Maybe we store some data under our mattress to make space?

Hello and thanks for reading. 

There was one scene from the movie "Blow" that I remember getting a bit of a kick out of.  As the popularity of cocaine had taken off, Johnny Depp's character had a unique problem...where to store all of the cash that they had.  He and his friend had it piled up in every room of the house in boxes.  While most of us would never do his occupation, the idea of having that much cash to store is a problem that many of us would greatly accept. 

This scene came to mind when I heard some of the numbers regarding how much data a driver-less car generates (and often needs to transmit).  Simply....where do we store all of this data?  Do we have any idea how many extra server farms we may need to pull this off? 

Here is what I am talking about (the lines in bold are thanks to our friends at the Financial Post): 

Self-driving car prototypes already generate mind-bogglingly massive amounts of data. The one being tested by Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., for example, collects about one gigabyte of data per second, or a feature-length, high-definition film’s worth of data every five seconds. 

If the world’s one-billion-plus cars were self-driving, each one would generate about two petabytes — or two million gigabytes — of data every year on average, according to an estimate by big data strategist Mark van Rijmenam. 

Ok, to put your head around this....the top iPad stores 256GB of storage.  So, each car would fill up just shy of 8000 iPads worth of data each year.  That is each car.  When you determine that there is 1B cars on the market, and now add in all of the trains, planes and other vehicles, well, it doesn't even start to register in my head. 

Where do we even start to begin to start to be able to store this information?  Ok, let's go one step further....imagine we did store it....how do we make this useful?  The reality is that 99.9% of that data will be either redundant or will have no use to anyone.  We would need data filters that are way more advanced than we have now. 

As well, most of the data from driver-less cars needs to be streamed to/from the vehicle in real-time.  The vehicle needs to be updated at break-neck speeds to be able to make the correct decisions, I think we all get why.  So, how do we begin to transmit all of this data?  I have heard of trials involving advanced WiFi systems in towns, but are we going to extend this to all roads on the market?  The sheer logistics of that would be staggering, not to mention that it would swamp the component market so much that no one would have available components to build anything else. 

The Bottom Line

The point of this blog was just to mention the amount of data generated from self-driving cars. It wasn’t intended to cover many other issues such as security and roaming capability – i.e. could a tourist from Mexico's system work in Texas?  It’s clear there is a lot more work to be done to get these systems off the ground, so don't expect to see it anytime soon.

How are your grades this year?

Yes, for millions of kids around the world, June spells the end of the school year.  While it is always great to start summer vacation, more than a few kids may be worried about their grades.  For some, it will be because they are doing poorly, while for others, it will be to see if their grades are good enough to get into a particular program. 

As adults, unless we are taking additional courses, we often don't think of grades as being important.  However, in the world of IoT, it can be the difference between a successful deployment and a not-successful deployment. 

A bit confused?  Think I have totally lost it? 

Using the right "grade" can ensure your success

One of the most popular blogs that I have ever written spoke about how Ferrari owners don't generally scrimp on their tire choice.  The idea was that most of them saw enough value in their tires (namely the safety and performance benefits) that they generally chose premium rubber for their vehicle. 

Too bad that many people don't always think the same way when it comes to IoT equipment... 

Modems and antennas have a wide range of price points, with the highest cost ones often being five to eight times more expensive than the lowest cost (more with antennas).  And, in this day of people trying to do more with less, there is a natural urge to use the lowest cost device to save money. 

However, much like the fact that the military does not drive Kia Rios into a war zone, you need to pick the right equipment for the job. 

Three grades of success

The goal at Novotech is not to sell the most expensive piece of equipment to each customer. Rather, we do our best to ensure that each customer has the right tools to meet their needs now and in the future.  As such, we divide up modems/antennas into three main categories: 

  1. Standard  These products are designed to be reliable in many basic deployments.  They provide adequate security (for modems) and reception (for antennas).   They will work in all "carpeted" environments and in some light duty Industrial ones.
  2. High-Gain / Premium  These products are designed to provide an increased level of performance and durability.  They are often built to handle a higher range of environmental conditions (so, outdoors for Canada in the winter and Phoenix in the summer) and have an increased level of security to protect the vital data that you need.
  3. Corporate-Grade / Industrial  I lump these two categories together, as they are each equally demanding in their own way.  Corporations are relying on the data that comes from the device, so they need to be both reliable and highly secure.  Devices in this category are meant to handle long-term deployments in the harshest environments possible, providing the highest level of security/data-encryption and doing both for up to a decade.


    But, they cost a lot more...

    Sure, a $1000 modem costs 4 times more than a $250 one.  There is no getting around that.  However, one only has to look at the cost of an outage / security breach to know that there is much more to the cost of a deployment than the initial hardware....

  • What is the cost of downtime to your application?
  • What is the cost of lost data for you and your customers?
  • What was the overall cost to the back-end system that you use and how much more effective is it with consistent, clean data?
  • What is the longevity of the project (and how many times will you have to replace inferior modems over its lifespan)?
  • Does your IT / Operations team have better things to do than to reset inferior modems?

The Bottom Line

In this age of "disposable electronics", there is still a big demand for premium products.  Swiss watches still sell for thousands of dollars (even when your iPhone can tell you the time), luxury car companies are doing quite well and people still shell out two to five times more for a MacBook when they could opt for a lower cost Windows alternative.  The reason is that there is a value in these products, one that easily justifies the cost.  We need to use the right grade of products for the task....otherwise, you may end up in the "Principal's office" for something worse than a detention...

Is IoT behind the Warriors dominance?

Ok, I admit that I am not a huge basketball fan.  It ranks 4th in my preference of the 4 major sports in North America.  But, that does not mean that I do not appreciate greatness when I see it.  One can't help but admire the incredible talent of the Golden State Warriors, but more than that, they are a great "team".  They seem to relish not only scoring, but also passing, as they are one of the best passing teams I have ever seen. 

But, how much of their success is related to the great use of technology? 

Well, not all of it, of course.  I imagine Curry's shooting is more about practice and talent than technology, but one cannot discount the importance that technology has brought to this team.  And, when I say talent, I do mean what he inherited.  Back in my previous carrier days, I had the pleasure of helping Stephen's dad, Dell, when he as in Toronto having an issue with cell phone.  One day, I had to meet him at practice.  I sat in amazement as he hit 20 3-point shots in a row, all "swishes"... The apple does not fall far from that tree... 

But, back to today... 

It makes sense that the Warriors use a ton of technology....after all, they are owned by a "nerd", one who has made his money investing in technology startups.  They use a lot of technology during the game (namely advanced cameras to record player movement, fatigue, etc). But the really good stuff comes in when they are off the court. 

The Warriors use a lot of on-body analytics, delivered through sensor-based measurements from special clothing worn during practice.  By getting such valuable information, the training and coaching staff can better see the current well-being of the players, letting them know who is up to speed and whom they may need to rest.  This not only maximizes performance, but prevents injury during the long NBA season. 

But, it does not stop there.  The team also uses IoT to provide feedback on the mental and sleeping conditions of the players.  This is important especially for a western based team who often tend to do more travel / crossing time zones than an Eastern team does. 

The Bottom line

So, how much of an impact does this technology have?  I mean, they are a pretty talented team and I am sure that they would be title contenders even without it.  However, in this day and age where players are often pushed to the limits with travel and working out, I am sure that it helps.  Perhaps we can give some of it to the Cavs to make more of a series out of this!

Obesity and IoT – are we just making things worse?

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a race that was part of Calgary's Marathon weekend.  You know, "stupid thing that causes all of the roads to be blocked while idiots try to kill themselves running" (at least, according to the rant from a gentleman in the airport). 

These races, which are held all over the place, seem to be getting more popular each year.  And, it is not just running....look at the turnout for most Spartan races, Ironman and others.  In some ways, we are more active than ever. 

Well, some of us.  It seems that the majority of North Americans aren't getting enough exercise, and this is a relatively new phenomenon.  I am sure that if there was a way to talk to a prehistoric man, he would tell you that he was quite active, if he had time to talk while running from a lion.  The same goes for people from a few hundred years ago.  Most of them wouldn't have time to talk, as they would be busy putting in 12-18 hour days on the farm. 

So, lack of exercise, as a widespread problem in society is somewhat recent.  The first two "revolutions" (Industrial and Internet) both played major roles in this.  When machines replaced workers and we started being able to do more from the comforts of our own couch, we got lazy. After all, tuning into Netflix is a lot easier than running out to get a movie at Blockbuster... 

How much worse will IoT make this situation?

At first glance, one may think that it may not make us lazier. However, I think that it will.  It will reduce the need for things such as repairs to equipment, walking patrols to check on machines/buildings, meter reading and much more.  Companies will greatly see either a reduction in staffing for many jobs or they will see them be able to be more productive with the same amount (which is basically like reducing staff, as you are doing more with less).  With the elimination of physically oriented jobs, we will become even more sedentary as a whole. 

Ironically, while IoT makes us lazier, it is trying to make us healthier.  One only has to look the explosion of FitBit and others to see this.  So, we are using the same technology to give us the time to sit down more while also telling us when we have been sitting down too long....hmm. 

The Bottom Line

Sure, not everyone is becoming lazier.  It was great to see thousands of runners/walkers at the event this weekend.  I am sure that similar sized crowds have been seen all over.  We need more of these things, as we need to incorporate more exercise into our non-working lives if we are going to be cutting out activity at work.  And, who says that it can't be fun?  I am sure that the runner who ran the half marathon (in 1:40) while wearing a Chewbacca costume had fun!