The 2017 edition of ITEXPO has come and gone and, from my perspective, it was easily one of the best I’ve seen since our first Ft. Lauderdale show back in 2006. It’s clear the business communications and tech space is anything but stagnant. Rather, innovation and evolution continue to pace the market and open doors to new opportunities. Now, it’s a question of who will take advantage and build on these trends, some emerging and others continuing. There were countless highlights each day of the show – too many to mention all at once – but here are a few that stood out as common themes throughout, including cloud computing, data growth and analytics, and mobility.
Wireless Industry Association CEO and former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein opened the keynotes with a discussion that effectively paved the way for much of the conversation topics to follow the rest of the week, noting that the challenge we are facing today is the need for more wireless infrastructure to meet the demand created by the growth in wireless connections, between people and people, people and machines and, of course, machines and machines. Without the infrastructure, the data can’t move seamlessly the way it needs to.
“I call it a wireless data crunch; it’s broader than just spectrum, and so is the answer,” he said. “All of the wonderful ideas we’re talking about here in Ft. Lauderdale can’t happen without the wireless infrastructure that connects devices and machines to the Internet and to each other. We need more cell towers and poles and antennas, and we need the all-important fiber networks that connect all of these wireless technologies.”
Iconectiv CTO Chris Drake cited numerous examples of the kinds of communications that require this critical wireless infrastructure, and which allow us to remain connected and informed by using our mobile identities.
From airline reminders to shipping notifications, to meeting reminders, each of us benefits from automated, intelligent interactions on a daily basis. In fact, many ITEXPO attendees traveled between the show and hotels and other venues using Lyft or Uber, which again, leverage their mobile identities to create a seamless and positive user experience.
“Millions of connections between people and things occur daily: calls, texts, social media, financial transactions, sensor-driven events,” he noted. “With all of that continuous activity comes one constant - that an individual’s mobile identity can reliably provide efficiency and protection as our connected society continues to grow exponentially.”
But, he also cautioned that in order to provide that level of service, users and providers alike must be aware of the risks and be sure to protect those identities with appropriate security measures. After all, we see on a daily basis the damage digital theft and fraud can cause.
Jamie Thomas, General Manager of Strategy and Development for IBM Systems, continued the data-driven and cloud conversation, opening with a loud and exiting video clip featuring Red Bull Racing, leading to her commentary on the use of data analytics to drive business decisions. RBR uses hundreds of sensors that drive its strategy before, during and after races, from design to modeling various race conditions to in-race decisions including fuel refills and tire changes.
But, the real message from Thomas was that, despite the use of data and analytics today, we have barely scratched the surface, because traditional analytics only make about 1 percent of data usable. Cognitive computing, she said, will help unlock exponentially greater value from the massive amounts of data we are creating as a society – which will amount to almost 7 terabytes of data per day per person by 2018. The only way to maximize the benefit of all that data is to enable real-time processing, which requires an entirely different approach to IT, including the use of hybrid cloud and the APIs that are being developed by just about every tech company today to integrate with various data flows.
Sticking to the topic of cloud, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani led a general session panel on cloud-based communications, featuring three leaders in the space, RingCentral, 8x8, and Broadsoft, the conversation held fast to the messaging that cloud is not a passing trend and businesses continue to embrace cloud.
“The market is at an inflection point, which entails moving from boxes to driving the user experience through software,” noted BroadSoft VP of Marketing and Media Relations Mark Straton. “The move to cloud-based business communications solutions is a matter of when, not if.”
In addition to sporting the best branded socks at ITEXPO, 8x8 VP of Product Marketing Matt McGinnis added that, “More stand-alone business apps that give a user a million notifications is not the answer. Rather, a workspace with integrated voice and other modes of communication is where things are going, and it’s going to change the world.”
Throughout the keynotes and conference sessions, which highlighted not only these topics, but also the massive opportunity in managed services, the growth of the API economy, technologies for enhancing customer service and the continued emergence of Real Time Web Communications, among others (you can see the full agenda from ITEXPO 2017 at www.itexpo.com), found speakers and attendees alike engaged in discussions of how these latest technologies can help drive business growth and extend the value of services to customers and users.
Talking about the increased use of Real Time Web Solutions, Phil Edholm from PKE Consulting noted that RTW increases stickiness, which drives connectedness between businesses and users while increasing the value of each interaction. By creating better and more efficient engagement, RTW help drive up the time users spend in apps, which creates more user data, which in turn increase the value of the customer relationship for both parties. Judging from the attendance at the various RTW related sessions, it’s hard not to agree with Phil.
Capping off ITEXPO’s general sessions was another edition of IDEA Showcase, a startup pitch event, featuring eight tech-based startups and a keynote from visionary Jeff Pulver. For the second year in a row, the judges and audience selected the same winner, FreshSurety, which seeks to help the $600 billion fresh produce market reduce much of its losses due to spoilage, which it says currently is nearly a third of its product. Of course, given the timing of ITEXPO, there is always the potential for inclement weather, which resulted in Merlin Guides being stuck in New York but, in a real-world example of the benefits of technology, the company was able to deliver its pitch live via a remote video connection.
Without doubt, the keynotes and conferences at ITEXPO, including the many collocated events, delivered an education that will allow decision makers to drive new value from their existing technologies or, where needed, build and implement entirely new roadmaps to the future of their businesses. That education was underscored by the three days of conversation on the exhibit floor, which literally didn’t stop until the show ended. Multiple exhibitors I spoke with commented on the success of the event and how many great conversations they had that present new business opportunities. Just a few examples from video interviews that will be available on the ITEXPO website:
- Scott Navratil, vice president of channel sales at Inteliquent – part of the rebranding of Onvoy and its subsidiaries, which CEO Fritz Hendricks announced at the show, said that in the more than a decade of ITEXPOs, this was his best show yet.
- Bachir Halimi, president and CEO of Speech Mobility noted that any company that delivers or uses business communications technology must be at ITEXPO.
- Sennheiser’s Charlie Jones, while showing the company’s TeamConnect wireless audio conferencing product, noted it was an amazing opportunity to showcase the new “pucks” and its other products designed to create a better communications experience for all business environments, fixed and mobile.
And I should mention one other notable fact from the exhibit floor – I don’t recall any event in recent memory with as many deskphones on display as ITEXPO 2017. I wrote recently that the death of the deskphone is exaggerated and premature – if last week was any indication that is completely true. What’s also true is that we now set our sights on the future, including ITEXPO 2018. For those who were with us in Ft. Lauderdale last week, thank you and we look forward to seeing you in 2018. For those who were unable to make it, I hope you won’t make the same mistake again.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi