miércoles, 20 de diciembre de 2017

5G race: There´s no alternative

It looks that the race for the deployment of 5G has started at last in Europe. Since the European Commission published its communication "5G for Europe: An Action Plan" important thinks has happened in the European scenario. The European Ministers has backed the 5G deployment with a Ministerial Declaration and have agreed on 5G roadmap. Furthermore, the European institutions are closer to agree on an overhaul of the EU telecommunication legal framework which is expected to be adopted in the 2018 first semester.

At the national level, things are starting to get moved also. Four of the big five EU countries have taken steps to lead the 5G deployment in Europe. Both Germany and Spain have published a comprehensive 5G plan which included pilot projects backed with public funds, Italy without a clear strategy but have announced 5g pilots in 5 cities and United Kingdom is ahead of the pack with a 5G strategy and some testbeds under development.  The first auctions of the 3,6 GHZ band, critical for a successful 5G deployment, are expected in UK and Spain at the first quarter of 2018.

However there are some doubts in Europe is still on time to compete in the global race to lead 5G. The last 5G market predictions published by Ericsson estimate that Europe will be substantially lagged from Asia and USA in 2023. There are serious fears that Europe could be on a groundhog day and repeating the failures lived with 4G deployment

Because the question is if the telecommunication companies will respond to all the plans and calls for pilots. In spite of the general perception of the 5G benefits which let open the hope to a rapid adoption and monetization of needed investments for its deployment, telecom operators look doubtful to start the preparations for the 5G roll-out. And the doubts are foreseen to increase in 2018 with gloomy predictions of a further squeeze of margins.

However, let's be optimistic. There are none alternatives different to enter the race, so we can expect that Europe operators will not lose another train to the digital future.

miércoles, 13 de diciembre de 2017

Digital Xmas

Christmas are around the corner. Shopping malls are crowded of people rushing from one shop to another and e-commerce sites are changing its face including  season images as Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men to attract more customers.  As it happens year after year, we will buy  this week the main part of our Christmas presents, an important part of them are targeted to kids and children. Even for them, those with digital features are the gifts which are more awaited.

Smart adjective has started to appear jointly with the word toys. Cameras, wifi connectivity and bluetooth links pave the way to a new a generation of toys that can collect images, voices, personal information and location from their little owners in almost real time. The market is gorwing at a quickpace. Accordingly with a report published by Juniper Research last summer, Smart Toy sales will reach $15.5 billion in hardware and app content revenues by 2022, up from an estimated $4.9 billion in 2017

The threefold growth of smart toys business is driving by the early unlimited access that children have to their parents smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, there is a growing base of children under six that owns their own smartphone or tablet that will be around 90% in 2020. Right now, nearly half of them has their own smartphone when they are 10 years old, almost all of them with the same features as their parents.

A growing supply industry and a thriving demand base will have as a consequence a proliferation of smart toys at our home. The emerge of this new wave of children´s companion has been so fast that we are not yet used to pay attention and demand information about with which data retention rules are embedded in their smartness and  with whom they shared the data they collect. As some field studies show, some times both parents and children are unprepared to manage the associated risks.

Consumer associations in Europe and America has started to warn on the risks after testing several smart toys. The lab work shows that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Nothing new, the experts has been calling for more attention on Internet of the Things vulnerabilities for a long time. But this time could be more serious, hackers speaking with our children paves the way for a whole collection to social engineer attacks that could take full advantage the kids naivety.

Slowly, but those responsible to take care of citizens safety in this area are starting to take measures. Norwegian consumer agency is beginning to do intensive test to smart toys and has discovered vulnerabilities on them. German agency even is banning some this connected toys due to the cybersecurity risks.  At the other side of the Atlantic, the warnings came from the FBI who calls "consumers to consider cyber security prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into their homes or trusted environments."

As when we face any other challenge related with digitalisation, we should not let ourselves be driven by luddism. The consumer note published by FBI provide a full complete list of the actions we can do by ourselves in order to provide our kids safely with a digital companion for their games. Basically, as with everything, we have to know what we are buying. 

miércoles, 6 de diciembre de 2017

News on fake news

We have lived more than a full year under a growing worry for fake news in social media. It all started US presidential election, some journalist also discovered some hints that there where also present in the Brext referendum. Although their presence in France´s Presidential election and Germany´s Parliament election were apparently weaker than expected, the question of fake news stayed as a background sound for all the year.

In spite of the situation described above, the worry about fake news were uneven in the European Union and stayed at low level of prioritisation for many Member States. Although in september it was clear that the European Commission was planning some initiative on the issue, the Presiden Juncker decided to include in his letter of intent for 2018 but did not mentioned it in his address to the Parliament. All the clues pointed in the direction that fake news would stay as a minor issue in European policy, if not completely dissapear from it.

But some policy-makers apparently want to maintain fake news on the front page in the same manner that Hearst furnished the Cuban War after the sinking of the Maine ("Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return." To which Hearst's reply was: "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."). The dramatic events around the secession intentions of Catalonia from Spain have provided new fuel for the EC intentions to develop policy initiatives around fake news. The EC is exploited the opportunity and, what is more valuable due the Council mechanism, has won a relevant ally for its intention (Spain).

Certainly, there have been examples of fake news and doubtful pictures on the Catalonia crisis.  The EC has shown some of this pieces of fake news, curiously biased on one direction only when there have been example from both, but there have been little detail about the impact on the opinion of the population or even the actual distribution beyond Twitter´s retweets and Facebook´s likes.  This hype on fake news is logically supported by the traditional media, a logical support due to their fierce competence with online platforms as the main news distribution channel.

It is impossible to deny the existence of fake news on online platforms, even it is possible the involvement of governments, in what we can call a kind of revival of cold war. However, perhaphs we should be also critical analyzers of the news on fake news, they also could have an intention.
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