The Next Billion conference in San Francisco on October 13th represented a unique opportunity to explore new dynamics in the evolving universe of mobile connectivity and how such technology impacts the global information society and economy.
In light of THALASSA Capital’s investment involvement in the transformational sector of the Internet of Things (IoT), we decided to attend the conference and to spend an additional day in Silicon Valley to investigate and discover the new trends.
The line-up at The Next Billion was rather impressive, ranging, among others, from Allen Blue, co-founder of Linkedin to Matt Grob, CTO of Qualcomm.
In fact, it was Matt Grob that shed some interesting facts that may directly affect our IoT portfolio. Mr. Grob gave a detailed presentation of 5G technology for mobile devices. In his words, 5G will connect everything and at a much lower cost per unit than current technologies; indeed, trillions of devices could be connected at reasonable costs. The power of 5G will allow for virtual and augmented reality to merge efficiently into phones and will create significant opportunities for new apps and new consumer solutions. Mr. Grob indicated a few examples in the automotive sector like vehicle to vehicle communication which should result in much higher safety. Health care is another sector than could expand efficiencies rapidly thanks to the new technology.
The challenges 5G engineers have been working on center on design and durability, as this technology was intended to have a 10 year plus life span. Different companies have also been working on developing common standards within one integrated system. Cybersecurity, as expected, was also mentioned as a major key in allowing a smooth roll-out of the new technology. Such deployment is expected in the 2018-2019 period.
Outside of 5G, the leading theme that seemed to have marked most conversations – in and out of the public stage – was “machine learning.” The acceleration of IoT as a functional and encompassing technology seems to be closely linked to the ability of the machines to not only gather information and provide a platform for analysis but to develop their own learning process. This dynamic should turbo-charge the efficiency or connectivity and provide faster process improvements in all sectors and at all levels.
Additional interesting comments were made by Benedict Evans, partner at Andreessen Horowitz. As he defined technology as outgrowing itself while it becomes a transformational force for other industries, he stated that the “channel is the product.” While such declaration might sound a bit obsessively tech centric, it does carry quite a bit of truth. As we see platforms such as Google or Facebook becoming more and more intrinsically tied with our own reality, we can only agree that the channel is indeed the product. This realization has profound implications in terms of future investing paradigms and how we, as investors, should review and analyze new opportunities.