The economist is featuring a nice article about a new communication medium – transmitting data via light or LiFi. Additionally there is a very nice video on TED about DIDO:
In the future 10Gbps for several meters would be possible. Among some uses is WiFi-like access but via light instead of radio in planes to avoid cabling and interceptions.
The technology seems to be invented, now it is time to find good usage for it. Most new technologies can only be used to their full potential when combined with others.
So what would be possible if you combined:
LiFi with Augmented Reality
At the moment augmented reality means a lot of image recognition in real-time which requires expensive equipment or high-speed backoffice connections. However what would happen if you could combine LiFi sensors with augmented reality. Imagine a data center in which when pointing your phone towards the servers, the LiFi sensor would start receiving real-time information about the server. This would avoid the current drawbacks of sending information about this server over the Internet to then return to the phone. All what would be needed would be a LiFi sensor and a mobile app. No backoffice processing. No security problem with data that has to leave the building.
LiFi with Transport
Your car can negotiate with the objects around it. Traffic jams could be announced from car to car and drivers could be alerted about the fact that they are going to run into a very long traffic jam and should better exit in the next exit.
LiFi with Dating
Put a bachelor LiFi batch around your neck and by pointing your phone towards a desired partner you would get a compatibility score and if the score is high enough some clues about what he or she would like to talk about.
Many more things
There are probably many more possibilities so do not be shy to share them so they can be added to the post…
At the moment of writing, Mega Upload was closed by the FBI. Mega Upload represents different things to different people. For Hollywood it represents every form of evil. For others it represents the example of how an industry is alienated from its customers base.
The five why’s
Why are people downloading illegal content that is copyright protected? They don’t want to pay for DVDs and Blu-ray.
Why don’t people want to pay for DVDs and Blu-ray? They are too expensive and not useable in modern households.
Why are DVDs and Blu-ray too expensive and not useable in modern households? €10-20 for a CD, book, DVD or Blu-ray is too expensive if you can get it “for free”. CDs, books, DVDs and Blu-ray do not work on a tablet, mobile phone, smart TV, game box, on-the-go, etc.
How much would people be willing to pay? How would people want to access content? People are likely not willing to pay more than €1 / movie/book/song or even less. Ideally there are all you can eat solutions for €10-20/month. People want to have access in digital format and streaming format so they can take it via their tablet or mobile phone on the go but also watch it from their smart TV without downloading previously.
Why is Hollywood not offering low cost content, all you can eat solutions and digital copies and streaming services globally? Good question. They probably prefer to stick to their old business model and use government regulations to alienate their customers base even more. Hollywood is also scared of distributing content digitally because of fears of canabilizing business and enabling more free sharing.
How can things be done differently?
Assumption: In general people will want to pay for individual content as long as they really want it, the price is low and it is easier to get legal content then illegal content.
Who can charge customers euro cents per transaction? telecom operators.
Who can see if content is distributed illegally? telecom operators.
Who can help users quickly get to legal content? telecom operators.
How can the telecom operators offer a solution that is different from iTunes or Amazon solutions?
Telecom operators have a secret weapon they are not using. Telecom operators know which people are downloading illegal content if they wanted to.
What if your telecom operator would offer a simple set of APIs for content providers to embed in websites to sell individual content at prices between €0.01 and €1, to watermark content and to give content providers a revenue share of 90%?
What if your telecom operator would offer a service for all you can eat content in which for €10-20/month you would be able to access all content (download and streaming) and 80% of the revenue would be distributed according to usage between the content providers?
What if a user signed an agreement that for the individual price or all-you-can-eat price they get the right to use the content for their household and its devices but if they distributed the content they would automatically agree to a distribution license of €1000?
What if all the content that the telecom operator distributes is automatically protected? Proxies would scan all P2P and Mega Upload alternatives to see if watermarks can be detected. If they are detected then the user that purchased the original content is automatically charged the distribution license fee. The watermarked content download would be blocked or substituted by publicitiy for the official alternative. The P2P proxies would cache content hence users that use P2P for non-copyright-protected material would see the performance go up.
How can Hollywood survive on a €0.01-1 / content fee or an all-you-can-eat €10-20 / month? If it is easier to aquire legal alternatives then the number of people that will acquire them will multiply with 10 to a 100. This should mean that overall revenue is likely to be the same only the number of transactions multiply.
What is the advantage for telecom operators? Downloads of content happen any how. The difference is that they will become new revenue stream instead of cost centers.
The system should be offered global and in the next months. Not in 3 years and only in the US and the UK. The window of opportunity is closing and no police force or politician is able to defend a business model that is not aimed towards fulfilling its customers needs. The alternatives will come from crowd funded content generation and over-the-top content distribution, so at the end both Hollywood and Telecom will loose.
Why can Facebook, Google, Salesforce and Twitter role out new features every day and regular telecom operators only every 6 months? Although they are dotcoms, they have thousands of employees and a lot of legacy systems as well. However they are able to roll out a new feature every day, if not every hour or minute and large new systems every so many months, weeks or even days.
How do they do it and how can the telecom industry learn from it?
On highscalability, you will find a lot of information on the architectures of large dotcoms. However if you look at different articles you see that each of the larger dotcoms has an architecture that is shared among different products and services, e.g. scaling messages at facebook.
This is the secret sause of the dotcoms. They have built and continuously improved a highly distributed architecture that can handle millions of users and peta bytes of information. On top of this “shared architecture” go the services. New employees are able to quickly create new services because they do not have to worry about scaling data, monitoring the service, deploying/upgrading versions, backing up data, versioning code, etc.
On the other hands operators have no standardized shared architecture. Instead there is a puzzle of different solutions that often use totally different technologies, hardware, etc. Maintenance and upgrades are a nightmare.
Trying to launch any new service requires a massive amount of planning, lots of different skills, expensive investments in third-party licenses and hardware, etc.
How can you do it differently?
Building a private cloud with virtual servers and storage will not resolve operator’s problems. Just virtualizing the puzzle of solutions is not going to do away with complex integrations.
Operators need to make a more bolt move. They need to separate the new from the old. Legacy systems should be kept and isolated. However a new architecture should be built that works in parallel with the legacy systems. This new architecture should focus on launching new services and partner services at dotcom speeds. Everything should be handled as an independent service. Each service should get its own API. A storage services, a billing service, a monitoring service, a provisioning service, an identity service, a datawarehouse service, a deployment service, a mobile shop service, an inventory service, a support service, etc.
All APIs should use a common technology. APIs for third-parties could use REST. APIs for internal high-load usage could use Thrift or Protobuffers. Each API should have two versions, the easy and the low-level version. The easy API offers the most used but in general basic functionality, e.g. sendSMS(from, to, message). The low-level API offers a complete feature set, e.g. sendBinarySMS, sendSMSWithDeliveryConfirmation, etc. This will allow most services to use the easy API but to have access to the advanced functionality when needed.
Loadbalancing when using the services is key. The loadbalancer is the secret for many rolling upgrades in the dotcom world. An application that uses a certain service will use client-based loadbalancing. By having the loadbalancing be able to receive events, it is possible to dynamically add/remove instances of an API, gradually move requests to a new version of the API, etc.
New service developers will now have to focus on building the business logic for the new service and not on data migrations, scaling, monitoring, backups, etc. The service can have completely new ways of billing and charging, a complex deployment workflow, advanced monitoring requirements, large data storage requirements, etc. However it is not the billing or charging system that has to be extended. Neither a centralized EAI. Nor the monitoring system. Instead it is the service that decides what is best for the service via the use of the easy or low-level APIs. By moving the peculiarities of every service into the service and not into generic OSS and BSS systems, these support systems can be drastically simplified.
Operators should try to focus on launching a lot more niche services and opening up their infrastructure to a long-tail of service suppliers. Instead of general services like PBX for SME, operators should think about hotel reservation services, doctor scheduling services, etc. The value of the operator should be in offering a reliable back-office architecture, assuring service quality and managing the support eco-system. The long-tail of service suppliers should be put to work to launch competing niche offerings and let customers decide which one will survive or not.
Innovation used to be something related to an R&D department that would experiment with new technologies and a marketing department or product management that would ask customers what new features they required. The business team would be killing any innovation that did not present a business case which complied with company rules: e.g. x% margin, €yM revenue in two years, etc.
Why is traditional innovation no longer good enough?
The cost of launching a disruptive innovation that changes a complete industry has come down dramatically. There are many examples: Skype and roaming, Amazon’s Kindle and paper books, P2P and network bandwidth / media revenue, Salesforce and shrink-wrapped software, iPad and Windows PC, iPhone and Nokia, etc.
Disruptive innovations are more frequent than ever and enablers like Cloud Computing, Open Source, Off-shoring, 3D Printing, etc. allow innovators to launch big solutions on a modest budget.
Most traditional innovation is about evolving a current product by adding new features and improving current functionality. Traditional innovation focuses on prototyping new features and products and showing them to potential customers. However process innovations (e.g. Toyota Production System), business innovations (e.g. freemium), marketing innovations (e.g. Intel Inside), disruptive innovation, etc. are often overlooked.
Every one should innovate
More and more companies are convinced that every one in the organization should innovate and not only R&D and product marketing. By putting special innovation processes in place in which employees can share innovation ideas and use collective knowledge to improve them and get funding, innovation becomes more democratic and often more successful. Companies like Google allow employees to focus one day a week on innovation that can be totally unrelated to their day jobs. People vote with their time which project is worth it. Ideas are shared hence collectively the services get better.
Also upper management is no longer looking from above but should innovate by example. Name all big innovative companies and you see that founders are a big part of innovation and participate in it every week: Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), Amazon (Jeff Bezos), Apple (former Steve Jobs), Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), Salesforce (Marc Benoiff), etc.
Daily Innovations instead of Product Releases
The large dotcoms (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) no longer do market research in the traditional way to find out if users like a feature or not. They also no longer focus on major product releases. Instead they focus on incremental innovations on a daily basis. Users request new features via social CRMs and the most voted features get implemented. Often a feature can have multiple implementations. Users are divided into different groups and new features get enabled for subgroups. If a new feature has a positive effect then it survives and gets rolled out to the rest, if not it gets killed or adjusted.
New products no longer get productized from an idea and afterwards customers are searched for it. Instead customer’s pain points result in paper prototypes that get validated and redrawn until they solve the problem. Afterwards real prototypes are made that get launched in beta or even alpha shape towards real users. Beta can already mean that users are paying for it.
Discovering New Innovations
Discovering new innovations is done by combining groups of people with different expertise (marketing, psychology, arts, technical, business, etc.), to understand a new domain and to question a status quo. Most of the time the best innovations are those that remove a status quo and make a painful activity into a joyful activity, e.g. LinkedIn: networking with people and keeping up to date your business network.
After questioning experts and novice users, innovative companies also observe how users use their products. Often heavy users or first-time users are unsatisfied with current products. New ideas are shared inside but also outside of the company with a network of experts as well as people with completely different skills. Afterwards solutions are built based on experimentation. A very important aspect is also being able to transport solutions from other industries. Making associations between unrelated topics and understanding how things are done in a completely different environment can bring new inside…
It is very important that different departments (business, marketing, operations, maintenance, etc.) all work towards launching new innovations and removing obstacles because killing innovation is very easy, making it succeed is not.
2012 will be the year in which Apple’s mobile app revolution will be translated to every device (PCs, tablets, mobiles, signage, m2m, cars, TVs, etc.) and to the enterprise. Instead of a static company portal and an IT-driven software selection, 2012 will bring apps to the enterprise. Workers will be able to use their PC’s browser as well as a BYOD (bring your own device) to select apps from a company-wide or global enterprise app store. No longer will you have to pay for an annual license to edit a video, image or CAD drawing if you only use it twice a year. Software will be a lot more social. Not only IT will loose power, also marketing and upper management. Crowd-sourcing can allow employees to vote and rate and as such let content and opinions bubble up that might not always fit upper management’s strategy. However when used correctly the opinions are likely to beat any internal reporting system or dashboard in accuracy.
What is still pending?
Except for easy-to-use apps, inter-app and Backoffice integration is very important. Expect new “standards” based on innovative dotcom solutions in this area. Enterprise PaaS, a là Salesforce.com but often in private cloud, will move a lot of Excel and Access apps into SaaS apps. Employees will be the major enterprise app creators and no longer programmers.
Easy over training
This app revolution will focus on mini apps with basic functionality and no longer full enterprise solutions that do everything but in a too complex way.
Telecom’ s involvement?
What I described so far sounds like an IT platform and solution however it will span communication services as well. The link between IT and telecom will become very blurry. For this reason it is important for operators to be active in this market.