February 22nd, 2013

The Internet of (Interesting) Things

Written by
 

IoT at MWCRight now, a lot of companies are gearing up for Mobile World Congress – and Layer 7 is no exception. I’m attending MWC and I’ll be interested to see how the Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M play out at the conference. IoT has been getting a lot of attention recently, so – in preparation for MWC – let’s take a look at some of the most interesting things that have been said and done in the last couple of months.

I’m particularly excited about a very ambitious EU-funded project to map an IoT reference architecture. Whether it will really become the reference architecture or simply a collection of best practices is subject to debate but I think the simple fact of trying to pull together all the different knowledge domains into one set of documents is bound to be interesting.

Forbes recently published an article by Alex Brisbourne called The Internet of Things Isn’t as New as It Seems. The article offers some really fascinating insights into the renewal rates for built-in 3G services in iPads and OnStar. Reflecting upon my own positive experiences with a 3G Kindle, I have to agree with Alex that, for connected devices to really reach their potential, connectivity must be simply built-in without requiring a separate subscription.

Another indication of this trend is the fact that car manufacturers are apparently switching from built-in mobile connectivity (requiring the owner to carry a subscription) to tethering off the driver’s existing smart phone. This highlights the challenges telco providers are facing – as summarized in a recent blog post on telco2.net.

Alex Bassi has provided another look at the way IoT is affecting business models, making the point that technology is enabling us to use things without having to own them. In my humble opinion, we’ll see this service-based model, which we normally associate with SaaS and the cloud, extending more and more into the domain of physical “smart” things. We can already see this usage pattern emerging in the automotive sector: car sharing a la Zipcar; limo service from Uber; electric car solutions from Better Place. FastCompany calls this the new “self-service” economy in an article that explores these issues in depth.

To get a good overview of the Internet of Things, I suggest heading over to ZDnet, which regularly posts articles on IoT and M2M. Postscapes, meanwhile, is completely dedicated to tracking IoT – I particularly like this site’s (currently incomplete) directory of companies in the space. There’s also a good collection of relevant essays gathered together on Bundlr.

Finally, here are a couple of links for the technically inclined. First here’s a presentation on the impressive set of open source building blocks developed as part of the m2m.eclipse.org project. Second is a piece that touches upon some technical aspects of the semantic Web that have a good deal of relevance to IoT. This is an area I’m personally very interested in and it might be a good topic to explore in a future post.

In any case, I expect to have plenty of interesting things to report on after Mobile World Congress. If you’re attending the show, be sure to stop by the Layer 7 booth for a chat. We’ll be at booth  #8.1A47 in the App Planet zone.

February 20th, 2013

Journey to the Center of the Mobile World

Written by
 

Layer 7 at Mobile World CongressMobile World Congress – three words that strike fear into the hearts of marketing managers everywhere, for this is the largest mobile event of the year and we’re just a few days away from seeing 70,000 visitors descend upon Barcelona like a kettle of vultures, hungry for new innovations. This year, they will be treated to new hunting ground too, as MWC moves to a new, larger venue with more room for fresh meat. Before that metaphor gets completely worn out, let’s take a look at what we can actually expect from this year’s show.

As usual, we’re likely to see a very broad sweep across various areas of telco innovation and mobile strategy but there are some fundamental questions facing the community and these will dominate many conference sessions, seminars and exhibits:

  1. Connected Living
    As the Internet of Things gains momentum, how can the service provider community deliver the kind of enriched connectivity the broader ecosystem increasingly demands?
  2. Mobile Commerce
    For years, mobile has been a key banking and commerce tool for certain markets. With the rise of NFC (near field communication) and success stories like the Starbucks mobile payment app, will mobile become the preferred payment instrument for us all?
  3. Next-Generation Communications
    The world of communications moves quickly – too quickly even for service providers at times, with the runaway success of technologies of iMessage, WhatsApp and – next – WebRTC. In this ever-innovating world of mobile communications, can service providers regain some ground and demonstrate their value?

Layer 7 has answers to these questions and will be at MWC, demonstrating a variety of solutions that can help service providers address the challenges ahead. For example:

  1. We have been collaborating with AT&T and have planned an M2M solution that will capture anonymous information about visitors as they move around the exhibition halls. This information will be presented as intelligent APIs via the Layer 7 platform.
  2. Security and authentication are very familiar terms to Layer 7 and we’ll be showing how mobile payments can be easily and securely integrated with a mobile app without compromising the user experience.
  3. “Communications as a Service” opens many opportunities for service providers and the new partnership between Layer 7 and Voxeo Labs will show how easy it can be to capitalize on these opportunities.

Come and meet the team at booth 8.1A47 in the App Planet zone or email info@layer7.com to schedule a meeting. See you there!

November 8th, 2012

APIs in Apps: Considerations for UX & App Performance Optimization

QConWhen a mobile app is dependent upon APIs, many new challenges are introduced to the developer. To provide the best possible user experience (UX), a mobile app should be snappy and responsive. Often though, in the reality of cell phone networks that are bottlenecked and over capacity, a dependence on a fast data connection can lead to a UX nightmare.

Tomorrow (that’s Friday November 9) at 10:30am, I’ll be discussing the challenges of mobile app UX at QCon in San Francisco. In a presentation called “HTML5 Cross-Platform Mobile Apps Integrating APIs”, I’ll be outlining significant challenges around API-driven mobile apps, as well as mistakes developers commonly make, and suggesting best practices for addressing them.

I hope you can make, if you’re at the show. Also, be sure to visit Layer 7 at booth #11.

October 15th, 2012

API Workshops in Europe

Paris API WorkshopI had a great time presenting on API design and management trends at our London API Workshop a few weeks back. James Governor from RedMonk delivered an exciting talk on APIs, the need for API Management and some stark truths, like the fact that Java is still at the top of the programming pile. All of the trend talk and analysis was followed by a great real-world example when MoneySupermarket.com’s Cornelius Burger described his organization’s journey implementing the MoneySupermarket API with a SecureSpan API Proxy. We had excellent feedback on the event, so I know I wasn’t the only one who learned a lot from our speakers.

I was particularly impressed by the range of industries and organizations that were represented in the audience. We had developers from large enterprise shops, specialized Internet-focused start-ups and even a few entrepreneurs just getting started. I think this range of interest is indicative of the value of Web APIs for all and bodes well for a continued investment in designing great APIs, rather than just chucking them out into the ether.

Next up on the tour is our Paris API Workshop taking place tomorrow (Tuesday, October 16).  As always, we have a great set of speakers lined up, with Martin Duval from bluenove talking about building developer outreach programs and Benoit Herard from Orange Labs discussing their API launch. France has a  great start-up culture and a reputation for enterprises like Orange driving innovation, so I’m expecting good conversation, some excellent API Management presentations and – if I’m lucky – some great wines.

October 12th, 2012

Dispatches from NY
Don’t be a Control Freak

Interop New YorkA week back, I had the privilege of joining some industry peers at New York’s Interop conference, to discuss trends in enterprise mobility. Each of the companies represented a sub-segment of the mobility space. We had a big data company, an MDM vendor, a client virtualization company and me representing the MBaaS wing. Each presenter made a case for why their sub-segment is essential to enabling the mobile enterprise.

Not surprisingly, they all emphasized their security and management credentials as being central to their value propositions. Each vendor took a different approach to protecting the welfare of the enterprise but in the end, we all promised we could defend organizations against risk, both technological and financial. What we neglected to mention, I realized afterwards, was that a little risk is sometimes good.

Don’t get me wrong, security is something I take seriously. We at Layer 7 guard some of the most sensitive government and commercial APIs against cyber attack and misuse. But there is a downside to an unbalanced emphasis on insecurity – and that is fear. Some fear ensures prudence. Too much fear can arrest the progress of whole industries.

In a few short years, smart mobile devices have completely transformed how we communicate, socialize, shop and get entertained. Almost overnight, an economy has grown up around mobile apps. This same app explosion is poised to change how enterprises function, by completely un-tethering employees, while providing a way for companies to reach their customers beyond the PC and TV. But to get there, enterprises will have to encourage app innovation and the only way to achieve that is by opening up.

Now, no one says that opening up needs to be a foolhardy effort. Opening up data and applications to mobile apps needs to be done in a guarded and prudent manner. But in all the talk around mobile security, it’s important not to stifle innovation around mobile development. Security has to go hand-in-hand with connectivity.