Your Future Is Calling: A Conversation With AT&T Exec Jeff Bradley

Alarm clock, stereo, DVD player, thermostat—those are just a few everyday items that Jeff Bradley’s smartphone has replaced.

He expects many more consumer electronics to end up in the recycling bin.

As AT&T’s senior vice president of Device and Developer Services, Bradley spends a lot of time thinking about how smartphones are changing our lives. Powerful yet palm-sized devices, blazing-fast mobile networks and an ever-expanding app ecosystem have converged to change not just the way we communicate but the world around us.

We’re still in the early stages of that wave, he says. Our smartphones will eventually become a control hub to monitor and manage just about everything that has an electronic pulse.

We had the chance to talk with Bradley just before Mobile World Congress about the key trends shaping the industry, their impact on customers and why he plans to say goodbye to his wallet and car keys.

Q: What big trends are you currently looking at in the industry landscape, and why are they important for AT&T and your customers?

A: I think the most obvious trend is this incredible adoption by consumers and businesses of the smartphone as their primary form of communication. Combine these super-powerful devices with very fast networks and the ongoing phenomenon around mobile apps, and you have an unbelievably powerful platform. Now all of a sudden you have this incredibly disruptive event where the smartphone is becoming a replacement for many historical consumer electronics products and services.

Start with your alarm clock, right, by your bedside table; that is completely unnecessary with a smartphone. A standalone individual MP3 player is redundant. And most people now don’t even need a DVD on your TV; you beam it from your smartphone.

So what started off as a way for me to be able to stay connected and communicate has now effectively become, for most people, their consumer electronics hub.

Q: So as those trends continue to converge, what can we expect to see next?

A: Next you start to think about what other things the smartphone can displace. First will be my wallet. Later this year we’re going to bring to market Isis, a mobile wallet that’s highly secure and will efficiently and elegantly replace the things you have in your wallet today like cash, credit cards and loyalty cards.

Your car keys will probably get replaced. And already I can control the heat and temperature in my home through thermostats that are Internet-connected with smartphone apps.

And that’s related to this wave we really saw get popular at CES this year called the Internet of Things. This is where anything that has an electronic pulse can be connected, monitored and managed. And my smartphone is going to be my control hub.

When you think about the aging population and the healthcare challenges that we face, I think that’s going to be the most exciting example of Internet of things, when it’s not just your appliances in your home or your car that’s connected that you can monitor and control, but your body itself.

Q: What major themes do you expect to emerge from Mobile World Congress attendees this year?

A: I think it will be built on what we saw at CES. I think if you look at what got announced this year it was a lot less about the latest, greatest smartphone and much more about the things you can connect into the mobile Internet and control via a smartphone. And I think we’re going to see the next round of announcements and advancements discussed at Mobile World Congress.

And just like last year, we had a home in the conference area showing the power of what it was like to be able to have a digital platform where you IP-enabled your home. AT&T is working to launch AT&T Digital Life, an open, all-IP platform that lets your smartphone or tablet serve as the controlling console for all the important things in your home.

I think you’re going to start to see additional things like that, including probably a lot of focus on cars.

Q: More and more, we’re hearing about the increasing demand for real-time communications and connectivity. What impact do you think this will have on how we communicate and interact with each other – both in the consumer and business space?

Today each of the different ways that we tend to use our phone to communicate are separate apps, for lack of a better term. I think we’ve been anticipating the moment when voice, messaging, and video are all enabled via an IP-based service, and I can now build clients that allow me to seamlessly integrate and move across those different modes of communication in a way that best fits the needs of my conversation, whether that’s point-to-point with an individual, or it’s as part of a group conversation.

One of the things that AT&T announced at CES, which makes this even more powerful, is a new Call Management API that will allow you to do all of that underneath your current mobile number as your identifier. We’ll be able to allow third-party developers to innovate around these kinds of rich communications services where people will know you and contact you via the most well-known identifier you have, which is your mobile number. The combination of all that is powerful.

Q: AT&T and Microsoft have a long history of working together. Looking at the road ahead, what excites you about this partnership?

A: We are thrilled to continue to work closely and enable the next generation of services on the Windows Phone platform. But even more exciting is to have those services span Windows Phone and Windows 8. You’ve got a great platform to be able to leverage the best of both worlds so I get the right fit for the right purpose.

And I think the real promise and potential that Microsoft has, and why we’re so excited to be working with you, is the ability to have those two different form factors blend seamlessly in a customer experience. We’re just starting to see the potential of what’s possible. And with your presence on people’s desktop or in their den at home, the ability to integrate all that into a tablet and into a mobile phone is a powerful capability. We just need to take advantage of that and bring really compelling, seamless, intuitive services to consumers and businesses.

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