Intel executive and telecommunications veteran Sandra Rivera continues to break barriers as she leads a global team building the first 5G wireless network to power PyeongChang 2018.
Early in her career as a Latina in the male-dominated field of telecommunications technology, Sandra Rivera often felt underestimated. Instead of getting discouraged, however, she decided to turn the situation into a positive challenge.
“I was going to be more prepared, know my customers better, know my product better, know the competition better, listen harder, understand a company’s needs and growth objectives more clearly,” Rivera said.
“If they were going to have low expectations, I was going to overachieve and blow them away.”
Rivera’s technology expertise, customer focus and determination put her at the forefront of the telecommunications industry, which was rolling out early wireless networks and supercharging communications with computing power. She’s had a front row seat as the industry evolved internet service from dial up to fixed broadband and built out wireless networks that connect billions of people around the world.
Along the way, she held tight to her Colombian roots while starting her own family and raising four children. In 2015, Working Mother magazine named her Working Mother of the Year. In 2017, she was named among the Top 10 Latina Corporate Executives of the Year by Latina Style magazine.
Now, as an Intel senior vice president and general manager of the Network Platforms Group, she’s on a quest that brings all of her talents to bear: bringing 5G wireless technology to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
As the industry targets 2020 or sooner for making 5G broadly available, Rivera and a cross-Intel team are working with other industry leaders to test 5G technologies around the world, including completed trials in Japan and Estonia.
Now she’s leading a team and working with ecosystem partners to demonstrate 5G technologies in South Korea during PyeongChang 2018.
“We’re bringing more immersive ways to experience the Olympics to spectators, whether they are attending in person or watching the event from half a world away,” said Rivera.
“And beyond the Olympics, we want to show people how technology can truly enrich their everyday lives.”
5G at the Olympics
In collaboration with KT Corporation, South Korea’s largest communications service provider, Rivera said Intel will deliver the first broad-scale 5G network to the Olympic Games. She said it will illustrate the high-performance, reliability and different ways 5G technology can be used during a dynamic, high traffic event.
Intel’s 5G team will test how different devices operate with the new network technology, which is significantly faster, and can carry more data with much lower latency than current 4G networks.
Spectators will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the event on-site via a series of 5G-powered experiences, including live 360-degree video streaming, virtual reality and augmented reality, she said. For example, spectators may view athletes and competitions from different vantages or control their own instant replay of events, ultimately making the event more personal.
Athletes, too, will have the opportunity to capture a plethora of data to improve their performance. For example, they can observe and analyze such variables as form and speed from various angles, or analyze the effect of external factors such as temperature, or snow and ice conditions.
Omni View, a live broadcast service of selected multi-objective views, will provide biometric data of players on the screen, allowing viewers to choose the broadcast angle view.
“We want to show what is possible with 5G when you have a very high bandwidth, very low latency and almost unlimited computing power,” said Rivera. “We want people to see how the future is very centered on data, and how we can turn that data into value.”
Transforming the Telecommunications Industry
Rivera has long played a role in such groundbreaking technologies.
After graduating from Penn State with a degree in electrical engineering, Rivera landed a job at Westinghouse and then Dialogic, before co-founding the startup The CTI Authority, which was later acquired by Scansource.
According to Rivera, it was an opportune time to be a part of the telecommunications industry.
“The break-up of Ma Bell in the ‘80s created a lot more competition in the market and the introduction of many new services,” said Rivera.
“Over the past two decades, the landscape in the telecommunications industry has changed dramatically — and networking now looks like a compute problem — and if it’s a compute problem, Intel is the market leader.”
Computing enables the processing of vast amounts of data, quickly and reliably, as well as the automation of many tasks.
As computing has evolved, it’s brought about tech solutions for everyday problems.
One of the most significant changes, according to Rivera, is the introduction of technologies that perform routine tasks, freeing up humans to concentrate on more creative or meaningful endeavors.
“Low-value, repetitive tasks previously performed by people have become automated and computerized,” said Rivera. “For example, something as simple as collecting tolls on the highway has become automated by technology that can read your license plates or a transponder that then bills you automatically.”
Even more profound are technologies that actually save lives.
“Think about drones and what they’re able to do in search-and-rescue missions, or a connected car that eliminates accidents caused by human error,” said Rivera. “Or think of artificial intelligence and how it enables people to find missing children through facial recognition.”
For Rivera, 5G represents the real convergence between computing and communications. She said it’s these kinds of innovations — and opportunities to bring breakthrough technologies like 5G to help more people live better lives — that make her job exciting.
Though she once felt underestimated, now more than ever she wants to encourage young people to set and beat their own expectations as they face the future.
“I tell young people, especially young women and underrepresented minorities, that it’s a time to be optimistic,” said Rivera. “As hard as it is, and it is still difficult — we need to do more in terms of inclusivity and diversity — but it is getting better.”
Rivera, who describes herself as a glass-half-full kind of person, said she believes anything is possible and all goals are within reach, especially when people work together.
“If you want to go fast,” she said, “go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”