All posts by Randall Gross

Responding to DVD subscription decline, Netflix closes call center

This is as predictable as the sunrise, if there weren’t titles only available on DVD then the red envelopes would be even fewer.

Netflix is closing a call center devoted to its DVD subscription business in Hillsboro, Oregon, letting go of 188 remaining employees, according to a report by the Oregonian. The news is just the latest sign for Netflix shifting priorities away from its DVD business as the number of subscribers still paying for those iconic red envelopes continues to decline.Netflix used to have close to 14 million DVD subscribers in Q3 of 2011. Three years later, that number has shrunk to less than six million. The company has responded by closing a number of its DVD distribution centers, and is now looking to manage customer support out of its DVD business offices in Fremont, California.

— Tech News and Analysis from GigaOm,
by Janko Roettgers
via Responding to DVD subscription decline, Netflix closes call center — Tech News and Analysis.

The Internet of Things Is More Than Just a Bunch of Refrigerators

Harvard Business Review covers the internet of things, but everyone is probably wondering what the heck is meant when people say that. The (with a capital T and capital I) Internet of things is all of the public accessible things on The Public Internet plus a subset. The subset internet of everything are the things that are semi-private to private but still accessible to private parties via internet. So in the view below you see that a nearby view of things for me shows some Global Bike Share stations, some Raspberry Pi‘s, and some Netatmo & other weather stations. You can click on the “Thingful” icon and pull up a map of your area if you want to as well.

This area is somewhat un-thinged, and un- smart compared to some cities – that will change dramatically over the next decade. In time you might see those tennis courts get a public schedule, the transit stations might show up along with real time mapping of the actual buses, web cams will pop up, restaurant menus, and some things people haven’t yet imagined will also show up.

The internet of things is going to grow up organically around us over time, and in some exponential fashion — the more things that are on the internet, the more reason there is to have even more things that are on the internet. As that occurs it will sort itself into Public, semi-public, and private spheres – with some devices and sensors present in more than one of those overlapping zones.

In your private intranet you will have things at home that can only be reached internally like maybe your security cameras, and you might have other things that can be reached over the public internet with biometric passkeys, certificates, and/or two step authentication, such as your DVR or media center. You might also have a public accessible weather station or other sensors fully public on the internet (like some of the Netatmo’s in the map above.)

In fully smart cities like Santander, Spain, all sorts of services and things might be available. In other cities, like mine, you might see smart infrastructure and services slowly integrated as refresh and replace cycles hit, and as new infrastructure is constructed. In Lenexa they’ve added an app for users to let the publics works folks know when there’s a problem. So you can snap a photo of the streetlight that’s out from your phone, upload it with the GPS coordinates, and a crew will come out to replace the bulb.

The interactive features and networked devices in smart Stadiums, factories, transport hubs, and other public venues are still evolving quickly, and will continue to do so because we do live in an exciting time and like the HBR article says, it’s not just about smart refrigerators and things in your home.

by Scott Berinato | 11:00 AM October 14, 2014 Harvard Business Review

The Internet of Things is definitely becoming a Thing, in the same way that big data’s a Thing or the sharing economy’s a Thing. And the thing about a thing that becomes a Thing is, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that made it a thing before everyone declared it the Next Big Thing that will change everything.

Got it? Good. We’ll start there. With the hype over the Internet of Things behind us. Because whether or not it’s a Thing, the internet of things is already a lot of things. Here’s a look at a tiny, tiny slice of it:

Those are a couple of dozen air quality sensors located around Boston, as documented by Thingful, a search engine for publicly available Internet of Things things (including sharks!). Click on a dot to get real-time information on air quality in the area. That alone may only cross the threshold of “neat,” but it’s also the foundation of real social and business applications.

More: The Internet of Things Is More Than Just a Bunch of Refrigerators – Scott Berinato – Harvard Business Review

Blood Moon

Here’s a gallery of moon shots from this morning.
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Just for reference here’s a normal, no clouds in sky, everything done perfect moon shot from September of last year:

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Things to Come to the Internet of Things

The other day I participated in one of Cisco’s weekly Internet of things chats, ( #IoTchat ) and found it thought-provoking and worthwhile. The online chat in turn inspired me to do another “Things to Come” post.  Some of this will  be about the internet of things in the consumer realm, and some later posts will be about sensors, lack of standards, and other things, all of it will be somewhat master of the obvious to those in the know.

Several large players are positioning to make their products the leading edge or the “hub of hubs” for the consumer market of the internet of things. They include Home Depot (Wink,) Lowe’s (Iris,) Best Buy (Peq,) and Samsung has now bought the fan favorite, SmartThings – which is good news because Samsung’s “Smart TV” is certainly underwhelming and could use improvement.  Samsung also bought a US Air Conditioning company (Quietside, ) which further demonstrates their strategic direction.

All of this looks good at the surface glance, but with the exception of SmartThings, none of it really plays well together.  Interoperability will be key in the future. Consumers aren’t going to want a hundred little apps, one for each item, or even five “Swiss Army” apps – they will want whatever they buy to plug into their version of their control panel or dash, and they will want devices to interlace easily and transparently. So there’s a lot of hype coupled with somewhat flawed and problematic products out there.

Here’s where we are in the Gartner emerging technology hype cycle below is their graphic and here’s a link if you desire the detailed explanation of this latest curve (these Gartner reports are celebrating their 20th year. )

Garner's Hype Curve
Garner’s Hype Curve

The early adopters have already hit that disillusionment curve, and it’s where I am at. The IoT has great potential but it’s not at the plateau of productivity yet (I think it’s actually a stair step progression versus a plateau, but more on that in a future post where I’ll talk about how some technology surpasses even the wildest hype after some time passes.)

Since I am disillusioned here is a list where the internet of things is really underwhelming me. Just a forewarning: some of this might get a wee bit on the rantish side,

Let’s start with a pet peeve: Clocks, Watches, or any other digital device including tablets, pc’s, phones, etc. that keep or use the time should all set themselves automatically every time they are first turned on, and periodically as they operate. The only users who should have to manually adjust anything should be that one or two percent minority who need to keep times from another zone, and not the normal users.

The devices should do this via internet to NIST atomic clocks, or from the local router, or via GPS triangulation, or by reading radio waves. It’s not that difficult for a clock to set itself on power up, and figure out what time zone it is in from GPS. Let’s make that a standard someone, anyone? We can leave the old, collectible analog devices for the OCD purist types to set themselves.

Weather stations are for the most part overpriced and plumbed to use antiquated LCD (!) display panels, some will talk to your PC via USB however… (can you detect the dripping sarcasm?)

Smart TV:  I unhooked Frankenputer about a year ago when we bought our Samsung Smart TV LED flat panel,  but after a year of trying out the Samsung apps built it I hooked the old Frankenputer back up. It streams much smoother, doesn’t glitch, is more controllable with mouse and keyboard, and produces better picture and sound. So a 6 year old core duo PC kicks ass on Samsung’s smart TV. That’s not surprising as most “Smart” devices use under-horsed CPU’s and not enough memory. That’s not just to save money, it also conserves energy / battery, but it doesn’t much sense for a Television, where streaming and HD video are required.

Thermostats : These are over priced, but everyone wants them once the price drops. Nest has great ideas, but the first thing they should be tackling is working with the aforementioned weather station, and adding things like humidifiers, air mixers, and whole house fans.

Refrigerators – the dream is that your fridge (or stove) inventories everything in your kitchen via RFID or other tag, and prepares your shopping list and lists of recipes that use the ingredients that you do have left. It could tie to the cooking channels, magazines, and local store home delivery services, and there’s huge potential there, but nothing comes close yet.

Home security and monitoring is the area where the IoT is the strongest, but that’s a given since much of that has previously been handled by remote services anyway – they have a leg up on other Smart Systems. That said, nothing combines it all in one good package yet, someone will take the lead here in the next few years.

Medical and health: again too many different services and devices that don’t play well together. See my previous post from 2011 here. While there are improvements, there’s still not a home health hub per se that unites and intelligently uses the data the devices collect.

Media sharing – this is a kludgeterfest of things that don’t play well together – getting videos, books, songs, and work docs between devices is getting better with cloud services, but….. every device wants you in their cloud, sharing their way, and none of the clouds interlace or work work well together. To get something moved there’s often too much poking, prodding, and head scratching to get it done. It’s very frustrating from a consumer standpoint right now — I wish someone would come up with a service or app that laced all the clouds together into one whole transparent personal cloth or cloud front. When it comes to that  Google is winning  overall, since Android is the most open and flexible at present. That said, I still have dropbox, Icloud, Amazon, the ambitiously named “Microsoft Onedrive,” Adobe, and probably some others.

When push comes to shove most of the cloud services are useless to me since none have enough space to contain my media. (I’m a photographer who shoots in RAW format, but even if I were shooting average Joe JPG’s at 30K pictures and a few thousand songs, I would still over run the space.

The opportunity is there for a hub or appliance, or just a “Home OS” that operates on a standard PC, but nobody’s fully filling the gap yet. It will happen however, but it’s going to be awhile before we have a home dashboard that includes it all. In future articles I will discuss some of the M2M opportunities, and how business has conquered a lot of IoT space in their realm, but not on the consumer front, already. We will also talk about the lack of standards, spectrum, and the rest of the limiting factors.

 

Will Broadwell Kill ARM-Based Tablets? Maybe, With a Little IT Help

Rob Enderle advocates a corporate step back from Arm based Pads to full windows / Intel architecture. With the kludginess of connectivity, speed of I/O, and pure amount of jiggery pokery that users have to manage to keep their Pads and Ipads productive, I can certainly see why he would call for this.

On the other hand the longer term trend will be to go to mobile I/O and generic device computing – most of the shortfalls of ARM and Pads rest not in the pad, but in the fact that most corporate infrastructures are not built thin or to support pads. It’s the apps, the infrastructure, and the design that’s in the way, not the devices. That will change over the next few years, and whether you use pads or PC’s the drivers are still there to get that true cloud infrastructure evolution completed.

[ hint: if it’s just your data in the cloud, then you’ve done it wrong. The apps, the virtual workstations, the heavy processing, transactions, and the security management all need to go to the cloud or you have failed. To succeed at the evolution you must first start to think of the PC or Pad as just another input / output device.]

From Rob at IT Business Edge:

If you have been watching both Apple and Samsung, who lead the tablet segment with their iOS and Android products, have experienced a sharp drop in tablet growth so far this year. Based on anecdotal information, this appears to be primarily due to two things: A large number of people that had hoped to be able to create on tablets found they couldn’t and shifted back to PCs, and a large number of people figured out that the latest tablets from either company aren’t a significant enough improvement to justify buying a new one. There is likely a third reason for the decline and that is that a lot of folks just didn’t find the tablet all that compelling in the first place and put it on the shelf never to be seen again (I’ll bet the majority of these were gifts).

PC sales, on the other hand, have started to pick up again and Intel just had a record quarter as a result. This was even before Broadwell was released, and with Broadwell, the pressure on tablets from PCs will be significantly higher.

With massive pressure on cost, the new 2-in-1 products coming to market in the second half of this year should be far more attractively priced and as noted thinner, lighter, and more capable than the iPads and Android tablets based on ARM currently in market. (These new tablets were showcased at Computex earlier this year.) Yes ARM can get thinner, but beyond this point you lose structural stability and you’ll end up with far more broken screens. In fact, whether we are talking ARM or x86, we are likely close to as far as anyone will want to go in terms of thinness because of the risk of increased breakage.

More: Will Broadwell Kill ARM-Based Tablets? Maybe, With a Little IT Help