It was a week that saw a nuclear option—happily, only figuratively—in Washington and winter arrived in the Midwest. And the usual amount of news and commentary was presented in the telecommunications and IT worlds.
Law Controlling 3D Printing of Firearms Nears Expiration
3D printing technology is a lot like nuclear energy: The good uses of it are fabulous and the bad uses are terrifying. While creative use of 3D printing technology in such things as food distribution is possible, the lion’s share of publicity is around the use of the technology to create firearms.
Computerworld reports that the CAFCAD files of a plastic gun called The Liberator have been downloaded more than 100,000 times. A video embedded in the story shows a plastic gun blowing up when fired.
In less than a month, the Undetectable Firearms Act—the law that makes it illegal to print a gun that can’t be detected—will expire. New York Senator Chuck Schumer has proposed “The Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act,” which is aimed, as the title implies, at extending and upgrading the previous law. Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Bill Nelson of Florida have signed on as co-sponsors.
Courting the Chinese Smartphone Market
One of the topics that I’ve posted on recently is the transition of smartphone sales to less expensive devices sold in developing countries and the related pressure on margins. This Reuters story says that chipmakers Qualcomm and Synaptics understand this and are expanding aggressively in the Chinese market. The writers, Sayantani Ghosh and Neha Alawadhi, point to the savvy trade-offs being made by the smart companies:
Increased exposure to China has diluted chipmakers' gross profit margins to somewhere in the mid-40 percent range from an average of nearer 50 percent in developed markets, analysts estimate. The rewards lie in the huge volumes demanded by Chinese handset makers.
The piece says that IDC forecasts that the $80 billion smartphone market will balloon to $120 billion by 2017.
Long Term – and Fast – Evolution
I am not very good at math, but even I understand that 1.3 billion is a whole lot more than 188.6 million. That is the difference between the number of LTE subscribers at the end of this year and the end of 2018, according to Informa Telecoms & Media.
Five years is a long time in the telecom world, but it is still startling growth. It is, according to Informa, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44 percent. The report has a very interesting bit of analysis. It suggests that not charging a premium for the upgrade is the single most important element of growth.
The piece reiterates that speed, latency and quality are the main differentiators between 3G and LTE and that video will be the biggest driver. The piece also says that 83.4 percent of operators believe that LTE is a viable business today.
Are Smartwatches a Smart Business?
At a certain point, a student has to take a test, someone afraid of public speaking must address an audience, and a new product must face consumers and learn its fate.
Smartwatches were seen by some as one of the next big things. Gartner predicts, however, that they will have a rough holiday season. What is even worse for the category is that the firm cites “unclear value proposition” as a reason. That’s another way of saying that the category has a fundamental problem: Not enough people want the product.
The jury still is out, however. Reuters reported that Samsung claims to have sold 800,000 Galaxy Gear smartwatches in the two months since they launched. The story suggests that the reviews for the device are lukewarm and that lack of features is one of the perceived problems. This suggests that, despite the gaudy sales claim, the category may be having trouble defining itself.
Learning Common Sense
And, finally, is a story that just makes sense. Many of us are familiar with Lieutenant Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He was a perfect robot, but struggled with the intuitive and human elements of the script (or, I mean, what was happening to him). Life follows art: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are working on a program called Never Ending Image Learner (NEIL) that seeks to develop common sense.
NEIL uses 200 processing cores on two computer clusters. With a minimum of human supervision, it continually scans the Web and seeks to understand images. It recently has concluded, according to the story, that deer can look similar to antelope and that trading floors can be crowded. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is the type of reasoning that computers previously lacked. Writes Peter Suciu:
This is possible because NEIL has been able to leverage recent advances in computer vision that enable computer programs to identify and label objects that appear in images. Through this it can identify and label objects in images, which allows it to characterize scenes and to even recognize specific attributes including colors, lighting and materials. It is able to do so with a minimum of human supervision.
Earlier projects relied on more human interaction, the story said.