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I am not breaking the terms of any NDA in revealing that the Nokia research centre in Nairobi is involved in these developments. Basically Nokia is working on how to support the next billion new users.

One technology that is very interesting is Cognitive Radio. Bit of a Smart Grid really. Most connected mobile devices operate within a narrow frequency band. With GSM it might be anything in the 800 - 2100 MHz range, in different networks. This is all prime air estate as almost all radio frequencies are already licenced, But, and this is the crucial point, not all frequency bands are fully used at all times. Networks are designed for peak use - and even peak use can be dealt with locally by putting in more nodes temporarily e.g. a 60.000 capacity stadium music performance from a big band might generate thousands of uses of the network within a short time period.

What Cognitive Radio will do, when it works and when it is licenced, is to allow suitably equipped mobile devices (not yet existing) to connect to the network over a range of frequencies, or channels, as they are available. The network would decide (smart gridwise) at which frequency it will let you connect OR charge you a premium for bandwidth during peaks.

The problem is adjacent channel interference. GSM uses the mind boggling Gaussian minimum-shift keying (GMSK), a kind of continuous-phase frequency shift keying. But I'm sure the boffins will come up with something.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 07:45:59 AM EST
This blog post by Dave Birch - who founded the consultancy which holds the Digital Money Forum, and liked my Money 3.0 meme enough to ask me along to present it as a scenario - is really thought provoking as to the potential for good (and of course, bad) of Mobile Money.......

Digital Money: Information rules OK

Forum friend Bob Hettinga sent me a copy of a paper on Computer-Mediated Transactions (18th January 2010) by Hal Varian of Google and I enjoyed reading it on a recent train ride. One of the points that Hal (who you may remember from the early days of cyberspace with the book "Information Rules" written by Hal and Carl Shapiro) makes is that computer-mediated transactions generate information that manual transactions do not and he suggests that using this information might be one of the key areas of competition in the future. I think this is spot on (which is why I am drawing your attention to it, obviously) and I have mentioned before about the opportunity to use payment-related information to generate additional value for customers and merchants alike.

This was echoed a couple of days later at an Evershed's "Thought Leadership Dinner" that I was invited to. Shashi Verma from Transport for London gave a very interesting after-dinner talk in which he mentioned that the use of information had not been part of the business case for migrating from cardboard tickets to Oyster cards, yet analysis of Oyster information is now a crucial process that saves literally hundreds of millions of pounds every year by directing expenditure more efficiently. Very small changes made to train timetables, for example, using the anonymised journey data from Oyster, can reduce average journey times or overcrowding in ways that simply could not have been predicted.



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 07:59:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the use of information had not been part of the business case for migrating from cardboard tickets to Oyster cards,

These cardboard tickets were also electronic. What data does the Oyster card provide that couldn't have been obtained from the earlier tickets?

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 08:13:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Oyster allows you to look at all the trips made with a particular card, whereas the carboard ticket just tells you about the single trip it was used for.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 08:20:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can see how it could help in setting prices, but how would it help for scheduling trains?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 08:23:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can correlate the times of trips there and back? Say, if I take my morning commute half an hour earlier you expect me to take my return trip also half an hour earlier, or something? Or maybe an hour later because I work longer on some weekdays than others?

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 08:31:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note the reference to anonymity.

It is the ability of the card to track real time movements of people collectively - ie the flows past the readers and therefore cardholders' presence shortly after on platforms - which is useful, I think.

I have noticed on the Tube that trains often seem to terminate early (to shuttle back), and re-route on an ad hoc basis - eg at an intersection like Camden Town on the Northern Line - far more than they used to.

I suspect that sophisticated analysis of people flows from Oyster data may be driving this traffic management.

A Diary from Bruce McF or DoDo on this might be interesting.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 10:49:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But you could have done that with the old electronic cards. Your other message about telphone switches makes me wonder whether the problem was more mundane - maybe the old electronic system involved thousands of lines of undocumented code in some obscure dialect of PL/I or COBOL, which you didn't get close to unless it was absolutely neccessary. So the data was there in the old system, but unusable.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 11:39:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It wouldnt be that much of a problem if it was Written in COBOL, it's a very straightforward language. it has a very undeserved reputation for complexity.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:03:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but they've probably pushed anybody who knows it into early retirement long ago...
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:04:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
there is that(Says the qualified but vastly out of practice COBOL programmer)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:08:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Plenty of practicing Cobol and Fortran experts in Russia though...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:33:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
use of information had not been part of the business case for migrating from cardboard tickets to Oyster cards [2003]

That statement is preposterous. What was the "business case" for building a new payment system, if not optimizing price structure of existing, zone-rated transit? Kewl factor? I think not.

Our examples so far have involved switching costs, like those to Bell Atlantic of replacing switches worth billions of dollars. Do not be misled: even when switching costs appear low, they can be critical for strategy. A million customers, each of whom has switching costs of $100, are just as valuable, collectively, as a single customer whose switching costs are $100 million. The point is that you must compare any switching costs to revenues on a per customer basis and add up these costs across your entire installed base to value that base. These principles apply equally to customers who are businesses or households. [Shapiro and Varian, 1999: 108]


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 09:33:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite. Although many carriers burnt their fingers with 'push' services a few years back, leading to a greater focus on 'pull', the marketing people are still salivating at the thought of individual profiling so they can sell an individual more stuff.

OTOH many of the technical capabilities that get built into any technical network system in order to make it more profitable, tend to be 'misused' by subscribers. Many, especially young people, 'game' systems to reduce their own costs. And when there are enough smart 'gamers' (i.e. millions), they do a better job of 'balancing' the system than a hundred engineers sitting around thinking what customers might want to do. Often these new capabilities do end up being profitable for the carriers, but not in the way they planned.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 10:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
re: carriers

My choice of excerpt was semi-incidental. The internet revolution fantasy slathered on revenue maxing strat in that book is unavoidable. Still Oyster is a volume tool.

A characteristic common to telecom and mass transit enterprises is, both are general utilities.

Another is rate structure being a function of distance between origination and termination of service per purchase per person. That is, both producers meter length of service by zone transited, regardless of mode or payment method.

The problem then facing bureaucrats masquerading as civil engineers of unified transit operations is usually, fundamentally, revenue collection. The value of information lies not in "individual profiling" or idiosyncratic preferences. For none would argue, mass transit riders could, did, and do easily "game" a rudimentary system of "information" required to calculate price of passage.

Particularly bus fare.

I've seen it with my own two. Ridiculous situation. Not even in NYC, still a coin and paper subsidized operation, bleeds like that. omg. Marginal rate of recovery of losses attributable to that division of the London metro system alone had to make the case for installing Oyster readers.

Passenger car congestion notwithstanding,

It takes £1.8 billion (US $3 billion) to keep London buses running, but riders only pay £1.1 billion (US $1.8 billion) in fares [probably an improvement YoY since 2003], creating a 40 percent subsidy at the expense of motorists. The London Underground subway system is more efficient with £1.8 billion (US $3 billion) in fares collected to cover £2.4 billion (US $3.9 billion) in expenses, meaning riders only enjoy a 25 percent discount at the expense of drivers. Read more...


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:50:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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