Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

The Future of Living: How 3G Could Help.

Posted on: October 19, 2008

3G. WiMAX. There is an inevitable showdown waiting on that camp. That’s probably also the reason why the deployments of WiMAX hasnt picked up by much. If you ask me, there is credit to deploying the 3G – or a network that is based on the telecom network. Why? Reliability. Ever picked up a landline and missed the dialtone? Thats what I am talking about.

With the economy slowing down a little, I guess the 3G talk is going to be dampened a bit here in India. But I dont think it should be. The consumerist trend hasnt slowed down and Indians have woken up to enjoying the usage of digital media, devices and services, that 3G as a service could very much consolidate and bank on. This post is partly written with the knowledge I’ve gathered being on both sides of the camp, as part of the Telecom group (and the plans that they are making with IMS – IP Multimedia Subsystem) and where the web, and industry have evolved.

Lets start with a Picture.

Future Living

Ubiquitous Computing, will not be just a term anymore. Centralized, easily accessible, and convergence. I think that’s the three keywords which are almost mantras in the new lifestyle that is emerging.

Trends:

Follow the numbers on the diagram with the explanations below.

1. Your mobile phone is not just a phone. Ask Nokia and they will tell you that. If we start with the way of 3G, its also the means to a broadband pipe, and 3G is just the beginning. HSDPA, LTE, and all the planned roadmap of the GSM Data Network, seems to be only getting faster and faster. Now, why would I advocate relying on my mobile’s data network as the crucial pipe for everything?

Simply because its personal. I wouldnt use most of these devices on this diagram, unless I was home. Secondly, the “Base” would have an inbuilt GSM device, that would continue the connection even when the device is removed. The Device, if inserted will enable the SIM card, and hence authenticating the user being “home”

2. There are already Cordless devices available from Siemens and the likes who allow you to “add” as many handsets as you want. I’d imagine that the Home Communications device would be something like that. When you come home and plugin your Communication Device into the base, that would configure the Home Telephony system to handle all your phone calls. I think this is where the beauty of Social networks come in. Do you realize why OpenSocial, and especially Dataportability makes a lot of sense? Partly cause of this. Spam. Imagine, you knowing someone and them knowing someone else. If Person C calls you, you might want to pick up the phone. If a random person who has no connection to you in your “Social Map” calls you, there is a high chance it might be a spam. The VoIP Gateway, will be smart enough to also have a routing engine, which will put such calls directly into the voicemail. When you are home, you wont be bringing work home, especially the calls. There will be provisions for different profiles – such as Busy, Family Time, Free and Available Etc, which will allow a person to configure their settings.

There will also be another capability for this system. Notice how there is more than one “Base” in the architecture? The extra bases are for other members in the family. If the spouse comes home and puts his/her PCD into the base, whenever he/she gets a call, the Home Telephone System would pick up the call, and do the same thing, except with his/her settings, and will ring with a distinct ring. Wouldn’t that be neat? No more running around the house searching for your mobile to pick up a call.

Note: Iotum used to have something named a relevance engine to do this. Servion, an Indian Company, has a product named UQE – Universal Queuing Engine which does call routing based on rules as well.

3. The Shared Media Server concept is already happening. I used to be working on a Smart home project sometime back, and the first and foremost thing was a shared Media Server. Sony, along with its Vaio range of products offers a software that can access shared resources. The Songs that you purchase, be it from iTunes, Amazon, or anywhere, will automatically reside on the shared media server. It will also have the podcasts that you are subscribed to, both video and audio, the Television Shows that you have bought from iTunes, the Movies that you have rented over the net from the likes of Netflicks or Bigflicks, and will also be the storage for your Slingbox, or time-place shifted Television programs.

4. Television. Its nothing more than a screen actually. The only difference is that it will have an IP input (most televisions are starting to ship with it), instead of a Cable, and it will have the capability to directly interface with the media server or go online. Another option to configure this would be to allow your Xbox, PS3, or Apple TV Box to do the IP interface and connect the output to the television and shift the intelligence to the Box. With most Gaming consoles coming with an IP interface to go “Live”, and all of them obviously eying for this space in the system, they most probably will make it there.

5. Gone are the days when one used to have clunky and huge music and entertainment systems. I doubt we’d be buying those huge devices which can play music in the masses. There will be a need for such specialized hardware, but if you have a portable device, that is most probably going to go into a dock that can amplify the sound. That’ll pretty much be the extend of the use for home theatres and music systems. The portable systems would have the ability to purchase, download, and navigate to the internet to initiate a purchase/rental download to the media server and some integration to access the media on the Media server.

6. Computers. You will most probably not feel a difference at all. The computer has been the most flexible sandbox as technologies have evolved. The interaction mechanisms obviously would evolve, as touch, voice based technologies mature and become mainstream.

Other Scopes:

We will soon have centralized speaker systems and controls that would allow us to listen to music all around the space, and also zone off areas where we want to listen. Wireless speaker systems will play a part in all this.

RFID controls will factor in somewhere. If I do set the control to “follow me”, the music should follow me whichever room that I go to. RFIDs will also be a basic element for Smart homes.

Smart homes are definitely on the way in. Biometric keys, computer controlled lighting,  automatic curtain open settings, burglar sensors, vacuum robots, Digital Picture Frames, etc are already available in the market, and it wont take long before they all go mainstream.

Smart Toys, such as the Nabaztag, the Chumby are going to get more and more in the face, until people start adapting them. These devices apart from giving the impression of a rich-spoilt-brat, will also be aids for older people, assisting them, taking voice commands and getting things done for them. In markets like Japan where the population is more old than the young will especially go for such products – which is also the reason why there is heavy investments into robots. I’d give it another ten to twelve years before this becomes mainstream. But the Geekery toys are on their way much sooner for sure.

If you look closely at this system, most of them are already around us in some form or the other. It just needs to evolve a step further to become a reality – and that too not too high of a step. That’s where there is a lot of opportunity for startups to focus on. Perhaps that will happen, and we wont look at 3G as just a fat pipe, and keep scratching our head for more Value Added Services to appear to make it viable. Since the Subscription for the services such as the Gaming Console “Live”, the Music Store, the Television, Internet Access can be authenticated using the SIM card, there is a scope for Mobile Phone operators to leverage that. That’d be the secret to the ROI dilemma, in my opinion.

Ofcourse, this is just the first draft. What are your thoughts?

Download: Higher Resolution Image of Diagram

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2 Responses to "The Future of Living: How 3G Could Help."

There are so many players involved in this picture, it’s hard to imagine them working in concert to make this happen. I think it needs one player who can string them all together.

It looks like companies such as Apple (Apple TV, iPod, etc.), Airtel (digital TV, USB Data Card), Nokia? (Ovi) are sort of evolving into this scenario.

In General, I think the point you make about mobile phones being the next big thing is absolutely bang on.

I think not only The handset platform (via brilliant initiatives like the Open Mobile Alliance) is going to grow manifold as a development platform, its going to actually knock the PC out for a lot of the computing needs.

Nice post.

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