Two of the more interesting stories I cover this week focus on the use of technology in unorthodox ways. One is an initiative by IBM, AT&T and Mueller Water Products to save water by using the Internet of Things (IoT) to find leaks. The other is even more innovative: The use of servers/radiators to act as both distributed data centers and a way to heat homes. Yes, you read that correctly.
Here are the highlights of the tech news for this week:
FCC Finally Makes Cable Guys Happy
It’s a surprise when the cable industry gets any help from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as it is currently comprised—especially when the victory has to do with subscription rates. But that is what has happened. And, perhaps the biggest revelation of all is that the deciding vote was cast by Chairman Tom Wheeler, who has been a thorn in the side of the industry.
With Wheeler joining the two republican commissioners, the FCC voted to limit the power of state and local regulators to oversee cable packages and pricing, according to The National Journal. The limitation is put in place by the assumption that there is “effective competition” for cable companies nationwide. Such an assumption makes it easier to hike rates and change packages because it constrains outsiders’ ability to exert influence.
Finding Water Using the IoT
AT&T, IBM and Mueller Water Products are introducing a service that can limit waste within our water systems.
The story at Forbes says that 2.1 trillion gallons of purified drinking water are wasted in the United States annually due to bad pipes and water mains. Replacing all the elements that could be leaking is not feasible. The answer is to use networked sensors, which are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), to find the pipes and mains that actually are leaking:
The product retrofits existing pipes with acoustic sensors that can pick up if there are any leaks, which make a particular sound. The data is sent to the cloud over AT&T’s wireless network, and uploaded into IBM software for water management officials to keep track of the infrastructure. If a leak is detected, the software alerts the managers.
Tests have been conducted in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Wearables Category Is Being Worn Well
IDC reports that 11.4 million wearable devices shipped during the first quarter of the year, which is a 200 percent increase from the 3.8 million devices shipped during the year-ago period.
The firm said that the first-quarter results represented the eighth straight quarter of growth.
The leader was Fitbit, which released three new devices during the quarter. It has a 34.2 percent market share.
Drones and Cell Towers
IT Business Edge this week posted a story about the transitions in the cellular base station landscape. Another change may be in the works.
Ars Technica reports that NASA and more than 100 firms, including Google and Verizon Wireless, are researching a drone air traffic control system that uses cell tower structures. The Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management system plan could be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration in 2019.
A Verizon spokesperson said that details of the report are inaccurate but did verify that an agreement on long-term research of some sort is ongoing.
Cold? Just Turn Up the Server
Data centers, or actually, the computing equipment within them, are prodigious producers of heat. This heat must be taken away, lest it harm sensitive devices. Two of the traditional responses to this challenge are to build data centers in cold climates and use the environment to cool things down or simply to install expensive air conditioning infrastructures.
A Dutch company is taking a different approach. According to Network World: Instead of treating the heat as a nuisance, why not use it? Nerdalize’s idea, according to the story, is to distribute the data center functionality throughout communities and use the heat to warm homes.
Nerdalize's Eneco eRadiators, sold for homes in conjunction with an energy supplier, are actually servers. They provide computing power for the cloud service's customers and also heat the house in which they are running.
Challenges to the idea are outlined in the story. In short, having a network of servers linked by a variety of conduits is not the same as having devices connected by high-speed interfaces in one place.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.