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Category Archives: Tech

Mobile and Home Internet plans/bundles in France and in the US

As I have been travelling quite a bit between the US and France over the past few months, I have been dealing with different mobile plans in each country.

Each provider offering similar services, I decided to compare the best mobile plan I would select in each country. After being done with that, I went to do the same exercise for Internet Service Providers for home – comparison between the best triple-play home bundles.

The bottom comparison is on total pricing. The difference is significant given a multiple factor of 3.5x to 4.0x in favor to France. For similar services, a gap so wide is significant. Media and Internet are becoming a strong influence on our 21st century society; we even start having a dependency to it. A good service definitely has a bigger budget impact on US families than on French ones.

TMO_Free

TWC_Free

These 2 comparisons are not intended to criticize T-Mobile or TimeWarner Cable to be in favor of french company Free (Iliad); I am simply laying down the details of the offers and comparing them.

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Sell Driving Cars – Business Trips

One subject has monopolized my thoughts since the CES 2015: using Sell Driving Cars (“SDC”) to enhance business trips.

The energy in Vegas during the CES 2015 was truly inspiring, firstly I strongly felt that SDC were in many minds – getting closer to consumers -, and secondly I got to discuss about Business Trips in general as friends and their clients were attending the CES.

By thinking about SDC and discussing business trips logistics, I had a “ah-ha!” moment about how SDC could reshape the way business trips are done.

From the top of my head, the recent SDC announcements that should reshape habits / products / logistics / services / businesses / industries / sectors / cities, are:

  • Redefining habits for commutes and long car travels: Mercedes showing off a SDC “Living room car”, Audi travelling by SDC to the CES from SF to LV, and a Delphi SDC used from coast to coast in the US
  • Enhancing products: Tesla developing software updates Over The Air for its Model S to give it semi SDC capabilities
  • Reshaping services by developing Self Driving Cabs / Taxis: Uber getting into SDC by opening a Research Facility in Pittsburgh and hiring the former head of Google Maps
  • Revolutionizing the transport and delivery industries: Amazon pushing hard on prepping its delivery drones; SDC can deliver goods (e.g. automated pizzas delivery, drones delivery, etc…)
  • Reinventing and improving cities: The University of Michigan developing a research test facility for SDC – among others to enhance interactions with pedestrians

However, the topic that I have not read articles about is: SDC applied to Business Trips. Therefore, I thought I would take a crack at it and think aloud on this blog post.

When I discuss business trips with friends and colleagues, the recurring main question is: “How do I make sure, whatever the mean of transportation, to have mobile reception and data access to get calls and emails done while away from the office?” Therefore, I believe this is the order of preference for transportation: cab or black car > train > flight (although now most have Wi-Fi) > driving (as you are not supposed to drive and use a phone / internet device at the same time).

While getting a black car or a cab to bring you across town make sense, does it make sense to get a cab to drive you across a county or a state, where most likely the same driver will have to wait for you to bring you back to your far away point of origin? I do not believe so; actually, neither do my friends or colleagues that end up renting cars to drive to their meetings and then back home.

That back and forth driving, behind the wheel, therefore almost entirely “offline’, for 1h / 1h30+ a way, do not make much sense to me. It is very inefficient in many ways. I am very hopeful that SDC will fix that.

The most obvious inefficiencies are:

  • Aren’t employees supposed to add value while on the job? Being behind the wheel stuck in traffic jam or for a while on a high way is not adding value to the employee nor to the employer
  • Insurance wise, it can be very risky and expensive for companies if something were to happen to an employee while driving on a business trip

As soon as SDC will be a reality, I believe SDC will completely redefine business trips, potentially having employees choosing SDC over rail. Instead of ordering a black car or renting a car, employees will order a SDC that will come pick them up to drive them to their destination, close or far.

The benefits are as follows:

  • SDC are considered safer than human maneuvered cars, therefore they could lower insurance premiums
  • Employees can be on the phone or online at all times as they are not driving
  • Non-public / confidential data will not be leaked when passengers on planes or trains overhear private conversations or oversea your work on your computer / tablet or phone
  • Driving can be tiring and stressful; employees could rest and relax ahead of a long day with counterparts
  • If planning a “no need to fly” business trip, there should not be a need to use 3 different forms of transportation as when you take a cab / car service or your own car to the train station, then hop on a train, to then again at the arrival train station most likely take again a cab / car service; this twice considering the return trip – therefore with an SDC, no transportation changes, no waiting time at a train station, etc…
  • A driver does not need to be stuck waiting to drive the employee(s) back to their point of origin(s)
  • The means of transportation can be optimized (e.g. a SDC can do the first leg while another can do the return) by algorithms taking into account multi factors: fuel / battery range, demand / offer, storage needed for the business trip (bringing goods in, leaving without them), overnight stays, etc…
  • If a SDC breaks down during a business trip, say flat tire, another one could be dispatched right away if it would arrive before the flat tire would be fixed, hence saving time on the unexpected delay
  • People that do not have a driver’s license could consider business trips by themselves; the same applies to 18 to 25 year old working young adults, old enough to work yet too young to be allowed to rent a car while on a business trip
  • Employees with jobs relying heavily on transportation and driving, would not be penalized anymore at work for having their driving license suspended while driving during their private time
  • Added supervision for corporations as it will deter employees from misusing company benefits as well as it would translate into cost savings

Some concerns could be:

  • Employers could potentially track their employees every moves during business trips made by SDC, hence a loss of privacy for employees
  • Employees driving a lot for a living might almost not be scared anymore to lose their driving licenses for a while as a SDC would take care of the driving

Over the past few months if not few years, when we have read that Google X was working on SDC, we all got curious. When few months ago, news broke that Uber wants to develop SDC to no longer just get their fee of ~30% of a black car fare but the whole 100%, we all thought it does make sense for the future development of the company. Now that recent reports have put the spotlight on Apple SDC push, as they seem to have poached many engineers from Auto Makers and from battery manufacturers specialized in electric vehicles, we all got a reality check from the $700bn+ company! SDCs are posed to arrive sooner rather than later and in a big fashion, as Tech giants are all over it!

Business trips could be changed in a big way, all for the better.

 

Interesting readings:

– RE/Code “Automakers in the Driver’s Seat as Car Tech Dominates CES” (http://recode.net/2015/01/08/automakers-in-the-drivers-seat-as-car-tech-dominates-ces/)

– IEEE Spectrum “Self-driving Cars Will Be $87 Billion Market by 2030” (http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/self-driving-cars-market-2030)

 

 

 

Amazon’s Army of Robots.

Robots are trending nowadays. Google acquires Boston Dynamics a few months back and Apple is said to be using robots to build the upcoming iPhone 6. This is just the tip of the iceberg, to name the most well known companies in tech using robots.

Regarding robots, something that really strikes me is not the Hollywood picture of how robots will replace humans (I, Robot?) but the way that robots can assist humans to perform better. Think a GPS device in your car, helping you turn by turn; it is not a robot, but it is a tech tool that does the mapping and guiding for you or instead of your passengers.

Now, to go back to what struck me regarding robots, was the announcement by Amazon that it acquires Kiva Systems in 2012.

Amazon.com to Acquire Manufacturer of Robotics (NYT)

Amazon.com is buying an army of robots.

The online retailer announced on Monday that it is acquiring Kiva Systems, a maker of robots that service warehouses, for $775 million in cash. Amazon, a customer of Kiva’s, is buying the robotics company as it builds out its vast network of warehouses and tries to improve its margins.

By then, 2012, the explanation of what was Kiva, was interesting. If I remember well, at the time there were a few videos online that got me really curious about what Amazon was doing in its warehouses. However, this blog post is to show the video below that I stumbled upon recently (even though it is a 2011 video):

I find this fascinating. It looks like an hanthill at work, such a hive of activity! Robots are there, very active, working alongside humans.

The Battle for a Free Internet has started !

Big Data For 2014 (and perhaps 2015)

For the entire year of 2013 I kept saying to Techies and non Techies that Big Data was upon us and it would change the Tech world as we know it. Web 3.0? Or is the Internet of things the Web 3.0? (this on another post).

I came across Big Data a few years back, in 2009 or 2010, through an amazing book from Jeffery Deaver. It was The Broken Window, part of the Lincoln Rhyme series. I enjoyed it a lot. This is when I started understanding about Big Data while readying a few Tech articles about it, even if they were scarce at the time.

Throughout 2013, and even during 2012, Tech journalists kept producing articles about Big Data, however the companies evolving around that sector were unknown to the mass and no one really understood what it is and how to make money out of it.

Today, Business Insider reveals that Facebook And Pinterest Bulk Up Their Big Data Teams. Having main stream companies doubling down on Big Data, will definitely help people understanding it and will keep the Tech world efforts up to crack it.

4G Global Standard and the current 4G fragmentation!

I always understood that 2G and 3G were fragmented between GSM and CDMA Standards. Another thing that I had understood was that the new 4G was built to be a new common standard – see both Charts above.

However, when you look closer to it, it can be confusing given all the bands there are for 4G…

Check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks North America and European carriers have different 4G bands.

Ok fine, it seems making things complicated but if ONE phone can work on all these bands, be it.

HOWEVER again, checking the top smartphones of the moment: Apple iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2 and Nokia Lumia 1020, none seem able to work on all global bands.

http://www.apple.com/iphone-5s/specs/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samsung_Galaxy_S4#Model_variants

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LG_G2#Model_variants

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_Lumia_1020#Model_variants

So basically, when we travel to another continent and we pay the roaming fees, we will only be able to access 3G while in our home markets we would have 4G? Makes no sense to me.

Alright, so as I imagined, Qualcomm has a “Global Radio Chip in the making”: http://gigaom.com/2013/02/21/qualcomms-new-radio-chip-gets-us-one-step-closer-to-a-global-4g-phone/. Fine. But this will only come to market next year I suppose…

The point to this:

1) why fragment the markets with so many bands?

2) why can’t we have more global communication standards in our new world becoming so global?

3) why while we have been drawn for more than 2 years under 4G ads for carriers or phone makers, only now or next year there will be a global radio chip?

[UPDATE] November 10, 2013

A few days ago, I bought a Google Nexus 5 Smartphone. As for the iPhone 5S and for the explanation above, the Nexus 5 will have different models, 2 actually: 1) North America and 2) Europe / Rest of the World:

http://www.google.com/nexus/5/

NETWORKS
2G/3G/4G LTE

North America:
GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10
WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41

Rest of World:
GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8
LTE: Bands: 1/3/5/7/8/20
Still no news of the Qualcomm Global LTE radio chip.

Since this blog post and today’s update regarding the Nexus 5, I have discover this great presentation from Qualcomm on the Global LTE Segmentation, unfortunately a bit dated from 2012:
www.qualcomm.com/media/documents/files/4g-world-2012-global-multimode-carrier-aggregation.pdf

US Cable Cord Cutting!

Coming from Europe, something struck me when I used to work in TMT M&A in the US: Cable Cord Cutting phenomenon in the country.
In Europe we do have Cable providers, but they are not as strong as in the US as people can get 20+ channels for free with just a roof aerial.
With the development of broadband internet, Cable Cord Cutting has been a rising in the US (as well as Netflix share price!).

Here are two interesting recent articles on the subject:
http://buzz.money.cnn.com/2013/10/29/cable-satellite-cord-cutting/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2013/10/16/how-to-cut-the-cord-cable-tv/

When my American friends tell me about their TV experience or when I stay in the US, I hear the same thing, which South Park summarized quite well in this video:

Combining Current Technologies to Make our Pedestrian Life Better/Safer

Lets talk about health and technologies. Not Life-Science, but what new telecommunication technologies can do for our health. For sure there is a lot done by new technologies already:

This is all great, however it is not responding to some problems such as new technologies creating health problems. One example I have recently been readying about:
Serious Injuries Have Tripled Among Walkers Wearing Headphones. This study from Injury Prevention reported by the WebMD article, explains how people listening to their iPlayers, lose consciousness of their environment and can get in dangerous situations at pedestrian crossings for instance.
Most people listening to their iPlayers in a public environment, want to be in their “Bubbles”, listening to their own music, not the Gym music, not the Subway loud noises, not the side-walk loud conversations. I think the Walkman then Discman and now MP3 players have been and are great in that sense, as they allow you to listen to music and audiobooks everywhere and at any time, to get you to relax and take a break from the outside world, if you need to. 

Now going back to the study, the conclusion says “The use of headphones with handheld devices may pose a safety risk to pedestrians, especially in environments with moving vehicles”. Lets say this is only at street crossing. How could this be fixed? 

Here is what I thought about it while reading the article as I believe this problem created by a new technology (iPlayers having becoming cheaper and mainstream) can be fixed by new technologies:

 

  • It is a question of location near a pedestrian crossing. Solution would be to pause or reduce the music volume while crossing in order to 1) make the pedestrian notice there is a crossing, and 2) make the pedestrian aware it has to “step out of its Bubble” for 3 seconds while crossing. The technology already exists to make your Smartphone / iPlayer react intelligently to your environment. For instance, this can be done through Aware Wining App “Locale”. As explained by the makers on the website: “With Locale, you create situations specifying conditions under which your phone’s settings should change”.
  • It is a question of telecommunication between the Smartphone or the iPlayer and the Traffic Signal / Sign at the crossing of 2 streets / roads. The solution would come from technologies such as Wifi, Bluetooth, RFID or NFC. Technology such as NFC, “Near Field” technology, is specific to millimetres communications, therefore maybe too short. Bluetooth and Wifi might need a password or identification process. However I am sure it is possible to have a Smartphone or iPlayer scanning for Wifi or Bluetooth signals with a specific meaning, not requiring any identification, which would just be a recognition process to identify the proximity of a street / road crossing. If there was a need of identification, I am thinking EAP-SIM for Wifi for instance. The best solution would probably come from RFID and its application to highway electronic toll collection. I experienced it in Portugal at high speed. If you can do it at 120km/h (65 mph), for sure you can do something fairly similar in a street at pedestrian pace.
  • It is a question of long lasting battery as Wifi / Bluetooth / RFID communications would need to be switched on at least during the entire time while in the streets. The solution comes from manufacturers current efforts to enhance their batteries technologies. Samsung is looking at it and Motorola has came back to the market with a solution, the DROID RAZR MAXX: 3,300 mAh battery in a 8.99 mm body for 145 grams (as a reference, the infamous iPhone 4S has a 1,432mAh battery in a 9.3 mm body for 140 grams).

 

I believe software, hardware and physics concerns are not problematic in this “Serious Injuries Have Tripled Among Walkers Wearing Headphones” problem as pointed out just above. Therefore manufacturers, smartphone designers, programmers, mayors, and whomever can do something about it, just do something to save lives. 

If you don’t do it to save people lives, at least do it to save Apple customers! More than 300 millions iPods and about 170 millions iPhones sold. That’s a lot of Pedestrians and Rollerskaters!

 

My take on Startups’ Long Roadmaps

Back in November 2011, Fred Wilson wrote an interesting post on “Long roadmaps”. Good insight, good comments discussion too. Interesting to read about Foursquare development plans by the way.
A month later, I visited a friend in Lille (France) who is building a startup, Biztoo. It is a web service to build relations between local businesses and their customers. For a few months now my friend Guillaume and I, we have been discussing his ideas, what he is building, what he has in mind. Now that the v1.1 is out, he explained to me his vision for Biztoo’s roadmap and where he is heading. V1.2 is around the corner and a text file on his PC has every ideas listed for v2.0: xxx, v3.0: yyy… Step by Step developments and requirements based on the previous additions. 

I was impressed by his ideas defined so early in the creation of the young web service (not even a year old). However, I believe it is hard to stick to the one ideal path founders have in mind. Take the example of www.fab.com: great business with successful story today, but it faced a bumpy road a few months back (Fab Forward: How Fab.com Found a Niche in a Design Deal Social Hub). 

Through a random usage of Shazam, I thought about the “Long Roadmap” blog post mentioned above: recently I used Shazam to find the song below as I am bad at knowing song’s titles and authors!

 

So now regarding this post, what’s the connection between Fred Wilson “Long Roadmaps” post, my friend’s development plans for its growing website, and Shazam? 

As mentioned above, I used Shazam to know the tittle of “Boney M – Rasputin”. That’s when I discovered LyricPlay:

 

I always thought Shazam was great, had a huge potential, was loved by everyone, and generated an enormous positive word of mouth. However, I was never sure how they would turn that great idea into a profitable service considering that I expected most users not being willing to pay for the service (Recently Shazam announced it was bringing back unlimited free music tagging after trying a freemium strategy). 

When I used Shazam’s LyricPlay for the first time, it started to display the lyrics on my smartphone’s screen, scrolling up StarWars Intro style, synchronized to the music, I was excited about the discovery. That’s when it stroked me: when the makers of the Shazam smartphone App created it, they started doing the basic: just the tagging. I would bet they already had in mind all the potential ramifications: iTunes links, social friends’ tags, Artist Tour info, Youtube Videos, and synchronised Lyrics! 

I think LyricPlay is a great experience. Shazam was a good utility to have in his pocket 24/7 but now it is also becoming fun. I guess adding some fun to a business model is never a bad thing to attract new customers and make them have a good time while using the service. 

There are great entrepreneurs out there, they have great ideas and are building great things. We are just at the beginning of some good stuff coming our way; Entrepreneurs minds are flourishing with exciting stuffs we can’t imagine yet! 

Ps: I personally started using Shazam in August 2009. I thought it was a brand new service however it has been running since 2002! Would have you thought?!

No Wifi in the Eurostar

This post is about Wifi in the Eurostar trains but it is mainly to speak about wifi in long distances European transports.
I was in Paris recently. I took the Eurostar. For every Frenchie working in the City it is a ritual. 2h16 to Paris on a Friday night, last train at 8.02pm, and again early on Monday morning. 2h16 for which the 3G is not working perfectly because of the train speed, the tunnels, and when you are roaming in England or France depending on where you are coming from.
I wish there was Wifi on the Eurostar. Same with the TGV in France, Air France buses from Charles de Gaulle Paris Airport to Central Paris. Same with Regional train in France when I go to Normandy visiting my family over there.
During the 2h16 on the Eurostar I would deal with unread emails (even if now there is offline gmail), do some  online research, etc etc…
There is no wifi for now. I never understood why that tool is not provided to customers, which mainly are on business: as you can see here, out of the 750 seats, 206 are business, which is 27% of the capacity. I feel that’s high.
It is good news but definitely late compared with other transports I experienced across the world:

  • USA: national flights with Delta or AA
  • USA: buses connecting DC, Philly, NYC, and Boston
  • Mexico: bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
  • Japan: bus from Narita Airport to Central Tokyo; train from Central Tokyo to Narita Airport
  • France – Belgium: Talys from Paris to Brussels

 

In other words, I think nowadays almost at the doorstep of 2012, Wifi should be everywhere. As described by Marshall McLuhan, we live in a “global village”, we need to be in touch with everyone and everything, at anytime.