BlackBerry Gets Harvested

Carl Weinschenk

Most of the drama this week focused on Washington, D.C., where Democrats and Republicans are jockeying with the politics of funding the government and, beyond that, dealing with the debt limit. If the government does close down, the impact on the Federal Communications Commission will become an issue for the telecommunications and IT industries.

In the meantime, however, we also have the usual interesting mix of news and analysis. Here are some highlights.

Fon Reaches the States

Fon, which is based in Madrid, focuses on enabling people to use each other’s Wi-Fi connections. This approach, which makes subscribers into “Foneros,” has largely been absent from the United States, though the company is available on 12 million hotspots around the world. Some of these, presumably, are in the States.


GigaOm reports that Fon has made a roaming deal with AT&T. The site reports that AT&T subscribers will have access to hundreds of thousands of Fon-enabled hotspots worldwide through the AT&T Wi-Fi International app. Fon users will get access to 30,000 hotspots in the U.S.

Physical and Cyber Security Increasingly Entwined

Two high-level ideas are on display in a product announcement this week by Cisco Systems. The company introduced Video Surveillance Manager 7 (SM7). Among other things, SM7 features Federator and Dynamic Proxy. Federator is a means by which a company can manage millions of cameras via one interface, while Dynamic Proxy enables geographically dispersed users to see high-quality video from the same stream.

The two related ideas that SM7 highlights are the ever-closer relationship between the physical and cyber worlds and the vast potential of the “Internet of things,” in which there is almost no limit to the reach of electronic devices.

BlackBerry’s Fall from Grace Continues

It’s far too early to say how the $4.7 billion buyout of BlackBerry by Fairfax Financial Holdings will play out. Big deals take a long time to work themselves through. For quite some time, a whole lot of nothing happens.

It’s not too early, however, to recognize the magnitude of the fall of BlackBerry, which is illustrated not only by the bargain basement sale to Fairfax but by dreadful second quarter results, which include a 45 percent drop in sales revenue from the year-ago quarter, that were announced today.

BusinessWeek, which notes that the company once was valued at $83 billion, puts the price Fairfax paid into perspective:

Including net cash, the proposal values the Waterloo, Ontario-based company at an 80 percent discount to its book value and just 0.17 times its sales, the cheapest revenue multiple on record among similar-sized North American telecommunications or technology.

At one time, BlackBerry was every bit the go-to company as Apple or Google. Its fate suggests two things: Nobody should get too comfortable and the only constant is change.

Corporations Use Wearable Computing to Keep Fit

Technological innovations are first aimed at doing things we’re already doing more cheaply, more easily and/or more efficiently. Once those obvious uses are exhausted, innovators begin to find new and often exciting uses for the new technology.

A good example of that trend is the use of wearable computing in the workplace. ABI Research says that during the next five years, more than 13 million wearable devices with wireless connectivity will be used in corporate wellness programs. Thus, the technology will be used in innovative ways to keep the workforce healthy and at work.
ABI reports that the category is being targeted by a number of vendors. The press release mentions FitBit, BodyMedia and FitLinxx.

3D Printing Getting Bigger

And, finally, comes a story that gets more interesting and a bit creepier as time goes by. NewScientist reports that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Self-Assembly Lab has figured out a way to use 3D printing to replicate objects bigger than the printer being used.

The idea is to piece smaller bits together later:

The approach, called Hyperform, converts the object to be printed into a single long chain made from interlocking links. An algorithm works out how that chain can be packed together into the smallest cube possible using a Hilbert curve – a fractal-based pattern that is the most efficient way of squeezing a single line into a small as space as possible. The resulting cube is small enough to be printed inside a standard printer.

The resulting cube can be deconstructed and reassembled into the desired object, which may end up being bigger than the printer.



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