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Witnessing the rapid growth of the mobile communications industry with Dr Mike Short CBE

Home > Witnessing Rapid Growth Mobile Communications Industry Dr Mike Short Cbe

Dr Mike Short has had an exciting career in electronics and telecommunication. Over the last 30 years, he has witnessed and been actively involved in the rapid development of the mobile communication industry, which has grown to include nine billion people worldwide. Mike has also played an instrumental role in the development of the Surrey 5G Innovation Centre and was recently appointed Chief Scientific Officer at the Department for International Trade.

Within i-sense, Mike has been a valued member of our Advisory Board, supporting workshops, events, development, and growth since the beginning of the project. In this interview, he shares with us his career highlights, his thoughts on the future of digital healthcare, and a glimpse into his new role as Chief Scientific Officer at the Department for International Trade.

You’ve worked for most of your career in telecoms; who or what motivated you to pursue a career in this industry?

Most of my motivation has been based on interests in high technology, international applications and the wider potential of digital technology for a better world. Most of my career in telecoms has been in mobile, which has allowed me to support international scale and the wider reach of digital into most sectors such as entertainment, transport and health.

Can you tell us how the industry has changed over the years?

Apart from the obvious changes associated with people and technology I have observed five mega shifts:

  1. Voice to data
  2. National to international
  3. Analogue to digital
  4. Verbal to visual communications
  5. Single sector to cross-sector and multidisciplinary

All five of these shifts have and will affect the development of i-sense research and impact.

You were recently appointed to your position as Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) for the Department for International Trade (DIT); can you share with us a little about your role?

As the first CSA in DIT I am honoured to be part of a broader CSA Network, which shares the best of science and engineering advice across the Government. In DIT my main work is to advise on technology that may affect exports, inward investments, trade policy and international collaboration. With some of the uncertainty around the UK’s position in a global world it is very useful to bring some of my background and contacts into the pivotal Trade arena. 

You were also instrumental in establishing the Surrey 5G Centre. Can you explain the importance for such a centre and any learnings from this experience?

I have had 30 years in the mobile industry seeing it grow from barely two million customers to nine billion worldwide, covering analogue (1G), GSM (2G), UMTS (3G), 4G and most recently the research into 5G. These generations of mobile technology need to work together (with the exception of 1G) and incorporate new technologies and services as the need arises. 

5G brings much more digital capacity, higher speeds for video and data transfer, much lower latency and much better sector based needs support (e.g. internet of things). The research and standardisation efforts for 5G is well underway and we expect first services internationally from 2020. In the meantime investment continues into earlier generations of mobile and Wi-Fi as we progress to 25 billion customers forecast for 2025. The Centre at Surrey University is collaborating with other universities, key global suppliers and SMEs, and all UK operators to assure the UK is a leader in the implementation of 5G.

What has been the most interesting/exciting experience you’ve had during your career?

I have had so many thrills and there are too many to mention, but here are a few examples:

  1. Launching 2G and 3G in the UK for 02 UK.
  2. Leading the Global GSM Association and the promotion of GSM globally. This included the addition of many countries globally and the pleasure of meeting Nelson Mandela at Telecoms Geneva 1995.
  3. Introducing texting across networks in the UK, followed by the introduction of charity texts for fund raising via mobile.
  4. In 2006 launching the first mobile TV trial in Europe, which lead to many mobile internet and mobile video services that we see today.
  5. The opportunity to visit over 120 countries and support their industry development largely in the digital services space.

What healthcare innovations could the arrival of 5G facilitate? 

A lot of mobile health solutions will start well before 5G is fully delivered. This will include much better collection of data for prevention and alert services, in time providing a basis for new innovative forms of health and social care treatment. We see early examples of these with mobile health apps, wearables, electronic patient records, and rapid field diagnostics. These are expected to extend with more accurate sensing technology, the greater use of video (“the doctor will see you now”), and the better use of analytics and AI.

Data collection, analysis, prediction and epidemiology will all be major factors in future public health and care, whether the system is run privately or publicly or in combination.

Do you see a growth in the field of mHealth?

I see significant growth in mHealth provided we test the solutions for safety and efficacy, and we make sure that systems are certified in a way that is relevant to each country whilst retaining global solutions. mHealth may also take different forms where the health system has limited resources and few clinicians. 

How do you believe this growth in mHealth will differ in resource rich and resource poor settings?

Resource poor settings are more likely to take whatever solutions are available to them.  In healthcare they are likely to be earlier adopters of mHealth than those states that are resource rich.

What do you see as the main challenge for the use of mobile phones in healthcare?

The main challenges are similar to any new technology – they need trust and this usually has to be based on trials and demonstrators, followed by appropriate certification and standards. The system is designed to meet many health conditions but training of the clinicians may be a barrier.  The acceptance of new technology needs patient orientated design conditions to assure the solution is fit for purpose. This may differ based on different health conditions and country locations.

The role of the internet is vital for provisioning, trials, data gathering, analytics, cloud storage, patient records, and patient feedback. Mobile with the internet is so much more powerful together.  The addition of new sensing techniques and video will simply add new capabilities for the way we prevent and care for diseases in the future.

How can academia better collaborate with the mobile industry?

Academia needs to make its research output more visible directly to relevant industry players. This requires presentations, publications and a web presence more relevant to the companies concerned. This in turn needs a process of dialogue such that industry can share real problems where they would like joint research, problem solving and possibly demonstrators. mHealth brings together different industries such as life sciences, digital and electronics, and this multidisciplinary approach will take some time, but it will be worth it in the end.

Can you explain some of the work you’ve done in policy and how the impact this has had of mobile/digital healthcare?

I have been involved in the application to digital healthcare for some 10 years now. This started when I looked at better use of mobile devices in the health sector and for smart homes. This progressed from productivity benefits to solutions associated with apps (e.g. Patient view -, accessories for disability and inclusion, and wearables. I have also lead some research bids in to key conditions where mobile solutions could improve clinician to patient interaction (e.g. sexually transmitted disease testing), and field diagnostic testing (e.g. i-sense).