INTERVIEW: Motorola Solutions CTO Paul Steinberg explains how data and enhanced communications can make cities safer – even if they’re not smart just yet
“Why did we do the Context engine? ‘Eyes open, hands free’: keep focussed on what you’re doing and keep your hands available to do what you need to do,” said Steinberg.
“We envisage this working as an ecosystem with well-designed interfaces around the core context engine. We see ecosystem partners offering applications and hardware. And some pieces of those we will offer as Motorola. We see it increasingly as a software problem.”
Steinberg favours acquisitions as a way of advancing his goals and MSI has venture capital operations to fund the third part of his remit. MSI monitors the development of numerous early stage companies with a view to boosting its own business.
“[Takeovers] give us technology or a skillset that we can’t do properly [ourselves],” he explains. “If the concept looks like it has legs, that’s when we make the decision. In some cases we don’t proceed.”
Sometimes the target is more established. MSI has bought Airwave for £817 million, a move which it is believed will help accelerate the transition to next generation systems. Airwave currently powers the pre-ESN communications capability of the UK emergency services and Steinberg sees the acquisition as a method to migrate customers rather than innovate.
“It brings us another data point but it doesn’t really change how my team works,” he says. “It’s a company that helps us ensure we have an orderly migration.”
Smart cities and smart vehicles
MSI says the Context Engine and its vision of data-supported communications will be strengthened by the parallel development of smart cities; even if it’s too early to have any impact right now. Steinberg describes ‘shotspotter’ technology capable of detecting when and where a gunshot is fired, aiding emergency services, and believes smart cars will also play a role.
“I think as the city becomes smarter, we can benefit from the environment,” he predicts. “We can fuse that together and help facilitate real time decision making. The next mobile platform is the vehicle. I think that will create some interesting opportunities for us.”
But the very nature of emergency services means technological jumps are not to be taken lightly. A technical hiccup can mean the matter between life and death and although political reasons might have delayed the transition to LTE, concerns about reliability will have played a role too.
Steinberg agrees and is adamant that no matter what advances are made, MSI will not jeopardise the basics.
“The foundation of our business is communications and it always will be,” he states. “Making sure our platform is resilient, usable and mission critical in harsh environments while layering on this intelligence.”
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