Thursday, December 30, 2010
Published in Technorati - Mobile Smartphones - The new Swiss Knife
The humble mobile phone from its early avatar of enabling voice calls has now metamorphosed into a device which can perform multiple functions. The mobile smart phone is the new Swiss knife. From making voice calls, to watching video clips, from mobile TV to Location Based Services (LBS) the uses of the mobile phone are many.The mobile phone is both ubiquitous and almost indispensable to daily life. A look at some of key technologies which will still further the utility of the mobile phones are discussed below.
Mobile banking: Bringing the bank to the mobile: Mobile banking is a trend that is just picking up. Mobile banking provides for the banking needs for the poor who have no access to banks and has a lot of potential for growth. Mobile banking refers to a method where the rural poor can make payments and do cash transactions through simple SMS text messages. Mobile banking is crucial in emerging markets where traditional banks are not viable. A recent McKinsey Report 2010 states that the though the number of mobile phones in emerging markets is in excess of 1 billion, only about 45 million use mobile money in the place of traditional banking. The report further states that opportunity in mobile banking is about 3 billion annually.
Mobile banking requires the interworking of telecom operators, application providers and cash agents for making this service a reality. Mobile banking can promote customer growth and reduce churn for service providers. Some success stories are M-Pesa in Keya and SmartMoney in Philippines. There is a tremendous opportunity for this application in countries like India and China and other emerging markets. In this application, the mobile phone helps the user to bank while on the move.
Near Field Communication (NFC): Mobile phones enabled with NFC technology can be used for a variety of purposes. One such purpose is integrating credit card functionality into mobile phones using NFC. Already the major players in mobile are integrating NFC into their newer versions of mobile phones including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Nokia. We will never again have to carry in our wallets with a stack of credit cards. Our mobile phone will double up as a Visa, MasterCard, etc. NFC also allows retail stores to send promotional coupons to subscribers who are in the vicinity of the shopping mall.
E-Ticketing: With an application, our flight iternary, tickets or movie tickets will be sent to the mobile phone. E-Ticketing can also be used for train and bus rides and does away with the need to carry small change.
Some of the key applications envisaged for the mobile phone in the future has been discussed and many are already in use. The smartphone will not only be indispensable in future but will be omnipotent and omniscient.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
There are lots of exciting things happening in the technological landscape. Innovation and development in every age is dependent on a set of key driving factors namely – the need for better, faster and cheaper, the need to handle disruptive technologies, the need to keep costs down and the need to absorb path breaking innovations. Given all these factors and the current trends in the industry the following technologies will enter mainstream in the years to come.
Long Term Evolution (LTE): LTE, also known as 4G technologies, has been born out of the disruptive entry of data hungry smart phones and tablet PCs. Besides, the need for better and faster applications has been the key driver of this technology. LTE is a data only technology that allows mobile users to access the internet on the move. LTE uses OFDM technology for sending and receiving data from user devices and also uses MIMO (multiple-in, multiple out). LTE is more economical, and spectrally efficient when compared to earlier 3.5G technologies like HSDPA, HSUPA and HSPA. LTE promises a better Quality of Experience (QoE) for end users.
IP Multimedia Systems IMS): IMS has been around for a while. However with the many advances in IP technology and the transport of media the time is now ripe for this technology to take wings and soar high. IMS uses the ubiquitous internet protocol for its core network both for media transport and for SIP signaling. Many innovative applications are possible with IMS including high definition video conferencing, multi-player interactive games, white boarding etc.
All senior management personnel of organizations are constantly faced with the need to keep costs down. The next two technologies hold a lot of promise in reducing costs for organizations and will surely play a key role in the years to come.
Cloud Computing: Cloud Computing obviates the need for upfront capital and infrastructure costs of organizations. Enterprises can deploy their applications on a public cloud which provides virtually infinite computing capacity in the hands of organizations. Organizations only pay as much as they use akin to utilities like electricity or water
Analytics: These days’ organizations are faced with a virtual deluge of data from their day to day operations. Whether the organizations belong to retail, health, finance, telecom, or transportation there is a lot of data that is generated. Data by itself is useless. This is where data analytics plays an important role. Predictive analytics help in classifying data, determining key trends and identifying correlations between data. This helps organizations in making strategic business decisions.
The following two technologies listed below are really path breaking and their applications are limitless.
Internet of Things: This technology envisages either passive or intelligent devices connected to the internet with a database at the back end for processing the data collected from these intelligent devices. This is also known as M2M (machine to machine) technology. The applications range from monitoring the structural integrity of bridges to implantable devices monitoring fatal heart diseases of patients.
Semantic Web (Web 3.0): This is the next stage in the evolution of the World Wide Web. The Web is now a vast repository of ideas, thoughts, blogs, observations etc. This technology envisages intelligent agents that can analyze the information in the web. These agents will determine the relations between information and make intelligent inferences. This technology will have to use artificial intelligence techniques, data mining and cloud computing to plumb the depths of the web
Conclusion: Creativity and innovation has been the hallmark of mankind from time immemorial. With the demand for smarter, cheaper and better the above technologies are bound to endure in the years to come.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Introduction: The close of the 20th century will long be remembered for one thing. The dotcom bust followed by the downward spiral of many major telecom and technology companies. For those who believe in the theory of the 12 year economic cycle this downturn is right about to end and we should see good times soon. Even otherwise there is good news for those in the telecom domain. We could shortly be witness to golden years ahead. There are many signs that seem to indicate that the telecom industry is on the verge of many major breakthroughs. Technologies like LTE, IMS, smartphones, cloud computing point to interesting times ahead. In fact telecom is at a inflexion point when the fortunes seem to be pointed northward. This article looks at some of the promising technologies which are going to bring back the sunshine to telecom.
3G Technologies –Better Quality of Experience (QoE): The auction of the 3G spectrum ended after 131 days of hectic bidding for this cutting edge telecom technology. 3G promises a whole new customer experience backed by extremely high data speeds. 3G promises download speed of up to 2 Mbps for stationary subscribers and 384 Kbps for moving subscribers. It is very clear that such high data speeds will inspire a host of new and exciting applications. Applications that span location based services (LBS), m-Commerce and NFC communications will be simply be irresistible to the users. Moreover the ability to watch video clips or live action on mobile TV or on laptops enabled with 3G dongles will have a lot of takers for 3G technology. App stores for 3G are bound to do a roaring business as 3G takes off in India.
Smartphones – The game changers: In the last decade or so in the telecom industry no other invention has had such a disruptive effect in the telecom domain as smartphones. Smartphones like the IPhone, Droid or Nexus One have changed the rules of the game. The impact of smartphone has been so huge that it actually spawned an entire industry of developers who developed applications for smartphones, content developers and app stores. The irresistible appeal of smartphones is the ease of use and the ability to browse the net as though they were using a normal data connection. Users can watch youtube clips, play games or chat on the Smartphone.
IP Multimedia Systems (IMS) – Digital Convergence: IP Multimedia System (IMS) , based on 3GPP’s Release 5 Specification in 2005, has been in the wings for quite some time. The IMS envisions an access agnostic telecommunication architecture that will use an all-IP Core for the transport of medium be it voice, data or video. IMS uses SIP protocol for signaling between network elements and SDP for exchanging media between applications. The IMS architecture promises a whole slew of exciting application ranging from high quality video conference, high speed data access, white boarding or real time interactive gaining. IMS represents a true convergence of the telecom wireless concepts with the data communication protocols. The types of services that are possible with IMS will be only limited by imagination. With the entry of smartphones and tablet PCs, IMS is a technology that is waiting to happen and will soon become prime time
Long Term Evolution (LTE) - Blazing Speeds: Already there are upward of 5 billion mobile devices and a report from Cisco states that the total data navigating the net will exceed ½ a zettabyte (1021) by the year 2013. The exponential growth of data and the need to provide even higher Quality of Experience (QoE) led to the development of the LTE. LTE is considered 4G technology. LTE promises speeds anywhere between to 56 Mbps to 100 Mbps to users enabling unheard of speeds and applications. What makes LTE so attractive is that it promises better spectral efficiency and lower cost per bit than 3G networks. The competing technology for LTE is WIMAX which is also considered as 4G. But LTE has a better evolution path from 3G networks as opposed to WiMAX, While LTE is a packet only network there are sound strategies for handling voice traffic with LTE. The standards body 3GPP offers two options for handling voice. The first is the Circuit switched (CS) fallback to 2G/3G network. In this scenario data access will be through the packet network of LTE while voice calls will use legacy 2G/3G voice networks. The other alternative is the switch voice traffic to the IMS network with its all-IP Core. This method is supported by the One Voice initiative of many major telecom companies and accepted by GSMA. This strategy for handling voice through an IMS network is known as VoLTE (Voice over LTE)
Internet of Things- Towards a connected World: “The Internet of Things" visualizes a highly interconnected world made of tiny passive or intelligent devices that connect to large databases and to the internet. This technology promises to transform the network from a dumb-bit pipe to a truly "computing" network. The Internet of Things or M2M (machine-to-machine) envisages an anytime, anywhere, anyone, anything network. The devices in this M2M network will be made up of passive elements, sensors and intelligent devices that communicate with the network. The devices will be capable of sensing, identifying and responding to changes in the immediate environment. Radio Frequency Identification (RFIDs) is one of the early and key enabler of this technology. The uses for this technology range from warning when the structural integrity of bridges is compromised to implantable devices in heart patients warning doctors of possible heart attacks. The impact of the Internet of Things will be far-reaching. There are numerous applications for this technology. In fact, ubiquitous computing or the Internet of Things allows us to distribute processing power and intelligence throughout the network into a kind of ambient intelligence spread across the network. This technology promises to blur the lines between science fiction and reality.
App Stores – The final verdict: The success of App Stores in the last couple of years has been nothing short of phenomenal. It is a complete ecosystem with App Store Developers, App Stores, and the Content Developers and Service Providers. Apps and App stores have changed the rules of the game so completely. No longer is a mobile phone’s snazzy looks enough for it to be a best seller. The mobile should be supported by cool downloadable apps for the user to use. App Stores and apps will play an increasingly important role with apps being developed for smartphones and tablet PCs. There are bound to be several interesting apps spanning technologies like Location Based Service (LBS), mobile Commerce, eTicketing, Near Field Communication
Cloud Computing – Utility computing: Cloud Computing has been around some but is slowly gaining more and more prominence. Cloud computing follows a utility model for computing where the cloud user only pays for the computing power and storage capacity used. Cloud computing not involve any upfront Capacity expenditure (Capex). Users of public clouds like EC2, App Engine or Azure can pay according to the usage of the resources provided by the cloud. Cloud technologies allow the CSPs to purchase processing power, platforms, and databases almost like a utility like electricity or water. The cloud exhibits an elastic behavior and expands to accommodate increasing demands and contracts when the demand drops. Cloud computing will be slowly be adopted by more and more organizations and enterprises in the years to come.
Analytics – Mining intelligence from data: Nowadays organizations all over are faced with a deluge of data. For raw data to be useful it has been analyzed, classified and important patterns determined from the data. This is where data mining and analytics come into play. Analytics uses statistical methods to classify data, determine correlations, identify patterns, and highlight and detect key trends among large data sets. Analytics enables industries to plumb the data sets through the process of selecting, exploring and modeling large amount of data to uncover previously unknown data patterns. The insights which analytics provides can be channelized to business advantage. Data mining and predictive analytics unlock the hidden secrets of data and help businesses make strategic decisions. Analytics is bound to become more common and will play a predominant role in all organizations in the years to come.
Internet TV – Hot off the net: If IMS represents the convergence of Telecom and the internet, Internet TV represents the marriage of TV and the internet. Internet TV is a technology whose time has come. Internet TV will bring a whole new user experience by allowing the viewer to be view rich content on his TV in an interactive manner. The technology titans like Apple, Microsoft and Google have their own version of this technology. Internet TV combines TV, the internet and apps for this new technology. Internet TV is bound to become popular with complementary technologies like IMS, LTE allowing for high speed data exchange and the popularity of websites like Youtube etc. Internet TV will receive a further boost from apps of smartphones and tablet PCs
IPv4 exhaustion – Damocles’ sword: While the future holds the promise of many new technologies it is also going throw a lot of attendant challenges. One serious problem that will need serious attention in the not too distant future is the IPv4 address space exhaustion. This problem may be even more serious than the Y2K problem. The issue is that IPv4 can address only 2 32 or 4.3 billion devices. Already the pool has been exhausted because of new technologies like IMS which uses an all IP Core and the Internet of things with more devices, sensors connected to the internet - each identified by an IP address. The solution to this problem has been addressed long back and requires that the Internet adopt IPv6 addressing scheme. IPv6 uses 128-bit long address and allows 3.4 x 1038 or 340 trillion, trillion, trillion unique addresses. However the conversion to IPv6 is not happening at the required pace and pretty soon will have to be adopted on war footing. It is clear that while the transition takes place, both IPv4 and IPv6 will co-exist so there will be an additional requirement of devices on the internet to be able to convert from one to another
Technologies like IMS, LTE, and Internet TV have a lot of potential and hold a lot of promise. We as human beings have a constant need for better, faster and cheaper technologies. We can expect a lot of changes to happen in the next couple of years. We may once see rosy times ahead for telecom as a whole