Self-Driving Cars – Coming sooner than we think?

The future of the car, taking on latest developments in electric vehicles and self-driving technology was the topic of the rather immodestly titled “Great Debate” at the University of Reading held last month. As the host candidly admitted, the organising committee was undecided as to whether to discuss electric vehicles or self-driving cars, and so fudged it. In the end, much of the discussion focused on the impact of autonomous cars. Are electric cars really ready for mass-market? The first couple of … Read more…

Why history matters. Even to tech leaders

When looking at the challenges that the fast-moving tech landscape throws up, it is often tempting to think that these problems are new to the 21st century and consequently need completely novel approaches. While the mechanics, business process and technologies may well be new, the underlying problem is very likely to be one that has been around for centuries. Just as the Roman Republic can provide a casebook of the entire gamut of political mechanations and intrigue, similarly, history books can provide invaluable advice on … Read more…

The importance of Strategic Agility

With agile software methodologies now firmly in the mainstream, it is difficult to find a software development organisation that does not claim to follow agile principles to at least some extent. For this reason, much of the discussion in agile and lean development conferences is now shifting to its applicability in the wider business world. In this post, I have a look at some of the business challenges that can be addressed through adopting strategic agility, and make some suggestions that may help … Read more…

Happenings in the World of Artificial Intelligence

While much of the tech media have been focusing on the goings on at the Mobile World Congress, some of the more interesting stories of the week are to be found elsewhere. While the differences between this year’s smartphones and last year’s models are becoming increasingly difficult to discern, the same is not true for the goings on in the world of Artificial Intelligence. Already a topic of a blog post of mine a short time ago, there have been some particularly … Read more…

What’s behind Musk’s OpenAI Initiative?

For my first blog post of 2016, I thought it time to take a cursory look at OpenAI, the non-for-profit organisation being set up by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk. This aims to provide a non-commercial basis for furthering research into Artificial Intelligence, publishing and widely disseminating the output of research carried. To this end, $1 billion worth of funding has been pledged (or ‘donated’) by a number of Silicon Valley luminaries, including PayPal’s Peter Thiel and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman. Silicon Valley … Read more…

Talk to me – The role of Voice Control in the Smart Home

A recent Smart Home report on what features are most desired by users showed that in addition to self-adjusting thermostats, remote locking of burglar alarms and other such staples, one of the features that users really want is a master remote for all services. This is an expression of the frustration with the morass of incompatibility between smart devices.  Very few systems talk to each other in a meaningful way and it is clear that the fragmentation of standards and systems continues to cause … Read more…

Google OnHub – the router is now cylindrical

Following Amazon’s echo media device, Google have just unveiled an equally-cylindrical device, their all-singing, all-dancing WiFi router, built by home networking specialists TP-Link. Now I am a bit confused about this. Designed to be attractive and pretty enough placed anywhere in the home, Google seem to have forgotten that the location of WiFi routers are dictated by where the Internet cable enters the home. However, Google make big claims about its wireless performance, apparently sporting 13 antennas, emphasising the speed and range benefits it … Read more…

Comparing the Cloud giants – Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure

Last month saw a number of number of the tech giants provide their most recent quarterly earnings. For both Amazon and Microsoft, their cloud activities gained a lot of headlines and column-inches in both the technical and business press. Although adopting different growth and technology strategy, their cloud computing offerings represent a significant engine of growth going forward, and is becoming an area of ever-more intense competition. Here we take a brief look at how they compare and what the … Read more…

Will the promise of the Smart Home finally be realised as standards converge?

We have already seen how the connected home market is overwhelmed by a morass of incompatible and competing standards, and products made by different manufacturers are unlikely to work together unless they use high-level APIs such as Google’s “Works with Nest”. In the dumb home, interoperability was taken for granted. An incandescent bulb would work with any switch and thermostats were readily interchangeable. The addition of complex app & web based interfaces, the foundation of ‘smart’ systems has created a multitude … Read more…

Wired: Who cares what OS your car runs?

Excellent article on how a new front in the smartphone Operating Systems war – the car. Ford neatly summarises the auto manufacturers’ positions: ““We don’t want the customer to base the choice of a $40,000 car on the $300 phone that they carry in their pocket,” The article however misses the point that it is by no means a foregone conclusion that either Apple or Google will dominate the dashboard – don’t forget that the useful lifetime of a car (13 … Read more…

British Gas acquires AlertMe – A smart home leader

AlertMe, the Cambridge-based company behind the technology that powers the Hive Active Heating system sold by British Gas has just been acquired by British Gas itself. Originally holding an investment of around 20%, British Gas has now bought the entire outfit for around $100m. As AlertMe only has two large customers, British Gas itself and Lowe, in the US, it is unclear whether British Gas aims to use the platform and technology for its own energy customer base. However in a press release, Mary … Read more…

Digital Health Platforms – A look at Apple HealthKit’s early lead

A Reuters report last week claimed that Apple’s HealthKit is being trialled by more hospitals in the US than Google Fit. Fourteen out of twenty-three ‘top’ (no info on how they were selected) hospitals contacted had already rolled out a pilot programme with Apple, way ahead of where they are with other significant personal health platforms. This clearly indicates that the convergence between personal devices and real medical healthcare, is beginning to move beyond the somewhat narcissistic counting of steps, fitness goals etc, … Read more…

Google in talks to buy SoftCard

SoftCard, the struggling mobile payments joint venture in the US between AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile is apparently in the eyes of Google as it seeks to counter the success of Apple Pay in the US. Be interesting to see what this means for other carrier payment joint-ventures, such as Weve in the UK. The Wall Street Journey covers the essentials of this story well. Google Is in Talks to Buy Mobile-Payments Service Softcard null  

Big data predictions in the online and physical world

One piece of news that hit the headlines this week was the revelation from researchers from the University of Cambridge and Stanford University that Facebook may be a better judge of personalities than spouses or friends. Apart from the obvious hype value this is particularly significant as it shows the power of machine learning in scenarios which we intuitively feel should be difficult for algorithms to handle. Instead it turns out the the inherent lack of subjective bias and prejudice … Read more…

Connectivity in the Smart Home. Thread or Bluetooth Smart?

This blog has already explored the multitude of standards currently being used as the basis for connecting sensors, object and all sorts of things  to the Internet and to each other. Nowhere is this problem more acute than in the area of home automation, where the lack of widely adopted standards results in systems that don’t talk to each other, and worse, in systems that quickly become obsolete and cease to be supported by their manufacturers. The situation where the home … Read more…

Intel – From Edison launch to Google Glass

Last week, I was introduced in person to Intel’s latest creation aimed at the maker movement – the low-power, small-format Edison chip. In a hands-on event in Shoreditch, London organised by Intel, I got to explore capabilities of the tiny computer, not much bigger than an SD memory card. It is clearly a very capable device, providing x86 compatibility to a wide range of products, and as such provides an alternative to Arduino and Raspberry Pi products. However this is not … Read more…

Business Models for the Internet of Things

I unsuccessfully tried to avoid calling this blog “Business Models for the Internet of Things” as there is no shortage of web articles on this topic. A recent Harvard Business Review online issue on the Internet of Things has triggered a fair deal of debate on whether IoT radically changes business models or to what extent unlocks new value. Like all technologies in the hyped ramp-up phase, it is often difficult to separate fact from fiction, and prediction from fanciful guesswork. Here I … Read more…

IOT World Forum Day 2 – completing the picture

Day 2 of the Internet of Things World Forum was characterised by a similar mix of speakers as the first day, with the mobile operator community being a lot more visible and engaged in the debate. Although there was no shortage of big numbers nor of technology companies offering solutions, a new set of themes emerged. 1. Manufacturing represents the biggest immediate opportunity Bernd Heinrichs of Cisco opened the session with a sweeping view of the IoT landscape. Much was made of the importance of … Read more…

Internet of Things and Big Data – The concept of Data Gravity

A number of posts in this blog have dealt with the increasing variety and sheer number of ‘things’, be they sensors, wearables, appliances, actuators, industrial components etc. that will gain connectivity over the coming few years. There will however be no point adding connectivity to these items if they do not produce meaningful data, and in turn there will be no point collating this data unless insights are obtained that can be acted upon. This is why the ‘Internet of Things’ is invariably coupled with its close relative in the family of hyped buzzwords –  Mr ‘Big Data’.

To give an example of the scale of data being produced, Cisco estimates that by 2018, connected devices will generate 400 zettabytes of data annually. (I too needed to look that up. Apparently a zettabyte is 1021 bytes or 1 billion terabytes).

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Smart Thermostats – More than just a pretty app

An article in the UK mainstream press recently investigated the how smart thermostats and controls can be used to reduce household energy bills. The claims savings that can be achieve range from 10% by Hive of British Gas, up to around 20% for Google’s Nest thermostat. Given that the average energy bill of the UK household is around £1400/year, these represent significant amounts, though offset by the price of approx £200. While anything that significantly dents energy bills will be well-received, these smart … Read more…

The many webs of things

Two recent posts dealt with the activities of Samsung and Google in the area of the physical web, otherwise known as the Web of Things. Given the announcements of these two heavyweights within a few weeks of each other, it is worth exploring what it means for the rest of us. For starters, what is the Web of Things? Put succinctly, it is the allocation of URLs or web addresses to physical objects, allowing apps, web interfaces, and cloud services … Read more…