O2’s digital director David Plumb tells us why smart technology is key to helping both businesses and customers grow as a whole
We’ve all heard that the world around us is getting smarter, as technology helps connect up the various items around us and makes the world a more intelligent place to live in.
But what trends are helping push forward this connectivity? Far from being science fiction, the world of smart technologies is definitely here to stay, and TechWeekEurope spoke to David Plumb, digital director at O2, to find out more.
In his role, Plumb helps O2 bring new products outside of its traditional mobile business to market. These target both consumers and businesses, and cover everything from voice calls to security to smart homes.
And he says that both O2 and its parent company Telefonica are ideally placed to help enable the new smarter technological world due to their wealth of existing relationships with customers.
The company already works with a selection of businesses across the UK to share its expertise in various verticals. Plumb mentions the work it does with a major train operator in helping it understand what services needed to be put on by tracking consumer data and behaviour, bringing major savings in terms of efficiency and costs.
O2 also works with Tesla to provide a mobile connectivity platform that allows drivers to stay online even when travelling on long journeys, with navigation, entertainment systems and online browsing all now able to use wherever they go.
But it is the ever-growing smart technology industry that interests O2 the most, Plumb says. He explains how a three-tier growth has progressed over recent years, as technology moves first from analogue to digital, before now arriving in the ‘smart’ era.
Using the example of smart meters that can control home heating, Plumb says that first, you had the analogue controller on the wall was about 25 percent inefficient, then the digital age, where you could control using a mobile device.
“But you’re still relying on the human – it’s just as inefficient,” he says. “Now we’re seeing some really smart versions coming out…by collecting data and using machine learning, (they) can provide a beautifully personalised experience.”
“Smart meters should give consumers information that will allow them to save money, but more importantly for the country, it should allow us to manage our energy better and not have to have power stations running all the time….I think it will be very powerful.”
Both businesses large and small can also benefit from implementing smart technologies, Plumb believes.
“The key thing about smart technology is that it gives processes or devices a voice, so they can tell you what’s going on,” says Plumb. “Whether that’s your supply chain, or replenishments of stock – by connecting all of those things in a smart way and collecting the data, you start to be able to spot trends that allow you to run your business more profitably.”
This is especially true for small businesses looking to get a jump on their rivals, who can benefit from the range of advances smart technology can bring, Plumb says.
“Certainly, the Internet has democratised many things,” he says, noting that it has allowed small businesses to punch above their weight and start to look like a very large business, both in terms of the way they present themselves but also through the channels and reach they can get both nationally and internationally.
O2 looked to utilise this by developing an SME-specific digital business package, offering tightly integrated connectivity and collaboration for growing businesses that will allow them to modify their network however they want.
This can then be used to help businesses grow their profile online, as a proper website, especially a mobile-friendly version, can be crucial in getting recognised in a crowded marketplace.
“We have a big role to play,” Plumb says, “if you don’t have a website that looks beautiful on mobile, you’re going to struggle to be seen.”
As with much of the work in the technology industry, however security remains a key consideration for Plumb and his team, as they try to ensure no-one is misusing smart technology.
“You have to consider security when you build the products – it can’t be an afterthought,” he says.
“It has to be considered at every single step…it has to be end to end.”
O2 uses two-factor authentication using SMS messages, as they are safe from many common hacking methods on the 2G analogue network, meaning they are typically safe from online content portals.
And the operator can benefit from its place as an already central part of many customers’ daily lives, as users trust them with their data.
O2, the UK’s second-largest operator, already has many millions of customers in the UK, who are happy to trust O2 with their data and usage habits as part of their contract.
“(Our security) means we are in a nice place to look at you over the network,” Plumb says, “you need to have a trusted brand, so people know that we will only use your data with your permission…our trusted brand puts us in such a strong position.”
“O2 is in such a good place to provide your full range of smart services.”
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