10:38 AM

Interview: Ericsson Remakes Itself Around Open Innovation

(Patrik Regardh, head of strategic marketing, Ericsson.)

By Intel Free Press

Ericsson's head of strategic marketing, Patrik Regardh, talks about how the company has changed its approach to innovation to adapt with the times and the blurring lines between our physical and digital worlds.

As mobile technology continues to shape the way we interact globally, Ericsson, the world's largest maker of mobile telecommunications equipment, is redefining its approach to innovation.

It's not the first time the Stockholm, Sweden-based company has changed with the times. The company was founded in 1876 as a telegraph equipment repair shop. As technology advanced, the company shifted into telephone exchanges and eventually mobile telecom.

Innovative product development has helped carry the company through those evolutions from introducing the world's first fully automatic mobile telephone system in 1956 to an early hands-free speakerphone in the 1960s to inventing the Bluetooth standard in 1994.

How has widespread adoption of mobile technology changed Ericsson's approach?

We're starting to see some significant changes. In the last decade, we saw people interacting with the world using tools that they didn't have before. It is really starting to shape the way in which we express ourselves as people, the way we collaborate, the way we share and maintain our relationships.

In the last couple of years at Ericsson, we have broadened our perspective on how our technologies and our industry are impacting society. We have increased our focus on understanding how our technologies interact with changes that we see happening in society.

For us, innovation has shifted dramatically from a closed technology model to much more of a networked and open model. It is also very much about collaborating and being dynamic so we can come out with better solutions for the future. It used to be that technology would lead consumers. Today, consumers are increasingly in control, and technology is more of a catchall.

How is having access to technology and information impacting society?

Technology can take away a lot of barriers in terms of getting access to information, and this is a very hopeful opportunity in terms of raising intellectual capacity. Look at education, which I think is an area where we see what I would call cultural changes.

Information and technology have brought us to the point where we can see that the core concept of what it means to be well-educated has changed. You don't need the skill sets of remembering a lot of things when you have information readily available.

In a similar way, we also see that information and technology can rationalize, modify or change the way in which learning actually happens, making it less of a linear exercise. It is shifting from educating to learning, making it much more of a personal experience. We can see different facets of learning, which is more tailored or geared toward the way which your brain works.

Today, we see more universities starting to go online with a lot of their programs. And we also see that technology can bring learning into the parts of society that previously may not have been served by education.

How have smartphones changed people's behaviors?

Smartphones bring a new element of being truly always-on. With smartphones you start to see behaviors in terms of using technology in more of a constant flow. We know that roughly a third of smartphone users start using the phone in bed when they wake up, and they don't stop using it until they're back in the bed to sleep.

People tend to use the Internet a little bit less around dinnertime. Dinner seems to be something which is still in the real world, but a lot of the other aspects of life have recently moved into the Internet.

This could resonate in terms of how you see the barriers between what is physical and the digital world. Maybe we shouldn't talk so differently about the real world and the digital world because they are both realities, especially when people are mobile and interlinked. This will impact concepts like ownership and integrity. They will become highly important, more than they used to be.

From the consumer point of view, some of the change has occurred between the device, network, applications, the cloud and how people trust them. Can I trust that it works? Is it simple to use? Is it available when I need it? These are people's concerns.

What attracts people to a new technology?

Consumers are not primarily looking for technology. They're looking for music in a new way. They are looking for better health care. They're looking for better education or smarter transportation. I think that those are the underdeveloped areas that will keep us innovating. Smart grids, intelligent transportation and smart cities are concepts that trying to bring new and better experiences for society.

If we look at the next 5 years, I think we're going to see a lot of transformation across a variety of industries.