Some Thoughts on the ForumOxford Future Technologies Conference

Yesterday I returned home from the Future Technologies Conference at the University of Oxford and after a good night's sleep and some contemplation I thought I'd write down some impressions as I very much enjoyed the event and received lots of good feedback on my own presentation. More about that part in a separate follow up post.

The end of April is a perfect time to come over to England and spend some time in London and Oxford prior to the conference as spring has already arrived and everything is green and new. In addition to there are two reasons for going to this particular conference. The first one is of course the presentations and speakers of which most are not pushing the company line for a specific purpose but openly talk about a specific topic and the experiences they have gained, for their business and also personally.

The second reason to attend is the audience. Being a small conference on purpose, the people attending mostly do so for their private benefit and the resulting conversations I had with many have been very insightful to me. It was good to talk to people doing so many different things and who I'd normally not meet at all. Also interesting to hear that many people attended the event on their own without being sponsored by the companies they work for. That's great, they are the real enthusiasts and innovators!

So here are some examples of what I particularly enjoyed during the presentations and what I will follow-up on in the weeks to come:

  • Tomi Ahonen pointed out that some of his readers have asked him to not only talk the talk but also to walk it. So he decided to publish a book online (his Pearls book volume 1 and 2) instead of in hard cover and he seems to be very statisfied with the results. He said that he earned more with his online books in the last two months than what he got in royalties last year from his books published by John Wiley and sons. Yep, earning a living on book sales in our industry is very difficult, to put it mildley so its good to see that a different approach is paying off.
  • William Webb said that the biggest improvement for wireless networks in the future is better wireline, referring to the current backhaul bandwidth crunch. I couldn't agree more and he's put the issue in a sentence with an interesting twist.
  • Graham Trickey of the GSM Association (the GSMA) talked about driving inovation with open network API called OpenAPI. I wasn't aware of that initiative yet and will have to find out more.
  • Nick Allot: Having different mobile phone operating systems is both good and bad. On the one hand it's driving competition and innovation but on the other hand it also makes it quite difficult for developers to do cross platform development. This is where the Open Mobile Terminal Platform initiative comes in and Nick talked about the BONDI project which aims at standardizing how functionalities most phones have can be access in a standardized manner.
  • Phil Northam of Samsung has given us a taste of how Orwell's 1984 looks like translated into the mobile ecosystem. With his 'War is Peace' presentation he made the good point that while the different players in the game are sometimes not very friendly to each other, all the fights going on are not really aiming at total destruction of the other. In fact it would be rather pointless since everyone gains from the other remaining a strong power. If you've read 1984, you'll get his point. If not, I strongly suggest to read the book and to return to Phil's presentation afterwards.
  • Last year, Simon Cavill of Mi-Pay made me aware of for the first time of what's going on with mobile banking and mobile money transfers in Africa. This year, Simon gave an update and had lots of now and insightful stories to tell about the topic. I agree with him that what is learnt on mobile money transfers in Africa has a good chance to coming back to other parts of the world. Good to see some innovation flowing in the reverse direction!
  • Great presentation from Flirtomatic's Mark Curtis on the life in a startup company, how things never quite work out how you expect them and good examples of how you have to keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve.
  • Next was Ed Candy from network operator 3 in the UK with his thoughts on the evolution on networks and services. He spoke very positively on the take-up of data services in the UK and praised 3's initiative to abolish roaming charges between the 3 networks worldwide. His presentation also contained a number of interesting slides with graphs that had values on both the x- and y-scales that are usually left out in such presentations. I hope his slides will be made available on the conference web site to take a closer look. He also mentioned mobile marketing with user consent and Turkcell as a positive example. Have to research that in a bit more detail, too.
  • In the afternoon we came to a presentations of Tony Fish, Helen Keegan and Agustin Calvo on mobile marketing issues. Some good bits and pieces I took away from those presentations are thoughts on thinly disguised contempt, that you can't hide behind a PR wall anymore (so true!) and Agustin's reflections and actions on VRM (Vendor Relationship Management), that's CRM put upside down. Have you head about the new unit of a Yoad yet, which is 3% of your income? Me neither. Very interesting concept, have to find out more!

A big thanks to Ajit Jaokar, Tomi Ahonen and Peter Holland for organizing it, it was a great day! Looking forward to coming back in 2010!