Ericsson Labs fosters app development for a 'connected world'

As the largest telecom infrastructure maker in the world, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) is known for its base stations and networking gear, but the company also is home to Ericsson Labs, which operates as part of the company's research branch, and works closely with more than 15,000 application developers. Ericsson Labs doesn't make mobile applications, instead it provides application programming interface tools for developers to help them better access the wireless network and its capabilities.

Tor Bjorn Minde, head of Ericsson Labs

Tor Bjorn Minde

The facility, which is based in Sweden, was founded in 2008, and it focuses on fostering the development of apps for "connected things," which is part of the company's networked society vision.  

At the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, Spain, in February 2010, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg made headlines with his prediction that there would be 50 billion wirelessly connected devices by 2020. At the time, Vestberg said that these devices would be connected via HSPA and LTE and used for both machine-to-machine applications and consumer devices.

To help fulfill Vestberg's vision, Ericsson Labs works with developers to make APIs available to them for their applications. Tor Bjorn Minde, head of Ericsson Labs, estimates there have been thousands of apps developed using the company's APIs. These apps use iOS, Android, Symbian and other platforms as well.  

Ericsson Labs also has established the Ericsson Application Awards program, a global competition for Android developers. The winner of the contest will be announced May 22.

To narrow the field, the company also hosts several regional application award programs, such as the "Apps for Africa" competition. The winner of the award contest in Senegal, which was announced in February, was Senmobile, which created an app that is specific to the Sub-Saharan Africa region and crowd sources the price of fish at the market. The application integrates with MobileMaps and GoogleMaps making it easy to see geographic pricing.

According to Minde, the company primarily focuses on developers in regions outside the U.S. because it has found the U.S. development community to be overcrowded. "The rest of the world is a completely different story," Minde said. "We see great response from Africa and China."

Minde noted that many of the companies that Ericsson works with end up getting visibility, and that often leads to financing. "This program draws some attention to developers and they can get investment," Minde said.

Although Ericsson's vision for the connected world includes both M2M and consumer devices, Minde said that Ericsson Labs is seeing a lot of growth from developers that are focused on specific verticals, such as healthcare.

For more:
- see this Web site on Ericsson's Application Awards