An Exclusive Interview with Telenor Group’s Head of Research, Bjørn Taale Sandberg

Bjørn Taale Sandberg has been working with the Telenor Group over the past 14 years and is currently heading Telenor Group’s Research wing. He was also the first Chief Marketing Officer when Telenor Pakistan launched its services in 2005. On his recent visit to Pakistan to discuss Telenor’s annual Tech Trends for 2020, PhoneWorld had the exclusive opportunity to speak with him regarding the technological advancements that will likely start emerging this year.

An Exclusive Interview of Bjørn Taale Sandberg

Bjørn Taale Sandberg


PW: How were these 20 trends developed by Telenor Research?

Bjørn Taale Sandberg: We carry out research into certain areas that are important for the telecom sector such as Artificial Intelligence, mobile technologies, as well as regulatory and market developments globally. Based on our research throughout the years, we try and figure out what trends will be particularly significant next year. It is really a summing up exercise at the end of each year that leads us to forecast the top technological developments that we’ll see the following year.

In addition to that, from time to time, we carry out a long-term study where we try to peek ten years into the future and foresee how our industry is going to shape up. This gives us a drawing board to start off our research directions for the next year.

PW: Which technologies in the 20-tech trend list would be the most relevant to Pakistan?

Bjørn Taale Sandberg: I think that underlying big trends are the ones that lead up to the ICT sectors with increased significance of data, AI, IoT, 5G and industry collaborations to evolve the ecosystem. AI, to some extent, is maturing and we are starting to see the challenges we need to overcome to continue to drive the value from AI. Moreover, developments in network technology will spur cross industry collaborations to deliver more value to customers and provide solutions around eHealth, logistics, security systems and remote investigations.

This year, there will also be increased focus on privacy since consumers in general are becoming more aware and concerned about the security of their data. Companies will increasingly compete to win customers’ trust while delivering value. Another trend that will be prevalent is the reality of green tech that will hit home through practical applications. This is already happening and is expected to grow with increased efforts to reduce carbon footprint by using IoT, big data and AI Tech, while cutting costs at the same time.

PW: What are the top 3 trends would you highlight in the list?

Bjørn Taale Sandberg: I would like to highlight the next generation mobile technology (5G) that is starting to rollout in some markets. We have started trials in several of Telenor’s business units across the world.  With 5G technology, we are creating new opportunities and solutions for industrial development. 5G allows you to build virtual networks with performance criteria for specific customers. As a hypothetical example, an AI system can allow a string of 5 high-speed delivery trucks to run in a row, where truck numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 are remotely connected via 5G to the first truck with extremely low latency. When the first truck starts to slow down, the following trucks will almost immediately start braking at the same time. Application of this nature can also reduce fuel consumption in trucking by up to 25%.

Another significant trend is the use of AI tech in digitizing industries. For example, in the health industry, you may swallow a smart pill, fixed with a camera, which is connected to 5G and controlled by AI to speed up the camera or zoom in as required.

To develop the market and ready it for 5G, telecom operators will open-up for tech arranged marriages i.e. there will be increased collaborations with third parties to create solutions; since it’s not possible to create so many opportunities in isolation.

PW: Any suggestions for Pakistan to cope with the fake news trend?

Bjørn Taale Sandberg: I think the most important thing is to combat the fake news by creating awareness among consumers and understand that they need to question the story they read and the content they see; especially if it is a new twist to the story. Many people come across content on social media which is difficult to differentiate from reality. Therefore, we as individuals need to be constantly aware of this and question the content we read and see. In short, don’t take anything as fact until you check it.

PW: How do you think 5G will impact all these trends?

Bjørn Taale Sandberg: I think 5G opens-up for new cross industry verticals with industrial and societal developments. It will open-up new ground to explore possibilities in IoT more than ever before. With 4G, you can connect up to tens of thousands of devices per square kilometer, depending upon the network strength; but with 5G, that possibility of connections grows to 1 million. This means we can put sensors on anything in the physical world and because of the enormity of its volume, these sensors will be cost efficient. This encourages the ecosystem players to build more sensors and new applications in the market. With more sensors, more data is generated, and this gives life to Artificial Intelligence. Therefore, 5G along with developments in IoT is going to fuel AI, which will be the underlying technology for digitizing the physical world.

PW: Technological trends carry on from year to year. AI and 5G for example, have been growing for the last couple of years. In your opinion, which developments will continue to influence the world as well as business industries beyond 2020?

Bjørn Taale Sandberg: 5G, AI and IoT are going to be the change makers and the megatrends that are going to be with us for the years to come. They will continue to evolve from year to year. However, there is also the downside of data driven AI like fake news and we are starting to understand the need for combating information bias and dirty data. This realization is no doubt a good thing because we will continue to get the value out of this technology and it will enable us to foresee such challenges with other upcoming technologies.

Recommended Reading: An Exclusive Interview of Jason-Country Manager of Honor Pakistan

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