Open Spectrum

ACM Queue has a story on how “open spectrum offers many opportunities to create some of the basic tools and applications using wireless technology” to provide ubiquitous connectivity. The article talks of three specific technologies:

– Low-power, wideband spread spectrum underlay
– Cognitive/agile/software-defined radios
– Mesh networks

Blogs in Business

Boston Globe writes on the rationale: “Every business needs to know what its employees know. Companies are crammed with experts on various topics whose knowledge goes to waste — because nobody knows what they know. Now give these workers an internal corporate blog, and encourage them to use it. Let them natter away on every topic that intrigues them. Harvest and index the results. You’ve mapped your workers’ brains. With a few keystrokes, a manager can find out who’s been blogging about skiing or bowling or restoring classic cars — just the thing when you’re trying to sell something to an avid collector of ’64 Mustangs. The company’s hidden experts will cheerfully reveal themselves, and the firm’s institutional memory gets an upgrade.”

Search Engine Advertising

WSJ writes about the growing importance of search engines in advertising:

More and more companies doing business online find that the best way to reach prospective customers is through their Web searches.

After all, most consumers looking to make a purchase online start with a keyword search. So why splatter ads all over the Internet — and risk having most of the people they reach treat them as nothing more than an annoyance — when you can focus on people who show an interest in what you’re selling and who are getting ready to buy.
Spending on paid listings and paid inclusion — two of the three forms of search-related marketing — more than doubled in the U.S. from $419 million in 2001 to $1.19 billion last year, and is expected to grow 48% this year to $1.77 billion, according to brokerage firm U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. Globally, such spending is expected to grow fivefold to about $7 billion a year by 2007 from $1.4 billion last year, says Safa Rashtchy, an analyst at the Minneapolis-based firm. Outside the U.S., he expects tenfold growth to $2 billion in 2007 from about $200 million this year.

The article discusses the three forms of search-based marketing that companies do: paid listings, paid inclusion and search-engine optimisation.

An article on SiliconValley.com discusses Overture and the challenges it faces.

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Economics and Game Theory

I think entrepreneurs (and perhaps manager) should have a good understanding of economics and game theory. It is a pity that those who study engineering (I can speak for myself) are barely taught either of the two. I remember one course in Economics at IIT – it was more a diversion from the other “core” engineering courses than something I took seriously.

Over the past few weeks, as I have been talking to Atanu (who is a development economist), I have also been getting a tutorial in some of the basics of economics. A few days ago, I bought a book by Debraj Ray on “Development Economics” (the Indian edition, published by Oxford University Press, is only Rs 295 – amazing value for money). I have been reading more from a point of view to understanding the wider picture so I can better appreciate the interventions (solutions) that we need to construct. I wish I had spent some more time on understanding economics earlier in my life!

Game Theory is subject which has a close relationship with economics. Again, it helps one understand the situations one is in, and therefore devise the righr strategies. In most cases, wedo have an instinctive realisation of what is needed, but some theoretical background can make a big difference. A good book (had mentioned earlier) is “Game Theory At Work” by James Miller.

Reconfigurable Chips

NYTimes writes about the next leap in chip design – adaptive, or reconfigurable, computing: “Under this new approach, software is able, on the fly, to effectively redraw a chip’s physical circuitry. Not only can adaptive computing enable a single chip to perform tasks normally requiring several, it can add speed while saving cost and energy when compared to today’s conventional static chips in which circuitry is inflexible.”

Imagine: ” The possibilities beyond cellphones that might work anywhere in the world could include portable computers that would seek out the most suitable radio frequency and wirelessly and automatically connect to the Internet, or consumer electronics gadgets that stave off obsolescence by being able to adjust to each new technical standard in digital sights and sounds. For a consumer, updating hardware might be as easy as downloading the latest circuit design from the Internet.”

Technology and Medicine

NYTimes writes that the human body is the next focus for the technology elite:

If the first phase of the information age celebrated an assortment of virtual realities, the next phase may be all about using technology to reconstitute the body that it never quite succeeded in allowing us to transcend.

“For the last 20 years, we had an ideal that was all about having these exciting virtual connections that enhanced our productivity, our connectivity, our opportunity,” said Ms. Stone, who is working on a book about how social cycles affect business. “The next 20 years are going to be much more physical.”

TECH TALK: The Discovery of India: SMEs

Imagine if there was a computer available to every employee in every company for a cost of Rs 750 per person per month for both hardware and software. This way, anyone earning Rs 7,500 or more can be given a computer if that persons productivity is expected to increase by 10% or so. Is this possible? Definitely. Given the inefficiencies that are inherent in the current paper-based processes, computers should be able to make people and the organizations much more productive.

How do we make this happen? The budget per employee available over a 36-month period is Rs 27,000. By using a thin client-thick server architecture with Linux, it should be possible to get the total cost of ownership of hardware and networking to no more than Rs 15,000. Software should be made available for Rs 10,000, leaving Rs 1,000 for annual support over the other two years.

The software that enterprises need can be categorised as follows:

Desktop Computing: Every user needs a base set of applications on the desktop email client, web browser, word processor, spreadsheet, presentation application, and an instant messaging client. There is an open-source equivalent available for each of the components. These applications help make the individual more productive in tasks such as communications, documentation and personal information management (calendar, address book, ToDos).

Messaging and Security: The organisation needs server software which provides mail and instant messaging, allows multiple users to browse the Internet over a single connection (proxy server), manages files and printers, enables the creation of new user accounts and provides a easy-to-use administration interface. In addition, the server also has a firewall to prevent unauthorized access from outside and anti-virus software to ensure that viruses do not damage any data. Open-source can be used as the base to build most of these applications.

Information Management: Once users have computers on their desktops and they can communicate with each other and the external world through email, the next step is to enable information sharing and collaboration. Tacit knowledge within users needs to be captured via enterprise weblogs. A digital dashboard can enable users to receive notifications on exceptional events as they happen.

Business Applications: Software to manage the core business processes of the enterprise is what will create the MirrorEnterprise. At the heart are three key verticals managing customers, managing money flows and managing the supply chain. What is needed is a software suite which integrates all of these silos, such that information needs to be entered only once and is then immediately available across the enterprise. The MirrorEnterprise thus becomes a digital representation which is updated in near real-time as events happen in the physical world.

Tomorrow: SMEs (continued)

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