IoT Developers Celebrate Earth Day by Saving the World

It’s Earth Day, a day set aside to remind everyone that we should probably put some effort into not ruining the one planet we have available, and the IoT industry has stepped up to save the world from going to the Dark Side. No hyperbole.

According to Vivint, a smart home tech developer, Americans lose $443 billion a year on wasted home energy. The company created an interactive infographic full of tips for creating a net-zero energy home with M2M integrations. Check it out here. Some of the tips include: installing smart toilets that help you monitor flush water volumes, smart thermostats can save 30 percent of your home’s consumption, a 5kW solar panel system running for seven hours per day can power the average home and installing energy recovery ventilators can defray massive HVAC costs around the home.

It’s not all about encouraging better use, either. Daintree Networks, a smart buildings networks and operations solutions provider, is trying to encourage development, too. On April 22, it launched its 2015 Energy Champion Awards, which will recognize the efforts of those in the industry that are driving energy savings by using technologies and processes to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings. The nomination process is open and the company will announce the winners in October during National Energy Awareness Month. There will be two winners. The Thought Leader award will be given to the person who has made the biggest impact in raising awareness for the need to save energy in the commercial sector in the last 12 months. The End User award will be granted to the individual whose efforts have reaped the greatest demonstrated results in terms of reduced energy consumption and overall energy savings within their company.

Image via Wikimedia

“As an advocate of open standards-based solutions for smart buildings, we feel it's important to recognize both those that are championing the need to save energy and the champions in these efforts,” said Danny Yu, CEO, Daintree Networks. “We look forward to highlighting the achievements of those that share our passion for energy conservation and the future of our planet.”

In the agricultural space, gThrive, which provides real-time irrigation information to farmers to help farmers manage their resources, has made its Field Monitoring Solution for Growers available to the general growing marketplace. The solution sends a user’s mobile device information about moisture, temperature, salinity, and sunlight conditions in the fields so farmers can better manage energy, water, and fertilizer consumption. That way they can reduce costs and environmental impact while increasing yield and profit margins. gThrive puts portable, wireless gStakes into the fields to collect data. The data gets sent to a gLink base station to relay the info into the cloud, where it can be accessed through the mobile app.

“Plants first put down roots. From their roots, plants get the resources to grow and produce. Our solution provides ground truth: what's going on in the soil,” said Bruce Borden, CEO, gThrive. “We want growers to have more data from more places in their field.”

To wrap up: what about the bees?

Honeybees are dying all over the world, and without bees it has become a pretty common adage that humans are mostly doomed. To avoid that end, vendors Eltopia and Gemalto on April 22 announced a M2M solution called MiteNot, which seeks to measure hive conditions and predict Varroa destructor mite breeding cycles, which is one major cause of honeybee death.

Colony Collapse Disorder threatens honey bees and a specific cause has not been identified by researchers. This MiteNot solution is a pesticide-free way to remove Varroa destructor mites in bee hives by sterilizing mites to eliminate them. To use it, beekeepers put a compostable circuit board into the hive that senses the stages of the bee brood reproductive cycles and applies heat at a specific temperature and time to sterilize mites, if present.

It’s still in the research, development and testing phase. Eltopia is looking for commercial beekeepers and academic institutions to participate in additional testing. If the testing continues to be positive, Eltopia hopes to make it available by fall 2015.

“We are confident that we will be able to bring MiteNot to market,” said Will MacHugh, CEO, Eltopa. “It will be an excellent affordable and non-toxic alternative for both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers to eliminate Varroa destructor mites.”

Help us, Obi Wan IoT Kenobis. You’re our only hope. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Google’s New Wireless Service: Big Bang or No Big Thing?

The highly anticipated wireless service from Google becomes a reality today, as the Wall Street Journal has confirmed the release of what may or may not bring U.S. service providers to their knees.

Specifically it’s the manner of Google’s move into cellular territory that could have the big four—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile—looking over their shoulders. Suspicion that Google’s wireless customers will only pay for data they use has been confirmed, a model that would appear to be far more cost-efficient for customers than current roll-over systems. This also prevents massive added fees that come with exceeding data limits. An additional feature that could help save customers some money is calling made available over Wi-Fi.

Nevertheless, the big four seem relatively comfortable with the news at the moment. Sprint and T-Mobile are selling the Internet juggernaut access to their networks, and the Nexus 6 that will be made available to Google’s wireless customers is capable of bouncing between these networks as needed. Volume caps will prevent the service from getting too large. If Google’s wireless offer takes off, contracts will have to be renegotiated. 

While some might see Sprint and T-Mobile, both lagging behind AT&T and Verizon, as having made a deal with the devil, Google’s release doesn’t have all the marks of a Greek tragedy for cellular carriers—yet.  As of now, the service has great potential to offer more affordable prices, the key word here being “potential,” but is that enough? The Nexus 6 is a cool device, but customers who love their Androids and iPhones won’t jump ship unless it will save them a lot of golden doubloons.

Image via Shutterstock

But say Google’s prices, which have yet to be unveiled, are significantly cheaper than current offerings. The big four could come up against a big fifth. And if Google succeeds at building a loyal customer base, which would validate pumping billions of dollars into making the physical infrastructure for their own network, they would be in a frighteningly powerful position.

Google wears a lot of hats these days, and even though it never looked good in cellular, they’ve been known to pull rabbits out of more unassuming places. This slowly unfolding story is cluttered with a whole lot of huge “ifs,” and the day they become “whens,” is the day that the cellular service industry changes forever. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Analytics Provide Insight: What Users Want From Your App

Analytics Provide Insight: What Users Want From Your App

April 16, 2015

While Google and Apple may tout the number of mobile apps each have available in their respective stores – around one and a half million each – what they’re not trumpeting is that most of those apps are poorly or even never used. While not all apps are created equal (some seem to exist for very little purpose), this is a discouraging trend.

According to marketing analytics company Localytics, about one in five of all apps that are downloaded are opened just once. (This is actually an improvement over 2012, when the figure was one in four.) What this means is that users are not finding them compelling enough to continue to use them. The better-used apps (though that had high rates of “app stickiness”) were those with constantly updated content, such as weather and social networking. Sports and games apps, on the other hand, have a lot of competition and often suffer from bugs, boring content and a lack of updates. The message? Users like highly reactive, regularly updated apps that offer new information hourly. Building an app isn’t some kind of

Image via Shutterstock

miracle bridge to mobile customer engagement.

For those who do achieve an app that leads to brilliant mobile customer engagement, resting on their laurels simply isn’t possible. Thousands of new apps are introduced daily, and competition is fierce. So what’s the secret to building and maintaining a brilliant app? Allow customers to do with your app what they want, not what you want. This may involve conducting analytics testing to understand what customers want, according to Richard Smith, VP of Business Development at Boston Technology Corporation, writing for Business2Community.

“It might need analytics to be drawn out of what users are doing with your app on an ongoing basis,” wrote Smith. “This would help you to be cognizant of evolving trends and customer expectations in your area of business and give you insights that you can act upon to stay competitive.”

Smith notes that embedding tracker codes in apps to facilitate data analytics is a small investment that can yield great returns. It can help organizations yield intelligent insights from app usage information that will allow them to make big changes or small adjustments as needed. Examples of the helpful things that can be tracked include: how often do customers require live help when they’re inside the app, and how much trouble is it for them to get it? Which platforms are accounting for the most downloads of your app? Which features of your apps are best (or most seldom) used? At which point are users most likely to discontinue using your app?

By using analytics to better determine what customers want, your app is less likely to be one of those permanently left on the shelf, or downloaded only to be quickly discarded. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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BlackBerry’s BES12 Proves Communications Platform of Choice for CarePartners

Home healthcare providers have made some significant gains over the years, especially as the demographic shift in the United States and beyond starts to favor the elderly. This has led to firms such as CarePartners stepping in to offer services to a graying population, and with that, comes a need to supply such firms with tools to better provide services. CarePartners took advantage of BlackBerry's BES12 system to step up its communications capabilities within the operation.

More specifically, CarePartners turned to CellTrak's VisitManager system, which runs on BlackBerry 10 smartphones, and is managed by BES12, BlackBerry's enterprise mobility management (EMM) tool that works with several different operating systems. CarePartners went in on the system in a big way, according to reports, issuing BlackBerry 10 smartphones with the system included to over 4,000 employees currently in CarePartners' mobile workforce.

So what drew CarePartners' interest in this system? The sheer range of functions VisitManager could offer probably had a lot to do with it. VisitManager allows users to access patient information, securely, from a BlackBerry 10 device, and allows said users to update those records based on results obtained from the home visits. Calendar access allows for quick changes to a schedule, or establishment of future schedules, on the fly, while at the same time knowing just where to proceed to next. This allows for easy, secure communication between the workers in the field and those who perform the necessary back-office functions on site.

But that wasn't the only new connection between CarePartners and BlackBerry, according to reports. CarePartners is also set to move to BES12 to offer secure management for the deployment of the BlackBerry 10 smartphones, and allow for the support of several different mobile deployment models including the popular bring your own device (BYOD) doctrine being used in many offices today.

CarePartners' manager for organizational change, Kelly Baechler, offered up some comment on what pushed CarePartners to BlackBerry: “With the CellTrak solution on BlackBerry, we have realized greater scheduling efficiency and a drastic reduction in missed visits for our patients. Having real-time access to patient care plans has allowed us to provide the highest quality care. It was important to us to implement an EMM solution that gives us strict device management and the ability to provide management of a variety of devices, and that meets the security needs for healthcare. With BES12, we have control over our devices and we know our data is protected.”

Basically, it seems to have been a combination of factors. Any time someone starts talking about a device deployment strategy that involves several thousand users, like this one did, it generally doesn't take long to start considering factors of device management as well. The BlackBerry approach handles several different types of deployment strategy, but at the same time, also allows access to the services that CarePartners' field users would find useful. Throw in the security of information, and the whole move just makes that much more sense.

It should prove interesting to see if this works out for CarePartners, and if it gives BlackBerry the badly-needed shot in the arm, so to speak, it needs after so many losses in the consumer market. But for right now, BlackBerry seems to have a very happy new customer in CarePartners.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

China Witnessed a Rise in 2014 Carrier Router and Switch Market, While North America Saw a Drop

April 16, 2015

By Joe Rizzo SIP Trunking Report Contributing Writer

Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) represent two of the more dramatic technology shifts in networking. Both will significantly alter network designs, deployments, operations and future networking and computing systems. Some of the key drivers include improved network service levels and lower operating and capital costs.

One question that it brings to mind is what effect this will have on the router and switch market. The latest quarterly report from Infonetics titled “Service Provider Routers and Switches (2015 Edition)” shows that on a worldwide basis the service provider router and switch revenue, which totaled $14.6 billion in 2014, remained unimpressively flat year-over-year.

As you can see from the following chart China and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) did witness some growth, but Japan, along with the rest of Asia Pacific regions and North America all saw a decline, the largest being 21 percent.

Source: Infonetics Research

More Carrier Router and Switch Market Highlights:

  • Worldwide service provider router and switch revenue was $3.8 billion in 4Q14, up two percent on a quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year basis
  • Sales in the core router segment dipped five percent in 2014 from the previous year as expected due to the volume of capacity already “in the ground”
  • Carriers in North America exercised caution in their router/switch spending in 2014, sending revenue down seven percent from 2013
  • However, the other major geographical regions, EMEA, Asia Pacific and Latin America, were in positive territory in 2014.
  • China came to the rescue of a flat 2014 Asian telecom economy with a double digit increase over the previous year
  • On the whole in 2014 and 4Q14, the top four router and CES manufacturers, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Huawei and Juniper, stayed in dominant positions, together taking 85 percent of revenue

According to the report’s author and principle analyst for carrier networks at Infonetics, Michael Howard, “We’ve been talking about this for the past year and it’s still true: the enormity of the coming SDN-NFV transformation is making carriers more cautious with their spending. But this does not mean that router and switch spending will take a sizeable downturn. Rather, we look for the market to slowly climb to $17 billion in 2019, a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just over three percent—unchanged from our previous forecasts.”

For most telecom carriers, managing SDN and NFV is difficult in light of the considerable investments they have made in Operations Support Systems (OSS)/Business Support Systems (BSS) and their infrastructure. As the migration continues, toward SDN and NFV, with the belief that it will breathe new life into traditional network configurations offering greater agility and flexibility, we will have to see how it continues to effect the router and switch market.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

European Union Files Antitrust Suit Against Google

Over the years, Google has been hit with a variety of antitrust suits from various countries and regulatory committees. A few years ago the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a federal antitrust lawsuit which resulted in Google agreeing to make voluntary changes to its search business. However, earlier this year, officials at the FTC concluded that in 2012 Google used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and rivals—a more severe analysis of Google’s business than was previously known. It went from what could be considered a slap on the wrist to the possibility of severe consequences.

Now a similar situation is unfolding across the pond, and the EU is going for Google’s jugular. After years of investigation and three attempted settlements, Google is facing formal antitrust charges. The EU’s former competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, attempted on three separate occasions to reach an agreement with Google, however the plaintiffs—Microsoft and Yelp among them—protested the settlements did not go far enough.

Image via Shutterstock 

The European Commission has recently charged Google with abusing its dominant position in Internet search services in Europe by systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product, Google Shopping. Google’s response was that the company practices were serving customers better by saving them time and effort.

However, as CNN Money explains, “People searching for "running watch" will see photos, prices, ratings and links to five watches from companies that paid Google to advertise on the site. They won't see Amazon or other rivals' results listed first, and they're not necessarily seeing the best or most relevant products at the top of the results.”

As a result, Google faces a fine of up to $6 billion, which represents more than a quarter's worth of profits, or up to 10 percent of the company’s annual turnover. This would mark the first time that formal charges are being brought against Google by the EU. Under EU rules, Google will have 10 weeks to respond to the allegations and call a hearing to present a defense.

The new Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said "It's not based on the merits of Google shopping that it always comes up first in search. Dominant companies can't abuse their dominant position to create advantage in related markets."

In addition to this antitrust lawsuit, the Commission has also opened a separate antitrust investigation into Google’s Android OS. The claim here is that Google is abusing its dominant position by requiring device manufacturers to bundle its own services and applications with the open-source operating system.

The following two complaints have been filed:

  • Google requires that smartphone and tablet manufacturers exclusively pre-install Google applications on their devices, which could be anti-competitive, as it would prevent rivals from being successful.
  • Google is suspected of having prevented manufacturers who want to use Google apps from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android on other devices.

Commissioner Vestager, said “It is the Commission's objective to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not stifle innovation or artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible. There are concerns that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Movement Grows for Fresh Look at TCPA Regulations

When the Telephone Consumer Protect Act (TCPA) was passed in 1991, it was not without its share of detractors. While consumers tired of unsolicited dinnertime telephone calls got a little relief from the law, in the 24 years since it was passed, it has been amended several times to reflect changing technology (automated outbound calls, or “robocalls,” plus the proliferation of mobile devices) and to tighten rules.

Many companies and telecommunication organizations believe it’s time to revisit the TCPA in an effort to clarify some of its regulations. These groups are being joined by at least one Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) commissioner. On April 1, 2015, in his remarks before the Association of National Advertisers, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly urged the agency to address a backlog of petitions requesting clarification of its TCPA regulations and urged the FCC to take action, according to Wilson Barmeyer, Irene Firippis and Lewis Weiner writing for the website JD Supra Business Advisor.

“Commissioner O’Rielly noted that the pending petitions request the FCC’s clarification on key issues such as the definition of autodialer and liability for calls and texts sent to reassigned cell phone numbers,” wrote the authors. “According to Commissioner O’Rielly, the lack of clarity and increased court filings have ‘broadened the scope of the TCPA,’ which in turn has increased TCPA litigation risks for companies. As a result of the uncertainty, Commissioner O’Rielly noted that businesses avoid contacting their existing customers or clients, even if the purpose of the call could help the customer.”

Some companies, afraid that they may be violating TCPA regulations unknowingly, are skipping reaching out to their customers at all for fear of racking up fees. At the same time, companies that have built proactive outbound outreach into their marketing programs are experiencing success … as long as they don’t step over the line set by the TCPA.

In acknowledging the concerns of consumers, Commissioner O’Rielly said that the goal was not to weaken the TCPA, and that clarifications would address “timely and relevant communications.” Providing a nod to the real problem of poorly targeted, repetitive and illegal robocalling, the commissioner said the differences between illegal players and legitimate companies need to be defined.

“[W]e can’t paint all legitimate companies with the brush that every call from a private company is a form of harassment,” said O’Rielly in his address. “It is time for the FCC to act to provide clear rules of the road that will benefit everyone, and that means acting on TCPA petitions before us.”

New Enhancements Rolled Out for WFO Product Suite

New Enhancements Rolled Out for WFO Product Suite

April 16, 2015


A contact center workforce optimization (WFO) and analytics software developer has launched new enhancements for its WFO software. The Calabrio (News - Alert) ONE suite of contact center WFO software is comprised of a range of tools to help companies enhance productivity and deliver better experiences to their customers.

The four main products in the suite offer comprehensive functionality for call recording, quality management, analytics and workforce management. All of the company’s solutions are fully customizable and scalable to adapt to changing business and industry needs. Furthermore, the company provides comprehensive support services to catalyze the rapid deployment of its personalized solutions and deliver unprecedented business value.

“Product innovation is the beating heart of Calabrio's development efforts. This latest software release is strong evidence that our 'heart' is as robust as ever,” said Tom Goodmanson (News - Alert), President and CEO of Calabrio. “We've added important new features that free contact center managers from mundane tasks, allowing them to focus more of their time on strategic activities. Not only will our new enhancements and features streamline administrative efforts, they will lead to cost-savings through smoother and faster contact center administration.”

With the latest set of enhancements, this upgrade boasts new automated processes such as Intraday Dynamic Scheduling and Automatic Evaluation Queues to improve efficiency and free up employees’ time for focusing on other matters. The workforce management product now includes automated request approvals as well as audit trails and reports to help manage staffing levels while providing employees with better feedback and advice. Its quality management tools rely less on ActiveX and are thus less subject to security gaps, thanks to the inclusion of integration with Avaya (News - Alert) IP Office Support, Avaya Call Reconciliation and WEbM Screen Recording. Other upgrades in this area include enhancements to post-call surveys, more flexible evaluation comments and improved one-on-one coaching and mentoring.

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference Kicks Off June 8

Apple today announced it will hold its 26th annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 8 through June 12 at San Francisco’s Moscone West, with more sessions than ever before streamed live to developers worldwide. WWDC will feature more than 100 technical sessions, over 1,000 Apple engineers, hands-on labs, and the Apple Design Awards. “The App Store ignited an app ecosystem that is simply amazing, forever changing the lives of customers and creating millions of jobs worldwide,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We’ve got incredible new technologies for iOS and OS X to share with developers at WWDC and around the world, and can’t wait to see the next generation of apps they create.”