IT Life: Converging Communications

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Vodafone’s head of large enterprise talks Wi-Fi, unified communications and his expectations for the Internet of Things (IoT)

David Langhorn is the head of corporate and large enterprise at Vodafone in the UK. With a career spanning a quarter of a century, he has witnessed some of the biggest developments in IT, especially in communications.

A decade ago he was working on Wi-Fi and now he’s overseeing the operator’s move into unified communications and M2M. Unsurprisingly, his smartphone is the one thing he can’t live without.

Tell us about your company, how long have you been in IT and what are you areas of expertise?

David Langhorn VodafoneVodafone is a brand with a prestigious heritage, with its roots in mobile communications for businesses and the public sector. In fact, we recently celebrated 30 years since the first UK mobile phone call, which was made over our network on 1 January 1985.  Now Vodafone has its own fixed communications network, we have heritage in that space too.

But it’s not a company that stands still. Vodafone was the first mobile phone operator to be able to offer businesses a truly converged service for fixed and mobile. It’s a brand that’s had a huge impact on the market, and that’s definitely what drew me to the company in the first place.

I have worked in IT for 25 years in a variety of roles, predominately within sales, which have led to several leadership positions. So I’ve seen a lot of change in the industry! My areas of expertise are in building sales teams focussed on delivering competitive and sustainable ICT solutions that offer genuine business value to enterprise customers. Since joining Vodafone last September, I have been involved in some exciting unified communications projects that make best use of our fixed and mobile network and focus on improving employee productivity for our customers.

What’s the favourite IT project that you’ve worked on?

I could happily pick any of the M2M solutions we are currently working on. They are all harnessing the expansion of global IP networks and at Vodafone we come across new opportunities to connect consumers and producers every day, unlocking value for both parties – be it smarter fleet management to delivering smarter public services for citizens.

What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?

Ten years ago, I was involved in the first Wi-Fi solutions as laptops replaced PCs in end user computing. That feels like a long time ago now as my smartphone has more power and storage than my first laptop and Wi-Fi is becoming ubiquitous.

What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?

ernie wise first mobile phone call vodafone 1985In ten years’ time I expect to be even more connected. We are lucky in the West in that the average consumer has up to three connected devices. Ten years from now ‘The Internet of Things’ will have reached maturity and I expect to have a lot more connected devices at home and at work. Technologies like IPv6 will enable everyday items like fridges, freezers, bikes even your pet to be connected using sensors to collect, transmit, analyse and distribute data worldwide.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?

I could pick at least five but if I were to focus on one it would be around data classification. Large companies today are challenged with handling and/or storing data that is growing at an unprecedented rate due to the proliferation of mobile devices and ubiquitous connectivity. This data as we know can provide valuable insight on a whole range of areas including analytics on buying behaviour and trends. However it is more important than ever that this data is safely and securely stored and then effectively mined and interpreted – another significant challenge facing IT departments.

To cloud or not to cloud?

Cloud definitely. The business case for cloud solutions is compelling. Cloud services are typically ‘pay as you go’ so there is no need for significant capital expenditure outlay to get new projects off the ground. Cloud solutions are faster to deploy and predictable in on going expense. They tend to be more secure, scalable, competitive, flexible and environmentally friendly. I was converted years ago. I could go on and on……….

Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?

My tech hero is Tim Berners-Lee for the impact he has made on society with the invention of the Internet and fighting to keep it open, non-proprietary and free. Tech villain… well that has to be anyone who creates and releases a virus on the internet.

What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?

Spectrum ZX81My favourite device ever made has to be the Sinclair ZX81 home computer from 1980. I learned to program in basic on this computer and it kindled my interest in computers. It had 1kB of memory! Nowadays I cannot be without my mobile phone (currently an iPhone) – it is the device I use the most.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?

For this I have to go with a British company and that is John Lewis. They lead the world in NPS scores and I am a long standing loyal customer based on my own personal buying experiences. I admire the John Lewis business model – employees and customers are at the heart of everything they do.

What did you want to do when you were a child?

I wanted to join the Navy and sail around the world. I still do. A man can dream…

What do you know about Vodafone?

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