines must interact with other machines. Right now Google understands my browsing history on my desktop, knows my location and understands my interests – as such, it proactively pushes content to me. In the future, it will recognise and learn what I care about, understand what I can and can’t do on a device, and strike a balance between anticipate, push and pull of content.

Mr Schukai added that “making people smile”, by delivering personal, contextual and relevant information using whatever device they want to access that content upon, was something service providers especially needed to grasp.

Naomi Climer, IET President, said: "We would like to thank Robert for making time to deliver such an inspiring Turing Lecture. The content of the lecture highlights the reach of engineering and technology in everything we do. My first priority as President is to change perceptions of engineering in the UK and show how fundamental engineering is to everyday life, and Robert’s focus on the remarkable adoption of the smartphone and its impact on how we live our lives at work and at home mirrors exactly what we are trying to project. Engineering is not just about nuts, bolts and girders – it is about cool and life-changing innovation. These lectures can contribute to that perceptions shift."

Jos Creese, President of the BCS, added: "We have supported the Turing Lecture for a number of years because of the opportunities it brings to raise public awareness of the application of specialist research to social issues. Our current campaign is around 'making IT good for society’ – with particular initiatives around education, recruitment, health, and privacy and confidentiality. Robert’s lecture was extremely thought provoking, and showcases once again the impact of information technology on our lives and how we need to keep the consumer at the forefront of all innovations.”

The IET / BCS Turing Lecture, “The Internet of Me: It’s All About My Screens”, moves on to Cardiff tonight (23 February), Manchester tomorrow, and Belfast on Thursday. For more information go to www.theiet.org/turing.

Media enquiries to:

Hannah Kellett
External Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767336
Mob: +44 (0)7738 602426
Email: HKellett@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

  • Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.
  • The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with over 167,000 members in 150 countries. It is also the most interdisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century. Energy, transport, manufacturing, information and communications, and the built environment: the IET covers them all.
  • The IET is working to engineer a better world by inspiring, informing and influencing our members, engineers and technicians, and all those who are touched by, or touch, the work of engineers.
  • We want to build the profile of engineering and change outdated perceptions about engineering in order to tackle the skills gap. This includes encouraging more women to become engineers and growing the number of engineering apprentices.