An interview with our CTO: How technology will find better ways for people to connect
Håkan Eriksson is Telstra’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) charged with the exciting responsibility to inspire, set direction for and accelerate Telstra’s journey to being a world class technology company. Originally from Sweden, Håkan has held similar roles and responsibilities across the technology industry in addition to holding an Honorary Ph.D and studies at the prestigious Stanford University. Here’s an exclusive insight to his first 120 days in office.
I started in my role at Telstra in early 2017 by attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it wasn’t my first time attending, but this time would be different.
Walking through the conference for the 19th time, I was seeing things in a new light as this time I was coming as an operator and not a vendor.
This time I could look around, ask questions, and see what everyone else was doing rather than being relegated just to the Ericsson booth. While it was fun, wearing a competitor’s badge meant you weren’t allowed into other stands to see what they were showing off.
In my new role, I could go anywhere, talk to anyone, hear fresh perspectives and critically think about how I could apply them to the work I knew I’d be starting as the Chief Technology Officer at Telstra.
But of course, this begs the question, why Telstra? I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years and seen much change in that time. I’ve worked on 2G, 3G, and 4G. Now, 5G is just around the corner and Telstra will be the operator conducting the first live trial in Australia.
That technology is really exciting and that’s part of what drew me here – it’s an opportunity to work on pioneering tech that’s going to build upon and improve what already exists.
Personally, I’ve got lots of connected devices at home like tablets, Sonos speakers, Telstra Smart Home appliances and more. People have been slowly collecting these connected devices, part of what we call the Internet of Things, without realising it so you might be surprised by how many devices you have already that are part of this connected future.
This presents a unique opportunity for us to ask some important questions about how we can best use this technology, how can we secure it, and how can we help people to adopt it so they can thrive in a connected world.
The technology we’re working on at Telstra extends beyond this to include AI, Big Data analytics, and more. To some extent, these technologies already exist in some form. Even now, when you’re leaving the office (at least for me) when I look at my phone, it tells me that it’ll take me 23 minutes to get home. This is a type of artificial intelligence and in the future it’s only going to get smarter.
It’s exciting, but not without its challenges. It’s funny to think about because technology is the easy piece, we can design and test all forms of technology until we get it right but it’s meaningless unless people are ready and interested in what you’re creating.
If you’re too early it doesn’t work, if you’re too late it doesn’t work: timing is everything.
There are two things that I find most exciting about my new role. For starters, Telstra is a company that’s very willing to try and take on new technologies. Not only that, but Australians are also quite willing to adopt new technologies faster than other countries.
That puts the work I do and the people I work with in a very unique position: not only is it really interesting, in the end it’s all about how it helps the customer.
It’s fascinating to see the impact your work can have. Back when we were working on 2G technology, mobile consumption wasn’t at the level that it’s at today but it helped lay the groundwork for what followed. Now we see mobile traffic eclipse desktop traffic in some forms.
Drones can now be used for thermal imaging, to search for people at sea or in a forest when it’s dark, we can even look for sharks to keep people safe.
The mobile network of the future we’re developing is what’s going to connect all these things and I’m looking forward to seeing what impact that will have and what groundwork needs to be done for what comes next.