Broadband Providers are Gearing Up to Profit from Relaxed Web Rules

Fierce competition in mobile broadband. A steady decline in cable subscribers. New technology that drives down data prices. Hugely expensive infrastructure costs. An uncertain road to next-generation 5G wireless.

Those are just some of the challenges wired and wireless broadband providers are facing. Now those telecom firms are breathing a sigh of relief and gearing up to launch new services and enter new markets in a big way. Regulatory rollbacks will benefit web providers. But the path forward won’t be easy. Continue reading “Broadband Providers are Gearing Up to Profit from Relaxed Web Rules”

5 Bright Spots in Cybersecurity

I’ve been quick to point out that digital security threats are on the rise. Hackers are getting more sophisticated, connected devices are shipping with shoddy defenses and the number of attacks is rising.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, there are some bright spots in the digital security realm. I got an up-close look at some of the latest and greatest cybersecurity technologies and trends at a security conference held last week in Washington, D.C., by market research firm Gartner.

Here are five positive trends about cybersecurity today that I gleaned from listening to security experts for a day. Continue reading “5 Bright Spots in Cybersecurity”

Are Robotic Suits Coming to Your Workplace?

When someone mentions home improvement giant Lowe’s, you might picture vast aisles of paint, plywood and garden supplies. But soon, thoughts of Lowe’s might conjure up images of Iron Man. The retailer is dabbling in robotics through its high-tech research lab that tests a slew of emerging technologies. Its latest project: Productivity-boosting robotic suits known as exoskeletons.

Lowe’s isn’t the only company expressing interest. Exoskeletons will be tested by more and more companies in the coming years. Workers at BMW, FedEx and Amazon are already using suits, according to Kasthuri Jagadeesan, research director of the TechVision Group at Frost & Sullivan. But more testing is needed for wider adoption. “You have to have serious trials,” says Dan Kara, research director at ABI Research. Kara says trials uncover important issues such as how much the suit chafes, how rugged it is and how hard it is to put on and take off. Continue reading “Are Robotic Suits Coming to Your Workplace?”

The Killer App for Super-Fast Broadband? Virtual Reality

Internet providers are betting on data-hungry devices to spur consumer demand for super-fast internet. Executives at companies that provide broadband internet expect virtual and augmented reality, the next big consumer technologies, to keep consumers hooked on pricey home internet plans. That’s because immersive experiences with high-end VR will require ultra-fast, high-capacity networks that far outpace today’s average speeds.

Much-improved virtual and augmented reality goggles will boost broadband companies’ sales pitches. A slew of quality consumer headsets—after today’s models are refined to be cheaper, lighter and more powerful—will be available by 2020. Continue reading “The Killer App for Super-Fast Broadband? Virtual Reality”

Brace for More Destructive Cyberattacks

The latest global cyberattack is a harbinger of worse cyber strikes to come. The May 12 attack crippled businesses and governments around the globe, disrupting operations at English hospitals, FedEx, Telefonica and thousands of other organizations. Hackers infiltrated Microsoft Windows computers and held files hostage until a ransom was paid. Their way in? A security flaw buried in machines that lacked the most recent software version. The attack reportedly infected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries before it was halted.

Cybercriminals are poised to probe other weak spots in the coming months. Criminals and hostile nations have identified security vulnerabilities from data breaches and leaks at U.S. intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency and CIA. Intelligence agencies stockpile flawed code for their own digital intel efforts, and often don’t share the potential security problems with technology vendors. Security experts warn that this practice is dangerous. If hackers get their hands on the flawed code, they can hijack the info for their own cyber strikes. Continue reading “Brace for More Destructive Cyberattacks”

How an Emerging Type of Biometrics Will Thwart Financial Crooks

The way you swipe and press your smartphone will soon add an extra layer of security. Tech companies are building artificial intelligence software that siphons up data on the unique way you fiddle with your sensor-packed smartphone. The systems are fine-tuned enough to detect how you might favor an old wrist injury, stumble over a certain word while typing or press on the screen while using a certain app. The personal profiles that are churned out are highly accurate for identifying the correct user. The underlying technology stems from a Department of Defense research project. Continue reading “How an Emerging Type of Biometrics Will Thwart Financial Crooks”

Three Forecasts After Taking Virtual Reality for a Test Flight

Recently I soared between towering buildings in Manhattan. I saw 3D holograms of downtown Seattle and New York City appear on a barren table in front of me. I rose above the clouds and was greeted by mystical floating people doing yoga-like poses. I walked around a rooftop in a digital world that merged a virtual scene with my real surroundings.

Virtual and augmented reality are already impressive. That’s my clear takeaway from a cable industry event I attended in Washington, D.C., last week, where I got to try out some of the latest and greatest VR and AR technology. (For background, see my previous Alert on the industry.) The cable industry wanted to tout what’s on tap and why their customers will want to upgrade their internet service. Many virtual reality uses, such as live sports games, will require super-fast web connections. Continue reading “Three Forecasts After Taking Virtual Reality for a Test Flight”

Can Cable Companies Compete in the Wireless Business?

A new wireless service from cable and internet giant Comcast will shake up the cellular industry. Comcast is launching a mobile wireless plan that will compete head-to-head with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and regional cell carriers. Industry competition is already heating up, with carriers being forced to offer unlimited data plans, lower prices, free video services, rebates and more. “Promotions such as T-Mobile offering free MLB.TV for a year and AT&T offering a free HBO trial are manifestations of growing competition,” says Mark Stodden, senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service. Now, Comcast will add fuel to the fire.

Better wireless deals are in the cards as carriers respond to new competition. Look for wireless companies to offer more goodies such as free pay TV channels to keep customers from defecting to Comcast. Charter, the second largest U.S. cable provider, is also planning a wireless service in 2018. Continue reading “Can Cable Companies Compete in the Wireless Business?”

How Small Merchants Can Fend Off Costly Cyberattacks

Cyber crooks are increasingly launching attacks at the cash register. The payment terminals and company computer systems used by small businesses are a window into customer credit card data and other sensitive info.

“The bad guys are moving to an easy target: The small- and medium-sized business community,” says Stephen Orfei, the general manager of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council, a group formed in 2006 by the major credit card companies to create payment security standards. A digital attack can be devastating for a small business that lacks the deep pockets and technical prowess of a big company. Continue reading “How Small Merchants Can Fend Off Costly Cyberattacks”

Who Profits from the Next Billion Internet Users?

Tech companies are eyeing a huge new market: The next billion customers coming online for the first time by 2022, mainly in India, China, Indonesia, parts of Africa and other developing regions.

Falling costs and improving technology are making it possible. Low-cost smartphones, running $100 or less, make mobile broadband far more accessible to consumers with little income. Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei, Xiaomi and ZTE are flooding the market with cheap but capable handsets, almost all of them running Google’s Android operating system. Plus, steady advances in wireless radio antennas and other telecom equipment make it cheaper and easier to build mobile networks with faster speeds, more coverage and lower data prices. Continue reading “Who Profits from the Next Billion Internet Users?”