Paul Steinberg is Chief Technology Officer at Motorola Solutions Inc., which broke away from the former Motorola Inc to sell mobile systems and solutions to government agencies and enterprises. Steinberg is one of Motorola’s most accomplished executives, widely recognized as an expert in platform technologies, IP networking, operating systems and vertical applications. He is a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Technical Advisory Council, and holds several US patents. In addition to Steinberg’s technical prowess, he is also admired for his ability to speak in plain English, with humor and empathy.
On Dec. 1, Steinberg joined me onstage for a “fireside chat” at the luxurious Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego. Steinberg was the luncheon keynote (and I the moderator) at M3 Mobility Exchange, a new, and frankly, impressively innovative event designed to help executives in the health, retail and financial services industries bring the full potential of wireless technology—the most pervasive and important technology of the day—to bear in their respective enterprise environments. Most of the 150-odd executives in attendance were CIOs or some flavor of mobile practitioner at the their organizations. So they were believers. They simply needed help applying the promise of mobile technology to the realities of their specific workplaces. Amid a barrage of competing technologies and the pressures of a still-soft global economy, that’s no small feat. Steinberg’s insight, passion and vision helped. Here are edited excerpts from five of the chat’s segments:
“Technology will do some of the thinking for users in the future.”
1. Crockett: Smartphones and tablets have redefined consumer activity. What does “next generation enterprise mobility” mean in your mind?
Steinberg: The next generation of enterprise mobility means having all the associates in an enterprise enabled with the right technology to get the right information at the right time. No more. It lets them do whatever they need to, whenever and wherever they want.
As more data is available to factor into workers’ decisions and actions — including telemetry, voice, video and data — technology will need to do some of the “thinking” for users, and the enterprise. So things like analytics understand what is important to a user at a given time. RFID technology allows a worker to do a simple inventory scan. Video lets people recognize what they need to stock on their retail shelves, or who is loitering in the back alley. Innovation is occurring in key areas such as hands-free operation and adaptive networking that introduces devices that pick the right network at the right time—whether that’s a Wi-Fi network or a carrier network. The result is that the mobile worker is empowered.
“Every technology and product, across almost any industry, will be disrupted.”
2. Crockett: You mentioned innovation. Motorola has had its hits and misses over the years. What is the secret to successful innovation?
Steinberg: I’m a fan of the book the The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, and it drives some of our thinking at Motorola Solutions. The basic idea here is that it is almost inevitable that every technology and product position, across almost any industry, will be disrupted at some point by a different technology or approach. Motorola itself has been victim of this during the transition from Analog to Digital cellular technology. There is the old adage that one has to keep “eating your own young,” meaning disrupting oneself. At Motorola Solutions, we use a concept that we call the EBO (Emerging Business Office) to internally incubate ideas that don’t follow a logical progression. In other words, for product development that doesn’t follow a typical roadmap. It’s not so easy to look outside of that roadmap. But it’s useful. It’s essential to allow yourself to learn where the disruptions might come in.
Crockett: Does this require a lot of resources?
The investment is pretty modest. It comes down to an optional bet on the future. It is essentially a small internal VC-like entity that manages a funnel with some discrete funding. The ideas run through hurdles or milestones in order to move forward. The key is that you have to be ruthless about pruning back. Some ideas, no matter how good they seem, just won’t make it. So it’s important to move these out of the way quickly and move on to new ones. If you’re not careful you can get attached to a few ideas and zap the funding.
“We are a media centric society. Every minute, 48 hours of content is uploaded.”
3. Crockett: The 1990s was all about personal productivity. Now the focus has shifting to what you call “collective intelligence.” What is that and what is critical about it for businesses?
Steinberg: First, It’s important to address some of the industry shifts and technology disruptions taking place today. Smart devices are taking over. Smartphones have surpassed personal computers in units shipped. We are a media centric society now. Every minute, 48 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube – that’s 8 years of content uploaded every day. Social networks are on the rise. Facebook has more than 800 million active users and more than 350 million users accessing the site through their mobile devices. This is the way people collaborate now. Especially when you think of the workforce of the future. The Internet is accessible everywhere. So, collective intelligence is about distributed learning and collaboration via the deployment of mobile enterprise devices and social software. The model is no longer a hub-spoke design. In the past mobile data was designed to flow from one point to me at the other end. Now, everybody is a contributor now matter where they are in the wheel. In real time.
Crockett: How does that change the enterprise?
For today’s enterprise, it means every worker is connected and collaborating – enabling the true “mobile worker.” Today’s mobile workers expect instant information and communications. Workers are from a younger generation, raised on mobile and social media. Email and texting is transitioning to social communication. So workplaces have to provide smart, task-appropriate devices that offer instant access to rich-media information and communications.
”Government agencies and others are experimenting with devices with dual personalities.”
4. Crockett: Companies are understandably nervous about security. What can you say to put people at ease? How should they approach security?
Steinberg: Putting people at ease is no easy task. There is no single solution capable of eliminating all threats, particularly when it comes to securing endpoints, which is what each mobile device represents. The most practical approach to reducing anxiety around security is to take steps to reduce risks associated with the use of shared networks. When it comes to security, the best approach is to be proactive. Architect your network to ensure a level of security based on segmentation, use a private network for sensitive applications and a public network for general access.. Obviously, establish policies governing network access and monitor the networks to ensure compliance. And deploy a wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS) to protect wireless enterprise networks against intrusions by unauthorized, what we call “rogue” devices.
Crockett: Speaking of rogue devices, IT departments sometimes consider employee-owned-devices rogue, which is frustrating to workers that want to use one device. What’s the answer?
Steinberg: We call this scenario BYOD or Bring Your Own Device. We are looking at ways to foster BYOD by allowing secure applications to exist with integrity within an otherwise untrusted physical platform—the workers personal device. One solution that government agencies and others are experimenting with is a device with a dual personality. Meaning that I can be me at home using my personal email, Facebook, etc. But I am Paul the employee when I enter the work area using enterprise networks. It’s important to secure the two personalities and separate them from each other. Think of Sybil. You don’t want the two personalities to cross. You don’t want retail pricing, for example, to be visible on a personal or untrusted part of the device. Ideally you want as much information as possible to be stored in the enterprise cloud. But managing BYOD is hard to do. That’s why a lot of enterprises don’t support employees’ personal devices.
“We are re-imagining technology with wearable computing and augmented reality.”
5. Crockett: Give readers a glimpse of the future. What cool technology is coming down the pike?
Steinberg: Well, we are re-imagining the way our end-users engage with technology and access information. We’re looking at innovation through the lens of our customers. For example, we’re focusing on “wearable computing” and “augmented reality.” We’ve partnered with a company called Kopin to develop a voice-activated head mounted computer that features a small display mounted on an arm just below the right eye, so that the user can gather information relevant to the task at hand, or look around it to focus on a different task. It can be applied to many different markets. In public safety, for example, an officer must always have a clear focus on the scene ahead – knowing that a seemingly innocuous circumstance can go bad in an instant. We are looking at how we augment the officer’s awareness of his environment. We’re developing intelligent goggles with graphical displays in the lenses. They project information directly into the field of vision, overlaying what the user is looking at with relevant callouts or alerts So whether you’re in a warehouse operating a forklift or on a retail floor, when you look at something a palate of boxes or a shelf full of beverages you see a display full of information we get only on our tablets or smartphones now.