The Internet of Sheep

Sometimes, a blog post nearly writes itself. Not this week. I did bump into the current eighth grade class of my former Ohio elementary school, here in DC for their annual Washington trip (a trip I took during the zenith of K-car era). But to have written a paean to small town experiences (I knew one of the chaperones, and during the round of introductions one of the girls revealed that she babysits for my niece’s children) would have been somewhat repetitive — I think I took that road a few months ago in another post.

There is no shortage of telecom news in DC these days — net neutrality, e-rate, the placement on the FCC’s December 11 meeting agenda a Universal Service Fund/CAF item. But, a lot of that is covered in the trade press already, and even a scan of my usual “go to” sources for tech news were dry. Maybe with Thanksgiving on the horizon, it’s a slow news week.

And then comes the Wall Street Journal to the rescue. With an article about a “socially conscious” sweater manufacturer that is sourcing wool from a 143-year old sheep and cattle ranch in Oregon. Read more

All Creatures Great and Small

Shelby, scouting for squirrels.

Shelby, scouting for squirrels.

On this, the occasion of my 100th New Edge post, I hope you’ll indulge me as I share with you a true story that happened very recently.

The furriest member of our family is Shelby, a 3-1/2 year old, 65 pound Golden doodle. She loves people and most other dogs, and is astonishingly cute. In fact, it is that very cuteness that allows her to get away with so much mischief around our house.

Shelby’s least endearing habit is her penchant for eating non-food items, mostly my youngest son’s athletic gear. The foul odor emanating from his gear is undoubtedly what draws Shelby to it. And when I say eat, I mean just that—she doesn’t chew on, or shred his smelly equipment, she swallows it on down whole.

We’ve been pretty lucky up until now in that all of the items Shelby has ingested have eventually returned. (I will spare you, kind reader, the gory details.) Though we’ve had to replace more of my son’s stuff than we otherwise would have had to, we have managed to avoid any major medical complications. Read more

The Future of Luggage?

I don’t mind airline travel, much. My airline travels are almost exclusively to see NTCA members at state association meetings – we drive on family vacations – and I enjoy getting out of the office and meeting new people and visiting with old friends and industry contacts. I also get to see a lot of rural America, something I might not otherwise get to do. But what I hate about airline travel is the increased use of carry-on luggage, caused by airlines’ increased use of checked baggage fees. Getting all the carry-ons put away takes forever, and it seems to me this is the reason for most airline delays.

So, while looking for some research data on this, I came across this article. (Yes, this is how many of my New Edge ideas are generated: accidentally.) I also came across one of the items mentioned below when browsing a “crowdsourcing” website, Indiegogo. This and sites like Kickstarter are great places to see what types of new products may be on the horizon or are just the dream of a person struggling to get financing. Read more

Wireless Symposium at CES Offers Unique Overview for Rural Carriers   

Wireless services, including those based on both licensed and unlicensed spectrum (such as Wi-Fi), have a profound effect on the telecommunications marketplace. Therefore, even carriers that do not provide traditional fixed or mobile wireless services have a stake in the wireless sector. The annual Wireless Symposium & WiExpo, jointly produced by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association and the Rural Wireless Association, takes place January 4–6, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nev. The event explores all aspects of wireless services, offerings and technologies, and examines how they influence rural carriers’ businesses. The event is colocated with the 2015International CES®, which expects 150,000 attendees and more than 3,200 exhibitors showcasing the latest high-tech innovations coming to consumers.

The Wireless Symposium will cover topics such as the transition to an all-IP environment, the economic impacts of wireless services, upcoming spectrum auctions, and new business and technology developments—to name just a few. It will also feature TJ Kennedy, acting general manager of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), who will discuss the role of small carriers in the public safety network. The symposium’s WiExpo will feature the latest products and services offered by a variety of vendors that can help carriers maximize revenue while bringing new products and services to the communities they serve.

Wireless Symposium attendees who register by December 1 will receive a complimentary CES badge. The Wireless Symposium will be held at the Tropicana Las Vegas. The room block is available until December 14. Register today to ensure that you’ll receive your complimentary CES badge.

Leaf Raking and Net Neutrality

spin_prod_220169901I have a Craftsman combination lawn vacuum/leaf blower which features a safety switch that kills the engine if a shield is not deployed. It is a fairly rudimentary affair: both the collection bag and side discharge chute feature a metal plate that complete a circuit when attached, allowing the engine to run. If either is not installed (leaving access to the whirling leaf and stick chipping blades open), the engine stops.

I thought about this yesterday when I was raking (or, blowing, or vacuuming) leaves; I only know about the design element because a lawnmower repairman showed me how to jump the circuit when we were trying to repair an older model that I owned. And, with 20 or so years between that model and the one I now own, I began thinking about spare parts availability and how when something is designed right from the outset, the life-cycle of spare parts is extended because the useful lifespan of any particular component is extended. Or, stated differently, how getting it right the first time can make a difference in the long term.

The Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, is a study in how technological advancement may have outstripped a statute. But, it is also a study in how careful drafting can accommodate then-unforeseen circumstances. Whether applying interconnection frameworks to IP networks or universal service ideals to emerging platforms, the principles can often provide more guidance than their specific derivative rules. Read more

Sony Unveils PlayStation-Based TV Service

Sony last week announced its long-anticipated online TV service, which the company hopes will pose a formidable challenge to cable and satellite providers.

Dubbed PlayStation Vue, the service initially will offer approximately 75 channels. These will reportedly include CBS, NBC and FOX, as well as USA, FX, Discovery, MTV, the Food Network, Bravo and Comedy Central. Conspicuously absent are ABC’s networks (including the Disney Channel and ESPN) and Time Warner’s channels (which include HBO).

The service initially will be delivered through Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 game consoles.

While a specific price point has not been publicly announced, it is speculated that PlayStation Vue will cost approximately $60 per month, with no long-term commitment. This price point would make it extremely competitive with cable and satellite service.

“Everyday TV is about to become extraordinary,” Sony Computer Entertainment Group CEO Andrew House said in a statement. “PlayStation Vue reinvents the traditional viewing experience so your programming effortlessly finds you, enabling you to watch much more of what you want and search a lot less.”

Sony plans to offer the service to selected beta testers in the New York area, before expanding to testers in other major markets. PlayStation Vue is expected to be widely available in early 2015.

Crowdsourcing Apps

This weekend I came across this article on crowdsourcing apps. It has some great examples of such apps and also points to an early example of the crowdsourcing of data.

As the article notes, the Oxford English Dictionary is possibly the earliest known example of the crowdsourcing of data. In the mid-19th century, the authors issued a public call for volunteers to send in words and usage examples. The dictionary’s authors received about six million submissions from the public.

As for more modern examples of the crowdsourcing of data with technology, my favorite example in the article is an app called Rainforest Connection. Rainforest Connection is an organization that uses recycled cellphones to combat illegal rainforest logging. They do this by connecting phones to small solar power cells, mounting them in trees, and using the phones to listen to the sounds of the forest. When they hear the distinctive sounds of a chainsaw, forest rangers are alerted. This article discusses all of the negative implications of illegal logging, if you’re interested.

I also love this one: Stereopublic, “Crowdsourcing Quiet.” This app has users go to a specific spot in their city and record the noise (or lack of noise, as may be the case) and send it to Stereopublic. The crowdsourced data creates a map of how noisy various sections of your city are. I love living in a major urban area with lots to do and lots of shopping and dining in proximity to my house, but at night I need some quiet. I can imagine using this when my wife and I start looking for a new house.

These are just a few examples of the crowdsourcing data apps in the article, but they show how technology and the data it can deliver to us can make a real difference in our lives, and even in keeping our planet healthy.

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