FSBC (the Flat Stanley Broadband Challenge)

Truly, this meets the intent of this series – to identify the most unusual places a Wi-Fi notice has been posted.


It’s a Little Harder to Buy Lion in Virginia These Days

Somewhat warily, I approach this week’s post: advising people how to advise other people how to avoid trouble.

Truthfully, I’m not offering advice – I’m not really qualified to do that.

Rather, I am just sharing an article that made me think about the common call for NTCA members to explore how they can be include or expand the “tech expert” aspect of their offerings.

Back to the wariness: at the outset of a conversation about hacking and how or whether firms can market themselves as “hacker protection,” I think about things like the North Ward Merchants Protective Cooperative. Nobody wants to be “that guy” who warns of potential (and yet preventable) harm shortly before it occurs. That tangential reference aside, the respective experiences of a small Virginia restaurant that once served lion meat and kangaroo and a Buffalo, New York, jeweler are examples of how vigilant monitoring of one’s web site can be a marketable form of cyber protection. Read more

The Streaming Music Biz is Booming

I use both Pandora and Spotify streaming music services. I listen to a very wide variety of music, depending on what I’m doing (working out music is very different from subway listening music). I really like the randomness of Pandora, where it picks the next song by guessing what I like based on what I have listened to over time. Plus, the ad-supported version is free.

So, I noticed this week when Google announced that it was buying streaming music service Songza. Now, Google already has a streaming music service of its own, Google Play Music All Access.  For now, Google plans to keep Songza independent, while it works to bring all the best features of Songza to Google Play Music.

This announcement follows a May acquisition of streaming music service Beats Music by Apple. Beats Music is separate from the Beats line of headphones.

What’s interesting about all of this is that T-Mobile recently announced that its customers can now stream all the music they want on their phone without it counting against their data caps. It’s called “Music Freedom.” Of course, not all streaming music services are supported under this initiative.

I’d love it if my carrier did this; since I started using Pandora and Spotify, I frequently get an alert from my carrier telling me that I am closing in on my data cap. However, as T-Mobile’s CEO noted in announcing “Music Freedom,” about 113 million Americans use a streaming music service (and it’s not as if this is the only “sponsored data service” out there), so I can only hope that it’s just a matter of time before other carriers jump on the bandwagon.

Glued to the Small Screen

Apparently, more and more of us are watching video in the palm of our hands: according to a new report from international research firm IDG Global Solutions, 75% of online viewers surveyed reported using a smartphone to watch online videos. That’s a 22% increase from the 61% who indicated they did so in the 2012 survey.

According to IDG’s 2014 Global Mobile Survey report, mobile is also displacing more traditional media: 50% of survey respondents use a tablet to read newspapers and 40% have replaced either their laptop or desktop with a tablet device.

New technology has allowed more people to bring their work home with them: 80% of survey respondents said that they use their tablets after hours to research business products or services.

And while mobile devices continue to generate e-commerce revenues, many consumers balk at the idea of making purchases via their smartphone. The top barriers cited by survey respondents were the lack of mobile enabled websites and security concerns.

“Mobile is disruptive–affecting how we live, shop, do business and consume media,” IDG notes. “Every minute of the day we are constantly interacting with brands at a conscious and unconscious level, and this is having a profound impact on the way that businesses are now communicating with their audience.”

Touchless Technology in the Operating Room

I’ve written a few articles in this space on video game consoles, in particular my difficulty choosing between Xbox One and PS4. One of the things I like about the Xbox One is the Microsoft Kinect feature, which can track hand gestures and respond to voice commands.

Microsoft Kinecthas the potential to contribute to something much more important than a video game console. British researchers have been testing the technology for use in vascular surgery, and the success of those initial tests has led to an effort to take it further, into neurosurgery.

When performing surgery, doctors sometimes use images (from X-rays, CT scans, etc) while in the operating room. They have the choice of having someone else manipulate the image to get a better look, or they can do it themselves. Of course, this second option may require the doctor to “re-scrub” to maintain a sterile operating environment and doing this multiple times can be a time-consuming process.

Kinect offers a better way, potentially allowing the surgeon to use voice commands and hand gestures to keep the operating environment sterile. Of course, Kinect reportedly does have some issues with recognizing voices, so the technology is not yet a perfect solution (for gamers or surgeons, for that matter), but the possibilities are fascinating.

Our Homes are Getting Smarter

According to a recently-released report by Swedish market research firm Berg Insight, there will be more than 23 million smart homes in North America by 2017. Given Berg’s estimate of approximately 3.5 million North American smart homes in 2012, this represents a compound annual growth rate in excess of 45% over the five-year period.

Berg defines “smart homes” as those including one or more connected products that work in conjunction with an app or web portal. These products fall into the general categories of energy management and climate control systems; lighting, window and appliance control systems; security and access control systems; home appliances; audio-visual and entertainment systems; and healthcare and assisted living systems.

Combined, Berg estimates that European and North American smart homes will total 36 million by 2017. Berg further estimates that revenues from shipments of home automation systems in Europe and North America will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 43%, from US$ 2.2 billion in 2012 to nearly US$ 12.8 billion in 2017.

Berg attributes much of the growth in smart homes to the emergence of a new breed of more reliable and affordable whole-home systems, relying on smartphone apps as a primary user interface. “Smartphone apps will soon be an integral part of the user experience for a number of household products,” said Lars Kurkinen, Berg’s senior analyst. “Alarm systems and thermostats are the most popular categories today, but the trend is spreading to a wide range of products as diverse as light bulbs, home appliances, wall plugs and garage doors.”

Collaboration: New England Telehealth Connects 250th Facility

A recurring theme in rural studies is a demographic adjustment that is evolving in many rural areas. This change can take many forms, including population declines in some areas; increases in others; and changing racial and/or ethnic complexions as immigration or other trends evolve. Population increases and demographic evolutions can maintain economic stability, but regions facing a net decline in population are confronted by a unique challenge. Some scholars have proposed that rural communities explore regional collaboration in order to combine strengths and balance risk. These collaborative efforts can address civic or private enterprise goals. In northern New England, a consortium of health care providers recently announced a collaborative milestone.

New England Telehealth Consortium (NETC), which secured a $24.6 million FCC Rural Health Care Pilot Award in 2007, announced last week that it has connected its 250th facility. FairPoint Communications (NSQD: FRP) which acquired certain of Verizon’s New England properties in 2007, claims a defining role in the NETC progress on the basis of the telco’s $700 million in regional network infrastructure investments since 2008. Read more

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