Friday, April 25, 2014

Five Reasons To Get Excited About 5G

At this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, one of the hottest topics of discussion was the future of 5G — a next-generation mobile communications network that would offer exponential gains in both speed and capacity over existing 4G networks. If 2G networks were for voice, 3G networks for voice and data, and 4G networks for broadband Internet connectivity, what exactly do you get when you deliver a 5G network?

When asked to answer that question in Barcelona, the heads of Europe’s top mobile operators — the likes of Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Orange and Nokia – couldn’t even define what 5G was, but were nonetheless committed to spending billions of dollars to make 5G a reality in Europe. The same timetable exists in Asia, where Japan and South Korea also plan to invest billions to build the next 5G networks by 2020.
So here are five examples of innovations that 5G might make possible.
Members of a South Korean contingent representing the next Olympic host city of Pyeongchang perform during the closing ceremony for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 23, 2014.               REUTERS/Issei Kato (RUSSIA  - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT)   
1. The first-ever 5G Olympics
Now that the Olympic Flame in Sochi has finally been extinguished, it’s interesting to consider the types of innovations that might appear at future Olympics. Both Pyeongchang (host of the 2018 Winter Olympics) and Tokyo (host of the 2020 Summer Olympics) are in nations that are at the forefront of 5G innovation in Asia, so it makes sense that they will attempt to showcase 5G innovation throughout the Olympics. When Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics, for example, the city became the first-ever to broadcast the Olympics overseas via satellite and in color.
 
For the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, here are just some of the ideas that might be made possible by 5G networks: one-second downloads of massive Olympic video clips; super-high-definition screens for broadcasting events; holograms of Olympic athletes; and mobile 3D images of venues and competitors. There are also hopes of creating “instant translation” glasses that would enable visitors from all over the globe to read anything written in Japanese within seconds. It might also be possible to offer “facial recognition” glasses in which Olympic visitors could spot fellow countrymen in a crowd, and instantly receive personal details about them to facilitate an introduction. As anyone who has ever missed a connection knows, seconds matter. New high-speed 5G networks would give you back those seconds.
In this Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, photo, a man checks his device in front of a banner  
2. The Internet of Everything, finally
Okay, it seems like we hear about the Internet of Things every year at CES in Vegas, but nothing ever comes of it. But the logic behind the Internet of Things is inexorable – Cisco predicts that by 2018, worldwide mobile data traffic will have increased 11x from current levels, with much of that traffic driven by billions of devices talking to other devices wirelessly. To make that M2M (machine-to-machine) communication possible you need fast, high-capacity networks. New 5G networks promise speeds that are 100x faster than anything that exists today.
 
At its most basic level, the “Internet of Everything” means that any device can talk to any other device. This can either be a relatively basic application – such as your refrigerator telling your smartphone that you’re out of milk – or something much more sophisticated. One big application that has been talked about (perhaps too much) is the “Smart City,” in which devices and sensors are installed on every element of a city’s infrastructure and constantly monitor the city. A sensor on a bridge, for example, might detect abnormal traffic patterns, and that information could be used to create alternate transportation routes.
 
Google co-founder Sergey Brin stands on stage during a bill signing by California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., for driverless cars at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012.  The legislation will open the way for driverless cars in the state. Google, which has been developing autonomous car technology and lobbying for the legislation has a fleet of driverless cars that has logged more than 300,000 miles (482,780 kilometers) of self-driving on California roads. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) 
3. Connected car networks
The Google driverless car was just the beginning. In order to support a large number of driverless vehicles on highways, you need 5G networks and all the extra capacity they deliver. And those 5G networks need to be qualitatively different from 4G networks, capable of handling and distinguishing between a variety of different uses: infotainment, communication, traffic navigation and device syncing. When your car is attempting to change lanes to avoid a collision, you don’t want your network being used by a child in the backseat, downloading a cartoon movie or making a hands-free mobile call.
 
Some mobile companies are even talking about a connected vehicle cloud – a massive network of connected car data that makes all types of new services available at faster speeds. In Barcelona, for example, Volvo unveiled the concept of a “Roam Delivery” network that could deliver groceries or packages to consumers wherever their car happens to be parked. A digital code would enable the delivery agent to access your car’s trunk, and you’d never have to worry about missing the UPS or FedEx delivery person again.
 A Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, left,  and a Samsung Gear 2 are displayed at the Samsung Galaxy Studio, in New York,  Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. Samsung on Monday unveiled a new smartphone with a built-in heart rate monitor to complement three upcoming fitness devices, as the Korean company tries to turn its technological wizardry into lifestyle products. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) 
 
4. Next generation mobile healthcare devices
We’re now entering an age where real-time health data from mobile devices is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Building on the success of devices from FitBit and Nike, it now seems like every new digital device — including smartphones and smartwatches – will come embedded with some sort of health-tracking service. In Barcelona, for example, Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S5 with a built-in heart rate monitor to complement three upcoming fitness devices.
 
Speaking at the Mobile World Congress, Vice President of the EU Commission Neelie Kroes suggested that m-health would emerge as one of the biggest applications of new 5G networks. As wearable device use increases, it will lead to new types of “sentient” health devices that are aware of real-time changes in your health — and capable of relaying that information to health providers and loved ones. It might also lead to innovations like “remote surgery.” Healthcare would essentially become mobile, rather than being tethered to fixed spaces such as hospitals and clinics.
 A smartphone sold as an Apple Inc. iPhone 4S, with its back cover and battery removed, is arranged for a photograph in Hong Kong, China, on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. Apple Inc.'s iOS smartphone operating system gained ground in the U.S. in the final quarter of 2013 as the share of the market served by the platforms of Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and BlackBerry Ltd. shrank. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg 
5. Smarter ways to power our mobile devices
One of the quirkier devices unveiled at the Mobile World Congress was the Tethercell, a device that essentially transforms any battery-powered device into a Bluetooth-enabled device. You take out one AA battery from your device, and insert the Tethercell, which has room for a AAA battery and a Bluetooth chip. Tetherboard, which makes the Tethercell, calls it “the world’s first app-enabled smart battery.” What that means is that you can control battery-powered devices at will from a distance. One example is a parent shutting down a child’s loud musical toy from the next room when it’s nap time. Another example is getting an alert when a battery-powered device is about to run out of juice.
 
That may not seem like much, but it hints at a solution to a problem being created by the proliferation of billions of mobile devices in society – the need for more spectrum, more capacity and more power. So it makes sense that some of the most interesting ideas about 5G concern ways to make our mobile devices more efficient and effective. Concepts like “Green 5G Mobile Networks” acknowledge that spectrum is a limited resource, and that we need to think about smarter ways to power our mobile devices.
 
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At the end of the day, the reason why Europe and Asia are committing so much attention to 5G is because of the potential to drive future economic growth. At a news conference in Barcelona, Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, even talked about the ability to reduce rampant youth unemployment across Europe by deploying new 5G networks. It’s not so much that 5G infrastructure build-out would create new jobs — think of this as a type of New Deal for technologists — it’s that 5G would create entirely new markets and economic opportunities driven by mobile in industries ranging from healthcare to automotive to infrastructure.

This Little Solar Powered Lantern Named 'Luci' Is Having A Big Impact

When you’re confronted by near-death experiences nine times before the age of 24, including being chased by a machete-toting gang and being held at gunpoint on three different occasions, you either go a little crazy or learn how to stay calm in high-pressure situations. Jacques-Philippe Piverger went with the latter and says these brushes with his own mortality help to explain why his entrepreneurial risk tolerance has always skewed high. Now 37, he and John Salzinger are cofounders of MPOWERD – the makers of the “Luci” solar powered inflatable lantern, a sleekly designed product that within its first 20 months is being sold by over 250 different retailers domestically, and has been shipped to 50 countries throughout the developing world. Last year the company generated $1.3 million in revenue, and this year they expect to multiply that by ten and cross over into profitability. There is a massive network of people making this possible, but I’m getting ahead of myself – lets back up and better understand how this company came to be.


luci 

I recently heard Piverger speak during Catalyst Week in Las Vegas, and was taken by his personal story, and how it links to his current venture. He was born in New York City to two Haitian parents that divorced when he was very young, resulting in a childhood split between living with his father in Miami, and spending summers with his mother in Haiti. His early and broad exposure to minority communities that were working through challenging social and economic issues, combined with getting a glimpse at a more privileged existence through driving over an hour to attend the best elementary and middle schools before landing back at a local public high school, put him in the position of outside observer. He didn’t identify with any one community, but instead was able to see the potential for positive transformation in the communities that needed help.

He chose to attend Georgetown University and, while at first surprised by the lack of ethnic diversity he was accustom to growing up with, his experience there ended up being a positive one, and upon graduating with a finance degree in 1999 he worked for two different investment banks before co-founding and running a strategic marketing company. By day his team helped clients like Motorola, Western Union, Morgan Stanley and Universal Music effectively communicate with their constituents. By night he was organizing large-scale events and promoting parties for the who’s who of New York City. Yes, he was kind of “that guy” – bouncing around Manhattan and living it up, experiencing success at a young age, and super connected to a bevy of influential people. But deep down he never lost his passion for social change, always keeping his hands in philanthropic ventures and political campaigns – a self-proclaimed wearer of many hats.

He helped organize several fundraising events for a little known Illinois Senator named Barak Obama in ’03 and then, while obtaining an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, he cofounded The Council of Urban Professionals – a leadership group that helps to develop diverse business and civic leaders, with a focus on empowering women and minority groups. Upon graduation in ’07 Piverger began working for AIG Asset Management, and found himself traveling back to Haiti for the first time in nine years – shocked to discover the extent of damage being caused by commodity price increases, and the general lack of planning and execution in place. He founded a nonprofit organization called Soleil Global in 2008 and began organizing a series of trips that were focused on bringing influential people to Haiti, and inspiring them to invest in the country’s recovery. Then the earthquake hit in 2010, and he invited longtime friend and former colleague John Salzinger to come with him on his next trip.
The two were completely overwhelmed by how dire the situation was, and began discussing ways to create a sustainable market-based solution to energy poverty that would bring light to those living off the grid in Haiti, and the rest of the developing world, where more than 1.5 billion people live without access to clean, bright, reliable light. They returned home and began gathering a team of progressive business minded individuals, including principal inventor Jason Snyder (also a cofounder). In 2012 they registered MPOWERD as a New York City-based Benefit Corporation, demonstrating their commitment to “do well by doing good” – measured by both financial performance and social impact. Soon after, they crossed paths with Scott Kling and realized quickly that between his vast consumer products experience and passion for solar energy solutions (he was previously a senior executive at Jarden and the CEO of SolarX), he would be a perfect fit at MPOWERD. Kling joined the team as COO, with Piverger holding the CEO title and Salzinger taking the lead on business development as the company’s EVP.

MPOWERD’s first product, personified by the name Luci, was launched in early 2013 and has managed to differentiated itself in the marketplace with its elegant design – a flat, inflatable, light-weight, maintenance-free and waterproof little dome of light – so hip looking that it’s not just having success in the developing world but has also become unexpectedly popular in the United States. Surprise target audiences include outdoor and camping enthusiasts, home d├ęcor aficionados, and survivalists – a growing population of people seeking emergency preparedness due to growing income inequality, political instability, and weather abnormalities caused by climate change. In response, MPOWERD will soon release a line of colored lanterns named “Luci Aura” that will shine mood-enhancing (solar) light on special occasions, holidays and seasons.

In the United States the suggested retail price is $14.99, with international distributors purchasing their lanterns wholesale and setting prices at whatever level their market can handle. But to ensure they reach those who can’t afford to purchase their lanterns, MPOWERD has established a Solar Justice initiative called Give Luci, where customers are encouraged to purchase Luci lights at a discounted rate and choose an NGO partner to distribute the light(s) to communities in need. In the last few months alone they’ve been able to provide 500 lanterns to families that were effected by storms in the Philippines, 500 to women-led households in Sub-Saharan Africa, 500 to communities in the Amazon, and 300 to girls living in refugee camps. And they know that’s just scratching the surface of what’s possible, motivating them to launch a 45-day campaign beginning April 15th that is aimed at eradicating energy poverty.

Each lantern includes 10 LEDs and takes approximately eight hours to charge, providing enough light to illuminate a 10-foot room for 6-12 hours depending on the setting (bright, super bright, flashing), and has a one-year warranty. The batteries are lithium ion polymer, and can be charged in both direct sunlight and incandescent light. The lanterns have a five-inch diameter, and are four inches in height when inflated, and one inch when collapsed, making for easy transport and compact product display. According to a recent report by GlobeScan, 98% of Haitians who received a Luci inflatable solar lantern reported that it replaced the need for kerosene‐based lighting in their homes, with 90% of families citing a decline in both breathing problems and eye irritation. Indeed, for each Luci purchased, 320kg of CO2 emissions will be kept out of the atmosphere annually – that’s good news, regardless of where the lights are being used.

Google Acquires Titan Aerospace, The Drone Company Pursued By Facebook

 

Google has acquired Titan Aerospace, the drone startup that makes high-flying robots which was previously scoped by Facebook as a potential acquisition target (as first reported by TechCrunch), the WSJ reports. The details of the purchase weren’t disclosed, but the deal comes after Facebook disclosed its own purchase of a Titan Aerospace competitor in U.K.-based Ascenta for its globe-spanning Internet plans.
Both Ascenta and Titan Aerospace are in the business of high altitude drones, which cruise nearer the edge of the earth’s atmosphere and provide tech that could be integral to blanketing the globe in cheap, omnipresent Internet connectivity to help bring remote areas online. According to the WSJ, Google will be using Titan Aerospace’s expertise and tech to contribute to Project Loon, the balloon-based remote Internet delivery project it’s currently working on along these lines.

That’s not all the Titan drones can help Google with, however. The company’s robots also take high-quality images in real-time that could help with Maps initiatives, as well as contribute to things like “disaster relief” and addressing “deforestation,” a Google spokesperson tells WSJ. The main goal, however, is likely spreading the potential reach of Google and its network, which is Facebook’s aim, too. When you saturate your market and you’re among the world’s most wealthy companies, you don’t go into maintenance mode; you build new ones.

As for why an exit to Google looked appealing to a company like Titan, Sarah Perez outlines how Titan had sparked early interest from VCs thanks to its massive drones, which were capable of flying at a reported altitude of 65,000 feet for up to three years, but how there was also a lot of risk involved that would’ve made it difficult to find sustained investment while remaining independent.

Google had just recently demonstrated how its Loon prototype balloons could traverse the globe in a remarkably short period of time, but the use of drones could conceivably make a network of Internet-providing automotons even better at globe-trotting, with a higher degree of control and ability to react to changing conditions. Some kind of hybrid system might also be in the pipeline that marries both technologies.
Titan Aerospace also represents just the latest in a string of robotics acquisitions Google has been making lately, which include Boston Dynamics and seven other companies purchased to help fuel its experimental robotics program under Andy Rubin. There’s no question Google has bots on the brain, but thanks to Loon ambitions, the reasoning behind the Titan buy might be the most transparent yet.