Five consumer technology challenges will decide who owns the future

6 January 2019 by Steve Blum
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Vegas cocktail

The innovation capital of Earth is Las Vegas for the coming week, as hundreds of thousands of technology makers and breakers, and buyers and sellers converge on the event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show. Most of what’s on display is as boringly mainstream as clock radios and console televisions were at the first CES in 1967.

But there will be a handful of technologies and prototypes amidst the chaos that will offer clues to what our world will be in 2067, and that’s what I’ll be looking for…

  • New smartphone form factors – It’s an accident of history that networked, pocket-sized super computers are called phones.

Regulators need to accept the new future of work

7 January 2016 by Steve Blum
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Twentieth century government and twenty-first century entrepreneurship do not mix well. That was the top line consensus at a CES panel discussion this afternoon. Moderated by Julie Samuels from Engine, a tech policy advocacy group, it included two company reps – Laurent Crenshaw from Yelp and Marco Zappacosta from Thumbtack – and Arun Sundararajan, a business professor at New York University.

“Taxes are not the issue, small businesses care much more about regulation”, Zappacosta said. As businesses expand, so does the regulatory burden.… More

EU's net neutrality choices favor networks over innovation

25 December 2015 by Steve Blum
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500 gigabits and nothing to watch.

The European Union will implement network neutrality rules that are significantly friendlier to telecoms companies than the ones adopted earlier this year in the U.S. The European parliament rejected amendments –proposed by pretty much the same high tech companies that successfully pushed for the more stringent U.S. rules – that would have closed gaping loopholes.

According to the BBC

Part of the problem with the rules in their current form, argued Joe McNamee at the European Digital Rights campaign group, is that they are ambiguous.

More means fiber speeds over copper, up to a point

12 December 2014 by Steve Blum
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The point where the infrastructure collapses.

A short range, high speed technology standard for broadband over copper phone lines has been approved by the International Telecommunications Union. The standard is intended to make fiber-class speeds possible over legacy lines, with a maximum distance of 400 meters between the customer and the nearest fiber node.

Practical distances, though, are much shorter. “Service rate performance targets” – total bandwidth which can be split between up and down loads – are…

500-1000 Mb/s for FTTB deployments at less than 100m, straight loops
500 Mb/s at 100m
200 Mb/s at 200m
150 Mb/s at 250m

Bell Labs has succeeded in pushing a gigabit over 70 meters of pristine plant and 500 Mbps over 100 meters of lousy copper, using its implementation of an earlier version of the… More

Musk takes on another impossible dream

29 November 2014 by Steve Blum
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It’s hard to bet against Elon Musk. He made a fortune as a founder of PayPal, but instead of fading into a life of one-hit wonder obscurity sitting on boards and listening to investment pitches, he doubled down by going weird: electric cars and rocket ships, old ideas with a long trail of broken genius. Each venture had “billionaire vanity project” written all over it. Now, both look likely to revolutionise transportation. We can only hope his Hyperloop daydreaming follows the same path.… More

How do you say sugar daddy in Irish?

7 November 2014 by Steve Blum
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Finally, an electric utility is taking the plunge on home automation. Electric Ireland announced a deal with Nest, the Google-owned company which makes a networked thermostat that learns your habits and controls your home heating and cooling system accordingly.

New customers who sign up for a 2 year contract with Electric Ireland get a free Nest thermostat, including installation. Existing customers who extend for another 2 years pay €99 (about $123). the device goes for $249 in the U.S.… More

It's not about the watch, it's about Apple diving into health care

14 September 2014 by Steve Blum
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When Tim Cook unveiled the Apple Watch on Tuesday, and launched into a rapturous description of the digital crown – the old school winding wheel on the side that’s redesigned into a user interface – the first thing I thought was “they made the damn watch for right-handed people”. Any southpaw old enough to remember having to wind a watch every day – yes, me – remembers having to unstrap it and shift hands first.… More

If new tech looks like old tech, old rules apply says supreme court

28 June 2014 by Steve Blum
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Today’s turn-of-the-knob logic might have made VCRs contraband 30 years ago.

Functionality, not technology, should guide how pre-Internet laws are applied in cyberspace. That’s the essential logic behind a U.S. supreme court ruling on Wednesday, that said that the same copyright rules that apply to cable TV systems also apply to Aereo, an online system for accessing broadcast television signals.

Aereo argued that since viewers were individually activating a tiny receiver and antenna, and selecting which channel to watch, it was more like a VCR than a cable TV system, which streams multiple channels continuously.… More

You can't patent just an idea, supreme court rules again

19 June 2014 by Steve Blum
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The Air Force can now defend Earth without fear of trolls.

Doing the job that the patent office should have done in the first place, the U.S. supreme court stepped up to the plate and swatted down a long line of patent trolls. In an unanimous opinion issued today and written by justice Clarence Thomas, the court said that an Australian company, Alice Corporation, can’t take a common, centuries (millennia?) old financial practice – using a middleman to keep both parties honest – and claim a patent on it just because it’s being done on a computer…

There is no dispute that a computer is a tangible system…or that many computer-implemented claims are formally addressed to patent-eligible subject matter.


U.S. supreme court sticks to the strict meaning of patent infringement

There’s good news in the U.S. supreme court’s unanimous decision this week to toss out a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Akamai against a competing content delivery network, Limelight.

The court declined to open a vast new frontier for patent troll claims. Akamai, of course, isn’t a troll – it uses its patented technology to good effect – but it was trying to make the case that a partial (and thus, under law, allowable) duplication of a method it developed was actually an infringement because Limelight told customers how to complete the missing steps themselves.… More