2014
04.30

I can’t help but chuckle every time I hear people say we are becoming a society that is addicted to our mobile devices. The reason I snicker is that there is no “becoming” in any of this. We are addicted. Plain and simple. Don’t get me wrong, I write about technology every day. I espouse the use of technology in both our professional and personal lives. I personally love technology. And there is no getting around the fact that I am personally inspired by transformative leaders of all this innovative technology.

However, with all this being said, I have to ask: Have our bad habits created a society of zombies? I know there are studies out there that say if you check your apps more than 60 times a day you are hooked. I really don’t believe I have to waste the time of a group of highly educated psychologists to confirm what I can observe for myself. I think it’s pretty obvious if we are checking our mobile phones and our apps every 15 or 20 minutes then our gadgets are clearly hijacking our attention—and perhaps our manners. Now don’t get me wrong, perhaps that’s your job. And there are always exceptions to every rule. But let’s talk about the average person.

As I see it, when we can’t get into our cars without reaching for our phone there’s a problem. When we are in the restroom and we have to bring our gadgets with us, there’s an issue. What about at dinner? Is checking social media more important than spending quality time with our family? When we can’t enjoy a relaxing evening with friends without checking our texts, something is clearly awry. Do we care more about looking at our electronic devices than common courtesy? Here are the facts: More than 3,300 people are killed every year as a result of driver distraction. Driver distraction is increasing as a result of texting and talking on our cellphones.

All month long we have been discussing the cognitive distraction on our ability to stay focused on our driving. What we haven’t really considered is the impact on the higher level of cognitive functions such as creative problem solving. I never even understood the detrimental impact this is having on all of us until I interviewed Paul Atchley, a professor at the University of Kansas on my radio show, (The Peggy Smedley Show) yesterday. Paul helped me realize if we disconnect from our phones even for only four days and go into nature, our creativity goes up by as much as 50%. Imagine the productivity gains of our children, employees, students, and even drivers.

He also pointed out we would process emotions better. After hearing that little tidbit, I have decided that I am now blaming all my emotional outbursts on all the people who call me on my cellphone. So the real lesson here is that we need to be more in tune with nature and less with a ring, bing, and a tweet.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #distracteddriving, #distraction, #carriers, #automotive, #M2M, #data, #connectedcars, #invehicle, #automakers, #smartphone, #IoT

2014
04.29

Whatever your personal opinion may be regarding the sanctioning by the FAA (Federal Aviation Admin.) of the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in U.S. airspace beginning next year, from a pure technological perspective, improvements for its use continue to appear in the patent grants each week.

One example is Patent 8,708,277 (“Method and Apparatus for Automated Launch, Retrieval and Servicing of a Hovering Aircraft”) awarded this week to Aerovel Corp. The patented method and apparatus is part of the company’s Flexrotor program which develops table-top vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles. Do yourself a favor and take a six-minute break to watch the absolutely charming video about the Flexrotor, one that will give you a true appreciation for the technology covered in the patent.

Aerovel was founded in 2006 and was featured in a story concerning its push into commercial drone applications.

Patent 8,712,579 (“Optimization of Packaging Sizes”) was granted to Amazon Technologies, Inc. In its relentless quest to improve the operating efficiencies in its distribution centers to drive down costs, as well as find a way to offset the rising shipping rates that carriers such as UPS and FedEx are charging, one strategy is to find a way to use a shipping carton that most perfectly matches the collective volume of the products it will contain. This is called packaging optimization, and it has been a focus area for many companies in the past decade, among which Amazon is notable because of the volume of packages it ships annually. In addition to the savings in shipping costs, there is the savings in the raw materials of the carton. Optimize the size of the shipping carton and you will, in the aggregate, pay much less to the paper mills that make the cartons. For Amazon, volume matters, and the process described in the patent moves it closer to the realization of the benefits from delivering what you ordered in a carton that has no unused space.

The importance of the rising cost of shipping to Amazon is reflected in the April 25th news report in the Wall Street Journal, picked up by other media outlets, highlighting Amazon’s three city experiment in doing its own deliveries with Amazon-controlled trucks. We know that Amazon has a deal with the United States Postal Service for local delivery, including Sundays, and the buzz about the winners and losers from Amazon’s direction is already starting to emerge. The important thing to remember is that Amazon pursues new process improvement technologies relentlessly, and patents the innovative technology aggressively.

In old legends and fairy tales, a troll was an ugly beast which lurked along roads in forests or under bridges. It would confront unsuspecting travelers and, worse case, eat them. Little children were an easy and savory target. So it comes as no surprise that the altogether negative image of this beast of legend has been assigned to companies that collect and hold patents and then sue companies for infringement with the sole objective of collecting royalty revenue. These companies are known as patent trolls. Courts have struggled to determine if and how the law can be applied to limit the negative impact of litigation as it retards the deployment of innovative technologies into the marketplace. Let’s equate today’s startup companies to the tasty children trolls delighted in eating.

In breaking news today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a significant ruling requiring companies that engage in “unreasonable” litigation conduct and then lose patent-infringement cases should pay the winners’ legal fees. This is a legal form of driving a stake through the heart of the troll bringing a suit for express purpose of extracting royalty revenue.

Here’s an interesting case that involves a company, Ditto Technologies, Inc., which today was granted Patent 8,708,494 (“Displaying Glasses with Recorded Images.”) The technology covered in the patent is used by the company, a recent startup, to allow you to sit in front of your camera-enabled connected device and see how an eyeglass frame would look on your face. Ditto was sued by two companies for patent infringement, and one of the suits, described as a company that fits the profile of a patent troll, was dismissed. Ditto turned to crowd-funding to raise money to fight the suits. The road to innovation is a dangerous one to travel, and to a startup targeted by a troll, a costly one as well.

Google had a good day, receiving 55 patent grants. The Google innovation ecosystem has two parts, internal innovation research and development which is coupled with its aggressive acquisition of technology companies that bring preexisting innovation “building blocks” into its ecosystem. An example of the latter is Google’s recent acquisition of Deep Mind, the UK-based artificial intelligence company.

Google’s ambitions are directly tied to those of its founders. Recently, at TED2014, Charlie Rose, the noted television commentator, interviewed Larry Page with a specific focus on Page’s vision of the technology of the future. They covered the Deep Mind acquisition, putting bicycle paths in the sky, using balloons to increase global Internet connectivity and other technologies that will influence the way we will live in the future.

My point is that with Google, we have a better chance of understanding of how to “connect the dots” between the new patents we see it receive week after week with the vision of its leadership on the direction they want Google to take. It is like having both the ability to rise above the forest to see its shape while inspecting each tree (patent) that makes up the forest. Breathtaking!

2014
04.24

What separates a path-blazing patent from an “every day” one? Put another way, what makes a patent “strategic” for a company, enabling it to gain significant competitive advantage over its competition?

Strategic patenting is a discipline in the larger practice of IP (intellectual property) management. A recent article on strategic patenting was reposted in http://www.ipstrategy.com/ on April 18, and provides a very good explanation with examples of patents that put the owners of IP way ahead of their competitors. You should not be surprised to see the name of Amazon among the companies described as leaders in strategic patenting. We should thank the author, Jackie Hutter, for this excellent contribution to our understanding of patent valuation.

Amazon Technologies, Inc. was granted a number of patents that focused on aspects of speech recognition (see my last Patent Report) that include phrase recognition with the objective of prompting response phrases to the listener, and customized speech generation based upon understanding a person’s behavioral patterns related to the specific context of the dialog. For example, one would respond differently to a person in a stressful situation compared with a pleasant one. Speech patterns vary from context to context. Having a device know the difference can lead to better dialog.

What makes this interesting to me is the sustained efforts that Amazon, Google and other companies are making around improvements in speech recognition. Just how far have we have come in enabling devices to pass the Turing Test? As recently as April 21, we read that a Google algorithm successfully passed the test, but did it really? There is controversy around the interpretation of what conditions satisfy the rules of the test, but the improvements coming weekly to the area of speech recognition are shortening the time until an unambiguous “pass” by a device will be recognized. Once this happens, the fundamental issue for personal information security will be the “hack” of your bank account by a device that is a behavioral and aural mimic of you.

Honeywell International Inc. was granted Patent 8,705,808 (“Combined face and iris recognition system”) which covers a broad range security-related use cases.

When I read through the listing of prior patent citations that provide the groundwork for the present patent, I found it striking that the first citation was for a patent granted in 1987 for an early iris recognition system. It is worth looking through because the earliest patent citation in that patent is from July 25, 1916, number 1,192,349 for a “Shadow Pupillometer.”

Following the technology bread crumb trail backward in time reminds me of Isaac Newton’s famous statement: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Like WiTricity’s recent citation of Tesla’s wireless energy transmission patent, creating a connection to devices separated by more than 100 years, so much of what we today introduce as technological innovation has deep roots in history.

Like Amazon’s grant for enhanced facial recognition in video, Honeywell received Patent 8,706,663 (“Detection of People in Real World Videos and Images.”) Security devices and systems are a large part of Honeywell’s business, and the advancements described in this and the face and iris recognition patent discussed above certainly help improve its product lines.

Here’s an interesting one from MIT. Reissued Patent RE44,856  (“Tactile Sensor Using Elastometric Imaging”) addresses the need to improve tactile sensors for an application such as a robot finger pad. There are three critical properties that are desired in a tactile sensor. As described in the Background section in the patent, “It should have high resolution (be able to make fine spatial discriminations), have high sensitivity (be able to detect small variations in pressure), and be compliant (able to elastically deform in response to pressure).” Let’s remember that MIT is the home of quite a few groups investigating robotics for different applications, so a patent like this granted to MIT should not come as a surprise.

Ever want to know what information is actually carried on your credit card? Then check out Patent 8,701,989 (“Methods and Systems for Displaying Loyalty Program Information on a Payment Card”) granted to MasterCard International Incorporated. The schematic of the card and the explanation of what each part of the card represents is an excellent visual aid. You’d be surprised by “what’s in your wallet,” to borrow a phrase from Capital One.

2014
04.22

Security is foremost on the minds of anyone who is involved in the world of connected devices, M2M, or the IoT (Internet of things) these days and with good reason. Data breaches and cyber threats are plaguing just about every industry. For instance, Heartbleed is definitely something that is significant and requires quick action for numerous organizations, especially if your firm is running a vulnerable version of OpenSSL. Without question, every company needs to be prepared for these types of unannounced vulnerabilities as they pop up. It’s no secret Heartbleed found its way into Web servers, but it also created havoc on routers, networking equipment, and a host of enterprise technology.

Heartbleed really opened all of our eyes to just how vulnerable enterprise systems and gadgets can be to cyber attacks. With that said, it’s almost impossible to keep up with cyber trends because as these cyber attacks increase we are seeing bad guys show off the real innovative art behind these designer breaches versus the real science of the crime.

So, the real question is how do you keep up with all the cybercrime? As I see it, it’s virtually impossible.

In talking with Bryan Sartin, director, of Verizon’s RISK team, I wasn’t surprised to hear him acknowledge the cybersecurity landscape is just getting trickier and trickier. From his perspective cybercrime is growing and so are the vulnerabilities for each and every enterprise. Sartin is a huge proponent of companies establishing sound strategic security initiatives that can limit the effects of something like a Heartbleed. His comments stem from Verizon’s security report, which it released today. The report’s goal is to help enterprises assess what they are doing right now in the area of information security.

The seventh annual Verizon 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report, states more than 1,300 confirmed data breaches and 63,000 reported security incidents throughout a 10-year range of study.

In looking at the report it highlights nine threat patterns Verizon says are responsible for a good portion (almost 92%) of the security incidents analyzed. These threat patterns include miscellaneous errors, which can be as simple as sending an email to the wrong person; “crimeware,” which the carrier defines as malware aimed at gaining control of systems; insider misuse; physical theft and loss; Web app attacks; POS (point-of-sale) intrusions; and payment card skimmers; among others.

So if the report’s ultimate message is clear—no organization is immune from a data breach—then, as an M2M industry, we need to find better ways to help enterprise companies. If the potential of more devices and gadgets being compromised increases as more apps continue to communicate with each other, the greater the risk of cybercrime, unless the M2M/IoT industry takes the necessary precautions to minimize attacks.

There is good news in all this. The M2M industry is proof positive that when data is put in the hands of the right decisionmakers it can change the fate of a business. The data-breach report does a nice job of showing that information. Now it’s up to enterprises to put the right safety measures in place to least minimize the impact of a data breach.

In a world where cybercrime is sometimes nothing more than just sport to the bad guys, you really need to be more vigilant than ever if you really want to protect your assets.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #Verizon #security #cybercrime #M2M #IoT #Heartbleed

2014
04.17

News coverage of unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones, for use in non-military applications is increasing as the FAA moves closer to issuing rules for their use in the United States. It has been reported that the first round of rules will probably be limited to use by emergency responders. Other countries such as Australia are well ahead of the U.S. in the development and deployment of drones for civilian use cases. Concern has been expressed that drones will pose a threat to people on the ground because of factors such as loss of control causing impacts to buildings and other structures, and mid-air collisions causing falling debris. Clearly, this is a valid concern. One company that is addressing this problem is L-3 Unmanned Systems, which was granted Patent 8,700,306 (“Autonomous Collision Avoidance System for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”) This system does not require human control, making the detection, tracking, and avoidance of aerial hazards an autonomous function of the drone. As you can imagine, this capability will require that highly connected, sensor-laden devices be incorporated into the drone, itself a highly “connected device.” In the background section of the patent, L-3 references the need of such a system to support the forthcoming use of civilian drones in U.S national airspace.

Speech recognition continues to be an active area for patent grants, and in follow up to my report in March, three major companies received grants this week. What is interesting is how non-traditional technology companies are challenging the traditional leaders for speech recognition marketshare. Amazon and Google are emerging as speech-recognition research and development companies, driven by their desire to incorporate speech into devices such as Google Glass, autonomously driven cars and consumer-engagement applications on smartphones. Traditional players in speech recognition engines (the software) have included Nuance, Voxware and Vocollect among others. Significantly, manufacturers of the devices on which voice-application software run have moved to integrate voice software companies, most notably, Honeywell International’s acquisition of Vocollect. Motorola Solutions, now being acquired by Zebra Technologies in a deal valued at $3.5 Billion, has its own voice application for distribution and logistics, a market in which they have a considerable hardware footprint. All of this suggests a blurring of the line between the physical device and the speech recognition engine and applications that sit on the device. Voice-directed applications are becoming ubiquitous both in the B2C and B2B spaces. Google Glass is a good example of this.

Amazon was granted Patent 8,700,392 (“Speech Inclusive Device Interfaces”), which has the distinction of including Jeff Bezos’ name among the individuals associated with the patent. You do not see this often, and signals an important benchmark that the patented technology achieves for the company. One of the benefits for the technology cited in the patent is the reduction of training time for people in jobs where voice direction can be used. There is a surge of interest in the industrial space, particularly logistics, for voice-directed applications. Let’s remember that Amazon is a major owner and operator of distribution centers, for which it was granted this week Patent 8,700,502 (“System and Method of Fulfilling an Order,”) which directly relates to distribution center operations. One must be impressed by the synergy Amazon demonstrates when connecting technology to its real-world processes.

Google was granted Patent 8,700,393 (“Multi-stage Speaker Adaption”) which focuses on one of the two basic forms of speech recognition which are “dependent” and “independent.” Google’s patent improves upon the dependent form. A speaker-dependent system is “one to one,” meaning that the voice of the speaker is mapped and therefore is a unique profile. This form is used in industrial environments where workers (“user”) must be securely identified for specific work processes, and who are independently tracked for user productivity measurements. The speaker-independent form has been mostly used in consumer applications, where such a degree of user control is not required.

Honeywell, which owns Vocollect, was granted Patent 8,700,405 (“Audio System and Method for Coordinating Tasks,”) and the illustration in the patent clearly identifies this as a commercially oriented application, tied to devices worn by the user.

Coming on the heels of the April 1 awards, Visa U.S.A. Inc. was granted Patent 8,700,513 (“Authentication of a Transit Verification Value”) which further defines the art of using contactless payment technology for transit system access. As noted in my previous report, the ability to combine secure contactless payments with rapid-access, low security transit access into one form factor (credit card or smartphone) opens up a significant new market opportunity for payment facilitators like Visa and MasterCard.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #Drones #security #Google #Amazon #IoT #M2M #Vocollect #visa #retail #Zebra #Honeywell #nuance #Motorola #Voxware #FAA

2014
04.15

Women of M2M Shine

When we selected this year’s Women of M2M, we went beyond just typecasting the traditional power elite that I suspect most people might have anticipated. Rather, the women chosen this year epitomize what M2M has evolved into today. M2M has grown into this massive machine, so to speak, that is driving all the technology innovation that is sparking the growth of devices and their connections to one another. Much like our industry, these women are inspired, passionate, and very persistent.

The infectious energy of the women just filled the room during our special gathering last week. I was already pretty wowed by our selection after doing months of research on each of the women chosen, talking to their colleagues and business associates, and conducting numerous personal interviews. But nothing can beat the infectious-energy that fills a room the moment you meet these women. And that’s exactly what happened when 20, of the 42 Women of M2M, and even a few of last year’s alums showed up at an awards dinner held just outside Chicago, thanks to supporters Synchronoss, Ford, and Aeris.

It takes a lot to impress me, but this was truly an awe-inspiring evening. Meeting these women face-to-face only proved their resumes lived up to everything I had expected and more. I am certain the five men in attendance were trying to figure out if they should chime in the conversations or just bask in the glow of the success of their colleagues and/or significant others.

It was a night these women would remember for years to come. They had a chance to relax and to be recognized for years of outstanding achievement. As a result, they mingled with other women who are just as determined to find ways in which they can move the needle upward adding to the already 25% of women in the technology workforce. “Inspiration for me is to make a difference,” says Nancy Gioia of Ford. Her thoughts were echoed by most of the ladies who want to make a difference in the lives of younger women and with other co-workers.

The entire group is very committed to building strong social networks for business. While they admit their male counterparts are known to be consummate relationship builders, they need to step it up and develop stronger contacts to get themselves promoted within their own organizations, develop new relationships, and nurture the ones that already exist.

While many had a renewed feeling and a zest for working with each other, there were still a couple ladies that were reluctant to admit they could run with the big dogs. Humble and unassuming, these ladies needed a little encouragement to understand that their achievements were more than well-deserved. So if you haven’t already, please send one of the 42 bluechip women a congratulatory note. I’m certain they deserve it and you will feel better for sending it.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #M2M, #women, #females, #WoM2M

2014
04.10

Robots that become like us in thought and capabilities have long held a prominent position in science fiction going back to its humble beginnings including a stunning “first view” in Fritz Lang’s 1927 film classic Metropolis. Much has been accomplished since then to make the dream a reality, including robots with empathic skills functioning as companions for elderly and ill people. The dream has been to make an autonomously functioning device with near-human capabilities that can stand in for or augment human activity. Humans and robots working together on the production line in factories has been a reality for many years.

There’s a different line of investigation, however, heating up in terms of patent grants, that seeks to make our smart devices interact with us in a manner similar to how humans interact with each other, using non-verbal communication such as gestures. Here we are seeing a clear intent not to transform a smart device into a “traditional” robot, as defined above. Smart devices, used as tools to enable us to do a variety of tasks, remain in the form and use case for which they were originally made. A smartphone is still a phone with applications. The “human–machine interaction” research is intended to allow a device to work with a human who may not be able to hold it, tap a screen, or be within the minimum range with verbal interaction. Seeing a specific gesture from a distance can activate the device and other gestures could launch an application.

This is an area of formal research. For example, Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute is one of a number of prominent centers involved with bringing our devices and us into a better functional alignment. Perusing their current research initiatives makes for interesting reading.

With this in mind, an intriguing grant to Amazon Technologies, Inc., this week is Patent 8,693,726 (User Identification by Gesture Recognition.”) Reading through the Background, it becomes clear that a less resource-intensive means to identify a user to a device while maintaining a high level of password-like security is the objective. An example of a resource-intensive form if user identification described in the patent is facial recognition. The use of specific gestures by the user, captured in the device’s memory, is proposed. Specific gestures such as tracing a letter in the air, or waving your hand in a certain direction, are compared with the stored gesture in the device’s memory to validate the user’s access to the device. The patent covers motion in 3 dimensions as well as time (the 4th dimension), allowing for a sequence of gestures to be used to heighten access security. The use-case implications are interesting, because a gesture recognized from a distance can facilitate further use of the device by voice interaction, keeping the user “hands free” for tasks where holding and using touch to interact with the device may prove impractical or dangerous.

Amazon was also granted Patent 8,694,350 (“Automatically Generating Task Recommendations for Human Task Performers.”) The patent covers the required elements of an electronic marketplace, complete with a Task Recommendation Generator, for human performance tasks. The “Background” section in the document provides a fascinating step through of the logic derived from software program task generation techniques ultimately applied to human tasks. There is a recognition that certain tasks benefit from human capabilities such as contextual and cultural awareness. The objective: “By enabling large numbers of unaffiliated or otherwise unrelated task requesters and task performers to interact via the intermediary electronic marketplace in this manner, free-market mechanisms mediated by the Internet or other public computer networks can be used to programmatically harness the collective intelligence of an ensemble of unrelated human task performers.”

One can ask: To what end?

2014
04.04

About two years ago I sat down with an engineer at Ford and he just wowed me. The reason, he was telling me about all these pretty awesome predictive solutions Ford was working on for the not so distant future that would be available in our car. More importantly, he was explaining what he called “the predictive” nature of our car. He wasn’t talking about my car tweeting to me or letting me know one of Susie’s Facebook friends was “unfriended” by Tommy as this was being sent to me via my in-car infotainment system. Rather, he was really sharing what I envisioned to be a truly connected car.

It’s taken me several editorials and many blogs to figure out where I believe the automakers might have gone astray with all this driver-distraction discussion. For years, OEM (original-equipment manufacturer) engineers would spend hours with me proudly sharing their views of the projects they were cooking up on for their companies. They would eagerly paint a picture of the future. After all they were the masterminds behind the high-tech safety features taking full advantage of radar, sensing, and even GPS (global-position system) solutions. With their engineering know-how they saw a world where automobile intelligence would talk to each other, sense surroundings, and report back to the transportation infrastructure almost entirely eliminating accidents, unless you intended to cause one.

This new car world would interpret traffic signals and road signs, all simply by using Wi-Fi and GPS. They will send out signals indicating their exact location and destination while essentially forming a train moving at the same speed and direction with all the other vehicles on the road. Via processing-related algorithms connected to the network car, communicate, and in time they would be alerted to hazards on the road and have the ability to take preventative actions for safety and accident avoidance, such as warning drivers of road hazards, upcoming heavy and/or stopped traffic, or even an icy road. Traffic lights and signs and other in-road infrastructure with heads-up displays would tell motorists of difficult road conditions and help you to maneuver through low-visibility conditions. All of this would be connected to the Internet with almost blazing speeds thanks to 4G/LTE, which handles a host of apps and devices within the vehicle.

But then somewhere along the way, something went awry. What was once about driver safety, which had always been a top priority for the engineer who had been sitting at the driver’s seat all along, was taken over by none other than marketers and bean counters who saw dollar signs driven by connected services. These folks recognized data meant services and services meant they could “cash-in” on consumers. Consumers would never be the wiser because they would be getting all this entertainment/infotainment option in the cabin of vehicle and they would be very pleased. What these wizards of Wallstreet failed to recognize is all of this infotainment was just compounding the already bigger problem of driver distraction. What’s more, automakers were influenced by the carriers, rather than letting the engineers sit behind the wheel. Had the automakers remained steadfast they might have realized by adding more infotainment into the dashboard they were driving head-on right into traffic.

Some of the carriers stand to gain a lot of money from these services while the car companies are getting blamed for creating too much distraction in the cabin and consumers are clearly saying they don’t want it. Connected World’s Quick Poll this week confirms it. Already almost 900 people revealed they do not want social media in their dash and they say it leads to greater driver distraction.

Perhaps the point here is we should think less about entertaining us while we drive and focus on connected–car technologies that provide onboard radar and sensor systems that automatically respond to the environment. These are the things such as lane-departure sensing, warning systems that alert us of another car in our blind spot, and technology that protects the car’s occupants in the event of a collision. All of this onboard technology is syncing up with portable devices—smartphones, tablets, and other entertainment gadgets—that drivers and passengers carry into the vehicles.

So I say it’s time the car companies go back to talking with their engineers. Maybe Ford had it right when its engineers where focusing on using data for predictive analytics. When I was talking to the Ford engineer and he explained predictive health—I’m not talking about the car’s health—rather he was referencing working with health providers to predict when a diabetic needs insulin, or the ability to determine if a driver is about to have a seizure. Just how awesome is that? Again, we had this discussion in late 2012.

I want to hear more about the cool stuff that Ford sees as the car of the future. I want to see more automakers getting me excited about how they hope to change our lives by connecting us in ways that are truly awesome, not just plain silly.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #distracteddriving, #distraction, #carriers, #automotive, #M2M, #data, #connectedcars, #invehicle, #voicecommands, #handsfree, #automakers, #Ford

2014
04.03

2G Sunset Hello 4G, Really?

Let me say this at the outset Orson Wells has nothing on the carriers and MVNOs as it pertains to the 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE connectivity discussions as of late. This is reminiscent of when millions of Americans tuned into a popular radio program featuring Orson Welles doing his now infamous adaptation of the H.G. Wells science fiction novel, “The War of the Worlds” about a Martian invasion of the earth. But think about it for a moment. Everyone is foreshadowing what will happen when AT&T shuts down its 2G GSM network support by Jan. 1, 2017. But it feels like the industry is just trying to stimulate some excitement in the M2M space around this very subject.

It’s like the industry can’t help itself. It’s as if the vendor community figures it can elicit customers to act by the thought of something happening. We can just feel it and we don’t actually know what or who or when it will happen next, but something is happening. We just can’t say enough when it comes to connectivity. Talk on the street is AT&T has already stopped adding and certifying new applications. So that means the shutdown has begun. I’m certain many smaller M2M firms have a lot of questions.

And foremost on your mind is who do you trust? The carriers have truly been a very aggressive group that hasn’t been afraid to get a little ugly during conferences, during interviews, you name it. So this begs the question now, who can you really trust? The fact remains on one end of the spectrum there will be a large number of GSM/GPRS devices that have been deployed that will be impacted. However, for years these companies have been telling us the carriers abandoning 2G connectivity are not to be trusted. But now some of these same vendors are teaming up and it seems they are “frenemies.”  So what are we supposed to tell you now? What advice are we to give you now?

Do you trust their pitch? Is this business in today’s day and age? Many of you that need to make a switch are not at large corporations or you would have just moved to 4G/LTE and be done with it. Rather, many are holding on for as long as you can until the right price and the right partner comes along. So back to my question original question, who do you trust? How to do make the transition? Is there a right or wrong answer?  Have you thought about what your position should be? Have you begun your transition strategy?

To help, we are going to put Aeris Communications, CTO, Syed Zaaem Hosain to the test. Let’s see if he can withstand the rigors of answering some of my tough questions and perhaps some of yours about the sunset of 2G and migrating to 4G. Aeris is one of those companies that touts that it has the answers. Let’s see if that’s true. So if you have some questions you’d like to have answered send them to me and I’ll ask them to Syed during our Webcast May 7. Might as well join the invasion.

2014
04.03

Reading through Tuesday’s patent grants confirmed what I already knew: I am getting old! I’m a throwback to the latter half of the 20th Century, during which I came of age and got hooked on science fiction and technology. To me, the word “blob” really means “The Blob,” the 1958 film starring a young Steve McQueen that has attained status as a cult classic, complete with its annual Blobfest at the Colonial theatre (in which it was filmed), located in Phoenixville, Pa.

So when I came across Patent 8,688,666 (“Multi-blob Consistency for Atomic Data Transactions”) granted to Amazon Technologies, Inc.  I was stopped in my tracks. Here was a hybrid description fit for both horror and Sci-Fi fans alike! Alas, it had nothing to do with my Blob. It did, however, have everything to do for cloud computing.

Those wild and crazy information technology types come up with all sorts of new ways to classify and manipulate data, and with a nod to Wikipedia, I learned “a blob (alternately known as a binary large object…is a collection of binary data stored as a single entity in a database management system. Blobs are typically images, audio or other multimedia objects, though sometimes binary executable code is stored as a blob. Database support for blobs is not universal.”

The importance of the new patent is that “a blob storage system may provide data storage capability is inherently unlimited and scalable, as addition of data storage servers may be added to the cloud.” This is an improvement over “traditional internally coded database software, such as database systems based on the relational database management system (RDBMS) model… once the design of such traditional database software is implemented, the configuration of the database software cannot be easily changed. As a result, traditional database software may be inadequate to store certain types of data, large chunks of data, or large quantities of persistent data.”

So why is Amazon concerned about all of this? It so happens to be the largest cloud-hosting services provider, earning about $3.5 billion in revenue last year from this business segment. It is about to go head-to-head with Google which is trying to unseat Amazon’s position as top provider.

Speaking of Google, it was granted 50 patents this week, adding to the 8,863 it has received since February of 1988. What is significant is that almost half of the total (4,078) was granted in the past three years.

Visa U.S.A. Inc. was granted Patent 8,668,554 (“Bank Issued Contactless Payment Card Used in Transit Fare Collection”). What is interesting about this is the evolution of one of the two NFC (Near-Field Communication) standards, specifically ISO 14443, which at long last merges the separate functions of transit access and contactless payments requiring secure transaction processing. The methods covered in the patent work through the issues around secure payment processing requirements which are slower than the speed at which a person expects to move through a train turnstile, where speed trumps secure processing.

This patent represents a milestone in the long and winding road of the use of contactless technology is the United States. To set the table for you, consider that since 2001, Japan has successfully merged the original function of contactless, getting 60 people a minute through a train-station turnstile in Tokyo, with merchant payments. Sony, a founding member of NFC, deploys the second of the two NFC standards, ISO 18092, called FeliCa. In the United States, 14443 has been the dominant standard, and in the case of public transportation operators, the sole contactless standard since 2009. The American Public Transportation Assn. (APTA) controls what technologies and their specific standards that are used in member systems. Contactless transit cards using 14443 have been deployed in U.S. systems, but for the sole purpose of getting you through a turnstile.

Visa’s patent provides a set forward for the U.S. to catch up with Japan. The seamless transactional ecosystem that the Japanese enjoy using a single format for multiple functions is something we can hope to see here in the future.