We celebrate National Inventors’ Day today to mark the anniversary of the birth of one of the most prolific inventors of all time, Thomas Edison, the recipient of more than 1,000 patents in the United States. In the more than 135 years since Edison invented and patented the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb, we’ve marveled at a number of life-changing technological advancements—and the mobile revolution is certainly among the most significant. At Qualcomm, we are astounded by the profound impact inventors can have on society.
Consumer adoption of 3G and 4G standards has outpaced all other technologies, with nearly 3 billion connections today and an expected 8 billion connections by 2020. While the proliferation of mobile technology occurred in a brief span of time—just over 30 years—and smartphones have become ubiquitous, we often fail to appreciate the significant risks and investments that went into the research that supported this rapid growth. Just as Edison spent countless hours toiling in his “invention factory,” a research lab he built in Menlo Park, the inventors of today who will make the Internet of Things (IoT) a reality—many of them here at Qualcomm—are investing significant time and resources to bring their ideas to life.
Mobile devices connect billions of people around the world, yet new possibilities for growth and innovation are constantly evolving. The Internet of Things provides a glimpse into the limitless potential of mobile, as we move from connecting people to connecting an ecosystem of objects and devices. In fact, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicted in a 2015 study that the IoT market will rival the smartphone industry with revenue in the trillions and more than 50 billion connected devices.
At Qualcomm, we have worked for more than 30 years to seamlessly connect people and objects around the world. From the first mobile Internet connection to the creation of the first mobile app store, we were able to evolve from a small group of inventors into a company with tens of thousands of employees as a result of licensing of our intellectual property and investing the resulting revenue in R&D. Since our incorporation in 1985, we’ve invested more than $38.3 billion in R&D thanks to robust intellectual property rights and a strong patent system.
To honor Edison on this day, we should ensure the inventors of today and tomorrow have the resources they need to invest significant resources in the R&D needed to turn their game-changing ideas into reality. Strong IP rights are a critical piece of this equation. As we move toward the next generation of connectivity through the IoT revolution—consisting of a connected ecosystem of homes, cars and infrastructure—we need to maintain the policies that enabled the connectivity we have grown accustomed to, knowing the future growth of the mobile ecosystem depends on this. By protecting patents and recognizing the critical role they play in driving invention, we will help ensure a brighter, more innovative future.