A Prayer for 2014

A new year brings reflection, forecasts, and seldom-kept resolutions. But given the long-standing nature of so many challenges facing the evolution of mobility, perhaps a prayer or two is more in order today.

This is the time of year when analysts like to present their key predictions for the coming year. Last year, my big theme was sufficiency - the fact that we had achieved sufficient throughput- and capacity-related capabilities in mobile and wireless (subscriber devices, 802.11ac, LTE, LTE-A, etc.) at Layers 1-3 that attention across the food chain shifted up the protocol stack, all the way to Layer 7. It's (almost) always all about the apps - that's where the bulk of the action will be, therefore, in the coming years, including this one.

But such doesn't mean that we've resolved every issue in mobile and wireless with consequential smooth sailing ahead. Indeed, some problems remain with nagging regularity and persistence, and it really is time for these to be addressed once and for all.

But given that these are all long-term issues, and progress in each has been somewhere between slow and non-existent, this year's kickoff column is more in the form of a prayer. Whether we have a prayer in addressing these is up to industry, government, and, ultimately, us, in the form of what products and services we choose to buy. To be fair, not every issue here can be completely addressed, but I remain optimistic that progress can be made in each:

  • Quality of Experience (QoE) - I love this term, as it incorporates so many elements essential to long-term end-user success: ease of use, documentation/help, training, support, education, and all of those elements working towards end-users being satisfied and productive with the tools and technologies at their disposal. Over the holidays I had problems with the Calendar application on OS X 8, iCloud, and even Sirius XM, where the solution in each case was far from obvious. This is 2014, and having to spend hours researching a solution is a sirius waste of time. Anyone offering a product or service, especially but not limited to end-users, should consequently pay serious attention to QoE, which will become perhaps the ultimate differentiator in the marketplace.
  • Security - There were so many stories about security breaches over the holidays - Target, Yahoo, and Snapchat, just for starters - that I can't even remember them all. But the message here should resonate loud and clear - why is it we never seem to take security seriously? From government to industry to end-users, perhaps this is because we assume that we are not the target (pun intended) of hackers seeking potentially valuable information. As we saw in the last two weeks, though, we are, and perhaps now more than ever. Solutions? Well, given that absolute security is an abstract, theoretical concept and thus the one area in IT where we can therefore never be "done", two-factor authentication would at least be a good start, along with encryption of sensitive information wherever it may reside. Indeed, this one seems to simple, and yet divine intervention may be the only reasonable vehicle to finally getting this accomplished as so much of our personal security resides with third parties (credit-card companies: this means you). The costs inherent in the status quo should be motivator enough, and yet I expect some but nowhere near enough progress on security this year. Truly sad.
  • Privacy - I've often referred to privacy as the political end of security, but that's only partially correct. Privacy at its core is really about respect for others, something that seems to be lacking at a cultural level today. We just don't care - until we're the one whose sensitive information is compromised or misused. Even the government seems disinterested in privacy today, so once again a bolt from the blue is likely required if any progress is to be made on this issue.
  • Software development - It is all about the apps, and yet I continue to marvel at how difficult and complex the writing of code remains. We seem to have more programming languages than ever, which is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but they all seem to require massive effort in terms of front-end learning and back-end debugging before any real productivity is achieved. Why is writing code still so hard? As the saying goes, why do you think they call it code? Better models are regardless required; software remains way too expensive, and, dare I say it, risky.

And, finally, if you're looking for what will be most important trend of 2014, my vote goes to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (M2M/IoT), along with their cousin telematics. These terms are often used interchangeably, but I see them as distinct. Even Cisco has gotten into this space in a big way, with what they are calling the Internet of Everything. I'm already busy with projects in this space, and I expect a lot of my time in 2014 will be devoted to this topic, along with applications - hence my commentary above on the perils of software development.

There is, of course, a prayer that we'll eventually find effective solutions for all of the above. As the future of mobility in fact depends upon this, I do hope my prayers will be answered.

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