A retail associate looks for information on a Zebra tablet
By Drew Ehlers | October 19, 2023

Searching for Answers? Your Mobile Device Could Soon “Know It All” (or At Least Help Ensure You and Your Employees Do)

Google and Zebra are pulling out all the stops around mobility (and AI and AR) so you and your employees can source the info needed to more confidently do your jobs and secure more wins. Hear what’s unfolding.

Google may be most famous for its search tools and Android mobility solutions, but I suspect the brand is going to be more synonymous with AI, cloud and even augmented reality (AR) technologies in the next few years. 


We are constantly searching for information. And when we have a question, the first thing we tend to do is pick up a mobile device to either contact a person or start scouring data sources – our email, an app or the internet – for answers. As such, mobile devices have become invaluable to us as consumers and professionals. It’s why we are always either carrying one in our hand, wearing one on our arm/wrist or mounting them in our vehicles. Regardless of the form they take, mobile devices have become our personal assistants, coaches and cheerleaders…our single source of truth. They tell us where to go, what to do and how to do things. They simultaneously stimulate our minds and give our brains a break.

However, the more we use these devices, the harder it becomes for them to keep up. That’s why Google – like Zebra – has been focused on AI, the cloud, and similar “advanced” technologies for a while. 

(Did you know Google has been using AI since 2018 to help with battery optimization?) It’s also why Google just created a formal Android Enterprise partner program and works with companies like Zebra every day to monitor and mature mobile technology. 

Together, it’s our responsibility to ensure the economy’s mobile technology dependency is sustainable. 

Plus, the truth is that mobile technology is “still on an island,” as Sean Ginevan, Head of Global Strategy and Technology Partnerships for Android Enterprise at Google, recently put it. It’s being used at the edge of business operations in many ways, but certainly not in all the ways it could or should be used, partially because the bridges to sensors and systems stationed elsewhere across the supply chain or value chain have yet to be built within businesses’ tech stacks. You may be able to automatically capture data across your owned operations, and you may find it easier than ever to analyze that data (thanks AI!). But is all that data being fully utilized?  Have you figured out how to distribute and action that data among all stakeholders so that it adds value to your business? And can you see what’s happening upstream or downstream and how it’s impacting your primary operating environment? Probably not (yet).

It's one of the great struggles of our generation. 

As technologists, problem solvers and business leaders, we have invested heavily to mature automated data capture technologies so that we can see what’s happening in the world from every angle. We’ve optimized barcode, RFID, sensor, machine vision and computer vision platforms. We’ve figured out the proper use cases for each technology, simplified solution design, deployment and management processes, and touted both the big picture and granular business insights gained as a result. But seeing what’s happening is just a stepping stone – doing something about it is what delivers results. 

Now we must think about workflows – the human experience – rather than technology. Technology is just a tool that helps people be heroes.

So, I recently sat down with Sean and Therese Van Ryne, Senior Director of External Communications for Zebra, to talk about what Google is doing (in part with Zebra) to ensure people have what they need to work in better ways. You’ll want to listen to this one all the way to the end…

We discussed…

  • How (and why) the mobility model is different than it was five years ago, and how these changes are going to impact your business capabilities in the coming months. 

  • How mobile, AI and cloud technologies are coming together in very cool ways to deliver better employee and consumer experiences. (Sean shared a great real-world story from a grocer.)

  • Several AR experiences being piloted inside and outside the four walls of different business operations and will likely go mainstream soon. (Sean also explained how Google and Zebra are working together to make sure people don’t start walking into walls or the street as they’re using AR to search for items or locations.)

  • The different roles that AI is already playing in information search and mobility experiences today, and what’s forthcoming in the next several months to help solve some major business problems you’re dealing with. (AI recently proved to be a hard-hitting solution for a major retailer, and Sean told us all about it.)

  • The AI applications that you probably aren’t paying enough attention to – and the ones you’re probably getting too hung up on.

  • Whether Google’s once-touted “highly improvisational approach to innovation” still works today, and how its team balances forward-leaning ambitions with immediate problem-solving requests. 

  • What type of collaborative innovation is occurring among Google and its partners (like Zebra) to get mobile technology “off the island” and plugged into the right systems. We also discussed what Google and Zebra are doing to unburden mobile solution development, deployment and management, as we don’t want new technology tools to make things easier for front-line and knowledge workers but harder for developers and IT professionals.

  • What we see as the next frontier in tech (and AI’s role in almost everything forthcoming).

  • Why so many companies are still struggling with business issues that could easily be solved by readily available technologies. (You might be surprised at what’s holding you back and how easy it can be to stop suffering.)


AI, Wearables, Healthcare, Handheld Mobile Computers, Warehouse and Distribution, Automation, Retail, Hospitality, Software Tools, New Ways of Working, Energy and Utilities, Partner Insight, Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics, Inside Zebra Nation, Podcast, Tablets, Field Operations, Interview, Public Sector, Banking,
Drew Ehlers
Drew Ehlers

Drew Ehlers currently serves as the Global Futurist and the Head of Global Partners. 

He previously served on the Zebra Ventures team and in several product management roles for Zebra's Chief Technology Office where he was responsible for producing advanced machine-learning models and algorithms for predictive analytics to solve critical business problems for Zebra and its partners and customers. This included emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision and blockchain. 

He currently holds contributing board positions on the Global AIM Blockchain Council and the Retail Advisory Council for Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence at Northwestern University.

Mr. Ehlers has more than 19 years of experience within the B2B technology industry and has held numerous leadership roles. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President at Gallagher Bassett and Vice President of Channel for the North America region at Zebra.

He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland College and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

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