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Into Thin Air: Mobility, the NBA and Fans in the Human Network

Last weekend I had the distinct labor of co-hosting the NBA All-Star Game for Cisco (methinks the blogger doth protest too disingenuously). While much of the weekend’s focus was on the physical pyrotechnics of the slam dunk, celebrity sightings, and very, very cool parties with tall people, there was another key angle to this pinnacle of sports and entertainment, the NBA Technology Summit. Arch entrepreneur and NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear he was in touch with role the Internet and Mobility would be playing the future of the league. He noted that much of the world would be reaching the Internet, hence the NBA, from the cell phones going forward, not from PCs.When the Commissioner of the NBA recognizes his future is the mobile web, it’s not hard to see why. Sports fans are intensely involved with their favorite leagues and teams. I caught up to WNBA Superstar Lisa Leslie ( on the break and over a soda discussed her interest in the subject. She told me that basketball fans are”always on the new thing.” Toronto Raptor forward Chris Bosh led a discussion on why fans were always asking for personal information non him (like what cereal he ate and what video games he played) that was answered by Magic Johnson. Magic noted:”because kids want to be like you, they want immediate information so they can one up their friends by showing how much in touch they are with you.”It is clear that progressive sports organizations, rather than fight this move to mobility, are going to exploit it in building their brands. And plenty of people, including venture capitalists, financial analysts and the media were on hand to soak in the implications. For the NBA the focus was less on potential programming -there was a terse, uneventful Q&A on the no-show ESPN Mobile Device announced a year ago -but on the future role advertising could play in this mobile sports works. The top keynote of the morning was no less than Google CEO Eric Schmitt, who was on hand to share his views and take some pretty serious questions of the financial implications of this shift of the advertising model as well as payment models for NBA video. While much of the industry debates where the financial mode for Metro Mesh networks will come from, maybe some of it will come from the NBA?Although the summit was a strictly off the record event, David Stern was clear on one quotable area:”I can say is that in this wonderful age of wireless, of video on demand, on the device formally known as the cell phone, which is now a handheld device, at a time when the statistics are overwhelming that there will be soon two billion people on cell phones with the third generation, to have compelling content — which is our game — means that our game is going to be brought to fans in ways that not only that we couldn’t have anticipated, but we probably couldn’t have imagined, and that’s all good on a global scale.”

“The Prosumer” in the Human Network

One of the clearest human derivatives of the Human Network — enabled by mobility — is the increasing breakdown of the wall between our personal and our work lives. As our brand campaign reminds people,”work is an activity, not a place.”The ability to work, when you need to work, wherever you need to work now means wireless networks, security, and unified communications now provide seamless access to people, assets and critical information. Now you can: – Catch up on a product development project at a coffee shop on vacation- Get a message from your kids they arrived safely home from school during a snowstorm, even when you are in a foreign country on business – Set up a 3 way video call with your team around the world.Now your business moves with you.There is a second order derivative that goes with this mobile transformation. For many, how they define themselves, from a technology usage perspective is changing. The traditional segmentation that you might get in a market research study tends to put you in 1 of 3 categories consumer, business or student. However, technology is bleeding across these categories and how you define yourself is changing. My favorite definition of this dissolution is the”prosumer.” People are now professionals and consumers at the same time.From a mobility point of view, the requirement is to have the same IT resources, applications, services and security available to me wherever I am. Effectively, this means I want to be as effective professionally when I am not in the office than when I am in the office. As a consumer, I want to be able to run my life when I am not home.In the next few blogs, stay tuned for some perspectives on how technology must adapt to meet the people requirements of this evolving world.Things are going to get mixed up, As Mark Twain said in Following the Equator“Ε“The compass in my head has been out of order from my birth . . . In me the east was born west, the battle-plans which have the east on the right-hand side are of no use to me.”

Other Technologies

Dave Binetti asks: “I’ve seen these posts as well as others you’ve written on the concept of localization (like with the Stockholm subway project and RFID.) How do other technologies that are wireless and lower-power (like Zigbee) factor in to the equation? Do they stand a chance against ubiquitous WiFi? Or are things like 802.11n too power-hungry to get the job done alone?”It is a very good question.I think other wireless technologies clearly will play a role in the development of innovative applications and lowerpower approaches provide entries to an order of magnitude addition of new things (i.e., the Internet of Things) that are attached to both wired and wireless IP networks. The open question is 1. What is the timing for their mass commercialization2. What we can do to add them to the growing pervasive WLAN networks emerging all over the worldReaders, thoughts on innovation or other comapnies you have seen playing a role here?

SuperBowl of Wireless: WiMAX vs. Wi-Fi Why Not Both?

It’s Sunday morning and most my household is quiet, clinging tightly to the last drops of sleepy refreshment from the Sandman, the bringer of dreams and rest. For many sports fans, today is the big day where the pageantry, where the competition, achievement and hype play onto the world stage of media: the Superbowl. It’s not called the national championship. It’s not called the world championship. It’s the SUPERbowl, invoking images of cartooned, masked superheroes battling for the forces of good and evil.Clearly Football’s Superbowl is one of the pinnacles of competitive sports, but at the end of the day, one team will win and one will lose (kind of, as both teams make a lot of money along the way). This year’s bout is a conundrum, as the teams are relatively evenly matched. The Cinderella Bears -how is that for twisting a few fairy tales -are led by a defense second to none and the Indianapolis Colts are led by a potential Hall of Fame Quarterback’s offense.It’s a bit like the discussion about Wi-Fi and WiMAX.Wi-Fi is the Chicago BearsWi-Fi is rapidly becoming the Ethernet of wireless technologies, where are an open standard is driving innovation across the entire value chain as it becomes faster (.11n), more robust (MIMO), more secure (.11i, w). This year the industry is expected to ship as many chips in devices as it did over the past several years combined. The relatively cost advantages of a shared connection have driven the hospitality and entertainment industry to start to offer it like a utility to their guests. Last week, I sat down with the CIO of an international movie theater chain that was preparing to roll it out so people could be connected in the common areas of the theater to enhance the entertainment value of their venues (I thought the movies and the popcorn were the experience!). Enterprises are rolling out secure access so contractors, customers and suppliers can share their networks. With this growing pervasiveness, Wi-Fi has a killer defense -try to take it out -and a pretty good offense as well.WiMAX is the Indianapolis ColtsAfter several years of hype and a past 18 months of pilots, WiMAX is moving closer to being a tremendously powerful wireless technology in a lot of areas. Not likely going replace cellular technology any time soon as a primary air interface for telephony and mobile data in developed markets and nations, WiMAX represents a potential disruptive force in the emerging world, where the wiring, well, just does not exist. In developed markets like Europe, which are wired/unwired through the mobile telephony company’s hundreds of billions of investment in spectrum, equipment and pull-through of corresponding handsets, the marginal costs of competing with a brand new spectrum technology are pretty low. The same is true with fixed line DSL, Cable and FTTH technologies. It’s hard to compete with installed and depreciated plant.However, in emerging markets like India, China and the Middle East, where wired broadband connections are not going to come anytime soon, the innovation and investment in WiMAX are starting to look pretty attractive. The governments and companies that operate in the world where broadband does not exist clearly understand the economic levers WiMAX technology will bring to a region’s development socially and economically. On those playing fields, WiMAX has a strong passing game, able to make up some broadband yardage in a hurry.Superbowls, however, are not won either singularly by offenses or defenses alone. It takes a bit of both. Hence I see these two technologies playing a critical role working together: think of it as a wireless ProBowl (all-star) team. Today we are combining WiMAX as a backhaul technology for Wi-Fi Mesh. In other parts of the world, WiMAX looks to be the outdoor provider of choice and be distributed in-building by Wi-Fi. Both support data well, today, are becoming optimized for voice, and some day might be able to support robust, pervasive video, although the latter is tough to predict.If you are a fan of football history, you know the Superbowl is the breeding ground of upsets. The one burned into my psyche as a youth was the 1968 Superbowl where”Broadway Joe” Namath took the New York Jets to a surprise victory over the Baltimore Colts (the predecessor of today’s Indianapolis team). And we must also remember there is a third team on the ground: today’s 2G/3G cellular industry, which is moving to an IPRAN and its own designs on winning the Superbowl of wireless. Will it partner with or co-opt Wi-Fi/WiMAX s as it evolves? Well, that’s what makes today’s game so much fun.Go wireless!

All Technology and Politics are Local: Wi-Fi in the Home, Part Two

For all intents and purposes, the Wi-Fi revolution started in the home, rather than in the office (some would say it started in the supply chain industries, but it was a pretty niche technology in terms of numbers). Propelled by a very rich Intel Centrino marketing budget, the avalanche of wireless-enabled laptops and available hotspots, propelled the much connected wireless lifestyle. According to the Yankee Group, Wi-Fi hot spots will grow to over 70,000 in 2007, a 2300% increase from 2002.As we move to the ratification of 802.11n, we are now beset by a rich variety of”pre-N” home Wireless LAN options. While it is unwise to select a pre-standard Access Point for use in the office -large scale, forkliftable incompatibility is a bad thing -there is lots of room for experimentation at home.There are 2 key elements to emerging technology worth looking at:- Faster air-link speed- Better performance through the use of Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas.While your home DSL or Cable Modem connection is not going to take much advantage of this kind of speed -think about it as a new 300 HP Mustang creeping along during rush hour — this second area, better performance, is particularly interesting, as beam steering/switching approaches turn traditional wireless negatives such as multi-path into more reliable, robust signal around your place. Streaming video from your set-top or home router to your experience devices (TV, music system, PC, gaming platform) does open up a world of possibilities.My prediction is the devices that come to your home this year and beyond will reset expectation for wireless and work, driving the next generation of business-class wireless to then make it scaleable, manageable, and of course, secure. Look to a 2008/2009 for this push into the Enterprise, just proving that history does repeat itself.The other key trend here is that the growing individualization of technology (some would call it consumerization) is upon us, reversing the traditional business-home technology migration curve that we saw in the computing industry. Or to borrow a little from former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Thomas P (TIP) O’Neill:”all technology is local.” At least now it is.