Mobile telecoms companies lead consumer electronics innovation

Consumers expect the devices they buy to be connected to their content collections, personal data, interpersonal communications and the Internet and other external data sources. That’s why innovation at CES is coming from companies that wouldn’t even have been considered part of the industry a few years ago.

Since Apple launched the iPhone and followed it up with the iPad, mobile telecommunications manufacturers and core technology providers have been driving profound changes in the consumer electronics business.

It’s the consequence of what Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg called “the networked society” during his keynote address at CES today. Citing commonly accepted industry statistics, Vestberg point out that the mobile telecoms industry boasts 6 billion subscriptions (not subscribers – many people have more than one subscription). About a billion of those accounts include broadband, a figure expected to grow to 5 billion by 2015.

“Anything that benefits from being connected will be connected in the future,” said Vestberg, predicting 50 billion devices will be on mobile networks by 2020, the vast majority using machine to machine (M2M) connections.

Many of those machines will be automobiles, which explains the growing presence of car makers at CES. Mobile phones may be distracting drivers today, but tomorrow M2M links between cars will dramatically improve safety.

4G networks will make automated control possible, according to Vestberg. Latency will drop from half a second on 3G networks to a tenth of a second on 4G technology, making mobile network responses comparable to the reaction time of an alert and skilled human driver.

Legacy consumer electronics manufacturers will make bigger and sharper video displays and richer, cleaner speakers and earphones. At least to the point human eyes, ears and brains can’t tell the difference.

Anything truly new will begin with telecommunications capability, and for most it will be based on wireless technology.