28-06-2020 | | By Robin Mitchell
This week Qualcomm has announced a program that aims to help 25 small businesses in the US to turn them into mobile-first environments. How is IoT shaping the business environment, and how will technology influence the business of tomorrow?
Since the introduction of the computer, the importance of remote access has always been known. The first mainframe systems, which would often take up an entire floor, were often accessed with the use of terminals. These systems, which lacked any processing capability, would connect to the mainframe and be giving a portion of the mainframes processing power. Turn to the 21st century, and what we see is a world increasingly interconnected with the largescale deployment of state-of-the-art radio networks, fibreoptic connections, and cloud computing. In fact, the importance of internet technologies has created a whole new industry, the Internet of Things, which is seeing billions of simple devices scattered around the world performing data collection, and task automation. One aspect of life that hasn’t changed is the office mentality; despite the ability to work remotely, workers still commute to a place of work. While there are some that do work remotely, this is often the exception and not the rule.
However, 2020 has seen a dramatic shift in the global economy, and the very nature of work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Global lockdowns have seen business temporarily close their offices, shops, and factories in an effort to control the spread of the virus. While the economy has taken a large hit with the FTSE100 having dropped from 7,400 to 5,000 in a matter of days, it did not grind to a halt. Those who worked in offices were still able to keep working from home; most only require access to a narrow range of software platforms, including document editors, spreadsheets, and email. The ability to work from home was further strengthened by video conference technologies such as Zoom, and Skype.
In recognition of the pandemic, and the constant changing work environment, Qualcomm has announced their latest program to help small business modernise and move towards a mobile-first paradigm. The program is aimed at integrating mobile technologies produced by Qualcomm, and other technology services, to enable businesses to keep on operating during the ongoing pandemic. Up to 25 small business across the US will be selected, and be given $25,000 worth of unique products and technical support. Solutions that Qualcomm will provide include always-on PCs (cellular-based), Wi-Fi Systems, mobile phones, Bluetooth enabled headsets, and active mobile hotspots. As more business become reliant on cloud-based services, workers for the first time have an opportunity to change the dynamics of their work environment, and no longer be reliant on having to be in a physical office. Even specialist software installed on an internet network can now be accessed remotely, thanks to the ability of screen sharing, while low pings enable for real-time interfacing with a remote desktop. The program was opened to applications on the 11th June with the last date for submissions being the 30th June. The selected business will be chosen mid-summer with late summer having solutions deployed to those businesses. Companies that have partnered with Qualcomm in this program to offer their services and expertise include Verizon, Best Buy, and Microsoft.
While wired communication allows for high-speed data rates, radio technologies such as 5G are looking to be the favourite of the future. The development of smaller silicon, more advanced transmission methods, and better usage of radio channels is seeing a shift in the nature of how devices connect to the internet. In fact, mobile technologies such as 4G and 5G are already in the process of replacing Wi-Fi in large scale networks such as those found in industrial systems. The problems that cellular technologies have to solve are often annoyances found in Wi-Fi systems such as the ability to roam without the need for reconnection.
The mentality that people need to work in an office is starting to shift, and technologies such as 5G are influencing this. The pandemic has demonstrated that many businesses do not require physical employees to always be present in an office floor. So long as those employees have access to the computing resources needed to perform their work, are able to have face-to-face conversions via video conferences, and have the connection speed to enable this, employees are still productive. While there are some that struggle to work (many are not used to working where they live), this may be a mindset that changes with time when worked realised the benefits of not having to commute. Such internet technologies also bring into question whether projects such as High-Speed Rail 2 are even worth their investment if the future worker no longer needs to travel to a city centre.