Who should manage privacy in the age of Ubiquitous Computing?

It’s clear that privacy is a concern in today’s web 2.0 world; the postDoes Google’s flu-tracker raise privacy issues?’ talks about Google’s ability to mine data and its potential impact on privacy. This is a valid concern, but may appear insignificant  in the future, when simply walking across an airport, or even an office floor, could confirm your identify, highlight your political sympathies and provide your state of health to the management via an imperceptible event.

Ubiquitous Computing , described by Mark Weiser almost 20 years ago in the article entitled ‘Ubiquitous Computing #1‘ , sets out this new age of imperceptible computing. One major premise of Ubiquitous Computing , or Ubicomp, is that  the computing process will become almost invisible- this is because the falling cost of the micro-processors means that they can be inserted into the built environment at almost no cost. The insertion of these computers into the fabric of the built environment in which we live would allow computation to flourish away from the PC- a huge  development considering the extent to which we depend on the PC today .

So how could the computational power of Ubicomp be utilised? Imagine you are walking across your office lobby. Firstly the smart floor identifies who you are, and thus determines where you work -for example office 12, floor 48. The express lift door would open as you approach and whisk you off to floor 48 without so much as a button press. Of course, in the meantime, your office heating has come on, your coffee machine has powered up and the status of your inbox is being presented to you as you walk along the corridor in the scenery of the pictures on the wall– lots of bonfires and you’ll get the hint as to what you’re about to walk into.

The Ubicomp world is enormously interesting and many commentators believe that it’s already on its way. However, it presents a challenge to the level of control that individuals have over their own privacy. What should happen if, for instance, your combined data presents a picture to your employer that he deems to be damaging? Think Virgin Atlantic’s Facebook fiasco without the need for Facebook.

It appears that Ubicomp is going to happen, but this raises questions about who will manage the data, and who will control privacy and the rights of individuals. Given that TELCOs provide the network backbone, would they be a better choice to manage the data than the Government, or  a non-elected organisation ?

TELCOs have the capability to filter data travelling across interconnected networks, could they provide the answer and control the data and execute the privacy levels set by the users in the same way they manage firewall policies? Could you choose to allow all data flow and benefit from that, or would you want only a subset of your data to flow and put up with having to swipe your ID badge and press the button for floor 48.

also posted to Orange Business Live

My Dad gets a Dongle

My Dad lives in Spain, he’s been there a few years now and we’ve managed to keep in touch using BT, and then I changed that to first jajah and most recently to Rebtel.

However,  recently Dad had a visitor who brought a laptop when they came to stay. Dad’s lucky there a open wireless nearby it’s a bit flaky at times but from his sun deck its OK for grabbing your mail.

However, Dad’s visitor fired up Skype and called home for free, I’m not sure if they fired up video or not but my Dad did comment on the call quality. As a result my Dad was hooked and was keen to get a laptop of his own get on Skype.

So a few months back on a trip to the UK he picked up a Fujitsu-Siemens laptop and gave Telefonica a call and requested DSL. This is where he hit a stumblling block, as he doesn’t have a landline in his farmhouse, the DSL requested caused Telefonica a problem. Telefonica  said they could provide data over his phone but it’d take a while to sort out, but this dragged on and on, if you’ve ever worked with Telefonica you’ll know what I mean.

So I was a tad surprised when I got a call saying let’s try Skype we’ve bought a Vodafone dongle.

I had to remind him he should have bought an Orange one but nevermind, I’m pleased he’s got one. It offers a lot more flexibility for him rather than being tied to a DSL line at home, but all in it’s good, we’ve given Skype a go and it works fine.

Another new role at Orange!

It’s only been a few months since the last time I mentioned that I’d got a new role within Orange Business, but it’s all change again, I’ve moved Managers and become the Manager of a new group, Telecoms Integrated Operators.

The Sourcing department of Orange Business Services (OBS) has created a new Telecom Integrated Operators Group for Europe or TIO as it’s known. It’s role is to look after telecoms sourcing within the countries where there’s both a Orange Business Network and an Orange Mobile Network, so countries like, UK, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Ukraine, Poland etc. I’ve got a team of  managers across Europe reporting to me, which is great, so I’ll be polishing up my management skills again as well as learning the ins and outs of various new telecoms markets such as Poland which is very exciting and a great challenge.

So I’ve been with OBS now for 1 year and this is my 3rd role, so things move fast here!

Nokia E71 a two handed device.

I’ve been using the E71 for a couple of days now and I don’t know what to think, but something is nagging at me, that maybe this isn’t the perfect phone I’d hoped it would be. It may be just me and how the device is used rather than the device itself being at fault.

Let me try to explain, it’s as simple as some phones need only one hand to be operated, and some need two. The E71 (and the E61i) is for me a two handed devices, ie, to get the best out of it you need to use two hands (or two thumbs) to type, you can’t reach with your thumb in one handed operation mode to keys on the other side of the keyboard, it’s just too big. The E66 on the other hand (no pun intended) is a one handed operation device, which I think is where my head is in terms of devices that I need to use.

I had this same debate with myself a few years back, at the time I had a Treo and it too has an excellent thumb keyboard but it just required two hand operation and after considerable deliberation I swapped the Treo for a (HTC) Orange SPV C500 running windows mobile, which was a much smaller candy bar phone, but it only required one handed operation.

So part of me is saying this E71 is a great device, the battery is awesome, the keyboard (for two handed operation) is great and it’s damn fast, but part of me is saying do I want to have to stop what I’m doing something or let go of something in order to respond to a message, as that’s what you have to do if it’s a two handed device, let go of the handle of Air France shuttle bus, no chance. There’s plenty of occasions when two handed use is just impossible, carrying your suitcase and laptop bag when getting off a plane, phone one hand, laptop bag the other, respond to message, no chance.

Maybe it’s about what you use the device for, if it’s a blackberryesque laptop replacement and typing out emails then two handed operation is the speedier way to go, responding with one line emails and the odd SMS, then one handed and T9 is the way to go. It’s about what you need for a device, is it a laptop replacement or is it a phone. I think I’m in the one handed operation camp, but  Let me give it a few more days use and I’ll have a think again, but at the moment, if you put too devices on the table right now, the E66 and the E71 I’d take the E66, let’s see if my thinking changes over the next week or so.

Which camp or you in… single handed T9 speed merchant or two thumbed typing deamon?

Telco Dilemma Musing: Should carriers move into banking?

There’s two reasons I ask this, because of the talk about selling laptops that I read about and an experience I had yesterday.

The selling laptops is interesting and broadband providers did it recently so it’s not a new model. TalkTalk and Orange offered either free or extremely cheap laptops if you signed up to their broadband packages for, I think, two years. intomobile‘s thinking is that carriers should subsidise not only handsets but just about any data enabled device to drive data usage.

Subsidising handsets is fine if the voice and data packages aren’t capped as you’ll get substantial revenue from the heavy users. Once the cap comes in, subsidising mobile data devices loses it’s sheen quickly as all costs to the users are capped and so is the carriers income for those product.

So I can’t see carriers moving into the adjacent market of high tech goods retailing just yet, even with the buying power of the carriers.

Moving into banking maybe a little too ambitious, what I actually mean is payments. With the Telco Dilemma series it’s becoming clear that looking at adjacent markets is one for the carriers to grow revenue. This Telco2.0 post indicates that Services as an adjacent market is growing, but payment is failing to gain any traction.

Key trend: Beyond IT services, nothing else does – entertainment, healthcare, education, mobile payments, e-commerce all fail to gain significant traction as stand-alone lines of business

I’m struggling to understand why payments aren’t taking off, why is there such reluctance, does someone else have a strangle hold on this area of business and not interested in playing, the banks maybe? My experience yesterday morning was as I do when I’m at home, is leave the house around 8am with the girls taking them to nursery. On the trip home I decided to call into Sainsbury’s and pickup some more coffee. Now most mornings like millions of people I leave the house with my keys and my phone, I can get back in or I can call for help, but I left my wallet on the shelf.

So I walk around the store pick up the coffee and some fresh bread and walk to the checkout, when I realise I don’t have my wallet. But I have my phone, I can pay for ringtones with my phone, via SMS, I can donate to charity via SMS, why can’t I pay for my coffee via SMS?

This payment method could be used in just about any situation, Starbucks, text your order, pay, get text when it’s ready for collection. The carries who provide the network infrastructure take a tiny cut, that’s a tiny cut of every single business transaction that takes place, don’t forget the revenue for the SMS too.

Your mobile phone bill will look a lot like your credit card bill and then we move into interest on balance if you don’t want or can’t pay for all your purchases in one go, looks like banking to me and I want the convenience it brings. You can delve into this model in a lot more detail, the security is there for example, pin numbers in the SMS, but we’ll stop there.

The US becomes a low cost country.

BMW is moving some car production to the US to save costs [via] This isn’t the first I’ve read about switching work back into the US. Infosys the India IT company was moving some helpdesk services back into the US and the mid west to be precise. The advances in remote working for call centre people means that “stay at home mom’s” can now log on and spend some time answering calls and then log back off again in an extremely flexible manner.

Telco Dilemma Series: 3. So is it unlimited or unlimited*

The implication of truly unlimited bandwidth for the users can have huge impacts on the network. We’ve seen the impact of iPlayer on Easynet (a 20% rise in bandwidth and rising), is that there needs to be investment in the underlying backbones to cope with the data.

Take a look at data on GSM, 4Kb/s speeds, now look at 3G about 2.5MBits/s and with HSDPA already being rolled out 14Mbits/s. Home broadband for most people if they are lucky is 6Mbits/s, So the impact is going to be huge as this Fierce Wireless posts states, Mobile broadband use up 154%.


Therefore the carrier has to invest huge sums in it’s backbone to cope with the hockey stick like impact of data traffic on it’s networks, while battling to retain revenue and market share where price is the only differential. Therefore the carriers see the only way to have any control over that bandwidth is to put a cap on it, so it’s unlimited*, where the asterisk points to a cap imposed by the carrier, usually either 1gb or 2gb. But is the cap only a short term stop gap to the bigger problem demanded by the market, of uncapped flat rate tariffs?

The Telco2.0 blog picked up the above diagram and highlight the unsustainability of the mobile broadband market, especially on flat-rate tariffs.

The presentations (from) Hamid Akhavan’s, CEO at T-Mobile International, seems to have been withdrawn from the site now. We managed to grab it before it was. The key image is below. It shows the economic unsustainability of mobile broadband, especially on flat-rate tariffs. If you understand that low quality YouTube videos now account for 10% of all global web traffic, then imagine what will happen when the quality improves. In fact you don’t need to imagine: see the real stats of the impact of the BBC’s iPlayer (high quality streaming video) on UK ISP’s in the last 8 weeks since launch (a doubling of streaming traffic and a trebling of costs – analysis here).

So T-Mobile, who may have now changed their mind, since they withdrew their presentation, seem to think that this path that we’re currently treading is unsustainable. When you look at some of the facts he may be right.