Nokia Bell Labs

Future Impossible

Branded Content

Dick Frenkiel - pioneer of the cellular network

“It’s hard to remember a world where you couldn’t just decide to speak to anyone you want, anywhere you want...”

How can you wonder about the potential of our future if you don’t first realise how incredible our world is today?

If you don’t know who Claude Shannon is. If you think texts travel via satellites, or that the phone was Alexander Graham Bell's best invention, then look no further. The ‘Future Impossible’ series explores the often-forgotten world beyond our devices and behind the internet to reveal the people who are inventing our future.

Working with the head of Bell Labs, we co-created a new suite of stories for one of this century’s most reputable innovations engines.

We spent time with Nobel Laureates, semi-retired German eccentrics and impassioned geeks who took us deep into the interiors of Bell Labs. They reveal the journeys they’re on to solve some of the hardest challenges we’ve probably never even thought of. Enlightening us as to who Claude Shannon was, guide us through our wireless world and explain how copper was saved from the scrapheap to give birth to the internet.

Peter Winzer - Optical Research Director

“Shannon is to communication what Einstein is to physics.”

Who the heck was Claude Shannon, you may ask…and what has he got to do with me? Aside from being an eccentric inventor (and a juggling unicycle rider) who died over a decade ago, he is the proclaimed Godfather of the digital age that envelops us all.

Fifty years ago he discovered a little known thing called ‘the Shannon limit’. Watch to find out just why the ‘Shannon limit’, a theory constructed in another era, is challenging the very foundations of our digital world today. Discover how a crack team of Bell Labs optical engineers are seeking to push Shannon’s limit to its absolute theoretical threshold.

The Shannon Limit
Peter Winzer - Optical Research Director

“Did you hear?...Copper is dead!”

Again and again, as digital communications have rapidly evolved, people have proclaimed that the copper network should be cast aside - that it belongs in the past.

This was the technology that enabled people on opposite sides of the world to talk to each other for the very first time. But when copper was on the verge of being assigned to the scrapheap, a small group of dreamers rescued it and gave it a new life that no one could have foreseen.

Discover the story of how two teams, working on opposite sides of the ocean to reinvigorate our copper network. They ignored the naysayers who proclaimed, “It cannot be done" and invented the H.O.P.E. machine.

The Many Lives of Copper
Peter Winzer - Optical Research Director

“Think the telephone was Bell's best invention? Think again.”

It takes a visionary to foresee that a sunbeam could carry sound. It takes incredible minds and pioneering foresight to make real the unimaginable.

The optical network is often overlooked. Hidden below the ground, this web of fibres spans the world in a way that is, to most of us, unfathomable. When Alexander Graham Bell discovered that information could be carried by light, could he have predicted just how much the future would rely on it?

In an effort to convey the sheer impressiveness of the optical network, this film takes its audience around the globe through time and space. Hear from the scientists who transformed Bell’s theories into technologies – the people harnessing light to shape our modern world and reforming it for an imagined future.

The Story of Light
Peter Winzer - Optical Research Director

“The network is the fabric of the future.”

When we say wireless communication today, we think of mobile phones and Wi-Fi. Yet wireless technology is over 100 years old: it started with Marconi and the invention of morse code.

Communication technology isn’t just happening over there in a box, underneath the ground or above our heads - it’s right in the midst of us, changing who we are and the way we interact bit by bit, every day.

We are living in the Age of Wireless and, as it turns out, the wireless story is actually about us. Bell Labs give us a hint as to what the next chapter will offer: ‘The Network of You’.

The Age of Wireless

We are often amazed by how little is known about the networks that support our modern world and the inventions that have happened in Bell Labs over the past century, enabling everything we know today. Our ambition is to have films from the ongoing ‘Future Impossible’ series viewed widely and to bring networks to the forefront, alongside our devices.

With this in mind, we have worked to organically seed these films out to journalists, magazines and blogs that would connect with the subject matter and provide a platform from which to launch them. As a result, the films have been featured in Gizmodo, Inverse and The Atlantic and have received a Vimeo Staff Pick procuring over 100,000 views across these sites.

As an ongoing series, we are working with Bell Labs to bring our distribution strategy in at the early stages of each film, discussing and exploring what a viewer outside of the science and tech realm will relate to - informing how best to tell these incredible stories.


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