Nobody wants to be a commodity; profit margins come from distinguishing a company’s product from the competition, and bandwidth alone does not make mobile operators meaningfully distinct.
“It’s not enough to simply offer a global communications infrastructure,” wrote Masami Yabusaki, president and CEO of DOCOMO Communications Laboratories Europe, in a recent Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) Enriching Communications blog. “To avoid becoming merely a dumb pipe provider for these other players, operators must also aggressively pursue innovative ways to add value.”
What can make mobile operators distinct is services
To develop more than a handful of services per year for its parent company, Japan’s DOCOMO, DOCOMO Euro-Labs uses an open innovation methodology for applications enablement where vendors, operators, ventures, universities and research institutes across Europe collaborate on service enablers that can enrich the mobile experience. This collaboration benefits all involved, not least of which the mobile operator.
“At DOCOMO Euro-Labs,” noted Yabusaki, “we focus on developing service enablers that will lead to new network-based, value-added services that enhance and augment existing communications capabilities.”
Service enablers are foundational technology elements that can be put together to roll out new services on a frequent basis, then reused in other ways for other services, according to Yabusaki.
Examples of service enablers developed by DOCOMO Euro-Labs include a:
- Voice composition enabler that learns to emulate a person’s voice when they read text aloud for less than five seconds
- Handwriting emulation service enabler that learns to emulate a person’s handwriting in less than five words
- 3D face emulation service enabler developed with the University of Basel that can recreate a 3D image from a still photo.
“Imagine a teenage boy who wants to send a message to a girl. With current capabilities, plain text remains plain text,” noted Yabusaki. With service enablers like those just noted, however, “when the girl receives the e-mail, it includes the boy’s own voice, handwriting and 3D face video.”
With service enablers, mobile operators can roll out new services all the time—keeping their service distinct. But this requires having enough service enablers to combine in new and novel ways.
One such service being planned by DOCOMO is a translation service for foreigners traveling to Japan. The service will allow the visitors to use their smartphones as an on-the-fly translator. To make the service, DOCOMO is combining voice recognition, translation and voice composition.
“Creating services quickly requires a sufficient number of service enablers,” he stressed. “Each service enabler can be utilized, alone or in combination with other service enablers, to deliver new services.”
This all adds up to a pipeline of innovation that helps keep operators such as DOCOCOM distinct and anything but a commodity.
Edited by Peter Bernstein