Holiday Amusement: Internet access

Digital Divide slowly closing

It has been said many times that access to the internet is fundamentally access to the digital economy — those without will fall further behind in education, income and knowledge. In the past decade, the number of people without access has fallen to about 17% of the U.S. population, thanks mostly to smartphones which are the device used most frequently to access the internet. Morning Brew

dis-rup-shun: Looking more closely at the numbers, it is clear that rural populations are most under served, as nearly 30% of rural residents don’t have access. The reasons for no access are attributable to service providers, who have chosen not to cover sparse, unprofitable areas, and to legislators who have chosen not to require coverage for every citizen, regardless of location or cost. Of course, some citizens in every geography will not connect even if offered internet service for free due to fear, poverty or illiteracy. Meanwhile Musk and others are launching satellite constellations such as Starlink that aim to place a belt of satellites in low orbit, eventually providing broadband access to almost every geography on the planet. Serving the under served is not a very attractive business proposition, since only a small percentage of the under served desire or are prepared to pay for service. Satellite providers, therefore, will increase the supply of services, locking terrestrial providers such as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile/Sprint in an eternal price battle until one party proves that it can differentiate its network sufficiently to charge a premium. All in all, broadband services measured in Mbps per dollar will continue to fall in price as demand for higher speeds climbs. Expect high growth of mobile devices that perform bandwidth hungry functions, such as video and navigation, to proliferate our lives in the coming decade.

ATMs of the future recognize your face

ATMs in Japan use facial recognition, QR codes and AI

NEC’s new line of ATMs are more secure and efficient, in terms of power consumption, self-diagnostics, and currency requirements. The devices authenticate users with facial recognition, then send a QR code to the customer’s smart phone that serves as the key to the transaction. AI tracks the patterns of customers and anticipates currency requirements, while better managing the power requirements of the cash dispensers. Enterprise IOT Insights

dis-rup-shun: Efficiencies will be another benefit of machine learning in everyday devices — anticipating needed maintenance and supplies (like cash). The idea of sending users a unique token for each transaction — in this case a QR code — increases security, making it tough to rob someone’s account without both their face and their smartphone (and fingerprint). Expect to see these technologies in global ATMs in the 2021 and 2022 time frames.

Verizon will bring 5G Home Internet to U.S. cities

Verizon announced that wherever it offers mobile 5G (for your smartphone and your car), it will offer 5G home Internet (replacing your home router). Initially priced at $70 per month, the service will provide really fast service for not much more than people are paying now. Ars Technica

dis-rup-shun: Today, your Internet provider has to drop a line to your home and install a router. Despite the rapid pace of technical innovation, you don’t get an updated router unless you complain, or until you have had it for five or six years. With 5G Internet, your provider just ships a modem to your home and you plug it in, and you have Internet speeds only offered by a few wired modems today. It costs the provider less to provision, and gives you the latest technology. While not likely to be available in rural areas, 5G will make access points in cities super fast, and competition from AT&T and T-Mobile/Sprint will keep prices down. Cable modem-based services from vendors like Comcast will reportedly brand Verizon’s service as their 5G option.

Spain, SEAT and Telefonica leverage drones, 5G for safety

Spanish government agencies, along with car maker SEAT and Telefonica, have proposed and are testing a system to alert drivers of dangers on the road. Using a drone to spot road hazards and 5G to link cars to the cloud, drivers will be informed of hazards before they reach them. Enterprise IOT Insights

dis-rup-shun: The applications for 5G are almost unlimited, and connecting cars will be a major driver for 5G. For safety applications such as this, the question is who will pay for them? As the feature will initially be available only to owners of cars made by SEAT (a subsidiary of Volkswagen), it is unlikely that Spain’s government will cover the cost, and phone company Telefonica will not. At some point, auto customers will be accustomed to paying a monthly connection fee for cars, and perhaps this is best rolled into the cost of the new car so customers will not object to one more monthly fee.

Apple’s low price iPhone 11 selling well in China

Despite the recent struggles between China and the U.S., China’s initial orders for the low cost iPhone 11 are strong. Apple’s shipments to China dropped 14% in Q2 of this year, so Apple needs a win with the new generation of iPhones. Of all pre-orders through a Chinese Apple reseller, 60% were for the lower priced model. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Smartphone sales are a global economic indicator, and Apple’s sales have sputtered in 2019. Given that the flagship models are priced at more than $1000, the handset refresh cycle has slowed. Apple has wisely decided not to cede the mid-market to competitors and is fighting for relevance in this larger market. It is important to see the world’s leading consumer tech company keep sales strong.

T-Mobile Sprint merger: do you approve?

Sprint T-Mobile merger: good or bad?

T-Mobile has been cleared by the Justice Department to acquire Sprint. This is the third attempt by the carriers to combine forces. 13 states are suing, claiming the deal will reduce competition and increase prices. The carriers have promised to freeze prices for three years and will give away some of their services and spectrum to Dish Networks, already an owner of significant spectrum, so that it may launch a fourth wireless network service, thereby not reducing the number of competitors. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The best argument for approving the deal is that three big carriers will continue to be ‘cutthroat competitive’ to win market share. AT&T and Verizon are not likely to be less aggressive in the market given the merger, but will be more aggressive, given that the new T-Mobile will be a third giant. T-Mobile with Sprint will be financially stronger to accelerate the race to deliver 5G networks and Dish will be the weak ‘also ran’ that must introduce creative plans for niche customers but even so will likely not be profitable. Given that the merger will not reduce market competitiveness and will accelerate 5G, the DOJ made the right decision.

Capital One data breach exposes 140,000 SSNs

A data breach and subsequent posting of SSNs and Capital One bank account numbers was announced. One perpetrator, 33 year old Paige Thompson, was arrested and charged in Seattle. The breach will cost Capital One between $100 million and $150 million.

dis-rup-shun: Seems that Seattle is increasingly the epicenter of tech innovation, good and bad. It turns out that Thompson briefly worked for Amazon. This breach is another reminder that higher standards are required for storing personal information. Encryption and its keys must be stronger such that access to personal data must be limited to only a handful of traceable employees at even large corporations.

Banned Huawei reports 23% increase

The Chinese tech giant that has been banned by the U.S. and many Western partners, experienced strong growth, mostly by selling more smartphones in China. The gains come at the expense of Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and Apple. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, Huawei may be saying. On the other hand, Huawei’s challenge — selling 5G infrastructure gear across the planet, remains a challenge with increased sanctions. The power of the consumer — the power to make or break companies such as Apple and Motorola and Nokia (remember when the Razr and Nokia candy bar phones were “it”) — has floated Huawei. Could it be Chinese nationalism causing consumers to favor Huawei smartphones, or are they just that good?

Internet crosses oceans through 380 underwater cables

Today, Internet communications from continent to continent rely on not just a few submerged cables, but 380 which are owned and operated by telcos as well as by Google, Microsoft, Huawei and others. While cables are frequently disrupted by ship anchors, fishermen and seismic activity, the ability to re-route traffic means most outages are not noticed. CNN

dis-rup-shun: The space race, often covered by dis-rup-shun.com, seeks to provide a more economical means of covering the globe with network services through satellites in constant orbit, rather than vulnerable undersea fiber. Companies that control the physical Internet infrastructure are guaranteed a financial advantage for essentially now until the end of civilization.

How would you regulate Big Tech?

Media and tech execs agree that regulation is inevitable

Execs gathered at Sun Valley conference agree that more regulation of Big Tech is inevitable, but point out that regulation should not be a matter of size, and must address anti-competitiveness and data privacy separately.  CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The tech industry is resigned that additional regulations are coming. Tech leaders such as Google and Facebook should lead the industry by working together to develop privacy standards along the lines of Europe’s GDPR’s standards and should develop a standard for fines to be paid by companies that fail to uphold privacy. This action would reduce the chances that lawmakers break up Big Tech.

U.S. Congress fails to create federal privacy laws

Lawmakers are angry with the FTC’s proposed $5 billion settlement with Facebook for privacy violations. Senator Hawley (R- Missouri) is pushing to move oversight of tech companies away from the FTC. Senators Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Markey (D-Mass) are pushing for sweeping reform of privacy laws that are seen as too aggressive by conservatives. Meanwhile Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) is calling for breakup of Tech Giants for thwarting competition. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Good news: our elected officials are seeking tighter privacy restrictions which are required for our tech economy to offer services valued, trusted and loved by millions of consumers. Bad news: our lawmakers’ inability to find consensus on nearly any policies will enable Big Tech to continue down its current course of “trust us, we will keep data safe.”

Are virtual reality applications DOA?

For years, news reports of virtual reality for the consumer have said the technology is coming to living rooms soon. VR makers are finding that the high cost of VR hardware, and the high cost of developing content, mean that the enterprise market is a better application for the technology than consumers. HP, Varjo, Microsoft and HTC are developing enterprise-grade VR applications for training and defense. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Virtual reality applications are similar to 3D TVs, for not one, but three years, the buzz at the Consumer Electronic Show was the advent of 3D in our living rooms. Mass market consumers have been reluctant to sit around the house with a something covering their faces and gamers have not found enough compelling content to make a multi-hundred dollar investment on a headset and game titles. Commercial applications will lower the costs of VR headsets, but it is unlikely that the technology will engage more than hard core game players even in the next half decade.

Verizon offers 5G hotspot

Furthering the race to provide 5G, Verizon has announced a mobile hot spot which enables devices to access its new screaming fast 5G network for a purchase price of $650 and monthly data plans costing $90 per month. Verizon is currently serving portions of 5 cities with 5G, and has announced 30 by year end. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: 5G is coming and changes the economics of the Internet of Things by a) making it possible to provide really fast bandwidth to mobile things like cars, or planes or non-mobile things without copper wires such as new buildings, and b) by making 4G a lot less expensive than it is today, enabling things like water meters, security systems, and traffic lights to be inexpensively connected to central stations, providing vast amounts of data that can be used to improve services.

SpaceVR seeks to spread spirituality of space to Earth

Most travelers to space express spiritual moment called Overview Effect. This experience occurs when one gets a view of the Earth from outer space. SpaceVR is a company that plans to launch a satellite that will beam realtime videos of Earth to users of its virtual reality viewing device. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The race to control a piece of space is now being run my many companies and a number of governments. Only one company is looking to outer space to bring a greater sense of peace and purpose to Earth. Let’s hope they are successful.

Over 25% of every day is spent viewing a screen

Daily screen time up to 6.3 hours

Mary Meeker’s annual report on tech trends provides some statistics on screen usage. Americans consumer a whopping 6.3 hours of digital media per day, up 7% from the prior year. Last year was the first that Americans spent more time on mobile devices than on TVs. While watching TV, 88% of Americans simultaneously used a mobile device. 41% of those viewers were using the mobile device to discuss the content with friends and family while 71% were looking up information related to what they were watching. Quartz

dis-rup-shun: Conventional television content continues to be less important and watching on-demand or live content on a mobile device has become a priority. While TV advertising revenues are down as a result, the importance of word-of-mouth (word-of-keyboard, actually) is increasing the value of the content. Content that evokes discussion on social media has a longer shelf life as friends and family, armed with recommendations and familiarity, are more likely to select the discussed content from a dizzying array of choices. The task for producers, then, is to create content that creates a social media response.

Verizon Smart Locator helps you find anything

The Smart Locator is a tiny device used for finding anything you lose frequently. Using Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi and LTE, the $100 per year device will locate anything as long as it is within an LTE cell and the 5 day battery is still active. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: The Smart Locator is the essence of Internet of things, as it puts most anything on the Internet. For $100 per year, keeping up with something you value, like a pet, a purse, or a small child, this is a bargain. Most things, perhaps with the exception of small children, will have their own wireless radios in them in a year or two, but until then, the Smart Locator is a good option.

Smart Displays versus Tablets: which is better in the kitchen?

The new crop of smart displays from Google Nest, Lenovo, Amazon and JBL are optimized for the hands free and voice use in places like the kitchen, where ease of use and assistance with cooking and home controls is the objective. These devices run a version of Android called Android Things. Tablets, on the other hand, offer far more customizations, like running Netflix in the kitchen, while still responding to voice controls. These devices run a version of Android’s mobile OS. The difference in experience is significant and both offer trade-offs. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The question is, do our homes need a specialized screen, optimized for different rooms, like the kitchen, the shower, the bedside, or if a tablet located anywhere will do. Separate devices will be displaced by screens built into refrigerators, stoves, washing machines and wall switches, but at the rate of technological evolution, a 10-year-old smart refrigerator will become a dinosaur far more quickly than a dumb refrigerator. Expect built in screens in most new appliances to be as ubiquitous as their control knobs are today, while counter top screens will control and report on all of those smart appliances.