Last week we shared the sad news that David Vyorst, the Executive Director of the ISOC-DC chapter and an instrumental part of the North American Internet community, passed away.
The DC Chapter and the Internet Society are jointly establishing a fellowship award in David’s name. The fellowship will be awarded to a young person in a US-based chapter who has an innovative project or initiative for making a chapter more effective in advancing the values of a free and open Internet accessible by everyone.
For many years I covered the the Federal Communications Commission, specifically the years-long fight to get some sort of formal network neutrality regulation passed. Then I started digging into the so-called internet of things a half decade ago as my new passion and I thought my days of covering the FCC were over. But the two are still intertwined.
Three years later, I saw the agency pass rules that would prevent some of the bad behavior that ISPs had tried in the preceding years to kill competitive voice and video services. The network neutrality rules of 2015 stopped carriers from interfering with lawful traffic passing over their networks.
Last week, while the U.S. was focused on Thanksgiving turkey, the current FCC chairman Ajit Pai declared that on Dec. 14 he would bring a repeal of the 2015 network neutrality laws to a vote. With three Republican commissioners, Pai’s plan would likely pass. In the days since, however, we’ve seen one Republican senatordefect from Pai’s camp, a concerted effort by tech firms to galvanize support for network neutrality and Comcast erase its commitment to avoid paid prioritization on its network.
So what’s the fear here? At a minimum, a company like Comcast could prioritize its own services over those from other providers. Darker scenarios involve Comcast charging companies money for fast-lane access to end consumers. From an IoT perspective, this means that Comcast could let packets from its security alarm and camera service go ahead of those of ADT’s or Nest’s.
But the bigger picture is about what we don’t know. It’s always hard in technology to anticipate what’s next. No one saw the Amazon Echo coming until it was here for a few months. Relatively few people were excited about Nokia’s smartphones before the iPhone and its capacitive touch screen arrived in 2007. And when I was testing the first 3G modems from Verizon by streaming internet radio on my laptop while driving in my car, I couldn’t see Waze or Uber coming.
Yet, what these services have in common is they rely on broadband networks that are threatened by the repeal of network neutrality rules. One reason the Nokia smartphones didn’t catch on in the U.S.? The carriers didn’t subsidize them on their networks. (They also didn’t have that touchscreen.) AT&T agreeing to support the iPhone was a big deal. It knew that it would use a lot of data, challenging and showcasing its network.
And when Apple introduced the App Store in 2008 it managed to do what carriers had so far screwed up for years. It finally made on-device apps and services accessible and consumable.
It did this by offering developers an easy way to get their ideas onto a platform with millions of consumers. It also allowed developers to make money in a way that didn’t require dealing with the carriers. With awesome content, Apple’s iPhone stood apart from the competition that rapidly copied its hardware.
Apple’s advantage was its hardware, but it was also the company’s approach to software that would run on its devices. Carriers wanted to control everything, and when they did they slowed innovation. Carriers offered app stores. They had a large, captive customer base. It didn’t help.
The point here is that the carriers had the tools to move beyond their role as the provider of the broadband pipe. But they consistently failed because they didn’t see — or didn’t want to see – what the mobile future needed. Instead of proprietary platforms and deals to get app developers to pay the carriers for space on the device (hello bloatware), people wanted innovation. While every now and then carriers might let someone on the platform that would provide an awesome game or program, that would be the exception rather than the rule.
The flatter playing field provided by the Apple App Store and Google’s Play Store, as well as the huge audience on those platforms, meant that there was a reason and a way to build something a little crazy to see if it worked. We’re neck deep in those crazy ideas today. Many of your favorite apps might never have existed under the old carrier-based app store regime.
What’s astonishing is that as carriers saw themselves falling behind they didn’t learn the lesson. They instead tried to build a new app store and even a failed digital payments system to compete. They did little to woo developers and even tried to block some apps on their network. At a time when wireless carriers had the hottest commodity in the world with mobile data, carriers didn’t focus on what they had, and instead tried to build a new industry in an area where they were ill-suited to compete.
Many operators believe they were stuck with a form of the innovator’s dilemma, where they couldn’t invest in the new without cannibalizing the old, but what they should have done is embrace their role as an essential infrastructure provider and double down on making data delivery as efficient as possible. It’s the same strategy Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook are pursuing with their computing infrastructure. And now Facebook is moving into telecommunications with various open source telecom projects.
So what does this have to do with IoT and network neutrality? Simply this. The ISPs have failed when it comes to innovation in the 21st century. Yes, they have excellent engineers and have put together complex worldwide networks. But when it comes to creating agile businesses that can adapt to the pace of technological change, they have failed. The default is always to try to control the pipe; to turn broadband into a pricey resource available to a few.
As we add more sensors to the world, we have the opportunity to pull in new data streams and use that data to create new applications and services. We don’t even know what those will look like. We’re at the point I was at in 2003 driving around listening to internet radio from my open laptop resting on my passenger seat.
If ISPs have their way, we won’t see the Wazes or the Dark Skys of the next era of technology advancement because the creators won’t build them.
I have two hopes here. One is that Pai’s efforts fail because Republicans in the House pull back from this issue (or Trump offers a scathing tweet in response to an angry Fox News host). The second is that even if Pai succeeds, the engineering talent and massive war chests at Facebook or Apple lead to new networks.
After all, optimization is the key to success at many web companies that measure and manage everything. If reaching their billions of users costs more, and they can find a way to cut those costs, they will get into last-mile networks. Already they are researching new technology such as microwave spectrum and smart antennas to deliver broadband. When a resource is abundant, people innovate on it. But when it is scarce, people innovate around it. Carriers would do well to remember that.
It’s a small hope, and we’ll miss out on plenty while we wait, but it’s the only hope we’ll have if Pai succeeds.
Unisys Corporation has announced registration open for its ninth edition of Cloud 20/20, the company’s annual flagship technical project contest in India. It is designed to encourage passion for technology and innovative thinking in tertiary students to address various technical challenges in the IT industry.
This contest is open to research students and postgraduates, as well as pre-final and final-year engineering students in Computer Science, Information Technology and other related disciplines. It allows students to test and refine their technical skills for industry readiness by collaborating with leaders in the industry as well as explore exciting career opportunities with Unisys.
This edition of the contest will also introduce contestants’ ideas to incubators, entrepreneurs, investors and industry stalwarts who may help convert them into market-ready solutions.
Registrations for the ninth edition of Cloud 20/20 will close on December 31, 2017.
Deutsche Telekom has co-founded a new development lab with research organisation Fraunhofer which it says will have a ‘special focus’ on NB-IoT technology.
The first ‘Open IoT Lab’ intends to make advancements in the manufacturing, logistics and aviation sectors. Other firms are welcome to collaborate with the founding companies to develop application-specific IoT prototypes.
"The lab pairs two fields of competence that have to be involved, together, in any successful IoT-related digitisation,” explained Professor Dr. Michael ten Hompel, MD of Fraunhofer IML. “Fraunhofer is providing comprehensive expertise in hardware and applications in IoT environments and Deutsche Telekom is providing its network expertise."
Up to six scientists from Fraunhofer IML, and three IoT experts from Deutsche Telekom, will staff the new facility. IoT solutions will be developed and tested here to ensure their readiness for the market.
Focus on market requirements
Both companies want to focus their efforts on market requirements and will be collaborating with third-parties to identify their needs. In cooperation with Würth Industrie Service, for example, a service button prototype was developed to optimise the reordering process for "C parts" such as screws, nuts, and washers by applying NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) technology.
"At Telekom Open IoT Labs, we will not be pursuing basic research. Instead, we will offer companies specific benefits by solving their problems using IoT solutions," comments Anette Bronder, head of Digital- and Security Department of Deutsche Telekom. "All the technologies necessary for IoT solutions are in place. Now, we need to find application areas that will offer companies real value, in both the short and long terms."
The long-range, low-power nature of NB-IoT makes it ideal for many sectors — but Deutsche Telekom and Fraunhofer are particularly excited about its potential for advancements within the logistics industry.
"The logistics sector is moving very rapidly on digitisation,” Bronder added. “With IoT solutions, companies will be able to achieve high added value – in the short term – in a number of business processes."
Deutsche Telekom now offers NB-IoT commercially throughout Germany and the Netherlands. The operator is expanding its existing coverage to additional cities in other European markets such as Austria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.
What are your thoughts on the open lab and its focus on NB-IoT? Let us know in the comments.
Alibaba’s Cainiao and 4PX claim new intelligent logistics park is smartest in China.
There’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but when it comes to bumper days for online shopping, 11.11 dwarfs them both.
November 11 is celebrated in China as ‘Singles’ Day’, on which both lonely hearts and the happily independent are encouraged to treat themselves to an ecommerce bargain in the 11.11 shopping spree, as a kind of antidote to Valentine’s Day.
This year’s 11.11 was a bonanza for Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, which raked in over $ 25 billion (or just over £19 billion) in sales in 24 hours – a staggering haul that was up around 39 percent on the previous year’s total.
From a supply chain perspective, Cainiao (the logistics arm majority-owned by Alibaba) was ready to take the strain of that surge in orders, having recently opened a new ‘intelligent logistics park’ in Dongguan, Guandong province.
The logistics park’s primary purpose is to serve as a countrywide consolidation center for Alibaba’s Aliexpress and Taobao/Tmall international businesses. Launched in partnership with supply chain services, technology and consulting business 4PX, it is designed to handle an annual throughput of 100,000 tons of parcels and support more than 500 billion RMB (about £57 billion) in annual cross-border e-commerce sales.
Executives at 4PX claim it’s China’s most intelligent cross-border e-commerce package processing centre. With a total area of 21,000 square metres, it is packed with smart, connected machinery.
This includes automatic weighing and sorting lines and telescopic conveyor belts, all connected and coordinated through core systems developed in-house by 4PX’s 300-strong IT team.
In September, Alibaba acquired a controlling stake in Cainiao and announced its intention to invest the equivalent of around $ 15 billion in its global logistical capabilities over the next five years. Cainiao currently executes some 57 million deliveries a day.
China-based Alibaba has acquired a controlling stake in logistics company Cainiao, upping its share to 51 percent (from 47 percent previously). The e-retailer giant has further announced an intention to invest 100 billion yuan ($ 15 billion) in its global logistical capabilities over the next five years.
“By enhancing the logistics capabilities within the Alibaba ecosystem and extending our investment in this sector, we are further enabling our New Retail strategy to bring online and offline retail into one seamless experience for shoppers,” said Daniel Zhang, chief executive of Alibaba Group.