Arlene Harris (inventor)

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This article is about the innovator. For the actress, see Arlene Harris.
Arlene Harris
Born Arlene Joy Harris[1]
(1948-06-06) June 6, 1948 (age 68)
Los Angeles, California, USA
Residence Del Mar, California USA
Nationality American
Occupation Entrepreneur
Employer Dyna LLC.
Known for Founder of Dyna LLC.
Founder of Wrethink
Founder of GreatCall
Jitterbug cellular creator
First wireless health application
First prepaid cellular
First cellular activation system
First niche cellular offering
Co-founder Wireless History Foundation
Title Founder and CEO of Dyna LLC.
Board member of GreatCall
Wireless History Foundation
Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design (ID)
Illinois Institute of Technology Stuart School of Business
Spouse(s) Martin Cooper (m. 1991)

Arlene Joy Harris (born June 6, 1948), also known as the "First Lady of Wireless,"[2][3][4][5] is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, investor and policy advocate. She has become associated with innovation in mobile services and systems technology and later, wireless consumer products and services. Harris started and built several companies, pioneered many of the early cellular industry standards and holds numerous issued wireless communications patents.[5] In May, 2007 she won industry-wide acclaim as the first woman inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame.

Harris is co-founder and CEO of Dyna LLC,[6] in Del Mar, California, where she works with husband and business partner Martin Cooper, a former Motorola Vice-President and Division Manager who developed and introduced the first handheld cellular mobile phone in 1973.[3][4] She is founder and currently incubating a company called wrethink;[7] a company focusing on delivering effortless user experience to the family.

Early life[edit]

Harris was born in Los Angeles, California. She began her career at the age of 12 as a mobile telephone switchboard operator for her family's business, Industrial Communications Systems Inc., (ICS) (sold to Metromedia in 1983, now USA Mobile) in Los Angeles, California.[8] In 1969, Harris left ICS for a formative stint with Air Canada and Continental Airlines helping to scale their business operations in preparation for the new wide bodied airplanes. She returned to ICS three years later.

In 1981, under her guidance, ICS developed the first wireless consumer healthcare application called "Life Page," a program that provided pagers to organ transplant recipients. She later promoted and expanded the program to the National Trade Association for independent wireless operators Telocator, that later became the Personal Communications Industry Association.[5]

ICS created state-of-the-art communication and, under Harris' direction, became the largest single city paging system in the world.[5] Most notably, ICS was among the first of any category of business to create online computer systems to manage the company's business subscriber offering. While selling directly to businesses ICS also supported the first wholesale wireless service in history, starting in 1972. The wholesale model promoted substantial growth and shareholder value for ICS, its suppliers, and its partners. Because of the success of ICS's wholesale strategy in bolstering the opportunities for partners and service adoption by new users, their resale concept was mandated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the original cellular spectrum allocations in 1982.


In 1983 Harris co-founded Cellular Business Systems Inc. (CBSI),[9] (sold to Cincinnati Bell, now Convergys) where she guided the development of the leading billing/CRM service bureau in the early cellular industry.[2] She personally specified and directed the development of the first automated cellular service activation systems now used globally in retail locations to remotely and instantly activate cellular phones.[citation needed] While at CBSI Harris served as one of three FCC committee members challenged to develop intersystem roaming protocols. The committee was established to create the methods by which cellular companies enable and bill customers who visited their networks. The committee's work resulted in the Cellular Inter-carrier Billing Exchange Record (CIBER) used throughout the cellular industry.[citation needed]

In 1986 Harris launched Dyna LLC in Chicago, Illinois, and later relocated to Del Mar, California, as a home base to incubate and spin out new ideas and help young companies.[9] Here, she continues to advocate for consumer interests involving design simplicity, accessibility, as well as inclusive regulatory policies and workplace diversity in technology to assure maximum opportunity and a growing proliferation of technology enabled products and services that improve life.[citation needed]

Harris founded the software company Subscriber Computing, Inc.[2] (merged with Corsair, now CyberSource) in 1986; her team built and delivered systems to the largest paging companies in the world and provided the first converged billing systems for cellular and the Internet to global leaders, including British Telecom and Hutchinson.[citation needed] In 1988, she innovated and led the Company's implementation of the first communications methods used to support access to cellular services by low and no credit consumers. The concept became known as "prepaid" cellular service and has grown to become one of the primary forms of subscriber relationship and payments in the cellular industry.[citation needed] She used some of the same techniques to innovate systems used to prevent the fraudulent use of cellular phones.[citation needed]

In 1986, Harris founded Cellular Pay Phone, Inc. (CPPI) where she developed her first patented invention, the first program-controlled end-to-end management system (created with OKI Electronics and Motorola). This offering made CPPI the first niche cellular reseller in history to create a special cellular phone and a tightly integrated system to support cellular with automated payments by credit card.[10]

Founded by Harris in 1994 and under her guidance,[citation needed] SOS Wireless Communications developed the first consumer oriented reseller of cellular service designed especially for safety. Like the payphone business SOS developed a custom phone and service for making outgoing calls for urgent communications. SOS customers were primarily older Americans who adopted cellular service to keep them safe while on the road.[10]

Harris acquired cellular carrier Accessible Wireless in 2001 to provide a home carrier service for offerings targeting typically low usage applications. Accessible and SOS both supported the founding of Harris' next company GreatCall in 2005.[4][11]

GreatCall is the first complete end-to-end value-added service provider in the cellular industry to focus on simplicity with primary emphasis on baby boomers and senior citizens. It was at GreatCall that Harris innovated and led the development of the Jitterbug phone[12] in partnership with Samsung to create a simple and personalized cell phone experience that anyone, regardless of technological "know-how," could use and enjoy.[13][14][15] The Jitterbug and service earned top honors as one of New York Times top 10 greatest technology ideas of 2006 (as judged by David Pogue),[16] as a finalist in Yahoo's "Last Gadget Standing" competition at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2007 and as Reader's Digest "Top 100 Products." Additionally, GreatCall won the wireless industry's coveted Andrew Seybold Choice Award for "Best New Company" at CTIA in 2007 and the American Society on Aging's Award for "Best Small Business in 2008."[3]

Honor and affiliations[edit]

  • 1985 - Founding member of the FCC/TIA committee on cellular roaming
  • 1987 - Fellow in the Radio Club of America
  • 2000 - Personal Communications Industry Association (PCIA) Chairman's Award
  • 2004–Present - Serves on the Board of Overseers for the Illinois Institute of Technology Stuart School of Business and the Board of Directors for the IIT Institute of Design.
  • May 2007 - First female inductee into the Wireless Hall of Fame; a joint effort of RCR Wireless News and Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA)
  • 2008 - Founded the Wireless History Foundation. The Foundation's mission is to educate and enlighten about wireless' rich history by providing access to consumers, researchers, enterprise and government entities.
  • October 2008 - Named a Fierce Wireless "Top U.S. Wireless Innovator of All Time."[9]
  • May 2008 - ATHENA Pinnacle Award recognizing prominent executives and companies in San Diego that support, encourage and advance high-level opportunities for women.
  • October 2008 - Harris and Jitterbug recipient of the Stevie Award for "Best Overall Company of the Year - Service Business" and "Technology Innovator of the Year." The Stevie Awards for women in business honor women executives, entrepreneurs and the companies they run, worldwide.


  1. ^ "Arlene Joy Harris, Born 06/06/1948 in California -". 
  2. ^ a b c "Jitterbug: the anti-MVNO",, June 15, 2007
  3. ^ a b c "The First Lady of Wireless Built Mobile startup to Send Message of Simplicity", Xconomy, San Diego, March 13, 2009
  4. ^ a b c "One Trick Pony",, January 17, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d Wireless Hall of Fame – Arlene Harris, RCR Wireless, May 26, 2007
  6. ^ "Dyna LLC - Technology: Insightful, Innovative, Relevant". 
  7. ^ "wrethink - Family Technology From A Different Point Of View". 
  8. ^ Only Connect, New York Times - Style Magazine, September 28, 2008
  9. ^ a b c Arlene Harris - Top US Wireless Inventors of All Time, October 2008
  10. ^ a b Enterprising Women of Wireless, Wireless Week, February 28, 2000
  11. ^ Jitterbug: Mobile Entertainment Tech for mHealth, Mobihealthnews, February 6, 2009
  12. ^ Gadgets we Crave. Time for Simplicity,, August 8, 2008
  13. ^ Jitterbug Says, Can You Hear Me Now?, New York Times, August 26, 2009
  14. ^ A Cell Phone for Baby Boomers, Businessweek, May 29, 2007
  15. ^ Nana Technology, CNN Money, November, 2007
  16. ^ Brilliant Ideas that Found a Welcome, New York Times, December 28, 2006

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