Friday, December 21, 2007

Top 10 tech trends likely to make waves in 2008

It is quite a task to predict what the New Year has in store for us. My friend Radhika Nallayam at CIOL and I, present you a list of technology trends likely to make waves in 2008.

1. Greening of IT

Data centers of today are witnessing very high power consumption and cooling requirements. Skyrocketing energy consumption surely poses a challenge to the environment. Besides this, the hazardous effect of e-waste is also a major environmental concern in today’s IT sector. (It is estimated that more than 800 million PCs will be replaced during 2007 and 2012)

As a result, the IT world has started realizing the need for ‘greening of IT’ to minimize the harmful effects of energy expulsion from IT operations and data centers. (Green Data Center report from Symantec Corp. states that nearly three-fourths of respondents of the survey stated they have interest in adopting a strategic green data center initiative).

The ‘green IT’ movement has already succeeded in creating environmental responsibility among major IT vendors across the globe.

2. Is 2008 going to be the year of Linux?

It’s been years since we started talking about the ‘year of Linux’. Finally, good news for open source buffs? Well, we really can’t predict that. But, there is a hope that the coming time could be a real turning point in the history of open source, making 2008 the year of Linux on desktop. Though Linux will not be a direct replacement for Windows, we are definitely going to see a major increase in the number of end-users adopting Linux.

PC giant Dell, at the beginning of this year, gave us a positive sign by introducing Linux computers. A number of other vendors are also betting high on Linux. Ubuntu has already received recognition among mobile users and server market. Linux Desktop, though gradually, is gaining momentum. At this point in time, we can only wait and watch the game!

3. Will Vista be the OS to own?

When Microsoft launched Vista, Gartner’s analysts suggested ignoring the new operating system until 2008 and not to rush into upgrading. So, it’s time for us to rethink. Lots of users are still waiting for the first service pack to arrive before upgrading from Windows XP. And, hopefully, SP1 is likely to arrive in the beginning of 2008.

Vista definitely offers some advanced security feature and more polished interface. But due to some concerns related to application compatibility and more hardware requirements, consumers, till now, were reluctant to switch to Vista.

However, some recent surveys show that a lot of companies are now willing to upgrade to Vista. Microsoft expects Vista to be accountable for 85 percent of operating system sales in fiscal 2008 compared with 15 percent for Windows XP. Majority of the consumers will, sooner or later, have to migrate to Vista. Well, that could be in 2008.

4. IPTV sees big surge in popularity

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is already in spotlight. It has opened up new possibilities for consumers, service providers and content providers. From a mere technology concept, IPTV has completed the first stage and has become a real service. In some countries, it is almost in the mass-market stage. IPTV is considered to be one of the most highly visible services to emerge as part of the development of next-generation networks (NGN).

There are many more questions to be answered pertaining to the business model, pricing, packaging and the technology itself. But, the coming year is definitely going to see more developments in the IPTV space.

One thing worth mentioning, which may prove to be crucial for IPTV to reach its market potential, is the devlopments of standards for IPTV. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently announced the first set of global standards for IPTV. So, there are definitely some good news for us. And, no doubt , as long as the demand for high-quality personalized content exists among the consumers, IPTV will not struggle to reach new horizons.

5. Will 802.11n arrive?

The 802.11n, the latest in the set of WLAN standards, comes with truly high speeds i.e. 4-5 times faster than 802.11g and fifty times faster than .11b! It also offers better operating distance comparing to the current wireless networks. Wow! This is really something the enterprises would love to invest in.

There is no doubt that 802.11n is well positioned to redefine wireless networking. But, would the new standard finally arrive in 2008? Ratification of the new standards is been delayed for quite a long time now and the users are really keen to see the faster version of Wi-Fi, without any more delay.

However, experts predict that ratification won’t happen overnight and it’s going to take some more time. Though some Wi-Fi vendors( Cisco, Aruba, Trapeze) have already launched 802.11n products, technology installations may happen only in the middle of 2008.

6. Short-range wireless technologies that will create a buzz

Short-range wireless technology is not just about Bluetooth anymore. New entrants like High-speed Bluetooth, Wireless USB and ZigBee are getting traction too. Demand for high data transfer rates has increased over the years with the increase in video and audio content on portable devices like mobile phones, laptops as well as on multimedia projectors and television sets.

Though high-speed Bluetooth is in its primary stage of development, it is expected to be 100 times faster than the current technology. This next-generation Bluetooth will hopefully hit the market in 2008.

Wireless USB is targeting 1Gbps throughput. Vendors have already introduced wireless USB hubs, adapters and laptops in the market. However, wide adoption of the technology depends on how soon it is going to be embedded into digital cameras, camcoders, MP3 players etc.

ZigBee is the wireless connection used by sensors and control devices. It is expected to find traction in commercial building automation in 2008.

7. No end in sight for high-definition (HD) war

Is the war between Blu-ray and HD DVD high-definition video formats never ending? Well, there, definitely, is an end. But that may not be in 2008 Analysts in the industry predict that the high-definition war may last for another year and a few months. There is a strong market position for both the standards currently and this makes it difficult to predict the winner.

Meanwhile, there has been no improvement in the sales of both the technologies this year as consumers still feel both Blu-ray and HD DVD are expensive.

On the other hand, Toshiba recently introduced comparatively low priced HD DVD players. This initiative definitely poses a challenge for Blu-Ray companies. To cope with this, they will have to cut down the hardware prices of Blu-ray. If that happens, the war will continue for some more time.

8. Shift from magnetic to solid-state hard drives

At present, the market is dominated by magnetic hard drives. But the future seems to be of solid-state hard drives as magnetic hard drives have limited data transfer speed. Solid-state hard drives are based on flash memory and is much faster memory solution. They also have advantages such as low noise and low power consumption. High pricing is the primary hindering factor for solid-state hard drives to become mainstream.

As long as the demand for high-quality personalized content exists among the consumers, IPTV will not struggle to reach new horizons.

Major players like Seagate are betting high on solid-state technology and have plans to offer it next year. Solid-state hard discs are likely to be more popular in the laptop market. If prices fall down, we can see a slow shift happening from magnetic to solid-state hard drives in 2008.

9. Is 2008 going to be a banner year for wireless?

We no more worry about the clutter of wires. Offices have gone wireless. Cities are going wireless. All portable devices have embedded wireless technologies. We are moving fast towards a ‘wire-free’ world. So, 2008, beyond doubt, is going to see much more technology developments.

Though the ‘wireless’ world won’t be a true reality so soon, the need for seamless mobility and freedom is surely going to drive more wireless technology advancements.

The upcoming 802.11n will redefine enterprise networking in the coming year. Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) will tie fixed and mobile networks to deliver enhanced user experience. 2008 is expected to be the year of Mobile WiMax as well. Above all these, 2008 will probably witness open access to all networks, which in turn will open up more opportunities.

10. The ‘iPhone mania’ to continue

iPhone rates as the most memorable new product for 2007. Yes, it literally shook the mobile phone world in 2007. Now, doubtlessly, companies would love to follow Apple’s path by introducing similar products. So, 2008 is certainly going to see mobile phones with more and more web services and multimedia functionalities integrated into it. So, 2008 could very well be a year of ‘iPhone-like’ products from Apple’s rivals.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kodiak brings PTT conferencing, group SMS to India

US-based Kodiak Networks is in the business of voice-based VAS for mobile networks. It has a large presence in Bangalore ~200 full-time employees, with a total global workforce of 260. All R&D, testing and customer support are handled out of India.

Kodiak's worldwide growth and application adoption puts a spotlight on this region for innovation and business success. The demand for wireless voice services continues to grow globally, but especially in this region.

According to Dr. Giridhar Boray, Country Manager - India, Kodiak Networks, three major operators have deployed the Kodiak Connected Portfolio [Idea, Airtel and Tata], and that Kodiak will continue to announce new applications geared toward business users and consumers.

He said that operators faced a common trend worldwide -- increasing subscriber growth and declining revenues. Hence, the operators are now looking at VAS. Push-to-talk (PTT), as a solution, is becoming popular in the USA. An example is Nextel, which grew out of Fleetcall, has evolved into cellular.

Dr. Boray said: "Initially, all operators were waiting for 3G, but they could not wait. They wanted PTT in 2G, with migration into 3G." Delving into history, he pointed out that AllTell, a CDMA operator and Kodiak's first customer, agreed to trial PTT product in 2002. Kodiak's customer base has swelled to 16 globally, since!

Dr Boray said: "In PTT, you need to have a dedicated button and a speaker. Our solution goes into the voice channel." He explained that for 2G PTT, the industry adopted two approaches -- PTT on the voice channel or PTT on the data channel.

Some of Kodiak's competitors reportedly introduced PTT on data channel. India's Tata Teleservices was the first to use PTT, but the service was discontinued after some time. Dr. Boray also added that for using PTT, the US government mandates that any service that is put on to the network can be legally intercepted or tapped as a matter of national security.

Kodiak's next big customer was AT&T Wireless, which tested its PTT solutions. A lot of its customers in the US are regional operators, who have roaming agreements with the bigger operators, which also helped Kodiak.

AT&T Wireless was also able to drive handset vendors to use PTT via Kodiak's solutions. "Right now, 45+ handset models carry our solutions," added Dr. Boray. "These include Blackberry, LG, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, ZTE, etc."

Conferencing, group SMS trials in India
India hosts Kodiak's development center. He mentioned TRAI's statement on PTT that, PTT is legal as operators are able to meet the ADC requirements, plus all regulatory requirements related to voice, such as lawful interception. "They did not say that PTT on data channel was incorrect. To do that, you would need to first build the infrastructure," he added. Kodiak's solutions work on both GSM and CDMA standards.

Kodiak has now evolved PTT into two-way conferencing. As an example, on the Airtel Blackberry, users can select up to six people and do conferencing. Dr. Boray said: "We also have the application on the SIM card as AVS (advanced voice services). From our side, you can conference with up to 30 users, but operators generally allow the selection of up to five to six users from your contacts list."

Kodiak will be offering conferencing as well as group SMS with Airtel. "Only one SMS goes to the server, which distributes it," he said. "Group SMS, conferencing, etc., should be helpful during emergencies."

Touching on Kodiak's partnership with Airtel, Dr. Boray said: "Airtel started over six months back as a market trial. It is offering the services to some corporates, but only on postpaid. We will be extending it over prepaid as well over the next few months." As for the charges, he said that the customers would probably get deducted as per the existing and applicable NLD and ILD call charges.

Kodiak is also trialing the service with Idea in New Delhi. The next trial is with Tata Teleservices over BREW-enabled handsets. Kodiak offers applications for BREW.

Dr. Boray added: "We also want to enter into the prepaid coverage. Prepaid is widely used in enterprises as well." Besides these three -- Airtel, Idea and Tata -- Kodiak is in discussions with some other operators as well. Kodiak also offers voice SMS, which it is not pushing hard enough for the moment. Kodiak's India chief said that the enterprises may find value in this application.

PTT rollout with JMCC in China in Q1-08
Kodiak has also announced the first commercial PTT deployment in China for China Mobile's Jiangsu Mobile Communications Co. (JMCC). Its target are corporate users with an emphasis on transportation, municipalities, and retail segments. The PTT subscribers will be billed a monthly service charge (bundled service offering).

The initial launch will include Nokia Symbian GSM handsets. According to Dr. Boray, the roll-out is scheduled for Q1-2008. "JMCC is a big operator. This win will also help us get into the other provinces of China as well," he added.

The Kodiak PTT voice-based solution provides superior mobile coverage compared to previously trialed data/GPRS solutions. It is the only solution with QoS resulting in best-in-class reliability and speed for JMCC customers. Also, Kodiak PTT provides users with a convenient alternative to trunked radio (one handset provides function of both a radio and a mobile phone).

Some of Kodiak PTT's unique features include: real-time presence and availability indicators; quick group calling up to 10 group members; convert to cellular (upgrade a one-way PTT call to a two-way cellular call); PTT/GSM call waiting; permission-based contact management; and contact alerts.

Dr. Boray added: "Lot of IM features are also making their way into PTT. Our focus is on group communications."

Continued growth in 2008
To add to Kodiak's PTT success in 2008, eight new PTT handsets are likely to be announced in the first half of the year. Significant PTT customers in three regions are likely to be announced as well. Finally, 2008 will also see two Open OS, downloadable PTT client versions announcements with commercial customers.

Research firm In-Stat believes that the number of PTT global subscribers will grow to 67.8 million by the end of 2009. PTT/PoC has an opportunity to reach non-traditional business and consumer (especially youth) markets. One-third of In-Stat respondents would consider switching carriers in order to be able to use PTT/PoC.

According to a Wintergreen Research report from September 2007, there were 45.6mn PTT subscribers in 2006 and 64mn in mid 2007. This is likely to reach 340mn by 2013. The PTT subscriber revenue of $1.2bn in 2006 is also likely to reach $16.7 billion in 2013.

Multi-generation platform support
Kodiak's solutions are built on the Kodiak RTX platform, which will support the converged IMS network architecture with a software upgrade.

Kodiak RTX is a multi-generation platform that spans 2G and 3G network technologies, and extends services to social networks and IM communities. Kodiak IMS applications also leverage the Kodiak IMS Client framework.

10GbE Blade architectures suitable for next-gen data centers

What are some of the critical customer challenges today? For starters, server and storage sprawl increases operational complexity and reduces business predictability. Next, uncontrolled growth has resulted in lack of: space, power and CRAC capacity.

However, it seems that Blade server architectures can alleviate most of data center resource issues. In this context, if customers consolidate, can the network infrastructure optimally sustain the increased workload? And more importantly, what network technology would make sense for the environment?

I recently managed to speak with Adam Mendoza, Senior Manager, OS Alliances, NetApp, and Joel Reich, GM & Sr. Director, SAN/iSAN Business Unit, NetApp.

They attempted to answer these tricky customer pain points, and also touched upon how end-to-end 10GbE Blade architectures could lower IT infrastructure costs, prevent data center equipment sprawl, and help implement consolidation and virtualization.

For the record, recently, members of -- BLADE Network Technologies Inc. (BLADE), a leading provider of network switching infrastructure for blade servers; Chelsio Communications (Chelsio), a leading provider of 10GbE network interface cards for servers and storage; and Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), a leading provider of storage and data management solutions -- completed a collaborative study through!

The study demonstrated that blade servers equipped with embedded 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) networking can support large-scale business applications at near wire-speeds in consolidated blade server architectures using NetApp Ethernet and IP networked storage.

The study, conducted on the IBM BladeCenter platform, found that by supporting multiple protocols, workloads and integrated data management across a 10GbE network, customers can protect their investment, lower IT infrastructure costs, prevent data center equipment sprawl, and implement consolidation and virtualization without sacrificing flexibility. Here's an image that shows this!

Virtualization a powerful trend
Even though virtualization has been doing the rounds for a couple of years now, it has not exactly reached where it should. On the uptake of virtualization by enterprises, Reich said: "What we've seen is probably for virtualization that VMWare is dominant. There's lot of hype around it.

"In reality, virtualization the most important and powerful trend. It is the real big wave of open system computing replacing maniframe applications. People have become smart and got very good at separating hype from real benefit of technology. Virtualization is not quite there as people are using it to consolidate servers, etc., that are running tier 1 applications."

Reich added that people were having big success in consolidating on virtualization in diverse tier 3 applications hosted on Wintel servers. Also, some tier 2 applications were getting consolidated as well. According to him, applications that don't drive critical revenue or manufacturing process would be the tier 3 applications. Tier 2 applications would include small data warehouses, etc.

He explained: "What's going on now is, lot of the introduction of virtualization was in tier 3 applications. It was opportunistic! Customers didn't have to put in lot of architechture thought into tier 3 and tier 2 apps, but they need to do in tier 1 apps. People also need to see what their data centers need to look like, especially when they move to virtualized environment. Silos are purpose-built spaces dedicated to an application in a data center. You need to have specific skill sets to manage those silos."'s work
Commenting on's work, Mendoza, said: "Effectively, when we first became involved with Blade, the intent was to collectively provide solutions end-to-end. NetApp's one of the few storage companies involved. We came up with a concept of characterizing what business critical applications form across multiple protocols. We need to have all different companies and groups collaborate and get the right experts involved. gave us the environment and advantage."

As for the survey itself, they said: "We interviewed over 25 companies -- end users from Fortune 500 and channel partners, VARs, etc. We asked -- if we do this project, what are the things they would want to gain out of it?"

The findings were clear. First, this infrastructure could provide very good performance in this kind of consolidated environment. Second -- there has to be a comparison. "We are comparing networking components of 10GigE agianst fiber channel and utilizing different communications protocols," added Mendoza.

Scoring big with 10GbE
Over the last two yrs, 10GbE, customers have been saying that it is an interesting technology, but they didnt see applicability yet. There's also virtualization. So, if customers bring all this together, where will their bottlenecks be?

Adding the next layer of data management perspective, one of the main concerns of consolidation of this hype would be -- what about data protection, DR implementation, etc.? In this respect, NetApp brings the best kind of software that can handle all of those.

Reich added: "We have over 1,500 blade servers at our North Carolina facility. We learned how to manage that many servers. We take applications, data sets, etc., of blade servers, and save them on to the storage network. When concept customers or development teams say that they need something, we can provide that. We have already had the experience of large-scale dynamic environments. At the end of day, this is all applying to what customers want to see. We are collaborating to provide that to customers."

Another important result of the 10GbE has been an increase in the throughput. Mendoza said they provided the results of running these tests. "We did studies across iSCSI, fiber channel, etc. We are better than 2X in our implementation across 10GE."

So, what can be done to get servers consolidated? How can the data center equipment sprawl be reduced? Reich added: "In virtualization implementations, now, we are talking about a single housing that contains 14 servers. If you start virtualizaing over these 14 servers, you get one footprint. Space wise -- 14 servers come into a 3x2 space. In this manner, we reduced server sprawl, network sprawl and storage sprawl." This also has implications as far as power, cooling, etc., are concerned.

As for the 10GbE aspect, Reich said: "In many cases of a virtualized environment, its important to ask -- what's the new data center that I build will look like? People are also looking for information about how the network infrastructure should look like. Their reason: Ethernet is important as a storage interconnect, and that's because most data centers have two networks -- fiber channel or Ethernet."

So, if you can build something that's going to be ready in two years, can a data center be built that only has one type of network? Both, Reich and Mendoza accept that there's much more work to be do as users really need this kind of information.

"This is just the first step. It is such an important topic that there's a very great need for information," Reich said.

Mendoza added: "Our solution can simplify fabric topology in today's datacenters without compromising reliability? The big question that customers have is: why do we need multiple networks? Fabric refers to the network."

He said: "Part of the reason is simplicity and also economic. The way blade centers are built, you can add different connections to a blade center. The standard configuration of a blade center is the Ethernet. The economic considerations are: you can spend lot less money on blade center infrastructure. The Ethernet is the basic offering. That's part of the reason why, we focused on the 10GbE (Ethernet) from a cost standpoint."

Customers are said to be gaining confidence from the results of the solution development collaboration through! Virtualization is the next killer application. It would allow a mixed nature of I/O and CPU utilization, add in standard data protection functions, top it off with application and guest OS management, etc. Customers have also indicated that they have deployed upward of 40 guest OS instances on a single server.

It must be noted that Blade server architectures require the same administrative processes: install, configure, customize, manage, optimize, etc. However, consolidation requires whole new approaches to where the data resides and the speed of access -- both in bandwidth and best practices. The 10GbE Blade architectures are the next-generation data center and are ready for business critical implementations.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Convergence driving technology trends, says Sasken chief

Sasken Technolgies was earlier known as SAS and it was focusing on product development. Later, it moved on to services. Speaking about this shift, Rajiv C. Mody, chairman and CEO, said that Sasken has always been, from day one, working on both simultaneously.

Sasken initially started out in the EDA space and had one product in the simulation space. It was writing a simulator, addressing large complex designs and methods to simplify the designs. Simultaneously, Sasken was also doing a lot of services for large telecom companies in the areas of designing. This was continued and eventually, Sasken expanded in the area of telecommunications.

Subsequently, Sasken started building products in the telecom space. However, one significant difference is that anything that it does, it impacts Sasken's customers' top line as Sasken address the R&D side of the business.

Not so long back, Sasken were also a VLSI player. It decided to disband the design tool part of the business and focus completely on communications. Now, Sasken does a lot of business in chip design, which is part of VLSI. Today, it is among the leading providers of semiconductor design, working on all kinds of complex system-on-chip (SoC), as well as 65nm design.

Sasken has filed for 39 patents so far, of which 16 have been granted. Those remaining are in the process, and typically, once a patent has been applied for, it takes four years before being granted.

It has invested close to Rs 40 crore in R&D in 2007. In the first two quarters of this financial year, it has invested about Rs 15 corers in R&D. Sasken focuses on next-generation technologies, which would shape up the way things are to come in this new, converged world.

Mody said: "The fundamental thing driving this entire change is convergence -- essentially entertainment, media, news, information -- all of it being available at push medium as well as pull medium. Wireless is also playing a very significant role."

All of these combinations are creating newer opportunities - starting with, say, for example, in the service provider-side, new billing methods have to be put in place because it's going to be triple- and quad-play kinds of situations.

Simultaneously, on the handset side, with more and more computing power being made available, newer kinds of applications have started playing significant role. As a result, Sasken is now scanning the entire gamut to position itself and take advantage.

Sasken will continue to invest in products in the mobile handset space. It also has a significant role to play on the multimedia and the application frameworks. Mody added: "To give you an idea, for the mobile handset, direct broadcast is going to play a significant role. People are already talking about high definition (HD) on mobile. You will see all those kinds of interesting things coming about, and we will participate."

Sasken had also acquired a Finnish firm. This acquisition has worked extremely well and its full integration has been done. Mody said: "We have significant engagements because of our presence in Finland and the capabilities that they bring, not only with the existing, but also with the new costumer base. We are thriving and this has given us the capability to do full end-to-end handset design and testing."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Google phone beckons as industry leaders announce open platform for mobile devices

Is the Google Phone finally going to see the light of the day? Well, the following release (below) has all the makings of a mega telecom happening. Read on!

A broad alliance of leading technology and wireless companies today joined forces to announce the development of Android, the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. Google Inc., T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola and others have collaborated on the development of Android through the Open Handset Alliance, a multinational alliance of technology and mobile industry leaders.

According to Engadget Mobile, Google will be holding a conference call at noon eastern (November 5) to unveil the details of its long-rumored Android mobile operating system. Joining CEO Eric Schmidt will be other members of the 34-member Open Handset Alliance, including the chief executives of Deutche Telekom, HTC, Qualcomm, and Motorola. So keep watching this space!

According to the release, this alliance shares a common goal of fostering innovation on mobile devices and giving consumers a far better user experience than much of what is available on today's mobile platforms. By providing developers a new level of openness that enables them to work more collaboratively, Android will accelerate the pace at which new and compelling mobile services are made available to consumers.

With nearly 3 billion users worldwide, the mobile phone has become the most personal and ubiquitous communications device. However, the lack of a collaborative effort has made it a challenge for developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers to respond as quickly as possible to the ever-changing needs of savvy mobile consumers. Through Android, developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers will be better positioned to bring to market innovative new products faster and at a much lower cost. The end result will be an unprecedented mobile platform that will enable wireless operators and manufacturers to give their customers better, more personal and more flexible mobile experiences.

Fully integrated Android platform
Thirty-four companies have formed the Open Handset Alliance, which aims to develop technologies that will significantly lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services. The Android platform is the first step in this direction -- a fully integrated mobile "software stack" that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications. Consumers should expect the first phones based on Android to be available in the second half of 2008.

The Android platform will be made available under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products. Next week the Alliance will release an early access software development kit to provide developers with the tools necessary to create innovative and compelling applications for the platform.

Android holds the promise of unprecedented benefits for consumers, developers and manufacturers of mobile services and devices. Handset manufacturers and wireless operators will be free to customize Android in order to bring to market innovative new products faster and at a much lower cost. Developers will have complete access to handset capabilities and tools that will enable them to build more compelling and user-friendly services, bringing the Internet developer model to the mobile space. And consumers worldwide will have access to less expensive mobile devices that feature more compelling services, rich Internet applications and easier-to-use interfaces -- ultimately creating a superior mobile experience.

Open Software, Open Device, Open Ecosystem
"This partnership will help unleash the potential of mobile technology for billions of users around the world. A fresh approach to fostering innovation in the mobile industry will help shape a new computing environment that will change the way people access and share information in the future," said Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt. "Today's announcement is more ambitious than any single 'Google Phone' that the press has been speculating about over the past few weeks. Our vision is that the powerful platform we're unveiling will power thousands of different phone models."

"As a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance, T-Mobile is committed to innovation and fostering an open platform for wireless services to meet the rapidly evolving and emerging needs of wireless customers," said René Obermann, Chief Executive Officer, Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile. "Google has been an established partner for T-Mobile’s groundbreaking approach to bring the mobile open Internet to the mass market. We see the Android platform as an exciting opportunity to launch robust wireless Internet and Web 2.0 services for T-Mobile customers in the US and Europe in 2008."

"HTC's trademark on the mobile industry has been its ability to drive cutting-edge innovation into a wide variety of mobile devices to create the perfect match for individuals," said Peter Chou, Chief Executive Officer, HTC Corp. "Our participation in the Open Handset Alliance and integration of the Android platform in the second half of 2008 enables us to expand our device portfolio into a new category of connected mobile phones that will change the complexion of the mobile industry and re-create user expectations of the mobile phone experience."

"The convergence of the wireless and Internet industries is creating new partnerships, evolving business models and driving innovation," said Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, Chief Executive Officer of Qualcomm. "We are extremely pleased to be participating in the Open Handset Alliance, whose mission is to help build the leading open-source application platform for 3G networks. The proliferation of open-standards-based handsets will provide an exciting new opportunity to create compelling services and devices. As a result, we are committing research and development resources to enable the Android platform and to create the best always-connected consumer experience on our chipsets."

"Motorola has long been an advocate of open software for mobile platforms. Today, we're excited to continue this support by joining Google and others in the announcement of the Open Handset Alliance and Android platform. Motorola plans to leverage the Android platform to enable seamless, connected services and rich consumer experiences in future Motorola products," said Ed Zander, Chairman and CEO of Motorola, Inc.

Open Handset Alliance Founding Members
Here are the founding members of the Open Handset Alliance:

Aplix (, Ascender Corporation (, Audience (, Broadcom (, China Mobile (, eBay (, Esmertec (, Google (, HTC (, Intel (, KDDI (, LivingImage (, LG (, Marvell (, Motorola (, NMS Communications (, Noser (, NTT DoCoMo, Inc. (, Nuance (, Nvidia (, PacketVideo (, Qualcomm (, Samsung (, SiRF (, SkyPop (, SONiVOX (, Sprint Nextel (, Synaptics (, TAT - The Astonishing Tribe (, Telecom Italia (, Telefónica (, Texas Instruments (, T-Mobile (, Wind River (

Saturday, November 3, 2007

telisma launches teliSpeech in 10 Indian languages

Paris, France based telisma has released teliSpeech, its leading speech-recognition software in India in 10 languages. These languages are: Indian English, Indian Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati, Punjabi, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Marathi.

The teliSpeech, telisma's core proprietary software product, has been in the Indian market since June 2004. It offers superior robustness, scalability and performance -- especially in mobile environments -- and comes with a comprehensive set of administration and management tools.

Laurent Balaine, chairman and CEO, telisma, said: "This is an important time for telisma. telisma will open up the voice market and allow the Indian population to access services and information by using their voice. India is a major part of telisma's international development strategy, and as such, we will be continuing our solid investment."

He added that telisma's product portfolio had been conceived and developed with openness in mind, in order to allow its partners to create their speech-recognition solutions using Eclipse-based tools.

He added: "Until now, people could not use their own language. We intend covering 95 percent of the population. We do speech recognition and you don't need to train the PC as it is internetworked."

telsima works with a range of companies, including system integrators and with companies providing infrastructure for the call centers, such as Cisco, Genesys, Avaya and HP. Voice service providers can also become partners.

"Until now, the market for such products in India was small. Now, more people would want to access services," he added. "Our technology is good for social networking as well, as we believe, information is knowledge. Indian companies can take this product and build applications around it to serve banks, enterprises, etc."

Regarding Indian English as a language, Balaine said telisma made use of several native English speakers, similar to what it did for Hindi. This enabled the system to recognize with high accuracy.

Keen to attract Indian software developers
The teliSpeech software has been developed using tools from Eclipse, a major Open Source initiative, which also includes IBM. Balaine said,"Eclipse has now become a major standard."

telisma is also keen on developing a community of software developers in India. He said: "Our idea is to offer software developers the tools and an open environment to develop and products they can sell anywhere. The availability of an open envvironment will help them a lot."

telisma offers an evaluation software for free download on its site. It can be tested on a local PC for 30 days. If the software developers can build applications around teliSpeech during that period, they can buy the license from telisma.

Major India plans
telisma will be opening a liaison office in Bangalore before the end of this year. "We are also in touch with system integrators like Wipro," Balaine added. telisma also intends working with the mobile phone service providers in India through partners.

"Genesys has also sold our products in India," he added. "We will also leverage on our partnerships in India, for example, with Cisco, HP, etc. We will also go to local partners in value-added services and in the CRM space."

As for voice interaction with wireless services, he said that it was more of accessing voice services, while on the move. Here, there is an opportunity for location-based services to be available in voice.

telisma has a fully indirect business model. It partners with leading computer telephony hardware and platforms, along with global and local brand name integrators. Some of its international partners include IVR platform vendors such as Genesys, HP, Avaya, Cisco and Envox. System integrators include Wipro, Cap Gemini, NextiraOne and Atos Origin. Voice service provider partners include Prosodie and Jet Multimedia, while solution partners include Voice Objects.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Speculating on Indian 3G spectrum specter

The ongoing saga regarding spectrum for 3G services, use of dual technologies, etc., reminds me of 2002, the MII, TD-SCDMA and 155MHz! Read on...

Anything on the spectrum spectacle in India makes very interesting reading! It’s as though two sides fighting over a valuable possession. Worth a click!!

We have been following how the two GSM and CDMA lobbies -– COAI and AUSPI -– have been in the news over the use of mixed bands. GSM operators have constantly warned that any move to allocate spectrum in the 1900MHz band to CDMA players would adversely impact their services in the 2100MHz band. We've been following what the TRAI, the DoT and others have to say on all of this.

Then AUSPI informed this week that field trials conducted in Hyderabad last week had proved successful. The trial conducted by AUSPI on behalf of the Department of Telecom (DoT) claims that the co-existence of 1900 MHz and 2100 MHz is possible.

Now, we are told that defence would be vacating spectrum by end of this year and India would have 3G services by next year. Hope all disputes are settled amicably and India finally gets to see what 3G services would have to offer.

I am reminded of two things – one, the 3G license auctions in Europe, which nearly brought the wireless house down in the early 2000s, and two, an interesting development in China. I’ll dwell on the second one.

Nearly seven years ago, I happened to break the news on TD-SCDMA (Time Division-Synchronous Code-Division Multiple Access), a 3G technology being developed at that point of time by Datang Telecom and Siemens. That story link no longer exists, so I'm providing a link to another story, mentioned below.

About two and a half years later, around October 2002, the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) in China allocated a total frequency of 155MHz for TD-SCDMA! This, for an untested, untried 3G technology, in a country much larger than India, was and is still unheard of!

Makes me wonder, why did the MII give away so much of spectrum so long back to an untested 3G technology, when in India, we keep hearing reports about spectrum issues, use of dual technologies, etc. Are there lessons to be learnt from the Chinese example?

On TD-SCDMA, much later, in 2002, I also discovered not many had even heard of it in India. However, around the time I reported this 155MHz spectrum story, STING’s Robin Grewal contacted me in Delhi to find out more about this 3G technology! That was the level of interest in 3G and TD-SCDMA, and spectrum in India, at least, at that time. Things have changed since! Hopefully!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Broadband hasn't grown as expected in India

Yes, I believe so! The numbers, if one were to contend with those alone, DO NOT meet the expectations. Broadband was and is considered to be the new paradigm of India. However, are we anywhere near whatever growth we have been expecting? Let's see the stats for the various telecom segments.

According to the statistics made available by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the total number of telephone subscribers was 232.87 million at the end of July 2007, and the overall teledensity had increased to 20.52!

In the wireless segment, 8.06 million subscribers were added in July 2007 and the total wireless subscribers (GSM, CDMA and WLL (F)) base was 192.98 million. The wireline segment subscriber base stood at 39.89 million, with a decline of 0.20 million in July 2007.

And what about broadband? For broadband (≥256Kbps downloads), the total broadband connections in the country had reached only 2.47 million by the end of July 2007. In fact, during July 2007 there was an addition of 0.05 million connections!

Let's go back a few months! Venkat Kedalya of Convergent Communications had pointed out in an article to CIOL that India was nowhere on course to reach a target of 9 million broadband subscribers by this year! India has a target of achieving 20 million broadband subscribers by 2010, which now seems to be highly ambitious and well, unachievable!

Allocation of frequencies for BWA (broadband wireless access) is the immediate need of the moment. There is a need to look at WiMax and broadband over powerline (BPL) as far as technology is concerned. Some folks have entered the IPTV domain, so hopefully, we will get to see some content over broadband.

Even TRAI has urged the government to boost broadband growth. One of its suggestions has been to ask BSNL and MTNL to adopt a franchisee model so that local players may use their copper cables and offer high-speed Internet services. Decisions need to be taken for allocating spectrum for WiMax as well as making the National Internet Exchange of India more effective.

TRAI said: "Only 0.47 million broadband subscribers have been added in first six months of 2007, which is far below the growth trend required to achieve broadband policy targets. This necessitated an analysis of regulatory and policy frameworks, and to formulate new approach necessary for rapid roll-out of broadband in the country."

TRAI also accepts that while the growth of Internet subscribers was satisfactory, we are seriously lagging behind as far as broadband is concerned. It adds: "The government should ensure availability of more number of Ku-band transponders to roll out broadband services through DTH platform and utilize Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund to provide subsidy for providing broadband services through satellite in remote and hilly areas."

I'm not really sure how all of this will help. You do need at least a PC to access the Internet services. Am not sure how many folks are still willing to invest in home PCs and broadband, given that watching TV is a favorite pastime. Broadband over cable TV has not been a success either. What are we doing about this?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Top 10 influential tech products of last 25 years

It's becoming a season to talk about top things, ain't it? About a fortnight back, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), announced its Top 10 list of the most influential technology products of the past 25 years.

According to CompTIA, a total of 471 individuals participated in the CompTIA survey, which was conducted in May and June. Products developed by Microsoft claimed four of the top five spots in the poll of information technology (IT) industry professionals, conducted in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of CompTIA. Apple's iPod is the only non-Microsoft product to break into the top 5.

As per CompTIA, the top 10 most influential technology (or computing) products of the past 25 years are:

1. Internet Explorer (selected by 66 percent those surveyed)
2. MS Word (selected by 56 percent of survey respondents)
3. Windows 95 (selected by 50 percent of survey respondents)
4. Apple's iPod and MS Excel (tied at 49 percent each)
6. Blackberry (selected by 39 percent of survey respondents)
7. Adobe Photoshop (selected by 35 percent of survey respondents)
8. McAfee VirusScan (selected by 32 percent of survey respondents)
9. Netscape Navigator and Palm's PalmPilot (tied at 31 percent each)

While there will be differences of opinion about this list, and also the fact that components of MS Office have been broken up into separate components, it's quite evident yet again that Microsoft rules the computing world, and will continue to do so for a long time. Well done to the great team at Microsoft!

Now, I have my own comments regarding these selections. First, I have always believed Mac OS to be better than Windows. So, I'd put Mac OS in place of Windows 95.

I won't have MS Office there, or any components of MS Office, as I felt back in early 2000 that StarOffice and now, Open Office are equally good.

I'd replace IE with Opera, which is a lighter and much better browser, even back when it was first launched.

Yes, Apple's iPod has revolutionized digital music, but don't forget Real Player! The first time we all probably started watching videos and listen to music over the Web was by using the Real Player! For most, it was the first experience of streaming video and audio!

I agree Palm's done very well and changed the way people looked at mobile computing. However, it was the short-lived Apple's Newton, which first promised all of this. By the way, I must have the iMac on my list too.

My list would have another Adobe product, the Pagemaker, which revolutionized desktop publishing. Don't know whether people remember Quark Express! I am tempted to add Unix, or well, Linux, as it really brought open source into the great, wide open!

Lot of people are enamored by the Blackberry today. However, it was way back in 2000 when I was using my Siemens GSM phone in Hong Kong and elsewhere to send and receive emails, and also use it to search for hotels and other establishments over GPRS. In fact, at a conference in Singapore in 2002, during a survey done among the participants, I was among the three people using the GSM phone to send and receive emails! So, shouldn't mobile phones be the first on everyone's list?

Finally, I'll definitely add Tally to my list. Tally, as all Indians know, is the most widely used accounting software, starting way back in 1986. The mumbers achieved by this single accounting software is simply mind-boggling!

Therefore, friends, my list of the top 10 technology (or computing) products of the last 25 years would be:

1. Mobile phones (GSM phones, especially) -- all down the years
2. Tied between Apple's Mac OS and the iMac
3. Linux
4. McAfee's VirusScan
5. Real Player
6. Tied between Quark Express and Adobe Pagemaker
7. Netscape Navigator
8. Tally
9. Tied between StarOffice and Open Office
10. Tied between Opera browser and Apple's Newton

I am sure that most people will not agree with my selection/choices or even find my list appealing. That's fine! It's my own individual selection and I'm not canvassing for anyone in particular! These are purely my observations over the last two decades.

I am delighted at having had the privilege, like most of you, perhaps, to have had the honor of using all of these great technologies and products. Hats off to all the technologists of the world!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cogs in the wheel

In engineering, it is imperative that all cogs of the wheel come together, so that the wheel rolls smoothly. Similarly, it is imperative that all key IT processes in an organization gel together and work as one.

Imagine the nightmare that enterprises, small and large, would have to go through should this did not happen!

The first basic IT asset is your company's network, or the intranet. We have seen several times that a company's network's down for some reason and mails can't be sent or received.

In such cases, the organizations or the enterprises who are 'stuck' with this situation, are literally crippled. Mails can't be received, mails can't be sent out, important mails are missed, business-critical processes are waylaid, and so on and so forth. I've been part of this nightmare several times.

Once, the undersea cable snapped during my stay in a company. I don't need to add the problem we had to face for at least half a day, as service providers worked furiously to rectify the cable and restore normal service.

Some advocate satellite as the best medium for managing data transmission. Maybe! Some others cite wireless. Perhaps!! Then, I hear from many that there are issues related with security and storage. However, those would only come into play once your basic network is operational smoothly.

In telecom, they have something called five nines, or 99.9999, which means the network is up and running for this percentage of time! You've noticed how people go beserk and start cursing their phones or the network, should they fail to receive a network, or are unable to connect to the network!

What they don't know or realize is the hard work that's involved in setting up, maintaining and operating a network! It's similar to what sometimes happens in offices when the network breaks down and we are unable to send/receive mails.

Maybe, it would be prudent to first manage the internal network as best as possible, before moving on to bigger, better things. The cogs in the wheel got to move smoothly.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Extreme targeting Ethernet networks

Extreme Networks recently launched a host of new Ethernet solutions aimed at global enterprises and service providers at its Partner Conference in Bali.

According to Mark Canepa, CEO, the company provide secure, converged Ethernet networks for enterprises and global service providers. The positioning is in the Ethernet space and Extreme does not worry about any other evolving or legacy technology for that matter. The solutions aim solve tough network challenges with meaningful insight and unprecedented control that simplifies networking operations.

Extreme announced a range of new solutions as well. Its BlackDiamond 12802R carrier Ethernet switch enables a wider range of metro deployments. It also announced some other new solutions as well. These include:

The Summit X250e Series, which has powerful application support in a 10/100 package; ExtremeXOS 12.0, which is a consistent, easy-to-manage stacking on every ExtremeXOS fixed configuration switch; Universal Port Manager, which allows simple automation for the entire enterprise policy lifecycle; and Summit WM200, Summit WM2000, which promise to deliver the future of wireless convergence today with modular, integrated WLAN.

Extreme's target markets for the year include WLAN, carrier Ethernet switches, security and L2+L3 Ethernet switches. The company's mission has been to provide secure, converged Ethernet networks for enterprises and global service providers who have complex networking needs.

Partnering with the channel is an essential part of Extreme Network's plan for success in Asia-Pacific. While Extreme builds great products and solutions, it also understands the network's big picture and the future path of technology. It extends the value of the infrastructure by developing key technology partnerships and helping customers learn how to use them.

The channels build great customer relationships and deep understanding. They, in turn, are able to understand the customer's big picture, and their future aspirations and plans. The channel extends the value of the customer's network by assembling the key components and delivering valuable services.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chipping away at wireless USB

I happened to meet up with MosChip Semiconductor Technology, a well known fabless semiconductor company, which is listed on the BSE (No. 532407). What attracted me was the fact that MosChip is said to be focusing on wireless USB. as well.

It has been concentrating more on the digital side and is talking with a company for providing the radio (analog) chip, for a licensing agreement. As and when the market for wireless USB picks up, MosChip would be ready and waiting! Now, this is great! An Indian company, chipping away at the wireless USB market, waiting for its time to pounce and capture it!

Its engineering team is capable of designing end products that work across different operating systems and multiple platforms of various hardware configurations. MosChip has engineering expertise in PCI, USB, IEEE 1394, serial–parallel, SoC, device drivers, embedded firmware, engineering and reference platforms, PLL, transceivers, and A/D and D/A.

It is also developing custom products and IP for customers. Although Moschip is currently working on USB, PCI and IPSec, it is now going toward the SoC, according to its CEO, Ram Reddy.

The company adds application packages as software platforms are required for people to plug in the board. MosChip has 45+ software engineers who work on both embedded and platform to support such activities.

MosChip can give the complete object code to companies and source code to bigger companies with an agreement in place. It focuses mostly on OEM and ODM companies in the Far East. MosChip has strong distribution ties in place in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan.

Moschip, being a fabless company, contracts work to UMC, TSMC, etc. As and when, proposed fabs comes up in Hyderabad, Moschip would partner with any one of them. MosChip also announced the MCS8140, a highly integrated network processor. This network processor can be used with USB, multiple servers, etc., rather, with everything that is on IP. A maximum of 16 devices can be supported on the USB ports via IP. It is a single-chip solution.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Trends in fixed-mobile convergence

Kudos to my colleague, Idhries Ahmad, for having put together a wonderful piece on fixed-mobile convergence (FMC). Click here to read this special!

I would just like to highlight the trends on FMC in India. FMC is definitely at a very early stage in the Asia-Pacific region itself, and probably nascent in India.

Akshay Agarwal, Ecosystem Partner Manager - India & Korea, Texas Instruments, India forecasts that service providers in India may start with pre-IMS, skip UMA and may jump to IMS directly. Besides, the successful adoption of FMC would also depend on the deployment of 3G and Wi-Fi. Pre-IMS services could mainly be applications such as instant messaging and photo sharing.

The contribution of value-added services (VAS) has been steadily increasing and is likely to form a major portion of FMC revenues in the near future. Even as the FMC services market gains traction, the go-to-market strategy of service providers should be to provide a variety of FMC-compliant dual-mode handsets to customers.

At this point, the Indian telcos are still focused on meeting the high demand for basic voice services, and are gradually opening up to generating demand for converged service offerings.

Rising income, declining handset prices, and an increased awareness of viable mobile services among masses has led to the growing adoption of mobility solutions. The major areas of growth will be the youth segment and the rural areas.

FMC could be the solution to provide rich media services to the end customers. It may facilitate both fixed and mobile operators a magical solution to provide high-end services to subscribers, further entail the convergence of access networks, and help the operators to integrate their forces to tap the huge potential of rural India.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Solar and wind solutions, micro fuel cells as energy alternatives

Precisely! That's the way the future of energy would likely be, should the industry manage to pull it off. These folks are really working hard to develop alternative energy sources to power a whole lot of equipment and devices.

The other day, we were discussing energy, when the subject of fuel cells cropped up. With electronics items and other equipment constantly undergoing design changes, thereby putting even more demand on battery power. Several alternative energy solutions are constantly being developed.

In fact, Motorola reports to have successfully conducted a year-long wind- and solar-powered cell site at its Swindon R&D facility in the UK. The trial concluded that an optimized solar and wind solution can generate enough power to drive a mid-sized base station (BTS) plus ancillaries. The next step would be a commercial customer trial using a six-carrier BTS cell site, being implemented in the first half of 2007.

I believe, nearly all mobile phone manufacturers, including Motorola, are also developing solar-powered handsets.

Coming back to power, the existing battery chemistries are constantly challenged to maintain performance levels or maybe, extend beyong the existing levels. While solar and wind solutions are among the options, fuel cells and even micro fuel cells are also in the fray.

Now, Frost & Sullivan's report titled World Micro Fuel Cell Market for Industrial Portable Devices, finds that the market is likely to produce 75 million units by 2013, demonstrating a high market growth rate due to a ramp-up in commercialization. The micro fuel cell market for industrial portable devices has gained a boost with the significant growth of the heavy-duty device markets.

The report says that fuel cells for such devices should be able to operate safely for long periods under inclement weather and dusty conditions. They must be resistant to high shock and vibration, while surviving drops on hard surfaces as well.

The market is addressing the fuel cell standard concern by forming groups within prominent international standards organizations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), dealing with electrical, electronic and related technologies.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wherever you may roam!

I recall editing an article of this name during my days at DiSyCom, way back in late 1994. Those were the early days of cellular/mobile telephony in India. At a seminar on mobility at the Taj Palace in New Delhi in early 1995, I had the first-hand experience to learn what roaming was all about, thanks to a nice gentleman from the ITU.

Today, 13 years down the road, roaming is hardly the subject to discuss. People take it for granted that if they are carrying a mobile phone, they MUST be roaming. Its also one of the safest bets for operators to make money.

I recall, in December 2002, in Hong Kong, some colleagues from India were unable to call home as they weren't on roaming, and I had to lend them my phone to call. On the contrary, I was once stuck in Munich as I wasn't on roaming and couldn't call, and had to seek help from a 'friend' at the airport.

Of course, I've noticed in places across the Asia Pacific, such as Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore, that people buy local SIM cards in order to save on roaming costs. Even I've done the same on several occasions.

Today, we have come a long, long way as far as mobility is concerned. Soon, video roaming or the ability to make video calls, while roaming, would be upon us. I wonder how people would take to that experience! Also, it'd be interesting to see how the operators charge consumers on video calls and especially, video roaming.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shake-up for Internet radios?

My good friend, Steven Yang, informed me this morning about a certain development happening in the realm of Internet radios.

He told me that there's been quite a shake to the market. Song royalties are jumping three-fold, which is going to increase the cost of operation so high that most stations will be forced to shut down.

The new royalty fee takes effect in September, but stations are already shutting down daily. Stephen pointed me to a noteworthy article on USA Today that speaks about all of this. The URL is pasted below for those interested.

Now, it'll be interesting to see how makers of portable Internet radios ride this so-called storm.

And, thanks Steven!

Impact of RoHS

If any one of you has had the opportunity of attending any major electronics trade show across the Asia Pacific region, you cannot remain untouched by the impact that the RoHS (removal of hazardous substances) directive has had on suppliers.

The RoHS directive, which aims to restrict the level of hazardous substances used within new electronic and electrical equipment in the European Union (EU), is said to have had a "huge effect" on the industry so far, according to an expert.

It reminds me of a discussion I had with Man Yue, said to the seventh largest supplier of aluminum electrolytic capacitors late last year. Now Man Yue is huge and has the capability to invest in the expensive machinery required for RoHS.

Man Yue's competitive edge is strengthened by its compliance with RoHS. It has been RoHS compliant since Q2-2004. The supplier had placed orders for ICPE-9000 machine, which was scheduled for delivery by end of 2006. This machine grinds the capacitor into powder and checks for banned substances.

The spokesman told me Man Yue has a RoHS lab as well. Man Yue has four XRF machines. It was planning to purchase the GCMS-QP2010 Plus, another high-end testing machine, which checks for banned substances. It will purchase the UVmini-1240 machine as well.

Now, I understand that investing in such machinery needs substantial amount of capital. Having seen suppliers across Asia Pac at close up, I hope many have managed to make the transition to buying and maintaining expensive machinery to check for banned substances.

I haven't seen any leading articles on RoHS in India so far. However, I'm sure that the Indian manufacturers of electronics products have also made the shift.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Low-cost mobile broadband access for all

Today, the cell phone has become a commodity, a comman man's device. In India, especially in the metros, it is hard to find someone not carrying a cell phone. It has become so convenient to use one.

Imagine what it used to be a decade back. Cell phone prices were very high as were the call charges. Today, the story has reversed. It has been well established that Wireless is the most cost-effective way to bridge the digital divide.

Higher prices of handsets were posing a barrier to growth in developing countries. This has changed considerably since. Lowering of handset prices has ensured that the maximum growth has been in the developing countries.

However, more needs to be done as the rural-urban 'digital' divide is still significant. We first heard of ultra low-cost US $40 handsets a couple of years back. These were developed to lower the entry barrier in developing countries and to connect the unconnected.

We also saw US $30 handsets come into the fray. And now, low-cost 3G handsets are starting to do the rounds.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the operators, the handset vendors and their partners -- all need to be congratulated for having done such commendable work.

However, more needs to be done to truly make low-cost access available to all. ITU has recommended in its paper that low-cost 3G handsets "would create economies of scale for handset makers and their component suppliers. It would also make third-generation mobile services accessible to a much wider user base. The handsets will be available at a wholesale price about 30 percent less than the typical entry-level 3G phone and fully-competitive with the multimedia second-generation handsets on sale today."

This will happen eventually. And, when it does, these low-cost 3G handsets would become affordable mobile broadband devices for the masses. This would be the first step toward providing true mobile broadband low-cost access for all!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

China Sourcing Fair and Global Sources

First of all, it feels great to be back after having been on the road. I didn't know so many folks were missing me... am overwhelmed. Some friends and associates I believe, went overboard trying to find out where I was and why wasn't I writing. To all these well wishers, thanks a lot! It sure feels good to be back.

There are a lot of topics on my mind that I would like to write about. Before anything else, my mind goes back to Hong Kong for a while. A former employer, Global Sources, just completed the Spring edition of the Electronics & Components China Sourcing Fair at the sprawling Asiaworld Expo in Hong Kong.

I have been part of this event in the recent past, having covered the show extensily and judging the New Products Gallery during the Spring and Autumn Shows last year (2006). I'm sure, my former team-mates in Hong Kong did a great job in selecting the products for the New Products Gallery.

The show this time around was huge, as usual, and very well attended. I know, all of my ex-colleagues and friends gave their 200 percent to make this show a success. My congratulations to all of them.

I have tremdous self-respect and self-belief, and if one company helped me bring these qualities out in abundance, it has been Global Sources. Thank you!

Finally, here's a picture from the last year's CSF from the team dinner. All of you are great guys, and God bless.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Increasing efficiency with power MOSFETs

The electronics manufacturing segment is being constantly pushed to pursue increasing the power efficiency. The power MOSFET has been successful in supporting such moves.

High-voltage end >200V power MOSFETs were said to be driven by the power supply, lighting and motor drive markets. The mid-voltage range from >30 to 200V focused on the automotive and telecom markets, and the low-voltage products were driven by portable and computer markets.

According to Zetex Semiconductors, trends driving the demand for MOSFETs included portable applications that focus on smaller size, increased power density, increased functionality and longer battery life; more generally, the increasing demand for efficient DC-DC conversion to support the numerous voltage rails required in today’s systems; growth in LCD panel market requiring MOSFETs for driving CCFL backlight; the need for higher performance and efficient cooling systems cooling (DC Fans); and the move toward switching amplifiers for audio.

As the electronics market was being pushed to increase power efficiency, driven by governments’ legislation for energy conservation, the MOSFET developments to support this initiative were following two main tracks.

One was the shrinking of geometries to enable smaller packaging and higher power densities, and the other was the process and geometry optimization to improve the switching performance. A move to leadless packaging was a parallel activity to support higher power densities.

The need to drive MOSFETs at higher frequency to improve efficiency in power conversion applications and reduce system size was setting challenges for driving MOSFETs. Despite being voltage driven, in order to switch a power MOSFET at high speed requires high current to charge and discharge the gate capacitance.

This is currently an area of focus for Zetex. As a provider of leading-edge bipolar transistors, the supplier offers products that offer high drive current capability in very compact packages.

Keke Ke of Mainland based Guangdong Kexin added that electronic manufacturers were making efforts on decreasing the power dissipation and increasing efficiency, which calls for MOSFET to provide lower RDS (on) to decrease power dissipation. Meanwhile, gate charge and ratio of gate charge should be lowered to reduce conduction loss and switching loss to further increase efficiency.

Demand mostly emanted from portable products for smaller packaging of components. Kexin rolled out a variety of MOSFETs packaged by horizontal pin SOT-723 having the packaging size of 1.2x0.8x0.5mm. Such new packaging made use of PCB’s 1.44mm2 area and can increase the ratio of silicon/packaging area to decrease the power dissipation.

Kexin’s TSSOP-8 production line has been put into use. Compared with SOP-8, it can perform smaller packaging size. E.g., one TSSOP-8 component is up to SOP-8 in terms of performance, but its packaging size is only 25 percent of the SOP-8’s.

(Picture with the report is of Fuyong, Shenzhen, where I'd the pleasure of having lunch with my friends Simon Wang and Edmund. Don't have Kexin's image!)

Take care of thermal distribution for higher-layer PCBs

This is an extension to an earlier piece on the subject. During my various meetings in Hong Kong, I found Johnny Keung, deputy general manager, Circuitone, as a very good resource for discussing PCB services.

He described that immersion tin was economical, complied with RoHS, could replace immersion gold, and go fine line width. Circuitone offers 4µx4µ line width. As for spacing, it can go down to 3µ spacing.

The board size can be limited by equipment. Circuitone has equipment that handles 24x24inch board sizes. It can also offer 0.003” line width (3µx3µ) for high-density PCBs in large volumes. It offers minimum hole-width of 0.2mm, and plans to offer 0.1mm hole-width by Q4-07. This is indeed significant.

There had been some reports in the trade press regarding some Mainland Chinese PCB fabricators offeing 20- and even 40-layer PCBs.

Keung said there were two benchmarks. One, switching from double-sided to four layers, and two, switching from four layers to six layers.

He pointed out that Circuitone could use technology from six layers up to 20 layers. If it went beyond 20 layers, for example, 22 layers, there may be difficulties with thermal distribution within the board.

As I understand from our discussions, for up to 20 layers or so, heat distribution was on the top layer of the PCB, while distribution across middle layer could be uneven. Layers at the bottom could experience higher heat transfer than those in the middle.

Even PCB pressing is done in two stages: one, increase heat so the bonding sheet started to melt, and two, if temperature kept increasing, the glue was transformed into solid. This was the final curing stage.

Commenting on 40-layer PCBs, Keung commented that those boards at the outer layer would likely start melting, and those at the core layer would be in solidstate. When heat was being transferred into core layer, the evenness of distribution changed. The outer layer would remain in solidstate as well. So, expansion/contraction could get uneven, and registration could be a big challenge.

Fabricators should definitely look into this aspect, before designing higher-layer PCBs. I believe, some research work has been done by PCB makers to develop higher-layer PCBs. We discussed the yield rate earlier. That has to rise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Make room for Internet radios

During one of my trips to San Po Kong, near Diamond Hill, in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of meeting Hip Shing Electronics, who were introducing the Internet radio. I remember, my good friend, Willy Cheng, asking me to meet this company, and I'm glad that I did.

Hip Shing has focused attention on producing Internet radios. One of its models is an Internet radio with WiFi. A desktop receiver picks up the Internet radio station through WiFi and streams the music over the radio.

Do note that Internet radios and DAB radios have different markets, in the sense that Internet radios can be virtually used anywhere!

During our meeting, the executive at Hip Shing was playing for me Paris Hilton’s number "Stars Are Blind, over the Internet radio, after having accessed the audio file over the office network.

There are currently over 10,000 Internet radio stations and growing. Hip Shing’s executive said that users could stream MP3/WMA files via their own network using the Internet radio. The files buffer and then play back.

The Internet radio supports MP3/WMA/Real/AAC formats. It supports all major Internet encryption and decoding formats as well. I believe, it would be just a while when these radios come with features to support video playback. And that would be great!

Hip Shing is using Receiva’s solution for the Internet radio. The WiFi solution has been sourced from Taiwan. It is 802.11a/b/g compatible, and can stream over 6,000 Internet radio stations. Drivers for speakers are sourced from the Mainland.

The Internet radio featured five preset Internet radio stations, though Hip Shing can offer up to 10 preset stations. It had 4Wx1 speaker output power and a four-line LCD. Hip Shing was scheduled to add FM capability as well during Q1-2007.

Hip Shing was also planning to launch an Internet radio adapter and a micro system. It can be connected via WiFi. The Internet radio adapter would not have a speaker. The solution for this product has been sourced from Receiva. Hip Shing was scheduled to launch this product by end of November 2006.

Another supplier in Shatin, Hong Kong, A-Team, also came up with an Internet radio. A-Team's Internet radio also uses Receiva’s solution and plays all key audio formats. It will be sold in Europe, most likely.

I would like to see some updates from readers on this segment. I don't think this product has reached India. Would be interesting to see how it develops here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

RFID, biometrics convergence -- II

Continuing from the previois blog, it's a pleasure to introduce RCG, who I met with my ex-colleague Darius in Hong Kong, late 2006. We were very impressed with RCG's capabilities. I'd like to put down here what I saw that day (and wish my friend to update me later).

Based in Hong Kong's Cyberport, RC Group (Holdings) Ltd is developing, producing and distributing state-of-the-art biometrics and RFID software through hardware and system integration. A leader in Asia Pacific region, RCG has plans for aggressive global expansion with its all-in-one biometrics and RFID applications.

RCG is offering the i4+ time and attendance system with biometric access control. It uses an ARM processor, and features high-precision fingerprint sensor and high-speed authentication processing engine. RCG developed the hardware and software for the product. It uses 13.56GHz Mi-Fare card, and supports fingerprint access and password. Current memory is 256MB, which is flexible as more RAM can be added. It supports up to 10,000 users.

RCG is offering the M29 biometric fingerprint door lock that supports 100 fingerprint enrollments. It incorporates the latest fingerprint recognition technology into the zinc-alloy doorlock. The M29 combines advanced algorithm and advanced, precise semiconductor sensor to guarantee a fast, reliable performance and good image-capturing capability.

The S903 from RCG is a biometric fingerprint access control device featuring a state-of-the-art semiconductor fingerprint sensor. It features 64MB flash memory that is expandable. It can store up to 3,000 fingerprints. RCG was scheduled to add card support by Q4-2006.

RCG's FX Guard Pro biometric access control with face-recognition technology. It has a built-in IR sensor and RFID reader is optional. It is the first facial recognition application that runs primarily on TCP/IP. It adopts RCG's ultra-fast, highly accurate facial verification engine. RCG works with a partner in Germany for facial recognition. It also offers a Mi-Fare RFID card reader or EM card. Symbol is providing RCG the RFID tags, readers and antennae.

On the RFID side, RCG is offering mobility solutions, asset management and security control, and middleware. On the mobility side, it offers inventory database control and access device, and field service solution (using Symbol’s mobile PDA with GPRS).

RCG is also offering the asset monitoring system and control solution. It uses Symbol RFID tag and program readers, uses its own middleware and provides the solution, which is essentially aimed at the SMEs. It is a partner with EPCGlobal.

RCG has been included in the list of Hong Kong’s pilot projects. It also offers middleware and does the entire RFID software for the middleware in Hong Kong. It also adopts some SOA concepts.

Commenting on the outlook for 2007, Dr. Kam Hong Shum, CTO, said that one trend would be the convergence of RFID and biometrics. Next, there would be integration of devices into ERP, HR and payroll, etc. According to him, biometrics had huge potential. For RFID, there could be more of check-and-trace solutions, ported on devices such as Wi-Fi, GPS/GPRS terminals, besides using ZigBee for location tracking.

RFID, biometrics convergence - I

This was written a little while back, when I was in Hong Kong. I am reproducing it for the benefit of readers and friends, with hopes of receiving updates regarding access control, along with biometrics and RFID.

Hong Kong's 303 Technology offers a range of products including fingerprint access control system, fingerprint attendance system, fingerprint recognition device and WebHR. These customized products find applications in offices, factories, academic and financial institutions, hospitals, and other industries.

Its VFinp is an intelligent biometric access control product that uses optical and CMOS sensors, the last one being optional. It supports multi-verification mode and allows high-speed fingerprint matching. One finger can be used to trigger off an alarm.

Suitable for time and attendance management, it has built-in 8MB memory or 2,000 fingerprint images capacity. The maximum number of event logs is 60,000. The FAR is 0.0001 percent when FRR is 1 percent. It has the TAS proprietary software built in, which has been developed and designed in Hong Kong. All coding is finished in the Shenzhen factory on the Mainland.

The company was focusing on a fingerprint scanner when I met them late 2006. It uses a multilayer PCB. 303 Technology plans to develop face-recognition technology in one to two years time. Options include proximity card module, ID card module and Mi-Fare card module, respectively. Fingerprint access will remain mainstream over the next six to 12 months.

In the non-biometric area, 303 Technology will develop a lock system for hotels. It will integrate with the hotel system for use during emergencies. The product would be launched by Q2-07. Key applications include time/attendance and access control.

It can be used in schools and libraries as well. VFinp can also be used for this application. The supplier only needs to modify software. 303 Technology is also offering the InstantPass LTP-II fingerprint and password access device. It has a bilingual LCD, and can store up to 750 fingerprint and 16,000 attendance records. It has 16 key buttons for password entry of administrator and other users.

Continues in next blog

Sunday, March 25, 2007

DAB to drive digital radio adoption

This piece on DAB radios was written late last year. Am publishing it here, and look forward to updates, comments, etc.

At present, over 40 countries support digital radio. Europe is digital radio's largest market at the moment, with greatest of deployments in the UK. As of last year (2006), there were an estimated 3 million digital radio users in the UK alone and about 4 million users globally. The success of digital radio will depend on how the world will embrace the new standard of DAB (digital audio broadcasting). Consumer adoption would also entail putting up new stations that would broadcast new content unique to digital radio.

London based RadioScape, a leader in end-to-end broadcast and receiver solutions for digital radio and mobile TV, has been expanding its operations in the Asia Pacific region over the past two years. It opened an R&D center at Hong Kong Science Park in July 2006, and introduced several new products. By setting up the R&D center, it hopes to tap China (Hong Kong and Mainland) based manufacturers of digital radio, most of whom export products to Europe.

In 2006, there were 3 million units for DAB, with about 2.4 million alone in the UK. In 2007, industry forecasts place the figure at 5 million units and 6 million units, with about 3.6 million from the UK. Scandinavian markets are growing, but largest potential markets within Europe include France and Germany. These countries have largely ignored DAB, partly due to regulatory issues. Radioscape believes that Germany would be supporting DRM.

Within 2007-08, both Germany and France would likely be switching on to digital radio. These events would see digital radio's focus shift away from the UK to the rest of Europe, and trigger the economic cycle for the digital radio market.

In the rest of the world, digital radio has been making headway in North America by satellite standards such as XM and Sirius, which have about 10 million subscribers between them.

Another standard, HD Radio, developed by Ubiquity Corp, is also there. There is no question that there will be a shakeout of standards in the future. This adds another pro to Radioscape's stance of maintaining software-based modules. It does not want a hardware design tied down to a particular standard.

I would like to see some updates regarding DAB in India, and love to meet up with companies offering DAB radios for the Indian market.