Viodi View – 05/08/15

The Internet of Things is the next step along a path where technology is woven into our every moment and into our very being. Even the simpler things in life, like fishing, are not immune to the invasion of connected sensing and intelligence that we are seeing in formerly mundane devices. Skip to the Korner to read about an IoT fishing accessory that its maker hopes will help facilitate deeper connections between family members by making an old-time pastime even more enjoyable.

Summary of IoT Sessions at 2015 GSA Silicon Summit – Part I by Alan Weissberger

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The Internet of Things (known as “IoT” or for Cisco, Qualcomm and others “IoE”) was the driving theme throughout this superb symposium. GSA says: “the IoT is driving the expectancy for ubiquitous connectivity and universal access to data, immersive technology is changing our expectations on how we interact with the physical and virtual worlds.”  The excellent GSA summit offered two intriguing IoT sessions this year.

Click here to read part 1


The logo for the BroadbandTV Conference.
Click to learn more about the BroadbandTV Event

IoT Sessions at 2015 GSA Silicon Summit – Part II by Alan Weissberger

MEMS in mobile devices from Virtuix.
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In this second of a two-part article series, Alan Weissberger reviews the afternoon IoT session at the April 15, 2015 GSA Silicon Summit. The topic was MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) and Sensors, Shaping the Future of the IoT and featured speakers from GE Global Research, InvenSense, Atmel and Virtuix. This conference points to the future – a future where, according to one of the speakers, “Our new machines will augment human desires…immortality, omniscience, telepathy and teleportation.”

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16 Million Reasons to Challenge CAF

An image from rural Missouri where a fiber optic cable runs parallel to a dirt road.
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With this headline, “Connect America Fund Offers Carriers Nearly $1.7 Billion to Expand Broadband to Over 8.5 Million Rural Americans,” a dispute over $16M would seem like a rounding error. It is a rounding error, unless you are in a place that can’t receive broadband. Making it even worse is if the $16M is to fund areas that not only already have broadband, but that have fiber to the home (FTTH), gigabit-capable broadband.

Click here to view and read more.


Technology Facilitates Outside Plant Construction – Part 1

Brian Nordtvedt talks about the technology for engineering OSP Services
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It is the construction of the network that is sometimes the biggest barrier to realizing FTTH. Fortunately, technology, such as GPS, is helping outside plant engineers be more efficient in the design process. In part one of a two-part interview, Brian Nordtvedt of FARR Technologies discusses some of the techniques he and his crew use to help their clients build FTTH networks.

Click here to view.


One Step to a New Age of Mobility

Peter Dempster of DriveNow describes their unique car-sharing service.
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“A free-floating car-sharing service…it is a total hack of the car-sharing model,” is how Peter Dempster describes DriveNow. Dempster, Business Development and Sales Manager for DriveNow, Gmbh, KG, goes on to explain that DriveNow allows one to pick up and drop off cars in different places, keep the car as long as they wish, while paying by the minute ($12 for the first 30 $0.32/minute thereafter)¹. It turns out, the DriveNow service can be very affordable, compared to alternatives, as, for instance, taking DriveNow from the San Francisco Airport to Union Square would typically $12, as compared to approximately $60 via taxi.

Click here to view and read more.


Bandwidth is the Important Thing

A screenshot capture of ITS Fiber's Cloud University.
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In this interview filmed at IP Possibilities, Jeff Leslie of ITS Fiber suggests that providing businesses superior speed and quality bandwidth leads is a foundation that can lead to new services. Leslie talks about how ITS Fiber has used that bandwidth to become a supplier of IT services to local businesses. He also talks about the importance of defining the scope of the services, so that the customer has clear expectations of what is included in a given project.

Click here to view.


The Korner – The Internet of Fishing Things

An image of the Deeper Fishfinder app.
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The Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener began yesterday and represents the start of the summer tourism season. As its name would suggest, a big part of this event is about Minnesota fishing and opening of fishing season. It is fitting that the above video, about a high-tech way to catch fish, made its debut on the ViodiTV channel at the 2015 Minnesota Telecom Alliance’s Annual Convention and Conference.

Although Friday Lab, the developer of the Deeper Fishfinder, is based in Lithuania, the problems it solves is universal. As Friday Lab co-founder/CMO, Rolandas Sereika, explains, their device floats on the water and uses Sonar to detect the location of fish and Bluetooth to communicate information to a smart phone app. He describes how they have recently enhanced their app to provide additional data for ice fishing.

Given that the MN Governor’s Fishing Opener falls on Mother’s Day weekend, the Deeper Fish Finder could be a great present for the mother who likes to fish. And their excellent YouTube video describes the fishing experience as  much deeper than what appears at the surface (the video is reminiscent of the iconic Harry Chapin song about a father-son relationship).

Summary of IoT Sessions at 2015 GSA Silicon Summit – Part I

Introduction:

This two-part article series summarizes the highlights, key points, and take-aways from the IoT tracks at the excellent GSA Silicon Summit, held April 15, 2015 at the Computer History Museum in Mt View, CA.

The Internet of Things (known as “IoT” or for Cisco, Qualcomm and others “IoE”) was the driving theme throughout this superb symposium. GSA says: “the IoT is driving the expectancy for ubiquitous connectivity and universal access to data, immersive technology is changing our expectations on how we interact with the physical and virtual worlds.”

The excellent GSA summit offered two intriguing IoT sessions this year. We review the morning IoT session in this article. Part II will summarize the afternoon IoT session.

The IoT and the Hyper-connected World:

  • Gregg Bartlett, SVP, Product Management Group, GLOBALFOUNDRIES
  • James Stansberry, SVP and GM, IoT Products, Silicon Labs
  • Rahul Patel, SVP and GM, Wireless Connectivity, Broadcom
  • Dr. Martin Scott, SVP and GM, Cryptography Research Division, Rambus

In the leadoff presentation, Gregg Bartlett opined that silicon technology will be an enabler of IoT innovation at the edge node. Areas to be improved include: reduced power consumption, cost, complexity, integration with other components, and security.

Gregg noted that the IoT already exists in many diverse market segments, such as: energy, home automation, healthcare, and factories. He said “the IoT demands continuation of Moore’s law” and offered a processing method called “fully depleted silicon on insulator” (ED-SOI) technology. Bartlett believes that ED-SOI could lead to breakthroughs in power, cost, and integration. “It’s ideal for IoT,” he added.


James Stanberry identified three critical issues for IoT in his talk titled Engineering the IoT:

  • Energy efficiency IoT device uses only 10% of the power of a cell phone yet must operate for 5 to 10 years
  • Connectivity- including WiFi (perhaps a low power version), Zigbee, BlueTooth, Thread (IP v6 addressable end nodes), 3G/LTE cellular, and proprietary wireless. 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and sub-GHz frequencies will all be used. (There’s also PoE and low cost Ethernet in connected cars)
  • Level of integration- an IoT SoC might include: multi-protocol radios, MCU, sensor interface, energy management, non-volatile memory (NVM) and mixed signal control.

Stanberry said we should expect many IoT technology advancements in 2015, including:

  • Dramatic reductions in energy consumption
  • Low power connectivity as standards gain traction, and
  • Introduction of IoT SoCs (this author believes that there will be many types of IoT SoCs, perhaps optimized for industry vertical markets)

Rahul Patel talked about Connecting Everything in Health Care, a vertical market where this author sees tremendous potential and power. Rahul defined three primary IoT markets:

  • Consumer
  • Industrial
  • Health care/medical

Medical includes: Clinical Health, Telemedicine, Biometric, Medical Devices, etc. Patel said that VC funding for connected health increased over 400% in the last four years. Please refer to the chart below.
Growth of medical devices in recent years.Notice that the leading segment for Connected Health VC funding has been big data/analytics and Rahul said that’s likely to continue in the future. He said that the intersection of IoT and big data/analytics would create new opportunities, citing body borne sensors and computing coupled with big data/analytics in the cloud (via software running on a compute server in a cloud resident data center).

IoT device requirements identified were:

  • Data/network security, encryption, authentication
  • Reliable, consistent across operations
  • Interoperability across open standards based devices (this includes minimal protocol stacks as well as the PHY/MAC for connectivity)
  • Compliance with regulatory bodies such as the FDA, NIC, FCC, FTC, etc.

Broadcom aims to be a major IoT player- not just at the end node, but also with analytics and “app ready” software (presumably for the cloud). Their emphasis, of course, will be on connectivity which Rahul said “will drive innovation like never before.” He cited security, reliability, standards driven, and regulatory compliance as key areas for innovation.

Summing up, Rahul said that:

  • The IoT value proposition (presumably for Broadcom) lies in data and wireless connectivity
  • Opportunities will inspire new technologies and business models
  • Creates a new paradigm, “Healthcare in a connected world”
The elements in the IoT end-to-end system.
The elements in the IoT end-to-end system.

During the Question and Answer portion of the panel, Rahul said that the key silicon issue for IoT is the integration of CMOS Non-Volatile Memory (NOT Flash!) with RF functionality. When asked why not Flash, he said, “it doesn’t scale to the small geometries needed for IoT.


Dr. Martin Scott’s talk was titled: Secure Root-of-Trust- Feature Management Provides Foundational Security for the IoT.

Dr. Scott says we don’t even have to wait for the 50B+ connected devices in 2020 to be aware of the huge IoT security problem, which is evident today in unprecedented security breaches at all levels: Data Center, network and “edge,” as well as device “end points.”

Martin noted that all endpoints are not created equal. “Obviously, a refrigerator isn’t analogous to critical national infrastructure such as a power grid or pumping station. Nevertheless, the security of any complex system is defined by its weakest link,” he explained. “Imagine if someone gained unauthorized access to a home WiFi network via a smart refrigerator or washing machine. Once on the network, an attacker could theoretically assume control of a wide range of sensitive devices and systems, including pacemakers, insulin pumps and even connected cars.”

Security at the endpoint should be of paramount concern to IoT device makers, systems integrators and users. If a system relies on software, says Scott, it is inherently hackable. In contrast, a hardware-based approach, such as one offered by Rambus’ CryptoManager, is one of the most secure ways to protect sensitive keys, data and infrastructure.

Of the three levels of security depicted in the graphic below, the highest level is silicon-based security integrated into the IoT endpoint device (as Intel and Freescale claim they’re also doing).

Different approaches to secure IoT endpoints.
Different approaches to secure IoT endpoints.

Dr. Scott made some very important statements regarding the importance of good IoT security:

“It’s important for us to address the inevitable security vulnerabilities that go along with the rapid deployment of smart edge nodes and sensors. According to IDC, 90% of all IT networks will have an IoT-based security breach within two years. To make matters worse, there is fresh motivation for those seeking IoT-related vulnerabilities…”

“Money, greed and the desire for power are some of the usual suspects, although there are also people who are interested in exploiting security vulnerabilities and causing national harm as a way to express an ideology. The good news? Silicon, in the form of a hardware-based root-of-trust, can go a long way in helping to secure the IoT.”

Dr Scott concluded with a very informative slide depicting security in silicon:

The foundation of trusted services is Silicon.

About GSA:

The Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) is the voice of the global semiconductor industry with nearly 400 member companies throughout 32 countries and representing over 75% of the industry revenues. GSA provides a neutral environment for semiconductor executives to meet and collaborate on ways to improve efficiencies and address industry wide topics and concerns.

Stay tuned for Part II –MEMS and Sensors, Shaping the Future of the IoT.

Viodi View – 11/17/14

“The past is to learn from, not to live in.” – Everett Christensen, author of 73 Magic Management Words +2, as well as owner of the Independent broadband provider, Christensen Communications. The past couple of weeks there have been ample opportunities for me to look at the past. It’s easy to only see the positive in the past and anticipate the negative in the future. As Christensen points out, one should use the wisdom of experience to shape the future.


Autonomous Vehicles Parallel Broadband – Find a New Audience and Be a Rock Star

Graph showing evolution of the vehicle in the digital age.
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A lesson learned many years ago is that one way to look like a “rock star” is to speak to a group that doesn’t know much about your topic. In my case, a talk I gave in June 1993 regarding cable modems to telephone and fiber optic engineers was so well received, one of the audience members practically gave a standing ovation (OK, he was standing when he made his glowing comments about the technology). It wasn’t like I had ground-breaking knowledge; it was just new to this particular audience*.

Click here to read why the autonomous car has me feeling like its 1993 again.


Smartly Connecting Rural Cooperatives

CTC truck at one of their equipment offices.
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On the surface, the Smart Rural Community® Showcase Award from NTCA is about how an operator mixes bandwidth and technology to create new opportunities for their community. The award is more than these elements, however, as it is also a reflection of the operator’s initiative and their “smarts” to continue to find ways to make their communities relevant within and beyond their service territory borders. CTC of Brainerd, MN is a great example of a company that continually bucks the status quo and was recently awarded for its efforts with an NTCA Smart Rural Community® Showcase Award.

Click here to view and read more.


Moving the Cheese to a Smart Rural Community

Kurt Gruendling of WCVT displays the Smart Rural Community road sign symbolizing the award his company received from NTCA at their 2014 Fall Conference.
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Who moved the cheese? It was Cabot Cheese as they recently moved their administration and marketing office to the service territory of Waitsfield Champlain Vermont Telephone. WCVT’s fiber infrastructure was a key element for Cabot Cheese’ move to Waitsfield, VT. Similar to many rural operators, Cabot Cheese is a cooperative consisting 1,200 family farms in New York and New England with dairy facilities in multiple states.

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Close Caption Challenges for the Independent Producer

An example of a close caption on a video hosted on YouTube .
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A recent FCC Memorandum Opinion and Order provides insight into the operations of and highlights the challenges for independent video producers. It also serves as a warning for any independent producer, no matter their size, that they need to understand the close captions requirements for the distribution media (e.g. TV, Internet, etc.) where their content will appear. It took eight years for the FCC to recognize the burden of close captions on one independent producer from the heartland.

Click here to read more.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts

  • “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” Great quote from Metaswitch’s Steve Gleave on his Telco Americana blog. He has a very enlightening interview with Paul Bunyan’s Director of Marketing, Brian Bissonette, who is a bit of a local celebrity (Go BSU Beavers!). It has been fun to see how Paul Bunyan has expanded and evolved over the last two decades and this excellent interview provides valuable insight into how it was done and how local people make a difference.
  • A Google mapping set-up at career day in Silicon Valley.
    Google Mapping

    Only in #SiliconValley do people from #GoogleMaps & #iTunes present @ middle school career day #Bigactstofollow

  • It will be interesting to see if the rooftop thermal energy storage/cooling described at this link is pratical for data center use. As pointed out, the model is reminiscent of the Canadian one where hot water heaters are owned by the utility and used as a store of energy.
  • Michael Powell’s column on “Why the @FCC should focus on broadband competition, not heavy regulation, in the @ocregister
  • What’s so progressive about using laws written 80 years ago? More later…..

The Korner – From Motorcycles to Smart Lightbulbs – CES Video Opportunities for Broadband Providers

The “Korner” typically features topics that are tangential to the rest of the Viodi View coverage. I used to think International CES coverage was tangential, but last year, when I crossed paths with someone who had purchased brain wave sensing ears based on a ViodiTV video, it hit me that some of this content might be useful for operators’ local content needs. The exact details are still being determined, but this is a heads up if you are interested in a crowdsource-type program for the 2015 CES coverage, whereby independent operators could acquire original content for their local channel. Email me for more information. In the meantime, here are a couple of fun videos from CES 2014.

The Motorcycle for Everyone

A Can Am motorcycle at Pepcom's pre 2014 International CES event.
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Motorcycles are fun for those with a thirst for a bit of adventure. Unfortunately, the skill required to ride them makes them out of reach for many. Can-Am solves this skill challenge by adding a second wheel on the front of the motorcycle. In addition to the stable ride created by this third-leg, the Can-Am has many of the advanced connectivity one now expects in an automobile. Check out this video from CES, where Can-Am spokesperson, Erica Swerdlow, points out they have kept the fun in riding motorcycles, while making them accessible for those who would otherwise stay in their cars.

Click here to view.

Visions of Uncle Fester – A Light Bulb with a Memory

A lightbulb with a built-in battery that stays on, even when the AC fails.
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Imagine a lightbulb that stays on when power is interrupted? Well, that’s what Charlotte entrepreneur of the year, Shaliendra Suman, not only imagined, but put into action with a Kick Starter campaign that funded the development and production of the SmartCharge LED lightbulb. A built-in battery, coupled with intelligence to detect the position of a lightswitch, allows this energy-efficient LED lightbulb to stay illuminated for up to 4 hours without power. As importantly, one can turn it off, even when the power is out, through use of the same light switch that would be used when there is power.

Click here to view.

Autonomous Vehicles Parallel Broadband

Find a New Audience and Be a Rock Star

Book cover for NFOEC 1993
NFOEC 1993

A lesson learned many years ago is that one way to look like a “rock star” is to speak to a group that doesn’t know much about your topic. In my case, a talk I gave in June 1993 regarding cable modems to telephone and fiber optic engineers was so well received, one of the audience members practically gave a standing ovation (OK, he was standing when he made his glowing comments about the technology). It wasn’t like I had ground-breaking knowledge; it was just new to this particular audience*.

About a year later, I was fortunate to speak on the topic of Fiber to the Home and how wide-scale implementation wouldn’t really happen until at least 13 years later. I mention these examples, as the autonomous vehicle seems to have many parallels with broadband. Further, it feels like the autonomous vehicle is at a similar point to where the nascent broadband and Fiber to the Home technologies were 20 years ago.

Autonomous Vehicles Parallel Broadband

Autonomous vehicles are packet-like and rely on sensors and external signals to determine the optimum route. This is similar to Internet Protocol over broadband where packets of data flow from one point to another and the route is dynamic and optimized based on the given conditions. In contrast, and at the other extreme of transport alternatives, rail is akin to previous generation Time Division Multiplexed communications systems, where there are certain time slots (train cars) for payload (data) that is confined to fixed routes. Like trains, TDM wasn’t the most efficient for many use-cases, as it didn’t accommodate shifting traffic patterns.

Along these lines, transportation engineer Paul Godsmark, writing in the Institute of Traffic Engineers blog, warns city planners that they need to closely examine large investments in fixed rail infrastructure, particularly in lightly travelled areas.

“And LRT [Light Rail Transit]? Again the principle of high density corridors ensures the continuing need for LRT, but the lower-ridership peripheral routes may need review as to their continued viability. What is of concern to the fiscally minded, is whether the operational, business and revenue models for proposed LRT lines or extensions are sufficiently robust for their plans and designs to continue being designed from within the existing paradigm. When the large capital costs of LRT construction is taken into account, and the operational subsidy that most service require, an autonomous taxi alternative, funded by the private sector, may begin to look a very attractive alternative.”

Another parallel from the broadband world is the idea of a service instead of an ownership model. That is, autonomous vehicles could enable widespread “Transport as a Service”, as modeled here,. To date, transport as a service has meant public transportation, which has typically been an inconvenient “TDM” approach where the rider has to go to a transit stop, adhere to the schedule of the transit system and take a route that might not get them to their destination. The autonomous vehicle approach promises the potential of on-demand, door-to-door delivery (although as pointed out here, there will most likely be different tiers of service – another similarity to broadband).
Just like broadband, there are going to be challenges that have to be overcome in order for autonomous vehicles to become a mass-market product. At various points in time, broadband faced issues with things such as:
  • infrastructure – very little cable plant was two-way and telephone plant didn’t support high-speed very well 20 years ago (it could be argued that the infrastructure challenges were greater for broadband as compared to what will be required for autonomous vehicles –  broadband has essentially required a rebuilding of the entire physical cable TV and telephone outside plant).
  • operations – for instance, to scale to mass deployment, cable and telcos had to develop automated provisioning systems.
  • customer demand – initially, there weren’t applications, particularly video apps like Netflix, that compelled people to spend extra for a high-speed, always-on connection.
As technology evolves there will be periods where it will be over-hyped . If the predictions I cited in my paper 20 years ago had come true, today’s cable and telephone company landscape would be clearly different. Similarly, many of today’s predictions as to when and how autonomous vehicles will rollout will be inaccurate. This will lead to the periods of deflated expectations. There will be the critics who suggest there are seemingly insurmountable challenges that won’t be overcome.
In the meantime, there will be the engineers, product managers and manufacturers who learn from the challenges and continually and quietly improve the technology (both cable modem and FTTH technology have undergone multiple major revisions in the last 20 years). There will also be the business people who figure out ways to package this new technology to make it desired by and practical for the consumer.

The Future May Seem Far, But It Is Relatively Near

Graph showing evolution of the vehicle in the digital age.
Image courtesy of Michael Robinson and Ed

And, like broadband, once the autonomous vehicle is introduced into the market, it will take time to reach a sizable penetration. It has been about 16 years since the commercial introduction of broadband in the U.S. By 2000, about seven years after my  talk on one way of enabling broadband, only 3% of the U.S. population had high-speed Internet. Three years later, the penetration had jumped to about 16% and had crossed the chasm from early adopter to early majority. With a sizable market, broadband-specific applications were developed  (e.g. Netflix streaming), making broadband attractive to the late majority and laggards and about 80% of the U.S. population now has some form of broadband.

To paraphrase baseball player/philosopher Yogi Berra, this feels like déjà vu all over again. We have been here about 20 years ago. If autonomous vehicles take the same path, then 15% penetration in 10 to 15 years seems reasonable. And Michael Robinson’s prediction that the steering wheel might be outlawed by the year 2040 seems in the realm of possibility.
The point is that city planners and politicians need to account for these changes as they make decisions today on big-ticket transportation projects, as well as large-scale development projects that will be impacted by the autonomous vehicle in the coming decades.

  • Unfortunately, my white paper co-authors Bill Brotherton and Richard Murphy, who were the real brain-power behind the paper, weren’t with me on stage.

Google’s Actions Hurt Broadband Rollout, Particularly in Rural America

Lack of relevant content, affordability and digital literacy are the three dominant barriers to the adoption of broadband, according to the World Bank Broadband Strategies Toolkit. The Google Apps Partner Edition™ platform addresses these barriers as it is a relatively low-cost, email/communications/productivity/device management platform. The Google platform has become a platform trusted by tens of millions to manage the cyber aspects of their businesses and their lives, including this publication which has used variations of it since late 2006.

A recent decision by Google that unilaterally changes the way it deals with ISP partnerships jeopardizes that trust, while putting up new barriers to broadband and have some suggesting that Google’s actions are at the heart of the issues that have been brought forward in the Senate Judiciary Committee Net Neutrality hearings. Assuming the ISPs can continue with some variation of the existing program, the approximate ten times cost increase cost makes cable programming price hikes trivial by comparison.

A Brilliant Partnership Strategy

An ISP brochure featuring the benefits of Google Apps.
An ISP brochure featuring the benefits of Google Apps Partner Edition.

To help drive adoption of its platform, Google engaged ISPs and Communications Service Providers, many of which are non-profit, member-owned entities, to be value-added resellers of their Google Apps platform. These operators transitioned their customers from self-hosted or third-party email solutions to the Google Apps platform.

This approach of working with local partners allowed Google to focus on creating and keeping the platform relevant, as indicated in this post from this 2007 Google Blog post by Google product manager, Hunter Middleton:

“From the beginning, we envisioned making Google Apps available to any organization that might want to offer this innovative set of services to its employees, customers, students, members, or any other associates of the organization. Today, we’re excited to take another step in that direction by releasing a version of Google Apps specifically designed for ISPs, portals, and other service providers, whether you have a few thousand subscribers or over a million. This new version, which we’re calling the Partner Edition, makes it easy for large and small service providers to offer your subscribers the latest versions of powerful tools, like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets, without having to worry about hosting, updating, or maintaining any of the services yourself. All you have to do is point and click in the easy admin control panel and figure out what branding you’d like to layer on top of the products in order to create a customized look and feel. You can quit spending your resources and time on applications like webmail — and leave the work to our busy bees at the Googleplex.”

And the strategy worked, as hundreds of ISPs, representing what some estimate to be approximately one million subscribers signed up. By being able to private label the service, the ISPs could offer their customers state-of-the-art, ad-free email, contacts, chat, calendars, online documents, photos and more at an affordable price without having to maintain a costly infrastructure. BEVCOMM”s CEO Bill Eckles stated how it made a difference to his company and  community:

 “BEVCOMM has been using their [Google’s] platform through a 3rd party integrator for a couple of years.  We switched from managing our email platform in-house to Google’s platform because of their reputation for being incredibly reliable.  As a very small company we simply didn’t have the resources to manage a platform ourselves with the reliability people demand from email.”

With Google focusing on software, the ISP’s could focus on educating customers on how to use the many features inherent in the Google Apps products. These customers included not only residential, but schools and small businesses who appreciated the assistance that only an operator with local presence can provide. These ISPs essentially serve as the local, outsourced IT staff, freeing up resources of the small businesses to focus on their services and products.

In an email exchange, Kurt Gruendling, VP of Marketing for WCVT, a family owned, Vermont rural communications company explained how he and his colleague taught classes to more than 1,000 customers:

“I’m a big advocate for the platform and I think the Google Apps platform is very powerful and have spent a considerable amount of time teaching “Google School” classes to our customers many of whom would have never used Google Apps.  We have taught over 50 on site classes and webinars throughout our territory over the past 18 months with more than 1,000 customers attending and leading them to the value of the core services in the platform that go way beyond mail.”

Kurt Gruendling teaching how to use Google Apps to rural customers
Kurt Gruendling teaching rural customers how to use Google Apps.

In addition to its investment in marketing and training, the ISP pays Google for the ongoing cost to maintain the service. The costs are variable, which is a benefit to the ISP, as they don’t have to make large upfront investments in servers and software. This allows the ISP to focus on providing higher-speed and more reliable bandwidth to their customers by bringing fiber deeper into the last-mile network, which is important for the cloud-based, Google Apps platform. Ironically, many of these rural operators deployed Fiber to the Home (FTTH) bef ore Google’s move into that business in certain urban markets, such as Kansas City, Austin and Provo.

For those operators that were too small to deal directly with Google, at least two Google Apps Partner Edition™ integrators emerged to help; Ikano and NeoNova, a subsidiary of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. These aggregators not only helped the operators, but they helped get the word out about the Google Apps Partner Edition™ and aggressively marketed it and successfully signed up ISPs throughout the country, such  as the aforementioned WCVT

10X Increase in Cost – If You Can Get It

Things were going swimmingly for the operators and their customers, then, in early 2014, operators found out that Google has plans to significantly alter its relationship with ISPs in 2015. This was a surprise and is causing operators to scramble to come up with alternative solutions. The solutions aren’t going to be simple or inexpensive, however.

One person commenting with a Google Forum suggested that he sees the following alternatives as summarized below:

  1. Audit our email accounts to reduce the number as much as possible. Migrate the accounts to Google Apps for Business, which would be about 10 times the cost [from $0.35 to approx. $3-$4 per month that this operator is currently paying Google] per email account. Pass this cost on to consumers and prepare for a backlash.
  2. Migrate to another solution

Based on comments from operators both in private exchanges with this author and on the aforementioned Google Forum, it is unclear whether Google Apps for Business will even be available to all ISPs.

The increased cost cited above actually is much higher on a per household basis, as the costs are on a per email account basis, so the cost to the ISP for a typical residential broadband account with 5 included email accounts would jump to $16.50 per month.

The other alternative is to switch providers. There are rumblings that some providers are looking at alternatives, such as Atmail (which interestingly just opened a U.S. office), [added 10/16/14] Hyperoffice, Microsoft Office 365, [Added 10/17/14] OX, Zimbra or Zoho. Still, there are concerns about the migration and, as WCVT’s Gruendling points out, it isn’t clear whether all of a customers “paid for” content will successfully transition, as there isn’t a one-for-one replacement for Google’s excellent product.

“There is a date when Google will delete end-user data, including documents, pictures, videos and paid-for content.”

An ISP promoting Google Apps with a prominent place on their web site.
An ISP prominently promoting Google Apps on its web site.

In addition to the higher direct ongoing costs that, in the end, will be passed on to the consumer, there will also be the costs associated with making the transition. One forum commenter suggesting it could take 1 to 2 staff to focus on the transition. This is a real opportunity cost for operators with a small staffs and it means they have fewer resources for helping customers and building their broadband networks.

Bill Eckles, CEO of MN-based, rural telecommunications provider, BEVCOMM, suggested that experience suggests the transition will be challenging:

“Now that Google has decided they don’t want to maintain this program we are going to be forced to move all of our customers. The markets BEVCOMM serves are generally more rural and less affluent than [those served by] larger companies.  Every time we switch email platforms it is a major undertaking trying to support our customers through the move.  The last time we switched platforms 3,000 email customers opted to switch to another option not offered by BEVCOMM.”

It will be a hassle for the consumers, as it will mean reconfiguration of mail clients on PCs, phones and tablets. Special care will be necessary for the ISP’s business customers who are dealing with confidential information and regulatory compliance issues (e.g. HIPAA).

And since this transition includes documents, photos and paid-for content, it will be even more complex than the transition that the ISPs made to move their existing email systems to Google’s platforms. And many of these providers are still recovering from that move, which, for some, occurred less than a year ago.

Google – Rural America Is Calling

In a letter to Senator Leahy, WCVT characterized this as an issue of rural/urban and big/small and that the conversation will cause a multi-million dollar support issue that will affect the operators, as well as Google.

Bill Eckles of Bevcomm reinforced WCVT’s comments when he stated in an email:

“Switching email platforms is a major disruption for our customers, who really at the end of the day are Google’s customers. As far as I know Google didn’t even bother asking for input from any of the companies who are offering their email.  This experience has really shown Google doesn’t seem to care about rural consumers.”

A WCVT service vehicle in rural Vermont about to cover a historic covered bridge.
A WCVT service vehicle in rural Vermont about to cover a historic covered bridge.

One of the big frustrations for the ISPs is that they haven’t been given a reason the program, which these  ISPs want to keep, is being unilaterally changed by Google. They have made suggestions for compromise solutions, but have been unable to discuss with any of the Google staff responsible for the offering.

This action also seemingly runs counter to Google’s initiatives to make broadband ubiquitous, as its ISP partners are deploying Fiber to the Home in rural markets where Google will not be able to reach with its last-mile, fiber network.

WCVT, in its letter to Senator Leahy, provides a voice to its rural ISP brethren with its desire to meet with Google.

“We are requesting a meeting with Google decision-makers with authority and vision to establish a reasonable course of action. We need the chance, on behalf of our consumers, to sit down and discuss the impacts of this decision and to seek to work with Google to find alternative solutions rather than just having the plug pulled on us.”

These providers want to work with Google and one service provider holds out hope that those who came to rely on Google to provide critical content for their broadband networks will be able to come up with a solution that works for all parties:

“There has to be a better solution. We are committed to working with Google and hope that they don’t turn their back on rural America.”

[Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, Google has not yet provided an official response to this article, explaining why they changed the Google Apps Partner Edition™ program.]

[Added 03/25/15 & 10/16/14] Links to exclusive ViodiTV interviews with operators discussing the impact of Google’s actions on their operations and their customers:

Catherine Moyer, GM of Pioneer Communications, discussing their use of Google Apps at the 2014 NTCA Fall Conference.
Donnie Miller explains how Pioneer Telephone was blindsided by Google.
Catherine Moyer, GM of Pioneer Communications, discussing their use of Google Apps at the 2014 NTCA Fall Conference.
Catherine Moyer, GM of Pioneer Communications, discusses the impact of Google’s actions.
Kurt Gruendling of WCVT displays the Smart Rural Community road sign symbolizing the award his company received from NTCA at their 2014 Fall Conference.
Kurt Gruendling, WCVT VP of Marketing and Business Development discusses impact of Google’s actions.

Viodi View – 07/24/14

Managed Broadband TV – A Decade Old Overnight Success

This is an example of what a possible TV user interface might look like as envisioned in the Viodi authored, June 2003, Streaming TV Whitepaper.
Click to Read More.

It’s always fun to see industry friends face-to-face and last week’s NTCA Southeast Regional Meeting in Savannah, GA was the perfect venue for catching up with folks I hadn’t seen in a while. It was an honor to moderate a tech talk panel on the topic of video services. This video summarizes the opening comments I made and set a baseline for the presentations that followed from Mark Chambers of NRTC and Bob Saunders of Skitter.

Click here to watch the video and read more.


Building a Bigger Box

A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.
Click to Read More

Growth was definitely the vibe of this week’s NTCA’s Southeast Regional meeting in Savannah. Operators and vendors provided examples and ideas for how to generate new revenue through the introduction of new products and services that complement the broadband infrastructure. Although one of the panels referenced the idea of “out-of-the-box” thinking, it is clear that operators want to build a bigger box by complement their broadband offering with services that help their customers and result in new revenue.

Click here to read more.


“Rural America Is a Big Part of America” #Summit21

A picture of a waterfall in Warren, VT.
Click to View

It’s one thing to talk about or even see pictures of rural America, but it doesn’t compare to experiencing it first hand. Last April at the ACA 2014 Convention, I had a chance to catch up with the lone Representative from the very rural state of Vermont. Interspersed in the above interview with Representative (D-VT) Peter Welch are some images captured from my brief visit to Vermont from a couple weeks ago. The images reinforce Welch’s points about the unique nature of rural America.

Click here to view and read more.


How Cable Began – The Rest of the Story #Summit 21

It is often difficult to receive over-the-air television broadcasts in the mountains.
Click to View

The following video interview captures the spirit of the folks who built a new industry decades ago. Most people in the telecom industry are probably aware that the cable industry sprung to life in rural areas that were too isolated to receive off-the-air broadcast signals. No doubt, many have heard about the guy with an appliance shop that was attempting to sell TVs and had to figure out a way to bring the signal from an antenna on top of a mountain to display the wonders of television to prospective customers.

Unfortunately, Viodi won’t be able to cover next week’s Independent Show in Kansas City celebrating the NCTC’s 30th anniversary, but the above video is an example of the many stories that could be told by long-time attendees to that event.

Click here to view and read more.


Looking at the Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on How We Live

The sign that greeted attendees to the Autonomous Vehicle Workshop.
Click to View

“It’s time to think about the built environment,” said Shannon McDonald, an architect and Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. McDonald was referring to the impact that autonomous vehicles will have on the design of streets, buildings and associated infrastructure. She indicates that this is an important and timely discussion to have, as she compares autonomous mobility to the rapid changes to cities and the explosion in suburbs that resulted from the introduction of the car 100 years ago. She is in an expert in that transition, as she literally wrote the book on one aspect; parking and how it changed cities.

Click here to read more and to view the video.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • BYOB – Bring Your Own Brain – if this works as shown, it will be an affordable personal #robot
  • As follow-up to my interview with Carissa, this just released reel describes her new TV show that helps independent operators teach customers tech.

The Korner – The Solar Window Awning & Shade

Ken Pyle interviews Joseph Hui of Monarch regarding their solar solutions.
Click to View

Joseph Hui is on a world-changing mission; to help people live a comfortable and renewable lifestyle. This Arizona State University professor wants to help solve big problems, such as access to clean water, climate control, healthy food, information and transportation. Hui’s company, Monarch Power, is his vehicle for tackling these weighty challenges.

At International CES 2014, Monarch demonstrated some relatively low-cost solar power solutions; think less than $1 to $2 per Watt versus $5 per watt for a typical roof-mount system. Monarch takes a system approach to lowering the cost of technology to make it economically practical. As an example, in addition to providing shade, the Monarch window awning, shown in the above video, also generates solar electric power (280W) and heats water.

Click here to view and read more about how to use the hot summer sun to lower energy bills.

Building a Bigger Box

Managed Broadband TV a Hot Topic

A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.
A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.

Growth was definitely the vibe of this week’s NTCA’s Southeast Regional meeting in Savannah. Operators and vendors provided examples and ideas for how to generate new revenue through the introduction of new products and services that complement the broadband infrastructure. Although one of the panels referenced the idea of “out-of-the-box” thinking, it is clear that operators want to build a bigger box by complement their broadband offering with services that help their customers and result in new revenue.

Video has always been a challenge and some operators and vendors demonstrated some out-of-box thinking in marrying web technologies with local expertise to come up with offerings that provide a win-win for the rural consumer, content providers and the operators’ efforts to promulgate broadband. NeoNova and Skitter discussed and demonstrated their solutions, while Star Communications explained why, even though they already are a provider of CATV and IPTV, they see Managed Broadband TV as a way to expand their video reach.

Local Management and People Are the Key to Making Broadband Relevant

Understanding the unique needs of customers is one of the advantages that local operators have, compared to conglomerates where management decisions are often made thousands of miles from the customer and/or the decisions that are made not tailored to a particular locale. Jimmy Blevins, CEO of SkyLine Membership Corporation provided several examples of how local knowledge can create broadband demand.

He and his staff noticed that people with second homes weren’t signing up for telecommunications’ services and were presumably bringing their wireless devices from their first homes to fulfill their telecommunications’ needs.

As they dug into it, Blevins and his staff found that people still wanted the reliability and speed of a terrestrial network, but they only wanted to pay for the network when they were at their respective get-away homes. SkyLine came up with what they call a “Weekender Plan” that provides a lower cost ($15 for 12 Mb/s solution with options for phone and unlimited long-distance) for those who are at their homes only on the weekends.

Unique Broadband Solution for Students in Low Income Households

Blevins described a unique way to reach low-income households without subsidies or devaluing their existing broadband plans. The local school superintendent had come to Blevins with the challenge of reaching students from low-income households who had been given tablets by the school district, but couldn’t do their home work on them because their families couldn’t afford broadband.

SkyLine and the school district devised a low-cost, monthly broadband plan, whereby SkyLine routes Internet traffic through the School’s Internet connection. This is an off-peak time for the school district, so it doesn’t add to its costs. At the same time, this technique lowers the cost of connecting to the Internet for SkyLine, which they can pass on to the low-income household.

The Video Exchange – A Dream Realized

Local content is a proven driver for broadband and video services. The challenge is producing content on a consistent and ongoing basis. As Jimmy Blevins suggested,

“It’s easy to produce several hours of local TV sports programming each week, but what do you do the rest of the time?”

A screenshot of thevideoexchange.com website.
A screenshot of thevideoexchange.com website.

SkyLine saw this challenge as an opportunity to help not only its own community, but the community of independent operators.  SkyLine has developed thevideoexchange.com. In a nutshell, this is exactly the sort of content exchange that has been promoted in various forms on these virtual pages for the past decade. They have done an impressive job with this web portal which allows content producers to upload and sell their content to local channels.

The objective of the video exchange  is to help an operator program their local content channel with content that complements what the operator is already producing and airing. The exchange collects the content, stores associated metadata and serves as the clearinghouse between sellers and buyers. With a fee of 15%, it is very affordable.

The fact that it was started by an independent operator to address their long-term need is an indication that they are in this for the long-term. Look for ViodiTV content to be on the site in the near-future.

[Note, there are four more chances to check out one of NTCA’s excellent regional meetings this summer and fall, including next week in Denver. For the full schedule, click here.]

The Autonomous Vehicle and What It Means

Editor’s Note:

An automobile industry executive and subject matter expert, who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote the article that follows this preface. It is in response to my June 2nd article that speculated on Google’s long-term plans for the autonomous vehicle. This article provides additional insight into the AV market with some excellent references, while having some more fun imagining the type of vehicles we may see in the future.

Graph showing evolution of the vehicle in the digital age.
Image courtesy of Michael Robinson and ED Design

This article also introduces images from ED Design’s Michael Robinson, a Hall of Fame vehicle designer and leader in “Experiential Design”. He is at the forefront of determining what autonomous vehicles (whether on wheels, rails or wings) will look like and their impact on society. He wants to ensure that, in addition to achieving a safety goal of zero accidents, the autonomous vehicle doesn’t kill the love affair people have had with their cars (check out the presentation he gave to the Passenger Experience Conference in April of this year).

More importantly, he wants the autonomous vehicle to be an extension of the future digital home; an environment that stimulates emotions and thoughts and not one that is simply a mobile couch potato transporter. As he points out, removing the steering wheel changes everything as far as vehicle design and he even suggests a scenario where regulators outlaw steering wheels and driver-less cars are mandatory in 2040 (coincidentally, the same year as my story takes place).

It is important for broadband providers to stay abreast of the direction of the AV market and the thinking of visionaries like Robinson and the anonymous author of the following article, as this mobile Internet of Things, known as autonomous vehicles, will have an impact on broadband networks at some level. Broadband providers will either find new opportunities in this arena or let the Googles of the world grab the opportunity.


The Autonomous Vehicle and What It Means by Anonymous Contributor from the Automobile Industry

Ever since the Google Car made its debut in May, we have been inundated with articles on the autonomous vehicle (AV), for good or for bad.

An image showing how swarms of insects and birds as an analogy for what autonomous vehicles will do in the future.
Image courtesy of Michael Robinson and ED Design

The fact of the matter is that the AV is here to stay. This is most definitely confirmed by Carlos Ghosn in his address to the French Automobile Club on Tuesday, June 3. Mr. Ghosn lauded the UN’s accomplishment of successfully pushing through an amendment to Article 8 of the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic which allows for AV driving if, and only if, AV “systems can be overridden or switched off by the driver.” In his address he stated that “the problem isn’t technology, it’s legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around … and especially who is responsible once there is no longer anyone inside.”

Knowing that the AV is not going away, governments have begun addressing the AV legal framework, such as California in the United States. More recently, UK Science Minister David Willets has called for a change in UK road laws to accommodate the AV. Therefore, if governments are using monetary resources to develop legal frameworks, then the AV is not a passing fad, but a paradigm shift in the way we will live and view transportation for the next one-hundred years.

With that said, what the AV means to our way of life is very simple. The automobile will no longer be viewed as a status symbol because most people will not own automobiles. Instead, the AV will be looked at as a service. We will reserve our AVs through reservation service providers based on the litmus test of Time, Place, and Occasion (TPO). For example, I have made a short list of AVs which could be available based on a TPO for Yokohama, Japan:

  • No Thrills (Basic AV to get you to/from Points A and B. Has reclining sofa chairs and relaxing music and images so you can sleep well during the commute. Imagine going to work in an Enya video.)
  • Shopping Mall (Large Size AV with security compartments for valuables. Great for people who enjoy shopping at different stores but who don’t want the worry of getting anything stolen.)
  • Family Trip (For families who want to go somewhere for a weekend or holiday. Has essentials for short trips, such as refrigerator, food storage, Internet, DVD, and Radio.)
  • Work Commute (For people working during their commute. Has all the desk essentials, TV Conferencing Equipment, plus coffee maker, tea pot, toaster, and breakfast, lunch, or dinner foods)
  • Business Meeting (Same as Work Commute but a larger size AV arranged in boardroom style)
  • Car Pool (Same as Work Commute but a larger size AV so people have room to work and not disturb one another. Great for people working in the same office building or business area.)
  • Image showing what a vehicle might look like without a steering wheel.
    Image courtesy of Michael Robinson and ED Design

    Tea Time (The tea time AV could come in three sizes: S, M, L. It would be like a restaurant booth equipped with all the tea time essentials, such as water, pot, cakes, sandwiches, scones, and a variety of tea and coffee. For those traveling in Yokohama’s China Town, it could be equipped for Chinese tea time.)

  • Game Center (Japanese love to play video games. This AV could come in three sizes: S, M, L)
  • Karaoke Kar (A Karaoke AV complete with its own Karaoke system and beverages. For those at the legal drinking age, it would come with alcohol.)

And for the #1 Japanese AV……

  • LOVE MOTEL (Yep, You got it! A Japanese-style love hotel on wheels. Equipped with a waterbed and all the love hotel essentials. Need I say More.)

Congressional leaders ask FCC to Streamline Wireless Broadband Infrastructure Deployments

On May 29th, House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to streamline the approval process for upgrading existing wireless facilities.  The letter asks Mr. Wheeler for clarification of Section 6409(a) – the spectrum provisions of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.  That section was intended to speed the approval of eligible requests for new wireless broadband facilities.

“We urge you to take swift action to clarify the terms of Section 6409(a) consistent with the intent of the statute to deliver the benefits of wireless broadband access to all Americans. To ensure that 6409(a) achieves its goal of streamlining the approval of eligible facilities requests the commission should adopt rules that provide consistency for applicants and reviewing authorities alike.”

Note: Section 6409(a) of the aforementioned act states that “a State or local government may not deny, and shall approve, any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.”

The two congressional leaders also expressed the urgency for the commission to identify ways to foster broadband infrastructure deployment.

“Facilitating both the deployment of small cells for targeted capacity and the use of temporary towers for short, sharp spikes in usage are part and parcel to meeting national broadband goals. Both are important tools for providing the robust service upon which consumers, businesses, and public safety rely.”

Comment:

We think the Congressmen are right on the mark with their requests.  New FCC rules and procedures are urgently needed to get wireless broadband deployed in more of the US, especially in rural areas that are currently un-served or under-served.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai in a speech last week at the Infrastructure Association’s annual conference echoed the concerns of the Congressmen:

“Regulations can make it tough to deploy infrastructure,” Pai said, lamenting that state and local municipalities decisions are often governed by antiquated one-size-fits-all rules and laws.

Referring to Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and small-cell deployments, Pai said:

“These systems are barely visible, and they hardly impact the surrounding environment” and in a reference to a Bob Dylan ballad, “neither DAS nor small cells belong on Maggie’s Farm no more.”

Viodi View – 05/27/14

Beware of the Unseen Competitor was a title of an article written many years ago that warned broadband operators of the rise of competitors from completely different market sectors. Of course, it is the Internet and the intelligence of the things that helps turn products into mere features and brings in competition from seemingly disparate industries. In the Korner below, there is an example of this sort of disruptive development that could signal a revolution in the transport industry.


FCC Net Neutrality Proposal Stirs Up Controversy- Reclassify or Not? by Alan Weissberger

An image of Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC,.
FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler (image courtesy of FCC.gov)

On May 15th the FCC Commissioners narrowly voted to approve a framework for rules that would create an Internet fast lane, while trying to patch up the loopholes that would make that fast lane possible. The proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would ban broadband providers from blocking or slowing down websites, but leaves the door open for them to strike deals with content companies for preferential treatment, or fast lanes to customers.

Click here to read the rest of Weissberger’s article and add to the lively discussion that follows.


Cable Show 2014 Musings

The following are some observations from and reactions to the recent 2014 Cable Show.

A picture of the Comcast booth at the Cable Show 2014
Click to read more
  • Impressive Demos
  • Open Up DNS, Comcast
  • Is it a Revolution or More of the Same
  • Freedom to Be Creative
  • Tap a WiFi Hot Spot
  • 4K, 4K, 4K
  • Stay Tuned

Click here to read more.


The Name Says It All

Ken Pyle with Steve Weed of Wave Broadband at the ACA Summit 2014
Click to view

CBO (Community Broadband Operator) might be a better term to describe operators traditionally described as CATV (Community Antenna TeleVision). The vision of Steve Weed, CEO of Wave Broadband, and his team has become reality as they now have more broadband customers than video subscribers. With that context, he looks forward to the day, in the not-too-distance future, when a new form of Over-the-Top video provider – a virtual MSOs (Multichannel System Operators) – ride over Wave Broadband pipes, giving consumers more choice in video packages and bringing more value to the broadband connection.

Click here to read more and view.


An Incremental Approach to SDN/NFV

Ken Pyle interviews Andy Randall of Metaswitch
Click to View

“All the intelligence and all the value is moving into software in the cloud,” said Andy Randall, GM Networking Business Unit & SVP Corp Development of Metaswitch. Randall talks about the transition to using commodity hardware with software defining how that hardware is used. Ultimately, a software-based approach will allow for operators to be more nimble in responding to customer and market demands.

Click here to view.


Are the Internet of Things (IoT) & Internet of Everything (IoE) the Same Thing? by Alan Weissberger

An image of an Internet Connected Water shut-off valve is shown.
Click to read more.

For quite some time, Cisco and Qualcomm have used the term Internet of Everything (IoE) to describe what almost everyone else refers to as the Internet of Things (IoT). McKinsey Global Institute’s Disruptive Technologies report calls out the Internet of Things (IoT) as a top disruptive technology trend that will have an impact of as much as $6 Trillion on the world economy by 2025 with 50 billion connected devices!

Click here to read more.


TiECON Flash: U.S. Dept of Commerce & TiE in Partnership to Promote Exports by Alan Weissberger

TiE Silicon Valley President Venk Shukla kicked off TiECon (The Indus Entrepreneurs annual conference) by stating that “wealth creation through entrepreneurship” was TiE’s principal mission (or reason for being).  Also, that TiE was “deeply ingrained in Silicon Valley” through its members (over 11,000 from over 50 countries) which are at start-ups, established companies, VCs and private equity firms. The surprising announcement at TiECon is that the U.S. Dept of Commerce and TiE have entered a partnership to promote TiE U.S. member companies products and/or services that are sold abroad.

Click here to read more.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • One step down, two to go. Big thanks to the city for bringing San Jose one step closer to getting 
  • Live demo of a voice to calendar feature that took about 8 hours development at #mforum14Wow!
  • Using Amazon Web Services as a virtual lab to test 20M circuits. 1/60th cost. Great idea. #mforum14

The Korner – The Software Driven Car

A picture of an electric vehicle from LIT Motors at CES 2014.
Click to view and read more

As simple and as safe as a car combined with the benefits of a motorcycle is what LIT Motors promises with its C-1 electric vehicle. With a projected range of almost 200 miles, a top speed of over 100 miles per hour and anticipated pricing in the mid-20 thousands (before tax credits), the C-1 (working name) has potential to be a game-changer for transportation in urban areas.

The real revolution, however, may be in the way this company has done so much to turn one man’s vision into reality a relatively small investment (measured in the millions) and short amount of time. A handful of people created the prototype on display at CES. They are set up more as a Web 2.0 company, than an automobile company, as evidenced by their use of crowd-funding (for their $6,000, electric cargo scooter,Kubo), use of social media and direct relationship with the end customers.

And although they still have to set up manufacturing for mass-production, their relatively small investment gives them the flexibility to try new business models (e.g. think licensing, maybe open sourcing, etc.) that allow others to manufacturer and even market their vehicle designs. The interesting thing is that a brand that would license such a vehicle might not even be from the automobile space.

Click here to read more and view the video.