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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

Future Cell Site Towers IoT Data, Broadband, Leasing

As demands on the Internet continue to grow, an in-depth look at the future cell site towers needs to be addressed, especially with IoT that sees homes become increasingly “smart” with the demand for transmission equipment continuing to grow. How will this growth happen? Where will transmission towers be located? What are the cost factors and are any innovations likely to come online soon? Are cell towers even going to be needed?

The base for everything on the Internet is power. Something must generate the electricity for transmission, whether through fiber optic lines or radio waves. How much power is not even a question as engineers know exactly how much it takes to send any signal any distance through any medium.

The power needs for individual devices, think smartphone, smart thermostat and such, is tiny. However, the power demands for several of these devices increase. Bump that number to the hundreds and thousands and power demands jump a lot. The future cell site towers is that they are going to need a LOT of power to handle that volume of data traffic.

Simply put, a pocket-sized battery will not deliver the volts and amperage needed to receive and transmit signals from more than 1,000 devices. “Cell towers will become obsolete only when Chevy Suburban’s and Ford F-150’s can drive down the Interstate at 70 MPH fully powered by solar panels made in the USA.  The demand for bandwidth is growing faster than the carriers can sell smart phones. Even if they came up with some amazing technology that could replace cell towers, it would easily take 10 years or more to implement.”   Some may point to signal boosters to handle the need for more and stronger transmissions.

More Power

 

Signal boosters require more power. That must come from somewhere. The demand on the already-stressed power grid will just get worse. Individually, the power draw may be minuscule. Added together, it becomes a real issue. A straw broke the camel’s back.   Battery advances over the past 30 years are huge, but battery output is still directly tied to the size of the battery. You can’t run a golf cart on a dozen D-cell flashlight batteries.

FCC Regulation

 

The Federal Communications Commission controls radio wave broadcasts including that done by wireless devices. It regulates signal boosters now. “Malfunctioning, poorly designed, or improperly installed signal boosters can interfere with wireless networks and result in dropped or blocked calls, including emergency and 911 calls,” says an FCC Consumer Guide to signal boosters.  As more and more devices go wireless, the chances for interference are going to grow.

Future Cell Site Towers in Aesthetic Landscapes

 

The demand for towers is not going away. Vertical Consultants tracks cell tower agreements and reports the industry is growing. “So again, if cell towers were about to become obsolete, why would the industry leaders be investing billions of dollars to acquire the rights to your cell tower?  The answer to this situation is that technology is nowhere near close to finding an economic and reliable replacement for the future cell site towers, and your individual site lease has value to the acquiring company!” .

future of cell site towers in the cityHowever, the look and location of these towers is changing. So, a better description for a cell tower is “transmission hub,” or hub for short. Increasingly municipalities are rejecting the look of giant antenna arrays.

The industry is responding. “Cell tower companies like Crown Castle are installing small cells for carriers’ use on light poles, on top of shopping centers and other places where they fit in with the urban scenery. In 2010, Crown Castle acquired New Path Networks, which built the nine-antenna medical center system. Where and what these smaller hubs are might surprise you. Twisted Sifter has a list of these different types of antenna hubs.

These hubs still require space, which means buying or leasing that space. A smaller footprint likely will translate into smaller lease payments, but more hubs also mean more leases. Savvy negotiators are going to win this one.

Future Cell Site Towers gets Creative

 

 

The demands on the wireless networks and high-speed broadband Internet are only going to grow. Consumers have already shown they are willing to pay for the service. Creative thinking will dominate the industry as it moves forward.  ISPs must step up their transmission capabilities. The tower manufacturers are already headed in the right direction with smaller hubs that are not eyesores. With the increase in transmission/reception sites, the demand for real estate to plant these hubs is also going to grow.

Future cell site towers are small hubs, more hubs and hidden hubs are the demands. Companies that make these hubs are in the driver’s seat. They determine the power needs and appearance. Location is going to be set by ISPs or cell companies and real estate owners.

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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

IoT Medical Devices Transforming Healthcare

IoT medical devices transforming healthcare by changing every aspect of our social and professional lives as billions of pervasive devices enable the acquisition of timely and accurate information about our personal context, the data gathering transforms what doctors can do with actionable knowledge.

The healthcare sector provides an excellent example of the way in which the future billions of IoT devices will introduce disruptive transformation and new paradigms. In an era where population is aging and incidents of chronic diseases are proliferating, healthcare solution providers are increasingly looking into internet connected devices for remote monitoring of elderly and patients’ conditions.

This remote monitoring facilitates preemptive medical interventions, while at the same time increasing the patients’ independence, reducing hospitalization needs and alleviating pressures on the healthcare system. One of the most prominent classes of IoT Medical Devices transforming healthcare today is wearable devices, which are personalized and provide rich and real-time information about an individual’s healthcare related context, such as heart rates, activity patterns, blood pressure or adherence to medication schedules.

Wearable devices play an instrumental role in monitoring patients’ diseases and recovery state, as well as adherence to prescribed practices and medication. A large number of relevant wearable devices are already available in the market such as activity trackers, smartwatches (e.g., Apple or Garmin Watches), pedometers, sleep apnea detector and smart pills (e.g., AdhereTech’s smart wireless pill bottle).

Implant IoT Medical Devices Transforming Healthcare

 

A less widely known class of wearable IoT medical devices transforming healthcare are implant devices, i.e. devices that are placed inside or on the surface of the human body. The concept of such devices has been around for several years prior to the rise of the IoT paradigm, as prosthetics that were destined to replace missing body parts or even to provide support to organs and tissues.

Therefore, implants were typically made from skin, bone and other body tissues, or from materials (e.g., metal, plastic or ceramic materials). While the distinguishing line between conventional IoT medical devices and wearable / implant devices can sometimes be blurred, we consider as implant medical devices those attached to the skin or placed inside the human body, instead of devices simply worn by the patient.

Impressive examples of implant devices are: (i) Brain implant devices (i.e. electrodes along with a battery empowered devices) used to manipulate the brain and alleviate chronic pain, depression or even schizophrenia; (ii) Electronic chips implanted at the back of the retina in the eye, in order to help sight restoration.

With the advent of IoT medical devices transforming healthcare, implant devices can also become connected and deliver information to cloud computing infrastructures and other applications. In this way, they can become part of the IoT infrastructure and enable the transmission of medical data from the patient to the practitioner on a regular basis. Moreover, with IoT implants patients no longer need to visit their doctor in order download data from their device or even in order to configure the operation of the implant device.

For example, by enhancing devices such as the electronic chip for vision restoration (outlined above) with a small handheld wireless power supply, one can adjust the sensitivity, contrast and frequency as needed in order to yield optimal performance of the device for different environmental settings (e.g., lighting conditions).

Risks with IoT Medical Devices Transforming Healthcare

 

Despite their benefits, the adoption of implant IoT medical devices is still in its infancy. One of the main reasons is that the development and deployment of implants is associated with several challenges and risks.  In particular, implants are associated with surgical risks concerning their placement and removal processes. Although generally safe, these processes could lead to infections or even implant failures, which makes patients reluctant to adopt them. Moreover, several patients have reported allergies and reactions to the materials comprising the implant devices.

Beyond these adoption challenges, there are also IoT technological challenges associated with the need to understand and optimize the placement and operation of the device. For example, there is a need to optimize radio communications between the implanted device and the receiving devices where the information of the implant is destined. In this respect, low power operation is very important as a result of the need to economize on power capacity, while at the same time complying with applicable laws and regulations, including security and safety regulations.

IoT Medical Devices Transforming HealthcareFrom a technology viewpoint, implant solutions have to resolve trade-offs associated with efficiency and accuracy against antenna size, power use, operating bandwidth and materials costs. Moreover, implant devices should be appropriate for various body and skin morphologies, while at the same time offering security and data protection features that render them immune to malicious parties that may attempt to compromise their operation.

The above-listed factors render the design of cost-effective implants that adhere to regulations and optimize their operation very challenging. In order to alleviate these challenges, vendors and integrators of IoT implants resort to simulation. Simulation is an ideal tool for modelling the operation of the device and understanding its communication with the body and other devices of the surrounding environment such as gateways or even other implant devices.

Furthermore, vendors are implementing services that aim at increasing the operational efficiency of the devices, such as preventive or predictive maintenance of the device, as well as remote diagnostics and software upgrades (e.g., remote patching). The last batch of challenges concerns the important business issues with IoT medical devices transforming healthcare, especially implants, which are not confined to selling devices.

Rather, it is about innovating digitally and offering a whole range of services as part of the device’s industry ecosystem. Specifically, vendors and integrators of IoT implants need to find novel ways and business models for sharing their data with healthcare services providers and other stakeholders, while at the same time creating new value chains in collaboration with other device vendors, health professionals, home care services providers and other business actors.

The evolution of IoT medical devices transforming healthcare with implants will gradually signal a shift from the offering of an optimal IoT device to the offering of a pool of optimized and personalized healthcare services that will be built by the device’s industry ecosystem. Implant IoT medical devices are here and expected to play a significant role in the on-going IoT-driven transformation of the healthcare landscape. Stay tuned!.

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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

Network Function Virtualization What NFV will do for Operators?

Network function virtualization, as Dylan would say, the times they are a changin’.  Network Function Virtualization has come to the mobile operator, and according to strategic business advisor Northstream. It will be part of a “natural evolution of existing infrastructures” bringing greater efficiency and lower costs. But the key will be the creation of new services. “NFV in 2017 will be driven by services such as VoLTE, Carrier Cloud, Wi-Fi calling, service chaining, resource sharing and network slicing.”

Network Function Virtualization, aka NFV, was introduced to the world through a white paper that was delivered at the 2012 SDN and OpenFlow World Congress. Authors from thirteen different telecom providers contributed to the work. The paper highlighted several benefits of NFV, including reduced equipment costs, lower power consumption, faster time to market, scalability of services, and vendor interoperability.

The traditional approach to networking involved the dispatch of personnel, either to the data center or to the customer premises, to install the physical devices and cabling required to make the network services function. This sometimes involved a number of “truck rolls” until the network appliance was fully operational. But an implementation that might have taken weeks or even months through the traditional method might only take a few minutes with Network Function Virtualization.

Common appliances that can be replaced by virtualized network functions (VNFs) in the NFV architecture include routers, firewalls, switches, load balancers, and media servers. Instead of physical installs, Network Function Virtualization software can be used to simply “spin out” new services as needed. As traffic volume increases, the system may automatically create VNFs to meet the demand.

When things slow down, the infrastructure will automatically be reduced. Malfunctioning virtual devices will be detected and traffic will be rerouted through a new VNF created just for that purpose.

Replacing infrastructure is fine, but the real potential is in the expanding service portfolio of the NFV architecture. “By enabling service chaining and resource sharing,” says Northstream, “NFV allows operators to deliver network services to customers and enterprises through software instead of dedicated hardware devices. This represents a major step towards meeting the new demands of industry verticals that are just around the corner.”

 

Network Function Virtualization is not without challenges

 

 

While the hardware part has become simpler – many implementations are using off-the-shelf blade servers – there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome. RCR Wireless News explores the key challenges facing ongoing SDN, NFV and cloud deployment models in an interview with Frank Yue, director of application delivery solutions at Radware.

Yue believes that the biggest issue telecom companies need to deal with is orchestration, the automatic deployment of resources in the cloud. Trying to bring things together is “still very targeted and piecemeal”. Providers seem to be in a rush to bring services to market. “Really to get orchestration and everything right,” says Yue, “you need to have all these tiny projects come together in one big cohesive unit, and I don’t think we’re there yet.”  Real time and automation are the key words, according to RCR Wireless editor Dan Meyer. For Frank Yue, the keys are agility and elasticity, terms associated with cloud computing.

Another major challenge is security. How do you maintain the privacy and integrity of your data across the cloud infrastructure? Industry standards have a bearing on security. Yue calls the situation a “big administrative mess”. Without proper standardization, particularly in multi-tenant environments, the potential for security breaches remains.

 

Network Function Virtualization Standards

 

 

One standards body, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), announced NVF Release 2 on September 27, 2016. The statement includes remarks from Telefonica’s Diego Lopez, the newly appointed Chairman of ETSI NFV ISG: “This represents another major step towards our objective of defining a comprehensive set of specifications that will facilitate the deployment of Network Function Virtualization throughout the telecommunication industry, with significant benefits being subsequently derived in many interrelated sectors.” Lopez says that the ETSI NFV Architectural Framework will form the basis for the security, reliability, and integration of NFV going forward.

Network Function VirtualizationHow quickly will NFV revolutionize the networks of the world? That remains to be seen. It’s being looked at as a potential framework for 5G mobile deployments. Will service chaining fueled by NFV resources make large-scale network installations a simple point-and-click operation?

How will Network Function Virtualization be used in the development of self-healing networks? What other innovations await us in the field of network virtualization? Get ready, because the virtualized future everyone dreamed about is well-nigh upon us.

 

Does your company plan to deploy NFV any time soon? What do you think about this new technology? How do you think it will affect telecom companies and their customers in the next few years? Please share your comments on Network Function Virtualization below.

 

Expanding NPV services for MNOs

 

Tier 1 and Tier 2 mobile network operators are expanding their 4G services as it is at least 5+ years before 5G networks are ready for early deployment.  ARPU, expanding data services, lowering power consumption – these are all needed to be competitive and maintain a healthy profit ratio.  If you require an expertise recruitment team to fill a key sales or engineering role or perhaps product management or a strategic leader, you can rely upon Nextgen Executive Search to not only meet, but exceed your expectations in delivering a candidate shortlist that is ideal for new hires.  Click the image below for more information on our mobile network, digital media, telecom services, and wireless connectivity recruitment and to contact us directly.

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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

Embedded Wireless Devices IoT Security Vulnerabilities

Embedded Wireless devicesonce thought to be too small to include their own security, undergo a more thorough analysis beginning with firmware testing. The software inside the chip is just as important as the application controlling it. Both need to be tested for security and quality. Some of the early IoT botnets have leveraged vulnerabilities and features within the device itself.

Embedded wireless devices really are one of the most common devices on the Internet, and the security of these devices is terrible.” Those were the words of network security expert H.D. Moore, the developer of the penetration testing software Metasploit Framework, when discussing an illicit attempt to survey the entire internet.

Consumer Based Embedded Wireless Devices

 

Dan Goodin of Ars Technica tells the tale of a guerrilla researcher who collected nine terabytes of data from a scan of 420 million IPv4 addresses across the world. “The vast majority of all unprotected devices are consumer routers or set-top boxes which can be found in groups of thousands of devices,” wrote the anonymous researcher in his 5,000-word report. “A lot of devices and services we have seen during our research should never be connected to the public Internet at all.”

IoT embedded wireless devicesHackers can do a lot of damage, and with billions of IoT devices forecast to be connected in the next few years, embedded devices security should be more than an afterthought.

In 2015, two white hat hackers demonstrated that they could break into late model Chrysler vehicles through the installed UConnect, an internet-connected feature that controls navigation, entertainment, phone service, and Wi-Fi.

By rewriting firmware on a chip in an electronic control unit (ECU) of a Jeep Cherokee, they were able to use the vehicle’s controller area network (CAN) to remotely play with the radio, windshield wipers, and air conditioning — even kill the engine.

The cybersecurity risks are real.  Alan Grau writes on the IEEE Spectrum website about three significant incidents affecting the health care industry. A report by TrapX Labs called “Anatomy of an Attack–Medical Device Hijack (MEDJACK)” describes how hackers were able to target medical devices to gain entry to hospital networks and transmit captured data to locations in Europe and Asia. “Stopping these attacks will require a change of mindset by everyone involved in using and developing medical devices,” says Grau.

Another notorious embedded wireless devices security intrusion is described in an article on The Verge, “Somebody’s watching: how a simple exploit lets strangers tap into private security cameras” . Strangers were able to watch live streams of unwitting security camera owners within their homes. The vulnerabilities of existing firmware allowed for egregious invasion of privacy.

Embedded Wireless Devices and IoT Vulnerabilities

 

Many of the hackable embedded wireless devices now on the market were created without much consideration for security. “Security needs to be architected from the beginning and cannot be made an option,” says Mike Muller, CTO of ARM Semiconductors, at a seminar he gave at the IoT Security Summit 2015.  Muller believes that very few developers have any real understanding of security. ·“We cannot take all of the software community and turn them into security experts.  It’s not going to work.” The answer is that best practices for embedded security must be established and followed. That includes splitting memory into “private critical and private uncritical” and creating device-specific encryption keys. “You have to build systems on the assumption that you’re going to get hacked,” warns Muller.

 

Identifying potential IoT vulnerabilities requires robust testing before putting devices into production. In 2014, the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) published a list called Internet of Things Top Ten:  A Complete IoT Review. They recommend testing your IoT device for:  

  1. Insecure Web Interface (OWASP I1)
  2. Poor Authentication/Authorization (OWASP I2)
  3. Insecure Network Services (OWASP I3)
  4. Lack of Transport Encryption (OWASP I4)
  5. Privacy Concerns (OWASP I5)
  6. Insecure Cloud Interface (OWASP I6)
  7. Insufficient Security Configurability (OWASP I8)
  8. Insecure Software/Firmware (OWASP I9)
  9. Poor Physical Security (OWASP I10)

 

As with any testing, well-written test cases will help manufacturers ensure the security of embedded wireless devices. Better to run through possible scenarios in the lab that to have major issues with customers later.   In November 2016, Dan Goodin of Ars Technica reported that a “New, more-powerful IoT botnet infects 3,500 devices in 5 days”. Goodin writes that “Linux/IRCTelnet is likely only the beginning of what could be a long line of next-generation malware that steadily improves its capabilities.” And he laments the defenselessness of IoT devices that proliferate across the web. It’s a sentiment that’s shared by many.

What about your experiences with IoT security and embedded wireless devices? Any stories to tell? What are your recommendations for making things safer? Feel free to post your comments here.

 

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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

LTE and 5G compete or compliment IoT?

Curious – can LTE and 5G compete or compliment IoT networks or the other way around? The big cellular companies have heavily invested in Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks and the coming 5G network. They are saying it can compete with the Internet of Things (IoT) network that smaller companies are putting their bets on.

“Despite the prospect of new networks that reach farther than cells and let IoT devices communicate for years on one battery charge, many of the power-sipping networked objects to be deployed in the coming years will use LTE and future 5G cellular systems,” reports Stephen Lawson in Computerworld.  Lawson’s article depends largely on information from the LTE and 5G network developers..

ZDNet took a look at IoT investments stating that “Investors in Sigfox’s  fund raising included major cellular network operators NTT Docomo, SK Telecom, and Telefonica, so it seems that some at least are hedging their bets,” wrote Stuart Corner. Verizon has not made that kind of investment, but it is investing in its own IoT tech. Looking at the Category M1 tech Verizon is working on, it’s hard to see major differences between that and the IoT networks under development, and in place, by the LORA Alliance, Sigfox and others. Cat M1 runs on a 1.4mhz bandwidth with speeds capped at one meg a second. It promises to come in under $10 for consumers.

Verizon is saying LTE and 5G compete or compliment IoT networks and in fact they will exist together. Rosemary McNally, Verizon’s VP for mobile devices and operating system technology, told RCR Wireless that “the Cat M1 network they have in mind will run on the LTE. It will offer more security than IoT”, she promises. So the question needs to be reframed. Instead of asking if the two networks can compete, ask instead do LTE and 5G have to compete on the same grounds as IoT? No, because they don’t have to.

Will LTE and 5G compete or compliment IoT networks?

 

The IIoT and 5G merge in places like over-the-road shipping. IIoT sensors inside the truck feed data into the 5G and LTE networks, which hand it over to controllers and monitors. Decisions can be made within minutes.

The agriculture industry is also using the IoT. Modern tractors are embedded with sensors that provide regular feedback to the manufacturer. A farmer in South Georgia recently got a call from the tractor dealership. The sales rep said he’d received a message that whoever was driving one of the farm’s tractors was “riding the clutch.” Riding the clutch can cause it burn out, a costly repair. By having IoT in the tractor, the maker was able to monitor use and save the owner money.

Another reason LTE and 5G compete or compliment IoT networks is radio frequencies. The Verizon Cat M1 is going to run on licensed bands. Once those bands hit maximum transmission traffic, Verizon is either going to have to get new bandwidth, which can run to the millions of dollars, or scale back some traffic.  If that happens, will Verizon continue to support Cat M1, which appears to have low profit margins? Or, will the company discontinue its IoT investments?

LTE and 5G compete or compliment IoT networks

Where 5G and LTE have an advantage is security. Current IoT is running on unlicensed spectrum. Anyone can use it. Turf wars may erupt. Two companies next to each other decide to use the same frequency for their IoT. The signals interfere with each other, causing minor to major problems. With licensed frequencies, this is not a problem.

So can LTE and 5G compete or compliment 5G and LTE complement Iot networks?  In truth they compliment each other. Each has strengths and each has weaknesses. Using each system’s strong points to cover the other’s weak points will create a much stronger network than either could be independently.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

Doug Brake takes a long and hard look at IoT, 5G, LTE and nextgen wireless in a report for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.  The industry has gone from 1G (analog) in the 80s to 2G, 3G and now 4G in the past few years. He points out the industry goes through a major upgrade every 10 years. Each upgrade has required big investments. With 2020 a short four years away and 5G already being discussed, AT&T, Sprint and the rest are planning major investments to upgrade the wireless network. The smart ones are planning upgrades that allow IoT.

Can LTE and 5G compete or compliment IoT networks?

 

The questions that should be asked are:  

  • How can IoT be merged into higher-speed transmissions to let on-site and remote operators make better decisions? SugarCreek is one example of how this merger works. Modern tractors are another.
  • What will be the standard? IoT must have a standard just as smartphones do today. A Verizon phone can call, SMS, MMS and so forth to an AT&T phone. Consumers will demand the same for IoT. A homeowner will buy a fridge from General Electric, get an HVAC from Trane and a home entertainment system from Crutchfield. He will demand all the systems function seamlessly on the same IoT network. The IIoT is making inroads on standards, but much more work needs to be done. Equipment needs to move seamlessly from plant to plant. Just installing the hardware is expensive enough. The wireless controls should be plug and play.
  • Is a frequency “land grab” ahead as regulators look at the unlicensed frequencies and increasing demand for them? How much is needed?
  • What kind of security protocols are needed? Yes, it may take a day to hack into a microwave, but someone is going to do it. That’s an annoyance. Hacking into the smokers at SugarCreek could shut down production for a day or more and cost the company plenty. How can this be stopped? Since IoT is going to be largely low-speed, small data, could each device have a limiter? Perhaps once a certain amount of data is sent, the device takes an action to alert the owner or disconnection from the IoT.

 

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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

Long Range Commercial Drone Control in 5G Wireless Technology

In regards to long range commercial drone control, according to wireless technology company Qualcomm, “5G connectivity will enable a worldwide boom in drone use, for fun, research, and business.” But for now, U.S. drone activity is limited to line-of-sight control. Regulations will need to catch up to the fast-developing technology.to enable the future of long range commercial drone control.

“A Highway in the Sky”

 

Research on the control of drones parallels work being done on autonomous vehicle technology. Dr. Harita Joshi of the University of Warwick spoke to Telecom TV about the development of ultra-reliable and low latency 5G networks that would allow for accurate communication with self-driving cars. Others are talking about “self-flying aircraft”.

China Mobile used the term “flying automotive” when referring to the 5G drone network they were testing with Ericsson in 2016. Achieving end-to-end latency of 15 milliseconds, their 5G drone was able to make handovers between towers shared with normal cell phone users.Commercial long range drone control is in deep development.  Take Alphabet (aka Google) who’s been working on ways to deliver mobile connectivity from the air. In 2014 they bought Titan Aerospace and turned it into Project Skybender.

The aim was to launch a fleet of lightweight, solar-powered drones that would fly in the upper atmosphere for up to 90 days at a time.  Alphabet abandoned Skybender in 2016, preferring to concentrate on the use of balloons through their Project Loon.  Another venture in long range drone control is Qualcomm, who want their unmanned aerial system (UAS) to be autonomous through development of UAS Traffic Management (UTM) controls.  Director of Marketing Maged Zaki blogged about the “Path to 5G: Building a highway in the sky for autonomous drones”. “When UTM systems are deployed, we envision fleets of drones flying missions autonomously while connected to operators and regulators.”

Reaching Long Range Commercial Drone Control

 

No one wants to worry about drones falling from the sky. The FAA in the U.S. has restricted drone usage to Visual Line of Sight (VLOS). However, in 2016 the FAA granted an Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) operations waiver to commercial drone company Precision Hawk.

But for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) control of drones, operators need something more for long range commercial drone control. “Many of the anticipated benefits of drones, including delivery, inspections and search-and-rescue will require a highly secure and reliable connection,” said Qualcomm’s Chris Penrose, senior vice president, IoT Solutions, AT&T, according to a press release.

Long range commercial drone control with 5G wireless

Dr. Joshi underscored in her interview the problem of latency and the need to service vehicles traveling at high speeds. The ITU published “IMT Vision”, a paper about 5G, in which they addressed these issues:  IMT-2020 would be able to provide 1 ms over-the-air latency, capable of supporting services with very low latency requirements. IMT-2020 is also expected to enable high mobility up to 500 km/h with acceptable QoS.

To achieve the goals of long range commercial drone control, researchers are experimenting with a range of bandwidth called millimeter-wave radio. The new band spans from 30 to 300 gigahertz.

Way back in 1895 the polymath Jagadish Chandra Bose was experimenting in this spectrum. An August 2014 article in IEEE Spectrum tells the story: The intrepid scientist “sent a 60-GHz signal through three walls and the body of the region’s lieutenant governor to a funnel-shaped horn antenna and detector 23 meters away. As proof of its journey, the message triggered a simple contraption that rang a bell, fired a gun, and exploded a small mine.”

Despite the early research, attempts at harnessing millimeter-wave frequencies turned out to be extremely expensive and infeasible. The spectrum propagated poorly between towers and was scattered by rain.  “The huge advantage of millimeter wave is access to new spectrum because the existing cellphone spectrum is overcrowded,” says Jacques Rudell of the University of Washington. The Guardian writer Mark Harris wrote about it when he broke the story “Project Skybender: Google’s secretive 5G internet drone tests revealed” in 2016. Despite Skybender’s demise, plans to harness millimeter-wave technology continue.

Bold Long Range Commercial Drone Control Projections

 

Hobbyists have taken to drones as a new tech toy, but other use cases will contribute to the drone boom. Companies like Alphabet hope to deliver internet to remote and under-served areas. Drones are useful in disaster recovery, search-and-rescue, and hazardous material situations. Amazon has already done long-range test deliveries.  Pizza delivery by drone is not far away. And drone racing – like the 2016 World Drone Racing Championships in Hawaii – is a growing sport.

AT&T Foundry offered “10 Bold Projections on the Future of Drones”. These include swarming technology, onboard analytics, IoT support, AI and robotics, and the use of drones for dynamic communications networks.  Whatever commercial applications await drone technology, it’s clear that they will be dependent on secure, fast, and reliable communications. 5G technology will likely play a significant role in the evolution of long range drone control.

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Articles Artificial Intelligence Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

Smart Objects: Blending Ai into the Internet of Things

It’s been more than a decade since the time when the number of internet-connected devices exceeded the number of people on the planet. This milestone signaled the emergence and rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm, smart objects, which empowered a whole new range of applications that leverage data and services from the billions of connected devices.  Nowadays IoT applications are disrupting entire sectors in both consumer and industrial settings, including manufacturing, energy, healthcare, transport, public infrastructures and smart cities.

Evolution of IoT Deployments

 

During this past decade IoT applications have evolved in terms of size, scale and sophistication. Early IoT deployments involved the deployment of tens or hundreds of sensors, wireless sensor networks and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) systems in small to medium scale deployments within an organization. Moreover, they were mostly focused on data collection and processing with quite limited intelligence. Typical examples include early building management systems that used sensors to optimize resource usage, as well as traceability applications in RFID-enabled supply chains.

Over the years, these deployments have given their place to scalable and more dynamic IoT systems involving many thousands of IoT devices of different types known as smart objects.  One of the main characteristic of state-of-the-art systems is their integration with cloud computing infrastructures, which allows IoT applications to take advantage of the capacity and quality of service of the cloud. Furthermore, state of the art systems tends to be more intelligent, as they can automatically identify and learn the status of their surrounding environment to adapt their behavior accordingly. For example, modern smart building applications are able to automatically learn and anticipate resource usage patterns, which makes them more efficient than conventional building management systems.

Overall, we can distinguish the following two phases of IoT development:

  • Phase 1 (2005-2010) – Monolithic IoT systems: This phase entailed the development and deployment of systems with limited scalability, which used some sort of IoT middleware (e.g., TinyOS, MQTT) to coordinate some tens or hundreds of sensors and IoT devices.
  • Phase 2 (2011-2016) – Cloud-based IoT systems: This period is characterized by the integration and convergence between IoT and cloud computing, which enabled the delivery of IoT applications based on utility-based models such as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). During this phase major IT vendors such as Amazon, Microsoft and IBM have established their own IoT platforms and ecosystems based on their legacy cloud computing infrastructures. The latter have alleviated the scalability limitations of earlier IoT deployments, which provided opportunities for cost-effective deployments. At the same time the wave of Big Data technologies have opened new horizons in the ability of IoT applications to implement data-driven intelligence functionalities.

 

AI: The Dawn of Smart Objects using IoT applications

 

 

Despite their scalability and intelligence, most IoT deployments tend to be passive with only limited interactions with the physical world. This is a serious set-back to realizing the multi-trillion value potential of IoT in the next decade, as a great deal of IoT’s business value is expected to stem from real-time actuation and control functionalities that will intelligently change the status of the physical world.

Smart Objects blending Ai into IoTIn order to enable these functionalities we are recently witnessing the rise and proliferation of IoT applications that take advantage of Artificial Intelligence and Smart Objects.  Smart objects are characterized by their ability to execute application logic in a semi-autonomous fashion that is decoupled from the centralized cloud.

In this way, they are able to reason over their surrounding environments and take optimal decisions that are not necessarily subject to central control. Therefore, smart objects can act without the need of being always connected to the cloud. However, they can conveniently connect to the cloud when needed, in order to exchange information with other passive objects, including information about their state / status of the surrounding environment.

Prominent examples of smart objects follow:

  • Socially assistive robots, which provide coaching or assistance to special user groups such as elderly with motor problems and children with disabilities.
  • Industrial robots, which complete laborious tasks (e.g., picking and packing) in warehouses, manufacturing shop floors and energy plants.
  • Smart machines, which predict and anticipate their own failure modes, while at the same time scheduling autonomously relevant maintenance and repair actions (e.g., ordering of spare parts, scheduling technicians visits).
  • Connected vehicles, which collect and exchange information about their driving context with other vehicles, pedestrians and the road infrastructure, as a means of optimizing routes and increasing safety.
  • Self-driving cars, which will drive autonomously with superior efficiency and safety, without any human intervention.
  • Smart pumps, which operate autonomously in order to identify and prevent leakages in the water management infrastructure.

The integration of smart objects within conventional IoT/cloud systems signals a new era for IoT applications, which will be endowed with a host of functionalities that are hardly possible nowadays. AI is one of the main drivers of this new IoT deployment paradigm, as it provides the means for understanding and reasoning over the context of smart objects. While AI functionalities have been around for decades with various forms (e.g., expert systems and fuzzy logic systems), AI systems have not been suitable for supporting smart objects that could act autonomously in open and dynamic environments such as industrial plants and transportation infrastructures.

This is bound to change because of recent advances in AI based on the use of deep learning that employs advanced neural networks and provides human-like reasoning functionalities. During the last couple of years we have witnessed the first tangible demonstrations of such AI capabilities applied in real-life problems. For example, last year, Google’s Alpha AI engine managed to win a Chinese grand-master in the Go game. This signaled a major milestone in AI, as human-like reasoning was used instead of an exhaustive analysis of all possible moves, as was the norm in earlier AI systems in similar settings (e.g., IBM’s Deep Blue computer that beat chess world champion Garry Kasparov back in 1997).

 

Implications of AI and IoT Convergence for Smart Objects

 

This convergence of IoT and AI signals a paradigm shift in the way IoT applications are developed, deployed and operated. The main implications of this convergence are:

  • Changes in IoT architectures: Smart objects operate autonomously and are not subject to the control of a centralized cloud. This requires revisions to the conventional cloud architectures, which should become able to connect to smart objects in an ad hoc fashion towards exchanging state and knowledge about their status and the status of the physical environment.
  • Expanded use of Edge Computing: Edge computing is already deployed as a means of enabling operations very close to the field, such as fast data processing and real-time control. Smart objects are also likely to connect to the very edge of an IoT deployment, which will lead to an expanded use of the edge computing paradigm.
  • Killer Applications: AI will enable a whole range of new IoT applications, including some “killer” applications like autonomous driving and predictive maintenance of machines. It will also revolutionize and disrupt existing IoT applications. As a prominent example, the introduction of smart appliances (e.g., washing machines that maintain themselves and order their detergent) in residential environments holds the promise to disrupt the smart home market.
  • Security and Privacy Challenges: Smart objects increase the volatility, dynamism and complexity of IoT environments, which will lead to new cyber-security challenges. Furthermore, they will enable new ways for compromising citizens’ privacy. Therefore, new ideas for safeguarding security and privacy in this emerging landscape will be needed.
  • New Standards and Regulations: A new regulatory environment will be needed, given that smart objects might be able to change the status of the physical environment leading to potential damage, losses and liabilities that do not exist nowadays. Likewise, new standards in areas such as safety, security and interoperability will be required.
  • Market Opportunities: AI and smart objects will offer unprecedented opportunities for new innovative applications and revenue streams. These will not be limited to giant vendors and service providers, but will extend to innovators and SMBs (Small Medium Businesses).

Future Outlook

 

AI is the cornerstone of next generation IoT applications, which will exhibit autonomous behavior and will be subject to decentralized control. These applications will be driven by advances in deep learning and neural networks, which will endow IoT systems with capabilities far beyond conventional data mining and IoT analytics. These trends will be propelled by several other technological advances, including Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and blockchain technologies. CPS systems represent a major class of smart objects, which will be increasingly used in industrial environments.

They are the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution through bridging physical processes with digital systems that control and manage industrial processes. Currently CPS systems feature limited intelligence, which is to be enhanced based on the advent and evolution of deep learning. On the other hand, blockchain technology (inspired by the popular Bitcoin cryptocurrency) can provide the means for managing interactions between smart objects, IoT platforms and other IT systems at scale. Blockchains can enable the establishment, auditing and execution of smart contracts between objects and IoT platforms, as a means of controlling the semi-autonomous behavior of the smart object.

This will be a preferred approach to managing smart objects, given that the latter belong to different administrative entities and should be able to interact directly in a scalable fashion, without a need to authenticating themselves against a trusted entity such as a centralized cloud platform.

In terms of possible applications the sky is the limit. AI will enable innovative IoT applications that will boost automation and productivity, while eliminating error prone processes.  Are you getting ready for the era of AI in IoT?

 

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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

Self Organizing Networks Driving down HetNet cost

As technology continues to advance, Self organizing networks drive down mobile Hetnets cost.  Known as SON, it has promise for the large cellular carriers that run LTE but additionally for smaller networks running on Wi-Fi and femtocells.  The goal of all carriers is to lower their overall operating costs and increase cost effectiveness.  Should SON use HetNet (heterogeneous networks), there are some advantages and disadvantages.  This article will look at each side.

Self Organizing Networks Advantages

 

The innate autonomous SON can function without users.  This means base stations and access points are configured and optimized automatically.  Macrocells still require technical interface, but the advent of self organizing networks within combination of small-cell technology meant a powerful shift in resource management – there was no reason to send a technician to each new small cell in a selected market area.

Ultimately, and the technology is still in its infancy if not even created, is to have the Self organizing networks implemented in the RAN.  The autonomous nature of SON means no human intervention for organizing and optimizing.  All a carrier would need is to create the cell site. The SON would handle all the RF frequencies and their channels, determine power levels, lists of neighboring elements and the other necessary configurations which historically required input.

In a sample case: a cell site within a SON-capable network goes down in an act of nature or accident.  The sites around the downed cell immediately and automatically organize themselves to provide coverage for the affected area. This gives carriers time to make logistical decisions or wait until normal working hours to dispatch technician for repairs. Clearly, the self-operating and repairing functions of the self organizing network have clear profitability for carriers.  This includes the larger service carriers and smaller ones who depend on communication besides LTE.

 

Self organizing Network Disadvantages

 

While the innate abilities of the self organizing networks to make the necessary reconfigurations to neighboring cells, the surrounding network within the down cell’s immediate area may prove difficult because of the SON’s sensing abilities.  There are two potential scenarios: a SON-capable base station passively finds and configures, or the information can come from queries around neighboring stations.

self organizing networks for HetNet

Here is the fundamental issue.  Base stations are uplink only; they receive transmissions from the carriers to the network, but stations additionally must be able to receive downlink signals for levels and neighboring parameters.

This means SON-capable stations must be frequency-agile for both links.

Receivers, set only for dedicated downlink and time-division-duplexed, TDD, systems, mean a SON-capable station will require time when it can receive downlink transmissions, a situation that can lead to unintended additional downtime during the process.

The disadvantages are not as harsh as they may seem.  So long as the SON is a part of a HETNET, the cost can be kept to a minimal amount.  Here is how. The HETNET is a web of base stations and wireless, up to and including macro stations, small cells, the preferred element of SON, and Wi-Fi.  The largest cellular carriers use HETNET in large, metropolitan areas (think New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.) because of the user saturation macro base stations are grossly ineffective.

However, the needs of the many mean all markets, even smaller, rural ones, will eventually have a need for HETNET.  This means all the intricacies become of critical need for carriers in all wireless markets and mobile networks.

This is where self organizing networks is so important.  It is one technology that will meld the small and macrocells while providing a superior user experience for the carriers and their customers.  Expect the SON to evolve dramatically in the coming years. Some major U.S. carriers have plans to expand from 100,000 active sites to over 500,000.  This massive growth will require SON with the HETNET.

Initial upfront costs are a concern for some smaller carriers, but the long-term savings on technicians more than offsets the initial investment.  It should go without saying the profit margins will take a dip on the front end but will rapidly recover as self organizing networks saturation increases.  Success will depend on all the previous factors and full implementation with proper logistical planning.

Based on this, what is your opinion?  Is the potential upfront cost and dip in profits advantageous in the overall scope of the business or is the on-call skilled technician a safer and more dependable alternative?  Certain factors certainly must be considered on both, but exactly what are those factors outside of forces of nature?  Feel free to provide your personal thoughts on this.

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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

Blockchain Technology Securing IoT Infrastructure

The growth of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) paradigm begs the question if blockchain technology securing IoT infrastructure properly or not?  Currently propelled by an unprecedented increase in the number of internet-connected devices. Even though the Cisco’s 2011 projection about 50 billion devices in 2020 is not ending up being very accurate, more recent estimates by Gartner and IHS confirm the tremendous growth of the number of IoT devices.

Blockchain Technology Securing IoT infrastructure

 

 

The need to support billions of devices in the years to come is inevitably pushing IoT technologies to their limits. Despite significant progress in blockchain technology, the specification and implementation of IoT technologies for identification, discovery, data exchange, analytics and security, the future scale of IoT infrastructure and services is creating new challenges and ask for new paradigms.

As a prominent example, IoT security is usually based on centralized models, which are centered round dedicated clusters or clouds that undertake to provide authentication, authorization and encryption services for IoT transactions. Such centralized models are nowadays providing satisfactory protection against adversaries and security threats.

Nevertheless, their scalability towards handling millions of IoT nodes and billions of transactions between them can be questioned, given also recent IoT-related security attacks which have manifested the vulnerabilities of existing infrastructures and illustrated the scale of the potential damage.

In particular, back in October 2016, a large scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack took place, which affected prominent Internet sites such as Twitter, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix and Reddit. The attack exploited vulnerabilities in IoT devices in order to target the infrastructures of dyn.com, a global infrastructure and operations provider, which serves major Internet Sites.

The incident is indicative of the need for new IoT security paradigms, which are less susceptible to attacks by distributed devices and more resilient in terms of the authentication and authorization of devices. In quest for novel, decentralized security paradigms, the IoT community is increasingly paying attention to blockchain technology, which provides an infinitely scalable distributed ledger for logging peer to peer transactions between distrusted computing nodes and devices.

Most of the people that are aware of the paradigm to blockchain technology securing IoT perceive it as the main building block underpinning cryptocurrencies such as the well-known BitCoin. Indeed, the main characteristic of Bitcoin transactions is that they are not authenticated by a Trusted Third Party (TTP), as is the case with conventional banking transactions.

In the case of the BitCoin, there is no central entity keeping track of the ledger of interactions between the different parties as a means of ensuring the validity of the transactions between them. Instead, any transaction occurring between two parties (e.g., A paying 1 Bitcoin to B) is kept in a distributed ledger, which is maintained by all participants of the BitCoin network and which is empowered by blockchain technology. Among the merits of this distributed ledger approach is that it is very scalable and more robust when compared to traditional centralized infrastructure.

This is due to the fact that the validation of transactions is computationally distributed across multiple nodes, as well as due to the fact that the validation requires the consensus (“majority vote”) of the whole network of communicating parties, instead of relying on a centralized entity. In this way, it is practically impossible for an adversary to attack the network, since this would require attacking the majority of nodes instead of one or a few parties.

Can blockchain technology secure IoT data and devices

The scalability and resilience properties of the blockchain approach have given rise to its applications in other areas such as electronic voting or IoT transactions. The principle remains the same:

Transactions are logged in the distributed ledger and validated based on the majority of nodes, even though in the case of voting and other transactions Bitcoin units are replaced by votes or credits.

This results in a trustful and resilient infrastructure, which does not have a single point of failure.

Based on the above principle, blockchain is deployed as an element of IoT infrastructures and services, which signifies a shift from a centralized brokerage model, to a fully distributed mesh network that ensures security, reliability and trustworthiness. Blockchain technology securing IoT infrastructure facilitates devices to authenticate themselves as part of their peer-to-peer interactions, while at the same time increasing the resilience of their interactions against malicious adversaries. Moreover, this can be done in a scalable way, which scales up to the billions of devices and trillions of interactions that will be happening in the coming years.

Cases IoT Blockchain Technology Securing IoT

 

 

The development of secure mesh IoT networks based on blockchain technology is no longer a theoretical concept. During the last couple of years several companies (including high-tech startups) have been using blockchain technology in order to offer novel IoT products and services. The most prominent implementations concern the area of supply chain management. For example, modum.io is applying blockchain in the pharmaceuticals supply chain, as means of ensuring drug safety.

The company’s service uses the blockchain technology in order to log all transactions of a drug’s lifecycle, starting from its manufacturing to its actual use by a health professional or patient. Recently, the retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has announced a food products track and trace pilot based on blockchain technology. The pilot will document all the steps associated with tracking and tracing of pork, from the farm where the food is grown, to the supermarket floor where it is shipped. This pilot is a first of a kind effort to validate the merits of the blockchain outside the scope of the financial services industry.

Beyond supply chain implementations, novel products are expected to emerge in the areas of connected vehicles, white appliances and more. Several of the applications are expected to benefit from blockchain’s ability to facilitate the implementation of monetization schemes for the interaction between devices. In particular, as part of blockchain implementations, sensors and other IoT devices can be granted micropayments in exchange of their data.

The concept has already been implemented by company tilepay, which enables trading of data produced by IoT devices in a secure on-line marketplace. At the same time, cloud-based infrastructures enabling developers to create novel blockchain applications are emerging. As prominent example Microsoft is providing a Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) infrastructure as part of its Azure suite.

Overall, blockchain technology is a promising paradigm for securing the future IoT infrastructures. Early implementations are only scratching the surface of blockchain’s potential. We expect to see more and more innovative products in the next few years.

In this direction, several challenges need also to be addressed, such as the customization of consensus (i.e. “majority-voting”) models for IoT transactions, as well as efficient ways for carrying out the computationally intensive process of transaction verification. Solutions to these challenges will certainly boost the rapid uptake of this technology in the IoT technology landscape.

 

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Articles Wireless Ecosystems | IoT

Zero Rating for Broadband and Mobile Operators

A report on zero rating by the Federal Communications Commission just a week and a half before the inauguration of Donald Trump said that zero rating for broadband and mobile network operators violates net neutrality rules. “Zero-rated” applications do not count toward data caps or usage allowance imposed by internet service providers. Forbes staff writer Parmy Olson called the report “too little too late”.

Zero rating has come under fire from many quarters. “While network capacity could become a problem if zero-rated offerings truly take off,” writes Colin Gibbs in a review of 2016 for Fierce Wireless, “the biggest challenge to the model has been claims that it’s a threat to net neutrality rules.”  Last year, Verizon began offering zero rated video streaming though NFL Mobile app.

 

Keeping the Net Neutral

 

The idea of net neutrality is that everything on the internet should be treated openly and fairly. Net neutrality prohibits blocking of sites by ISPs. It prohibits throttling:  ISPs should not slow down or speed up content for different services. It calls for increased transparency and prohibits paid prioritization of traffic. Before the recent FCC report, sponsored data plans – plans with zero rating – were to be judged by the agency on a case-by-case basis.  NextGen’s wireless practice has 22+ years working in these types of telecom market movements and standards.

 

Zero Rating for Broadband and Mobile Network Services

 

 

Facebook offers free internet access to underdeveloped countries with curated content. According to Internet.org, “Free Basics by Facebook provides people with access to basic websites for free – like news, job postings, health and education information, and communication tools like Facebook.” The motto of the service is “Connecting the World”.

A number of mobile network providers have taken up the practice. The first to try zero rating was T-Online with their Music Freedom offering in 2014. They followed that up with a video service called Binge On. Verizon came up with their own mobile video service called Go90. Perhaps the most aggressive has been AT&T’s partnership with DirecTV.  Virgin Mobile 4G Plans Now Allow Free Zero Rated Data Use on Twitter.

zero rating for broadband and mobile networks

Presenting the case against zero rating for broadband and mobile network operators services, the young Mike Egan stated articulately in a YouTube video: “Zero rating isn’t about giving online services or online creators a chance. It’s about mobile carriers finding a loophole so that they can keep you even more locked into what easily becomes their new media ecosystem.”

He says that “certain services are privileged over others” and that it is one of the best ways to “kill a free and open internet”.

Egan and others like him are upset, and he talks in terms of “the oppressor” versus “the oppressed”.   The Federalist Society takes a different view. In their YouTube video about zero rating, they compare it to getting free samples of ice cream. “This is a way to increase the adoption of the internet,” the spokeswoman says. “All that zero rating is doing is helping to increase the competition and expanding the user choice.”

 

The Less Regulated Road Ahead

 

The “too little too late” remark of the Forbes staffer is all about the new political realities in America. Despite the recent pronouncement again zero rating by the FCC, chances are the practice will continue unabated. President Trump has vowed to cut government regulations by 75%, and the new FCC chairman Ajit Pai will likely tamp down any opposition to zero rating for ISPs and mobile network operators.

A blog post from CCS Insight says, “Mr. Pai had opposed government intervention in the telecommunications market and has been an open critic of an FCC report disapproving of zero-rating data, also known as toll-free data….” The blogger goes on to say that there will certainly be a rise in the number of toll-free data offers.

 

Conclusion on Zero Rating for Broadband and Mobile Services

 

Many are concerned about the potential loss of internet freedom with zero rating. As Egan put it, “It’s a war for the future of our media landscape.” How that war plays out when deregulation sets in remains to be seen. Neutrality is a hard thing to maintain.     What are your ideas on zero rating?  Does your network provider bundle any of these services? How do you think it will affect the future of the internet? Please add your comments below.