Source: The State of In-Flight Wi-Fi
Source: The State of In-Flight Wi-Fi
Source: The State of In-Flight Wi-Fi
With today’s celebration of World IPv6 Launch 2012, the Internet is doing something new: growing. And that growth comes none too soon as the rise of the Internet of Things places unprecedented new demands on worldwide Internet infrastructure.
Google, Yahoo and Facebook are amongst the leaders in the growing charge to adopt the critically needed Internet addressing system known as IPv6, which is generally reagarded as the viable only solution for the stagnation of the Internet.
World IPv6 Launch 2012 brings together “major Internet service providers (ISPs), home networking equipment manufacturers and web companies around the world… to permanently enable IPv6 for their products and services,” starting today.
Here’s why, by the numbers:
In 1973, when Vint Cerf and his team put together the networking rules for what would become the Internet, they used an addressing system with 32 bits of addressing space – the well-known 192.X.X.X IPv4 system in use today. This gave the fledgling Internet the capacity for 4.3 billion individual addresses; far more than Cerf and his team could even conceive of needing back then.
Obviously, Cerf and everyone else severely underestimated the growth of the Internet and all the various ways it would be used. More than just a system to share files and images, the Internet has become a platform for commerce and communication that eventually dwarfed the telephone network, the only comparable network on the planet.
That growth has led us to the problem we have today. According to Cerf – who took part in a Google Hangout Tuesday afternoon, there are currently 5.5 billion mobile devices in the world. If each one of them were to need an IP address (and that’s likely to be true in the very near future), they alone would require more than the available Internet addresses under IPv4. New devices simply would not be able to connect.
Fortunately Cerf and others saw this bottleneck coming. In 1996 they put together a new addressing protocol, IPv6, with 128 bits of address space. That means IPv6 can accommodate 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses. That should be enough for a while.
But the transition to IPv6 has been slow, as many organizations hesitate to make the needed efforts. Comcast IPv6 architect John Jason Brzozowski estimated that Comcast is seeing about five percent of users able to support IPv6 right now, though that number is steadily rising.
Today’s public moves by major websites like Google, Yahoo and Facebook, along with ISPs like Comcast and Time Warner Cable to completely switch to always-on IPv6 operations represents the first big addition of IPv6 connectivity since the protocol was launched in 1996. Joined by networking vendors such as Akamai and Cisco, this year’s efforts will begin to implement IPv6 broadly while keeping IPv4 connectivity on in parallel. Internet users, regardless of their connectivity status, should not notice any changes to the way they venture around the Internet.
Given that so few are even trying IPv6, why is it so important to adopt it?
In addition to making it possible for more devices to connect directly to the Net, faster and more granular connectivity could be another major benefit. IPv6 is not inherently faster, but because of the increasing shortage of device addresses, said Cisco fellow Mark Townsley, right now many devices have to aim their connectivity to other devices through the cloud.
As IPv6 becomes more widely adopted, Townsley explained, individual devices will be more able to directly connect to each other, without having to depend on the cloud as intermediary.
Forget 5.5 billion mobile devices. Imagine the possibility of billions, even trillions of pieces of hardware connected to the Internet, all sending out signals as simple as “this pen is out of ink” or as important as “someone is having a stroke that they don’t feel yet.”
Vendors are already lining up to create devices that leverage this capability. For example, More Than 50% of Devices at CES Were Internet Connected. Some hardware vendors, like Cosm (formerly Pachube) live in that space right now – helping device makers create devices that communicate efficiently and reliably on an increasingly crowded Internet. Because of its very mission, of course, Cosm has been IPv6-ready for quite some time.
The picture is not all roses and sunshine: with the increase of devices will come an accompanying rise in traffic. Looking at the kind of data generated by the Internet of Things, many devices send small packets of data which shouldn’t overwhelm data networks. But as smarter devices handle larger pieces of unstructured data – and video streams – network saturation could become a very real problem.
Fortunately, we won’t have to deal with it all at once. In the Google Hangout, Cerf emphasized that the introduction of IPv6 is not so much a switch, but a transparent adoption of IPv6 connectivity as time goes on. And Google IPv6 engineers Lorenzo Colitti and Erik Kline added that since many networking devices are starting to be sold with built-in IPv6 and IPv4 features, the change to IPv6 is often technically not very challenging.
At Google, Colitti explained, “the problem is very wide, but not very deep.” Meaning that while he and Kline would have to find any software or device within Google that depended on IP addressing, actually flipping the switch once the code or device was identified was relatively simple. Both engineers expect that other organizations will have similar experiences.
The good news is that IPv6 is in place now and will be ready for organizations to use as they move to it. There’s no Y2K deadline of doom hanging over our heads. But companies looking to establish deeper connectivity with customers – and especially those planning to connect large numbers of mobile devices and IP hardware and applications - should consider beginning a gradual transition to the new addressing protocol.
Or you could simply wait until you find your percentage of IPv6 traffic. The nice thing to remember is this: virtually all networking software and devices will be able to handle both protocols for some time to come.
So far in our series on car connectivity, we’ve focused on infotainment systems. It’s early in the evolution of Internet services in vehicles and up till now, it’s been all about information and entertainment. Early in-car apps have been focused on music, navigation and news. The next generation of in-car apps will be about providing “smart” services, such as taking some of the cognitive load off the driver – including making the car autonomous in some ways.
At CES in January, Audi showed off some futuristic in-car technology. At SXSW in March, I sat down with Anupam Malhotra, Manager of Connected Vehicles at Audi of America, to talk more about the future of Audi’s connected services.
Audi’s infotainment system is called Audi Connect. It basically turns the car into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing the driver to use Google Maps on the dashboard and passengers to connect to apps from their smartphones or tablets.
The Wi-Fi comes from a T-Mobile cellphone modem inside the car. Although Audi’s Internet connection is limited to 3G speeds right now, at CES Malhotra showed a test A7 car that used a significantly faster 4G LTE connection. This will likely be pushed into production sometime in 2013.
Anupam Malhotra is a veteran of car infotainment systems, having started at GM’s OnStar subsidiary in 2000. Since moving to Audi in July 2010, he has been responsible for the Audi Connect infotainment system in the U.S., together with overseeing the connected-vehicle strategy for that market.
The current stage of car technology is providing what Malhotra calls “context relevant location-based services.” Audi has done research on what drivers want and it’s services such as real-time news and weather, gas station locations, POIs (Points Of Interest), traffic information and travel destinations.
One area where in-car technology will evolve is navigation; in particular how the car can automate some navigation aspects. Malhotra told me that Audi is currently figuring out “what the vehicle’s role is as the navigator.” Currently this is done via Google voice controls. For example if you’re looking for a spicy chicken lunch, you can tell the system “spicy chicken” and it will inform you of the nearest eatery that serves it.
Another area that Audi is targeting is the HMI (Human-machine interface) in the car. The first generation was buttons around the driving wheel and touchscreen controls in the dashboard. Voice controls came next, with Google voice controls being the latest iteration of that for Audi. In the near future we will see gesture controlled systems, which Audi demonstrated at CES in a concept car (see top image). Gesture controls are relevant not just to the driver, but passengers in the car – because they result in less driver distraction.
The software in the vehicle will evolve, said Malhotra, to take away some of the decision-making from the driver. Not so much in terms of driving, which people want to keep control over. It will be focused on things that augment the driving experience. Features such as lane departure sensing, warning systems if there is a car in your blind spot, technology that protects the car occupants in the event of a collision. “All of this will happen through connectivity,” said Malhotra.
The overall goal of these future-looking developments, Malhotra said, is to take away the “misery” aspects of driving: parking problems, dealing with traffic congestion, fuel management. This will allow the driver to enjoy the actual driving part.
As with other car manufacturers, like GM and Ford, Audi offers an API for approved third party developers. Malhotra expects to see advanced apps in the near future, such as a predictive app that calculates your route on-the-fly based on your daily habits, car requirements (such as needing to fill up with gas or re-charge electricity), real-time traffic and road conditions.
Ultimately car connectivity will enable cars to talk to each other, plus objects in the environment – such as traffic lights. In what Malhotra termed a “super connected world,” cars will essentially mesh with the environment.
Last week the New York Times broke news of a top secret lab where secret Googlers are tinkering on more than 100 fantasy projects that may or may not ever come to market. It’s called Google X Lab and it’s filled with robots, self-driving cars (those are definitely real) and real-world devices not traditionally connected to the Internet that will be wired-up into a future Web of Things.
What if Google doesn’t get connected devices any better than the company allegedly “doesn’t get social” technologies, though? Just because the advertising and search giant is working on it doesn’t mean Google can really build an elevator to space, of course. In the mean time, other companies are building connected device technology that sounds futuristic but is actually going to market right now. Those companies may compete with Google in the future; just as Google didn’t invent the search market it now owns, incumbents can’t rest easy yet just because they’re first, either. But what they’re bringing to market already is pretty cool.
Ten year old Massachusetts firm Axeda is a leading provider of what it calls “a cloud for connected products.” It provides a cloud-based software layer that draws in streams of device sensor and machine data originally intended only for monitoring the firmware of say a dishwashing machine, translates that into discernable business objects like temperature, location and performance metrics, then offers an application programming interface for developers to interact back with the real-world devices that the data was gathered from.
I don’t often take calls from companies that say they want to tell me about themselves based on a well-known story in the news, like Google X, but Axeda is really interesting and has some great stories to tell about connected devices that are on the market today or will be very soon. The following are the examples they shared and a good overview of the kinds of things that connected devices, what Google calls the Web of Things, what others call the Internet of Things and what Axeda calls the cloud for connected products, is shaping up to look like.
The connected device market is dominated today by healthcare applications, and some examples of those are discussed below, but the paradigm is already extending into other applications throughout everyday life.
If you’ve ever driven past one of those big signs on a road that show you your own driving speed, you might have wondered who else was seeing that information. Originally, no one else was. A company called AllTraffick sold those signs to government agencies around the US as a hardware play. Stick it on the side of the road and show people how fast they are going – hopefully it will cause speeders to slow down.
About a year and a half ago, though, they connected those blinking signs to a web portal accessible by police headquarters and citizens, using Axeda’s connectivity technology. Now they sell access as a subscription and they’ve changed from being a hardware vendor into a software and service vendor.
Bill Zujewski, EVP of Product Strategy and Marketing at Axeda, says that the effect in that case is the same kind of thing Google is going to try to do: to change the consumer experience by adding connectivity to devices. Everyone knows what it means to have OnStar added to a car, for example – it enables emergency services on a whole new level. Now think of that same kind of experience-changing connectivity added to other products.
Kodak’s Pulse photo frames, for example, represent the same kind of shift – that company took a commodity object, the picture frame, and turned it into a wired-up social center of consumer value. Anyone in possession of the right email address can send photos directly from their phones into the picture frames of family members.
Meanwhile, insurance companies are working on pulling the information out of a car’s engine that mechanics do during diagnostics and sending it persistently over a cellular connection, up to a web portal for end-user applications. Teen drivers won’t be able to speed, hit the breaks hard or drive through geofences without that being visible to any approved eyes.
Zujewski says Axeda works primarily with B2B companies, traditionally in the form of asset management. One company that provides high-end industrial equipment for cutting fabric, outside the price range of many small firms in the clothing and apparel industry, has begun using Axeda’s technology to embed a “pay as you go” model. A sensor takes data off the equipment, sends it to the equipment provider via cellular connection and then sends a monthly bill charging for the amount of use the machine saw.
Likewise, there are places around the world, Zujewski says, where fabric cutting machines get used in excessively high heat and humidity. The machines keep breaking and it’s expensive to repair them under warranty – so machine manufacturers find it quite valuable to be able to monitor that the conditions their equipment is being used in are compliant with the terms of those warranties. All it takes is a USB port. It’s too bad they can’t monitor the working conditions of the factory wetware the same way. There may be eternal judgement for that, though.
Medical devices are one of the primary use-cases for device connectivity, but that doesn’t always mean in-hospital inventory. Sometimes it means enabling people to avoid hospitals.
Zujewski says his company is working with a manufacturer of kidney dialysis machines, for example, to add monitoring and connectivity to equipment that usually requires weekly trips into a hospital. “By connecting them, the providers can monitor them,” he says, you call pull data off the machines to make sure they’re working well. There are lots of consumables [medication] involved with dialysis and connected monitoring technology can automatically create an order to ship replenishment of those when needed.”
“Some of these efforts may connect to mobile apps, but we connect to the cloud as our primary focus,” Zujewski says.
“I think Google may think there’s an Android play here as well, connecting things like sports equipment, your home and your car to communicate with your mobile device.
“That’s the future where things are going: your appliances in your home are getting more computerized, they are running more on software than on mechanical parts.”
Zujewski shared a story with me about a dishwasher manufacturer that made a mistake. The company didn’t program its rinse cycle to be long enough and was getting thousands of phone calls from customers complaining that the machines weren’t working well. The company sent a technician out to reset the rinse cycle timers – but future iterations of the machines saved all those costs by adding read/write cellular connections to the dishwasher computers that could be re-calibrated remotely.
Ovens, dishwashers, all kinds of appliances get shipped from the factory with certain assumptions. Add connectivity and they can be optimized, in the field, remotely.
That appeals to manufacturers and consumers – but once the computer is on board, you may as well start building apps that add value directly to the consumer as well.
Want to start the pre-heating cycle from your phone, while on your way home? Can’t remember if you turned your oven off or not? An application framework layer on those devices enables engagement with the devices themselves via mobile device.
“Because cellular connection capabilities for these devices are coming down from hundreds of dollars, sprinklers, garage doors, smoke detectors, all kinds of things are being experimented with as connected devices,” Zujewski says. “It wasn’t economic before because consumers wouldn’t pay for that connectivity, but if it was a couple cents a month, then they will. Right now, costs are around $50 per month to retrofit devices with connectivity, but if you can do it with a chip involved at the origina of design, it can be around $10 per month.”
If you can engineer connectivity right into the product from the start, the price drops dramatically. The sales cycle is long, though, because it takes years to bake connectivity into the core of a device.
And cellular carriers still need to adapt, Zujewski says.
“Carriers are set up for consumer plans, not M2M [Machine to Machine] – that will require unique data plans.”
If you think Twitter and Facebook spew out a large quantity of data, imagine a refrigerator “checking in” about its temperature and contents all day and night.
“Ideally you could put some intelligence on the device itself so you don’t have to send all your data over the network all the time, but process it locally,” says Zujewski.
“You can now build mini-computers that run the whole Linux kernel on an intelligent agent, locally, and only send data when it changes, with threshold rules, for example. People are starting to put M2M computers on devices and make the processing local.
“The other thing happening is that a lot of early customers use 2G, but they are upgrading to 3G and 4G so even if they have to send a lot of data, the price is falling.
“Storage prices have come way down and we’re using non-relational stores to keep our costs down.”
What of Google’s entry into the market, though? Are incumbents like Axeda scared?
“Google getting in is a good thing for us,” says Zujewski.
“It’s going to raise the awareness of M2M. When executives in the board room say ‘I see Google connected a smartphone to a dishwasher, why can’t we connect to our equipment or our products?’ it’s going to raise the visibility of what you can do.
“What Google is going to find out is that connecting is pretty hard, a lot of devices aren’t serving data that’s usable. There is a need for a layer that turns the raw available data into usable data like temperatures, etc. into a data model that programmers can use.
“That’s our secret sauce, our unique value proposition: our technology converts raw data into business data.
Zujewski says that most of these data production schemes were implemented by dishwasher or road sign producers five years ago, with no intentions of offering a standardized web services application data layer. They didn’t want to shoot data over pricey networks and store it in expensive storage systems. They just wanted to use a computer in the machine. Everything has changed since then, though. Add connectivity and you’re talking about a qualitatively different phenomenon. Bridging the gap between the status quo and the future is, in this case, non-trivial, Zujewski says. Axeda has to do the work to turn low-level protocols into semantically rich protocols.
“That’s changing,” says Zujewski of the device manufacturers.
“They are going to start embedding our protocol and sending intelligent data over networks. One of our goals is to get our protocol in as many devices as possible.
“We’re fine if Google takes the time to push a protocol, we could embrace that if it takes off. We’ve got a codex server that will translate anything into Axeda protocol and we’ll probably just adopt whatever Google does or support it.
“It’s hard to tell what they’re really aiming to do because you can’t tell what their business driver is. Fortunately for them, they have the luxury of setting up these labs without worrying about that too much right now.”
Axeda has been around for ten years and has seen the technology intended for manufacturer cost-savings turn into a nascent platform for value delivered to consumers and a point of competitive differentiation.
“The business case to date today has been about taking costs out of managing your products, remote service and software management,” Zujewski told me. “That’s been paying our bills. But we’re also starting to see revenue generation of connected products where the connectivity serves the user. It’s a competitive differentiator and device vendors will soon begin competing with value added services based on connectivity.”
How fast will this paradigm reach ubiquity? Zujewski says Axeda is working with one vendor that’s network-connecting…toilets. From prisons to large exhibit halls, you don’t want water running day and night from a large number of toilets. Axeda’s sensor-cloud-application platform can detect, report and facilitate management of one toilet out of a thousand that’s broken. That’s not live yet, but toilets will be connected to the Internet in 2012, Zujewski says.
That may be the future, but not by very far.
What have you got, Google?
Weâ€™ve heard rumors that Appleâ€™s next generation iPod touch will be available with 3G data connectivity.
Interestingly, folks at 9 to 5 Mac have discovered a screenshot in iOS 5 beta 4 that was seeded to developers few weeks back, which provides some evidence that the rumor could turn out to be true.
As you can see below, an iPod touch 4G running iOS 5 beta 4 gets a new toggle switch for cellular connectivity with a message which reads â€œWhen not connected to Wi-Fi use cellular network for transfer of documents and dataâ€.
Though the cellular data connectivity option is limited only to Documents and Data, which allows apps to store documents and data in the cloud, it has led to speculations that the fifth generation iPod touch will get 3G data option.
9 to 5 Mac has also discovered a toogle for GPS:
This could very well be a bug, but the possibility of iPod touch 5G with 3G data connectivity and GPS sounds quite interesting.
What do you think? Please share your views in the comments section below.
[via 9 to 5 Mac]
As RWW points out, when iPad 1 was launched last year, users had reported similar Wi-Fi connectivity issues but this time it looks like it is also affecting iPhone users.
Sarah Perez of RWW explains the issue she faced after upgrading to the latest iOS software update:
After updating my iPad to iOS version 4.3.3, I discovered this problem had again resurfaced, but it was even worse than before. My connection wouldn’t just drop after the iPad went to sleep, as it had in the past, it would lose the connection when I was actively using the device, even while surfing the Web.
She reports that users are reporting the following Wi-FI connectivity issues on Appleâ€™s discussion forum:
Today at their Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Google had plenty to unveil for Android. One thing that consumers should really love is a new movie rentals option for Android devices. Notably, this will work over the cloud to all of your Android devices, just like Google Books syncing.
You can try this all out at market.android.com — there’s a new Movies tab. And it will be available on Android tablets with an app starting with Android 3.1, which is rolling out today to Xoom users. And it will be available on phones with Android 2.2 or later starting in a couple weeks.
The latter two are important as this will be the key to take movies on the go where there is no connectivity. You can “pin” a movie while you’re streaming it to shift it over to your mobile device app.
The rentals will be similar to other movie services in that you’ll have 30 days to watch them once you rent them. And once you start playing them, you’ll have 24 hours to complete them. There will be “thousands” of titles (including new films) and prices will start at $1.99.