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Archive for January, 2012

LiFi – the next communication medium

January 27, 2012 2 comments

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…

Open Source Solution Index from the Big Dotcoms

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

The big names in dotcom world are busy open sourcing some of their secret sause. It is very important to become familiar with these often strangely named projects because they are responsible for several competitive advantages. Since the list is growing please suggest new solutions in the comments section so they can be added.

Google

Facebook

  • Cassandra is a highly scalable, eventually consistent, distributed, structured key-value store
  • Hive a data warehouse infrastructure that provides data summarization and ad hoc querying.
  • FlashCache is a general purpose writeback block cache for Linux. It was developed as a loadable Linux kernel module, using the Device Mapper and sits below the filesystem.
  • HipHop for PHP transforms PHP source code into highly optimized C++. HipHop offers large performance gains and was developed over the past two years.
  • Open Compute Project an open hardware project aims to accelerate data center and server innovation while increasing computing efficiency through collaboration on relevant best practices and technical specifications.
  • Scribe is a scalable service for aggregating log data streamed in real time from a large number of servers.
  • Thrift provides a framework for scalable cross-language services development in C++, Java, Python, PHP, and Ruby.
  • Tornado is a relatively simple, non-blocking web server framework written in Python. It is designed to handle thousands of simultaneous connections, making it ideal for real-time Web services.
  • codemod assists with large-scale codebase refactors that can be partially automated but still require human oversight and occasional intervention.
  • Facebook Animation is a JavaScript library for creating customizable animations using DOM and CSS manipulation.
  • Online Schema Change for MySQL lets you alter large database tables without taking your cluster offline.
  • Phabricator is a collection of web applications which make it easier to write, review, and share source code. It is currently available as an early release and is used by hundreds of Facebook engineers every day.
  • PHPEmbed makes embedding PHP truly simple for all of our developers (and indeed the world) we developed this PHPEmbed library which is just a more accessible and simplified API built on top of the PHP SAPI.
  • phpsh provides an interactive shell for PHP that features readline history, tab completion, and quick access to documentation. It is ironically written mostly in Python.
  • Three20 is an Objective-C library for iPhone developers which provides many UI elements and data helpers behind our iPhone application.
  • XHP is a PHP extension which augments the syntax of the language such that XML document fragments become valid expressions.
  • XHProf is a function-level hierarchical profiler for PHP with a simple HTML-based navigational interface.

Twitter

Twitter open sourced some complete projects (e.g. FlockDB) but especially adds extensions to existing projects. For a full list see here.

Yahoo

  • Apache Traffic Server is fast, scalable and extensible HTTP/1.1 compliant caching proxy server.
  • Hadoop THE nosql solution at the moment was started by Yahoo. Yahoo actively contributes also to several extensions like Avro and Pig.
  • YUI is a free, open source JavaScript and CSS framework for building richly interactive web applications.

LinkedIn

  • Azkaban is simple batch scheduler for constructing and running Hadoop jobs or other offline processes
  • Bobo is a Faceted Search implementation written purely in Java, an extension of Apache Lucene
  • Cleo is a flexible, partial, out-of-order and real-time typeahead search.
  • Datafu is Hadoop library for large-scale data processing.
  • Decomposer is for massive matrix decompositions
  • Glu is a deployment automation platform
  • A set of useful gradle plugins
  • Indexing engine for IndexTank and API, BackOffice, Storefront, and Nebulizer for IndexTank  
  • Kafka is a distributed publish/subscribe messaging system
  • Kamikaze is a utility package for performing operations on compressed arrays of sorted integers
  • Krati is a simple persistent data store with very low latency and high throughput
  • Base utilities shared by all linkedin open source projects
  • A set of utility classes and wrappers around ZooKeeper
  • Norbert is a library that provides easy cluster management and workload distribution
  • Sensei is a distributed, elastic, realtime, searchable database
  • Voldemort is a distributed key-value storage system
  • Zoie is a real-time search and indexing system built on Apache Lucene

How Hollywood and Telecom could help one another…

January 25, 2012 1 comment

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.

Creating an amazing fast IaaS and PaaS platform, the Cloud OS

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Universities are starting to explore the future of the cloud. This future starts by getting rid of the many layers that separate software from physical hardware or bare metal. Currently you need a hypervisor (e.g. Xen, KVM, VMWare), an operating system (e.g. Linux, Windows, Mac OS), a language virtual machine (e.g. JVM), an application server (e.g. Tomcat, JBoss, etc.) and then the application.

In this article, researchers and academics are arguing that there is too much abstractions going on that could be removed in benefit of unseen performance. Projects like Open Mirage, Exokernel and Apache Mesos are examples.

If telecom operators want to offer IaaS and PaaS then they should focus on having a competitive edge that is not currently offered by established providers like Amazon and Rackspace. This competitive edge could be to build a new Cloud OS that has storage and processing nodes that run as close as possible to the bare metal. Building data storage solutions like Hadoop or Cassandra close to bare metal hardware and using the latest solid state drives would offer unseen performance. The cost per user would be substantially lower then less optimized set-ups. Ideally PaaS platforms can be delivered that allow “cloud application servers” to run on base metal. The model would be Heroku on bare metal instead of on Xen+Linux+JVM+App Server+Java App.

 

Next Buzz: Social Enterprise Apps

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Social Enterprise Apps are the next buzz. Companies like Salesforce with Chatter, Yammer, Jive, Google with Google+, etc. all want to change the way employees work in 2012 by adopting Facebook and Twitter-like solutions.

At the moment it is too early to tell who will be the winner. Most products however are still just offering only basic features like status messages, connect to colleagues, share documents, etc.

The real interesting features are still to come. Employee driven process creation and management should make it possible for plain humans (not über-programmers) to define and manage company processes and to transfer a world of Excel, Access and other homegrown solutions to the Web and mobile world.

Operators should jump on the social enterprise apps bandwagon because calls and SMS can still be incorporated into this new portfolio of products. However not in the traditional manner. Since everybody has access to a phone, it could be used for quick approvals either by calling in, getting called or sending an SMS. Even faxes could be incorporated. Traditional companies might be more willing to move from paper faxes to online faxes instead of moving from zero to Facebook speed right away.

The key will be the ability to people to define and manage things themselves without needing support from IT or five level of approvals…

 

The traditional way of innovation is no longer good enough…

January 16, 2012 1 comment

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.

Some good books on innovation are: The Innovator’s Dilemma, Nail It then Scale It and  The Innovator’s DNA

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