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10 world changing technology trends

February 13, 2015 Leave a comment

1. Block chain
The block chain is the heart of digital currencies like Bitcoin. What most don’t realise yet is that the block chain will be used for managing everything from domain names, artist royalties, escrow contracts, auctions, lotteries, etc. You can do away with middlemen whose only reason of being is making sure they keep on getting a large cut in the value chain. Unless a middlemen or governmental institution adds real value, they are in danger of being block chained into the past.
2. Biometric security
A good example is the Nymi, a wearable that listens to your unique heart beat patterns and creates a unique identity. Even if people steal your Nymi, it is of no use since they need your heart to go with it.
3. Deep belief networks
Deep belief networks are the reason why Google’s voice recognition is surprisingly accurate, Facebook can tag photos automagically, self-driven cars, etc.
4. Smart labels
They are 1 to 3 millimetres small. They harvest electricity from their environment. They can detect people approaching within half a metre, sometimes even identify them and each product you will buy. Your microwave will not longer have to be told how to warm up a frozen meal.
5. Micro-servers
A $35 Raspberry Pi 2 or Odroid is many multiples more powerful than the first Google server but the size of a credit card. Parallella is $99, same size, and almost ten times more coresP then the first Google server.
6. Apps and App Stores for Smart Devices
Snappy Ubuntu Core allows developers to create apps like mobile apps but to put them on any smart device from robots & drones to wifi, hubs, industrial gateways, switches, dishwashers, sprinkler controls, etc. Software developers will be able to innovate faster and hardware can be totally repurposed in seconds. A switch can become a robot controller.
7. Edge/proximity/fog clouds
Public clouds often have too much latency for certain use cases. Often connectivity loss is not tolerable. Think about security cameras. In a world where 4K quality IP cameras will become extremely cheap, you want machine learning imagine recognition to be done locally and not on the other side of the world.
8. Containers and micro-services orchestration
Docker is not new but orchestrating millions of containers and handling super small micro services is still on the bleeding edge.
9. Cheap personalised robots and drones
£35 buys you a robot arm in Maplin in the UK. Not really useful for major things except for educating the next generation robot makers. Robots and drones will have apps (point 6) for which personalised robots and drones are happening this year.
10. Smart watches and hubs
Smart hubs know who is in the house, where they are (if you wear a phone, health wearable or smart watch), what their physical state is (heartbeat via smart watch), what your face looks like and your voice. Your smart watch will know more about you then you want relatives to know. Today Google knows a husband is getting a divorce before they do [wife searches and uses google maps]. Tomorrow your smart watch will know you are going to have a divorce before you do [heart jumped when you looked at that girl, her heartbeat went wild when you came closer].

The next-generation of customer premise equipment generates revenue

February 6, 2015 Leave a comment

Traditionally telecom operators subsidise the cost of broadband modems and set top boxes to get customers subscribing to their services. What if this customer premise equipment or CPE could be made a lot more innovative and go from a cost to a revenue generator?

How to generate revenue from a CPE?

What if it would be possible to put an app store in your CPE and have consumers and small and medium businesses buy apps for their CPE, just like for their mobile. Sounds as a far off thing? It is closer than you think. Thanks to Snappy Ubuntu Core it should be possible in the coming months to do just this. Developers can create Snappy Apps or Snaps and sell them through a Snap Store to consumers and businesses. The first prototypes should be on MWC in Barcelona.

What would you sell on a CPE?

Anything that adds value to users. Ranging from security related Snaps (firewalls, antivirus, VPN, Tor gateways, etc.), wan optimisers, parental control by age/religion/political inclination, entertainment, IoT apps, security solutions, anything basically. Your imagination is the only limitation. Snaps allow for complete personalisation and give a stickiness to CPEs that should dramatically reduce churn.

Add to this that lots of functionality can be moved from the CPE to some cloud solution on the other side of the broadband network, called proximity cloud. Apps on the proximity cloud can work together with the CPEs allowing for complex content delivery networking, ad-hoc VPN and VLANs, better solutions for NAT/DHCP/etc. This should allow for lots more complex apps and as such more revenue potential, lower cost CPEs and even revenue coming from others. Proximity clouds that allow custom apps to be put on the network edges are so much more versatile than standard CDN that do generic video caching. Netflix type of companies can pay to put Netflix specific apps on the edges and pay per use. But not only the big ones can buy edge app capacity but any company. It is something that cloud providers can not easily do because their edges are a lot further away from end-users, so operators would have the advantage for once…

The Future of IoT…

February 1, 2015 Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago we launched the open source solution to put apps and app stores on any smart device. So this is a perfect moment to talk about what the future of the Internet of Things will look like.

Hardware and Software Acceleration
Up till now you had to be a hardware and software expert to innovate in IoT. Sony is an example of a big company that is a hardware innovator but struggled to make the transition to software-driven TVs. Amazon is the example of the opposite. By separating hardware from software, the IoT revolution will accelerate and walled garden solutions that are not cutting edge in both software and hardware will suffer.

Micro-servers are the size of a credit card but at a price of a good restaurant meal and 5 to 20 times better than the first Google server. Imagine their prices dropping to $5 or even $1 at scale. Now imagine having thousands of apps for each device that is powered by a micro-server. Finally imagine this smart device talking to thousands of other devices and proximity clouds as well a public clouds. These smart devices can have gesture control, voice control, virtual reality screens, 3D vision, 4k cameras, thermal sensing, GPS, body sensors, and lots of other sensors. Backed by a virtually unlimited cloud store that can do real-time big data predictive analytics and machine learning in a distributed fashion. Thanks to Bitcoin’s block chain, distributed solutions that are not centrally controlled are possible. Docker and containers allow cloud-based IoT solutions to be continuously deployed. 3D printing will accelerate customized solutions and over time lower production costs. So enough innovations to keep everybody busy.

IoT and business innovations
Lots of companies I speak to belief that platforms and hardware will make money. The bad news is that only Foxconn type of companies will be able to make money by producing extremely large quantities at ridiculously small margins each. Platforms will be open source so only a small number will get enough adoption to make money. So how can you make money with IoT?

For now consultancy but this will fade when the market matures. An obvious alternative model is apps and app stores. The cloud offers SaaS and pay for use software models that are likely going to be successful in IoT. However the big market opportunity is about substituting obsolete reactive maintenance businesses by proactive predictive maintenance, long tail B2B and B2C service marketplaces, broker models, pay per use service models, p2p/crowd models, etc.

Lots of traditional industrial companies have business models in which machinery is sold with a medium to low margin but maintenance and optional services have extremely high margins. These margins are protected through proprietary technology. In an industrial IoT market existing infrastructure will unlikely be substituted, a.k.a brown field market. Nimble competitors will offer ways around traditional models by creating translations between proprietary systems and general purpose IoT micro-servers that can be controlled remotely.

Future use cases
Home automation will be the most visible and trendy but industrial IoT will be the money maker. Telecom operators will present lots of sim-based use cases but unless they change their way of rolling out new services, success is doubtful for most. The connected car will likely use your mobile unless data contracts become extremely cheap. Health will see lots of solutions. A new market of over-the-top health solutions will emerge in which people will get health services from medical staff that can be on the other side of the world or even provided by a computer. Security and surveillance will be one of the most widespread IoT solutions given that the price of IP cameras has come down dramatically and security solutions have become easier to use.

Drawbacks of IoT
Standards are not important. Adoption will decide what is the standard. Not a group of pseudo-experts. However unless use cases don’t have enough widespread adoption across industries, you are likely to find islands of competing standards. Making global role-outs harder.

Security is key. Nobody wants to be the company that killed through IoT. Unfortunately it will happen in the next 24-36 months because security is extremely complex and somebody will cut corners.

Privacy is becoming critical. Google knows you are getting a divorce before you. But with IoT, your smart watch and big data analytics will know about your chances of starting an affair before you even talked to the other person.

Legally there are many areas of IoT that will be extreme challenges. Bad people are good innovators because they need to stay a step before others not to get caught. Also IoT conflicts will become extremely challenging to solve when services and solutions are used from the other side of the world.

Substitution of people by machines is a worry. Lots of people are in obsolete jobs but inertia is no longer a salvation because technology commoditises very successfully. However the Internet and mobiles created millions of new jobs. It is easier to see obsolete jobs than to predict new job roles. Who would have thought that data scientists would be the sexiest job!!!

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…

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