Seventeen years ago Roberto Saracco wrote a book preconizing the disappearance of telecommunications. According to his vision, our discipline would have soon disappeared, as asphalt did many times before. Who cares about asphalt? It is there. We leave home in the morning, and we find it’s there. Nobody would consider some effort is needed, and maybe innovation processes implemented, to ensure it will be there also tomorrow, possibly better than today.
In fact, he was right. Telecommunications soon disappeared. The best measure for that is the attractiveness of telecommunication studies. Students during the past fifteen years overlooked telecommunications studies more and more; in many Countries in Europe (in Italy this is almost dramatic) there are so few students in telecom engineering that companies need to hire young engineers from Asia. Why should they study about asphalt? It is there.
The reason stands in the fact that, after the dawn of digital mobile radio communications, thirty years ago, the progress in our discipline made the ability to communicate among people a commodity, something we live with, which nobody has to fight for. GSM since the 90’s made our life safer and provided fundamental services that in the Maslow’s pyramid reflect the human needs that are at the base (physiologic needs, and safety). On the opposite, the more recent achievements of our discipline, with the advent of smartphones and social networks, offered the fulfilment of needs that are in the upper part of the pyramid (sense of belonging, esteem).
Most of our research efforts are currently geared towards the fulfilment of “cold” needs that are far from the heart of humans, and their physiological needs (which are at the base of Maslow’s pyramid). Industry 4.0 (the fabric of the future), energy, automotive applications, which are among the main drivers of the 5G era, are far from the base of the pyramid.
On the opposite, the application of (wireless) communications to health can bring to some sort of renaissance of the interest of the society towards our scientific community, discipline and efforts. Simply because it is closer to the base of Maslow’s pyramid.
Maybe health care will be the key for the re-appearance of telecommunications?