In a discussion of Google's problems in finalizing its plans for WiFi in San Francisco, Bob Frankston took me back to my work of three years ago.
Frankston says that the emphasis on "networks" is overblown. Connectivity is the thing. Under the Internet protocol, if you have connectivity, and whatever you connect with has connectivity to something else, then eventually your bits are going to get where they're going. And that's the key -- bits getting where they're going.
Instead even municipal WiFi plans, like those of Google, emphasize building "a network" that will cover "a whole city." A better way, says Frankston, is for consumers to build their own connectivity "at the edge," then work to link those bits to other Internet connections.
So here are the Frankston statements which got to me:
We’ll get more incentive when companies making products and services, such as alarms and monitoring, see the value in using shared connectivity rather than creating their own special solutions and negotiating new relationships each time. If that effort went into extending IP connectivity we’d start to get benefit.
I’m taking about modest IP connectivity – the most valuable services such as medical monitoring or supporting infrastructure is akin to a slow modem and can be deployed over any path – no need for DSL or all that. Just put a simple packet transceiver at both ends of a copper line and you have a 24x7 data path for devices and services without a large footprint deployment.
I called this "The World of Always-On." Sensors and actuators monitor your health, your property, and your stuff. The applications live in the air, using your own WiFi router and your own PC. The PC (or the router) would hold the relevant programs, which would signal whoever needed signaling only when needed, and only with as much data as needed.
For instance. You have a heart monitor. You get a sudden spike in blood pressure, or some other data indicating a heart attack is in your immediate future. You can be notified to take medicine. Your doctor can be notified to get in touch with you. An ambulance can be sent before your symptoms start. This I called a "killer app."
Or mount tiny cameras around your perimeter, with a program activated when you leave or retire which can separate the squirrels from the crooks and automatically call the cops. Or put sensors in your lawn and garden which detect when the soil is dry, and automatically turn it on. Or put an RFID chip on your keys so you can always find them, even when you think you've lost them.
The outbound connectivity needed for these applications is minimal, as Frankston noted. And there are many different companies -- medical companies, alarm companies, home automation outfits -- which could deliver them. If they concentrated on connectivity rather than requiring a fast network. And if they looked for that connectivity wherever it happened to be, rather than thinking they have to work with a big "network provider" who will just demand all their profits.
Great minds think alike. <g>