Why is this page text-only?


App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

« April 2007 | Main | June 2007 »

May 2007 Archives

May 1, 2007 7:39 AM

Expo Musings: Fun for All Ages

What better way to start a conference then having standing room only in all Day 1 sessions? How about being able to witness firsthand how an event like the Killer App Expo can ignite the imagination of the public.

That happened to me during the Community Night we hosted last night where we opened the doors to the Exhibit Hall for free to the citizens of Fort Wayne.

I saw families sitting down and enjoying a rollicking game of Wii Sports.

I saw Tom Miller, a Fort Wayne teleworker who’s speaking on our telecommuting panel today, there with his wife, mom, and dad.

I saw a young boy standing next to me, wide-eyed and transfixed on the screen in our Applications Theater on a demo of Quest Atlantis, an online 3D world for 4th-6th graders to learn about art, the environment, and more.

Everyone was enjoying themselves during a fun-filled evening powered by broadband and enabled by applications.

Sure YouTube is great, and TV shows coming online is nice, but where the real future of the Internet lies is in applications. Not limited to a narrow niche of techies, but applications that inspire the masses and enable them to live a better life.

Now I’m off to help make sure the rest of the Expo can live up to the high bar we set on Day 1.

May 8, 2007 1:07 PM

Reflections on the Expo

Expo Reflections

With the Expo come and gone, I’ve had some time to reflect on the events that transpired there and what they may portend on a grander scale.

1. Broadband as utility. As I invited people to speak in Fort Wayne, I encouraged them to leave Powerpoint behind and show off their broadband apps running live. When network issues sporadically dropped session rooms from 15Mbps to less than 200Kbps, I came to quickly respect one way in which broadband is increasingly becoming like a utility: the need for it to work whenever you turn it on.

This isn’t an argument for commoditized networks that act as nothing more than dumb pipes but instead an effort to stress how important reliability has become for businesses built on broadband, like, for example, a conference about broadband applications.

(Thanks to a bevy of great speakers and nimble moderators the network issues were not a major problem, and things were going well enough the morning of May 1st to support live demos of videoconferencing by Adobe Connect and SightSpeed, home movie editing by StashSpace.com, security camera access through a mobile phone by SecureCom, an eICU robot for remote patient monitoring, and a walkthrough of two electronic medical record systems.)

2. So many and so few applications. I managed to fill up two and a half days worth of sessions with nearly 90 speakers covering everything from telemedicine to egovernment to consumer applications, and we were really only scratching the surface. Every individual session could’ve filled up a conference of its own, and due to the constraints of time we had to leave a number of notable topics on the cutting room floor. Broadband applications have the potential to touch upon basically all facets of society.

Yet at the same time, I couldn’t ignore the sense of how nascent the market for broadband applications really is. Even for applications featuring mature technologies that represent multiple years of development, rarely do you find an application developer who has captured a significant fraction of their potential customer base. Some of this has to do the continually expanding marketplace; some with developers’ focus on development over marketing. But all in all the sense I got was that we have a long ways to go before society is able to reap the full benefits of the 21st century broadband-empowered economy.

3. Network operators and applications developers working together. My personal goal for the Expo was to try and facilitate as many conversations between network operators and applications developers as possible. I’m a firm believer that where we’re going to start seeing a lot of exciting things happening with broadband applications is when the developers of these applications are able to come together and partner with network operators.

One of the highlights for me at the Expo was the session we had on the morning of May 2nd about just this subject. On this panel we had Ken Tysell, executive director of Three Screen Services for AT&T;; Lars Krumme, EVP for HomeMovie.com/StashSpace.com; and Scott Lomond, president and COO of SightSpeed all sharing the same stage discussing why it’s a great thing for both sides to work together (more effective marketing for developers, greater innovation for network operators in the services they can offer) and how best to establish and grow these relationships (start with a purely marketing arrangement to test customer demand for an application, then explore opportunities for tighter integration).

You’ll be hearing a lot more about this nexus of applications and networks over the coming months both on AppRising and in my articles for KillerApp.com. From left to right we've got Scott Lomond, Ken Tysell, Lars Krumme, and that's me pontificating at the podium.

May 11, 2007 9:58 AM

Video Interviews from the Expo - Part 1

One very positive aspect of the Expo I have not yet mentioned was the involvement of the guys from TechnologyEvangelist.com, a very savvy blog with the tagline, “Better Living Through Technology.”

They came out to Fort Wayne to capture the action equipped with an impressive array of HD video production equipment. We set them up in the exhibit hall and they proceeded to capture interviews with a variety of exhibitors and speakers.

They’ve begun posting the edited video from those interviews, and I wanted to share them with you all. So without further adieu, here’s an interview with Cameron Clarke, CEO of Vodium, a DC-based online communications company:

Two things in particular jumped out at me while watching this interview:

1. Cameron is spot on in his vision for the need to make online video, especially longer videos, more searchable and in doing so more usable and relevant. The great thing about search engines like Google is that they don’t just search based on the title but instead can drill down through all the words in a document or a webpage.

Video, generally, doesn’t have that luxury. Most video search is based on metadata, which are keywords inputted by whoever posts the video that aim to describe its contents. The only problem is what if the person trying to find this video doesn’t think up the same keywords as the person who uploaded it? And even if you’re able to find the video, what happens if it’s an hour long but you only need to watch a particular two minutes to get the information you need?

Vodium has developed a compelling solution for overcoming these challenges by synching old-fashioned human transcription directly to the video and making that text searchable. What this can enable, then, is when you do a Google search and a Vodium-enabled presentation comes up in the results, when you click on that link you’re able to jump right into a video at the exact moment the words you were searching for were spoken.

2. The other tidbit I couldn’t ignore was Cameron’s comment about how with their new platform they’re now able to deliver a rich media presentation over as little as 220Kbps of bandwidth.

Doing more with less has been a necessary evil for applications developers in order to reach the widest range of “broadband” customers. The fact that they’ve been able to drive bandwidth demands of rich media content down almost to the 200Kbps level that the FCC has defined as “broadband” is remarkable.

Yet it also saddens me to some degree. I can’t help thinking: what would their application be like if some of the energy they devoted into doing more with less was instead applied to seeing what’s possible when you can do more with more.

As network operators continue to roll out advanced next-gen networks, we’re rapidly leaving the era of bandwidth scarcity and in some areas leapfrogging directly into a world of abundant bandwidth.

The thing I’m dying to see during this transition is the day when applications developers like Cameron aren’t just talking about how little their bandwidth requirements are but instead how much their applications demand from the networks they’re delivered over.

I want someone to say, “You can’t run my application unless you have at least 10Mbps to the home.”

May 16, 2007 9:27 AM

The Internet Not Ready for Streaming Video to the Masses

It’s a beautiful day here in NYC as I’m in attendance at Streaming Media East, a three day conference focused on the business and technology of delivering video over the Internet.

I’m a contributing editor for StreamingMedia.com, and often find myself writing about the challenges of creating a business through online video, in particular as it relates to delivering that content to large audiences.

I had a chance to listen to a session earlier today called, “Is P2P the Answer to Large Scale Video Delivery?”

I’ll get more into P2P (aka peer-to-peer technology like BitTorrent) in a later post.

But what I wanted to share with you now was a thought expressed by Monty Mullig, SVP, Internet Technologies for Turner Broadcasting Systems.

To quickly frame his comment, Turner primarily uses content delivery networks (CDNs) to deliver video on its websites, like CNN.com. CDNs manage huge networks of servers that help facilitate the delivery of content to large audiences, relieving the burden of having to manage servers from content owners while increasing their overall capacity and geographic reach. Two of the biggest CDNs are Akamai and Limelight Networks.

But despite huge investments by companies like these to increase their capacity, Mullig was adamant in his belief that even if you were using all of the big CDNs, you wouldn’t be able to support a million people trying to watch the same video at the same time. (His estimate of overall concurrent capacity was in the 600-700,000 user range.)

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this sentiment expressed, but it was one of the clearest statements I’ve heard made about the current state of the Internet and its ability to handle mass market audiences.

Generally speaking this isn’t much of a problem as rarely do that many people log on to watch video at the exact same time. And this limitation relates primarily to live streaming video rather than any on-demand content.

Yet even still, it’s remarkable to think that ten years into video on the Internet and following literally hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, and the Internet still can’t handle reaching an audience that isn’t even big enough to qualify as a marginal TV show.

The Internet is often touted as the ultimate mass market medium as it knows no geographic boundaries, offering a global stage for content. But we can’t forget that as a mass market medium, the Internet has some significant limitations that we’re likely to start bumping into on a more regular basis as the number of people online consuming video continues to rise.

May 23, 2007 12:34 PM

The Peak Capacity Building Conundrum

In this interview taken at the Killer App Expo, the Technology Evangelist guys have a conversation with Larry Irving, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance and giver of a rousing keynote address on the morning of May 2nd.

Among the many good points Larry makes about the need for continued investment in networks – something that IIA extols the virtues of regularly – a comment of his about peak vs. non-peak hours caught my attention.

To step back for a second, my grandpa’s been in the power plant building business for 50 years, and we often have discussions about energy related issues. While I often extol the virtues of alternative energy sources like wind and solar, he always comes back to the simple fact that despite the growth of these alternatives, when you’re building a coal-fired power plant you still have to design it so that it can handle peak loads for times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

The same basic principle holds true for various parts of the Internet: when building out capacity, peak loads of simultaneous users are what matter more than cumulative use.

The challenge of the Internet, though, is that the number of people trying to use it is in a constant state of flux.

True, there are usage trends that generally hold on a day to day basis, like the fact Internet traffic is often at its peak during the daytime hours when people are at their desks at work. And overall growth in usage seems to be following a pretty clear trajectory (I’ll work on finding more specific info about this for a later post).

The beauty of the Internet is its distinctly democratic nature, allowing anyone at any moment to go online and access content or run applications. But herein lies the rub: at any moment everyone can go online. Or more precisely, everyone can try to go online.

We’ve seen the results of what can happen when everyone wants to access the same content at the same time. Just look at 9-11 and how a number of major news sites went down, succumbing to the crush of people desperately seeking more information about what was going on.

The really challenging part is that while the Internet as a whole is extremely resilient and adaptable, the individual networks, servers, routers, and the like have physical limitations that can easily overwhelmed.

And while everyone who owns and operates the hardware that enables the Internet are investing to increase capacity to some degree or another, it’s impossible for them to build out sufficient capacity to support the possibility of everyone coming online all at once.

So instead it’s more of an incremental process, where capacity builders try to stay ahead of the overall trends in demand without overextending their investment beyond what current demand for bandwidth will support.

Unfortunately, that means in the near-term we’re likely going to continue having to face the possibility of an overwhelmed Internet, in particular during the times of national crisis when we need it most.