Shifting gears

A few weeks ago we were considering what ng Connect demos we would showcase at the technology symposium event Alcatel-Lucent recently conducted in Basking Ridge, NJ.

Selecting the Connected Service Vehicle was a no-brainer for us, considering the traction we have had with the service concept and the upcoming trial with Chorus in New Zealand.  Yet as we presented our choice,  far from sharing the excitement, many reviewers  flatly reflected: “Well, it’s a car…haven’t we done it and isn’t everyone doing that?”

Way to put us on the defensive!  You would think that if all we wanted to show was a car we would have picked some kind of luxury electric roadster – just as you see these days in so many industry trade shows.  We would not have picked a Ford Transit Connect.

So our response was: “No,  it’s really not a car.  It is an iteration of a service concept with a large market potential: fleet vehicles.  This concept can help companies with fleets, such as service or utility providers, make significant productivity gains, save on inventory costs and drastically improve customer experience.  By the way, several prospects have already expressed interest and our trial with Chorus starts later this month.  Check out this video to find out what the Chorus fleet vehicle looks like.

We got our demo into the show.  But in retrospect our response should have been: “Yes!  Precisely!  It’s a car!  How better to represent the success and impact a program like ng Connect can have on our industry?  Five years ago Alcatel-Lucent was the first telecom equipment maker to display a connected car on its booth, thanks to the ng Connect Program.  And now they’re everywhere.  The industry has picked up and we should take pride in that.  How better to show that the ng Connect program is alive and doing well?  Everyone is showing a connected car concept while we’re now showing a solution using commercial products that is about to start a market trial and is on track for broader deployment in 2015.  The ng Connect Program has shifted gears!”

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It’s been over five years now that the Program had started assembling an ecosystem of companies operating in different industries and different domains, technology providers, content providers, application providers and service providers.  Once brought together, this combination of skills and perspectives allowed us to paint a vivid picture of how modern telecommunications could shape tomorrow’s world, as evidenced by the numerous service concepts the Program has since designed.

ng Connect was a unique initiative from the get go.  It is not a vendor-centric platform where one company integrates with different third-party solutions.  It works rather like a community, where collaborations can be forged, on demand, between any two or more members, to deliver ground-breaking solutions to customer problems.  This is the number one foundation of the Program, and Alcatel-Lucent’s continuing role remains that of founding member and moderator of this community.  The first LTE connected car gathered no less than 8 companies who worked together to produce the first prototype back in 2009-2010.

The second foundation is innovation.  Innovation does not stop at concepts, it is not just about the art of the possible.  Innovation is about introducing these concepts to real users in the market.  The second gear of ng Connect consisted in enriching the Program with tools and workflows with an emphasis on business modeling and focusing ideation sessions on specific themes and vertical industries.  The Program started looking at user experiences in verticals such as retail, healthcare, public safety or agriculture and came up with service concepts and business models ready to be pitched to potential customers.  But even better, the Program’s structure allowed to add said customers to the innovation conversation and join the ecosystem.   They were then able to tailor generic concepts into specific solutions and business opportunities.   They also added a wealth of experience and expertise to the ideation sessions.  The Program was accelerating and expanding with added presence and facilities in EMEA and APAC regions in 2011-2012.

The third foundation and the spirit that animates the ng Connect team and hopefully a large part of the ecosystem is execution.  The Program is about so much more than service concept demos and videos.  It’s about making stuff happen, turning ideas into reality, turning concepts into proven solutions and applying them in real situations.  Once again the Program shifted gears and focused on bringing new and existing concepts to market trials with notable successes in the areas of public safety and transportation in 2013 and 2014.

Now as we reach the end of 2014 and entering 2015 we are turning our efforts to what will become another key dimension of the Program : commercialization.  The ng Connect Program will work on offering tools and processes to enable a real industrialization of successful service concepts, moving them past the trial phase with a new set of deliverables and business model metrics.   The level of engagement between the companies involved in post-trial service concepts will likely increase to take these changes into account while the Program will also allow fast-track integration of member products and services to rapidly meet customer demands of new solutions.

Just like the Connected Car, the ng Connect Program has come a long way since its inception.  It has gained some notoriety and traction, as evidenced by the growing number of members and the audience of the ngconnect.org website.  It has accelerated, evolved and matured to deliver innovation in the global telecommunication landscape.  It is now ready to shift once again, adding a new direction and a new set of capabilities for the benefit of members and customers.

For those of you who sat along I hope you enjoyed the ride and look forward to the road ahead.  For the others, it is not too late to hop onto “our connected car”.  Buckle up, we certainly plan on burning rubber!

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