This week I attended a Conversation on Energy and How the Internet of Things Can Build Sustainable 21st Century Communities, hosted by Microsoft. A diverse panel of government, think tank, and industry representatives participated on a panel on this topic. It seems like everything today is about the “Internet of Things,” and this session explored how technology can help maximize energy efficiencies and savings.
Daniel Castro, Director of the Center for Data Innovation and author of the report The Internet of Things.
offered examples of technologies that are helping with energy efficiency, as well as having a positive economic impact. One example he mentioned was solar powered sensors on trash cans in order to streamline the trash collection process. Joseph Hagerman, U.S. Department of Energy discussed the development of smart appliances and devices and solving issues surrounding these products. He was also able to mention the research project on “trans-active energy,” in an effort to have a device be able to report on how energy is being used and make that process more efficient.
While much of the discussion focused around what cities and buildings are doing to use technology more efficiently, they briefly discussed the end user. For consumers of energy services, real time information is key. Having feedback and clear and constant information provided on energy use will help consumers change their behavior. Kevin Kampschroer, with the Government Services Administration also noted that it’s important to make the systems smarter. I agree that both of these points are important in order to engage consumers in energy efficiency efforts.
I had the great opportunity to hear a true innovator speak this week at the Wireless State of the Net Conference. The event featured a conversation with Martin Cooper, the inventor of the first wireless phone. It was fascinating to hear him tell the story of how he brought the first wireless phone to consumers.
Martin Cooper also discussed the issues in our wireless world today. He is very excited about how wireless can make a difference in healthcare and education. At the same time, he has some concerns that wireless phones are too hard to use for many consumers as well as how much wireless services cost. As well as how there isn’t enough motivation for lowering getting costs. He was also able to discuss spectrum and said there should be a national roadmap for spectrum in our country.
It was great to hear from the innovator who had the vision of wireless communications and understood the need for mobility for our communications. It’s amazing to think of how wireless has evolved since his first call on a portable cellular phone in 1973.
This week, I attended CES on the Hill, a mini Consumer Electronics Show for Members of Congress, their staff, media, and others in the Washington policy community. The show provided an opportunity for the electronics industry to showcase innovative technologies and demonstrate how they are changing the way consumers live and work today.
As I walked around and viewed the new products, I was impressed by the variety of innovations for consumers. There was an amazing television with Ultra HD that offers viewers a display that seems more visually beautiful than the real thing. I also saw a demonstration of a new HTC smartphone that has some great features – the camera alone is truly a great product. AT&T offered an interesting display which included highlights of the history of telephone devices, and demonstrated how much this industry has changed over the years.
One innovative device I thought was most interesting for consumers is the “mobile QWERTY.” It’s an ergonomic handheld keyboard that you can use while on the move. It’s designed to attach a smartphone or mini tablet to, and then you can type away using both hands (but without having to look at the keyboard) while walking, standing or sitting. It can also be used with any computer or other mobile device. It’s not only a convenient device for individuals who want to move around while writing, but it’s also a great device for accessibility needs, offering a tactile keyboard that is multifunctional. It was great to have the opportunity to see this innovative device first-hand at the CES on the Hill event.
I had an opportunity to hear FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s remarks before the Mobile Future event, “Designing for Spectrum Auction Success.” As always he made some excellent points about how important the upcoming incentive auction is for consumers. He said the stakes are high and there are two very important goals to be met: public safety and deficit reduction. Commissioner Pai stated that this auction could raise $20 billion, and given that Congress has already spent so much, failure to raise a maximum from this auction is not really an option.
Pai stressed the importance of robust competition in this auction, or as his FCC colleague always says, “competition, competition, competition.” Commissioner Pai is concerned, however, that there is a proposal on the table that would restrict competition. He is concerned that the FCC shouldn’t be in a position to pick any winners or losers; it’s not a fair and open auction if some carriers can bid and others cannot.
A panel of experts followed the Commissioner’s remarks and offered studies and analysis demonstrating that limiting bidding participation results in lower revenues. The paper, “Lessons Learned: Canada’s Experience with Set Asides and Caps in Spectrum Auctions,” was released at the panel. It examines the results of two recent spectrum auctions in Canada. The paper’s findings are interesting to consider in light of the upcoming FCC’s incentive spectrum auction:
The analysis concludes that exclusionary auction rules, such as spectrum set-asides or caps, prevent efficient competition and hinder investment in the state-of-the-art wireless networks and services that consumers are demanding. The report finds that the competitive handicapping of incumbents has done little to foster sustainable competition in the Canadian wireless market, instead leading to lost revenues and wasted government resources.
You can check out the paper here http://mobilefuture.org/resources/lessons-learned-canada/.
I recently read the letter that 78 Members of Congress sent this week to FCC Chairman Wheeler about some important issues related to the upcoming spectrum incentive auction. The Members want to ensure that the auction meets the critically important spectrum provisions in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. The three primary goals of that Act are to 1) fund a public safety network, 2) meet consumers growing demand for mobile broadband by re-purposing broadcast spectrum, and 3) generate funds to reduce the national debt.
The Members emphasized in their letter that it is important for the FCC to maximize participation in the spectrum auction by both broadcasters (to relinquish their spectrum) and bidders. It states, “in fact, inviting as many bidders as possible to compete in an open and fair auction on equal terms will allow for the full market price for spectrum to be realized and, in turn, lead to higher compensation to incent greater broadcaster participation resulting in more spectrum for the auction.”
The success of the spectrum auction is an important issue for consumers. As the letter from the Members of Congress indicates, more spectrum is needed to meet the exploding consumer demand for new and innovative mobile broadband technologies. The wireless industries’ ability to innovate and continue to meet the needs of its wireless consumers will depend on the availability of spectrum. The letter from the Members of Congress highlights the major issues of importance for the upcoming spectrum auction.
I attended a panel discussion, hosted by ITIF (The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation), all about how the world of transportation is undergoing a dramatic transformation thanks to innovations in technology.
A panel of representatives from both the automotive industry and the tech world spoke about how the transportation industry has begun to incorporate technologies that help make our cars safer, while also reducing some problems such as traffic congestion. Consumers need to care about the delivery of these new innovative technologies, because they make our cars safer with many exciting new features. The industry is finding that consumers are increasingly demanding connected car.
A hot topic on the panel is that we are now connecting everything, or as Mary Brown of Cisco stated, we are in a time of the “Internet of Everything” and our cars are definitely a part of this connected world. With these connected cars, and other IT devices, comes a greater demand on spectrum – and everything needs to be “enabled.” Brown emphasized it is critical that we get a sufficient amount of spectrum for the Internet of today and tomorrow; more spectrum is needed.
In addition to the panel discussion, we had an opportunity to see a demonstration of a new concept vehicle from Toyota, the i-Road. It is a new front-drive, zero emission, and electric powered vehicle. It will be helpful in reducing congestion in urban areas. I’ve included a picture of the i-Road below.
ITIF also released a paper on this topic, “The Road Ahead: The Emerging Policy Debates for IT in Vehicles.”
There was an interesting event on the topic of older adults and technology use this week that presented some initial findings from a survey conducted by John Horrigan, PhD. The program was hosted by the Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute (ACLP), at the New York Law School.
Horrigan’s survey and study, “Closing the Digital Divide: How Seniors are Navigating the Digital Divide,” offers some important information regarding how the Internet impacts older individuals’ lives and what they primarily do when they are connected. Not surprisingly, when older adults are connected and use the Internet, they find it quite valuable to their daily lives. In response to the question, “How hard would it be to give up one of these devices in your home (Internet, cable, cell phone, landline phone, or newspaper),” more people responded that it would be very hard to give up the Internet – even more difficult than their phone or cable service! Now that’s value! Speaking of value, the greatest reason mentioned as to why they subscribed to an Internet service was to make it easier to communicate with family and friends. Getting – and staying – connected with family and friends is most certainly a top priority for older individuals and the online world is recognized as an excellent tool to help facilitate communications.
Another initial key finding of the survey is that training in using the Internet and digital devices led to higher levels of impact and online use. Digital literacy programs have been shown to be key components in helping older adults get online – and stay online.
The final study based on the survey results will be released in a couple of weeks and I look forward to reading more about Horrigan’s important findings.
I attended a panel on the Hill this week hosted by NetCompetition entitled “Thinking and Starting Anew: Modernizing Communications Law for American Consumers.”
Scott Cleland, NetCompetition, kicked-off the panel with remarks and the statement that “consumers, not technology, should be the organizing principle and top priority in modernizing communications law.” He stated that modern law should build on the principles of competition, consumer protection, universal connectivity, and public safety. One concluding remark he made that I found compelling is that the most modern part of the U.S. economy (telecommunications and technology) is burdened with the most obsolete laws and obligations.
The consumer organization representatives on the panel offered their thoughts on the topic. Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation of America, provided an interesting historical perspective on the evolution of public service principles and the economic conditions in communications. Cooper’s principles include seamless interconnection and interoperability, marketplace protections – free from concentration, universal service, and consumer protections. Gene Kimmelman, Public Knowledge, spoke more practically about what it might take to advance a Telecom Act Update. He spoke about getting a bipartisan team together with key committee members and industry players (and other key parties) to map out an approach. Hal Singer, Progressive Policy Institute, raised several important points:
1) Current regulations are based on a monopoly regime, and it’s time to make the cut.
2) There are horizontal and vertical regulations
3) A few providers are sufficient for competition in this industry; we don’t need, and can’t support, too many.
The emphasis on the panel was most certainly on consumers, but also on the need to reform regulations. I’m sure the discussion and debate on this topic will continue for some time to come.
I had the great experience this week of attending a 1776 fireside chat with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. Her remarks were spot on and so intelligent on all the telecom issues confronting consumers today.
First, she had us all in panic when she asked if we could imagine our lives without wireless technology. Of course we can’t begin to imagine what each day would be like without first reaching for our wireless device of choice. Her point, however, is the spectrum we need to support our wireless devices is not unlimited. As we use our devices more, and with the growing demand for mobile data, we need more spectrum – now and most certainly in the future. She also spoke passionately about technology and education. Commissioner Rosenworcel is leading the charge to reform e-rate, to increase the speed of the high-speed connections for schools, and to help improve the application process. I always appreciate an opportunity to hear the Commissioner speak about these important and valuable issues for consumers.
I attended a great Washington Post Live event this week on the Internet of things… or how all “things” are now becoming connected. The “All Things Connected Forum” brought together speakers to discuss economic, technology, policy, and consumer issues related to the innovations that are transforming the way machines communicate with each other. These transformations are making radical changes to transportation, health, and our homes.
Michael Mandel, Chief Economic Strategist with the Progressive Policy Institute, first discussed how these connected technologies are having a positive impact on our economy. His major point was that the Internet of things is a major job creator. It will make an enormous difference to productivity growth and living standards. Mandel has policy memo on this topic, “Can the Internet Bring Back the High-Growth Economy?”
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke about the importance of consumers’ right to know what data is being collected, and to have a choice about how that information is used. A panel of privacy experts continued to discuss this issue later in the Forum. I found the session that explored the new technologies in our connected world fascinating. The session, “Man+Toaster+Internet =Revolution?” explored the issue of how the Internet of Things has impacted health, home, and transportation. The tech panelists provided examples of how our connected things will allow us to age in place, have safer transportation with connected cars, develop improvements in medical care, realize energy savings and efficiencies in our connected homes, and much more.
The final panel returned to the issue of privacy, addressing concerns regarding the data that is collected with all our connected devices. FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen believes that regulators should practice “regulatory humility” and become educated about technology and understand the benefits as well as the risks. I agree with her thought that the biggest risk for the Internet of Things is regulatory overreaction, which can hurt innovation. The Commissioner continued with the thought that the government can get overly proscriptive and that can lead to inadvertently harming consumers. Finally, Jules Polonetsky, Future Privacy Forum, raised an interesting point about new technology: what initially may seem creepy sometimes becomes the service or device we can’t do without. Initially, consumers were concerned and wary about Called ID, now it’s something we all rely on and want, regardless of initial privacy concerns.
The All Things Connected Forum was a great and informative program. I think the “future of things” looks bright.