You are here

Innovation management

At Telefónica we are committed to both traditional R&D innovation and open innovation.

R&D&i at Telefónica

Telefónica is the European telecommunications operator which invests the most in R&D, and the second largest R&D investor in the world. This was acknowledged in the latest report published by the European Commission, performed on the 2013 data.

Forward progress

We are convinced that only a commitment to innovation will achieve sustained business viability, a competitive edge and an advantageous position from which to evolve, think ahead and provide customer satisfaction.

In 2014, Telefónica submitted 27 new applications for patents and utility models through the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (Spanish initials: OEPM). Our objective is to protect our innovative activity in the markets where we operate: Europe and America. This policy has enabled us to become the leading Spanish telecommunications company in terms of the number of international patent applications made (according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation), and this year we have once again set the benchmark for private innovation in Spain.

Centres of Excellence​

Telefónica's commitment to internal innovation is channelled through Telefónica R&D, with a network of technological centres of excellence located in Barcelona, Granada, Huesca, Madrid, Valladolid, São Paulo and London.

In November 2014, we opened a new centre as part of this network in Chile. In this case it was the result of a public-private initiative in collaboration with Corfo and the Universidad del Desarrollo. The centre leads the development of new technology focused on the digital world and the Internet of Things, and will initially be applicable to smart cities and smart industries (agriculture and mining). This centre will focus on open platforms and collaborative work and research models, drawing on the results of the other Telefónica R&D centres around the world.

Some of the projects currently underway are:​

  • Collaboration with other European operators and institutions in order to participate in projects promoted by the European Union. 

  • Collaboration with Spanish and foreign universities and research centres. This has allowed us to create one of the most relevant innovation networks in the global ICT sector. Only Telefónica R&D collaborates with more than 50 universities. 

  • The organisation of competitions and hackathons all around the world. Among them, those related to Firefox OS and FI-WARE stand out.

In addition, Telefónica's User Experience Lab strives to get to know and understand customers, and work with them to define new services and design products. 

We have identified technological challenges that need to be resolved in the next few years and which will govern innovation activities in the near future. 

Noteworthy among them are the following: 

  • The limitations that current mobile networks pose to the development of the Internet of Things. In order to fully develop this concept, new networks that enable communications to be independent of the power supply will need to be created. To address this challenge, Telefónica has become a shareholder in Sigfox, a company which generates this type of technology and is working on the definition of future 5G networks.

  • These good prospects will bring with them the need for long-term projects to be addressed, since a continued effort is necessary to overcome the technological difficulties involved. Therefore, the choice of technology associates is key, as the success of this kind of venture will depend on it.

Big Social Data 

Big Data is a term which refers to the huge quantities of data that are constantly being recorded due to the digitisation of science (astronomy, physics, medicine…) and infrastructure (smart cities, financial transactions…), as well as mass use of mobile phones and other connected devices. This process in turn gives rise to what is known as Big Social Data, where the data generated is used for social causes, such as how to act in the case of natural disasters, fight the spread of epidemics, improve crime prevention, increase agricultural productivity or optimise medical diagnoses, among others.

This aggregate data makes it possible to establish behavioural patterns (social, mobility…) and predictive models, thanks to artificial intelligence, pattern discovery and machine learning techniques. The work of researchers offers valuable information to both public and private institutions, helping them to ease decision-making and orientate activities.

Our researchers analyse the large quantity of anonymous and encrypted data compiled from the traffic registers in mobile antennas, always while maintaining the anonymity and privacy of the data.

This work has principally been carried out in Latin America  – given Telefónica’s heavy presence in the region – with a view to improving decision-making processes that affect low-income communities. Although it could equally be applied to any other part of the world and to any community irrespective of resource levels, in nowhere but Latin America do over 170 million customers use our telephone networks on a daily basis. This traffic generates such vast quantities of data so as to allow us to deduce, for example, mobility patterns for entire towns; important information which at Telefónica we believe will help to bring about a major advance in improving the quality of life of the Latin American population.