With Techonomy founder and CEO David Kirkpatrick moderating, the topics covered ranged from factory work to farming, with the discussion focusing to a great extent on the automotive industry. The common thread to all these topics was connectivity, and how communications technology is changing everything.
Vestberg opened the hour-long discussion with comments on the Networked Society. “This is only the beginning,” he said. “We are in the midst of a transformation thanks to the forces of mobility, broadband and cloud.”
He talked about how our habits have undergone rapid change in recent years. “Twenty-six percent of the time you spend on your smartphone is for voice calls, the original reason for building mobile networks,” he said. “That means 74 percent of the time, you are on your phone doing things that are NOT making phone calls.”
The other panelists were Rodney Brooks, founder, Chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics, and Paul Mascarenas, CTO of Ford Motor Company. Mascarenas started his presentation by saying: “It’s interesting how our industries are converging and starting to work together.”
Mascarenas said the automotive industry is looking more and more at ensuring that relevant, meaningful content is available to drivers. He also said that for Ford, connected cars are not intended to replace drivers but rather to help them become safer and better.
Vestberg suggested that his favorite hypothetical example of connectivity transforming the consumer experience would be if automakers could offer consumer horsepower on a prepaid basis. “That way, if I knew I was visiting my family in the north of Sweden, I would download extra horsepower for those days, then go back to normal levels after the visit,” he said. Mascarenas said the example works in the sense that every new vehicle consumer in the future will expect connectivity, and that could enable various services. At Ford, for example, they recently launched an application called Glimpse, which broadcasts a car’s location in real time to the driver’s chosen recipients.
Brooks, one of the world’s foremost experts on robotics, offered that “Everything is a robot.” With cars that can self-park and self-brake, robotic behaviors are becoming standard. Still, he said there are things humans will continue to do better, and “the challenge is in the blend” of human and robotic performance.
The panel turned to the environmental benefits of technology and robotics, which Kirkpatrick – much to the delight of the audience – said was unlikely to have happened if the panel had been full of Americans. “But with a Brit (Mascarenas), an Aussie (Brooks) and a Swede (Vestberg), of course we are talking about the environment!”
Vestberg said: “We underestimate what technology can do for CO2 emission. There will be more people in the world and there will be more cars. If we don’t use smart applications, we will have a big problem.”
Watch the roundup with interviews of each panelist and the moderator at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAcf-6yHxus