Archive for the 'Internet' Category

Have you ever forgotten where you were the night before?

Well now Google can tell you!  

I was having a play with Google Latitude recently, and stumbled across a feature allowing Google to track your location history. It even plots it on a map, as seen here! Scary when you think of all the possible uses for it, but a good example of the use of tech. However the question remains, do we trust Google with our data? Until they get subpoenaed I do, but with a lot of scepticism. Saying that, I will be removing my location history pronto!

Interesting statistics

Came across a very interesting graphic recently, depicting some interesting Internet statistics. Unfortunately I can’t validate the statistics used, but even if slightly true, shows how much we come to rely on the Internet as it has grown. Quite shocked to see more people use Facebook than Google, Amazon et al combnined. Personally I live on Google, what with my email, syndicated blogs and calendar all in thier cloud.

Thanks to @lesanto for the image

BT DSL outage

I’m sure many of you were affected in one way or another by the recent DSL outage, caused by the North Paddington exchange. The latest is that from BT is that water got into the exchange, starting an electrical fire, which was put out by more water, causing a flood in the basement.

The above picture is an example of the severity of the situation. However I really must praise the sterling work of BT in not only working around the clock to rectify the issue, but also in notifying their customers using Social Media. Their twitter stream (@BTcare) was a hive of activity all day, and was backed up by their status blog depicting progress. In fact the above picture comes from their own Flickr stream. Info was then compounded upon by key clients, such as Gradwell (@gradwelltweets), who posted a list of exchanges that were affected (some 437!)

Although many of us in the industry view BT as a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to embracing change, they really are showing us all how best to adopt and embrace new media. And although they have been tripped up by their BTcare account more than once, these mishaps will inevitably help them create a more fulfilling user experience. The whole episode also helps to shoecase how Twitter, blogs and other social media devices, when used in the right way, can really enhance the way a business can communicate with it’s community. We can all learn a thing of two from BT.

This is NOT a party political broadcast

So we have heard the budget, and to be honest, there are few surprises for us telco’s. We all knew that this would be an ideal opportunity for Labour to posture somewhat prior to the election to gain votes. And that is exactly what they’ve done.

The one thing for me personally that has been interesting is both parties use of the advancement of broadband in their respective manifestos. The Tories have confidently stated that they will get 100Mbps lines to 90% of the population by 2017. Last year Labour confidently announced that their USC for #digitalbritain would be a paltry 2Mbps per household. This has been subsquently revised to providing ‘superfast’ broadband by 2020. However despite elaborate methods of financing this from each, there doesn’t seem to have been much thought as to how this would be delivered, and more importantly, who will deliver this.

Fibre is and has been the obvious method. Much noise has been made for both BT and Virgin Media to provide access to their ducts for other carriers use. However when the purported cost to deliver fibre to each and every premises is between £5bn and £30bn you can see the massive investment needed. Hence the government’s involvment. Many different technologies have been considered to deliver ‘next generation services’ today. Satellite, LTE, WiMAX and even BPL (that’s an acronym for Broadband over Powerlines) have been mooted as being able to service those much talked about not-spots, that are rightfully threatening the validity of the #digitalbritain manifesto.  The disappointing factor is that there seems to be little communication with telco’s to understand how best to deploy services that will help Britain move into a digital future.

In my view, there are 2 key issues that stop any government really moving forward with providing high speed universal access.

  1. Lack of communication with those in the trenches – I’m sure the likes of BT and Virgin Media have been consulted about their opinions on providing high speed access to all (or badgered to open up their ducts). However what the government hasn’t done is try to assist smaller providers who have worked in other more rural areas to try and deploy networks designed for tomorrow. An example of this can be found by the inequality in the tax rates paid out on fibre by the likes of BT and smaller providers, such as Vtesse. If there is at least parity, then this will spur people like Vtesse to create efficient models to provide high speed access in areas the not-spots.
  2. The government inherently doesn’t GET the internet – This is a massive statement to make. However on one hand the government is trying to deploy a set of foundations to provide universal access, whilst on the other, introducing the Digital Economy Bill to massively restrict our use of the internet. Ever so slightly hypocritical. The government seems hell bent on protecting the revenues of industries who also don’t get the internet, instead of helping them to adopt new business models to fully embrace the internet.

Once the government realise that providing universal access is less of a political game  whilst engaging with those who could spur innovation, then will we truly see a landscape conducive to providing nationwide high speed access to underpin a digitally thriving economy.

Where will the Internet go next?

I once read a book called Futurize your Enterprise back at the turn of the decade. At the time, it was seen as very ‘far out’ in it’s thinking, as it demonstrated the way the Internet may be used in future times. For example it displayed a future where everyone had their own domain and their own website. This site would not only display personal contact details for the user, but would also display their vital statistics, medical history, possessions and geneological history. The thinking behind this was that everyone was connected, and if for example, I had an accident when holidaying in Alaska, a local GP would be able to bring up my medical history at the touch of a button. Bearing in mind this was published just after the dot-com crisis, this seemed fanciful. However fast forward a number of years to a time where we are a lot more aware and protective of our privacy and you can see the issues that this concept had. Saying that, one of the other main concepts from the book was the fact that machines would use the internet more than humans, to commmunicate with each other. An example being that a fridge would order milk from the local supermarket when it sensed you were running out.

With the advent of mobile broadband and in particular LTE, this is not very far off. Machine to Machine (or M2M to add yet another acronym into the mix) communication is a technology that many see as the next logical step in the evolution of the Internet. And personally, I feel it offers many exciting prospects for entrepreneurs and integrators alike for the future. Carl-Henric Svanberg, the ex Ericsson Chief made the prediction that within the next 5-10 years, there could be as many as 50 billion sim cards embedded into ‘intelligent devices’. And where he says ‘intelligent devices’, he means items as mundane as doors and fridges. Others such as Juniper research predict that by 2014, there will be almost 412million M2M mobile subscriptions. Of course there are already a number of applications that connect to the internet. Fridges come with Ethernet ports allowing you to browse the Internet when choosing what flavour juice to have in the morning. However the main distinctive factor will be in the take-up of a universal language for machines to adopt when communicating with each other.

The fascination of this is the business model behind it, and the challenges it presents to network operators. Firstly for service providers, it offers a compelling way to cover the decreasing revnue from voice services, as these are increasinlgy delivered by IP. Secondly it means that service providers need not concentrate on selling services and bundles to ‘humans’ in a bid to increase ARPU. Whereas for many, there has come a natural saturation point as to the affiliated services you can bundle with connectivity, as to appeal to a mass market, you can only charge so much for a bundled package. Personally I don’t think M2M will change this markedly. Instead it will focus on areas within businesses that can be enhanced with remote support, as the potential number of devices that can be woven together is endless. This fits in nicely as companies look to cut costs by deploying a remote working environment as opposed to having physical branches.

Secondly the affect on network operators will be huge. One only needs to look at the issues O2 faced with the mass take-up of the IPhone. Personally although LTE will help the end user, it will not help the operators, as they will be tasked with delivering more bandwidth (and more expectation) to their subscriber base. One possible method to help this could be in mast sharing. Vodafone and O2 have done this in the past. Tom Alexander, CEO of Orange mentioned this was also a driver for the UK merger between Orange and T-Mobile. However a more compelling method would be the use of fixed line DSL, Ethernet and Fibre to backhaul mobile bandwidth as opposed to the legacy routes taken currently. In this respect, O2 owning thier own network (through BE) puts them in the enviable position of potentially being closest to delivering this ideal.

The future of the internet is a subject many more learned people than myself have spent time debating. A common theme is that we will move away from having a standard interface to the internet (being the browser) and instead will be able to interact through many different appliances. Also there will be a marked rise in traffic between machines. As always though, the main challenges to overcome will be how to facilitate this. Hopefully the launch of the Cisco’s CSR-3 will help to rectify that in the future.

Mobile connectivity trends

Having my HTC Hero has made me aware how much our online presence is being determined by what we are doing on the move. Mobile access is slowly coming to the fore, lead by the innovative features of smartphones and their respective applications. With apps available such as Foursquare (an online location based game), Google Goggles (an augmented reality app using image searching) and Places Directory (a directory of venues surrounding your location) our use of mobile connectivity has skyrocketed. Mainly led by the iPhone, this has led to several network operators around the world scratching their heads on how best to deal with bandwidth for devices. However the sphere is exciting, and there are a number of ways in which one can be innovative.

I recently came across a very interesting collaborative slideshow canvassing the opinions of various industry leaders on how the mobile space may look in 2020. There are a number of conflicting thoughts on key trends (ie whether we pay or not for digital content). My favourite was provided by Tomi Ahonen, who predicted that the ‘Star Trek Universal Translator’ will become commonplace. Whatever trends come to the fore, the next decade will prove to be very exciting for the mobile application space.

Google has gone mainstream

Is it me, or is Google now starting to advertise? And I mean REALLY advertise? I went to the dreaded Westfield shopping centre (dragged kicking and screaming by my girlfriend no less…) recently, and there are 3 very big and impressive digital billboards advertising Google Chrome to anyone and everyone that enters. Also, on the underground there are static billboards advertising Google Chrome. Then there was a full spread wrap around the Metro. Add to this a smattering of buses now displaying ad’s for Youtube moving into the TV space, and it seems that Google is really making a concerted effort to get into mainstream media.

It’s strange, as Google has never had the need to adopt mainstream advertising to promote any of it’s products, as they own the most valuable piece of ‘real estate’ on the Internet in their own home page. Add to this the much heralded ‘Google Labs’ led ability to drip feed new products to the public and market them via various online channels. Even when Google was just starting out, they never resorted to mainstream media, and instead relied much on word of mouth. So why now?

From my perspective, the timing is interesting. With Microsoft recently being forced to give browser options to every future Windows user and FireFox 3.5 finally being lauded as the worlds most popular browser, Google must sense an opportunity to really add credence to a market that is being thrown wide open again. In my view, there is little to currently diffrentiate Chrome from Firefox, apart from possibly it’s overall speed. However, one key diffrentiator that may trump FireFox in the future is the potential to sync a desktop Chrome browser with a android/smartphone Chrome browser. This is the space that Chrome (OS at least) is moving into, with it’s seemingly inevitable merger into the Android sphere becoming nearer and nearer. This has the ability to converge both your respective desktop/smartphone environments seamlessley. With this could come the potential to have a web-based browser, with multiple interfaces from handheld or desktop devices, that would remember open tabs, bookmarks, passwords etc This could have many applications for both business and consumer, and is very exciting.

However there could be many issues with putting all your eggs into the Google cloud. I’m already firmly entrenched in Google’s camp, having gmail, Google reader, Google Voice, Google Wave, Google Calendar, Google finance, YouTube, Adsense and Google docs accounts. The thought of Google having access (if they haven’t already) to my search history via a browser or even via their new Google DNS offering is actually quite scary. For if they were ever suppoeaned (like in the famous Google vs Viacom battle some years back), they would have to relinquish all information about me, and the rest of their users.

As you can see, I’m very much a fan of Google and their range of products. However until there is a compelling reason for me to use Chrome, FireFox more than meets my needs. Backed by a network of open source enthuiasts, the Firefox browser will only get better with time also.


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