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Requesting help – please complete this survey

Posted by evolvingwheel on April 7, 2008

Dear INNOVECH friends,

Recently, I have got involved in a small project that involves mobile newmedia delivery and dynamic content in miniature devices. This project is targeted towards an understanding of human uses of mobile devices that goes beyond just making calls. The fact-driven research foresees a study that could help analyze human interactions with small User Interfaces. The research would gather information about behavioral expectations and ergonomic experiences while using a mobile device.

Please be a part of my endeavor and I will sincerely appreciate your interest. This survey shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes to complete. Follow the link below.

Click Here to take survey

Thank you,

Evolving Wheel


Posted in wireless | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

RFID goes beyond tracking – Can smartcard be smart enough?

Posted by evolvingwheel on March 29, 2008

John was standing by the door of the overhead Red Line commute train with no idea about where to get off. As he stared blankly at his ticket for the Maroon 5 show, the automatic door just closed. Suddenly an idea clicked. He took out his cellphone, turned the ESI (External Source Input) button on, brought it near the ticket, and BINGO! It worked – the ticket had an embedded RFID chip that beamed the phone with the location map of the theater. Now imagine one step ahead – John, then held up his phone closer to the transit map on the train and a blink flashed – the RFID chip in the CTA map absorbed the existing target location in his phone, mapped against the current location of the train, and sent him back a direction log to get to the right stop! nokarfid.jpg

Well, this is not a Arthur C Clarke imagination – it’s more like a reality in next few years or may be even at the end of this year. Samsung has been up to developing a RFID chip that will be able to read information from different RFID chips embedded in all kinds of materials. The chip, more like a smartcard, will be able to read schedules, recipes, route maps, directions, and what not from chips that will appear at different spots and in multi-functional objects. Read the detail [here]. The best part will be when this RFID chip will be a two way gateway for information swapping.

Now comes the better part. Once you have these RFID chips in mobile devices, what will you do with the extracted information beyond just finding maps and reading calorie charts in grocery stores? Well, then will come the applications that will figure out ways to derive more meanings out of that tag information. In fact, information could be distributed just to trigger some specific application needs.

I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to showcase another company who have been developing some incredibly powerful applications with RFID technology. Mayalys, based in Malaysis, has been set-up by experienced businessmen and engineers based in Asia and France to handle designs, promote & market a range of innovative applications relying on a two way radio smartcard handheld terminal called YADILYS™ that addresses three market segments: electronic payment, intelligent transportation system, and sustainable lifestyles. Investors, interested professionals, and any other RFID enthusiasts should read about the technologies that they are using in implementing RFID based smart systems.

Picture: Nokia is rolling with the big dogs now by pushing out a phone with a technology that hasn t been done much before in cell phones. The company is including read/write RFID capabilities into a mobile phone. The phone seen here is the 3220 NFC prototype that is capable of reading any RFID tags and also writing to an RFID information tag.

Posted in Communication, Innovation, RFID, wireless | Leave a Comment »

How disruptive is Femtocell?

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 21, 2008

So everyone went gaga about femtocell at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona couple of weeks back. It appeared everyone almost overwhelmingly accepted femtocell to be the next big thing in mobile communication. So first, what is a femtocell?

Femtocells are tiny 3G base stations that could allow cheaper calls in homes and businesses over mobiles by routing that signal over the fixed line broadband network. Hooked up to a home’s broadband-internet connection, femtocells provide solid indoor coverage and allow residents to make cheap calls using their existing handsets. Leave the house while chatting, and your call is automatically handed over to the wider mobile-phone network. The competing feature of femtocell is that it doesn’t need a dualmode handset that can take voice over wireless network as well as over wifi data network. A regular cell phone can take advantage of the 3G just like a regular cell call inside the home. The cheap conversion takes place past the miniature base station that routes the call through a data network originating from a cable or a DSL/ADSL modem. mobile_congress_barcelona.jpg

Now, my question is, ‘Is Femtocell that disruptive a technology – or rather a disruptive innovation with a potential of changing the format of the industry?’ Well, this is definitely a convergence technology that just takes one step ahead of VOIP – a disruptive innovation that shook the conventional wisdom around voice communication. But what is Femtocell delivering? And to who? What is the WOW factor here? Well, the marketing engines of big cellular networks and other similar providers figured out that majority of voice calls are made from inside the building/house. So, if the voice traffic can be bypassed through the data route, that will significantly save cost and traffic bottleneck over the cellular networks during prime hours – thereby freeing up bandwidth for more data/media etc. Well, obviously something gotta give and that would be the data pipes. So high speed data channel is the key element for a successful FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence). However, with WIMAX on the horizon, this convergence to fixed line may again end up a not-so-great innovation since the entire communication traffic will go over the WIMAX channel (wireless). Read some discussions below:



My final concern is the pricing structure of the FMC service along with Femtocell devices. For 2-4 phones accessing the base station, how will the service feature drive profit margin from the usage/hour/primetime aspect? Next, if the base station costs $100 a piece, will there be a model similar to VOIP service with free routers for a limited time contract? One other thing – if you have cell phone through VOIP technology, why need a home phone at all? BUT – ubiquity of the system will depend on the penetration of broadband service from the cable/telco/and other data connection providers.

The whole convergence concept is indeed very challenging and exciting!

Picture: Barcelona, Mobile Congress

Posted in broadband, Communication, Innovation, wireless | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Is MODU, an Israeli startup, pioneering change in modular cellular connectivity?

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 10, 2008

Before I even start talking about MODU, I should first explain why this modular cellular connectivity interests me in the first place. It’s all about customization delivered through personalized device adaptation. The concept of modular phones is that there will be a bare minimum radio device with basic functionalities like keypad, speaker, and LCD. Once these components make the UI, the basic need of the phone is delivered through two way communication. However, the device unfolds to a genie when you snap the small modular phone into bigger devices with added functional attributes. That’s what interests me. The ability to build non-cellular objects over a cellular backbone (handset) that can flip in and out whenever needed.

Now let’s see how MODU, an Israeli startup led by Dev Moran (the guy who sold USB flash drive to SANDISK for $1.6B), plans to change the landscape through it’s modular phones. MODU has come up with this device that weighs 1.3 oz and has all the basic items of a cellular phone. What gives this phone a competitive value is the ability to slide it in jackets that have different functional components and deliverables beyond just a phone. MODU has already partnered with three major cell service providers in Europe and eying into the US market pretty soon. As claimed by the market analysts, MODU has the potential of changing the nature of the game. Just think about it – as of today cell phone OEMs are coming with more and more electronic capabilities in their phones – camera, media player, scanner, video. On the other hand, if the modular phone takes off, it can dissociate the need for all those fancy abilities from the fundamental nature of a phone. And that’s what opens the horizon for non-phone makers. Consider Gucci coming up with a very very fashion sleek jacket that can ride on MODU and change into a cellular phone. On the other hand, MODU can slide behind a GE Microwave and provide the ability to call the microwave and start heating food. Ofcourse, you would need a OEM standardization of operational uniformity through IEEE or some other body. Read about MODU [here].

Recently, I have been analyzing new market entries from the perspective of disruptive innovation (Clayton M. Christensen). Christensen distinguishes between “low-end disruption” which targets customers who do not need the full performance valued by customers at the high-end of the market and “new-market disruption” which targets customers who have needs that were previously unserved by existing incumbents. Now, MODU kind of satisfies the pointers of low-end disruption. Nevertheless, the disruptive technology comes with a potential of putting existing business models on their head as new market entrants can use this platform. Just think about it this way – when broadband became ubiquitous (in relative term) the VOIP players who are non-traditional service providers, got into the game and wrecked havoc on the telecom incumbents. May be MODU is going to alter the image in a similar manner? How about if MODU runs it’s plan well and every connected device comes with a logo MODU-Enabled? Just the same way DOLBY became the de facto standard for high end digital sound. Now, that will entirely depend upon how MODU approaches the market, builds the partnerships, creates a robust leverage with economy of scale, and executes with finesse.

Posted in Communication, hardware, Innovation, wireless | 1 Comment »

Is ‘Meraki’ bringing social innovation by broadband reselling?

Posted by evolvingwheel on January 30, 2008

This thing totally missed my sight. The more I read about Meraki, a start-up based out of Mountain View delivering hardware and firmware to connect people through a community wide wi-fi network, the more I got excited about the potential of social innovation at the bottom of the pyramid [CK Prahalad]. Sanjit Biswas, the CEO of the emerging company, talks about hooking the next billion to the Internet at a very very affordable price. The viral nature of his business model foresees creating a organic and somewhat self-sustainable network of wi-fi distributors who connect into a community wide mesh by becoming an individual distributor of broadband. Read more about the concept [here]. biswas_x220.jpg

Meraki proposes to bridge the digital divide where the less fortunate can log in over a mesh of broadband percolated through hundreds of repeaters that keep on extending the physical reach of a wi-fi originator node. What I perceive is that the model is meant to extend the physical reach of a simple router by cumulatively building it’s penetration through an asymptotic network of broadband resellers. First, let me ask two basic questions:

  1. How would a repeater, or for that the originator, sign a legal contract with broadband providers like COMCAST, ATT, etc., who are strictly prohibiting reselling of their bandwidth?
  2. If an individual repeater promotes the bandwidth and tries to make money out of it, how is the revenue kicked back to the originator node? How is the revenue model built around the service distribution hierarchy? Does it sound like a replication of a pyramid model? And, is there a loss in intensity of the signal if a repeater resides at the end of a long chain of hundreds of repeaters ahead of it? In that case, will the revenue kickback be tied up with attenuation factors?

Here’s my idea of true social innovation among the demographics at the bottom of the pyramid. Let’s talk about India in the mid 80’s (since I come from there :). During that time, people back there had to reserve a trunc-line to talk to someone in another city or country. Accessibility to long-distance phone was a remote possibility. At that time, Sam Pitroda, the telecom adviser to Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, brought revolution by launching ubiquitous, yellow-signed Public Call Offices (PCO) that quickly brought cheap and easy domestic and international public telephones all over the country. The theme of subscriber trunc dialing (STD) at a very high density and accessibility led to the emergence of public phone booths across the country. This helped the staggering unemployment of the country by driving millions as entrepreneurs opening PCO services all around.

What if Meraki brings a similar revolution in near future where individual entrepreneurs can sign up as broadband repeaters and resell bandwidth across a mesh network. Ofcourse there has to be policies in place for driving the revenue share and the opening of the last mile node from the big telecoms for resale. But, imagine the prospect. In a small town 100 miles from a big city, just one node will bring the fat conduit to a meshed network. The network will then grow organically as more people hop in. The service penetration will expand in geometric progression and the structure can shape like a small-scale industry. However, the bothering question would be the infrastructure-cost-density factor. 100 ft/500 ft is still too low. With new protocols, if the density denominator increases to atleast 100/500 mts, then the feasibility of becoming a reseller from a profitability as well as a social empowerment perspective will be worth it.

May be this is one small step towards a big change in underserved communities.

Another Meraki news link: http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/news/article.php/3663591

Picture: Sanjit Biswas, CEO of Meraki.

More about Sanjit Biswas.

Posted in broadband, Communication, Innovation, wireless | 2 Comments »

Your cellphone is an interactive wallet of the future (very soon)

Posted by evolvingwheel on October 2, 2007

Once again the concept just flashed in my head – ‘often innovation is not about what you use but about how you use’. While reading an MSNBC post [read here] about Filipinos using their cell phones for receiving foreign remittances seemed like revisiting a past idea (not too past though). The question that came to my mind right away – Will cellphones become our next generation interactive wallet? Actually… it surely can be and doesn’t have to wait till the next generation!

In the US we restrict our cellphones to communication (chat and text), media access (recently with iPhone and other PDA devices), and some degree of web access. Numerous companies strive to bring innovations or rather tweaks in the UI, website, or communication speed (Wi-Fi, Wi-Max) to make websites load into that small device with a smaller screen. Nevertheless, ergonomics and human psychology of persisting habits go at odds to each other and we just keep on churning over a blind end. However, in EU and Asia things are treated differently when it comes to the use of cellphones. Usability has gone few steps above texting for entertainment or social purposes. c-Banking (cell banking?) is a new format now. People are remitting money over the cell from EU to Africa and Asia. The increasing accessibility to a cell phone at warp speed even to the remotest parts of continents are allowing applications to penetrate markets that could have never been reached. The social innovation aspect of it is now another face of profit-based corporate innovation. wireless-carriers.jpg

For a villager or an immigrant worker, you don’t need to load a webpage in front of him/her. Just give a 4 digit SMS number to dial and simple instructions to load cash, ping cash, and confirm receipt. But there is a whole menagerie of applications that are already evolving or awaiting to launch in the mobile phone domain. Some of them are:

  1. Cell phone debit card to buy movie tickets by accessing a toll free number
  2. Waving cell phones in front of a cash register while checking out groceries or other merchandise
  3. Using cell phones to validate your presence – carrying graphic Drivers License
  4. And more….. are ideas that I will keep for my startup – 🙂

So you can see, we are soon approaching the days of c-wallet. Just keep on building the interfaces!!

Another good post [here].

Posted in Communication, Innovation, online banking, wireless | Leave a Comment »