Connected & Ready

5G powers a new era for IoT and edge computing, with Neha Gandhi Vijay

Episode Summary

As mobile technology becomes faster and more advanced, how and where we apply technology will continue to adapt. In this episode of Connected & Ready, host Gemma Milne talks with Neha Gandhi Vijay, Assistant Vice President of Strategic Alliances at AT&T, about the state of advancement in edge computing, IoT, and 5G, the opportunities for integrating of those technologies, and where AT&T thinks these transformations may lead. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management helps businesses build agile, connected, and resilient supply chains to effectively meet changing customer demand and ensure business continuity during times of disruption. Using predictive insights powered by AI and IoT, Dynamics 365 helps streamline operations to maximize efficiency, product quality, and profitability. Request a live demo today: https://aka.ms/AA8l720 Thank you for listening to Connected & Ready! Do you have ideas of how we can improve the show? Want to recommend a guest for us to interview? We value your partnership and participation. Please drop us a note at connectedandready@microsoft.com. We would love to hear from you.

Episode Notes

Gemma Milne talks with AT&T’s Assistant VP of Strategic Alliances, Neha Gandhi Vijay, about understanding edge computing in the context of IoT and 5G, which industries and verticals AT&T is exploring opportunities with 5G and edge computing, business use cases for IoT apps, and how AT&T’s partnership with Microsoft to provide cloud services is helping make it all possible. 

 

Topics of discussion

 

About Neha Gandhi Vijay:

Neha is the Assistant Vice President of Strategic Alliances at AT&T. She leads business development and go-to-market initiatives across 5G, edge computing, and IoT with Microsoft and systems integrators. She is a passionate leader with a proven track record of driving business growth by connecting strategy to execution through strategic partnerships. While at AT&T, Neha has spent 10 years in the IoT space in multiple roles and is now helping the company drive new solutions to market with 5G and edge computing for enterprise customers. Previously, Neha worked in the healthcare and manufacturing industries in both strategic planning and operational excellence roles. Neha holds a bachelor of science degree in systems engineering from Washington University in St. Louis, a master’s degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech, and an MBA from Emory University.  

Learn more:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/neha-gandhi-vijay-55148912/

 

Sponsor link

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management helps businesses build agile, connected, and resilient supply chains to effectively meet changing customer demand and ensure business continuity during times of disruption. Using predictive insights powered by AI and IoT, Dynamics 365 helps streamline operations to maximize efficiency, product quality, and profitability. Request a live demo today:

https://aka.ms/AA8l720

 

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Episode Transcription

Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. Brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne, I'm a technology journalist and author, and I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disrupted world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. In today's episode, I'm chatting with Neha Gandhi Vijay, AVP of strategic alliances at AT&T, to discuss the possibilities unlocked by the integration of 5G and IOT. From impacting large scale industries to daily user experiences, we learn more on how IOT and 5G helps mitigate risks, saves money, and accelerates a new era of digital transformation. Before we start, I want to thank all of you listeners out there. If you have a topic or a person you'd love to hear on the show, please send us an email at connectedandready@microsoft.com. We're so thankful for you all. Now on with the episode. 

Gemma [00:01:09] Neha, thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show. Let's start with a little introduction. Give us a little bit of insight into your role, your experience, and your journey at AT&T. 

Neha [00:01:18] Hi everybody, I'm Neha Gandhi Vijay, and I'm an assistant vice president of strategic alliances for AT&T. I lead business development and go to market with AT&T's top technology partners and software cloud and consulting. The focus of my role is developing strategies for addressing near-term market opportunities and driving joint go to market offers with our partners that utilize 5G, IoT and edge computing technologies. I've been with AT&T now for over a decade. Previous to this current role, I was focused on the Internet of Things space. I actually started out in health care strategy and found my way, leading the growth strategy initiatives for IoT across a number of verticals on a domestic and global scale. So I'm happy to be here to talk about these new technologies and how they're helping transform businesses today. 

Gemma [00:02:11] Amazing. Well, let's dive straight in. You mentioned edge computing. Tell us what does that mean? And maybe you could contextualize it alongside sort of traditional IoT and then 5G as well? 

Neha [00:02:24] Yes. So edge computing can get confusing for sure, because the edge of something can be different for different stakeholders. But the good news is the principle is exactly the same. It's about processing data closer to the user, closer to where that data is generated. And edge computing is actually helping solve key challenges our enterprise customers have today with latency and performance of their applications. So how is this different from traditional IoT? When the Internet of Things started out, it was really about the device and the type of connectivity needed for that device based on the use case. And then there was a user interface, a dashboard for customers to have visibility of those devices and manage them. In the past, data connectivity would actually travel far to a data center. And those insights would come back and it wouldn't be really optimized for that particular solution. Now, IoT can be augmented with edge computing, and AT&T has solutions today that utilize our own software defined network to enable faster access to data processing, letting businesses process low latency, high bandwidth applications closer to where they're used to create new insights and drive actionable outcomes. So how should you think about 5G with edge computing now? And it's really, truly a winning combination. They go hand in hand, not just in how they're used, but also in how they're built. And edge computing has been allowing businesses to route application specific traffic to where they need it and also to where it's most effective, whether that's in the cloud, the edge of our network or on their premises. And we're working with companies like Microsoft to deliver on the promise of 5G with edge computing, and it's really great to see customers now utilize these technologies together to get a boost in their performance. 

Gemma [00:04:19] Incredible. So let's dive a little bit into some of these examples then. How does edge computing impact, for instance, the day to day operations for AT&T engineers? And tell us a little bit about the ultimate impact on the end users, perhaps with some examples. 

Neha [00:04:33] Yeah. So new use cases get thought up daily with edge computing and 5G and our engineers are amazing at coming up with solutions. We're talking with customers today and how to utilize this technology to have a positive impact on their business. And during the pandemic, we saw a rise in remote working and for many companies today, that's now evolved into hybrid working. When you think about companies that have operations and manufacturing, you might find places where specialized knowledge workers are working from home, but business processes are still happening on the shop floor. So how do you ensure your presence digitally on the shop floor or even side by side with someone who was physically there to ensure that you're optimizing your operations and 5G and edge computing today can really bridge that digital experience together. So to give you an idea of an impact on the user in manufacturing, you could have a device in the manufacturing facility or a video camera that detects a machine defect or a part that needs to be replaced. Any delay in that alert signal to the plant manager or the owner could break down operations, and it could be costly to fix. It can even be a safety hazard. So you can see the impact is huge with these technologies and also is going to help us move forward in this world in hybrid situations too. 

Gemma [00:05:56] Tell us then a little bit about some of the different industries and verticals that AT&T is exploring with respect to 5G and edge use cases and implementations. Where is the kind of opportunity, shall we say? 

Neha [00:06:08] Yeah, we're very proud of the work we've done in the connected car space. So AT&T has provided SIM technology to improve infotainment and telematics for these vehicles all around the US. These auto manufacturers are giving us some of the newest 5G use cases as it relates to the future of autonomous cars. These customers are thinking about cars three to five years out, and they're planning today. So it's very exciting to collaborate with them and build out these high performance 5G networks. Some network enhancements we're expecting to see with 5G will include faster music and video downloads, faster reliable over the air software upgrades to keep your features up to date, and faster navigation, mapping, and voice services so you can see now you're ride, is going to be so much better with 5G based on all these new enhancements. Health care is another vertical AT&T is actively working in. Hospitals are looking for AT&T to implement 5G and edge to enable telemedicine. As you can see today, it's important for customers and for patients actually to interact with their doctors through the network via virtual consultations and having that connectivity there, that was probably not there before. There's also remote health care monitoring, which is where the patient can still be monitored at home and communicate with their doctor. Hospitals are utilizing 5G to transmit large imaging files very quickly, so you can see there there's tons of use cases in health care and we're really excited to tackle those with hospitals. From my past experience, health care has historically been a very tough industry to crack. Very slow to evolve and adopt to new technologies, given the complexity, the regulations, the number of stakeholders. But I truly think the time is now where we will start to see digital transformation take off across health care with 5G and edge computing. We're very excited to see what comes next, and we're working alongside our university partners, our health care companies, hospitals, to implement new connected health solutions that will make positive impact to patients, their caregivers, their hospitals and physicians, and especially our frontline workers. Education is another segment that I'm seeing a lot of great interest from university campuses. They're testing the impact of 5G and edge and how that enables immersive learning experiences. So think about things you can learn now with augmented reality and mixed reality all made possible with 5G. Also, these new technologies give an environment for better research and experimentation. So these faculty members, the students at these universities are really trying to solve real world problems with 5G. And we've made that experience for them by having these on their campuses. So those are some of the verticals that we've made an impact. There's many more and I can share more examples as we go through, but quite a many scale of industries really looking at these new technologies. 

Gemma [00:09:10] Well, yeah, let's dive into a couple more examples. And I think, you know, we've made the case already, the sort of integration between the Edge, IoT, and 5G. But let's kind of focus on a little bit on IOT and sort of use cases or implementations that can really emerge because of 5G that perhaps maybe couldn't have been done before. 

Neha [00:09:30] Right. So 5G is definitely going to drive IoT growth. The ability it has to keep more devices connected using low power will help the industry achieve something we call massive IoT. So 5G IoT devices today are not ubiquitous, but they're coming and the market is evolving to it and the chips will be there. So what I see emerging with 5G is the unique ability it has to make our cities work better. So you can utilize sensors across streets, whether they're on a lighting pole, on a building or on a car, they're all providing this intelligent transportation information at intersections, which is going to help city planners understand traffic patterns, bottlenecks in their city, even accidents. And if there's an instance where there is an accident or a hazard on the road, intelligent transportation systems can provide a clear path to emergency response vehicles. So even when emergency vehicles arrive, there are ways to communicate with the traffic to move over. And that's what you're going to start seeing is through these intelligent networks, so many great possibilities to improve our cities and traffic, and all of the ways cars in the city communicate with one another is really going to drive some interesting use cases. One of the areas I'm most passionate about is around drones. It's a very interesting area, and currently drones are predominantly reliant on Wi-Fi. But as they become connected with 5G, drones will improve in terms of efficiency, visibility, and safety. You know, you saw instance of video surveillance drones in Louisiana recently to assess Hurricane Ida's damage to energy infrastructure. Drones can also deliver vital medical supplies, food, and water to devastated areas impacted by hurricanes or other natural disasters. And cities now are evaluating this drone technology to ensure it meets the needs of the safety aviation requirements. So with 5G in the future, I really hope to see more instances of us using drones in areas of need like disaster recovery, ports, mining agriculture in cities. It's a great technology and we will get there I believe in the 5G future. 

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Gemma [00:12:18] Let's talk a little bit about businesses and how they're kind of really jumping on to this acceleration of IoT technology and specifically with respect to the new wave of IoT apps. Maybe you could take us through an example of how businesses are leveraging these IoT apps to their advantage. 

Neha [00:12:35] So 5G is spurring a lot of innovation with our customers and businesses of all types and sizes are coming to look at what 5G and edge computing can do for them. One of the interesting examples in the areas of innovation was working with the Dallas Cowboys. We have an AT&T Stadium, which was the first 5G enabled sports stadium, and we worked with the Dallas Cowboys to enhance the fan experience. We wanted the fans to enjoy new ways to interact with our game, so why not use it with cutting edge technologies such as 3D volumetric video to have them digitally pose with life sized digital versions of star players? This is a cool way that video analytics are being enhanced through the low latency and high quality imaging that 5G enables, and the NFL is not alone. A lot of governing sports bodies and teams and clubs are looking for ways to grow fan engagement through technology. And we did some awesome work with the NBA last year to have 5G enabled hologram interviews during the All-Star Game in the bubble. A few years ago that was all science fiction, but now we can make that work and we're excited to do more of that in the sports and entertainment industry. 

Gemma [00:13:45] You hear a little bit about network slicing and I'm curious if you could kind of put that into context and what that means in terms of expanding IoT capabilities. 

Neha [00:13:55] Sure. So network slicing is something that's going to become a more of a reality with 5G. When you think about the types of customers and the different use cases we've been talking about, there are different levels of latency and service levels expected. Network slicing recognizes that watching a movie is different than performing remote surgery and driving for a business meeting is different than a first responder going towards an accident area. They all can be delivered at different service levels. The right security controls can be tailored for each, so network slicing allows customers to get what they need from a network capability view. And for AT&T, it also opens up new pricing models. Today, you're probably used to paying your smart phone bills based on your data consumption. Network slicing may open up the ability to charge based on latency levels or reliability or security. These are the sort of concepts that we're thinking about that have people really excited about network slicing and IoT. 

Gemma [00:14:54] Let's build a little bit on that. Obviously, when we start having these kind of conversations, the first thing that pops to a lot of people's mind is around security, whether that's to do with hacking or ransomware or identity theft, or even just the simple idea of being exposed somehow with their information. So what's the sort of threat landscape for IoT, 5G, edge, all of these sorts of things we're talking about when potentially millions of devices are connected and sort of networks are being adapted left, right and center? What does that mean from a security standpoint? 

Neha [00:15:28] Sure, there's been a lot of survey polls taken about security being top of mind and even a top barrier for business getting into IoT. And that makes sense, because the more devices that are distributed, the more potential there is for an issue. And security at the device level is going to be key as well as through the network. We're proud to be partnering with Microsoft on the Azure Sphere chipset that we're using in IoT devices today. AT&T has the Guardian device that uses this, which adds increased hardware security. This product is LTE today, but the same principle will apply to 5G. These are highly secure devices and data with end to end hardware, software and network protection. This is important need for retailers or restaurants or coffee shops or hospitals to have their smart devices using highly secure devices and cellular connections to keep their operations moving optimally. Network design is also very critical when it comes to security, and there are a lot of ways customers can connect to devices Wi-Fi, Laura, other LPW way radio networks or even through ethernet connections. Well, sometimes these may seem less expensive, on the surface, they're not the same as a carrier grade cellular network in terms of management and security. AT&T takes that on for customers. And we spoke a little bit about network slicing before and how that impacts IoT and 5G, that's another aspect providing that separate path for security. 

Gemma [00:16:55] Where does a sort of AI and machine learning come into this, too? Because, you know, these technologies are playing roles and enhancing technologies in so many different spaces, Do they impact the sort of development of cybersecurity and service offerings when it comes to 5G? 

Neha [00:17:11] Yes, AI and ML can be valuable tools to help us navigate the cybersecurity space. Specifically, it's being used to help protect against increasingly sophisticated and malicious malware, ransomware, and other attacks. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can provide a faster means to identify new attacks because they synthesize data, use statistical analysis, and push critical information to security platforms. And this can all be done in an automated way, so you don't need to have a fully staffed resource to manage security for your platforms. And 5G, as we talked about before, enables multitude of connections across multiple IoT devices, and these devices will generate massive amounts of data that must be processed using machine learning and artificial intelligence. The services created from these technologies will help users take action on critical data coming from AI and ML. 

Gemma [00:18:03] Let's hear a little bit about the partnership with Microsoft. AT&T has entered a multi-year strategic alliance with Microsoft to accelerate AT&T's public cloud first internal transformation and deliver new customer offerings utilizing AT&T's network and Microsoft's cloud. I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about that. Give us a quick overview of what all this is and what it means both for, you know, you guys as a company, but also for, you know, your customers and your end users. 

Neha [00:18:31] Yes. So we entered an extensive multi-year strategic alliance with Microsoft in two thousand nineteen. AT&T stated, we're aiming to be a public cloud first company and we're migrating most of our non network workloads and applications to Microsoft Azure. And we're also consolidating our data center infrastructure in operations. This alliance is focused on our internal digital transformation and utilizing Microsoft Cloud Technologies and business applications to drive our internal collaboration and productivity. The other focus of our alliance is working with Microsoft to apply new technologies, including cloud, edge computing, and 5G, to improve how people live and work today and in the future. That's where my team comes in with Microsoft is to take these industry solutions to market, including areas of voice and collaboration, intelligent edge and networking, IoT, public safety, and so forth. So we're really excited to use this alliance to continue progress new solutions and take those to market that leverage 5G and edge computing. 

Gemma [00:19:37] Tell us a little bit more about what is it that this alliance really does to elevate you, you know, what is it that's setting you apart? 

Neha [00:19:45] This alliance has actually helped us to do more joint design work in collaboration with Microsoft because we bring the talent from Microsoft in the software and cloud expertise area and combine that with a network and device expertise of AT&T. And we're really at the forefront of some new 5G and edge computing areas with Microsoft that will be shared in the future. And this partnership will enable exciting solutions in connected car, in connected health care, smart manufacturing, and even connected kitchens in restaurants. So there's tons of opportunities, and I really feel like we're bringing in the right partner and the ecosystem and how we drive these areas forward. 

Gemma [00:20:24] From your perspective, you know, what do you see as being on the horizon for AT&T? You know, what are the sort of transformation possibilities that AT&T is looking to further build on or leverage in the near future, where where's all this going? 

Neha [00:20:38] You know, I'm starting to see a lot of our verticals and customers kind of mixing use cases across a number of areas. So for example, working with a car manufacturer company, they care a lot about the customer experience in that car. And there are so many ways we can enhance that experience through, you know, making sure safety features are sending signals to the car, the driver making sure your children are driving in safe areas in the city and, you know, avoiding speeding in certain areas as well. Entertainment on the go is very interesting as well for the connected car. So the infotainment and entertainment experiences. Now with 5G, how do you enhance that experience with augmented reality, mixed reality while you're on the road, you see something that might have a story behind it. How do you get that through that AR and VR experience? Same thing with those types of customers that the car companies are also thinking about their manufacturing processes as well. That same technology for their car can also be used for the manufacturing facility to with 5G and edge computing. And we have a variety of solutions today that help manufacturers really get secure connectivity and optimize their machinery and functions to make things more automated. Less resources, that's another great area for cost effective management that we can use our technology for. And going back to that same car customer, they're also interested in the city planning efforts, too, because they want to also make sure we're safer in how we drive and how we make our cities move with less traffic and better pedestrian walkways and more safety measures are taken. So all these things are starting to intersect what we see with our verticals and it's great that AT&T is the technology, the innovative thinker in how do we make things simple, less complex and how can we make this very seamless in terms of experience for that customer? 

Gemma [00:22:37] We've talked a little bit about the vision of the future and also some of these incredible examples of how all these intersecting technologies come together to create amazing services, experiences, and so on and so forth for various different kinds of people. But with that vision in mind, what would you say is, I guess, the barriers for us as a society, as a collection of businesses and organizations and as you guys at AT&T to achieve that? And I guess to maybe finish perhaps on the positive point, what is it that we can all do right now to really, you know, achieve the potential of the promise of these various different technologies? 

Neha [00:23:15] Yeah, you know, this technology can impact how we live, work and play. It's everywhere around us with IoT being the connectivity in the devices really making things smarter in terms of the data being collected and then AI and ML coming in and actually analyzing metadatas and basis and trying to come up with the interesting insights that will help people make more actionable decisions. And all these things are coming together, and I think as we as customers just being open to what's around us and how do we leverage these technologies? How do we make things safer and operate with more accelerated fashion? And this is all the things that we see in every part of the society, whether it's in operations, at a manufacturing facility, at a restaurant, you know where people are working at a retail store. And these technologies are helping people make decisions more real time through data intelligence and also keep track of how their operations are moving seamlessly, even despite disruptions in network. So there's all sorts of ways we can see this impacting our daily lives. And I think just learning about the technologies, seeing what's out there, talking to companies like AT&T to see what we can do to help advise you through your journey. If you're trying to move from what you've done before and now, how do you make that a better experience going forward with these technologies? 

Gemma [00:24:39] So my final question I would love to hear a little bit about, you know, you've put forward these visions of the future. And I wondered, what do you think, I guess is the biggest barrier or barriers to get us there, whether it's from AT&T's perspective or organizations, businesses, or society? And what do you kind of see is the - what we all need to do right now in order to overcome that barrier? 

Neha [00:25:05] Yeah. So I think it's important for enterprise customers to really have an understanding of these technologies and what it means for their businesses. And if you don't understand, I know I've seen a lot of companies just go directly to 5G because that's a buzz word and they feel like it's going to help with everything. And that might not be the right technology that could be used for their use case. So really understanding it, working alongside with companies like AT&T, companies like Microsoft together, really understanding what is that necessary technology going to help do for your business, what impact are you looking to derive from that? And then let's work together on doing a proof of concept and seeing those results and those outcomes and then ultimately drive it larger across your base of companies. And that's how we're approaching our companies today. It's going to start, it's a learning curve and it's really going to start with pilots and testing these technologies out first and then slowly grasping to it and then training the workforce around what these can do for them. I think that's also that mindset also has to be there so that you can continue on this journey through this digital transformation. 

Gemma [00:26:14] Amazing Neha, thank you so much for coming in and sharing so much with us from this sort of high level visions surrounding these various different technologies down to the more specific examples and the nitty gritty of how they work. It's really great, I guess, to get not just the sort of what is this technology and how it works, but really a bit of an understanding of what we're unlocking when we do technology well, shall we say. So Neha thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show. 

Neha [00:26:39] Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. 

Gemma [00:26:44] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Neha's work and indeed some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoyed the episode, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show. Don't forget to hit subscribe and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. 

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