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.
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].
At TADHack some months ago it was clear that SMS and phone calls are out and WebRTC is the new hot technology for developers. Via your browser you can talk to your salesman, doctor and coach. Your browser can be mobile. This means that video calls will be universal as soon as 4G is everywhere. Bad news for operators that will see data on their networks balloon without new revenues. Good news for users that will have a whole new world of communication opening up with voice, video, screen sharing, web apps, etc. all seamlessly integrated.
How can business be generated with WebRTC?
Per minute call billing is out. Unless of course you are talking to a highly paid consultant that charges you by the second or minute. One time payment like mobile apps are only viable if you can embed WebRTC technology in a mobile app, not if you need to support an ongoing business. This means that we need a new subscription model for WebRTC. We need a micro subscription model. Especially for services that will be used on a long term basis, e.g. conference facilities, next generation voice mails, etc. As always operators will be hesitant to cannibalise a juicy per minute business for a low margin 1-99 cents per months subscription service. So are there others that could bill micro-subscriptions? The obvious choice would be cloud providers. They can already do hourly micro billing on monthly cycles hence adding some recurring element would be straightforward. So my prediction is that WebRTC will see operator’s problems accelerate whereby cloud will no longer deliver you only IT solutions but also your communication services.
Cisco came up with the term of Fog Computing and The Wall Street Journal has endorsed it, so I guess Fog Computing will become the next hype.
What is Fog Computing?
Internet of Things will embed connectivity into billions of devices. Common thinking says your IoT device is connected to the cloud and shares data for Big Data analytics. However if your Fitbit starts sending your heartbeat every 5 seconds, your thermometer tells the cloud every minute that it is still 23.4 degrees, your car tells the manufacturer its hourly statistics, farmers measure thousands of acres, hospitals measure remote patients health continuously, etc. then your telecom operator will go bankrupt because their network is not designed for this IoT Data Tsunami.
Fog Computing is about taking decisions as close to the data as possible. Hadoop and other Big Data solutions have started the trend to bring processing close to where the data is and not the other way around. Now Fog Computing is about doing the same on a global scale. You want decisions to be taken as close to where the data is generated and stop it from reaching global networks. Only valuable data should be travelling on global networks. Your Fitbit could sent average heartbeat reports every hour or day and only sent alerts when your heartbeat passed a threshold for some amount of time.
How to implement Fog Computing?
Fog Computing is best done via machine learning models that get trained on a fraction of the data on the Cloud. After a model is considered adequate then the model gets pushed to the devices. Having a Decision Tree or some Fuzzy Logic or even a Deep Belief Network run locally on a device to take a decision is lots cheaper than setting up an infrastructure in the Cloud that needs to deal with raw data from millions of devices. So there are economical advantages to use Fog Computing. What is needed are easy to use solutions to train models and send them to highly optimised and low resource intensive execution engines that can be easily embedded in devices, mobile phones and smart hubs/gateways.
Fog Computing is also useful for Non-IoT
Also network elements should become a lot more intelligent. When was the last time you were on a large event with many people around you. Can you imagine any event in the last 24 months where WiFi was working brilliantly? Most of the time WiFi works in the morning when people are still getting in but soon after it stops working. Fog Computing can be the answer here. You only need to analyse data patterns and take decisions on what takes up lots of data. Chances are that all the mobiles, tablets and laptops that are connected to the event WiFi have Dropbox or some other large file sharing enabled. You take some pictures of things on the event and since you are on WiFi the network gets saturated by a photo sharing service that is not really critical for the event. Fog Computing would detect this type of bandwidth abuse and would limit it or even block it. At the moment this has to be done manually but computers would do a lot better job at it. So Software Defined Networking should be all over Fog Computing.
Telecom Operators and Equipment Manufacturers Should Embrace Fog Computing
Telecom operators should heavily invest in Fog Computing by making Open Source standards that can be easily embedded in any device and managed from any cloud. When I say standards, I don’t mean ETSI. I mean organise a global Fog Computing competition with a $10 million award for the best open source Fog Computing solution. Make a foundation around it with a very open license, e.g. Apache License. Invite and if necessary oblige all telecom and general network suppliers to embed it.
The alternatives are…
Not solving this problem will provoke heavy investment in global networks that carry 90% junk data and an IoT Data Tsunami. Solving this problem via network traffic shaping is a dangerous play in which privacy and net neutrality will come up earlier than later. You can not block Dropbox, YouTube or Netflix traffic globally. It is a lot easier if everybody blocks what is not needed or at least minimises such traffic themselves. Most people have no idea how to do it. Creating easy to use open source tools would be a first good step…
After years of virtually no innovation from telecom operators, 2014 will be different. Not because telecom dinosaurs have all of a sudden become lean mean innovation machines. Quite the contrary. Most operators are still focusing on rolling out THIS YEAR’s (instead of today’s) “innovative” service which will be just a copycat of some famous dotcom.
So why the excitement?
2014 will be the pivot year. The year that will be marked in history books as the year old school lost and innovators won.
The first Ryanair-like disruptive telecoms will leave their borders and start bankrupting “traditional telecoms”. Cross-platform voice/video 4G apps will reach the tipping point. Cloud Telco PaaS will be reality. Individual communication solutions or iCommunication will be a reality. Web 3.0 will include voice & video communication. NFV will be driven by non-telecom players. WAN SDN will be deployed by more than only Google, Amazon, etc. Cloud Media Streaming will reach the tipping point. Internet of things will meet Cloud will meet Big Data will meet Mobile will meet disruptive communication solutions. Early adopters paradise…
2014 will be an exciting year for those that love telecom innovation!!! Bit pipe nightmares becoming reality for others.
2014 will be the year in which telecom will be split into two. The ones that understand iCommunication and the ones that don’t. iCommunication is about giving a personalized communication experience to consumers and enterprises. Low cost subscription models and freemium will be the main business models. Low-cost pay per use is still possible but not for messaging or voice traffic. The value proposition needs to be higher.
What will this mean?
Bit pipes will become a reality in Europe and possible in the US (mainly dependent on what Google and others do). Telecom operators massive head count reductions. Nokia & Blackberry will be joined by other one time big telco names. The end of the world for some. Especially for those that belief telecom is a dividend generator or a bottomless pit for license taxation…
For consumers and enterprises there will be a new world of communication possibilities. Communication will be fully integrated into back office systems, e.g. CRMs like Salesforce store all calls. Improvements in voice recognition will make talking to machines a natural interface. Managing contacts will become a breeze. Forget memorizing phone numbers…
Communication as a Service will be the big innovation. The Cloud, Big Data, IoT will meet IP communication. Whatsapp will have a bigger brother for voice and video. Unless Google and Apple surprise the market with joint IP-based communication over LTE and WiFi. Asia, Africa and Latam will have two more years but most of their operators will make the same mistakes as the European ones.
Bit pipes are not even a safe business because the Ryanair of telecom will be able to quickly pickup mobile licenses and networks of the third/forth player, the one that goes bankrupt.
Things will not look nice for the next three years for some but we all knew that it was going to come for the last 10-15 years. Any CxO that calls this an unforeseen disruptive technology should be fired on the spot. The next edition of the Innovators Dilemma does not have to go back to the last century for examples. This is a textbook case for MBA students for years to come…
Software defined radio is like software defined networking but for radio networking, you can build whatever by updating the software. Recently a new project got funded on Kickstarter that allows radio amateurs to build anything they want related to radio. BladeRF is an open source USB 3.0 software defined radio for $400.
So the usual suspects will be existing 4G, GPS, Zigbee, Wifi, etc. standards but what if some innovators start thinking outside of the box? White spaces would be one option. But what if 5G or 6G no longer is defined in standard bodies but by a community of open source amateurs that jointly work together? Probably it is going a step too far but M2M (machine to machine) / IoT (Internet of things) can still use more efficient standards. Also federated ad-hoc networks that circumvent local censorship or solve outages could become options. Let’s just hope Chinese suppliers can bring down the price of the BladeRF…
None of the incumbant telecom providers has put into place any Blue Ocean Strategies. Blue Ocean Strategies have made the Circus, Wine, Gaming, Airline, etc. industries exciting again, so why not apply it to the telecom market. The only telecom players, I know of, that implemented some blue ocean strategies are Free in France, GiffGaff in the UK and Freedompop in the USA. So why not do a Blue Ocean Strategy exercise in this blog post.
Here is my strategy canvas:
Traditional operators focus on charging heavily for calls and SMS although lately more and more packages with free minutes are available. International calls however are still charged extremely expensive. Mobile phones are subsidized up to 24 months and as such you need to stay with them for at least this period. Operators spend a lot of their money investing in the roll out and maintenance of their networks. They also have very complex pricing plans and as such need heavy investments in BSS.
MVNOs try to compete on price and most often do not subsidize mobiles. They do not have their own network as such they do not need to invest in it. They offer less tariff plan options. You are often free to change whenever you want. To make up for not subsidizing mobiles, you can get mobile loans which means you have some sort of permanence.
So how would Blue Ocean Mobile do it differently?
In line with Free’s example, call costs should be eliminated, including international costs. Mobiles should not be subsidized but cheap mobile loans should be offered for those that do not bring their own device [BYOD]. Blue Ocean Mobile should focus on LTE and try to win LTE licenses. However instead of doing heavy investments in installing antennas everywhere, Blue Ocean Mobile should only install antenna’s in those areas where few people live but connectivity is required, e.g. major highways. This is in line with Free’s strategy. However unlike Free, the operator’s network should not be built with unreliable WiFi hotspots. Instead specially designed “Personal Antennas” should be sold to everybody who wants one. What is a personal antenna? A personal antenna is a nanocell LTE antenna. A personal LTE antenna in your home that not only gives service to you but also to neighbours and people close to your home. The idea is that you become a sort of mini-LTE ISP to which others can connect. For every KB that gets transferred through your personal LTE antenna, you will get a revenue share. So it is in people’s interest to put the personal antenna in a place where it can service a lot of people and to have a good backbone Internet connection. People should be able to win back their investment in the Personal Antenna in a few months and make money afterwards. This should allow Blue Ocean Mobile to seriously lower their investment in rolling out an LTE network and to get free mouth-to-mouth advertising. Via a software-defined network [SDN] management system all nanocell LTE antennas are controlled by Blue Ocean Mobile.
Since Blue Ocean Mobile is focusing only on data traffic, it should work together with “over-the-top players” to offer a compelling list of services. Ideally Android Phones and the iPhone will use the data network for calling others instead of a circuit network. Customers should have a full range of BYOD management options so small and medium-sized businesses can easily manage the phones of their employees as well as push enterprise applications towards them.
Blue Ocean Mobile should also try to avoid investment in BSS. Tariff plans should be easy with the customer defining how many free megabytes they want to purchase for a fixed monthly fee and a simple extra charge for overage. So instead of operator defined tariff plans, everybody has a personalized tariff plan that they can adjust every day. Calls and SMS are charged based on data traffic not on per minute charges. VoIP solutions is the standard. Blue Ocean Mobile does not have a circuit network or SS7.
Blue Ocean Mobile is also copying the long tail support from Giff Gaff in which customers give support to other customers and are responsible for marketing. Unlike Giff Gaff not only prepaid but also subscriptions are supported. Like Giff Gaff customers get a revenue share when they participate in support or marketing.
Blue Ocean Mobile’s strategy is just very high-level and still needs in-depth analysis but it is an open invitation for innovative people to start applying Blue Ocean strategies to anything they feel in need of disruption.
Maarten Ectors is a senior executive who is an expert in applying cutting edge technologies (like Cloud, Big Data, M2M, Open Hardware, SDN, etc.) and business innovations to generate new revenues. He is currently looking for new challenges. You can contact him at maarten at telruptive dot com.