5 questions with Emily Nagle Green

What happens when wireless networks become inexpensive, pervasive and big enough to carry serious amounts of data? You get a condition called “squanderable abundance,” in which innovators can play with the network and build interesting applications on top of them.

That according to Emily Nagle Green, CEO of analyst firm The Yankee Group and author of “Anywhere: How Global Connectivity is Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business.” In her book, she discusses RFID, Wi-Fi, WiMax, mobile broadband and other wireless technologies and how they are making the network accessible to a new level of innovation.

PE Week Senior Writer Alexander Haislip caught up with Green for a few quick questions.

Q: In your book, you described how Hewlett-Packard used active RFID to streamline its production facilities. What other similar success stories do you have?


An example that did not get into the book is Ekahau, which makes active RFID for miner’s helmets. My initial reaction was ‘cool it’s a safety issue’ that tells you where the miners actually are, not where we think they are. Then, in a mining incident, you’d be able to know immediately who’s behind the collapse. The more rationale was a much more mundane issue. On a day to day basis is an enormous HVAC expense. You have these huge turbines that run to ventilate the shaft. If you could actually know where the miners are in real time, you can connect that to the HVAC system and only use it where and when you need it. The financials prove themselves out pretty quickly. The only have to spin up turbines for where people really are was an immediate payback.

Q: Should we expect other types of innovative cost savings in the future from active RFID?

A: One of the major wastes of time for nurses, where they spend 40% of their time, is looking for stuff. With active RFID, the stuff can tell you where it is. It’s about collapsing the cost impact of time. Then you don’t have to go out and buy more expensive equipment. You’re using what you have efficiently.

Q: Haven’t people talked about this kind of technology for a long time?


Yeah, these aren’t new ideas. The point is that it’s only with the advent of a pervasive, affordable network to where we go from theoretical and notional to reality. Bob Metcalfe [one of the pioneers of the Internet and now a general partner at Polaris Venture Partners] told me that networks need to offer squanderable abundance. It’s not until we have the opportunity to squander something that we can find out what we really want to do with it. Nobody would have believed that YouTube would have worked until enough people had broadband. That’s one of the thesis of the book I wish I’d served up with greater clarity.

Q: Can we have ‘Anywhere’ network ubiquity if the telecommunications companies aren’t investing in their infrastructure?


The problem that they have is that there is no linear relationship between consumption and revenue. People consuming more of their product doesn’t bring them any extra money.

Q: This has been a big problem for AT&T lately as it has trouble keeping up with the data demands of iPhone users.


Their costs are going through the roof and sales aren’t keeping up. There’s definitely some change ahead in the mobile sector where the operators have to try to rationalize the pricing models they have so that there’s some kind of connection with consumption.