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FinTech Technological Innovations

FinTech Technological Innovations financial industry

FinTech Technological Innovations

FinTech Technological Innovations financial industry

Whether all Fintech should be considered disruptive innovation or not is a matter for debate, according to well-educated writers at The Harvard Business review. But it doesn’t take an Ivy League education to recognize that many of the new FinTech technological innovations in the finance sector are sending tremors across the industry. Old-fashioned practices like going to the bank are being superseded by online transactions using hand-held devices. And there’s much more.

There is nothing narrow in the definition of Fintech. The term can apply to any technology solution used to deliver financial services. According to Investopedia, Originally thought of as “FinTech technological innovations applied to the back-end of established consumer and trade financial institutions, ” now the word is used to describe any technological innovation in the financial industry.

 A Broad Impact

FinTech has been around for a long time, working in the background to support banks, trading companies, insurers, and other financial institutions. Now FinTech technological innovations include platforms that manage end-to-end processes like the interaction of users on their smartphones. The aim is to use technology creatively to make life better.

A simple example is online mobile banking. Most banks now allow customers to log in to their accounts through a secure website or app. This capability alone has changed the way people do their banking. Online banking means customers can check balances, transfer money, or pay bills without ever stepping foot into a bank lobby. And the ubiquity of credit or debit transactions in stores eliminates the need to withdraw cash at the bank or an ATM.

Past Present and Future FinTech Technological Innovations

We’ve been using Fintech for a while now. An article on “The Evolution of Fintech” in Forbes says that Fintech is “a very broad sector with a long history”. That history includes credit cards, ATM machines, bank mainframes, e-commerce, trade processing, and data analysis. We can even go back to Friday, October 15, 1954, when history's first automated payroll checks were printed by the UNIVAC machine, as I described in "Milestones in Digital Computing".

Today, Fintech is apparent in technologies that we use every day. In an article about the evolution of Fintech, ComputerWorld gives the examples PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity Investments. But that just scratches the surface. For a bigger list, take a look at "The Fintech 50: The Complete List 2016". These financial technologies may not currently be on your radar, but maybe they should be.

Fintech expert Alex Rampell discusses “The Future of Money: Banking on Fintech” in a YouTube video. He says that millennials don’t want to talk on the phone or visit bank locations. They are used to doing everything on their smartphones. Rampell says that services such as core banking, new financial products, insurance, and investing are being addressed with Fintech solutions. The four main debt categories, credit card, mortgage, auto loans, and student loans, will also have apps that are widely adopted.


Other predictions about the future of FinTech technological innovations and banking, such as this video from Avonade and another from Newgen software, might make you wonder if the technology might become a bit too intrusive. But those things will be worked out in society and in the marketplace. A special report from the Financial Times on the future of Fintech might be a better place to start.

Another way to look at it is to say that the future is not that far off. Using the smartphones and other computing devices that we already possess, financial service providers can easily make their offerings available through a simple app. And they are already doing that. The question remains whether we are prepared to entrust our financial transactions to them.          

 

FinTech Technological Innovations

A Fintech Primer

We said that Fintech has a broad definition. Every technology has its own language with its own special terms. We won’t cover them all here because the work has already been done for us. CNBC has done a fine job in defining Fintech terms in their article "Everything you've always wanted to know about Fintech". Some of the terms covered are:

  1. Cryptocurrency - a decentralized digital currency which uses encryption
  2. Bitcoin - a peer-to-peer version of electronic cash
  3. Blockchain - a form of distributed ledger technology (DLT)
  4. Ethereum - another type of blockchain network
  5. Regulatory technology (regtech) - technology which helps firms working in the financial services industry meet financial compliance rules.

And you might be wondering about the spelling of the word we have been describing. I’ve seen Fintech, FinTech, or fintech. I’m not sure that there is any accepted spelling as of yet.

Conclusion of FinTech Technological Innovations

 Some people may wonder when we will start using Fintech, but the answer is that we already are. The financial technology that we have been using for years -- including credit cards and ATM machines -- may not have been called Fintech, but the definition applies. You can probably think of many others in your daily experience. As with any technology, there is more to it than creating the ability to do something. It all comes down to which Fintech apps are widely adopted in the market place, and how financially successful those FinTech technological innovations and solutions become via artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

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Augmented Reality Virtual Elements to the Physical World

Augmented reality virtual elements illustration
Augmented reality virtual elements illustration

Augmented Reality Virtual Elements to the Physical World

Augmented reality virtual elements, virtual reality, artificial intelligence- exactly what are they and how do they interact with one another? Every moment of our waking lives, we use our five senses to learn about our world. In our daily reality, we see people and cars moving on the street, or hear a colleague talking with a client in the next cubicle. We can smell something burning or peculiar fish smells or our morning bacon cooking. Our senses can tell us a lot -- but we may still be missing some very important information. If today’s innovators have their way, augmented reality virtual elements will soon fill in those sensory gaps for us.

A Second Intelligence

Your curiosity about this subject is a sign of your own intelligence, but computing machines offer us something different. Artificial intelligence (AI) uses the computing power of machines to perform tasks that are normally associated with intelligent beings. Those tasks include activities related to perception, learning, reasoning, and problem solving. AI can add to our personal experience through something called augmented reality (AR).

We should not confuse the two terms, although they are related. You might compare them to what we know as perception and reason in human beings. We perceive the world through our five senses, but we interpret those perceptions through our reasoning powers. Augmented reality uses devices like smart glasses and handheld devices to provide us with more data and add to our perceptions, but it is artificial intelligence that makes sense of all that information.

What is Augmented Reality virtual elements without AI? It is like eyes without a brain. Tyler Lindell is an AI/ AR/ VR software engineer for Holographic Interfaces, as well as a software engineer at Tesla. In an article called "
Augmented Reality Needs AI In Order To Be Effective", he says that most people don’t realize that “AI and machine learning technologies sit at the heart of AR platforms”.

Another Set of Eyes and Ears

There are some larger questions about the meaning of intelligence and the role of computers that are always good to trigger research and deep conversations. I have written about the history of artificial intelligence and whether machines can actually think. Recently I took another look at
J.C.R. Licklider’s vision for man-computer symbiosis. But for those in the business world or in a production environment, you may just want to know what these technologies can do.

An article from Lifewire tells us that augmented reality “enriches perception by adding virtual elements to the physical world”. Just as our eyes and ears need the brain to interpret the sights and sounds that are presented to us, Augmented reality virtual elements depends on AI to provide pertinent information to the user in real time. Imagine taking a walk through the city. You see buildings and landmarks. If you looked through an AR device, it could give you more information, such as the name or address of the building, or some history about the landmark. 

Four Different Categories of Augmented Reality Virtual Elements

An online guide to augmented reality describes four different categories of AR. Marker-based AR (also called Image Recognition) can determine information about an object using something called a QR/2D code. It uses a visual marker. Markerless AR is location-based or position-based. GPS devices might fit into this category. Projection-based AR projects artificial light onto real world surfaces. And superimposition-based AR puts a virtual object into a real space, such as IKEA’s software that lets you see how a couch might look in your living room.

Augmented Reality devices in various stages of development include:

  • sensors and cameras
  • projectors
  • eyeglasses
  • heads-up display (HUD)
  • contact lenses
  • virtual retinal display (VRD)
  • handheld

Technology in Transition

The potential of augmented reality virtual elements backed by artificial intelligence is only now being realized in the marketplace. Tech evangelist Robert Scoble and his co-author Shel Israel believe that we are only in the beginning stages of technological development that will have an enormous impact.  In their 2016 book The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence Will Change Everything, they say that we are on the cusp of a new stage. The four “transformations” in their theory can be summarized with these headings:

  • Text and MS-DOS
  • Graphical user interfaces
  • Small devices
  • Augmented reality

The technological revolution is already underway. Google’s experiment with smart glasses was an early entry into the consumer AR market. Now augmented reality is being introduced into a broad spectrum of industries, from construction to military. IKEA and other retailers have seen the value of augmenting the views of customers who may potentially place furniture into their homes. Architects and builders are using AR to visualize how new construction might fit into current settings. AR solutions are being developed for technicians in a variety of fields to get analytics in real time. Soldiers with AR visors will be able to get battlefield data as fighting occurs.  

The Ironman movies from Marvel Comics give us an illustration of augmented reality. In his high-tech suit, the character Tony Stark sees constantly changing data that he would never have perceived on his own. An artificial intelligence in the suit searches its vast data sources and offers split-second assessments based on immediate events. Like Ironman, AR devices in the coming years will be highly dependent on AI and its resources to aid us in our tasks

Possibilities and Challenges in Augmented Reality Virtual Elements

It takes a while for applied science to catch up with the imaginations of science fiction. There are such limitations as physics that prevent the speedy invention and implementation of the devices on our wish list. The flip mobile phone reminded some people of Captain Kirk’s communicator, but it took a lot of technology to get us there. Ironmen’s augmented reality has a lot more challenges.

A short cartoon posted by The Atlantic shows how augmented reality will change tech experiences. The company Niantec offers a smartphone app that gives you information about the places you visit. “The application was designed to run in the background and just to pop up,” says the narrator. The next Niantec project was Pokémon GO, an augmented reality game that went viral. The company’s CEO, John Hanke, says that “AR is the spiritual successor to the smartphone that we know and love today.” 

Augmented Reality virtual elements with food

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However clever our ideas, the obstacles can be overwhelming. What happens when Ironman or Captain Kirk lose connectivity? How much bandwidth is required to transmit all that data, and what do we do when transmission channels become congested? How can AI access the pertinent data quickly enough to be helpful when we need it? And how can we manage all that information?

Conclusion

There are so many potential use cases for augmented reality that go beyond the scope of this article. In the hands of police, the military, or rescue personnel, AR devices could help catch criminals, win battles, or save lives. Devices embedded with image and speech recognition capabilities could become our eyes and ears. Repairmen could use AR to find leaks or diagnose defective equipment. The wonders of augmented reality virtual elements, along with artificial intelligence, will become much more apparent to us in the next few years.

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Embedded Wireless Devices and IoT Security Vulnerabilities

Embedded Wireless Devices IoT Security

Embedded Wireless Devices and IoT Security Vulnerabilities

Embedded Wireless devicesonce thought to be too small to include their own security, undergo a more thorough analysis beginning with firmware testing. The software inside the chip is just as important as the application controlling it. Both need to be tested for security and quality. Some of the early IoT botnets have leveraged vulnerabilities and features within the device itself.

"Embedded wireless devices really are one of the most common devices on the Internet, and the security of these devices is terrible." Those were the words of network security expert H.D. Moore, the developer of the penetration testing software Metasploit Framework, when discussing an illicit attempt to survey the entire internet.

Consumer Based Embedded Wireless Devices

Dan Goodin of Ars Technica tells the tale of a guerilla researcher who collected nine terabytes of data from a scan of 420 million IPv4 addresses across the world. "The vast majority of all unprotected devices are consumer routers or set-top boxes which can be found in groups of thousands of devices,” wrote the anonymous researcher in his 5,000-word report. "A lot of devices and services we have seen during our research should never be connected to the public Internet at all."

Hackers can do a lot of damage, and with billions of IoT devices forecast to be connected in the next few years, embedded devices security should be more than an afterthought.

In 2015, two white hat hackers demonstrated that they could break into late model Chrysler vehicles through the installed UConnect, an internet-connected feature that controls navigation, entertainment, phone service, and Wi-Fi.

By rewriting firmware on a chip in an electronic control unit (ECU) of a Jeep Cherokee, they were able to use the vehicle’s controller area network (CAN) to remotely play with the radio, windshield wipers, and air conditioning -- even kill the engine.

Embedded wireless devices IoT security vulnerabilities

The cybersecurity risks are real.  Alan Grau writes on the IEEE Spectrum website about three significant incidents affecting the health care industry. A report by TrapX Labs called “Anatomy of an Attack–Medical Device Hijack (MEDJACK)” describes how hackers were able to target medical devices to gain entry to hospital networks and transmit captured data to locations in Europe and Asia. “Stopping these attacks will require a change of mindset by everyone involved in using and developing medical devices,” says Grau.

Another notorious embedded wireless devices security intrusion is described in an article on The Verge, “Somebody's watching: how a simple exploit lets strangers tap into private security cameras” . Strangers were able to watch live streams of unwitting security camera owners within their homes. The vulnerabilities of existing firmware allowed for egregious invasion of privacy.

Embedded Wireless Devices and IoT Vulnerabilities

Many of the hackable embedded wireless devices now on the market were created without much consideration for security. "Security needs to be architected from the beginning and cannot be made an option," says Mike Muller, CTO of ARM Semiconductors, at a seminar he gave at the IoT Security Summit 2015.  Muller believes that very few developers have any real understanding of security. ·“We cannot take all of the software community and turn them into security experts.  It’s not going to work.” The answer is that best practices for embedded security must be established and followed. That includes splitting memory into “private critical and private uncritical” and creating device-specific encryption keys. “You have to build systems on the assumption that you’re going to get hacked,” warns Muller.

Identifying potential IoT vulnerabilities requires robust testing before putting devices into production. In 2014, the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) published a list called Internet of Things Top Ten:  A Complete IoT Review. They recommend testing your IoT device for:  

  1. Insecure Web Interface (OWASP I1)
  2. Poor Authentication/Authorization (OWASP I2)
  3. Insecure Network Services (OWASP I3)
  4. Lack of Transport Encryption (OWASP I4)
  5. Privacy Concerns (OWASP I5)
  6. Insecure Cloud Interface (OWASP I6)
  7. Insufficient Security Configurability (OWASP I8)
  8. Insecure Software/Firmware (OWASP I9)
  9. Poor Physical Security (OWASP I10)

As with any testing, well-written test cases will help manufacturers ensure the security of the device. Better to run through possible scenarios in the lab that to have major issues with customers later.   In November 2016, Dan Goodin of Ars Technica reported that a “New, more-powerful IoT botnet infects 3,500 devices in 5 days”. Goodin writes that “Linux/IRCTelnet is likely only the beginning of what could be a long line of next-generation malware that steadily improves its capabilities.” And he laments the defenselessness of IoT devices that proliferate across the web. It’s a sentiment that’s shared by many.

What about your experiences with IoT security and embedded wireless devices? Any stories to tell? What are your recommendations for making things safer? Feel free to post your comments here.

Wireless IoT retained executive search firm CTA

Long Range Commercial Drone Control with 5G Wireless Technology

Long Range Commercial Drone Control

Long Range Commercial Drone Control
in 5G Wireless Technology 

Long  Range commercial Drone Control

In regards to long range commercial drone control, according to wireless technology company Qualcomm, “5G connectivity will enable a worldwide boom in drone use, for fun, research, and business.” But for now, U.S. drone activity is limited to line-of-sight control. Regulations will need to catch up to the fast-developing technology.to enable the future of long range commercial drone control.

“A Highway in the Sky” 

Research on the control of drones parallels work being done on autonomous vehicle technology. Dr. Harita Joshi of the University of Warwick spoke to Telecom TV about the development of ultra-reliable and low latency 5G networks that would allow for accurate communication with self-driving cars. Others are talking about “self-flying aircraft”.

China Mobile used the term “flying automotive” when referring to the 5G drone network they were testing with Ericsson in 2016. Achieving end-to-end latency of 15 milliseconds, their 5G drone was able to make handovers between towers shared with normal cell phone users.

Commercial long range drone control is in deep development.  Take Alphabet (aka Google) who's been working on ways to deliver mobile connectivity from the air. In 2014 they bought Titan Aerospace and turned it into Project Skybender. The aim was to launch a fleet of lightweight, solar-powered drones that would fly in the upper atmosphere for up to 90 days at a time.  Alphabet abandoned Skybender in 2016, preferring to concentrate on the use of balloons through their Project Loon.  Another venture in long range drone control is Qualcomm, who want their unmanned aerial system (UAS) to be autonomous through development of UAS Traffic Management (UTM) controls.  
Director of Marketing Maged Zaki blogged about the “Path to 5G: Building a highway in the sky for autonomous drones”. “When UTM systems are deployed, we envision fleets of drones flying missions autonomously while connected to operators and regulators.”

The Goals in Reaching Long Range Commercial Drone Control

No one wants to worry about drones falling from the sky. The FAA in the U.S. has restricted drone usage to Visual Line of Sight (VLOS). However, in 2016 the FAA granted an Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) operations waiver to commercial drone company Precision Hawk.

But for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) control of drones, operators need something more for long range commercial drone control. “Many of the anticipated benefits of drones, including delivery, inspections and search-and-rescue will require a highly secure and reliable connection,” said Qualcomm’s Chris Penrose, senior vice president, IoT Solutions, AT&T, according to a press release.

Long range commercial drone control Amazon

Dr. Joshi underscored in her interview the problem of latency and the need to service vehicles traveling at high speeds. The ITU published “IMT Vision”, a paper about 5G, in which they addressed these issues:  IMT-2020 would be able to provide 1 ms over-the-air latency, capable of supporting services with very low latency requirements. IMT-2020 is also expected to enable high mobility up to 500 km/h with acceptable QoS.

To achieve the goals of long range commercial drone control, researchers are experimenting with a range of bandwidth called millimeter-wave radio. The new band spans from 30 to 300 gigahertz. Way back in 1895 the polymath Jagadish Chandra Bose was experimenting in this spectrum. An August 2014 article in IEEE Spectrum tells the story: The intrepid scientist “sent a 60-GHz signal through three walls and the body of the region’s lieutenant governor to a funnel-shaped horn antenna and detector 23 meters away. As proof of its journey, the message triggered a simple contraption that rang a bell, fired a gun, and exploded a small mine.”

Despite the early research, attempts at harnessing millimeter-wave frequencies turned out to be extremely expensive and infeasible. The spectrum propagated poorly between towers and was scattered by rain.  “The huge advantage of millimeter wave is access to new spectrum because the existing cellphone spectrum is overcrowded,” says Jacques Rudell of the University of Washington. The Guardian writer Mark Harris wrote about it when he broke the story “Project Skybender: Google's secretive 5G internet drone tests revealed” in 2016. Despite Skybender’s demise, plans to harness millimeter-wave technology continue.

Bold Long Range Commercial Drone Control Projections

Hobbyists have taken to drones as a new tech toy, but other use cases will contribute to the drone boom. Companies like Alphabet hope to deliver internet to remote and under-served areas. Drones are useful in disaster recovery, search-and-rescue, and hazardous material situations. Amazon has already done long-range test deliveries.  Pizza delivery by drone is not far away. And drone racing – like the 2016 World Drone Racing Championships in Hawaii – is a growing sport.

AT&T Foundry offered “10 Bold Projections on the Future of Drones”. These include swarming technology, onboard analytics, IoT support, AI and robotics, and the use of drones for dynamic communications networks.  Whatever commercial applications await drone technology, it’s clear that they will be dependent on secure, fast, and reliable communications. 5G technology will likely play a significant role in the evolution of long range drone control.

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Industrial Robotics Cyber Security Challenges for IIoT – Internet of Things

Industrial Robotics cyber security in IIoT

Industrial Robotics Cyber Security Challenges in IIoT

The line is blurring between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). As more industrial robotics equipment is connected to the industrial internet of things (IIoT), the vulnerabilities increase. Among the many devices being added to networks are robotic machines. That’s raising red flags for some experts. And it has many people worried. What are the risks associated with connecting an army of robots? It’s the stuff of science fiction.

Industrial Robotics Cyber Security Concerns on the Rise

The World Robotics Report 2016 gives us some insight into the scope of global automation growth: “The number of industrial robotics deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million units by 2019.” It says that the strongest growth figures are for Central and Eastern Europe. The report cites China as the market for growth, and says that North America is on the path to success. “The USA is currently the fourth largest single market for industrial robots in the world,” according to the report.

TechCrunch contributor Matthew Rendall says “Industrial robotics will replace manufacturing jobs — and that’s a good thing”. He writes that the “productivity growth” behind 85% of job losses is all about machines replacing humans. Luddite and famous poet Lord Byron would not have been pleased. But Rendall is not bothered. He says that “more is getting done” by industrial robotics that are safer and more reliable than human beings.  And he believes that this robotics revolution will be beneficial to workers and society in the long run.

All this rush to automation might be the best thing since jelly doughnuts. But one question could make all the difference between abysmal failure and glorious success:  Can we keep them secure?

Challenge in Industrial Robotics Cyber Security

We probably don’t need to worry about robots taking over the world any time soon. (Let’s hope, anyway.) What concerns security experts is that our computer-based friends can be hacked. Wired Magazine reports how one group of researchers was able to sabotage an industrial robotics arm without even touching the code. That’s especially worrying when you think that most industrial robotics have a single arm and nothing else. These devices are made to make precise movements. Hackers can change all that.

Industrial Robotics cyber security challenge

German designer Clemens Weisshaar addressed the issue in a form at Vienna Design Week in 2014.  “Taking robots online is as dangerous as anything you can put on the web,” he said. In a video from the forum, Weisshaar talked about how even his company’s robot demonstration in London had been hacked within 24 hours. They even tried to drive his robots into the ground.  “If everything is on the internet,” he said, “then everything is vulnerable to attack.”

Industrial robotics cyber security challenges are only one part of what many are calling Industry 4.0. It’s a trending concept -- especially in Germany -- and it’s another way of referring to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To understand what this is about, we should first reach back in the dim recesses of our minds to what we learned in history class in school.

The Industrial Revolution, as it was originally called, took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. It started in Great Britain and involved the harnessing of steam and tremendous advances in production methods - the 1st.  Next came the 2nd roughly from 1870 until World War I in the USA. This involved the use of electricity to develop mass production processes. Th 3rd brought us into the digital age. Part four is upon us now.

A video from Deloitte University Press introduces us to the Fourth Industrial Revolution -- Industry 4.0. It gives a good summary of the four “revolutions”, and it talks about some of the new technologies that now define our age:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Machine Learning
  • Augmented Reality
  • Mobile and Edge Computing
  • 3D Printing
  • Big Data Processing

“These technologies,” says the narrator, “will enable the construction of new solutions to some of the oldest and toughest challenges manufacturers face in growing and operating their business.” They also make up the environment in which hackers flourish.

Industrial Robots Cyber Security Challenges for IoT Data and Devices

In this space we have already discussed the security vulnerabilities of IoT devices. We told you how white hat hackers proved that they could commandeer a Jeep Cherokee remotely by rewriting the firmware on an embedded chip. Imagine what hackers with more sinister motives might be planning for the millions of robotic devices taking over the manufacturing shop floor -- supposing they are all connected.

Some researchers tackled the issue in a study called “Hacking Robots Before Skynet”. (You will remember from your science fiction watching that Skynet is the global network that linked robots and other computerized devices in the Terminator movie franchise.) The authors had a lot to say about the current state of cybersecurity in the industrial robotics industry.  We can borrow directly from the paper’s table of contents to list what they call “Cybersecurity Problems in Today’s Robots”:

  • Insecure communications
  • Authentication issues
  • Missing authorization
  • Weak cryptography
  • Privacy issues
  • Weak default configuration
  • Vulnerable Open Source Industrial Robotics cyber security Frameworks and Libraries

Each of these topics could probably merit a full article on its own. The researchers explained further: “We’re already experiencing some of the consequences of substantial cybersecurity problems with Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are impacting the Internet, companies and commerce, and individual consumers alike,  Cybersecurity problems for industrial robotics could have a much greater impact.”

What might that impact be? Well, to start with, robots have moving parts. They tell how a robot security guard knocked over a child at a shopping mall. A robot cannon killed nine soldiers and injured 14 in 2007. And robotic surgery has been linked to 144 deaths. It’s not Skynet yet, but connecting robots has its risks.

How we communicate with machines and how they communicate with each other are matters that require significant attention. Arlen Nipper of Cirrus Link Solutions talks about MQTT, which is a protocol for machine-to-machine (M2M) messaging. Manufacturing designers and operators send instructions to one-armed industrial robotics, who work in a variety of industries from automotive to aerospace to agriculture to packing and logistics. All this talking back-and-forth with industrial robotics cyber security has to be regulated. NIST’s Guide to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security has a few references to robots. But maybe not enough.

Industrial Manufacturing retained executive search firm CTA

Zero Rating for ISPs and Mobile Network Operators is a Growing Trend

Zero rating for ISPs and MNOs

Zero Rating for ISPs and Mobile Network Operators

zero rating for ISPs and MNOs a growing trend

A report on zero rating by the Federal Communications Commission just a week and a half before the inauguration of Donald Trump said that zero rating for ISPs and mobile network operators violates net neutrality rules. “Zero-rated” applications do not count toward data caps or usage allowance imposed by internet service providers. Forbes staff writer Parmy Olson called the report “too little too late”.

Zero rating has come under fire from many quarters. “While network capacity could become a problem if zero-rated offerings truly take off,” writes Colin Gibbs in a review of 2016 for Fierce Wireless, “the biggest challenge to the model has been claims that it’s a threat to net neutrality rules.”  Last year, Verizon began offering zero rated video streaming though NFL Mobile app.

Keeping the Net Neutral

The idea of net neutrality is that everything on the internet should be treated openly and fairly. Net neutrality prohibits blocking of sites by ISPs. It prohibits throttling:  ISPs should not slow down or speed up content for different services. It calls for increased transparency and prohibits paid prioritization of traffic. Before the recent FCC report, sponsored data plans – plans with zero rating – were to be judged by the agency on a case-by-case basis.

Zero Rating for ISPs and Mobile Network Services

Facebook offers free internet access to underdeveloped countries with curated content. According to Internet.org, “Free Basics by Facebook provides people with access to basic websites for free – like news, job postings, health and education information, and communication tools like Facebook.” The motto of the service is “Connecting the World”.

A number of mobile network providers have taken up the practice. The first to try zero rating was T-Online with their Music Freedom offering in 2014. They followed that up with a video service called Binge On. Verizon came up with their own mobile video service called Go90. Perhaps the most aggressive has been AT&T’s partnership with DirecTV.  Virgin Mobile 4G Plans Now Allow Free Zero Rated Data Use on Twitter.

Presenting the case against zero rating for ISPs and mobile network operators services, the young Mike Egan stated articulately in a YouTube video: “Zero rating isn’t about giving online services or online creators a chance. It’s about mobile carriers finding a loophole so that they can keep you even more locked into what easily becomes their new media ecosystem.”

He says that “certain services are privileged over others” and that it is one of the best ways to “kill a free and open internet”. Egan and others like him are upset, and he talks in terms of “the oppressor” versus “the oppressed”.   The Federalist Society takes a different view. In their YouTube video about zero rating, they compare it to getting free samples of ice cream. “This is a way to increase the adoption of the internet,” the spokeswoman says. “All that zero rating is doing is helping to increase the competition and expanding the user choice.”

The Less Regulated Road Ahead

The “too little too late” remark of the Forbes staffer is all about the new political realities in America. Despite the recent pronouncement again zero rating by the FCC, chances are the practice will continue unabated. President Trump has vowed to cut government regulations by 75%, and the new FCC chairman Ajit Pai will likely tamp down any opposition to zero rating for ISPs and mobile network operators.

A blog post from CCS Insight says, “Mr. Pai had opposed government intervention in the telecommunications market and has been an open critic of an FCC report disapproving of zero-rating data, also known as toll-free data….” The blogger goes on to say that there will certainly be a rise in the number of toll-free data offers.

Zero rating for ISPs and mobile network operator

Conclusion on Zero Rating for ISPs and Mobile Network Operators Services 

Many are concerned about the potential loss of internet freedom with zero rating. As Egan put it, “It’s a war for the future of our media landscape.” How that war plays out when deregulation sets in remains to be seen. Neutrality is a hard thing to maintain.     What are your ideas on zero rating?  Does your network provider bundle any of these services? How do you think it will affect the future of the internet? Please add your comments below.

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Wireless IoT retained executive search firm CTA