Octopus Camouflage Technology

An Octopus has special pigment cells in its skin (called chromatophores) and it can control their size and vary their color and even create changing patterns. This can allow an Octopus to avoid predators by blending into the background or to send a predator a warning signal.

A team of researchers led by Professors from the University of Houston and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign recently developed a new technology that mimics the camouflage used by the Octopus, squid and other cephalopods. According to a paper published by the National Academy of Science, the technology is “capable of producing black-and-white patterns that spontaneously match those of the surroundings, without user input or external measurement.”

The project was funded by the United States Navy and obviously the fact that they are paying for camouflage research means one major use is for the military.

At this point, the technology is far from being deployable. It doesn’t change color very fast yet and even then it can only change from black to white. Nevertheless, the current generation of the technology is a significant breakthrough and scientists are excited about its implications going forward.

The Price of Privacy….Lower Than You May Think

While four out of five consumers have privacy concerns with wearable Internet of Things (IoT) connected technologies, nearly half of those would be willing to share their personal data in exchange for compensation in the form of a coupon or a discount.

According to a recently-conducted survey by Acquity Group, part of Accenture Interactive, 28% of respondents said that they would be willing to share wearable data with third-party retailers in exchange for coupons and discounts based on their lifestyles.Twenty-two percent indicated they would do so for information on better workouts to reach their goals, 22% for information on the best foods to eat to meet reach their goals and 19% for coupons for fitness gear. Only 9% of respondents said that they would share data with brands for free.

The survey found that far more respondents were amenable to sharing data with third parties: 53% said that they would share data from a wearable device with their doctor, 27% with their family and 17% with friends.

“Our data reveals a gap in consumers’ fears of data privacy and their actual purchasing behavior,” said Acquity Group president Jay Dettling. “To capitalize on these opportunities, companies should focus on specific benefits that sharing data will deliver to customers.”

Gigabit Networks: Addressing the Hype

The broadband industry is awash in gigabit broadband announcements. From large tier one carriers like AT&T to smaller tier 3 carriers like NTCA members Canby Telcom  and GVTC,  gigabit announcements seem to happen weekly, if not daily. Even cable MSOs are getting into the gigabit service arena with Suddenlink announcing future gigabit plans earlier this month.

So, what gives? Well we certainly can’t ignore Google’s impact on this issue with the launch of Google Fiber. Their intentions and tactics may be debatable, but there is no denying the catalyst that Google Fiber has become for the growing gigabit movement.

I also think that competitive pressure has played a role in some markets as well. The cable industry has executed an effective DOCSIS 3.0 campaign against DSL services, prompting some carriers, particularly tier 1 carriers, to respond with FTTH and gigabit initiatives.

This gigabit momentum is not reserved for telcos and cable companies alone. The municipal broadband movement has embraced gigabit broadband. Community Broadband Networks reports over 40 municipally owned broadband networks in operation today that can offer 1 gig service. These publicly owned broadband networks are not without controversy, considering the competitive implications of publicly owned networks.

These and other gigabit related issues will be discussed at the upcoming BroadbandVision show. In fact a keynote panel of gigabit service providers will offer great insight and context into all of this gigabit momentum. We’ve assembled a diverse panel of gigabit service providers, including Cullen McCarty – Executive Vice President, Smithville Communications; Jason Chan – Market Development Manager, CenturyLink; and Randy Klindt – General Manager, Co-Mo Connect, A Subsidiary of Co-Mo Electric Coop. It should make for an interesting discussion.

It’s All Downhill After Age 15….

A recent study by UK communications regulator Ofcom finds that the British demographic with the highest “Digital Quotient” score, or DQ, were those age 14 to 15. (DQ is meant to measure an end user’s confidence with and knowledge of communications technology.) After that peak, the average DQ begins a steady decline.

Young Brits aged 6 to 7 posted a higher DQ than those 45 to 49.

Additionally, only 3% of the total communications time of those aged 12 to 15 is spent making voice calls, compared to 94% which is text-based (instant messaging and social networking.) By contrast, adults spend 20% of their communications time making voice calls. Thirty-three percent of adults’ time is taken up by emailing, versus only 2% of those 12 to 15.

Not surprisingly, young adults spend almost triple the time older adults do on their smartphones each day, 3 hours and 36 minutes daily versus 1 hour 22 minutes.

Another finding of the Ofcom study was that the average person in England now spends more time daily using media or communications (8 hours, 41 minutes) than sleeping (8 hours, 21 minutes.)

The study was conducted by Ofcom of 2,000 adults and 800 children.

Be Smart and Learn About The Smart Home at BroadbandVision 

The “Smart Home” idea got a little more interesting this past week. Samsung announced the purchase of SmartThings, a company that makes an app that “turns your smartphone into a remote to control all of the smart devices in your home.”  Here’s a great review of the most recent version of the app.

Industry analysts noted that the purchase is yet another sign that Samsung is all-in for the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT, IP-enabled machine-to-machine connections on a massive scale). Last month, Samsung, Google’s Nest, and others, founded an IoT standards group.

As for the IoT, here is a great in-depth discussion of the concept.  A research group recently predicted it would be a $8.9 trillion market by 2020.

So, you can take the links above and read all day (as I just did) about connected devices and the IoT. The possibilities are fascinating, and to some people, frightening from a security standpoint. One estimate says that 70% of smart, or IOT, devices are “hackable,” in other words, having serious security vulnerabilities.

However, if you work for a rural telco, the smart thing to do would be to learn more about the smart home and smart device technology. In October, NTCA, ITTA, and Telecompetitor will present BroadbandVision.  The session entitled “Get Smart: Leveraging the Smart Economy” will discuss the smart home and how broadband service providers are well positioned to leverage this growing business opportunity.  A panel of industry experts will discuss the growing smart movement and the challenges and opportunities it presents to service providers.

I hope to see you there!

Newspaper Clippings

INDIANAPOLIS — If you borrow books from me, you’ll likely notice my habit of clipping newspaper articles and tucking them into books for safekeeping. These articles are often about events that while not universally significant are interesting enough to preserve, or obituaries of people who did important things and yet do not have wide reputations as historic people. So, while I don’t clip articles about major plane crashes, I have clipped articles when cities have lifted historic buildings from their foundations and moved them several blocks in order to save them; I have not saved accounts of military actions, but I have clipped obituaries of scientists who devised the technology that made the submarine run. In an odd, academic way, they are a sort of treat years latter when they fall out of a book.

A recent article that I did not clip, but wish I had, focused more on prospective outlooks than reporting a specific event. Published in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend, former Secretary of State George Shultz’s “How to Get America Moving Again” offered a half-dozen ideas for spurring the nation’s economy forward. Many of the ideas were familiar — revisions to personal and business tax codes; spending reform; and a different look at health care. It did not propose anything revolutionary, but rather offered an evolutionary perspective that took historic, long-standing principles and adjusted them to meet current and future needs. Read more

Utilities Getting into Solar Power

I’ve always been fascinated by solar power. I like the idea that I can stick a panel on the roof and point it at the sun and get free (other than the cost of the panel) power and stick it to the power company. And while I’m no tree-hugger, I do like the environmentally friendly nature of solar power.

Recently, the largest utility company in Arizona, Arizona Public Service (APS), announced a new plan to meet the state’s renewable energy mandate (more on that below). The plan is to spend $50 to $70 million to place solar panels on 3,000 roofs throughout the state. Homeowners are given $30 a month off their bills for 20 years.

A few years ago, the Arizona Corporation Commission mandated that by 2015 utilities in the state generate 15% of their electricity from renewable sources. APS has proposed both the rooftop solar panel program and more traditional solar farms.

The idea for the program came in part from former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who proposed a similar program, saying that utilities should consider getting into the solar business. Otherwise, he suggested, they risk getting “Fed Ex’ed” as he called it, similar to how Fed Ex and UPS have killed the postal service’s business model. Interestingly, he likened the idea to an age-old practice in the telephone industry. As he said in a February interview, “This is not a radical model…this is the old telephone system model, where the telephone companies owned the phone, they rented you the phone for so long, they maintained it.”

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