Market Segments & Domain Expertise
- Sleep Wellness
- Digital, Mobile & Modern Healthcare
- Data Networks
- Wireless Networks
- Voice Networks
- Entertainment Networks
- Control Networks
- Security Networks
- Home Network Wiring
- Fiber Optic Networks
- Residential Gateways
My 30-year IBM career from operations through systems engineering, marketing and strategy fueled my interest in very large IBM-scale opportunities. Sleep wellness is a natural fit for that since it’s so closely tied to our health, safety and performance, since over half of working adults don’t get enough quality sleep, and since the CDC has labeled sleep deprivation “a public health epidemic”. Over just the last 2-3 years, public awareness of this problem has been growing, producing immense opportunities for those with effective solutions. That’s why I’m working with Dr. Bruce Meleski at Intelligent Sleep.
After IBM, as I considered how to apply my skills, experience and insights to an important and growing problem, I founded Modern Health Talk to serve the Sandwich generation with information about Aging-in-Place and Home Healthcare. This website & blog is positioned at the intersection of several overlapping trends, including rising healthcare costs, pending health reform, aging baby boomers, broadband & wireless networks, remote sensor monitoring, mobile smartphones, and telehealth video conferencing, among others. I’ve enjoyed bring my tech perspective and consumer advocacy to debates around the future of healthcare.
The term “broadband” implies “fast,” or at least faster than dial-up, but what does it really mean? Internet apps that run on remote servers and then display the results locally (e.g. travel reservations and stock portfolio tracking) only need to transfer a screen of text or graphics, so they don’t need much bandwidth, at least not when compared to apps that run locally on your PC and download lots of data (e.g. music and video streaming). So, while dialup connections are fast enough for some apps, they aren’t fast enough for those that stream large amounts of content. Broadband lets you do more of the fun stuff, but it’s not just about speed. Providers are starting to converge data, entertainment and voice content with services that drive more subscriptions and generate more revenues. As people adopt broadband, they’ll next want to share the high-speed connection among other PCs. In other words, where broadband goes, home networks follow. See also:
- Big Broadband: Public Infrastructure or Private Monopolies
- Reviving the FORGOTTEN Information Superhighway
The home networking market is mostly driven by data networks that let several PCs share broadband connections, Internet access, printers, files, and other resources. Most of these networks are based on some form or Ethernet, either over Cat.5 cabling, existing phone lines (HomePNA), power lines (HomePlug), or radio signals (Wi-Fi). Because these data networks generally lack quality of service (QoS) guarantees, however, they can have problems supporting telephony apps with strict latency requirements, or entertainment apps with QoS requirements.
Wireless networks are popping up everywhere – in airports, coffee shops, even at McDonald’s. But it’s consumers, not enterprises or industry verticals, that have been driving sales of wireless networks, with over 60% of the total WLAN market. As PC and consumer devices get smaller and run on battery power, they need wireless networks to stay connected while moving about. So more than half of Internet households prefer wireless home networks, and since these devices be carried outside of the home, users want ways to connect from anywhere. That’s not easy, since today there are many wireless technologies to choose from, including Bluetooth, 802.11b, 802.11a, and 802.11g, as well as new ones emerging (802.11n, Ultra Wideband, ZigBee, Z-Wave). With so many standards competing for attention, choosing between them is difficult, even for people in the wireless industry. Help is on the way from new multimode, multi-band chip technologies that let products automatically sense and adapt to different wireless LAN and cellular networks. See also:
Wireless Internet usage is low now …
- Laptop installed base with wireless = 20%
- Users using wireless as their primary connection = 8%
- Users using public hotspots = 8%
- Users who have paid for public hotspot use = 4%
… But it’s growing
- New laptops shipped with wireless = 50%
- Forecast increase in laptop sales for next 2 years = 30%
- 9.3M users WW at YE’03, up from 2.5M YE’02.
- U.S. laptop users who have tried wireless = 18%
- WW growth in wireless Internet use = 145% (2002-2003)
- Consumers who know what Wi-Fi is = 70%
… And along with it, so is the wireless industry.
- 2003 sales growth for wireless gear = 120%
- WW hotspots = 42,000 (a/o 2Q 2004)
- Hotspot growth in past 9 months = 280%
Sources: JiWire, Jupiter Research, Forrester Research, IDC, NPD Techworld, and Pew Internet & American Life Project
There’s no world standard for the manufacture of cordless phones, so I’m disappointed with the recent demise of the HomeRF Working Group. HomeRF had many technical advantages over Wi-Fi, especially for voice and entertainment apps. It also fit into my vision of next generation phone systems and had the potential of becoming the global cordless phone standard. But HomeRF never got enough market traction to succeed in the face of overwhelming competition from Wi-Fi, even though Wi-Fi still can’t do what HomeRF could.
As entertainment content moves from analog to digital, it enables compression, encryption, and the ability to be sent across home networks and the Internet. But it also brings up all sorts of new issues, including terrestrial vs. cable and satellite, broadcast vs. video-on-demand (VOD), fee vs. free, digital rights management vs. fair use, artists and consumers vs. labels, set-top boxes (STB) as home media server vs. PCs as media server, the advertising business model vs. fee-based services, wireless distribution vs. wired, the convergence of entertainment content with voice and data, and much more. According to Allied Business Intelligence, 33.4M STBs were sold in 2002, with nearly 10% having digital video recorder (DVR) functionality. By 2008, they predict that 72.5M STBs will ship, and about 68% will have DVR capabilities.
Home automation networks control lighting, appliances, and temperature, with the objective of improving convenience, comfort, and safety, and also lowering utility costs. The many brands and models of devices makes the task of tying them into a coherent control network difficult, so this is usually done by a systems integrator. But new industry standards (even de facto ones like X10) are making is easier for do-it-yourselfers to install simple control networks. The components they need are available at retail outlets like Home Depot, as well as from specialized online outlets. Also, several consumer publications have appeared in the last few years to help people do it themselves. See also:
- “Home Systems: Home Controls – Seventh Edition” – Market research report written with Parks Associates
- “Home Automation Station”, for a two-page article about my home, published in the Austin American Statesman.
As with other types of home network, a wired system is generally cheaper, faster, more reliable, and more secure than wireless networks, but wiring may not be an option for retrofit application in existing homes. Whether using wiring or wireless, a security network connects sensors and actuators to a control device and possibly from there to a remote monitoring service. Inexpensive CCD and CMOS cameras have also made surveillance affordable and practical extensions of this network. And the leading security systems can now tie into voice and control networks, and also support remote access to these systems.
Some 42% of new homes already have “structured wiring” that includes category 5e cabling for phones and Ethernet and RG-6 cabling for TV, as well as a wiring distribution hub. But it’s not clear that this advanced wiring will outlast a 30-year mortgage, given the face of technology advancements. This fact and the large number of older homes suggests that there will always be a large retrofit market. Even the oldest homes have been able to adapt over time to disruptive technologies such as electricity, central heating & air conditioning, telephone service, cable TV, satellite service, and broadband data services. This retrofit was usually expensive since it required fishing wires through walls, ceilings, attics and basements. Looking forward, experts can’t predict where you’ll need wiring 10 years from now or what type of wire to use. That’s because embedded processors and network connections are going into everyday objects like dish washers, clothes dryers, and even Panasonic’s IntiMist smart toilet. In addition, new mobile and battery operated devices demand wireless connections. So, it’s best to view wireless as complementary to wired home networks. Check out “Future-Proofing Your Home: Is it Possible?” for more.
As fiber cabling extends closer to homes, the legacy copper and coax cabling gets shorter and therefore faster. While I do encourage deployment of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), I don’t yet agree with the “experts” that recommend its use inside. That’s because standards have not yet emerged for the media (glass vs. plastic fiber) or the connector, and because Cat-5e phone wiring already supports speeds up to 1Gbps, which is enough for my most aggressive 10-year application scenarios. Also, the speed of wireless networks and existing phone and power line networks will reach 100Mbps in a few years, in time for the apps that need that speed. But for longer term scenarios that we can’t yet imagine, I recommend installing empty conduit between floors since it makes it easier to run whatever new wires are needed later. See “LIGHTning Strikes Cause Bandwidth Glut.”
The RG is viewed as a “Holy Grail” for connecting broadband networks to home networks and for delivering a mix of services. Because market analysts can’t agree on what this device is and what services it enables, their RG market forecasts vary from $3 Billion to $7 Billion in 2007. Wayne Caswell was a coauthor of the first RG concept paper, along with Bellcore, B&C Consulting, David Sarnoff Research Center, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, GTE, and Reliance Comm/Tec., and he worked with various groups developing industry standards (such as HomeRF, ISO/IEC JTC1 SC25/WG1, OSGi, and TIA TR-41.5). The original vision of a multi-service gateway that interfaced with all of your service providers has been slow to market due to both political and logistical reasons, not technical ones. Instead, other gateway form factors have gotten more attention, including stand along service gateways, TV set-top gateways, PC gateway software, and more.