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New report: “Wi-Fi is better than cellular”

Originally Appearing in Wi-Fi Now Events Blog, Claus Hetting (Wi-Fi Now CEO & Chairman), November 6, 2019.

A couple of weeks ago Wi-Fi Now Events reported on a new mobile services study released by mobile analytics company Tutela – but we may actually have missed the importance of one of the findings: Unlicensed band services in the US (by MVNOs) outperform cellular, which runs on billion-dollar dedicated bands. That consequential finding was yesterday clearly articulated by consultant and analyst, Dr William Webb on LinkedIn.

Wi-Fi (unlicensed) bands are free and can be used by anyone, while mobile broadband spectrum often costs billions of dollars and realistically can only be acquired by huge telcos. The argument in favour of spending billions of dollars on spectrum – and in turn allocating more licensed spectrum to mobile broadband – has always been that the quality of mobile services (as consequence of exclusive access to bands) is better than anything running on unlicensed bands.

Turns out that the assumption is false – and that this is now documented.

“Wi-Fi is better than cellular,” says Dr William Webb.

The basis of the findings is recent report by mobile analytics company Tutela. The consequences of the findings are articulated in a recent LinkedIn blog post by analyst, consultant, and former regulator at Ofcom UK, Dr William Webb.

In the blog post Dr Webb says the following: “…the performance of Wi-Fi is seen further into the Tutela report, where they provide performance data for Wi-Fi hotspots alone. Altice achieves 87%/96% while Xfinity gets 86%/97%. Both of these are substantially better than the average of the MNOs.” (for more about the methodology and use of percentage scores, see the report itself).

The conclusion is that “Wi-Fi is better than cellular,” Dr William Webb says.

Regulatory decisions on 6 GHz are approaching

The report’s findings and Dr Webb’s analysis are timely and consequential as regulators are approaching final decisions on releasing the 6 GHz band to unlicensed use. The FCC initially voted strongly in favour of releasing 1.2 GHz of spectrum in 6 GHz to unlicensed use (Wi-Fi) but have recently been pressured by mobile industry giants, including T-Mobile, Ericsson, and Huawei.

Some mobile industry giants contend that the upper part of the 6 GHz band should be allocated for cellular use, while Huawei and Ericsson are attempting to introduce a new ITU work item on 6 GHz for mobile services, which could delay the international expansion of regulation on unlicensed 6 GHz bands by several years.

Quality metrics for Wi-Fi services delivered by US MVNOs. For all the details click on the image to see the Tutela report. Source: Tutela.

As the Internet of Things and Proptech Takes Off, Red Bison Provides Extreme Connectivity as a Service

Originally Appearing in The Registry, October 14, 2019. Author: Meghan Hall

Technological innovation has disrupted the commercial real estate industry in a myriad
of ways, from how tenants search for homes, to Blockchain to virtual reality.
Increasingly, technology is also finding a home within the built environment, inside of
buildings and infrastructure previously deemed as non-technical. Proptech companies
can now provide specific data points on everything from energy efficiency to how
tenants utilize their property on a day-to-day basis. By many accounts, technology’s
impact on the commercial real estate industry has been largely positive, and one
company, Seattle-based Red Bison, is striving to help landlords, property owners and
managers recognize the impact and importance of technological integration into real
estate assets through its in-building networks.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity and activity in this space right now,”
explained Kip Spencer, original co-founder of OfficeSpace.com, and now executive vice
president at Red Bison. “Office buildings are becoming supercomputers. Buildings
originally primarily functioned as buildings, but now there is incredible data that is eyeopening, and it is this huge open space that nobody has really seized. I think what we are doing is really disruptive relative to this industry.”

Red Bison, founded in 2014, offers Extreme Connectivity as a Service through its high-performance fiber optic network. According to Admiral William Owens, Red Bison’s cofounder and executive chairman, the idea to form Red Bison arose after an extensive
Naval career and years of industry experience acting as chairman of the board of
CenturyLink for ten years and as CEO of companies such as Nortel and Teledesic.
Through these avenues, Owens was exposed to advanced communications networks,
something he generally found lacking in buildings throughout the United States.

“I have been very concerned over the years as to why the United States is failing in
technology,” said Owens, who pointed out that the United States ranks 37th in the
world for mobile connection speeds, thereby impacting digitization of certain industries,
including commercial real estate. “Our buildings do not run as fast as other nations, like
South Korea, Hong Kong, some parts of China, or like some of the smartest cities in the world, like Kigali, Rwanda…So with the realization that we are not doing too well in
the United States, and that we need to do better with finding ways to be engaged with
the large structures in our country, and seeing lots of companies that have the ability to
do this, we started Red Bison about 5 years ago.”

In many other countries aside from the United States, connectivity, where wireless
internet has almost attained the status of a public utility, countries invest heavily in
bandwidth and wireless infrastructure.

“In other countries, billions of dollars are spent from the government on research and
development and support to companies that do these kinds of things, to make sure that
companies are keeping up with the innovation of the world,” continued Owens.

Despite the United States’ lag in broadband capacity and technologies, Spencer noted
that companies and property owners are eager to learn more about Red Bison’s
offerings and the opportunity to enhance their building performance—and also increase
employee productivity. Because of tenant and market demand, such technologies will
quickly transform from the exception to an industry standard.

“Brokers are telling me that they have got clients that go on tours, the tenant is a tech
firm, and they walk in the door and do a speed test, and will choose assets [based on
that],” said Spencer. “That is real; that is happening, and that is going to happen a lot
more. So, not only do you want to make sure the asset remains strong from a tenant
attraction standpoint, but it will be a requirement.”

Spencer and Owens estimate that the value of Red Bison’s network, for a 500,000
square foot asset, is about $400,000. However, Red Bison provides the capital for the
installation of the network while building a working relationship with building owners
and tenants, who maintain ownership of the data that Red Bison’s network can collect.

“[Other networks] were piecemeal; there was no ubiquitous, single, high-quality
network in any building,” said Owens. “And just like our bodies need a nervous system
to function, buildings need a fiberoptic nervous system to make a big difference. So, we
decided that is our business model…. It is not too cheap to build out a fiber network,
but if you have that nervous system, then everything will change for the building. All of
the sensors that go on that network, the security systems, there’s huge economy for
the building owner.”

The goal is to provide hundreds of gigabits to every user in the building, not just to the
building itself, explained Owens. Doing so can not only increase productivity, but also
serve as a sound basis for different proptech companies.

“There are hundreds of proptech companies out there, and we see ourselves as not just a propetch company, but we want to energize all of the proptech that is available
because we have the network to bring it all into the building,” said Owens.
Red Bison, like other proptech companies, can also provide additional services such as
security management and machine learning capabilities.

Red Bison is currently working on several projects in the San Francisco Bay Area that
will be delivered in the next several months. The firm has also partnered with CBRE as
a preferred provider. Owens hopes to expand the company’s reach across the country,
catering not just to major technology companies, but smaller businesses in less urban
environments looking to improve their efficiency.

“We are really trying to be selective out of the gate here to work with players that
really understand [the product], going in at the top level and developing a true
partnership structure,” said Spencer. “…That is our ultimate goal here, to provide the
highest performing asset possible. And if you start with that, it is amazing where the
conversation goes.”

Wi-Fi vs. ZigBee and Z-Wave: Which Is Better?

Originally Appearing in how-to-geek.com, October 6, 2019
Author: Josh Hendrickson

For most of the modern smarthome era, ZigBee and Z-Wave have been the dominant communication protocols. But now, Wi-Fi is a strong contender, and more Wi-Fi smart gadgets arrive every day. So, which should you use? The answer is complicated.

Wi-Fi Is Taking Over the World

We’ve written a great deal about Z-Wave and Zigbee, what each protocol does, and why you would pick one over the other. But in the past, Wi-Fi as a total smarthome solution wasn’t a serious consideration. We even warned that Google and Amazon were trying to kill the smarthome hub and covered the difficulties you might encounter with dozens of Wi-Fi devices.

Until recently, if you wanted a smarthome, either Z-wave or ZigBee was your best bet. You picked a protocol and tried to stick with it. And most smart hubs support both, so, when necessary, you could use both in your home. Wi-Fi devices didn’t have much support or centralized hubs to tie all the gadgets together.

But that changed this year—a fact that was evident at CES. It seemed that every smarthome manufacturer touted Google and Alexa integration, and focused on Wi-Fi radios instead of Z-Wave or ZigBee. Now, for every Z-Wave Lock on the market, there’s a Wi-Fi alternative, often from the same manufacturer. But not all things are equal between the protocols.

Z-Wave and ZigBee: The Kings of Local Processing

When you build a smarthome, you have to ask yourself how much you want the cloud involved. All Wi-Fi smarthome gadgets depend on the cloud to work. You need dedicated apps, and the closest you can get to a centralized experience is syncing your devices with Alexa or Google.

But with the right hub, like Hubitat, Homeseer, or OpenHab, you can create a smarthome that doesn’t rely on the cloud. This means that even when the internet is down, you can still control your smarthome. And when you control your smarthome locally, it also works faster. You’ll notice a dramatic difference between the time you send a command and it happens, like turning on the lights.

Z-Wave Has Fewer Congestion Problems

Z-Wave devices in the U.S. are less prone to interference issues than either Wi-Fi or ZigBee. That’s because Z-Wave runs on a different radio frequency—908.42 MHz—while both ZigBee and most Wi-Fi smarthome devices communicate over 2.4 GHz. It’s easy for the 2.4 GHz spectrum to get crowded and suffer issues.

Z-Wave avoids this problem entirely as it only has to contend with itself, even if you add more and more Z-wave devices.

Z-Wave and ZigBee Are Single Points of Failure

Even when you use a cloud-dependent hub, like Wink or SmartThings, Z-Wave and ZigBee products benefit from company clouds involved in the process. Your hub does all the work, so if the company that manufactures your Z-Wave lightbulbs or ZigBee smart locks quits, your devices will keep working.

Wi-Fi devices, on the other hand, depend on multiple clouds. The manufacturer of the gadget provides a cloud and a dedicated app. And if you control your smarthome with Alexa or Google, their cloud is involved, too. But unlike a smarthome hub, Alexa and Google Assistant don’t control Wi-Fi devices directly—the various clouds talk to each other.

This means if either side calls it quits, your device does, too. We saw this recently when Best Buy chose to leave the smarthome business. Insignia branded plugs, lightbulbs, and even a smart freezer all lost their smarthome capabilities. With Wi-Fi, anything in your smarthome can break which, in turn, can lead to everything in your smarthome breaking.

ZigBee and Z-Wave, though, have a giant and singular point of failure: the hub you use to control them. If that fails, either because the company quits or it just breaks, your whole smarthome goes with it.

Wi-Fi Devices Have a Lower Barrier of Entry

Smart hubs can be a challenge to learn how to use. Unfortunately, that’s unavoidable because they’re incredibly powerful and capable of advanced automation. But that’s not necessarily the case with Wi-Fi devices. You can pair them with Alexa or Google Assistant, which are designed to be as user-friendly as possible.

While Google Assistant and Alexa routines aren’t as powerful as some smart hubs, they’re good enough for the average smarthome. When you do need something more complicated, IFTTT and Yonomi work well with Alexa (but not Google, unfortunately).

It’s more likely your family and friends have encountered the Google Assistant or Alexa app than a more esoteric smart hub app. That familiarity gives them a leg up in learning to interact with your smarthome.

Wi-Fi Devices Are Typically Less Expensive

In keeping with the low barrier of entry, Wi-Fi devices often cost less than their Z-Wave and ZigBee counterparts. When you directly compare Wi-Fi plugs with Z-wave Plugs, Wi-Fi Bulbs with ZigBee Bulbs, and Wi-Fi light switches with Z-Wave light switches, you see a noticeable difference in price.

That isn’t to say Z-Wave and ZigBee are always more expensive—Schlage’s Z-Wave lock actually costs less than its Wi-Fi lock. But often, that’s because the Wi-Fi variant is newer—when the Schlage Z-Wave lock was released, it was sold at the price the Wi-Fi lock sells for now.

Building a smarthome doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can add up. If you spread out your purchases over time, it softens the blow. But choosing Wi-Fi due to the lower cost makes sense, too.

Z-Wave and ZigBee Devices Don’t Work with Every Hub

Just because you buy a Z-Wave or ZigBee device and own a smart hub that works with both, it doesn’t mean they’ll work together. That’s why hubs continually release updates for new device compatibility.

But if your hub doesn’t add new devices (like Wink), or is just slow to release updates, you might be out of luck. You can try to program the device as a generic one, but that won’t always work.

With Wi-Fi devices, you don’t have to wait or check to see if it works with your favorite voice assistant. Instead, the effort of compatibility moves from the “hub” (Alexa or Google Assistant) to the device manufacturer.

Manufacturers of Wi-Fi devices can rely on APIs provided by Google and Amazon to make everything work together. That’s less work overall because, at most, they only have to account for two scenarios. Z-Wave and ZigBee hubs are often vastly different, and the amount of work necessary to sync everything together changes from hub to hub.

If you want to ensure the devices you own will always work in your smarthome, Wi-Fi now has a clear advantage, thanks to Google and Alexa.

So, Wi-Fi or Z-Wave and ZigBee?

Whether you should go with Z-wave and ZigBee or Wi-Fi depends on what’s more important to you when it comes to your smarthome experience. If you want everything to work with Google or Alexa and don’t want to add smart hub complications, then Wi-Fi devices are the best option.

But if you want local, cloudless control—and a smarthome you can fine-tune to the most advanced specifications—ZigBee and Z-Wave win.

Once you know what you want in your smarthome, the choice becomes obvious.

How technology is disrupting the real estate industry

Originally Appearing in front blog (frontapp.com)
Author: Vishal Vibhaker

When Marc Andreessen famously said, “Software is eating the world,” that statement included our houses, office buildings, and yards, too.

Technology touches every aspect of the real estate industry today. Buyers can see a birds-eye view of a neighborhood 2,000 miles away through drone footage. You can buy a house online without ever taking out a pen to sign a contract. Searching for new listings is as simple as downloading an app, choosing your location, and awaiting notifications with options.

More than 70 percent of today’s buyers search for homes online, and 85 percent of real estate agents use texting to get work done. Digging to find information on schools, demographics, and crime statistics is a task of the past — now websites and apps make this data accessible, so it’s easier than ever to make informed decisions.

Below are some of the top technologies that are changing the landscape of the real estate industry today and tomorrow.

Top tech trends shaping the future of real estate

Blockchain

Blockchain makes it possible for people and companies to process major transactions without going through intermediaries like credit card companies, banks, or governments.

As you can imagine, real estate almost always counts as a “major transaction”. If blockchain fulfills its promise in real estate, it can bring security, transparency, and efficiency to real estate transactions. Two places blockchain is expected to make the biggest splash? 1) Tokenization and 2) smart contracts.

1) Tokenization in real estate means using cryptocurrency to split assets into tokens that are stored on the blockchain. aXpire COO Matt Markham gives a great explanation of tokenization in real estate on Hacker Noon. It creates two big changes:

Landlords can sell off just a portion of their property and investors to resell their shares on the open market through secondary exchanges.
Individuals from various income levels and locations can have access to investment opportunities that used to be out of reach.

2) Smart contracts bring together transactions completely between the buyer and the seller (or renter and landlord). Buyers can submit their information on an encrypted block directly to the seller, rather than going through a bank, for instance. Removing middlemen, and human interaction in general, can both speed up the transaction and reduce the chance for fraud. Sea Foam Media’s Chloe Diamond details more on smart contracts and blockchain in real estate.

Sharing economy

It’s no secret that remote work is on the rise, and the sharing economy is growing with it. Rather than buying a car, why not lease one (or take a Lyft, GetAround, or a Spin scooter?) Instead of purchasing furniture for your startup office, why not rent some desks for a year before your team outgrows the space?

Since people are less concerned with owning physical goods and properties, a new crop of businesses have sprouted around the real estate industry to facilitate mobile and shared lifestyles:

Modern real estate companies like Zeus enable businesses to rent furnished homes for extended stays — and home owners to lease their spaces to businesses.
Co-working companies like WeWork have made it possible for businesses to not have to sign ten year leases on office space and deal with the hassles that come with that.
Companies like CasaOne enable individuals and businesses to rent furniture on a monthly basis rather than spending full price to buy it and reselling it later.

Artificial intelligence

While Rosie the Robot Maid isn’t buzzing around giving property tours just yet, artificial intelligence is impacting the real estate industry in less obvious ways every day — through machine learning (ML). With ML, computers can learn from data, rather than being programmed to do certain tasks. In real estate, ML is helping influence smarter business decisions through pattern recognition — to determine information such as when a property or neighborhood will become popular.

Speeding up the sales process

Virtual reality

For agents and brokerage companies, virtual reality has the potential to speed up sales cycles by allowing clients to get a better sense of a property and putting agents in touch with buyers further along in the buying cycle.

VR for real estate allows people to try before you buy — without spending time and money traveling to scope out properties. Instead of using high quality photos or 360° video, forward-thinking realtors offer clients 3D virtual property “tours.” Thanks to aerial drone footage and 3D technology, clients can “step into” a space to experience the scale of rooms, climb into showers to make sure the shower head is high enough, and walk out to check out the neighborhood.

In the past, agents had to spend time and money staging a space, but soon that might not be the case. Instead, clients will be able to personalize a room with virtual furniture.

CRM software

Software like Salesforce, PipeDrive, Base, and countless other CRMs for real estate help agents keep track of emails, calls, and the progress you’ve made with your prospects. You can get a clear sense of your pipeline, and quickly identify the areas where you need to take action. Once a deal has been won or lost, you can easily report on results and use that data to forecast revenue.

The rise of mobile

Mobile apps

Ordering food? Catching a ride? People do everything on their phones today, and they expect to browse, buy, and sell real estate from the palm of their hand, too.

With real estate apps like Zillow and Redfin, clients and agents have a centralized platform to browse, buy or sell a property, find an agent, and get notified when a new listing hits the market. Their platforms house data for real estate discovery, property values, mortgages, and more.

Mobile apps are disrupting the renovation space, too. With companies like Thumbtack and Handy, it’s easier than ever to hire a landscaper, painter, plumber, cleaner, or any type of professional contractor to work on your property.

Improving the tenant experience

Internet of things

Properties house loads of data on the way people live. Through the internet of things, technology now lives inside non-technical things like doors, light switches, locks, and more.

Once you have systems and sensors in place, every action a tenant makes becomes a data point that can be used to improve their experience. For example, property managers can gather data to understand:

When do they prefer to have the heating on?
Where are the areas with the highest foot traffic at different times of the day?
Which spaces are used the most?

Real estate management used to require a lot of paperwork, from maintenance requests to insurance documents. Now all this paperwork lives in the cloud, which enables property managers to track trends and improve the way they manage properties. Owners can monitor a premise in real time and control security features remotely. They can send out reports on utility interruptions or control building temperature from afar.

Channels for connecting with clients and tenants

Now there are more options than ever for communicating with clients and tenants, and being available on many channels makes it easier for clients to reach you anytime, anywhere. Agents and property owners are using email in addition to:

SMS texting tools like Twilio
Live website chat tools like Drift and Intercom
Social media messaging through Facebook and Twitter
Client communications tools like Front to manage email and every other channel efficiently in one place

Technology is shaping the real estate industry for the better

PwC’s yearly trend report for real estate suggests, “If people don’t recognize technologies are existing and, moreover, how to integrate them, opportunities are being missed.” From shortening the sales cycle to providing a top-notch tenant experience, technology will continue to transform the way we buy, sell, and search for real estate.

Germans See Economy Hurt by Slow Internet

Originally Appearing in The Wall Street Journal
Author: Sara Germano, August 6, 2019

The country ranks 33rd in the world by one measure of broadband connection speed; ‘too unstable, too slow’

BERLIN—Germany is looking for new ways to power its economy as the traditional growth engines of manufacturing and exports falter. But the country’s outdated internet is acting as a bottleneck.

The sorry state of the online network has become a national joke and an economic liability. Germany ranks 33rd in the world in average monthly fixed broadband connection speeds, and 47th for mobile, according to Speedtest Global Index. By comparison, the U.S. ranks 7th and 37th, respectively.

The slow speeds are hampering the digitization of swaths of industry and the delivery of products and services to consumers, causing pain for German companies such as media conglomerate Bertelsmann SE, whose portfolio includes online video producer RTL Group, music group BMG and a controlling stake in publisher Penguin Random House.

“Our business is about content and reach, and monetizing the reach,” said Chief Executive Thomas Rabe. “And if the reach is reduced by the lack of technical infrastructure, that is, of course, a problem.”

In Germany, for example, gigabyte connections—which handle more than 1,000 megabits per second—are rare. As a result, streaming ultra-high-definition video can be hit-or-miss outside big cities, with the images sometimes appearing choppy.

Playing Catch-Up
Germany’s internet infrastructure is outdated, forcing consumers to deal with download speeds that are far slower than in many other wealthy nations.

Broadband connections that are typically on average half as fast as in the U.S. can also turn a multiplayer video game into an unresponsive ordeal and limit software companies’ ability to offer cloud computing services, especially remote hosting of applications, where lag can be a significant issue.

Germany largely missed the upgrade to fiber broadband that neighboring countries deployed a decade ago, which is making a swift rollout of next-generation 5G mobile internet especially urgent, according to business leaders, economists and politicians.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said last month that the government is committed to improving digital infrastructure over the next decade. “It will be a long time, but we have devoted ourselves to this question,” she said.

In the meantime, the consequences are felt everywhere from the German countryside, where many companies in the highly decentralized economy have their headquarters, to Berlin’s startup scene.

“Almost every one of us has had bad experiences with the internet connection…too unstable, too slow, not available everywhere,” said Thilo Grösch, a spokesman for an insurance startup who has worked at various firms in the capital for seven years. Mr. Grösch said he often had to work from home at a previous job because the office internet wouldn’t function.

Germany’s internet woes are rooted in a range of factors, according to network operators, regulators, business executives, and industry analysts.

Among them are the country’s large geographic area; an evenly spread population; decades of subdued private-sector investment; and strict fiscal rules that discourage government investment in infrastructure.

But one technical factor stands out: the reliance on copper rather than glass fiber to link end users to the fixed-line network.

“The whole problem in Germany is the lack of fiber-to-the-home strategy by Deutsche Telekom and other carriers,” said Guy Peddy, a telecommunications analyst for Macquarie Research.

Telecom giants in France and Portugal were already rolling out all-fiber networks early in the decade, in keeping with a 2010 European Union report that recommended that national carriers invest in fiber.

But Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s dominant operator, took a less costly route in 2012, upgrading its existing copper network through a technology called vectoring. The idea was to improve speed on copper cables to up to 100 megabits per second by cutting down on interference, a relatively inexpensive way to get faster internet to consumers.

At the time, Deutsche Telekom acknowledged that it would eventually have to build a fiber-based network. But Henrik Schmitz, a spokesman for the company, said it needed to rely on vectoring in order to meet a government target of 80% of households having access to download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second by the end of 2018, a target that Telekom says it will hit a year late.

Fiber would have enabled faster speeds but would have been available to just 10-to-20% of households, Mr. Schmitz said.

Many commercial customers say the vectoring approach has left them frustrated. Holger Ehrhardt, a graphic designer and IT consultant for a print media company in the state of Lower Saxony, said the firm decided to invest in its own server because fiber isn’t available and Deutsche Telekom has only been able to connect them with 25-megabit internet. “It must have something to do with the ‘antique’ lines,” he said.

In 2017, the German Federal Network Agency said vectoring wasn’t enough, and that further glass fiber cable investments were needed to hit government targets. That same year, the German ministry for transportation called for gigabit internet—download speeds ten to twenty times faster than those generated through vectoring—to be broadly available by 2025.

Deutsche Telekom responded by pledging to add up to 60,000 kilometers (37,200 miles) of fiber cable per year and to connect 90% of Germany’s surface area with 5G by 2025, offering high-speed data traffic to those places that fiber couldn’t reach in time.

Critics say Germany still isn’t moving fast enough. “It’s too slow,” Hubert Barth, the chief executive of Ernst & Young Germany, said of the gigabit internet initiative. “If you’re really world class in production, having a ranking of, say, [33rd] in working internet does not fit together with that image.”