A Russian or Albanian Windows Phone for a Dutchie

Last week I bought my new Lumia 930 (black) and received it the next day. To my surprise I received an Albanian Country Variant. And when I started up my phone I was greeted in Russian or Albanian – sorry, I do not know the diference. Supplier Phoneshop.nl apparently does not deliver Dutch phones, eventhough it is a Dutch company and I am a Dutch citizen. After some fiddling around (thx to BING and Google translate) I managed to reset it.

a\ it is good to see that even Albania gets access to Windows Phones

b\ poor service & quality by Phoneshop.nl

Nevertheless – the phone is great and I am very happy with it. Looking forward to the DENIM update

Review: Thermarest LuxuryLite Mesh Cot X-Large Blue

My wife and I are avid campers. We spend at least 6 weeks a year in various campgrounds in Europe and The United States. Our preferred way of camping is with a tent and we like to stay in ‘rural’ campsites. In the USA that means campground in national and state parks, in Europe we avoid the big campsites and look for smaller privately owned sites.

We have a small tent that has room for three, so we can fit 2 beds and our luggage easily. Up until last year we slept on self-inflatables and that worked out fine until I noticed to get some trouble with my lower back (I am 51 years old). It would hurt when I got up in the morning and immediately start hurting again when we went back to bed on the 2nd or 3rd day.

So I started looking for alternatives and came across the Thermarest LuxuryLite Cot. More specifically the extra-large variant  since I am quite large (193 cm) and because this version is also extra wide, it would allow me to sleep on my side, which is my preferred position.

Now, you need to know that this cot is expensive! I ordered it at CAMPZ.NL and the price-tag was over 225 euro’s – which is a lot, but it came with a 100 day return guarantee, so I would be able to test it thoroughly.

Did it work? The answer is wholeheartedly ‘Yes’ – I used the cot during a 4 week camping trip and spend almost 24 nights on this bed (other nights were spend in a hotel for the necessary showers and laundry facilities) – in over 6 different campsites.

Now it would be strange if I would say that not spending that time in my own bed did not affect me, but overall I slept great and had no back pain to speak of.

The cot consists of a sturdy cloth, 2 foldable sticks that slide into the long side and a set of smaller sticks and ‘feet’ that allow you to build the cot. It is almost impossible to explain in text, so I refer to the YouTube video for an explanation how to set this thing up ( http://youtu.be/orRtuiTgQ40 )

The cot comes in a small bag, that holds all of the components easily and the complete package is surprisingly light (less than 2 kg). Setting up takes some effort and strength in your upper arms.

After the first week I decided to change the way that the struts and feet are located – I used to evenly spread them across the length of the bed, but I discovered that putting 2 close together to support my head and neck, leave a bigger gap and then put in the rest (I suggest you look at the video, it will make more sense than my textual description here), was a better setup.

After 6 weeks the bed is still in perfect condition, but I do have some concerns about the holes in the cloth where you fix the ‘feet’; due to the tension that is put on the holes, I expect that this is an area that will suffer from the setup process. Also I noticed that this is not a very sturdy bed, getting in and out of it needs to be done with some care – you can absolutely forget to do anything else then sleep in this bed.

All in all I am happy with my purchase and hope we can enjoy camping for a long time.

On which platform are you making money?

Platforms, or ecosystems, are the virtual malls of the (near) future. We have the Google, Apple and Microsoft platform – although one could argue that these three are already surpassed by the likes of Facebook and Amazon, who put the big three in the (undesired) corner of ‘technology providers’.

Let me explain; a mall is a location where different vendors and providers come together and each contributes to the overall experience of the customer, while retaining their own business model. Some malls put this under 1 brand, creating a store-in-store concept, while others are more like traditional markets where farmers used to come together to sell their produce.

When we move from the physical to the digital, we are able to create digital, virtual stores and this has already developed into a billion dollar business. A new development, and outlined in a new whitepaper of the Atos Scientific Community “The Connected Train”, is the creation of a platform:

“The connected train is the monetization of high bandwidth Internet on a moving train where data and transactions are facilitated via a platform.

… to the platform provider(s), it’s the ability to harvest and sell passenger data and facilitate business transactions.”

Bringing technology into places that previously had almost no technology and using that technology to specifically address the circumstances of the consumer, client, traveler, patient, student, or whatever other role or identity people will take, is a great opportunity to both providers and consumers of services.

Before going into the specific value of such a ‘Connected Train’ platform, the authors address the necessary aspects that need to be understood before a platform can be instantiated:

  • What is the value chain?
  • Who are the groups that interact at the platform?
  • What is the role of the technology, what does it make possible?
  • How does the platform make money?
  • How will it work?

The authors treat each question, but go a little deeper when looking at the necessary technology; mainly I presume because this has been the biggest bottleneck so far in creating this platform. New developments in network technology and continuous improvement in available bandwidth are also expected.

“In 2018 the day–‐to–‐day technology of passengers will be very different. We can expect to see mass adoption of wearable computing, the Internet of Things, IPv6 and heads–‐up display technology (Google glasses). All of these new usages of the Internet will consume considerable bandwidth. Assuming that Moore’s law applies in order to meet passengers’ demands the connected train must offer 12 Mb/s to each passenger.”

Obviously, when such a platform is finally available many parties will be able to participate and some examples are explained in the paper. Next to looking at movies, order a meal or make an advanced restaurant reservation, I found the possible interaction with train staff most interesting.

Because of the platform nature, for the staff, the passengers are no longer anonymous travelers, but can be addressed as returning customers or passengers with special needs. Information can become tailored and customer remarks (complaints?) can be dealt with much quicker and on a personal basis.

“This is also an opportunity to upsell products that fit into the TOC service system such as parking or concession. There is an opportunity to tell stations about trains which are overcrowded before they arrive. This gives passengers the knowledge on which to base a decision as to whether to get on this train or wait for the next one.”

It is clear that still some big technology challenges need to be overcome and also aspects of privacy and pricing structures need to be addressed. But it is becoming clear that special purpose or special location platforms are a great way to bundle a wide experience of services on a technology foundation. It allows for collaboration between vendors, create added value for the platform provider and great benefits for its users.

And, after reading the whitepaper, it is obvious that platforms and trains are made for each other.

This blog post was previously published at http://blog.atos.net/blog/2014/04/01/watch-space-platform-making-money/

How big is your robot?

What do you get when you combine cloud computing, social networking, big data and modern day engineering? You get a kick-ass robot. This was my first thought when I finished reading a published whitepaper by the Atos scientific community on the topic of robots.

Central in the paper is the question: “Where is the mind of the future robot?”, and by outlining the concept of a robot that can utilize everything that is available in cyberspace you may find it difficult to answer that question.

Today it is hard to predict where on earth all of the data about you is stored in the cloud and we have never been able to communicate more easily. It is easy to see that robots will be everywhere, able to utilize all available information.
This will lead to a new class in robot persona’s and capabilities.

Once the robot is part of a social network, it could virtually interact with humans as well and thus start truly mimicking human behavior.

When I was (much) younger we had a program on our home computer that was called ‘Eliza’. This program would behave as an electronic psychiatrist. It had some limited learning capabilities and some clever language skills to ‘trick’ you in having an actual conversation.

If you would type things like “I hate talking to a computer”, Eliza would answer with “Hate seems to be important to you, can you explain that?”

If we now multiply the capabilities of this ‘Eliza’ by a thousand or more (using cloud computing scalability) and bring in the analytics of all of your ‘likes’ or ‘diggs’ or even the behaviour of your friends, combined with knowledge about your locations and multiply that by analysing all the things you did 5 years ago, 10 years ago and today …. Well I think you get the picture.

The more a future robot knows or has access to, the more it will be able to fulfil his role in supporting us. This may not sit well with everybody, but if we utilize this capability in a clever way, I believe we can benefit.

Especially if we also take into account that a robot can take different forms, could exist virtually or maybe even be in multiple locations at the same time, with access to the right information and computing power to use that to our benefit. The whitepaper describes some of these scenarios and puts it in the perspective of the role of IT providers and systems integrators.

Based on my reading of the whitepaper I was thinking that maybe the statement ‘I cannot be in two places at the same time’ will soon become a thing of the past.

[This blog post is a repost of http://blog.atos.net/blog/2012/11/26/watch-this-space-how-big-is-your-robot/ ]