Be Smart and Learn About The Smart Home at BroadbandVision 

The “Smart Home” idea got a little more interesting this past week. Samsung announced the purchase of SmartThings, a company that makes an app that “turns your smartphone into a remote to control all of the smart devices in your home.”  Here’s a great review of the most recent version of the app.

Industry analysts noted that the purchase is yet another sign that Samsung is all-in for the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT, IP-enabled machine-to-machine connections on a massive scale). Last month, Samsung, Google’s Nest, and others, founded an IoT standards group.

As for the IoT, here is a great in-depth discussion of the concept.  A research group recently predicted it would be a $8.9 trillion market by 2020.

So, you can take the links above and read all day (as I just did) about connected devices and the IoT. The possibilities are fascinating, and to some people, frightening from a security standpoint. One estimate says that 70% of smart, or IOT, devices are “hackable,” in other words, having serious security vulnerabilities.

However, if you work for a rural telco, the smart thing to do would be to learn more about the smart home and smart device technology. In October, NTCA, ITTA, and Telecompetitor will present BroadbandVision.  The session entitled “Get Smart: Leveraging the Smart Economy” will discuss the smart home and how broadband service providers are well positioned to leverage this growing business opportunity.  A panel of industry experts will discuss the growing smart movement and the challenges and opportunities it presents to service providers.

I hope to see you there!

Newspaper Clippings

INDIANAPOLIS — If you borrow books from me, you’ll likely notice my habit of clipping newspaper articles and tucking them into books for safekeeping. These articles are often about events that while not universally significant are interesting enough to preserve, or obituaries of people who did important things and yet do not have wide reputations as historic people. So, while I don’t clip articles about major plane crashes, I have clipped articles when cities have lifted historic buildings from their foundations and moved them several blocks in order to save them; I have not saved accounts of military actions, but I have clipped obituaries of scientists who devised the technology that made the submarine run. In an odd, academic way, they are a sort of treat years latter when they fall out of a book.

A recent article that I did not clip, but wish I had, focused more on prospective outlooks than reporting a specific event. Published in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend, former Secretary of State George Shultz’s “How to Get America Moving Again” offered a half-dozen ideas for spurring the nation’s economy forward. Many of the ideas were familiar — revisions to personal and business tax codes; spending reform; and a different look at health care. It did not propose anything revolutionary, but rather offered an evolutionary perspective that took historic, long-standing principles and adjusted them to meet current and future needs. Read more

Utilities Getting into Solar Power

I’ve always been fascinated by solar power. I like the idea that I can stick a panel on the roof and point it at the sun and get free (other than the cost of the panel) power and stick it to the power company. And while I’m no tree-hugger, I do like the environmentally friendly nature of solar power.

Recently, the largest utility company in Arizona, Arizona Public Service (APS), announced a new plan to meet the state’s renewable energy mandate (more on that below). The plan is to spend $50 to $70 million to place solar panels on 3,000 roofs throughout the state. Homeowners are given $30 a month off their bills for 20 years.

A few years ago, the Arizona Corporation Commission mandated that by 2015 utilities in the state generate 15% of their electricity from renewable sources. APS has proposed both the rooftop solar panel program and more traditional solar farms.

The idea for the program came in part from former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who proposed a similar program, saying that utilities should consider getting into the solar business. Otherwise, he suggested, they risk getting “Fed Ex’ed” as he called it, similar to how Fed Ex and UPS have killed the postal service’s business model. Interestingly, he likened the idea to an age-old practice in the telephone industry. As he said in a February interview, “This is not a radical model…this is the old telephone system model, where the telephone companies owned the phone, they rented you the phone for so long, they maintained it.”

Google Offers Potentially Powerful Encryption Incentive

As part of its ongoing effort to safeguard user security, Google announced last week that websites making use of encryption technology will be bumped up in the order of the search results returned to Google users.

The precise methodology that Google uses to rank search results has long been a closely guarded secret. However, Google has indicated that encryption will now be one factor, though not a primary factor, in determining search result order. The company reportedly uses as many as 200 different “signals” in determining its search rankings.

Internet users can easily recognize sites using encryption–they begin with “https.” Encrypted data is less susceptible to theft on unsecured Wi-Fi networks. While encrypting data will still not remove all of the risk associated with sending sensitive data such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and passwords online, it is a marked improvement over sending such sensitive information unencrypted.

Why should Google care about encryption? Google receives revenues from advertisers, and makes more money the more people use the Internet. Those who have a bad experience will be more likely to avoid the Internet, thus potentially threatening Google’s bottom line.

Some websites have resisted encryption, primarily for cost reasons. Google’s action may give them reason to rethink that decision.

My First Rodeo, and Legislative History

IMG_20140730_202313I attended my first rodeo last week, and then understood some legislative history of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. I want to be clear: by “attending,” I mean I sat in the bleachers and watched others do the work. I did not ride a bull, or a bareback bronco; I did not wrestle a steer or even mutton bust. But it did complete an odd week in which I experienced vastly different points on the scale of American culture.

If you read my post last week, you might recall that I spent the weekend in New York City. I did not experience all of the big city (who could, in barely 24 hours), but I had my fair share of subways; looking fruitlessly for street parking; the crush of the crowds; the constant movement and incessant beat of activity throughout the day and night (where else do street vendors sell pulled BBQ sandwiches off a cart so late at night)?

Fewer than 48 hours later I was in Dodge City, Kansas, having arrived on a plane that seated nine and arriving at an airport so, well, the opposite of BWI or DCA that people actually make eye contact and talk to each other while pouring coffee (there are no Starbucks or vendors — just a Bunn drip coffee maker in the single waiting room and a vending machine stocked with snacks).

None of what I saw over the course of the week was unfamiliar – I went to school in New York, so going back for a quick weekend involved revisiting some familiar city blocks. And, though I live in a typical American suburb, I spent enough summers at the state fair to be at least passingly familiar with the sights and sounds of the arena. Read more

The Usain Bolt of Broadband Connections

Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) announced last week that they have established a new world record for data transfer: 43 terabits per second.

For those of you who were absent the day Greek prefixes were covered in high school, a terabit is equal to 1012 bits, or one million megabits. (Fun trivia: “tera” is derived from the Greek word “τέρας,” which—appropriately enough–means “monster.”)

Even more impressive, the Danish researchers accomplished the feat using a single laser. They also utilized a new type of optical fiber which, despite containing seven cores (glass threads) as opposed to the single core found in standard fiber, is no larger than standard fiber.

This latest effort far surpasses the previous record of 32 terabits per second, set by researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie in 2010.

At 43 terabits per second, users could download thousands of HD movies in less than a second. Backing up even a large computer hard drive could be accomplished almost instantaneously.

“The worldwide competition in data speed is contributing to developing the technology intended to accommodate the immense growth of data traffic on the Internet, which is estimated to be growing by 40-50 percent annually,” DTU said in a press release heralding the accomplishment.

Get Rid of My Glasses?

I wear glasses and I hate them. It’s not vanity, really (if I were vain, I’d slim down by eating fewer donuts). It’s hard to keep glasses clean and free of scratches, and my eyesight is so poor without them that I live in fear of breaking them. I’ve been told I am a poor candidate for Lasik, contacts are uncomfortable, and so I may be stuck with glasses forever.

This week, I came across a new breakthrough in display technology that may help me. Researchers at Microsoft, MIT and UC Berkley have created a new display technology that adjusts the sharpness of an image based on the eyesight of the person looking at the screen. The technology (and this is simplifying it significantly) uses algorithms to alter the on-screen image based on a person’s glasses prescription and alters the light from individual pixels to create a sharper image that the person can see without their glasses.

At this point, the research is in its earliest stages, so real world application is years away. The technology also has limits, such as the inability to adjust for the eyesight differences of multiple users at one time.

Researchers working on the technology hope that over time the display technology can be slimmed down to a small piece of plastic that can fit over television and computer monitors and other displays. The technology is scheduled for demonstration this week at SIGGRAPH, an annual computer graphics conference, and at CES in January.

« Previous PageNext Page »