Richard Garfein, PhD, MPH
Professor and Principal Investigator
Division of Global Public Health
Department of Medicine, School of Medicine
University of California San Diego
Kevin Patrick, MD, MPH
Division of Preventive Medicine
Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine
University of California San Diego
One third of the world’s population is infected with Tuberculosis. In 2011, nearly 9 million people around the world became sick with the disease, with around 1.4 million deaths related to the disease reported worldwide. At the same time, it is forecasted that more than 1.8 billion mobile phones will be shipped in 2013. These two numbers don’t generally get mentioned together. But for two doctors in San Diego the link between the two could turn out to be a game changer in the world of healthcare.
Dr. Richard Garfein is a professor in the Division of Global Public Health, Dept. of Medicine at University of California San Diego. Trained as an infectious disease epidemiologist, Garfein’s research interests involve identifying risk factors for and developing interventions to prevent infectious diseases associated with substance abuse. Needless to say, he is an astute observer of his surroundings. So when he noticed his children sending videos to their friends using their smartphones one day, his curiosity kicked in and he thought, “… boy if they could be doing that for fun, how can we be using this for something more productive?”
In a strange way this casual observation kick started the idea for VDOT—or Video Directly Observed Therapy. In a nutshell VDOT allows patients to record their Tuberculosis treatments on smartphones and send them to health department staff for remote monitoring.
Tuberculosis is a curable disease if patients follow a strict antibiotic regimen for six months. That, however, is often easier said than done. Oftentimes patients forget to take a treatment or are simply taking it improperly. As a result, health departments are spending a disproportionate amount of resources trying to follow up with patients and monitor their adherence to make sure they are taking their medications.
“It really started to hit home when I started working with our health department and understanding the effort that goes into that process,” says Garfein. “The fact is it’s not 100% effective because some patients aren’t in a situation that they can be visited (by a healthcare professional) everyday to watch them take their medications.”
The health department at the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency had been experimenting with a phone device that was a landline-based system with a camera and a phone line. And for some time this helped provide remote interaction with patients. But this solution was still limited as it could only be effective if both the patient and provider are available at the same time—not to mention the fact more and more people have abandoned landline phones. So naturally, the solution became wireless … sort of.
“As we were working out the technology, the issue of connectivity kept coming up; what happens if the patient doesn’t have cellular service or doesn’t have Wi-Fi, what do we do then?” adds Garfein. “It turns out we serendipitously came across the idea of making a video and having a video sent, and just have the (directly observed therapy) worker watch the video asynchronously.”
As long as the video showed what the patient was doing and they can actually see them take the pills and swallow them, then they have the necessary documentation to ensure the pills were taken. If the patient didn’t send a video or it wasn’t apparent they took their pills at the time, then the worker would know they need to follow up with this particular patient.
Now it was time for the prototype. Enter Dr. Kevin Patrick and his group at Qualcomm Institute, formerly Calit2 (California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology). Not only is Patrick the director for the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems, but he is also a professor in the Dept. of Family and Preventive Medicine, which means he has a keen understanding of how difficult it can be to modify patients’ behavior when it comes to medication adherence.
“It’s one of the reasons we are excited about these new technologies,” says Patrick. “The problem often tends to be this issue of incomplete or partial treatment, which makes you think you are treating someone, but then an emergent strain comes forward … it’s a real race we are in now, and while I am not an infectious-disease specialist per say, I think all of us in public health are concerned about that. So it’s a variety of factors, and if we can find a solution that work particularly well in one area we think we can make an incremental difference that can be very meaningful.”
The group leveraged the capabilities of the front-facing camera on an Android device and developed an encrypted video that goes up in the cloud into a HIPAA-compliant environment. That file is treated and handled by a case manager in a secure environment, and as soon as it is transmitted it is deleted from the phone. Another element to the system is an SMS (short message service) system that provides notifications.
Investigators from UCSD received a grant from the National Institute of Health to develop the VDOT System and pilot test it in San Diego, Calif., and Tijuana, Mexico, which ran from July 2011 through August 2012, and involved TB patients between the ages of 18 and 86. Following a set of patients through completion of treatment, the group was able to observe more than 95% of the prescribed medications doses being taken using videos made and sent using the patients’ smartphones—an observation rate that was at least as high as in-person DOT.
Perhaps most significant is the fact 100% of patients said they would recommend VDOT over in-person DOT to other patients, and 72% of patients reported being on VDOT increased their comfort using smartphones. Furthermore, VDOT made it possible for patients to take their medications on their own and in any location, potentially increasing adherence, and the reduced transportation and staffing costs for the health departments in both countries translates to a nearly two-thirds reduction in the cost of delivering DOT.
Both Garfein and Patrick agree the simplicity, as well as the growing ubiquity of the cellphone are contributing factors in a seemingly boundless opportunity for such treatment options. And to think it all started with Garfein observing his children doing what children do these days—horsing around on their smartphones, sharing videos.
“We saw that there was a problem and we were looking for a solution,” adds Garfein. “I think that this is really in its infancy and there will be many new ways to use technology to improve healthcare. It’s a way to connect patients to their healthcare providers and the healthcare system in a way that they never could before. It allows many more opportunities for immediate feedback on situations that patients are having and also provides opportunities for patients to provide info to their provider, which could be used to provide better care.”
Patrick concurs, “In the old days we would have called this telemedicine … I think this area of video is only going to get better it’s going to get richer and have more nuances in terms of how we capture, store, and do further analytics on this data and then combine that with sets of data.”
The group is working with the Verizon Foundation to scale the program using the carrier’s cloud offering in order to pilot methods for which the VDOT program can be scaled. Patrick points out the various issues related to workflow and other matters with respect to how typical healthcare providers and health departments care for, manage, follow, and track their patients.
Like any pioneer, Garfein and Patrick agree such a feat could not have been accomplished without a team. They insist credit be given to the following members of their team for VDOT:
• Fred Raab - Senior Software Engineer in the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at the Qualcomm Institute, UCSD
• Allison Flick – Lead Programmer Analyst on VDOT Project in the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at the Qualcomm Institute, UCSD
• Philip Rios –Video Systems Application Developer and Principal Development Engineer, Qualcomm Institute, UCSD
• David McCarter – Programmer Analyst in the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at the Qualcomm Institute, UCSD.
General Manager, Usage-Based Insurance
Sometimes it’s the quiet observations that result in the biggest inspirations. Dave Pratt was privy to the early brainstorming sessions at Progressive during the mid 1990s when Bob McMillan, then the national director of product development, claims, and marketing, was developing the base ideas for what would eventually become Snapshot—perhaps the most recognizable connected device associated with UBI (usage-based insurance) today.
McMillan has since retired, but not before his idea came fully to fruition for a device that determines driver insurance rates based on how you actually drive, rather than indirect events correlated with accidents.
Today, a device for which first iterations had to be professionally installed and connected to their own battery source, can be considered a true connected device that communicates realtime driving data.
Pratt certainly won’t take credit for Snapshot’s roots. But even now as he settles into his role as general manager of usage-based insurance, which he took at the start of 2013, Pratt humbly deflects credit at every turn, even for the future vision of the device. With driver safety and bigger partnerships in mind, Pratt’s ideas are future-facing in a manner to which he is not even fully aware.
Naturally, it all begins with the data. According to Pratt more than 8 billion miles of customer driving information is in the hands of Progressive these days. That type of digital currency, if you will, seems like gold at a time when the competition is trying desperately to play catch up in the UBI game.
Part of this UBI game plan is to leverage this huge information advantage in order to stay one-step ahead of the competition.
Part of that involves having UBI play a major role in driver safety. About a year and a half ago Progressive added audio feedback to the Snapshot device, which provides audio feedback during driver incidents, such as hard-breaking events. Progressive has seen solid evidence that such a method helps people drive safer. What such a feedback loop might produce certainly has Pratt excited for the future.
“We would like to evolve that capability with more sophisticated feedback,” he says. “We are in research mode on new technologies to capture the data, such as working with the telematics built into vehicles.”
The idea seems powerful. Could Progressive work directly with the vehicle OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) to embed the technology within in-vehicle systems in lieu of providing the plug-in device to customers? Or how about an app on a mobile phone that would be used in order to gather data?
But before any of this can be achieved, Pratt believes it is still up to him and his team to ensure the product continues to remain very appealing to the average consumer. Progressive is certainly headed in that direction with roughly one-third of its customers having already signed up for the program, according to Pratt.
“We have to explain this product to consumers so they will understand and sign up,” he says. “Once we get there then we can talk to the OEMs and say we have something customers want and now you can enable it in the car. You have to demonstrate consumer demand before OEMs will show an interest.”
Humbly, Pratt is pioneering the next phase of Snapshot—and for all intents and purposes, UBI in general. He points to McMillan and Alan Bauer—a man who came up with the idea for the ODB plugin with Snapshot—as mentors along the way.
Speaking to their contributions, Pratt says, “The creativity to apply a new idea like this to an established business, along with having the energy and leadership and communication skills to communicate that in a big organization and get it done is powerful.”
With UBI now at a critical tipping point, Pratt’s role as pioneer seems just as influential as the men that preceded him: To continue to espouse the value to the average consumer.
“As we continue to evolve the product design we want to make it appealing so more and more people choose to do it,” continues Pratt. “It is a voluntary thing. We don’t get all of the potential safety benefits unless a lot of people (are participating). With that we would then get some pretty big benefits from the safety standpoint.”[/toggle]
Cofounder and CEO
Inventions that fundamentally change the way people interact are hard to come by in this world. Yet, Jack Dorsey has accomplished this rare feat twice in the span of five years.
The man who arguably pioneered the short-burst social revolution when he launched Twitter in 2006 fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Today you can find the man who has been programming since an early age knee-deep in making the same type of transformation occur in the way we pay for goods and services. His latest endeavor, Square, presents us with a small device that plugs into the headphone jack of an iPhone, iPad, or an Android device and turns these devices into a mobile POS (point-of-sale) epicenter for small businesses and independent merchants of all types.
Square was essentially born out of frustration. Dorsey was approached by current Square chairman Jim McKelvey, who at the time was trying to sell glasswork at a local art fair. But as the story goes, McKelvey had to leave a major transaction on the table with a potential buyer of his work due to the fact he could not accept credit card payments. The two huddled in San Francisco shortly thereafter trying to figure out not just how to come up with a solution, but why no one else was doing something similar. Perhaps that reason is because, as Dorsey has stated about Square: “It’s really complex to do something simple.” The rest, as they say, is history. Roughly three years later, much in the same manner the status of his first creation Twitter has been elevated thanks to celebrity and politician acceptance, the same is starting to occur for the device named loosely after the age-old expression of being ‘squared-up’ or ‘all paid up’ on a transaction. Just recently the device played a major role in campaign fund collection efforts from both the Obama and Romney camps.
Much in the same manner Dorsey set out to create Twitter with the intent of making the technology invisible for the millions of people who simply want to get their message out to the masses, 140 characters at a time, he developed Square with the same fundamental principle of taking out the middle man to a process (the exchange of funds) that can often feel cold and mechanical.
In a recent interview on 60 Minutes, Dorsey describes this notion quite eloquently, saying, “Money touches every single person on this planet and in one point in their life they feel bad about it. It feels dirty sometimes. It never feels great, but it feels great when it disappears. It feels like you are taken care of … it feels like the world is just working.”
If anything, Dorsey’s idea of taking away the cold exchange of cash seems to resonate the world over; Square recently expanded into Japan, and is already one of the payment methods accepted at Starbucks. But even more significant is the fact the coffee giant additionally announced earlier this year it would sell Square’s Mobile Card Readers for $10 with a $10 rebate upon sign-up for new users. In a way it is the perfect marriage for the millions of small business owners who stop at their local Starbucks for a cup of coffee.
But to understand what makes a man like Jack Dorsey tick is to understand he is a man that didn’t necessarily aspire to be a technology pioneer. Instead, growing up he wanted to be a sailor so he could navigate the world and explore and experience; he wanted to be a tailor and craft amazing products that he could share with others; and he wanted to be an artist—a surrealist to be specific—simply because they see the world in ways others do not. Based simply on occupation title alone, it is natural to assume Dorsey isn’t any one of these three things. But looking philosophically at what his technology creations have contributed to the world, you realize he fits each to a tee.
James Park and Eric Friedman
CEO and Cofounder/CTO and Cofounder
James Park and Eric Friedman cannot concern themselves too much about the growing smartwatch movement, nor should they. You could say the duo was defining the term ‘wearable’ before wearable was chic.
And now that the technology accessories are showing up everywhere from Fashion Week in New York City to a 12-page spread in Vogue magazine, the “serial entrepreneur” and the “experience technologist” need not feel threatened—but rather vindicated.
Back in 2007, when the two pioneers initially launched Fitbit, there was definite hesitation in the market about a device designed to track the number of steps taken. Retailers were skeptical with the selling potential, consumers were unfamiliar with the idea of the “quantified self,” and the competition was starting to take notice.
Today more than 20,000 retailers in more than 17 countries proudly carry the Fitbit line of products. What’s more, the company additionally claims its customers take 43% more steps than the average consumer.
It’s not hard to understand why Parks, the “serial entrepreneur,” and Friedman, the “experienced technologist,” have an interesting and even storied past working side-by-side.
Looking back at the previous three stops along the journey for each, you have the online photo-sharing site Webshots, where Parks led product management, engineering, and design, and Friedman led the engineering team; Windup Labs, which the pair cofounded; and Epesi Technologies, where Parks was cofounder and CTO, and Friedman was a founding engineer at the company.
By 2007, Parks and Friedman saw a market in which sensors and wireless technology were so advanced they could become essential components to world of health and fitness. It is said Parks was partially inspired by the way in which the gaming industry was combining sensors with software.
But along their journey to pioneer a wearable product that would “change the way we move,” the two came across a very important realization: there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this type of a concept.
While the competition focuses on one form factor, e.g., a watch or wristband, Fitbit has taken to the market with a variety of products in different form factors and at different price ranges. There is the Flex, which is a wireless activity and sleep wristband; the clip-on Zip and One products that track steps, distance, and calories burned (One even tracks sleep); and the Wi-Fi scale Aria, which is not a wearable technology, but you get the idea.
This subtle approach of diversification could help the San Francisco-based company achieve mass adoption in the world of wearable technology, in which it is getting more difficult to distinguish the players.
As Parks has stated, “technology is all about creative destruction,” which means companies will constantly be tasked with making products smaller, thinner, and more compatible and ingrained into the consumer’s life.
It is the reason why the duo invests so heavily in research and development, and a motivating factor for keeping their eyes on the next big opportunity; e.g., making wearable technology a part of corporate wellness programs in order to help lower health costs.
Could that next frontier involve sensors and data solving the world’s healthcare problems? If so, you can bet Parks and Friedman are well on their way to figuring that one out.
CEO, Cofounder, Chief Architect
When it comes to Elon Musk, you can say that sometimes truth seems to be stranger than science fiction. The man who has his hands in everything from electric vehicles to commercialized space travel to high-speed transit systems seems to do nothing at half speed. He is a man who simply loves to design things with purpose—he has often said that he wants to have a positive impact on the world—which puts Musk in an elite category of pioneers who are never afraid to ruffle a few feathers.
An engineer and entrepreneur to the core, Musk builds and operates companies to solve environmental, social, and economic challenges. He is perhaps best known for being the CEO, cofounder, and product architect of Tesla, the company that made the idea of the electric car seem sexy. (You know you are doing something right when you become the first car of the year winner in the 60+ year history of Motor Trend not to be gas powered, i.e., Tesla Model S).
But Musk’s resume includes some very pioneering efforts outside of the automotive space—and his list of “other interests” do as well, way outside of automotive, as in way out in outer space. Addressing the former, the man cofounded an online point-of-sale company named X.com. While the name might not ring a bell to the average consumer, it is the company that purchased Confinity, and formed PayPal, a name that eventually became synonymous with payment transfers and is now eBay property thanks to a 2002 purchase to the tune of $1.5 billion.
As for one of those “other interests,” Musk has a vision to commercialize space travel. Call it the anti-EV strategy as SpaceX, a company in which Musk is CEO and chief designer, has the intent to build the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft.
While the company’s ultimate goal of “enabling people to live on other planets” seems out there, SpaceX has already made significant contributions to the space program, such as back in 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft attached to the Intl. Space Station, exchanged cargo payloads, and returned safely to Earth—a feat typically only accomplished by governments.
But back to transportation here on Earth for a moment. The pioneering mind of Musk turned a few heads (and even made a few of us scratch ours) with his idea for Hyperloop, a proposed high-speed transportation mode that could theoretically zip you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in roughly a half hour. In a recent blog on teslamotors.com, Musk said, “The Hyperloop (or something similar) is, in my opinion, the right solution for the specific case of high traffic city pairs that are less than about 1,500 km or 900 miles apart.”
And then there is talk about autonomous vehicles. Musk has not made it a secret that he wants to develop such vehicles and recently called for engineers to become part of the Telsa team working towards the automaker’s vision of fully autonomous vehicles. With such ambition, it sounds as if Google may have some competition on the autonomous highway.
While some of his ideas and concepts might seem “out there” to a few, Musk achieves true pioneer status in his quest to constantly push the limits. The target for his ideas seems to be on transportation of all types, but his drive is fast and focused on simply breaking free from the conventional way of thinking.
President and CEO
Eric Babolat is a patient man. The unassuming French native has waited 10 years for technology to catch up to his vision for the game of tennis. But now that the time has arrived when tech and sport are matched up, the president and CEO of Babolat, a company founded in 1875 and credited with inventing racquet strings, may have just discovered his kill shot over the competition.
“Not that we want to take over the market, but I think it will,” he says in reference to the company’s latest achievement. Maybe he isn’t so unassuming after all. But then again, Babolat, the fifth of his generation to head the company, should be proud of what he has brought to market with the Play Pure Drive, the first ever connected tennis racquet. While the market remains flush with devices that track vital stats for runners, swimmers, golfers, and other athletes, you could say the tennis world has been underserved when it comes to connected devices. But now the question remains: Can a connected racquet change the game of tennis?
To be more specific, it is a MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) enabled racquet with sensors built into the handle that records the flow of data based on player performance. All of the data is then transferred using a Bluetooth connection that is easily paired with a smartphone to a connected device or via a USB to analyze movement. There is even an option to socialize data.
It sounds like there is great power packed into the handle of this latest creation. But to pick up the Play Pure Drive, you’d never know it. That is because the racquet has the same feel and weight as a traditional one—an important element for winning over tennis players. It is a point not lost on Babolat, who stresses player experience with regards to product development.
“We started from the beginning and took the feedback from the players as we were going to make the product, (in order) to understand the needs and expectations,” Babolat says. “Tennis is a conservative sport; (players) don't like change, they don't like when you change the racquets. There is nothing worse for a tennis player than to change their racquet, I mean when you like your racquet, you don’t want it to change. That’s why we wanted something that doesn’t change the feel of your Drive. If you have a feel, switch to the feel of Pure Drive Play, we don’t want to affect your feeling, which is good, the feel of the racquet. That is the most important thing.”
For this Babolat partnered with Movea, a company specializing in capturing and analyzing movement. And perhaps the most important move for Babolat was to ensure the racquet is not only the first connected piece in the sport, but the most flexible to meet the future data needs of the players.
“The technology is getting cheaper and better and even so our idea is to enrich the content,” Babolat comments. For example, the device enables individual coaching based on an data, and the ability to send your data so that it can provide recommendations on your game.
Some say it is all about the data these days, and for the sweet sport of tennis it is actually about useful data. “We want to be sure that it is good for the players, it’s interesting (for) them and it remembers a conversation I had with fellows about this project saying, we have data, we have information, but what we do make about it?”
Perhaps the most pioneering aspect is the fact French-based Babolat chose to launch the connected product in the United States rather than Europe, where the sport is simply huge.
Calling it “the biggest tennis community in the world,” Babolat characterizes the United States as being a connected country, and believes it is absolutely the best place to start with his pioneering piece of tennis equipment. But regardless of physical location, the sport of tennis is universal, and the idea of putting a good product into the hands of players is where Babolat believes his bet will ultimately pay off.
“The good thing in tennis is that it’s a passionate sport and in most stores, the people (who are) selling it, play it,” adds Babolat. “We think it is the best way to promote (the racquet) because if they play and like it, they will talk about it and make people want to try it.”
In the coming years it’s a safe bet nearly all tennis racquets will come equipped with sensors and connected capabilities of some sort, which means the competition will be joining Babolat sooner rather than later.
Babolat, a man who has an innate love for the game of tennis, wouldn’t have it any other way, because that means the players—professional and amateur—are the ones benefitting. “Nobody will own a racquet, which is not giving data,” he says. “So I hope the competitors are working on that too, but I have no idea where they are now.”
Senior Vice President, Business Development, New Markets
“The Digital Sixth Sense is an extension of our natural senses through the technology we carry with us and the technology that surrounds us.” In a world where seemingly everything is being connected, Qualcomm considers the technology an extension of our natural senses, creating this so-called Digital Sixth Sense. And the San Diego-based chipmaker has quite a visionary espousing such a message in Kanwalinder Singh.
The man seems to have a knack for strategy and development. Singh joined Qualcomm in 2004 as president of Qualcomm India and South Asia, and played a critical role in emerging markets to enable sub-$20 CDMA handsets and sub-$25 EV-DO/HSPA wireless broadband devices. With a particular focus on smart automotive and smart energy, today Singh is tasked with driving the company’s chipset business in M2M—or as the company likes to classify it: ‘Internet of Everything.’
Much of that focuses around the ways devices, applications, and services are changing the way people interact with each other, and with the world. “The smartphone is driving that transformation, continually evolving and becoming ever more powerful,” says Singh. “And the pace of innovation is unprecedented. Just to put it in perspective; a typical smartphone today has more computing power than the Apollo 11 command module had when it landed a man on the moon. In many ways, mobile is the new computing platform.”
But that vision encompasses categories of devices far beyond a smartphone. It involves the enablement of new types of services across multiple verticals, including consumer electronics, automotive, energy, education, and healthcare, to name a few. In essence, this is what is meant by the ‘Internet of Everything.’
Which brings us back to the Digital Sixth Sense and three things that make up this idea: connectivity, context, and control; or as Singh describes it, “Digital Sixth Sense technologies simplify our lives by providing us with personalized, relevant, and timely content.”
He points to a new wave of new mobile experiences starting to come to market now, from proximal communications that provide us with continuous connectivity, to augmented reality apps that give us new ways of seeing the world, to wearables and sensors that offer us more control. Wearables like the Qualcomm Toq smartwatch serves as a second display to your smartphone, while showcasing the benefits of the Qualcomm Mirasol display, WiPower LE, and stereo Bluetooth technologies.
It is such “breakthrough technologies” that Singh says are driving this vision of the Digital Sixth Sense where our digital and physical lives collide. But in order to make for a successful collision, if you will, Singh talks about the importance of having an open source framework for which product makers and developers can enable such technologies.
“The Internet of Everything is, and will continue to be, heterogeneous—encompassing both vertical and horizontal products and services, wireless and wired connections, indoor and outdoor environments,” he says. “And it’s populated by products that run the gamut from smart computing devices to very basic machines that have smart capabilities because of the network and services to which they connect.”
It is with this vision, says Singh, that the ‘Internet of Everything’ can offer horizontal interoperability among devices and apps, no matter the platform or operating system. “This does not mean that there cannot or should not be vertical implementations that are part of the larger ‘Internet of Everything.’ Such vertical implementations exist today, and will continue to proliferate. But the larger horizontal enablement is best supported by open-source development.”
Perhaps his affinity for open-source development stems from early in his career at Qualcomm, where he worked to extend the chipmaker’s partnerships beyond operators to the open market and private bands in India.
But the past is the past and as Singh says, “The future is here, but people don’t know about it yet. (Internet of Everything) is already impacting key areas of our lives, like transportation, health and fitness, and the home.
“Through connectivity, the world is becoming more content rich, and more services are coming to life every day. For businesses, this can mean anything from streamlining existing processes to revolutionizing business models; for consumers, it’s the opportunity to avail themselves of new products and services or simply interact differently with the world around them.”
President, Emerging Enterprises and Partnerships
Hang around Glenn Lurie long enough and you might actually feel the market shifts taking place. The man who led negotiations to bring both the iPhone and the iPad to AT&T, and essentially changed everything for the wireless industry, now has his eyes set on resetting expectations with a vertical-market approach in areas like the home and the car, among others. As he explores such new frontiers in wireless he doesn’t just want to be first, he wants to be the best.
As President of Emerging Enterprise and Partnerships for AT&T Mobility, Lurie leads the carrier’s Emerging Devices Organization under strategic initiative to wirelessly enable a host of new and exciting products. He goes so far as to say that in the not-too-distant future, virtually every device with “an electronic pulse” will be connected. That might go without saying, but to Lurie, in order to successfully tackle that next frontier there must be a clear plan in place for how such devices connect to each other, and ultimately to the end consumer. Such an achievement will be accomplished by building new products and platforms that are focused first and foremost on the consumer. To that regard he has led the team at AT&T to create platforms where one SIM (subscriber identity module) can be deployed around the globe; where pricing models can be adapted to almost any business; and where third-party partners help OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) connect to the network in a simple manner.
Case in point his latest baby: AT&T’s Digital Life division. Leveraging IP connectivity technology, this is a connected home initiative unlike any other, in which Lurie envisions everything under your roof having an IP address. It is with such confidence that Lurie boasts just how wide a margin this vision has given AT&T over its competitors in the home arena. And the numbers seem to echo that sentiment: As of the beginning of October, Digital Life is available in 45 markets and the plan is to launch the service in up to 50 markets before the calendar flips to 2014.
But let’s not overlook what frontiers he has helped tackle in automotive too. Wrestling perhaps the most commonly known name for in-vehicle connectivity, GM and OnStar, away from its chief rival, Lurie can take solace in the fact all the time and effort he and his team have been putting into working on the vertical sectors like automotive are indeed paying off. But it’s not simply a case of providing the pipe to GM, says Lurie; it’s his mission to innovate alongside the automaker in order to deliver the next generation of connected experiences inside the vehicle. For example, the emergence of LTE modules.
“Our agreement to connect GM automobiles with 4G LTE data speeds is going to usher in a completely new experience for the car,” he says. “Whether it’s streaming audio, video, or navigation, LTE provides the bandwidth and advanced tools to completely change the user experience, including enhanced safety through voice commands.”
As a former professional soccer player, Lurie obviously harkens back to his team-centric playing days when crediting the group effort within the Emerging Devices Organization that needs to occur in order for this all to be a success. As he describes, it takes business development, strategy and pricing, and product development teams working cohesively to identify the most promising sectors and OEMs.
In a way, every frontier Lurie looks to conquer in wireless going forward ultimately comes back to that little deal he helped broker to get Apple’s game-changing devices on the AT&T network years ago. “I’m proud of the innovation AT&T showed when we did the first iPhone deal with Apple that changed everything for the wireless industry,” says Lurie. “It set off a revolution in wireless innovation. Now I’m most proud of our work to build new businesses inside AT&T. We started the industry’s first Emerging Devices Organization and are scaling our industry-leading Digital Life and connected car businesses to make sure AT&T is poised for this next wave of growth in the mobile industry.”