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Ohad Amir of Essence Group On How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives

An Interview With David Liu

5G provides us with more bandwidth on the go. As anyone who must travel frequently for business knows, being able to stay connected at all times in all places, even in low reception or densely populated areas, is vital. If you’re a sports fan, 5G ensures you to make calls or send messages even when at a packed stadium. When on a camping trip, it keeps you connected even when in the wilderness. And perhaps most importantly, for seniors or people who are alone, 5G connectivity ensures they can get help immediately when they need it.

5G infrastructure is being installed around the world. At the same time, most people have not yet seen what 5G can offer. What exactly is 5G? How will it improve our lives? What are the concerns that need to be addressed before it is widely adopted?

In our series, called, How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives, we are talking to tech and telecom leaders who can share how 5G can impact and enhance our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ohad Amir.

Ohad Amir is Chief Technical Officer for leading IoT solutions provider Essence Group. As CTO, he is responsible for overseeing the company’s technological roadmap and introducing new innovations to Essence’s portfolio to enhance its offerings. Prior to joining Essence Group, Ohad was a hardware and software developer in an elite intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces. He graduated from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya with a BSc in Computer Science.

Ohad leads a team of researchers that constantly analyze the technology landscape with the aim of introducing cutting edge communications, AI and other developments into Essence’s portfolio. Through these day-to-day efforts, Ohad stays abreast of anything new in Wi-Fi and cellular communications advancements worldwide and is responsible for implementing these at every level of the company.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I come from a long line of engineers. My grandfather was an electrician who worked as a technician at the Hadera Paper Manufacturing Company. My father has two PhDs — in computer science and electrical engineering — and most of his brothers, my uncles, have some type of engineering degree. My brother also holds an MSc in Computer Science, so it very much runs in the family. And if further proof is needed that engineering is in our blood, my 12-year-old son says he wants to be an engineer too.

I started my electrical studies in high school and did my matriculation exams in that subject. After graduating I went on to train as a practical electrical engineer. I was inducted into the IDF Intelligence Corps where I served for five years working on various hardware and software projects. While in the IDF, I was also able to finish my graduate project for practical engineering. After completing my military service, I began working for Essence Group, where I have been for the past 16 years. Beginning as an electrical engineer and board designer, I moved on to writing code and then advanced to various management positions, culminating in my current role as CTO. During my first years at Essence, I also completed my studies at the IDC where I received my BSc in Computer Science.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

While this may not have been the official start of my career, I will never forget being around eight years old and going to my father to tell him I wanted to become an engineer. I wanted to build a circuit and for him to teach me how. So, he sat me down and explained a bit about semiconductors and together we designed an audio amplifier. It did not work very well, but I connected a speaker and a microphone to it and was able to use it. That was my very first technical project. Naturally, it provided me with a feeling of accomplishment, but more than that I treasured it because I did the project together with my dad. With him there were no shortcuts. He had me learn all the symbols, how to read an electrical diagram, and how to identify the various components. Perhaps most importantly, this first project taught me a how to begin a plan and see it through to completion.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have always loved JFK’s quote from his famous 1962 “Moon Speech” when he said: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I find that we do our best when things are challenging and firmly believe one should always overshoot and not be content to just remain in their comfort zone. Today I would change that quote to say, “Don’t just shoot for the moon, aim to go beyond the moon.” I always push my team to excel. Yes, the work is hard, and the challenges are many, but I always encourage them to push their limits.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

First and foremost, must be my father, Dr. Haim Amir, from whom I inherited my love of engineering. Next, during my military service, there were two particular soldiers assigned to mentor me, one specialized in hardware, the other in software. They nurtured me and provided me with the initial technical hands-on experience that would prove invaluable in my chosen career. I will be forever indebted to them.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

#1 — A real leader needs to inspire. And the best way is by leading by example. Don’t just ‘do as I say’, but ‘do as I do’. For example, those soldiers who mentored me in the IDF would stay up all night with me to assist and support me to ensure a project was completed in time. I have always strived to follow their example.

#2 — A leader in not a manager. There is a difference between leading and managing. In most armies the commander calls out “Charge!” In the Israeli army the commander shouts “Acharai!” — literally “Follow me!” or “After me!” It is instilled in him to lead from the front. The same applies when you want to inspire workers. A team leader should never say “After you,” it needs to be “Follow me!”

#3 — Be a good listener. I think this applies to any field. You cannot lead a team if you don’t take the time to listen to your team members.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects? How do you think that will help people?

We are constantly working on new projects designed to provide peace of mind through innovation, particularly in the area of security and personal safety. One product of note coming out this year is our new 5G-enabled mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS– an advanced panic/emergency alert button for seniors and lone workers that they can take wherever they go. It has three types of location technology built into it as well as voice capabilities. It’s meant for anyone who may need emergency response.

One of the problems seniors encountered in the past were in underground places, such as subways and trains, or in very remote (rural) areas where reception may be limited. Our solution addresses those reception problems and, through our innovation in miniaturization and power reduction, we were able to make the devices very small and easy to wear. Since these products are mainly worn by the elderly, the less cumbersome the better and our power saving technology means that batteries can run for longer than alternative devices before needing to be charged.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Like 4G, 5G has many different facets, and I’m sure many will approach this question differently. But for the benefit of our readers can you explain to us what 5G is? How is 5G different from its predecessor 4G?

The way I see it, 4G was the IP revolution for cellular communications. It’s the move from various types of connections to just IP connections, only packet switching, i.e., the transfer of small pieces (packets) of data across various networks.

These data packets allow for faster and more efficient data transfer, which made 4G the first true packet-switching network. 5G is essentially a continuation of 4G, also being a packet-switching network, but it’s far more specialized. While 4G is a general use network offering more bandwidth and greater speeds for everyday mobile device operations, such as messaging, video calling and mobile TV, 5G brings three new aspects to the table: bigger channels (to speed up data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the ability to connect many more devices simultaneously (such as sensors and smart devices).

With 5G, there is the more general-purpose network, which is similar to 4G, but ten times faster. This is what most 5G providers advertise, how fast it is. Then there are the more specialized aspects, the first being the millimeter wave (mmWave) — the extremely high frequency (EHF) band that is between 10–100 times higher than 4G. One of the main attractions of mmWave is its large bandwidth, allowing operators to meet the growing demand for high-speed data for typical deployment scenarios, such as cities, stadiums, malls, factories, and other places where data congestion is a problem.

Then there is the IoT part of the network, which addresses the simpler devices that do not require a lot of bandwidth but do need continuous connection to the internet and very good reception. Some of them, being battery operated and deployed in the field for months or even years at a time, need to consume as little power as possible. This is the segment of 5G that most interests us.

Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.

First of all, 5G provides us with more bandwidth on the go. As anyone who must travel frequently for business knows, being able to stay connected at all times in all places, even in low reception or densely populated areas, is vital. If you’re a sports fan, 5G ensures you to make calls or send messages even when at a packed stadium. When on a camping trip, it keeps you connected even when in the wilderness. And perhaps most importantly, for seniors or people who are alone, 5G connectivity ensures they can get help immediately when they need it.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?

With the power of 5G, you are always connected, whenever and wherever you are. For better or worse — you are never fully off the grid. True, some people may worry about constantly being monitored but I personally don’t buy into the whole “Big Brother” thing, or any of the other wild conspiracy theories. In my view, there are the tangible advantages of 5G technology far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

Some have raised the question that 5G might widen the digital divide and leave poor people or marginalized people behind. From your perspective, what can be done to address and correct this concern?

On the contrary, when it comes to 5G, there is tremendous opportunity to level the playing field. The push for 5G deployment and particularly increasing connectivity in rural communities across the US is getting stronger thanks to new legislative initiatives. Connectivity is the key to economic opportunity and a diverse, competitive workforce. I am all for initiatives to provide equal access to technology and advanced connectivity.

Excellent. We are nearly done. Let’s zoom out a bit and ask a more general question. Based on your experience and success, what are the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career in the telecommunication industry? (Please share a story or example for each.)

All engineers must possess a few basic traits. The first is curiosity. I was a curious child myself which led me to that first amplifier project with my father. The next three traits are all connected: attention span, patience, and diligence. Sometimes you might hit a wall with a project, so you need to be able to chip away at the problem, it takes time, and you need to be patient, diligent and not lose perspective.

While not specific to telecommunications, one more trait you must have is flexibility. Things are changing all the time. If you are unable to adapt, you won’t succeed.

This reminds me of a story from my army days. When I became a mentor to other soldiers, one of them had a major project to present the next morning. Let’s just say there were lots of complications and nothing was working right. I worked with him throughout the night and helped him get a working model ready about 10 minutes before it had to be presented. The project was not perfect, but the aspects we chose to present worked and he got a great score. I was prepared for such a challenge because my own mentors had prepared me so well back when I was in training. Now I was able to pay it forward to those under my command. The ability to stick with a project patiently and diligently while also being flexible served us both well.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could say one thing it would be don’t be superficial. Do not just look at the task ahead. Try and understand the big picture while looking at the small details.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow the Essence Group company website, LinkedIn and Twitter channels, to stay up to date on all our latest news.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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David Liu

David Liu

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication

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