With contribution from:
Ross Johnson: Enterprise Account Executive, Schneider Electric
At SXSW this year, connectivity is more important than ever before as AI, IoT, and edge computing play a bigger role in delivering high-quality video, music, and gaming to consumers each day. With this in mind, film, music and interactive content stand to suffer if connectivity is threatened.
In the panel on March 9 at 2pm CT, How Connectivity Will Control Everything We Know, my colleague Ross Johnson, Enterprise Account Executive for Schneider Electric’s cloud, colocation and edge business, will help uncover why these types of computing are so critical to connectivity. In the meantime, however, we sat down with Ross to discuss what audiences can expect to learn from the panel, and how his past experiences position him as a connectivity expert.
1. Your panel at SXSW will focus on connectivity challenges, from an infrastructure perspective. This is not the typical panel that you see at SXSW; can you give us a sense of what inspired you to design this panel?
As an Austin native and the founder of a local startup, I have seen the value and excitement around SXSW increase exponentially over the past few years. The normal suspects in attendance, the Fortune 100s, shifty startups focused on cutting edge AI, AR/VR and market juggernauts (remember Obama, Snowden and Cuban have spoken here in previous years), creates an interesting environment for an infrastructure dialogue to take place. With so much change in our business around operational technology, information technology and modality of data creation, aggregation and delivery, I felt it was important to have our industry represented. In other words, we want to create interest among the SXSW faithful about the role connectivity plays in the event’s three pillars of music, film, and interactive.
2. What is the one thing you hope your audience takes away from the panel?
The key takeaway from this panel is that there is more work to do. Our vision of watching VR movies in the back of an autonomous Uber helicopter on our way to a augmented reality staycation may not be ready for the main stage just yet. We will engage some of the most innovative industry experts to discuss future pitfalls that, left alone, will hamstring the development of these data-dense applications and their respective verticals. The hope is that the audience will get a sense for the challenges that lie ahead and are inspired to help lead the discussion in their respective teams around thoughtful architecture as opposed to lobbing nebulous terms around as the gospel, i.e. “let’s put it in the cloud.”
3. Can you tell us more about co-founding Energy Xtreme and how it has impacted the way you think about connectivity?
At EX we built mobile power management devices for military, telecommunications (think bucket trucks) and municipal vehicles (ambulance, police, fire). Our line of products allowed the end user to do their job without unnecessarily burning fossil fuel or causing unnecessary wear and tear on the primary engine of their respective work vehicle. It was a great product at the right time – so much so it landed my partner and me in Forbes as one of America’s Top 100 Most Promising Companies. The hardware was innovative; the underlying challenge was behavior modification.
At this stage in my career I was tasked with the challenge of making each of our products a critical component of our customers’ lives sticky, an essential tool for the task at hand. This challenge led me to re-develop our product suite as a connected, autonomous, smart product. In those days we used a rudimentary CDMA connection reporting back to a centralized SQL database. The usage data was then queried and presented to an end user overlaying algorithms that enabled a simplified GUI and analytics platform. The whole system, not the stand-alone hardware, software or connectivity, enabled our success.
The lesson that stays with me today is that an innovative product alone was not enough. Once we understood our customers’ use case, connected the products and operationalized the data with analytics and automation, the value was unlocked. That very lesson is playing out across the spectrum today and it is posing new challenges centered around data velocity, storage, management and structuring.
4. Let’s close with a prediction. What do you see as the next trend in connectivity? The next big concern?
My prediction is that connectivity will become a bit more cumbersome as we work to address security concerns and establish higher quality mobile connections. 5G will not be without its set of new issues. What we have come to expect as the linear progression of mobile and fiber connectivity will wane for a few years as we address heavier traffic and try to lay the foundation for our next boom in compute.