The projects that Benigno Gonzalez oversees at Verizon are the stuff that techies and sci-fi junkies dream of. Even for “light users” of technology, the scale of connectivity that Verizon is conceiving, along with leading companies, is on the verge of reconstructing the definition of everyday interactions with the world. From driving to shopping to health care, the common denominator for change is an ever-growing mobility platform. By 2020, Verizon estimates there will be 50 billion devices connected to mobile networks in the United States.
“If you look into the future, in the next five years, the biggest drivers will be wireless with 4G LTE network and cloud services,” says Dominican Republic-born Gonzalez, vice president of global marketing and communications for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “The intersection of those two—when enterprise customers embrace the cloud—is the next big wave of innovation.”
Gonzalez, an engineer-turned-marketer with a 20-year Verizon résumé, gives Hispanic Executive a sneak peek at what’s ahead. “When you come to our innovation labs,” Gonzalez says, “you actually see a defense car or a vending machine or an MRI machine … My role is to make sure that companies see the value of our network and use it as part of their designs for new solutions and services for the public.”
Up Close & Personal
Are you a tech junkie?
I have five devices between smartphones and tablets. I enjoy being connected. Biggest pleasure is to read multiple newspapers on my tablet on Sunday morning.
What would you be doing with your life, if not this?
In my early years, I worked at the University of the Dominican Republic as associate director for the dean of engineering. (I thought I was going to be an engineering professor.) Now that I’ve done my MBA, my dream is to go back and teach marketing and business. It’s my passion; I love it.
Best thing about being bilingual?
Best thing about being bilingual? It’s not only about being bilingual; it’s about working with multiple cultures and understanding how business is conducted … Being bilingual in New York allows me to enjoy the best the city has to offer.
Do you dance? If so, what’s your favorite style?
Favorite spot in the world?
North Fork of Long Island in New York.
In the future, customers across the country will be able to scan their smartphone over an item in a department store to get instant access to real reviews, comparative prices, or “help” videos. “You will be able to walk into the store and have a glance of all the information you have in the store, just by tapping your phone in multiple locations,” Gonzalez says. The technology behind this mobile-enhanced commerce is near-field communication—the same functionality found in a security badge that one swipes to access a building, Gonzalez explains.
“If you tap the phone anywhere in a store—a pair of shoes, for example—you will not only see multiple colors, but also customer reviews and matching outfit recommendations,” he says. Customers can even tag the items that pop up on their screen, and the store’s staff will have them waiting for them at checkout.
This hyper-connected model extends to advertising. “You’re in a subway and see an ad on the wall for a product you like,” Gonzalez says. “You just tap the phone into the ad and you can order it to have it delivered to your home.”
Think beyond quick response (QR) codes (a square graphic that can be scanned with a smartphone, opening to a website). This smartphone technology will enable customers to turn their devices into electronic wallets. “You could go into Starbucks and pay for your coffee just by tapping the register,” he says.
In the US market, the average driver spends about an hour and a half commuting each day, Gonzalez says. Yet the in-car experience has not been substantially upgraded in years. “When we think about the connected car, think that not only is your car intelligent, but it can talk to other pieces in your life.”
“When we look into the future, don’t be surprised that your car will have Internet connectivity, so that you can have access to the cloud,” Gonzalez says. “You could access your music, Pandora; today you are restricted to use your radio station.” Cars could also update your status on social-networking sites.
In addition, the Verizon fleet—technicians who install communication services—use the Network Fleet Solution. “We can track how many miles are driven in a day. We have visibility to view how many times the vehicle has been left idle and not turned off, which is part of our green initiative,” he says.
By 2020, most cars will be connected, Gonzalez says.
Digital Health Care
Verizon has set out to use digital connected technology to make health care smarter. “Verizon is making a big bet on elements that we can use in our technology to affect society in a better way. The real differentiator is making sure we can connect patients with physicians and making it simple,” Gonzalez says. “Our connected network can handle the demand for sending MRIs, x-rays, and CAT scans over the Internet,” he says. These capabilities are primed to accelerate health-care communications—all using Verizon’s platforms (although patients would not have to be Verizon customers for it to work).
Americans spend roughly $3 trillion a year on health care, and that rate is rising by 5 percent annually, Gonzalez says. With remote health-care management, Verizon and its partners in this field—major hospitals and insurance firms—predict that successful health and recovery results will skyrocket. Costs are slated to decrease, too, he says.
Hospital readmission costs represent one of the greatest burdens on the medical system, Gonzalez explains. This stems from the fact that many patients fail to follow their treatment plans. “Our technology can help medical practitioners track the treatment processes and be able to articulate with the physicians and nurses back at the hospital that the process is being followed, not only so patients get better, but to trigger early warnings to avoid going back to the hospital,” he says.
Monitoring can range from blood sugar levels to blood pressure to weight—all monitored by mobile enabled devices connected to Verizon’s network—sent in real time. And medical professionals won’t be the only ones to receive alerts. “Imagine, you can see remotely if your mother is taking her insulin,” Gonzalez says. “The idea is to make sure people are being proactive in taking care of their health.”