Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Productivity Future Vision (2011)

Excellent video that depicts the future and also the main technologies that will be the upcoming trends:

- Visualization with Hi-Res Display
- Touch Screens and Voice Recognition (just like what Apple have done their "touch" iPhones and voice "Siri")
- Intelligent (profile based)
- Ubiquitous communications (broadband wireless)
- Multiple devices (seamless switching and sharing of contents)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wireless Watch: Wi-Fi takes its place at the heart of carriers’ data strategies, looking beyond offload by Rethink Research

Wireless Watch: Wi-Fi takes its place at the heart of carriers’ data strategies, looking beyond offload
Nov 16, 2011 – Rethink Research

The enthusiasm with which mobile operators have embraced data offload to Wi-Fi, as a way to ease the strain on their creaking 3G networks, often obscures the fact that what they are doing remains, for now, highly unsophisticated. Some cellcos have invested large sums in building their own hotspot networks, or connecting to those of partners, but beyond the clear benefit of getting traffic off the cellular system, they are not getting much return. The user experience remains clumsy, without seamless hand-off between 3G and WLan nodes; the hotspots are not usually scientifically planned to mirror the areas of most traffic; operators cannot track user behaviour once the customer has been offloaded, and so lose the chance to monetize; and the link to the unlicensed network may not even be fully secure.

All these weaknesses indicate the haste with which panicking cellcos rushed to adopt offload strategies, but also the fact that most of them initially regarded Wi-Fi as a short to medium term stopgap, before the happy days when their data burdens would be lifted by the combination of LTE and HSPA+ upgrades, and offload to the far more controllable femtocells. Now, however, as operators start to roll out the air interface upgrades and the femtos, they are quickly realizing that, while both those strategies will be very helpful in meeting exploding mobile data demands, they will not be enough in themselves. Introducing LTE will, on average, quadruple data capacity, says Cisco, but most cellcos in developed economies will see their capacity requirement go up by 32 times by 2015.

Against such a backdrop, it is clear that carriers will have to harness any piece of technology and spectrum they can grasp, and that will mean keeping Wi-Fi permanently in the mix. And if the platform is to be a long term fixture, it will need to be approached more strategically, and with greater thought for how to maximize its benefits both to customers and the carrier itself. Operators are starting to think beyond simple offload, and think in terms of bringing Wi-Fi access points into the future ‘HetNet’ (heterogeneous network), which will boost capacity and coverage by integrating multiple air interfaces, cell sizes and spectrum bands. In a new survey of over 100 mobile operators, Rethink Technology Research studied the ways in which carriers will plan their future access networks in order to meet the needs of the data boom. The respondents identified five key weapons, most of them complementary – in the near term, Wi-Fi offload, small self-organizing cells, and more sophisticated traffic management tools; and a few years out, the extension of those trends into HetNets and LTE-Advanced upgrades.

For deployments in 2011-2013, over half of carriers rate offload as one of their top two weapons against the data deluge, followed closely by the move towards smaller, self-organizing cells, and 46% are also heavily focused on traffic management. Only 4% see LTE-Advanced as a top priority in this timeframe, but for 2014-2015, the standards upgrade leaps becomes a key strategic factor for 30% of respondents. LTE-A supports HetNets in a more standardized way and should spur their adoption, and indeed, for the second wave, over one-quarter of cellcos see HetNets as one of their top two weapons, while simple offload has dropped back to 20%.

The findings show that carriers will move from their unsophisticated use of Wi-Fi towards a more complex and carefully planned strategy which relies on WLans, indoor femtocells and public access metrocells to supplement or even replace the traditional cellular network.

But for carrier Wi-Fi to take this enhanced role, the holes currently existing in the platform need to be filled rapidly, a process which will throw up some key opportunities for companies with expertise in critical areas - metrozones, cross-platform billing and hand-off, security, interference management, and traffic prioritization. Obvious giants are already staking their claim, from Cisco to Nokia Siemens, but some of the more interesting moves are seen coming from the smaller players as the worlds of Wi-Fi offload, small cells and intelligent traffic management collide, and as operators start to demand that their WLans are intelligent, secure and fully integrated with their 3G and 4G systems.

Among these independents are two stalwarts of the Wi-Fi market, Ruckus Wireless and BelAir Networks, which are now looking to expand their remit deep into the heart of the cellcos’ networks and carve out a position there ahead of the expected HetNet boom. Ruckus has its roots in the indoor market, particularly video-over-WLan systems, and learned how to deal with carriers in that space.

Last year it ventured outdoors with metrozone products and scored its flagship offload contract with Japan’s KDDI Wireless, which recently announced “the world’s first and largest ‘instant-on’ Wi-Fi access and mobile data offload service”. It is using Ruckus access points and controllers to build a hotspot network which will reach 100,000 locations by next March, supporting seamless hand-off from 3G and free Wi-Fi for data customers. As the GigaOM blog pointed out, “100,000 access points will give KDDI a Wi-Fi node for every 320 customers. AT&T has a Wi-Fi access node for every 4063 customers. The sheer density of KDDI’s deployment assures that Wi-Fi will become a major component of its mobile data networking strategy, rather than a mere supplementary technology.”

Meanwhile, BelAir has major offload deals with AT&T and several US cablecos, including Cablevision, the poster child for using Wi-Fi instead of cellular MVNO deals to add a wireless element to a cable triple play. Cable operators are a key target market for the carrier Wi-Fi brigade, since they have no vested interest in 3G solutions (even the most 3G-oriented of the US players, Cox Communications, pulled out of offering mobile services this month because of the costs and poor returns).

But BelAir is looking well beyond simple offload, and indeed, no longer likes to be known as a Wi-Fi firm, because it is supporting LTE too in its latest small cell platform, the 2100, designed to be a component of a flexibly planned HetNet. Drawing on a decade in the Wi-Fi metro space, it is now focusing on metrozones in their newer incarnation – carrier-controlled, running a mixture of Wi-Fi and cellular small cells, and hugely scalable. A couple of months after unveiling the 2100, which has integrated backhaul as well as multimode support, the vendor is moving further into the heart of the carrier network with its GigXone offering. This consists of a set of Wi-Fi controllers and access points, which can scale metro networks to hundreds of thousands of nodes.

CMO Ronny Haraldsvik says a commercial deployment of 100,000 nodes is “not very far away”, and in future such zones will take Wi-Fi from a “stopgap solution” to a permanent part of the network strategy, he argues. This will be driven by the emergence of products which make Wi-Fi truly carrier class – a category where he currently places only BelAir, Cisco and Ruckus – and also by standards work, particularly around HetNets in LTE+, integration of APs with femtocells, and in the Hotspot 2.0 initiative. The latter will use the upcoming 802.11u standard extension, for roaming with 3G, and there will be a Wi-Fi Alliance certification program from 2012, for a set of seamless roaming and authentication standards.

Not only does BelAir hope to be part of carriers’ offload and HetNet strategies with beefed-up capacity and multimode support, but it believes it is time for operators to think more closely about monetizing their Wi-Fi connections and think of new business models. The GigXone not only enables more than enough capacity to support mobile data needs, but it supports virtualized access points, so that cellcos can sell the excess to third parties.

Several cellcos round the world are enhancing their brand awareness and business model by offering Wi-Fi access services outside their own customer bases – even, in the case of O2 UK, for free. GigXone not only works with existing 3GPP billing systems, but via virtualization, can enable up to eight virtual Lans, which can offer hosted services to the third party partners or to private customers such as enterprises. Virtual small cells enable each SSID to be independently configured to connect to different carrier core networks. Security, mobility, AAA and DHCP parameters can also be set on a per-SSID basis.

“Building a small cell network once and leveraging it many more times is nirvana for carriers and their investors in these capex strained times,” said Haraldsvik, and BelAir CEO Bernard Herscovich added in a statement: “Small cells are not just about 3G offload anymore as our carrier customers want to offer a reliable brand experience throughout their network service areas, regardless of radio access technologies. Mobile and cable carrier customers asked us to build a highly scalable system well suited for indoor and outdoor, business and consumers, with multimode small cell options for licensed and unlicensed, and that’s what we did with GigXone.”

The products contained within GigXone include the multimode small cells themselves as well as Carrier Cloud and HotZone controllers. There are five new elements. The Carrier Cloud Controller (BelAirCC8000) can support 500 access points and, with the BelView software, can scale to 100,000 cells with the controller managing wide area mobility via Mobile IP, L2VPN or GRE tunnels. The HotZone Controller (BelAirHZ4000) is a smaller, premises based system for ad hoc deployments such as convention centers, or for enterprises and smaller zones. The cells themselves are the BelAir 1000, the entry level model for indoor locations; the BelAir 1100 for campus networks or events; and the BelAir3200, a strand‐mounted product for cablecos with integrated DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem.

Cisco is also addressing the walls that still exist between the cellco’s 3G and Wi-Fi networks. Earlier this year, it introduced the Next Generation Hotspot system for its Aironet 1550 access points, a platform for authentication and roaming. "We are positioning this as a peaceful coexistence with 4G. Both have a role," said Jaishree Subramania, product marketing manager for mobility. “The very foundation of our approach is a carrier grade system across the entire network architecture. The key is the unification for architecture. It's all about delivering consistent Wi-Fi experience across a variety of environments, and all of this can be managed and controlled from a single point in a carrier network." The architecture will also support 802.11u, which allows Wi-Fi APs to advertise themselves and devices to connect to them using SIM-based authentication, without the user having to select an SSID number. Cisco is also thinking in terms of enabling new revenue streams for operators, saying 11u will “pave the way for new service delivery”, such as retailers offering instant coupons to people coming into their stores. Such applications would harness not just 11u but the Mobility Services Advertisement Protocol (MSAP), which allows 11u devices to obtain local information as they authenticate. "802.11u might be able to advertise that there are services available, while MSAP is the protocol that get the service into an app to be delivered down to a device," Cisco said.

Improved roaming, hand-off, authentication and services could all make Wi-Fi a more strategic part of the cellco’s network, but all that could come to grief if the connections are not fully secure. This has been a neglected risk, according to network infrastructure vendor Radisys, which took a position in the offload and data management markets when it acquired Continuous Computing. It promises to secure the ‘offload link’ between the 3G system and the WLan, using standards-based technology rather than expensive proprietary solutions.

Currently, the firm says, carriers are often leaving that link in their data chain poorly secured, or they are spending large sums on customized solutions. The upgraded SEG-100 security gateway, by contrast, supports standards like I-WLan (Interworking Wireless Lan), and the 3GPP specification, TTG (Tunnel Terminating Gateway).

Without a dedicated offload solution from such as a TTG platform, the connection between the carrier’s network and the WLan is often “untrusted” and insecure, warns Radisys. “Carriers are looking for highly scalable and cost effective solutions to protect networks and mobile traffic,” said senior product line manager Jeff Sharpe. “Compared to enterprise class security offerings, the SEG-100 is a carrier class solution that supports an industry-best 200,000 concurrent, bidirectional IPSec tunnels running at speeds greater than 10Gbps on a stateful, high availability system, thus enabling lowest cost per subscriber.”

Manish Singh, CTO at Radisys, told TotalTelecom that backhaul was another potential security risk, which the SEG-100 could help address. Moving traffic to third party backhaul systems was “creating a security hole, and you need to plug it,” he said. "If the weakest link is the backhaul then the hackers will target that.” The issues arise when cellcos address the strain on their backhaul links by leasing additional capacity from third parties, or by offloading. Any transfer between different networks, especially those out of the carrier’s control, can open up vulnerabilities.

The company claims that the SEG-100 is the only turnkey TTG and I-WLan solution which can be integrated automatically into any chassis or network supporting the ATCA standard. This is because it comes as an ATCA blade rather than a standalone box, reducing deployment time and cost within existing networks.

Despite all these enhancements to make WLans truly carrier-class, most operators will still see Wi-Fi as something of a second string, keeping their licensed spectrum, 3GPP crown jewels at the heart of the strategy. But we should not forget the new service providers (and even some old ones) which will look for competitive advantage by placing Wi-Fi at the center of their business models – from China Mobile with its Wi-Fi iPhone strategy and O2 with its free hotspots for all, to US newcomer Republic Wireless, which has a highly WLan-centric offering.

The firm has launched a hybrid Wi-Fi/cellular service for Android smartphones which manages to achieve the rockbottom price of $19 a month for unlimited use, providing most of that is over Wi-Fi - focusing on ‘mobile onload’ rather than Wi-Fi offload. The proposition is interesting because it is not entirely about Wi-Fi, like the China Mobile iPhone, or Google’s dreams of a metrozone which elbows out cellco offerings. Instead, it takes what TelecomTV calls a ‘cell light' approach. The plan incentivizes the user to connect via Wi-Fi wherever possible – at home, hotspot or work – by imposing strict caps on cellular usage, and by supporting a transparent and fully integrated voice/text experience over the WLan (in both directions). For $19, the user gets unlimited Wi-Fi calls, text and data, but is limited to 400 minutes, 200 texts and 600Mbytes of data on the cellular system. Customers can monitor whether they are on Wi-Fi, and their cellular usage, using an on-board app. If they persistently overuse their mobile allowances, they can face possible account termination.

Whether or not Republic succeeds in the tough US market, it is an example of how carriers are starting to think creatively about how they can harness Wi-Fi for more than offload, and to be a permanent element in their data strategies, and new business models, well into the LTE-Advanced era.

Courtesy Rethink Research.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meet the Swarm Lab and AMPLab (Berkeley)

Two labs, two high-impact missions
By Abby Cohn

BIG DATA, BIG CHALLENGES: What to do about the massive aggregation of digital data? For researchers at the AMPLab, the challenge is not just finding ways to store it all, but also developing tools that will efficiently manage and analyze this information, thus maximizing its value.
Two new research ventures at Berkeley Engineering have boundary-shattering visions for the future of computing.
Meet the Swarm Lab and AMPLab.
Jointly unveiled at the recent Berkeley EECS Annual Research Symposium (BEARS), the labs have distinct missions. The Swarm Lab will advance work in tiny wireless sensors capable of linking our homes, cities and bodies to the cyber world. The AMPLab will focus on solutions to the growing challenge of storing, accessing and analyzing a deluge of data that has begun overwhelming today’s technology.
Each is assembling an interdisciplinary team composed of leading computer scientists from multiple specialties.
“You really need expertise across a wide spectrum of the computer landscape,” says Michael J. Franklin, professor of computer science and director of the AMPLab, whose initials stand for algorithms, machines and people.
Housed in Soda Hall, the AMPLab is creating cutting-edge tools to manage and extract valuable information from the plethora of data being collected digitally. Its mission comes in response to the phenomenon known as “big data” or the “data deluge”:  Modern computing is gathering so much information—ranging from online mouse clicks to human genome sequencing to telescope imagery of the universe—that it lacks the ability to store it, let alone analyze it to understand trends or make predictions. “It used to be that you had to be a big phone company or bank to have a data problem,” says Franklin. “Now everyone is starting to collect more data than they can make sense of.”
The AMPLab is tackling those challenges by taking a three-pronged approach. Researchers plan to improve the efficiency and quality of machine learning (algorithms), scale up datacenters (machines) and leverage the input of human intelligence and activities through crowdsourcing (people). Instead of advancing each dimension independently, the lab will work to integrate the three into a unified system. “We have world-class people in all dimensions,” Franklin says. “We’re taking a holistic view of the system architecture.”
Illustrating the value that can be mined from massive collections of information, the AMPLab is already teaming with several real-world projects using big data to create personalized genomics information, crowd-based public opinion forums and urban development simulations. Another early participant is the Mobile Millennium project. Headed by Alex Bayen, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, that endeavor is creating a real-time traffic monitoring system by processing millions of data points daily from GPS-enabled cell phones and road sensors.
The AMPLab is supported by Google, SAP and some 10 other corporate sponsors. The lab is expected to run for five years.
ABUZZ WITH POSSIBLILITIES: Among other projects, researchers at the Swarm Lab will develop flexible, paper-like and wearable materials from innovative components, such as a UC Berkeley research team’s artificial e-skin made of nanowires, pictured above.
Meanwhile, construction of the Swarm Lab, which will occupy the entire fourth floor of Cory Hall, is expected to start soon. Launched with major support from Qualcomm Inc., the lab will explore and develop smart sensor networks that can be embedded in walls, streets and even the human body. These trillions of tiny, wireless sensors—collectively known as “the swarm”—will capture information about ourselves and our world and provide new ways of interacting, says Jan Rabaey, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.
He hopes to open the Swarm Lab by the end of this year.
The lab will serve as an incubator for swarm applications and platforms. Potential applications for the technology include systems that monitor environmental conditions, energy use and personal health. Down the road, swarms could augment reality by creating 3D simulations complete with such sensory experiences as touch, sound and smell.
If, for instance, a harmful chemical starts leaking from a local oil refinery, the wireless network of the future could notify nearby residents with a message that pops up on their bathroom mirrors. Or sensors in the human body might provide instant cholesterol readings or constant EKG monitorings for patients with heart problems. In the future of e-commerce, shoppers could try on clothes virtually and get sensory feedback if the shoes they’re considering will pinch their toes.
Rabaey believes ubiquitous sensory swarms will become a reality within the next 20 years as today’s pad devices “disappear and fade away in the walls or our body.” The biggest hurdle to that vision is the anticipated public concern about privacy, health and other issues related to embedded sensors, he says. Rabaey is confident those worries can be overcome with such measures as careful privacy controls and public education.
He equates the potential of sensory swarms to that of mobile devices when they first debuted. “I believe it’s really going to revolutionize how we interact with the world and how we’re going to interact with each other,” he says.


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Perks of Working at Google, Facebook, Twitter and More [INFOGRAPHIC]

[SOURCE: Mashable]
Are you a techie looking for work? We recently offered some tips on landing jobs at Google, Apple and Facebook, but there are more companies in the Valley than those three. And you might be wondering what the culture is like at each of these companies, as well as at LinkedIn, Twitter, Eventbrite, Gaia and Tagged.
Back in August, we brought you word of awesome perks at various startups; now, we bring you perks at a number of Silicon Valley’s largest and finest. From yoga to catered lunches, 401(k)s to dry cleaning, sports teams to vacation days, these tech companies seem to understand that quality of life affects productivity — and that having to run fewer errands after work means you’re more likely to stay at the office.
Check out the infographic below from ResumeBear for a breakdown of who offers what perks. Do you work at any of these companies and take advantage of any of these perks? Let us know in the comments below.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

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