In the consumer world, customer engagement often focuses on high-quality omnichannel and self-service capabilities. Simple, smooth and attractive user interfaces with intuitive access to information and functionality help create a superior customer experience. With industry-specific customers, however, this user-facing approach is just one small component. When engaging industrial customers with a 5G platform, service providers must improve dialogue, provide the domain expertise their customers require and offer resources that will enhance their customers' initiatives.
Mobile health was a featured topic at Mobile World Congress 2017, yet the panel on hand included no physicians, no pharmaceutical experts, no biotech companies, no insurers and no medical educators. Having non-experts dictate speculative top-down approaches to mobile health solutions makes little sense.
The medical industry is highly complex and has its own ecosystem of tech companies that are revolutionizing patient diagnosis, treatment and care. There is little reason to duplicate or interfere with the advances these experts are making.
However, equipping the innovators who are driving this revolutionary tech with an open 5G platform that supports virtualized network services, security appliances, charging mechanisms and other useful resources provides a basis for cross-industry partnership. Customer engagement can then focus on collaboration—joint R&D, in a sense—which inevitably results in new services and applications that generate long-term revenue and encourage long-term commitment among all stakeholders involved.
VR is another popular topic at MWC. VR entertainment innovators have created new 16K VR cameras; cloud-based, virtualized post-production environments optimized for VR; and virtualized distribution networks designed for ultra-high-definition (UHD) VR content. When these vendors emerge in a new sector with vertically integrated offerings, it makes sense for service providers to learn from the digital models being used and communicate with vendors to understand their needs and the problems.
In today's on-demand entertainment environment, production is more distributed than ever. New technology such as VR is emerging due to the creation and demand for new entertainment, and service providers are competing to acquire and produce that new content. Service providers can look at 5G as the ultimate platform on top of which the resources required to drive complex and interactive UHD content are both created and delivered. Those resources can then be distributed to anyone—from local teams to large-scale production houses—to create the next wave of content and bring it to a global marketplace immediately via broadband and 5G.
Mobile health and virtual reality entertainment are just two examples of how 5G customer engagement in industrial markets means making high-quality resources readily accessible and letting domain experts run wild with innovation.
If the first generation of consumer apps has proven anything, it's that service innovation is an open, bottom-up exercise conducted by sub-domain experts and creative people. These same people seek to disrupt rigid, top-down approaches. To win with 5G and avoid a massive second wave of even more industrial-scale disruption, service providers must ensure digital transformation and 5G efforts focus on enabling the bottom-up model and win by empowering cross-industry innovation rather than colliding with it.
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