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The Micro-Server Revolution

January 27, 2015 Leave a comment

A new revolution is in the making: the micro – server revolution. When Google started, its first server was four to five times less powerful then an Odroid-C1. The Odroid is just one of many small boards that retail for $35 and host a gigabyte of RAM and a 1Ghz processor and are no larger than a credit card. The $99 Parallella even has 18 cores on a credit card sized board. This combined with the new Snappy Ubuntu Core allows makers to create super smart devices that fit in the palm of your hand and developers to make millions of apps for them. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are likely going to see an avalanche of new smart devices and apps for them. Imagine your vacuum cleaner with apps. Your WiFi with apps. Your alarm, HVAC, coffee maker, sprinkler, set top box, etc. will all be app enabled. Now let’s look further to what new type of devices and apps are likely to come? In the health industry there are lots of doctor visits that could be diagnosed remotely. If people could buy some kind of $99 appliance that could measure all type of regular things like heart beat, oxygen level, temperature, sugar level, look in ears and mouth, etc. Connect this device to a tablet and any health care professional could see lots more patients each day and involve doctors and patients that live in remote areas. An app example could be investment banking. Flood sensors, wind sensors, rain sensors, seismic sensors, etc. can all predict disasters minutes or seconds before they happen.  Micro – seconds high frequency trading could go global and make use of billions of sensor data to make trades just before problems occur and warn the rest of the world seconds or minutes earlier than before. There are many more devices and apps possible, just make sure you check out crowdfunding websites regularly…

IoT Revolution: SnApp Stores for any THINGS

January 20, 2015 Leave a comment

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, just announced the biggest IoT innovation in history: SnApp Stores for any THINGS. Any THING can run apps from an associated Snapp Store. It is just like having apps on a mobile phone but instead apps run on any THING.

What does this mean?

Developers will be able to create apps with Snappy Ubuntu Core – Snappy Apps or Snapps – and run them on any THING. The list of THINGS is only limited by people’s imagination. It can be vacuum cleaners, fridges, dishwashers, coffee machines, alarm systems, robots, drones, set top boxes, HVAC, WiFi, switches, routers, telecom mobile base stations, agricultural irrigation controllers, swimming pool controllers, industrial appliances, medical equipment, digital signage, POS, ATMs, smart energy meters, cars, radios, TVs, IP cameras, clouds, 3D printers, virtual reality wearables, smart hubs and any next-generation device that can run Ubuntu Core and still needs to be invented. If it has an ARMv7 or X86 chip and 256MB or better then you can put a Snapp Store on it.

Apps made mobile phones go from stupid calling devices to personalised smart super computers many of us would not be able to live without. New industries were born. Complete industries revolutionized. The app revolution is about to be repeated but this time any THING is a target.

Imagine what will happen if all devices in your home, at work, in your city, on holidays, etc. go from stupid to smart and personalised.  Your house will know if you are stressed before you enter the door. It will play the music it knows relaxes you, the coffee smell you prefer, the ideal temperature & light intensity, block calls you don’t want, have the house cleaned, your favourite food just minutes away from being delivered, grocery shopping done, that interesting TV series just waiting to entertain you, etc. Your energy bill will be lower, your car will adapt to you, your hover will collaborate with the alarm system, your pet will be fed the right diet, your children will have personalised parental control, your mail packages delivered where you are, etc.

Snapps will only be limited by your imagination so start dreaming now about what the Snapp Store should bring you an make your dreams come true at ubuntu.com/things.

 

IoT for financial services

January 18, 2015 Leave a comment

It is easy to see how logistics, home automation, healthcare, automotive, energy, etc. have mind-blowing IoT use cases. However what about IoT and financial services? Since I live in the banking capital of the world – i.e. London – there must be something useful the City can do with IoT!

Personal insurance and IoT is easy
If a sensor can tell your insurance company when, where and how you drive then your car insurance will be able to offer insurance for actual usage and risk. If you are willing to wear sensors on your body then life and health insurance can be personalized. Share your mobile location with your insurance and travel insurance can be made into a dynamic one click service. House insurance can also go far better if sensors would measure risks, e.g. water damage can be reduced if your alarm system and your water meter would talk to one another.

Business insurance and IoT
What works for personal insurance also applies to business insurance. Logistics should pay for actual risk coverage. Health and travel insurance for employees can be tracked via sensors as well.

Linking insurance data to investment opportunities
If insurance companies anonymize and aggregate data then investment banks would benefit enormously. Delays in transatlantic shipping will delay sales and will impact stock markets. Knowing how many trucks left a car manufacturer’s plant will give you an excellent indicator of stock levels and future revenues. If lots of employees of Zara need travel insurance for some new countries, it is easy to predict investment in expansion is likely to happen in Inditex. Some use cases will require insurance customers to agree with data being shared. Nothing like a discount to accelerate this.

Other sensors and investment banking
Investment banking should invest in knowing weather and other easily measurable things milliseconds before others. High-frequency trading should not only happen inside black pools but could include storms that will delay ships, air traffic, etc. Banks that warn populations minutes or seconds earlier of a tornado, tsunami or earthquake will be seen as doing something good. That they will put their investments into safety or make some extra investments milli-seconds before the rest will be lost in the details.

IoT and retail banking
Retail banks always want to attract more savings and provide more credit. Knowing that your washing machine will break down in the next three weeks will allow them to offer a good credit deal first. Collaboration with home appliance and car manufacturers would be beneficial in this aspect. Also being able to predict how many appliances will need maintenance means that extending business loans to small businesses becomes a lot less risky.

IoT and other innovations
Adding block chain, machine learning, big data, cloud, etc. in the mix would open even a lot more use cases but let’s deal with those in another post…

Dumb and Dumber is better than the Next Big Thing

December 17, 2014 1 comment

The software world is a strange beast. It is the only industry that has one million solutions and no paying customer problems. The other industries are the other way around. There is a tendency to open source and commoditise more and more solutions. The reason is that companies always migrate upwards in the value chain, meaning that the hardware, the operating system, etc. are now commodity because the value is in the platform or the application. To get more customers to your platform, you need to make it as easy for them to get there. Open sourcing is a trialled and tested approach for this. It also means that every x years somebody will comoditise your current cashcow.

By far the strangest thing about the IT industry is its obsession with the Next Big Thing.  There is a very small number of companies that have mastered the art of Cloud, Big Data, Continuous Deployment, Docker, SDNs, etc. Yet whatever their problem is they are currently working on seems to be on the mind of everybody. The belief is that if you convince the Cool Company to embrace your product then everybody will embrace it over time.

I beg to differ. Being on the bleeding edge of technology means you have to open source everything and keep on outrunning everybody else. Lots of really smart people are playing the risk-it-all lottery in the hope their new invention will change billions of people’s habits. Most of the time the money made with those new solutions is trivial versus the old money and you need so much VC money that at the end the pay-out to the winners is not that big.

What if in 2015 instead on focusing on the next big thing, all the smart people in the IT industry would focus on the dumb solutions that are used in many other industries on a daily basis. Dumb and dumber really describes the IT architecture of many non-IT based industries. Helping them to accelerate via lean start-up methodology, minimum valuable product, disruptive solutions, etc. will more likely create a new list of billionaires then to try to impress Google with a better Kubernetes or Facebook with a better Wedge. Smart people should forget about the next big thing in IT and focus on the dumb and dumber solutions from other industries…

Snappy Ubuntu for Business People

December 9, 2014 1 comment

Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu. Ubuntu powers up to 70% of the public cloud and 64% of OpenStack private clouds run on top of Ubuntu. Today, Canonical launched Snappy Ubuntu Core! Snappy Ubuntu is a revolution in how software gets packaged, deployed, upgraded and rolled-back. So what is it and why should you and your business care?

What is Snappy Ubuntu?
Snappy is allowing developers to build Snappy Apps – called Snapps – like mobile apps and deploy them to the cloud. In the past developers would make a software solution, afterwards a maintainer would take often weeks or months to create a packaged version. This would mean that fast moving projects like Docker would never be up to date inside any of the big Linux distributions. Snappy changes this by allowing the developer to package their solution on their own and publish it through the Snappy Store to all users in minutes. Since all Snapps run in a secure and confined environment, they can not harm other Snapps or the operating system itself. Quality, speed and security can now all be combined.

Snappy upgrades are transactional. This means that you install a new version in one go but also easily roll back to the previous version if required. Snappy manages a super small version of Ubuntu called Ubuntu Core. This means you can run it very cost efficiently and fast in the cloud.

Why is Snappy important for Businesses?

Snappy allows solutions to be packaged and published by the software vendors in minutes instead of months. Users can deploy and roll back very easily. Trying new innovations becomes cheap and fast.

Snapps can use any license. Snappy Ubuntu was born as a spin-off of the Ubuntu Phone operating system. You might want to make a guess of what is likely to come.

With Snappy, the vendor packages the complete application, including its dependencies. Less moving parts mean less chances of something going wrong and cheaper to support customers. Updates are incremental so only what changes gets pushed, saving bandwidth costs and time. Urgent security patches can be easily distributed, with high confidence.

Existing Docker or other container apps can be Snappy deployed. Building your Docker containers on top of Snappy Ubuntu makes good business sense. In the future you can get optional commercial support from a company that has been supporting Linux for 10 years and is trusted by Amazon AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure with the big majority of their Linux workloads.

Snappy Ubuntu is open source and has some great example Snapps, so make sure your teams don’t get “Snappsassinated” by a competitor…

Several telecom operators to run into financial problems in the next three years…

November 21, 2014 Leave a comment

In 2017 several telecom operators will run into financial problems, with Vodafone being the most known, unless they start changing today. Why?

The telecom business is a very capital intensive business. Buying spectrum, rolling out the next-generation mobile networks and bringing fiber connections to each home and business is extremely capital intensive. Traditionally operators were the main users of their networks and got large margins on the services that ran on top of them. The truth today is that telecom operators have been completely sidetracked. They no longer have any control of the mobile devices that are used on their networks and neither the services. Data is growing exponentially and is already clogging their networks. A data tsunami is on the horizon. Operators see costs ballooning and ARPU shrinking. There is no way they can start asking substantially more for broadband access. Obama just killed any hope of adding a speed tax on the Internet. The EU wants to kill juicy roaming charges. However the future will be even worse.

New disruptive competitors have entered the market in recent years. Google Fiber is offering gigabit speeds both for uploading and downloading. Youtube and Netflix are generating the majority of Internet traffic in most countries.  Most streaming videos are broadcasted in SD quality. However Netflix is already broadcasting in 4K or ultra high-definition quality on Google Fiber. This means traffic volumes of between 7 to 19GB per hour depending on the codec that is used. Take into account that often different family members can be looking at two or more programmes at the same time. The end result is that today’s networks and spectrum are completely insufficient. Now add the nascent IoT revolution. Every machine on earth will get an IP address and be able to “share its feelings with the world”. Every vital sign of each person in the richer parts of the world will be collected by smart watches and tweeted about on social networks. 90% of the communication that is running inside Facebook’s data centre is machine to machine communication, not user-related communication. Facebook hasn’t even introduced IoT or wearables yet. You can easily imagine them helping even the biggest geek with suggestions on which girl to talk to and what to talk about via augmented reality goggles and with the help of smart watches. Yes it is a crazy example but which telecom marketing department would have given even $1 to Zuckerberg if he would have pitched Facebook to them when it was still known as TheFacebook. It is the perfect example of how “crazy entrepreneurs” make telecom executives look like dinosaurs.

This brings us to the internals on how telecom operators are ran. Marketing departments decide what customers MUST like. Often based on more than doubtful market studies and business plans. In contrast the mobile app stores of this world just let customers decide. Angry Bird might not be the most intelligent app but it sure is a money maker. Procurement departments decide which network and IT infrastructure is best for the company. Ask them what NFV or SDN means and the only thing they can sensibly response is an RFP identifier. Do you really think any procurement department can make a sensible decision on what network technology will be able to compete with Google? More importantly make sure these solutions are deployed at Google speed, integrated at Google speed and scale out at Google speed? If they pick a “Telecom-Grade Feature Monster” that takes years to integrate, then they have killed any chance of that operator being innovative. With all the telecom-grade solutions operators have, why is it that Google’s solutions are more responsive, offer better quality of service and are always available? Vittorio Colao, the Vodafone CEO, was quoted in a financial newspaper yesterday saying Vodafone is going to have to participate in the crazy price war around digital content because BT has moved into mobile. So one of the biggest telecom operators in the world has executive strategies like launching new tariff plans [think RED in 2013], pay crazy money to broadcast football matches, bundle mobile with fixed to be able to discount overall monthly tariffs and erode ARPU even more, etc. If you can get paid millions to just look at what competitors are doing and just badly copy them and dotcoms [the list is long: hosted email, portals, mobile portals, social networks, virtual desktops, IaaS, streaming video, etc.] then please allow me to put your long term viability into question.

So can it actually be done differently. YES, for sure. What if operators would enable customers to customise communication solutions towards their needs. Communication needs have not gone away, if any they augmented. Whatsapp, Google Hangout, etc. are clear examples of how SMS and phone calls can be improved. However they are just the tip of the iceberg of what is possible and what should be done. Network integrated apps via Telco App Stores would give innovators a chance to launch services that customers really like. Hands up who would pay to get rid of their current voicemail? Hands up who really loves their operator’s conference bridge and thinks it is state of the art? Hands up who is of the opinion a bakery is absolute not interested in knowing what its customers think about its products after they have left the shop?

Last week the TAD Summit in Turkey had a very special presentation from Truphone, one of the few disruptive mobile operators in the world. No wonder it won the best presentation award. Truphone, with the help of partners, deployed a telecom solution in minutes that included key components like IMS, SDP, HLR integration, one hundred numbers, dashboards, interactive voice responses, etc. Once deployed, the audience could immediately start calling and participate. All numbers of the people in the audience, their home operator, the operator that sold them their SIM initially, their age and responses to interactive questions were registered and results shown on a real-time dashboard. If the audience would have been in different locations, they could have been put on an interactive map as well. The whole solution took only a few weeks to build with a team of people that all had day jobs. The surprising thing is that it was all build with open source software. It is technically possible to innovate big time in telecom and bring to market new services daily. All at a fraction of today’s cost. The technology is no longer a limiting factor. Old-school thinking, bureaucracy and incompetence are the only things that hold back operators from changing their destiny. Whatever they do, they shouldn’t act like former-Nokia executives in some years and tell the world that Android and the iPhone took them by surprise. Dear mister operator, you have been warned. You have been giving good advise and examples of how to do it better. Now it is time to act upon them…

IoT and personal health

November 9, 2014 Leave a comment

I just saw Eric Dishman’s TED session on “Health care should be a team sport“. I love the idea of providing people with chronicle illness the means to be diagnosed and treated remotely and use big data to learn of a large group of patients with similar issues. Personally this would mean that when my sons have breathing problems we would not have to drag them in the middle of the night to a hospital where they are exposed to many viruses. Instead by measuring their oxygen level and listening to their longs a personalized remote diagnose could be made and some nebulizers or other things administered. At scale all equipment would probably cost less than £200 because Maplin already sells the nebulizer and oxygen level meter for a combined £110. Add another £90 at worst for a stethoscope that can be connected via bluetooth to a smartphone. Now via Hangout a doctor could remotely diagnose the results and even in the future a computer programme. All results of millions of patients would be collected in order to improve treatment. So no need for an expensive hospital in London with a receptionist, nurse and doctor dedicating 2 hours. By just avoiding one hospital night, the whole system would be enormously profitable. Additionally Ubuntu’s Juju can be used to set up all the big data and diagnostic software in minutes in any cloud or server on any place in the world. If other open source solutions are used then the total solution would be in reach for any developing country. There are probably more than one developer whose kids are asthmatic, and would happily contribute time. It sounds like an ideal Gates Foundation or Kickstarter project. If you think you can help please reach out to me because this is not work for me, this is personal engagement.

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