Here Today, Gone Tomorrow...


There is always something exciting to look forward to in terms of developments in telecoms. But what has happened to what were the innovations of the past? How many are still around today?

*SMS – can you remember what it stands for? How many of us still use this Short Message Service? With the likes of What’s App, Messenger and Viber the days of texting seem to have gone away. Although most bundles allow unlimited texting now, it was the original limit on the number of texts and the cost of each which drove youngsters to What’s App and other similar services. Now the rest of us are using it too.

However don’t write off SMS just yet. It is still in the game – only it is a different pitch. Businesses from your local garage and hairdresser through to your GP and hospitals are using texts as reminders for appointments. It’s a cheap and easy way for them to nudge your memory and better than emails which of course can end up in your junk folder. EE is one of the providers who has been promoting the service for healthcare in particular. The effectiveness of using SMS as a “nudge” for NHS appointments has also been part of an academic study.

*Flat Batteries - a flat phone is now a thing of the past – or it should be if you are serious about doing business. You no longer have to carry your own charger as locations from coffee shops and trains to hospitals and airports provide free charging points. However don’t forget your charging lead! The mobile office is now the default position of many businesses. Increasing train fares and long commutes are seen as damaging to business morale. With good internet connections there is no reason why we should have to go into an office.

This does mean as important charging points are, so too is the availability of decent Wi Fi. This puts pressure on telecoms providers. Coffee shops, train stations and other locations where people want to get online look for a provider which will keep their customers coming back. The demand for connectivity is only going to increase as more of us work away from the office. We also need mobile devices with a long battery life. Incidentally when was the last time you switched off your phone or even took a look at what is consuming the most battery power – and turned it off ☺.

*Laptops – again with increasing numbers of us mobile working, desktops have become almost extinct. It could also be argued laptops are going the same way. Despite the fact that you can get some powerful, lightweight laptops the whole business of carrying around such a bulky piece of kit is seen as an anathema. For most of us tablets and ipads etc can do the same job.

But let’s take that one step further. Mobile phones started out big, got smaller and have now grown in size again. They are an essential part of our office equipment which probably explains why Apple launched Apple Plus to replace mobile devices like laptops and tablets. The screen on the iPhone 8 Plus is 13.9cm (5.5 inches) and there are rumours the iPhone X plus could be as big as 17cm (6.7 inches).

With so many businesses using the Cloud for storage there is no need for a laptop full of documents. Having an easy to read screen is essential. If you are not quite ready to give up your laptop then Windows Surface – a mix of laptop and tablet may be the answer.

*Chip and Pin – introduced in the UK in 2004 to fight card fraud. Increasingly replaced by contactless. The thought of floating your card over a scanner was a big step for us humans. Half of all credit cards and two out of three debit cards are now contactless which shows the increased demand by consumers.

However a report by the UK Cards Association says most of these contactless purchases tend to be of lower value and are mainly substitutes for cash e.g. buying coffee or a snack. In 2016 Chip and Pin was still by far the most popular payment method in store. But by 2026 the association predicts contactless debit card payments will account for 51% of all debit card payments compared with the current figure of one in five.

Now we are seeing our mobile phones as bill payers too. It will be interesting to see how Apple Pay, Vodafone Pay and other payment styles, which rely on our mobiles, take off and in which regions they succeed. It could be all we need when we leave home is our keys and our mobiles.

*Car Keys – it looks like we’ll be even more dependent on our mobiles as keys have become a thing of the past for owners of the Tesla Model 3. The electric car maker Tesla has launched the model without a key. But unlike other keyless systems which use a key fob or a remote key system, this model uses the Bluetooth signal from your phone. It unlocks the car and starts it when you get inside. They’re not the only car manufacturers with key-free ideas but it again shows how much we rely on our mobiles and how important the network is and will be in the future.

*Location services - initially thought of as a gimmick. Amusing that your phone knew where you were. Helpful if you wanted to keep track of friends and family. Useful for getting from A to B and as a replacement for the traditional Sat Nav. Now they are being seen as something more sinister. In the past they were accepted without question but not any more.

Tracking your location over time can tell a story about you and your behaviour. This is powerful data. Where you shop, the places you visit and at what time. Useful information for advertisers but seen by some as an invasion of our privacy. While you can choose to have your location services on or off, Google has been accused of harvesting information from iPhones by bypassing these privacy settings and collecting the data anyway. This is now being challenged in the UK courts.

So as we say goodbye to the old innovations and welcome in some, if not all, of the new its not just the technology that is constantly changing but human behaviours and attitudes too. For the telecoms sector we all need to watch this space...

Mandy Blackburn, Operations Director, Roscom