Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

CTIA 2010

March CTIA Madness and a Mobile Concierge

March 24, 2010

I find myself in the middle of NCAA Basketball March Madness in, of all places, Las Vegas. It turns out I'm leaving before the Sweet Sixteen starts and that's good. If not, I'm sure I'd find myself sitting in one of the betting rooms here, watching the games on TV.
  I hear people talk about CTIA as if it's the America's version of Mobile World Congress. It sort of is, but it's not nearly as big in size. The whole ecosystem is here, from app developers to handset accessories to air conditioning for the Cos.  One thing that is a bit different, beyond the size, is there is more talk about WiMax here. At Mobile World Congress, I didn't see too much about WiMax - it was as if LTE eclipsed it. But because of Sprint and Clearwire's support, WiMax (4G) has a bigger presence here. In fact, they announced additional market plans here at CTIA.
  In between meetings, I had some time to walk the floor a bit. The DoCoMo booth was interesting to me - I saw some very high-def phones, "eye-ball controlled" phone earpieces, and some auto-GPS technology that allows what they call a mobile concierge to let you know what is going on and what you can do - all because of location-based services.
  And clearly the iPhone hysteria is gone.  A lot has happened in a year. Is the iPhone really unique anymore?  Is AT&T the only one offering Smartphone services? No. There are other players such as Android out there now.  And you can feel and see that as you walk around here.

The Old OS Pangs, Only with Mobile Devices Now

March 25, 2010

In yesterday's blog about CTIA, I mentioned that the iPhone hysteria has disappeared. And that got me to thinking about the developers out there. With different Smartphone Operating Systems, what's a Smartphone developer to do? I remember back in my UNIX days when I'd talk to application vendors about porting to UNIX. They'd talk about whether to port to SCO Unix, AT&T Unix, or Solaris and since I was visiting, I'd state the case to port to the UNIX system that I was working for. Then one year I went in and they'd say only one UNIX, and then Windows NT. And then it was soon only Windows NT and maybe Linux. There were too many choices to make, and the developers needed to ride a horse. They saw the power of a standardized OS. That's when I knew it was time to leave and hence started my career at Dialogic. 
  But it gets me thinking about today. There are many choices today with Apple, Microsoft, Palm, Linux, Symbian and Blackberry. It seems to me that that's similar to what I described above, and some kind of consolidation will be occurring within 2 years. I don't predict what will happen, only that it seems to need to happen. I'll revisit this as some point in the future.

Do Safe Driving and Vegas Go Together?

April 6, 2010

Luckily, yes, given the abundance of taxis out here. But even beyond that, the wireless industry is taking steps to ensure people don't text and drive, and Vegas was at the forefront of this during CTIA a couple of weeks ago. CTIA sponsored a "Safe Driving Pavilion" and since I figure I can always learn something, I went over there to check it out. While there were many little booths, I deduced two different types of schemes to keep drivers from texting and driving.
  One type of scheme tries to decide if the texter is a driver or passenger by applying some kind of "rules." For instance, if there are a short number of characters and if the car is moving, it's probably a driver who's doing the texting. If so, the software refuses to send the text if it thinks you are texting and driving. Not exactly a hard science here! But if some company figures out the right kind of rules/formula that works pretty accurately, there might be a winner. I wonder if this will end up being just as dangerous as texting when cell phones start to fly out of car windows due to frustration. But seriously, this is a good initiative.
  Another type of scheme understands you will text, but enables you to do it in a driver-friendly fashion. It uses speech-to-text and text-to-speech software to enable texting by speaking and vice-versa. This scheme is a "hands free assistant." Talking cars, at least high-end cars, are fairly commonplace so maybe this will work. I talked to a company called DIAL2DO. Using cloud computing, they have 25 phone numbers around the world that can do speech recognition.  In order to do this, you would just call the number and any texts you receive as well as texts you want to send are converted to spoken word. Interesting, but if you have to call the number, will it all take too long? Will people have patience?
  Anyway, good initiatives and I'm glad I took the walk over there.

The Rise of the Machines

April 8, 2010

This is my last blog about CTIA, at least for now.  Outside of all the 3G/4G network noise and whose network is faster (I wonder when we will see 5G hype) and Android phones, the show had a good business rhythm. 
  Since Shaun White was on display at one side of the show floor and I didn't want to get caught up in that, I went to the other side of the show floor. And lo and behold I ran in the M2M (Machine to Machine) area. Given the Terminators are the ultimate in M2M communication, I thought they should have had a life-size Terminator there to counter Shaun! 
  Well, most of that part of the floor was more about asset tracking. I'm sure to those people it is uber interesting - even the pill container (like an aspirin container) tracker.  And even dog tracking. Units on dogs talking to a unit tracker someplace so you can find Fido. The ultimate in machine to machine. But I also saw a company called WindTrac that had some cool M2M technology. Interestingly enough, they were not in this area but some other part of the show floor. They had a bullet-proof vest with a tracker on it - so if the vest was hit and the wearer went down, someone would know his/her location. Very cool. I don't know if they were going to sell any at CTIA, but they did say they go to law enforcement type tradeshows and sell them there. Good for them. I'm looking forward to seeing more and more M2M applications in the years to come.

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