New Open Connectivity Foundation combines Open Interconnect Consortium and AllSeen Alliance

Update 21 February 2016 — I received email from Sophie Sleck of Blanc & Otis:

OCF is not unifying OIC and AllSeen, this is not a merger of two groups. The technology leaders who have been specifying software protocols for the Internet of Things announced they are now working together to form a new entity. OCF is the successor to OIC; it’s initiatives are about solidifying and trying to reduce fragmentation in the industry.

Also, Meredith Solberg of the Linux Foundation wrote to correct me:

I represent AllSeen Alliance and just wanted to reach out in response to your article with a correction that there has been no merger with AllSeen Alliance. AllSeen is not combining with OIC to form OCF and we remain a separate organization. We do, however, have some overlap with members in common. If you could please issue a correction and include a correction note to your Twitter followers, we’d greatly appreciate it! Want to remain transparent and share accurate info.

So, OCF is the successor to OIC, and we will have to wait for the cooperation between OCF and AllSeen to lead to yet another organization/consortium/foundation/whozis.

A new milestone in the maturation of the Internet of Things has been reached: two contending organizations — the Open Interconnect Consortium (backed by Intel and others), and the AllSeen Alliance (back by Qualcomm and others) are merging to form the Open Connectivity Foundation. (See correction above.)
This is a big step, and one that may help break the logjam in the market. After all, consumers are justifiably concerned about making a bet in home automation — for example — if they are unsure about how various devices may or may not interoperate.
Aaron Tilley points out that IoT has seemed to be, so far, all hat and no cattle:

In some ways, the Internet of Things still feels like empty tech jargon. It’s hard to lump all these different, disparate things together and talk about them in a meaningful way. Maybe once all these things really begin talking to each other, the term will be more appropriate. But for now, there is still a mess in the number of standards out there in the Internet of Things. People have frequently compared it to the VHS-Betamax videotape format war of the 1980s.

The VHS-Betamax format war was not solved by standardization, it was the VHS vendors making the devil’s bargain with porn companies. The OCF may be more like the creation of the SQL standard, where a number of slightly different implementations of relational database technology decided to standardize on the intersection of the various products, and that led to corporations to invest when before they had been stalling.
The consortium includes — beside Intel and Qualcomm — ARRIS, CableLabs, Cisco, Electrolux, GE Digital, Samsung, and Microsoft.
Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President, Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft announced the company’s participation in the creation of the OCF, and spelling out Microsoft’s plans:

We have helped lead the formation of the OCF because we believe deeply in its vision and the potential an open standard can deliver. Despite the opportunity and promise of IoT to connect devices in the home or in businesses, competition between various open standards and closed company protocols have slowed adoption and innovation. […]
Windows 10 devices will natively interoperate with the new OCF standard, making it easy for Windows to discover, communicate, and orchestrate multiple IoT devices in the home, in business, and beyond. The OCF standards will also be fully compatible with the 200 million Windows 10 devices that are “designed for AllSeen” today.
We are designing Windows 10 to be the ideal OS platform for Things, and the Azure IoT platform to be the best cloud companion for Things, and for both of them to interoperate with all Things.

Microsoft was late to the party on mobile, but Nadella’s leadership seems to be all about getting in early on other emerging technologies, like IoT, machine learning, and modern productivity.
Noticeably absent are the other Internet giants: Apple, Amazon, and Google. When will they get on board?

Qualcomm to pay $975M to China in antitrust settlement

Qualcomm chips and intellectual property are increasingly found in smartphones around the world, but there’s been a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the San Diego silicon firm for the past 14 months: Namely, the chance that China would boot the company out of the country or severely hamper it because of issues with a 2008 Chinese anti-trust law.

Qualcomm announced Monday that it had reached an agreement with China’s National Development and Reform Commission. As Reuters reported earlier, citing China’s state-run securities trade paper, the deal includes a 6 billion RMB fine (approximately $975 million) and Qualcomm has agreed to change its licensing practices, including a promise that it will license its “essential” 3G and 4G patents separately from its other intellectual property, at what looks like a lower rate than before. Qualcomm’s summary of the key terms is below:

  • Qualcomm will offer licenses to its current 3G and 4G essential Chinese patents separately from licenses to its other patents and it will provide patent lists during the negotiation process. If Qualcomm seeks a cross license from a Chinese licensee as part of such offer, it will negotiate with the licensee in good faith and provide fair consideration for such rights.

  • For licenses of Qualcomm’s 3G and 4G essential Chinese patents for branded devices sold for use in China, Qualcomm will charge royalties of 5% for 3G devices (including multimode 3G/4G devices) and 3.5% for 4G devices (including 3-mode LTE-TDD devices) that do not implement CDMA or WCDMA, in each case using a royalty base of 65% of the net selling price of the device.

  • Qualcomm will give its existing licensees an opportunity to elect to take the new terms for sales of branded devices for use in China as of January 1, 2015.

  • Qualcomm will not condition the sale of baseband chips on the chip customer signing a license agreement with terms that the NDRC found to be unreasonable or on the chip customer not challenging unreasonable terms in its license agreement. However, this does not require Qualcomm to sell chips to any entity that is not a Qualcomm licensee, and does not apply to a chip customer that refuses to report its sales of licensed devices as required by its patent license agreement.

China is a key market for Qualcomm — nearly half of its profits come from the country, thanks to its large smartphone manufacturing industry as well as its huge smartphone market. Given that Qualcomm’s revenue last year was nearly $27 billion, the fine won’t cripple the company, but CEO Steve Mollenkopf has warned that the settlement would have a tempering effect on the company’s fiscal 2015 outlook.

The NDRC’s main allegation was that Qualcomm had a “monopoly” on modems for cell phones, particularly those using the CDMA standard, and had “abused its dominant position,” presumably by overcharging on licensing fees. Qualcomm, in defense, has alleged that Chinese licensees selling devices with Qualcomm chips have not accurately reported sales figures — meaning that it’s hard to accurately collect licensing fees.

It’s important for Qualcomm to continue to strengthen its business ties with Shenzen’s smartphone industry, or manufacturers could turn to improving 3G and 4G chips from companies like MediaTek and Samsung.

In December, President Barack Obama discussed the 2008 anti-trust law with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. A national security spokesman said that Obama had “concerns” about China’s use of its anti-trust policy to limit royalty fees from foreign countries, turning this business issue into a matter of foreign policy.

Qualcomm confirms a Microsoft Lumia flagship phone is on the way

Qualcomm is feeling the heat regarding its latest flagship mobile chip, the Snapdragon 810. The chip reportedly has thermal issues, and Samsung is apparently dropping it for its own processors, which led to a bad week for Qualcomm’s stock price. The company put out a press release on Monday saying the chip remains in many manufacturers’ plans, and includes a confirmation that the Snapdragon 810 will be used in a Microsoft Lumia device, which would make it the flagship device that Windows Phone users have been clamoring for for nearly a year.

The press release includes a quote from Juha Kokkonen, whose LinkedIn profile says he’s the vice president in charge of high-end phones at Microsoft Devices. It reads:

We look forward to continuing this relationship to deliver best in class Lumia smartphones, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processors, and offer an unprecedented combination of processing power, rich multimedia, high-performance graphics and wireless connectivity for our customers.

The rest of the press release goes into the Snapdragon 810’s features on top of improved processing performance, including the new Adreno 430 GPU, high-definition audio support, and the ability to smoothly record 4K video.

At Microsoft’s consumer-focused Windows 10 summit in January, executives repeatedly mentioned that a “flagship” Windows Phone is on its way — after all, they’re the exact people who are dying for a fast and powerful Windows Phone as opposed to the less expensive Lumia devices for developing markets that Microsoft mainly released last year.

Since Windows Phones only run on Qualcomm processors, it’s not a huge surprise that the new flagship will be using Qualcomm’s most advanced chip. There’s still no time frame for the new flagship Lumia except that the device will come out around when Windows 10 is officially launched in late 2015. Still, if you’re holding onto a Lumia 1520 or a Lumia 930, it does look as if you’ll be able to upgrade to something faster and newer this year.

A guide to New York’s plan to cover the city in Wi-Fi hotspots

In December, New York City agreed to permanently change its cityscape and provide internet access on street corners sporting download speeds that are an order of magnitude faster than those available in many people’s homes in the five boroughs.

CityBridge, a for-profit consortium of four companies, will rip out old payphones and install new internet infrastructure in its place. Kiosks called Links will not only provide free and fast Wi-Fi for your smartphone or computer, but they’ll have USB ports for charging, will provide free calls to anywhere in the United States, and will have built-in Android tablets for internet connectivity in case you don’t have a device. Basically, everything you need while you’re out and about; except for a bathroom.

These souped-up hotspots will supposedly pay for themselves, too. New York City, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, isn’t contributing a taxpayer cent to the construction and operation of Links around the city. In fact, New York City expects to generate about $500 million over the life of the contract from the project. CityBridge plans to make its money through advertising.

This year, CityBridge will start to reveal how it’s going to pull this off and what it means for New Yorkers, including where the first Links will be installed. Hopefully, a few Links will be installed before the end of the year.

Here’s what you need to know about New York’s municipal Wi-Fi network as it gets off the ground.

What will the physical Links look like?

There are two proposed Link designs, one with display advertising and one without advertising, although for the next four years you’ll basically only see the wider, advertising-supported Link:


There’s also going to be a skinnier Link without display advertising, but those will mainly be deployed in Staten Island, at least to start, because that borough has its own community restrictions on signage:


Each link will supply a Wi-Fi network within a 150-foot radius. If you’re wondering what these would look like rendered into a New York scene, CityBridge also has illustrations of what Links could look like in Midtown Manhattan, or near the Barclays Center, or in brownstone Brooklyn:


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Both Links were designed by Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger, whose company Antenna Design has created installations for New York City in the past. Each Link will have USB ports for charging devices, as well as an installed touchscreen tablet running Android which will allow users to access the internet and make free phone calls within the United States though a directional speaker, as well as access city services and information.

What is CityBridge?

CityBridge is a partnership between four companies: Titan, the New York display advertising giant; Comark, which will be fabricating the actual kiosks; Control Group, which is providing most of the strategy for the concern; and chipmaker [company]Qualcomm[/company]. They all own about a quarter of the partnership, which entered into a 12-year, $200 million contract with New York City to build and administer Links.

When does installation start?

Short answer: You might be seeing the first Links installed at the end of 2015.

Since the project to install Links is taking place over a 12-year period, it can feel far off in the future. Many figures cited by the government are over eight years, like CityBridge’s promise to install 6,000 advertising-supported Links and 1,500 of its skinner sibling. In fact, it will take the full 12 years on the contract to install the 10,000-Link figure you might have seen thrown around last fall. But the project should actually start breaking ground this year.

But before concrete gets ripped up, first the New York Public Design Commission needs to approve the Link’s design. Once that happens, the clock starts ticking on minimum installation requirements in the CityBridge contract.

One year and 120 days after the Art Commission signs off, CityBridge is required to have installed this many Links:

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 5.59.23 PM

After four years, which is considered a major turning point for the LinkNYC project because it marks the end of cannibalizing old payphones, there will be 4550 Links installed in the five boroughs:

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 6.00.41 PM

Ultimately, to fulfill the contract, Citybridge will need to install 7,500 links in an eight-year period or face fines. However, CityBridge can elect to install more than these minimum numbers, and probably will, considering its advertising-based business model.

What happens after four years?

Although LinkNYC was first proposed and has been mostly publicized as a program to replace old payphones, the installation of a Link actually doesn’t require an existing payphone unit. Indeed, after four years, Links will start popping up in places that didn’t have a payphone there before.

Links won’t be using the old copper wire that provides the dialtone on payphones. In fact, to get to the gigabit speeds both the city and CityBridge are consistently promising, Links will need to be connected by fiber. So little-used payphones around the city have been chosen to be replaced not for their current connections, but because they’re likely in convenient spots.

Will I actually see gigabit speeds?

Without testing a Link out in person, it’s hard to say, but CityBridge certainly seems committed to that gigabit number.

One of the controversies surrounding LinkNYC when it was announced that CityBridge had won the contract was whether all Links would be outfitted with gigabit connections, which requires a fiber optic connection. Some alleged that poorer neighborhoods in the outer boroughs would get stuck with weaker connections — still rated for 100Mbps, easily surpassing the FCC’s new broadband definition — where ritzy neighborhoods would get the gigabit speeds. In response, CityBridge clarified that the value of a Link’s advertisments wouldn’t have anything to do with the speeds, and that 95 percent of Links would support gigabit speeds, based on fiber availability.

Anne Roest, New York’s commissioner of information technology, noted that CityBridge committed $200 million dollars to building New York’s fiber network out in all five boroughs.

The second speed bottleneck could be your own device. The only Wi-Fi protocol that currently supports gigabit download speeds is 802.11ac, which may not be built into your device, especially if it’s older. But LinkNYC will support it. From the contract, each hub “must be capable of supporting up to 256 devices with a total aggregate throughput of 1Gbps” and “simultaneous dual spectrum 2.4 GHz 802.11 b/g/n, and 5GHz a/n/ac services.” So if you’re the only one connected to a Link, you might be able to pull down gigabit speeds.

Plus, there’s a requirement built into the agreement for CityBridge to upgrade its Link design every four years, in case a technology like WiGig takes off and should be installed, or any other obvious improvements to stave off obsolescence. In fact, there’s a pilot program planned in the Bronx for a partially solar-powered Link that might be incorporated into the next design.

What will the advertising look like?

CityBridge already has a draft of a privacy policy, which indicates that it plans to show ads on the built-in tablets as well as on people’s devices.

When you connect to the network, you’ll first hit a splash page with a little bit of advertising. You’ll need to provide an email address, a username and password to create a LinkNYC account. The hope is that even when you go from one Link location to another, you can access the network without logging in again. The range of a link is 150 feet in all directions, so even if there’s a link at every corner there will still be areas on a block too far away to connect.

But the real moneymaker will be display advertisements. Titan already makes a mint by selling mini-billboards around the city, and Links — at least the wider model — will come with two digital ad units on each side that can be changed remotely or sold programatically. Essentially, Titan, an outdoor advertising company, is getting the inventory to display thousands of new state-of-the-art ad units around New York.

“Major brands will flock to advertise on the LinkNYC network because the structures look beautiful,” Dave Etherington, chief strategy officer at Titan said. “This also means they could customize their message from Link to Link.”

Titan… Where have I heard that name before?

Last fall, Buzzfeed discovered that Titan had installed and activated beacons — a Bluetooth technology — in phone booths all over New York City. In response, de Blasio’s office asked them to remove the beacons or turn them off.

It’s hard to say. The privacy policy says:

We do not collect information about your precise location. However, we know where we provide WiFi services, so when you use the Services we can determine your general location.

Beacons, commonly used for precise proximity location, would appear to violate the privacy policy. However, the CityBridge contract specifically says that a one-way Bluetooth connection — like Beacons use — could be included in the Link.

The provision of USB charging ports… and one-way blue-tooth transmission of Structure location information are expressly contemplated ancillary services and do not require subsequent approval of the Commissioner.

Brian Dunphy, a senior vice president at Qualcomm’s beacon spinoff Gimbal, seemed excited about the Link project at a public hearing. “It is easy to imagine an application creating an app that allows visually-impaired to understand exactly where they are within the city as well as providing them with access to services and offers in a way that was previously unimaginable,” Dunphy said.

“We absolutely support the use of the platform for sensors for the Internet of Things,” Colin O’Donnell, managing member of CityBridge, said. That presumably includes beacons.

Should I be concerned that CityBridge could track me?

CityBridge will collect and log the usual network stuff, including MAC addresses, URL requests, and other device identifiers, and like the vast majority of ISPs, will turn network data over to law enforcement when subpoenaed.

O’Donnell said Links will block peer-to-peer traffic. However, it doesn’t look like they’ll be blocking websites. CityBridge says that it’s committed to net neutrality, and it “shall not in providing the Wi-Fi Service unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.”

Links will not recognize Do Not Track settings in users’ browsers.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to argue with the privacy of a city service that will always be free. CityBridge won’t be able to introduce a new premium tier of service later, either, so it will have to make its money through advertising.

Who’s unhappy about the LinkNYC project?

The biggest controversy surrounding the Links is that CityBridge’s contract runs for twelve years (plus a city option to extend it to fifteen years) and during that period, it might not be possible for other vendors to build Links with their own technology on city property — giving CityBridge an effective monopoly on city-furnished Wi-Fi for over a decade. The companies most affected are pay phone operators.

“At present, with this decision to award the entire contract to one company, the City ignores the law and precedent as set forth by Congress, the President and the Supreme Court, calling for open competition in the American way,” Lester Shafran, Director of the Independent Payphone of New York said. “Winner takes all leads to many losers.”

New Android Wear smartwatches may use MediaTek chips

Most Android Wear smartwatches currently on the market are based around Qualcomm chips, but that could change soon if MediaTek has its way: The Taiwainese semiconductor company announced a new chip specially for smartwatches on Wednesday.

The MediaTek MT2601 system-on-a-chip is based around a dual-core processor using ARM’s Cortex-A7 design. It uses an ARM Mali 400 design for its GPU, and MediaTek’s MT6630 modem for Bluetooth. [company]MediaTek[/company] says it works “with a whole host of external sensors” — so hardware makers can add modules for heart-rate monitoring and GPS.

Except for the Motorola Moto 360, which uses a TI chip, all Android Wear smartwatches currently on sale use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, which also powers a good deal of mid-range phones. The Snapdragon 400 wasn’t designed for wearable computers, and sometimes it shows. For instance, the Snapdragon 400 usually uses four Cortex-A7 cores, but it appears that manufacturers disable three of the cores to conserve battery life.

Most Android Wear buyers aren’t looking for raw computing power, so they’d rather have a smartwatch with a better battery life. Hopefully, MediaTek’s new SoC with a small die size will bring improved battery life, and given MediaTek’s history of driving device prices down, possibly less expensive Android Wear smartwatches as well. The MT2601 is in mass production now, so conceivably it could be in commercial smartwatches before too long.


Samsung is preparing a improved Galaxy Note 4, probably for Korea

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is less than a few months old, but it’s already getting an upgrade: On Monday, Samsung announced a new Galaxy Note 4 variant powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processor.

The Snapdragon 810 will be Qualcomm’s flagship mobile chip in 2015. It’s likely to be at the heart of most of the top-tier Android phones launching this upcoming year — like the Galaxy S6, Sony’s Xperia Z4 and the high-end phone HTC is working onIMG_3533

The new Galaxy Note 4 is likely to benefit from the new silicon in two specific ways.

The United States version of the  Note 4 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805, which is one of the last 32-bit mobile chips. The Snapdragon 810 uses eight 64-bit cores, which the latest version of Android can take advantage of. Android 5.0 launched without a flagship 64-bit capable phone, and the new Note 4 can fill that gap until more Snapdragon 810-equipped devices hit the market.

The new Note should also be able to take advantage of Category 9 carrier aggregation for LTE-Advanced which should result in faster mobile broadband speeds. The new Note 4 supports aggregating 3 x 20 MHz data channels, so the device can theoretically download data as quickly as 450 Mbps on networks that support it. In reality, users won’t see speeds close to the what can be done in a lab. The United States is somewhat behind other countries at adopting carrier aggregation. For instance, South Korea’s SK Telecom started testing the technology on its network in 2013. AT&T has used only used carrier aggregation to boost speeds in some parts of the United States since March.

The Snapdragon 810-equipped Note 4 will be the phone’s third variant. In addition to the two [company]Qualcomm[/company]-powered versions, there’s a Galaxy Note 4 variant equipped with Samsung’s own Exynos 5433 chip.

[company]Samsung[/company] has a habit of launching slightly upgraded versions of its flagship phones in its home country. Last year, it sold a special version of the Galaxy S5 with a sharper screen and faster processor, but this year’s special Note 4 should be identical to the current Note 4 except for the upgraded processor. Although there’s no official price or word on availability, Americans shouldn’t save their dollars for this device — this phone’s likely staying overseas.