When talking about technology, it’s easy to forget that there’s still a human component to consider. It’s not productive to innovate for the sake of innovation; rather, innovation is ideally spurred by need. To listen to Verizon’s Michael Brander and Rajesh Vargheese speak on the next-generation technologies they’re developing at Verizon is to also hear about the ways they work directly with the customer to recognize demand, because Verizon is more than just a communications company.
In his role as the managing director of IoT, Brander helps foster emerging technology at Verizon. IoT, or the internet of things, is a broad concept referring to the network of physical objects that can be connected via digital means. This can encompass devices, sensors, or, as Brander puts it, “anything that has the ability to be aware.” With the ability to connect and transmit via WiFi, Bluetooth, CATM and 2G/3G/4G cellular networks, products like a 3G/4G enabled temperature sensor, Amazon Echo, the Fitbit, and any brand of smartphone are examples of IoT sensors.
“These devices have to be able to send and receive data on their own, without human intervention,” he explains. “They also have to be actionable, meaning that the data could be integrated into business processes so that better decisions can be made.”
That process begins, however, with a conversation. “What we do is take a human-centric approach. Even though we are a technology company, customers don’t ask for technology science. They ask for business outcomes,” says Vargheese, who heads the emerging technology technical professional services group. “Technology is an enabler, but it always has to start with the question of what is the customer looking for. It starts with the customer’s experience. What are the outcomes that they hope to achieve?”
Vargheese offers up a few examples of projects they’ve embarked upon in the healthcare space, which can center around both the patient experience and enabling care delivery. On the former, Vargheese discusses the ways in which mobile apps and location tracking technology can facilitate smoother navigation and quicker check-ins at the hospital. In terms of enabling care delivery, he touches on telehealth and streamlining access to disparate sets of data for machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.
And then there’s Verizon’s humanability initiatives. For Brander, humanability represents a “philosophy that we’re using to better articulate what our company stands for” in terms of providing not just technological solutions but also a better way of life for people. Brander mentions the use of sensors and video monitors to reduce traffic congestion and related CO2 emissions, and, in terms of healthcare, he touches on intriguing, in-development concepts such as “enabling remote surgery,” as well as means of increasing healthcare accessibility.
Cold chain IoT sensors are another key tool in Verizon’s arsenal, with Brander and his team adopting the temperature monitoring gadgets to enable better transport and handling of food products, medicine, and other temperature sensitive medical necessities. Not only can this help prevent spoilage and foodborne illnesses, but it can also make the process easier for those doing the transporting.
“This technology enables the ability to monitor end to end,” Brander says.
The difficulty of staying on the cutting edge of technological innovation is that technology can outpace you. Currently, Verizon has been emboldened by the development of the 4G LTE Cat M1 network. Verizon was first to launch this network nationwide in 2017 and continues working to make 5G a reality, which will only accelerate the promise of IoT and bring the above solutions closer to accessibility.
Still, this is a field that exists in a constant state of fluidity. “What you see and what we’ve talked about today is still an evolution, so the way that we’ve built this organization and this culture is to be very flexible and adaptive,” Brander says.
It’s also why Brander, Vargheese, and their teams are so focused on a human-centric approach. In the end, it’s all about the experience.
“The solutions that we’re building are really driven by what the customers need and what they’re telling us,” Brander adds. “So whether it’s the IoT tracking sensors or the intelligent hospital solutions, it’s a platform that has the ability to interact with different networks, different devices, and different applications. It’s not set in stone. It’s very adaptive and scalable.”
Technology may change, after all, but basic human needs never do.