De la Vega: Wearable devices are the next step in M2M market

SAN DIEGO--AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) chief Ralph de la Vega said the next step in the connected devices market will be body-monitoring systems that will allow users to track the physical state of people from firefighters to infants.

AT&T Ralph de la Vega CTIA

De la Vega

"Connected devices are being called the next big thing for mobility," de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Products, said during a keynote appearance here at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications trade show.

De la Vega said he believes one of the next major focuses of the connected devices space will be inserting body-monitoring equipment onto a variety of people. Some brief examples de la Vega outlined included a firefighter uniform that would be able to monitor firefighters' body temperature and provide alerts when that temperature reached dangerous levels. De la Vega also mentioned similar monitoring services that could track athletes' body functions or infants' bodies, providing alerts in case of trouble.

De la Vega said there are 100 million machine-to-machine connections worldwide and that the carrier's emerging devices business unit, headed by Glenn Lurie, accounts for roughly 13 million of those connections.

Indeed, connected devices represented a common theme among the separate keynote presentations from de la Vega, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) CEO Dan Mead and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) CEO Dan Hesse. All the executives discussed the advances in the connected device space to date and expressed optimism in the potential for growth.

Perhaps the most interesting example of the progress the wireless industry has made in connected devices so far came from Mead, who said there is a teenager with a compromised immune system who cannot attend school due to his illness. Mead said the teenager wirelessly controls a robot that attends his classes for him, thereby giving the teenager a view into his school life. Sadly, Mead did not provide pictures or details of this robot.

While the executives from the nation's three main wireless carriers shared space on the same stage (albeit at different times) they danced around many of the wireless industry's most pressing issues. AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile didn't generate any direct comments, nor did Verizon, AT&T and Sprint's race to LTE technology. Indeed, the event seemed relatively tame compared with previous years when the executives participated in a roundtable interview and traded sharp jabs with each other.

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