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Telecoms will play ‘a major role’ in digital transformation

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Huawei’s David Mohally discusses the role of 5G in the future and how the telecoms industry can take inspiration from other sectors when it comes to digital transformation.

Click here to view the full Digital Transformation Week series.

The telecoms industry faces the challenge of keeping the world connected.

In the early weeks of the pandemic hitting Ireland, we spoke to several of the country’s telcos to find out how they were coping with the sudden surge in traffic at a time when lockdown meant the majority of people were asked to stay at home and communicate remotely.

But that was just the beginning. That initial surge may have levelled off, but now as we slowly turn our attention to a post-pandemic future, the acceleration of digital transformation that has occurred across all industries means the telecoms sector has to prepare for more permanent future trends.

“The telecoms industry will have a major role to play in supporting digital transformation across vertical industries,” said David Mohally, business innovation lab leader of Huawei’s Service Provider Operations (SPO) Lab in Ireland.

Mohally has more than 25 years’ experience in the telecoms sector, working with major brands such as IBM, Lucent and Ericsson. His current role with Huawei sees him leading the SPO Lab team, which is focused on the digital transformation of the telecoms industry and how the sector will evolve.

“As a part of our digital transformation research programme, we have developed methodologies to explore new digital service opportunities and their associated business models. As ecosystems are an essential part of telco digital transformation, we have also looked at ecosystem design to help understand the market opportunity and design the appropriate ecosystem.”

Mohally said digital transformation in the industry is leading to significant changes in the market that will affect every aspect of a telco business.

“Therefore, it’s important to build a digital transformation strategy that embraces all aspects of the telco business from the technology, digital services, business operations through to customer engagement.”

5G a major trend for telecoms

It’s hard to discuss key trends in the telecoms industry and not mention 5G, especially when it comes to digital transformation.

According to research and consulting outlet GlobalData, there will be 3.9bn mobile 5G subscriptions worldwide by 2026. The report, which was released in July, also said that revenue for operators from 5G will “greatly outpace that of earlier technology generations”.

Last December, Huawei Ireland claimed that 80pc of Irish consumers want widespread 5G coverage by 2025. But Mohally also pointed to the roll-out of 5G as a major element of the telecoms sector’s future, adding that it goes beyond consumer demand.

“While the consumer business will be a central part of any 5G investment, many telcos are looking at a variety of vertical markets with a view to open up new revenues,” he said.

“Much of this focus has been on the enormous opportunities presented by smart manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, ports, mining, smart cities, etc, and many telcos and suppliers have developed an impressive library of 5G use cases that have strong potential for the telco in each of these areas.”

The challenges of digital transformation

Digital transformation is not without its challenges of course. “The importance of ecosystems is mentioned in many digital transformation strategies, and there are examples of telcos investing in partner ecosystems, but it is an area that needs more focused attention in the telco industry,” said Mohally.

“There are examples from other industries that can provide inspiration. Engaging with existing ecosystems and creating new ecosystems is a very complex task, which requires the right planning, skills and funding. This will be critical for the longer-term success of the telco industry within vertical markets.”

On a broader scale, he added that the same challenges for other industries will also impact the telecoms sector when it comes digital transformation.

These include allowing the time needed to implement strategies, having a properly defined plan and getting buy-in from the executive team.

He also mentioned culture as a major challenge for digital transformation. “There have been many examples of how telcos are looking at this challenge, which by its nature is specific to the individual company,” he said.

“For example, projects that look at how to turn existing valuable employees into the skilled resources that the new company will require and projects that look at how to build new sub-companies with radically different cultures within the existing telco.”

Mohally also said that new entrants to the market have an advantage in that they don’t have the baggage of the established telcos, meaning they can put a cloud-native culture in place from the beginning.

“To understand how to get to the digital transformation destination, it’s key to understand the current maturity of the business. It’s critical to get a deep understanding of the current state on the telco business, across all disciplines,” he said.

“There are a number of digital maturity frameworks that can help with this process, providing a structure to assess the maturity of the business from a digital transformation perspective. One such framework is the TM Forum’s Digital Maturity Model. This is the result of many industry players providing their knowledge and real-world experiences to provide a practical and systematic approach.”

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Chinese could hack data for future quantum decryption, report warns | Hacking

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Chinese hackers could target heavily encrypted datasets such as weapon designs or details of undercover intelligence officers with a view to unlocking them at a later date when quantum computing makes decryption possible, a report warns.

Analysts at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, say Chinese hackers could also steal pharmaceutical, chemical and material science research that can be processed by quantum computers – machines capable of crunching through numbers at unprecedented speed.

In a report titled “Chinese threats in the quantum era”, the consultancy says encrypted data could be stolen by “Chinese threat groups”. It says quantum-assisted decryption will arrive faster than quantum-assisted encryption, giving hackers an edge.

“Encrypted data with intelligence longevity, like biometric markers, covert intelligence officer and source identities, social security numbers, and weapons’ designs, may be increasingly stolen under the expectation that they can eventually be decrypted,” the report says. It says “state-aligned cyber threat actors” will start to steal or intercept previously unusable encrypted data.

However, it adds there is a “very small” likelihood that quantum computing could break the latest encryption methods before 2030. The analysts say quantum computing’s advantages over classical computing – the computing used in everything from laptops to mobile phones – are at least a decade away.

“Although quantum computers’ current abilities are more demonstrative than immediately useful, their trajectory suggests that in the coming decades quantum computers will likely revolutionize numerous industries – from pharmaceuticals to materials science – and eventually undermine all popular current public-key encryption methods,” the report says.

Quantum computing is viewed as an exciting development. For example, experts say it could predict accurately what a complex molecule might do and thus pave the way for new drugs and materials.

China is already a strong player in the field, and Booz Allen Hamilton says it expected the country to surpass Europe and the US – where IBM recently made the most powerful quantum processor – in quantum-related research and development.

“Chinese threat groups will likely soon collect encrypted data with long-term utility, expecting to eventually decrypt it with quantum computers,” the report says. “By the end of the 2020s, Chinese threat groups will likely collect data that enables quantum simulators to discover new economically valuable materials, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.”

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UK Space Agency asks kids to make a logo for first launches • The Register

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Good news for those in the UK with primary school-aged kids and wondering what to do when the next bout of home-schooling hits: design a logo for the first UK satellite launches.

2022 could be a big year for launching satellites from Blighty’s shores as the first launchers gear up for a historic blast-off. Assuming the facilities have been built and all the necessary consents given and boxes ticked.

There are currently seven possible spaceport sites across the UK, from Cornwall in England through Llanbedr in Wales and up to the Western Isles in Scotland. Cash has been lobbed Cornwall’s way to support a horizontal launch by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall and more toward Scotland for Orbex’s ambitions to launch vertically from Sutherland.

Should all the approvals happen and construction be completed, there is every chance the UK might host its first launch at some point in 2022.

Hence the need for a logo and thus a competition aimed at inspiring kids to consider a career in the space industry. And, of course, it is all worthy stuff: “Logo designs,” intoned the UK Space Agency, “should reflect how data from small satellites can help inform solutions to climate change as well as generate a source of pride in the UK’s space ambitions.”

What, we wondered, could possibly go wrong?

We put this question to Rob Manuel, one of those behind web stalwart b3ta.com. B3ta has a long history of (among other things) image challenges, the results of which tend to pop up, often unattributed, in timelines around the world. Now heading into its third decade, the site continues to push out a weekly Friday newsletter to email subscribers.

In terms of how to engage participants, Manuel said: “If anyone asks me, and they rarely do, I encourage competitions to be as open as possible – publish the results as they’re coming in. Try and create a buzz that something is happening rather than everything going in the bin.”

“As for things going wrong,” he went on, “well, there’s always an element who’ll want to subvert it.”

The competition is open to children aged 4-11 and will run until 11 March 2022. There are two age categories (4-7 and 7-11) over 12 regions in the UK. Designs can be drawn, painted, or created on a computer and either submitted on the logoliftoff.org.uk site or via post. Some basic questions also need to be answered, and children can work on their own or in a team of up to four.

We asked the UK Space Agency if it would take Manuel’s advice and post entries ahead of the competition close. We will update should it respond. ®

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Video analytics platform RugbySmarts named ‘most investable’ at SportX

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The Galway tech start-up was one of two winners at the sport-focused pre-accelerator programme.

A start-up developing real-time video analytics for sports has been named ‘most investable’ at SportX, a new pre-accelerator in Ireland for founders with sports and wellness business ideas.

RugbySmarts took the title at the inaugural SportX showcase last week, securing a cash prize.

The Galway-based start-up aims to automate and simplify sports analytics using AI,  machine learning and computer vision, helping coaches to improve player and team performance with a platform that could also be transferred to other sports.

RugbySmarts was founded last year by CTO William Johnstone, who has previously worked with Connacht Rugby, and CEO Yvonne Comer, who is a former Ireland international rugby player.

Meanwhile, the award of ‘best impact on sport’ was given to TrojanTrack. This start-up, founded in 2021 by Dublin-based Stephen O’Dwyer, is looking to combine quantitative biomechanical analysis with deep neural network tech in the equine industry.

The aim is to gain feedback on a horse’s injury or gait imbalance without using invasive technology, such as motion-tracking software that requires markers to be attached to the animal’s skin.

‘Next-gen sports-tech entrepreneurs’

SportX was launched earlier this year by advisory firm Resolve Partners, Sport Ireland and ArcLabs – the research and innovation centre at Waterford Institute of Technology.

The aim of the pre-accelerator programme was to build on tech and business ideas for the sport and wellness industries, giving founders access to academic, clinical and commercial resources.

The six-week programme involved workshops and engagement with advisers, entrepreneurs, subject experts and investors. Participants also had the opportunity to pitch to the US-based Techstars Sports Accelerator.

At the SportX showcase last week, nine teams had five minutes each to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges.

The two winners were selected by the panel, which featured Gary Leyden of the ArcLabs Fund 1 GP, Sport Ireland’s Benny Cullen and Niall McEvoy of Enterprise Ireland.

At the launch of SportX earlier this year, Leyden said the goal of the programme was to find “the next generation of sports-tech entrepreneurs who can leverage the amazing enterprise and sports-related supports within the south-east of Ireland”.

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