A wishlist for the new 5G platforms

M2M - The Industry

I do feel old.  I don't mean that my body creaks in the morning or that I have to get up to pee 4x a night, but working in the cellular industry really makes you feel old fast. 

I started out in the mid to late 90's doing pretty much what I do now, wireless data.  Sure, they call it different things now, but basically we are still using cellular networks to allow devices to talk...to other devices, to applications and to people.  And, it seems that we are going to be able to talk a lot faster in just a few short years.

The early rumbling is that we will start to see 5th Generation (or 5G) devices within the next decade, maybe as soon as even 2020.  And, the early thoughts as to what this network may do are staggering:

•   Response times of under 1 millisecond, ideal for important applications like teenagers playing video games

•   Unheard of reliability (even the oft-mentioned "5 - 9s")

•   Stupidly fast speeds.....even up to 10Gbps!

•   90% more power efficiency

My own wishlist

Since we are at it, maybe the designers of this new great technology can help with the following requests that I have:

Volume buzzers on Smartphones 

I sat in a waiting room the other day and spent most of my time eavesdropping on a riveting conversation that a teenage girl was having about a boy named Chad.  It's not that I was trying to listen, I was actually trying hard NOT to listen, but she decided to yell out every word.  Besides my first thought (why can't you just text annoyingly fast like every other teenager?), I was wondering if we could use this extra power that we are saving on the new technology to deliver a mild, but increasingly painful shock to those who talk this loud?  I think it is a fair trade off....

Better use of GPS geo-fencing

I have heard the one about how various technologies are being used to deter "Text and Driving", and that is great technology.  How about we take some of this proximity-based solutions a bit further?  The one that I suggest is that when my wife gets within 500 yards of a shopping mall, I get a text and it temporarily freezes our credit cards....Think of all the savings!

A "you can't send that" filtering mechanism

Ok, I am sure that this one already kind of exists (since there are millions of apps), but I will post it anyway.  How many of us have written an email or a text that we wish we had not written?  I think we need to have a way to communicate with our "future selves" about some of the things that we send.

So, when we hit send on any email that may get us in trouble, a note is sent to our "future self" to ask "Are you happy that we sent this email or text 5 years ago?"  If the answer is "Heck no!", it gets blocked by a server.

Improving Powerpoint presentations for everyone

Ok, a huge pet peeve of mine is when people decide to read their slides while doing a PowerPoint presentation.  I am not the smartest guy on the planet, but I did master reading a few weeks ago.....

So, what I am proposing is the ability to shoot a painful, but not lethal, laser beam out of my cell phone in the event that someone starts to read their slides.  A slight, short pain for them will eliminate a very long pain for the rest of us.....sounds like a win-win! 

It can also be used for:

•   In-laws that talk needlessly on about boring subjects.....not limited to: Gardening, learning an old language like Latin or their wine collection.

•   Door to Door salesmen.

•   Anyone who insists to talk after you've warned them that you really need to use the bathroom at least once (some jurisdictions may require you to tell them twice and then wait 15 seconds).

The Bottom Line

Of course, I am joking with these crazy ideas (well partly, I do like the PowerPoint laser idea).  It seems that when we get a few years away from a new network technology coming out, everyone talks about all of the things that it will do.  However, we tend to forget a few things....are people actually willing to pay for these things, and do we really need to browse at 10Gbps when most of us text or Facebook the majority of the times on our smartphones?  Or maybe we do....as I said, I do feel old sometimes in this industry!


Security is a major issue, but we already have solutions

Quick, what was the catalyst that launched the growth of the Internet?  Some may argue that it was Windows 95, as it allowed for a better experience in a browser, at least compared to what we had before.  Others may argue that the Internet never really took off until we started to see the availability of high speed networks like DSL in the home.  Finally, others may argue that it never fully took off until we saw the availability of IP-based cellular networks.

Regardless of when you think it was, the Internet changed our lives in an incredibly rapid fashion. It changed how we banked, booked travel, communicated and it opened the doors for many of the largest companies on the planet including Google, Amazon and Uber.

In a similar fashion, many have speculated about the expected hyper-growth of IoT.  According to some, we are in that growth today, but I totally disagree. I don’t believe that we are in that phase yet and we won’t even begin until the upcoming launch of CAT M.

Why CAT M is a game-changer

Having started in the cellular data game close to 2 decades ago, I have seen the growth of the industry like few others.  In my opinion, many of the same customers that started cutting their teeth on early technologies like 1x and GPRS are still in the game, having moved forward in technology over the years.  For the most part, we have not seen nearly as many new entrants to the world of IoT as one would have thought, despite the incredible prowess of technologies like LTE.

Why is that?

The biggest advantage to a technology like LTE is speed.  The network is so fast by historical standards that it does not really even make sense sometimes.  Think back to when you used to use dial-up.  Imagine if someone told you that you would be able to browse at hundreds of times faster speeds while waiting for the bus?  While we like to complain about how slow networks can be sometimes, the technology truly is amazing for browsing the Internet.

However, the technology does not add much value for customers who have little need for speeds much faster than dial-up.  If you are gathering “bits and bytes” of data, why does it matter how fast the network is?  It is like moving a snail from a school zone to the autobahn….they aren’t going to get any extra benefit from the increased speed.  Sure, LTE also offered other advantages, but it was not enough to excite many legacy customers and often, not enough to get potential new customers to move to cellular data.

Enter CAT M…

CAT M will offer speeds that are still compelling to many customers who need slightly faster than “snail speed”.  However, since it will bring down the cost, many customers who found cellular data to be too expensive can now justify its expense.  This is both from the rate plan, as well as from the cost of the module itself.

In addition, it offers the advantages of:

Lower power consumption  One of the drawbacks for some customers to use cellular data in their solution was the extra power draw for the module.  While it still draws power, the CAT M modules will be more “Prius-like” in their power usage

Better RF reception  While I can’t say that using CAT M will mean that you never go out of cellular coverage, it offers an increased signal gain versus other current technologies

Only requires one antenna  Most 4G technologies required two cellular antennas to maximize its capabilities.  CAT M offers the ability to use a single cellular antenna, reducing cost and increasing flexibility

Increased network capacity for the carrier  While you may think that this is not a benefit to the end user, the ability for CAT M to use smaller packet sizes during transmission means a smoother experience for users.

The Bottom Line

CAT M is a major leap forward in the world of IoT and I predict the sales results will definitely show that its launch was the real start of the “hockey stick curve growth” that we are going to see.  I expect that this growth will be accelerated further when future technologies emerge.

Our security is in our numbers

M2M - The Industry

I hear a lot of people tell me personally, and I read a lot about security and data as it relates to IOT or M2M. The articles and people say things like "our grid is in imminent danger of being hacked", "our hardware provides the maximum amount of security", and “the banks and credit card companies are spending billions on securing our financial data”.  I hear a lot about identity theft, but I don’t know a single person that this has happened to.  Why is it that something so pervasive in our society has escaped all of my colleagues and friends and yet Life-Lock makes it seem that one out of every two people have their identity hacked?

I am not one to fear monger, but the simple truth is that we are completely vulnerable on almost every aspect of our lives (when it comes to security breaches)... our financial records are an obvious target, but also our governmental records, our health records...the list goes on and on. I am here to tell you that the reason most of us are safe has nothing to do with hardware or software, but merely because of statistics.

I will explain.

Statistics, being what they are, tell us that the amount of data generated is simply too great to allow a statistically significant portion of any population to be targeted, much less affected.  We are like the "huddled masses", totally fearing the apocalypse of having our data stolen or our identity compromised when in reality we could probably be blissfully ignorant and uncaring about who sees our PIN number.

How, you might ask?

The reason there is no great worry about data security is that almost no one is interested in your or my data (despite our fears). On top of that, it is almost impossible to do the analytics or decipher anything from it anyways.  I would compare this to the Federal Government trying to find a single stock trade in an account of an individual in the past year. It does not work because the effort required to isolate the trade outweighs the value of the information. Similarly, we could eliminate all theft of data and totally secure every network in the world but the cost would be so great that it would outweigh the value of our time…never mind the cost of doing so.

Frankly, I am tired of all the talk about security, not because it’s not important, but rather because it is so overstated as to its occurrence and its benefit to everyone.  As I am fond of saying, there is an optimal amount of security in the world and we are at equilibrium. 

For a counterpoint on this topic, read this blog post by my fellow Novotech colleague, Larry Bellehumeur, where he talks about how important IoT security is becoming... https://novotech.com/learn/M2M-Blog