October 28, 2005

VoIP Has an Exciting Week in Los Angeles

TMC's Internet Telephony Conference and Expo concluded yesterday in Los Angeles. TMC (Technology Marketing Corporation) is the media company that organizes this top educational event for the VoIP industry.

As editorial director for TMCnet, I serve as a key distribution point for news and reports coming out of this (up to now) twice-yearly event. TMC is a small entrepreneurial company that was one of the pioneer publishers and educational organizations in the Internet telephony field, and in the call center industry and computer telephony field before that. Besides our VoIP events, we also publish two magazines, Internet Telephony and Customer Interaction Solutions. The TMCnet Web site is a growing online force in the communications technology space, and has just become one of the top 2,500 Web sites in the world, according to Alexa.

TMC is a frantic place to be in the weeks leading up to one of these events, and during the event itself, we live and breathe ITEXPO. For me, it's a fascinating experience, as I am responsible for turning the TMCnet Web site into an online portal focused on the news and insights streaming from an event 2,000 miles away. Along with that, I am responsible for assembling the content for a Show Daily edition of our eNews email Internet Telephony newsletter.

Having been in that position for the past week, I just wanted to direct readers to articles giving some of the highlights of Internet Telephony Conference and Expo, all of which are still available on TMCnet.

In "ITEXPO Keynote Notes: Susan Kennedy, Calif. Public Utilities Commissioner," TMC President and Editor in Chief Rich Tehrani shares notes and insights from Tuesday's keynote address by the frank and outspoken commissioner.

Another highlight from Tuesday was the speech from former HP CEO Carly Fiorina. I understand that Fiorina was very outspoken on issues of telecommunications regulation and that she also spoke frankly and emotionally during the Q&A with the audience about her experience leaving HP.

Also on Tuesday, the audience heard from Skype CEO Niklas Zennström, who discussed Skype's plans as a business, the meaning of their acquisition by eBay, and their new Skype Groups offering.

Wednesday's speech by Jim Pickrell of Brand X was particularly of interest because, as you may know, his company recently lost a Supreme Court case, in which he (and other ISPs) hoped to force cable companies to open up their networks to other providers. According to Rich Tehrani's account of the speech, "Jim says the problem here is the politicians in the White House who believe that bigger monopolies are better. Jim says we need to elect someone who believes in competition." Rich also comments on Brand X's current strategy, which involves building their own infrastructure:

"Brand X is looking to run its own wires on telephone poles. They are running a combination of cable, copper and fiber. They are using AC power in buildings to provide high speed access. Running wires increases cost, so they looked for new ways to generate revenue. Triple play is how they plan to do this."

The Wednesday keynote by former FCC chair Michael Powell was another high point of the conference. In his account of the speech, Rich calls Powell "charming" and says that Powell "thrilled conferees with humorous stories about his personal life that tied into his talk."

Ted Glanzer recounted Powell's talk in some detail in a series of articles, "Former FCC Chairman Powell: VoIP 'Unassailable'," "Michael Powell: VoIP Part of Personalization Trend," and "Former FCC Chairman Calls Universal Service Into Question."

To get an idea of the atmosphere and spirit of ITEXPO, read Rich Tehrani's blog from Wednesday, which I turned into a TMCnet article, "ITEXPO a VoIP Madhouse!" And also of great value is his wrap-up piece, "VoIP 2.0 Marches On," in which he shares the collective wisdom he gleaned from the show and its expert speakers, along with his own insights as someone who has been at the center of the IP revolution since its inception.

I just have to share the following excerpt from Rich's article, long as it is, because it seems quite striking to me:

"If there are any hurdles our industry faces it has to be the threat of regulation. This threat can come from a federal level or even a state level. Rural telephone companies do not want to lose their USF subsidies and these companies know how to lobby. Telephone companies are excellent lobbyists. They know how to work with government to exert influence.

For the most part the VoIP industry does not have this lobbying power and there is just not enough money in the VoIP space to allow us to effectively fight ILECS and rural telephone companies who could really influence politicians to place an undue burden on our market.

"The problem for regulators is that we have really unbundled telephony from physical networks and it will be impossible to police and regulate the next generation of VoIP services that don't touch the PSTN or use a numbering plan based in the U.S . In other words, undue burden placed on the VoIP market will send customers fleeing to VoIP alternatives that are beyond government reach.

"The same thing was predicted and happened when Napster was shut down. If anything, peer to peer file sharing allowed even more efficient music sharing than Napster! The music industry and government were probably better off when Napster had a monopoly, as they could have controlled the market and slowly found a way to extract revenue from music sharing. Now with the genie out of the bottle it is difficult to stop p2p network sharing."

From all accounts, the Internet Telephony exhibition also was a huge success, with a lot of business taking place between exhibitors and customers. We saw a continuous stream of announcements from the show about new products, partnerships and relationships. They're too numerous to mention all of them, but for some of the key ones, see Johanne Torres's article from today, "VoIP Week in Review from TMCnet: VoIP News from the West," as well as blog entries from Rich Tehrani and Tom Keating.

This was indeed a big week for VoIP. But if you missed this ITEXPO, never fear! The next Internet Telephony Conference & Expo is less than 90 days away, scheduled for Jan. 24-27, 2006, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Don't miss it!

AB -- 10/28/05

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October 24, 2005

Bush Nominates Ben Bernanke to Replace Greenspan as Fed Chair

President Bush has nominated economist Ben Bernanke to replace Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Greenspan is due to retire Jan. 31, 2006. Bernanke is chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and has served on the Fed's board of governors in the past. His nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Sources:

Associated Press

FOXNews

CNNMoney

AB -- 10/24/05

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October 20, 2005

MetLife Contact Center Recognized for Quality of Service

This announcement came across our TMCnet news feeds this week:

MetLife's Customer Response Center Recognized for World-Class Customer Service Earns 'Center of Excellence' Certification

The release caught my eye in part because I have been a customer of MetLife for auto, home and term life insurance -- and a company stockholder as well. But MetLife's contact center has been on my mind lately because of some worrisome experiences I've had recently.

Most recently: In September I got worried because I had not received my MetLife bill (I'm on a monthly billing program that spreads out my enormous auto insurance bill over several months). When I first called to check on the bill, it was on a weekend. Surprisingly the call center was closed. This is a big insurance company. No 24/7 coverage?

As a working person, I figured my only option, then, was to deal with the IVR, which assured me that everything was fine with my account.

It lied. Within days, I received a notice threatening to shut off my auto insurance (you definitely don't want that to happen in Connecticut) and demanding immediate payment in full.

No choice but to call MetLife after work, squeezing in the call between the time I could limp into my front door one evening and the time when the call center would no doubt shut down for the night.

Long story short, I was able to reach a support specialist who could solve my problem, accept a phone payment and reinstate my monthly billing program -- in view of my many years as a customer and in view of my not having received my invoice in the first place.

The real hitch is this: That support specialist was a supervisor, and I was only able to speak with him after going through a low-level flunky who could not help me with my problem. Even worse, the low-level flunky at first told me that he could not help me with my problem and that no resolution was possible. He was very reluctant to put me through to a supervisor and only did so because I am a relentless bully when it comes to recalcitrant contact center agents and operations. I am usually polite and acknowledge that the problem is not their fault personally, but I insist that there must be someone who has the authority to deal with my problem -- so please find that person.

So I'm puzzled as to how MetLife's contact center got certified for its excellence. What about the tens of thousands of MetLife customers who are not relentless bullies? What happens to them when they call and hit the brick wall? I was curious to know something more about BenchmarkPortal's (the certifying agency) criteria for evaluating call centers, but couldn't find anything specific about that on their site.

Anyway, MetLife does get good marks for at least having a supervisor on duty who was willing and able to handle my problem and who displayed superb tact and consideration. But some points off their score for poor front-line staffing.

I'm still a MetLife customer. But while I was on the phone waiting for the supervisor, I was also on my computer -- and I had just typed www.progressive.com into the address bar on my Web browser.

AB -- 10/20/05

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Datatel Partners With SAS on BI -- How About CRM for Higher Ed?

According to an announcement that came across our TMCnet news feeds today, Datatel is calling on SAS to add analytical capabilities to the services Datatel offers to colleges and universities. (See "Datatel and SAS Partner to Power High-Performance Higher Education.")

Reading the press release, I think the partnership is limited to improving the business intelligence (BI) capabilities of Datatel's ERP (enterprise resource planning) product. But I wonder whether the partnership could eventually lead to greater CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities for Datatel's products as well.

Not long ago, I worked on a consulting project with a graduate school that was using Datatel for managing student information among other things. The IT and business folks had been making a valiant effort for several years to get Datatel implemented in a complex multi-campus system with a corporate culture valuing decentralized authority ("They're a bunch of cowboys," one manager told me.) In spite of the hard work and difficulties involved in the implementation, the school was seeing a real payback in terms of their management capabilities.

I thought at the time that the school could really benefit from a CRM implementation, with the Datatel database as the core information repository. But when I discussed the idea with a few people, I found that the only one who had ever heard of CRM was the president. A lot of blank stares. The concept made sense, but it can be hard for a school or other non-profit organization to think of the people it serves as "customers" -- so the term "CRM" can grate a little bit.

The more I thought about it, the more I could see that the CRM model makes particular sense in the business of higher education. Think of the diversity of touch-points a college or university has with its students and the longevity of the relationship between school and student -- from the first time the school contacts the prospective student during high school -- all the way up though graduation and the alumni relationship -- even up to the former student's death, when the alum leaves a bequest to the school in their will! (Because the school has continued to be in touch through the years, as the alum was making his or her estate plans.)

Here are some of the departments (and notes about the type of contact involved) that might be able to benefit from a single view of the student (customer) housed in a database available to any school employee that comes in touch with a student throughout the institutional relationship:

Admissions/Marketing -- Contacts with guidance counselors (and other influencers) and prospective students in referring institutions. Contact during campus visits and similar promotional events.

Registrar -- Housing of student information, courses, schedule, grades, etc.

Student Services -- Housing, medical, parking, computing, library and other services.

Finance -- Billing

Financial Aid

Alumni Relations -- Contacts such as fund-raising, publications, volunteer service, networking, events.

Institutional Advancement/Development -- Fund-raising, planned giving.

Is a CRM product in Datatel's plans for the future, and could the SAS relationship put them on the path to providing CRM? I see a lot of potential for such an offering in the higher education market.

AB -- 10/20/05

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October 19, 2005

Idaho's Albeni Falls Dam Installing Wireless IP Communications

Today, Mitel announced that it will be providing a wireless IP communications system for the Albeni Falls Dam, a power-generating facility in Bonner County, Idaho. The new installation will integrate the Mitel SX-200 IP Communications Platform (ICP) with SpectraLink NetLink i640 wireless telephones.

Albeni is using the new IP system to enable immediate direct communications with all employees, whether roving or desk-based. Up to now, the facility has been using a code call system, which I believe uses a public address system to page employees. Powerhouses rely heavily on mobile maintenance staff. Equipping each employee with a wireless phone should improve business communications and especially emergency communications. The SpectraLink wireless units are specially built for rugged use.

This quote from today's announcement explains some details about the new system's capabilities and Albeni's migration plan:

"The Mitel ICP systems enable a gateway to 'wireless enable' traditional PBX, safe-guarding the investment Albeni made over a 20-year period. The new integrated Mitel wireless IP solution also allows Albeni to implement a single wireless network within their facility that will support voice and data devices from a single call controller. The solution also is capable of multi-line support, walkie-talkie communications, choice of access points and supports text alerts."

Here's a great picture of the Albeni Falls Dam (courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), with the SpectraLink wireless phone tastefully superimposed:

AB -- 10/19/05

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Oki's Face Recognition Engine for Mobile Phones

This morning I received this announcement from Japan Corporate News Network:

Oki Electric Releases Image Processing Middleware that Supports Face Recognition for Use in Mobile Phones

The release announces that Oki has begun marketing its Face Sensing Engine (FSE), a middleware product for facial image processing. The first use for the FSE is as an embedded application in mobile phones.

Seems to me that the initial purpose must be for identification for security purposes. Today's release says that, besides mobile applications, Oki plans to market FSE for use in games and user interfaces. An application that allows your computer or network to recognize your face could make an interesting contribution to an advanced user interface, especially when combined with speech recognition technology.

AB -- 10/19/05

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October 18, 2005

VoIP Provider Mediatrix Announces Environmental Compliance Program

I thought this announcement was interesting, as I have not seen it covered elsewhere, and it concerns a VoIP company that is bringing its new-product development processes in line with European Union environmental directives:

Mediatrix Announces Details of Its Environmental Protection Program

Mediatrix Telecom Inc. is a Montreal, Quebec, developer of VoIP access products, gateways, routers and software. The environmental directive at issue is RoHS, Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances, designed to reduce the impact of hazardous materials in manufacture of electronic equipment sold in the EU. The directive takes effect July 1, 2006.

AB -- 10/18/05

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ABI: BPL May Go Over Better in Under-Developed Markets

In a new report, ABI Research acknowledges that Broadband over Power Line (BPL) "does offer benefits to utilities, including more efficient use of the electrical grid and better telemetry for tracking faults and failures," according to Vamsi Sistla, ABI's director of broadband research.

The report, called "The Future of HomePlug/In-house PLC and Access BPL," examines market viability for these technologies.

BPL is an appealing idea to electrical utilities, as it offers the possibility of new revenue streams. And BPL also appeals to government regulators, who put BPL forward (along with WiMAX) as potential competion to cable and telco broadband services. (See my previous entry about the recent rollout of a city-wide BPL installation in Manassas, Va.)

But ABI's Sistla sees challenges for BPL in markets where infrastructure is already well-developed, citing competion from incumbent DSL and cable providers, as well as bandwidth issues and objections over radio interference. Quoted in today's announcement, Sistla says, "The best opportunities for BPL will be in regions with poor telecom infrastructure, where cable is too expensive and modest access speeds will suffice. Eastern Europe, China and India are good examples."

AB -- 10/18/05

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October 14, 2005

Ham Radio Organization Challenges Manassas BPL Project

We reported recently about the rollout of a new Broadband Over Power Line (BPL) system in Manassas, Virginia. See our previous coverage at:

BPL Has Coming Out Party - Does Anyone Care? -- Ted Glanzer

Manassas Va. Launches City-Wide Broadband-Over-Powerline (BPL) -- Al Bredenberg

Yesterday the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) announced that it has called on the FCC to shut down the Manassas installation because the system is causing interference for ham radio operators in the area. See the ARRL's announcement at:

ARRL Calls on FCC to Shut Down Virginia BPL System

In a filing to the FCC, the ARRL maintains that:

"The Manassas system currently causes harmful interference, and it is not compliant with applicable FCC Part 15 regulations, including Section 15.5. Whatever actions either Manassas Power or Communication Technologies Inc [commercial operator of the BPL system] might have taken to relieve the problem have not been successful, and it persists to the present time. This is precisely the situation in which the system must be shut down, pending successful resolution of the severe interference."

Manassas radio amateur Donald Blasdell reported to the FCC that BPL interference in Manassas made it impossible for him to operate a special event station in Manassas. He wrote to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau: "I could not read the special event station because of the noise as I drove through the City of Manassas trying to find a spot that was conducive to making a contact. The noise levels ran from 10 dB+ to 40 dB+."

The ARRL has an article on its Web site explaining why BPL is a concern for amateur radio operators.

AB -- 10/14/05

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October 13, 2005

Kintera and LexisNexis Products Help Target the 'Bad Guys'

Products announced by Kintera and LexisNexis today seem designed according to a related theme. Both of these "target the bad guys" releases appeared through our TMCnet news feeds:

Friend or Foe: Kintera Launches Features for Quality Online Advocacy Communications; Information-Driven Tool Empowers Activists to Send Timely, Targeted Messages to 'Friends' and 'Foes'

LexisNexis Negative News Search Helps Identify People Or Organizations With Negative Affiliations Such As Criminal Acts, Bankruptcies Or Illicit Behavior; Searches Over 13,000 News Sources For Negative News Content

The Kintera release adds a "Friend or Foe" feature to its Kintera Advocacy product created for political and advocacy groups. It allows the user to identify whether a legislator is a friend or not, based on voting records and other criteria, then direct customized messages based on the decision-maker's stance. Might be fun to see what kinds of messages get directed to the foes.

The LexisNexis release announces a new "Negative News" search feature to its Anti-Money Laundering, Risk Management and RiskWise applications. The release describes the capabilities of the new feature like this:

"Users only need to input the name of a person or business, and Negative News automatically builds a powerful search that identifies articles in which the name of the person or business appears in close proximity to mentions of criminal acts, bankruptcies or illicit behavior. Examples of terms that Negative News looks for in the text of articles include: 'bribe,' 'drug,' 'felony,' 'misconduct,' 'negligence,' and 'theft.'"

Just please don't search on my name for "hitch-hiking arrests Arkansas 1971."

AB -- 10/13/05

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Blackboard-WebCT Merger Highlights Growth of e-Learning Industry

Around 2001 I did extensive research into e-learning tools in connection with a consulting engagement for a client who wanted to publish a series of online courses. At the time, Blackboard and WebCT were two of the providers I investigated. In fact, I had actually used WebCT to create an online course even earlier, back in about 1999.

So I was intrigued today when our TMCnet news feeds received the announcement of the merger of Blackboard and WebCT.

Reading the release, I was astonished at the figures involved in this transaction, indicating impressive growth in the e-learning industry. Blackboard is paying $189 million for WebCT. The two companies together will boast a client base of 3,700 institutions globally. Blackboard, a public company (Nasdaq: BBBB), has a market cap of $620.5 million, a P/E ratio of 17.33 and a stock price of about $23, trending upward from about $14 throughout 2005. I'm no financial analyst, but this sounds like a good situation.

Briefly checking the two companies' web sites, I was also impressed at the level of professionalism and marketing savvy developed over the years by both outfits, especially Blackboard. I remember when I was research e-learning providers just four years ago I was appalled at the poor communications skills exhibited by companies across the board in the e-learning space.

But now, checking the Blackboard and WebCT web sites, I see strong, detailed, benefit-oriented presentations -- and, one of the most important elements in software marketing, visuals that actually show what the product looks like, how it works, and what the user experience is like. To their detriment, this basic visual element is missing on many technology-company web sites.

I'm also impressed by the degree to which Blackboard and WebCT have developed their products into broad, sophisticated platforms for online learning, community and collaboration -- along with integrated e-commerce. Only about six years ago, I remember as a user being discouraged by WebCT's rudimentary capabilities for designing an online course.

Obviously, things have changed radically in the e-learning space, with important implications for the technology-enablement of institutions of higher education, K-12 and corporate training programs. Congratulations to Blackboard and WebCT on their merger and for their amazing progress.

AB -- 10/13/05

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October 12, 2005

Broadband Proliferates in Hotels

The TMCnet news feeds today picked up an announcement from research firm In-Stat, predicting that broadband-enabled hotels worldwide will grow from 14,300 in 2004 to 54,000 in 2009.

The study specifically looks at properties that offer broadband access in guest rooms, not just in business centers and public areas. In-Stat says that hotel broadband service is growing especially in North America. North America represents about two-thirds of broadband-enabled properties. When you look at total worldwide markets, penetration is still quite low. In-Stat says that, worldwide, "broadband will have only penetrated 3.4 percent in 2004, growing to 11.4 percent in 2009."

As I prepared for the road trip my wife and I took last month (September 2005) from Connecticut to South Carolina, I was wondering what to expect in terms of Internet access in hotels along the way. For several years now, I've relied on my Earthlink dialup account to keep me connected while traveling. But after last month's trip, from now on I'm bringing an ethernet cable. Hotel broadband is indeed proliferating.

Most intriguing was the Telkonet BPL (Broadband over Power Lines) access offered at the English Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia. Here's a picture of Telkonet's iBridge unit on the Spassmeister blog. It's a small, easy-to-use device that sits on the desk and is maybe a little smaller than a WiFi router.

I found that Telkonet worked pretty well. The system provides Internet access over the hotel's electrical circuits, so all you really have to do is plug the iBridge into a wall outlet and plug your ethernet cable into the iBridge. I think I might have had to restart my laptop once to give it a chance to shake hands with the iBridge, but after that it worked seamlessly and gave me fast reliable access during my stay.

However, I have to admit that on this trip I was just as happy to stay for four nights at the 1837 Bed & Breakfast in Charleston, South Carolina, where we didn't even have a telephone in the room, not to mention broadband! And my wife was very happy with that, as it left me free to go on walks with her through the beautiful historic district of Charleston, instead of sitting in the room hunched over my laptop.

AB -- 10/12/05

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October 10, 2005

The 'Nudge' Button -- Somebody Please Invent It!

I love the "Undo" function. It doesn't always work the way you expect it to, and it doesn't always work the same from one application to another, but it's a great idea that helps the user in many circumstances in many applications.

I wish somebody would invent a similar function called "Nudge."

Does your computer ever get stuck? You know what I mean. The hourglass just keeps spinning, or the hard drive just keeps clicking, or the progress bar will only go so far and then it stops. You have a sense that the application you're using or the process your computer is executing has just reached an impasse of some kind. You're not exactly sure, though. Should you call up Task Manager and abort the process? Or should you shut down the computer entirely? Or should you just be patient and go take a bathroom break or get a cup of coffee? (That usually doesn't work, does it? You come back and it's still stuck.)

Well, the "Nudge" function would allow you to bump the process along. You just click the "Nudge" button, and that makes the computer realize, "Oh, yeah, I got stuck in circular thinking. I'm actually supposed to be doing some work here." Then it recovers and gets the process moving again.

It would be built into operating systems and APIs and would work in all programs and across all computing processes. Somebody else should probably decide what the icon should look like. Maybe an elbow?

AB -- 10/10/05

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October 06, 2005

Vonage Data Shed Light on Upcoming IPO

I received a note today from TeleGeography Research pointing to its US VoIP Report as a source of useful data in advance of Vonage's expected IPO. Their announcement included the following chart showing growth in VoIP subscribers for several providers:

They also included some points excerpted from their larger study relevant to Vonage (quoted):

  • Vonage was the leading voice-over-broadband (VoBB) service provider in the US at the end of the second quarter, accounting for approximately 28% of US VoBB subscribers.
  • VoBB subscriptions have grown dramatically, from 440,000 in the second quarter of 2004 to 2.7 million in the second quarter of 2005.
  • Annual VoBB revenues in 2004 were approximately $250 million and are expected to exceed $1 billion in 2005. In fact, VoBB growth has been so rapid that revenues in the 2nd quarter of 2005 alone exceeded annual revenues in 2004.
  • Cable MSOs -- most notably Time Warner and Cablevision -- reported blistering growth in 2005, and now collectively count more subscribers than Vonage. While
  • Vonage no longer dominates the market, the company's growth has been remarkable by the standards of any industry: Vonage's subscribers have more than tripled in the past 12 months.
  • VoBB providers still only represent only about 3 percent of the fixed-line voice market: at the end of 2004, there were approximately 93 million residential ILEC lines in service in the United States.

For additional background, here are some recent pieces from TMCnet about the expected Vonage IPO:

Vonage IPO: What It Means For VoIP -- Rich Tehrani

Vonage IPO Makes VoIP the Top Marketplace Story -- Al Bredenberg

AB -- 10/6/05

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October 05, 2005

ESO Uranium With Fugro for Megatem on Cluff

This news item came across our TMCnet news feeds today, and I took note of it solely for the beauty of the headline:

ESO Uranium Corp Contracts Fugro Airborne For Megatem II Survey On Cluff Project

Others have argued for filtering out "irrelevant" news from our site -- but just look what kinds of items we would miss out on!

This release is really about uranium mining in the Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan in Canada. As I understand it, ESO Uranium Corp., a mining outfit, is commissioning a survey to locate uranium resources. I believe Megatem II is a technology used for aerial survey to locate underground resources. This excerpt describes something about how the technology will be used in this project:

"The Megatem II system has substantially greater power and depth penetration than systems used in the past and uses advanced data processing capable of defining conductor locations and conductivity parameters. The survey will fly nearly perpendicular to the known conductors axis, and will consist of 2,000 line kilometers flown on 400 meter line spacings. It will cover the Cluff basement structure which will provide information on areas associated with three groups of uranium mineralized boulders containing up to 19.3% U3O8 and 2.9 g/t gold."

AB -- 10/05/05

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October 04, 2005

Telecom Co. Eureka Steps Up Fraud Protection

We received an announcement today that Eureka Networks, a CLEC serving Northeastern U.S. and the mid-Atlantic, has installed Equinox's Protector 10 real-time fraud management system. Eureka serves primarily business customers, providing traditional voice and data services, as well as VoIP, hosted PBX and DS3 connectivity.

Today's release is available on the TMCnet news feeds at:

Eureka Networks Purchases Protector 10 Telecom Fraud Management Software From Equinox Information Systems

Equinox specializes in software solutions for the telecommunications industry. Protector 10 provides real-time fraud-detection by "identifying instances in which a customer's actual usage varies from expected usage in a manner that suggests fraudulent activity."

Equinox says that telecom fraud costs $12 billion yearly. Sounds as if that might refer to the U.S. only, because the International Engineering Consortium (IEC) gives a higher figure for global losses at $30-$40 billion (and that's for year 2000), representing an "annual loss of 3 percent to 8 percent to the average service provider." IEC indicates that organized crime is involved in telecom fraud and that this activity might even be "more attractive than the drug market."

AB -- 10/4/05

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Manassas Va. Launches City-Wide Broadband-Over-Powerline (BPL)

I received this announcement today from Communications Technologies Inc. (COMTek), the company that owns and operates the broadband-over-powerlines implementation just launched in the city of Manassas, Virginia. The news release is in our TMCnet news feeds and available at:

First City-Wide Deployment of Broadband-Over-Powerline (BPL) Technology in the U.S. Now Complete in Manassas, Va.

COMTek and the City of Manassas will hold a news conference tomorrow, Oct. 5, 2005, in Manassas. The conference will also be available via streaming media at the COMTek Web site.

I couldn't find any good visuals about BPL on COMTek's Web site, but here is an interesting diagram on the Plexeon Web site showing how BPL might be deployed in a neighborhood.

BPL is somewhat controversial. Amateur radio operators object to unbridled rollout of the technology, as it might interfere with shortwave radio signals. BPL is cited as one of the technologies that can compete with cable and telco broadband rollouts, but some observers are skeptical whether BPL can become useful broadly in the marketplace.

AB -- 10/4/05

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October 03, 2005

VoIP for the Developing World

Rich Tehrani wrote a fascinating blog entry today about the potential connection between MIT's $100-laptop program and the future possibilities for VoIP in developing countries. See his essay at:

VoIP Helps the Needy

In part, Rich writes:

" ... imagine if there was a way to get computers into the hands of more children. What would this do for the world's developing nations and how would it help children? Imagine they would now be able to compute inexpensively and have access to the Internet and also speak for free with others.

This is a huge deal because in many parts of the world there aren't telephones or even telephone lines. Many children don't even understand the concept of the telephone. What if we could get them to access the web, allow them to compose documents, blog and talk for free? What an amazing world that would be. What an exciting place to live. What a more interconnected planet we would live on."

This reminds me of the fascinating story of "The Hole in the Wall," which I heard about a couple of years ago.

Sugata Mitra, a computer scientist in India, decided to place a computer with a high-speed Internet connection in a hole in the wall that separated the high-tech company he worked for from the slum next door. He found that the kids from the neighborhood, who had never seen a computer, very quickly figured out how to use it and how to perform complexe tasks over the Internet. The last I heard, he was institutinga program making public-access computers available in poor neighborhoods in many areas of India.

One of the incidents I recall from the story was that a reporter asked one of the kids how he learned to use a computer so well, and the kid answered, 'What's a computer?'

AB -- 10/3/05

Posted by abredenberg at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack