Friday, November 18, 2011

Verizon and Vodafone tap into Silicon Valley ecosystem with new Innovation Centers

Visitors to Verizon's Application Innovation Center in San Francisco
are treated to this spectacular view of the Bay Bridge.

Verizon Wireless recently invited a few members of the mobile technology media/analyst corps to their 12,000 square foot Application Innovation Center (AIC) in San Francisco, which they opened for business in August 2011. The AIC is located in the heart of San Francisco's rapidly growing application developer community, and offers three private labs along with an RF isolation room that is connected directly to the Verizon LTE Innovation Center in Waltham, MA.  By working with Verizon at the AIC, developers can gain early access to devices, and early access to wireless network APIs and software tools from other Verizon  partners. 

Since Verizon Wireless is jointly owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone, the AIC provides an opportunity for the San Francisco facility to connect with the newly opened Vodafone Silicon Valley "Xone" R&D Center, approximately 25 miles south in Redwood City. The two companies are planning to work on joint projects that would give developers access to the combined worldwide customer base.

Verizon is experimenting with a network API that would enable web developers to
access and adjust core network performance to optimize application performance.

The connection between Verizon's East and West Innovation Centers gives application developers access to an isolated, experimental LTE Network. The RF isolation room ensures no interference with the local commercial wireless networks, while providing a backhaul connection from San Francisco to Massachusetts that essentially duplicates the setup in Waltham.

Using the Innovation Center network, Verizon is experimenting with a new network API that would allow web developers to utilize Application-Driven Quality (ADQ) of Service (QoS). The ADQ gives application developers access to core network performance parameters such as jitter, latency, bandwidth, and application priority. In a demonstration of adjusting bandwidth for a streaming music video, selecting the red "Turbo" button quickly opened up more bandwidth to eliminate pixelization. Verizon is working with Ericsson for the eNodeB base station, and Tekelec for the policy manager.

NVIDIA demonstrated the vSMP features of the Tegra-3 with a Glowball game demo at AIC

With the proximity to Silicon Valley, it makes sense that Verizon is also working with chip companies such as NVIDIA and Qualcomm, to give application developers access to new processors before they are available in commercial devices. As an example, although NVIDIA had separately shared information with the press subject to a November-8 embargo date, company representatives freely demonstrated the variable Symmetric Multiprocessing (vSMP) capabilities of the quad core Tegra-3 (aka 'Kal-El') processor during the November 1st AIC event.

Naratte's Zoosh is an ultrasonic technology which enables NFC-like functions for any device with a microphone and speaker.
In other demonstrations at AIC, Silicon Valley-based Naratte showed how their Zoosh technology can serve as a replacement for other Near Field Communication (NFC) techniques, which currently require new radio chips to be added to smartphones and other devices. Zoosh adds only software, utilizing an ultrasonic technique to transmit bursts of data at frequencies just above the range of human hearing.  According to co-founder and Chief Development Officer Byron Alsberg, Zoosh works with any device, even feature phones, which contains a microphone (to receive) and a speaker (to transmit). Naratte engineers have characterized a wide range of devices, with different transducer characteristics, to ensure that their ultrasonic technique works even in an acoustically noisy environment.

In a demonstration with a typical Verifone Point-of-Sale POS terminal, Naratte was able to add a cheap USB microphone to enable use of Zoosh. The Zoosh software can be used outside of an application, such as with a coupon that a consumer can download and redeem at the POS. Application developers can also integrate Zoosh for in-app payment. Since Zoosh uses the existing hardware that is incorporated in every cell phone, it is essentially agnostic to device, offering the potential to easily add mobile payment and other features that are typically associated with NFC.

Verizon Wireless co-owner Vodafone is developing a home gateway device to enable users to access
personal and premium content on multiple screens in and out of the home.

Verizon's connection with Vodafone opens up access for developers to that company's customers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. At AIC, Vodafone showed a project they are working on with Disternet, an "off the radar" company based in Richmond, British Columbia, which is developing a multi-screen TV everywhere type solution for broadband network operators. Though little is known about Disternet at this point,  the company was created in 2008 by executives who were previously founders of L3 Technology and Mobidia.

Sam Armani, Director of Product Management at Disternet, showed two example setups that utilized the company's hardware and the Vodafone/Verizon development network to enable sharing of media both in and out of the home on a variety of devices. The Disternet-Vodafone box is an internet gateway device which essentially allows operators to extend the edge of their networks into the home, without the expense of adding capability to their core network. Armani emphasized that the Disternet solution is Over The Top (OTT), making use of a consumer's existing broadband internet service. Disternet is like a micro Content Delivery Network (CDN), she said. Vodafone and Disternet are currently conducting a field trial of their system in Spain, with a commercial launch planned for 2012.

With the Disternet gateway, subscribers can access personal media, or on demand content, in and out of the home on any device, potentially anywhere in the world, says Armani. The Disternet gateway can connect to Network Attached Storage (NAS), and performs real-time transcoding for devices that are registered and have their parameters stored in the box.  Subscribers can then share content with family and friends through a secure web browser interface. In the demo, video and music content were shared across tablets, laptops, smartphones and the home TV.  One user can be watching personal media, while another can simultaneously rent a movie from the service provider.  Regarding the sensitive issue of Digital Rights Management on copyrighted content, a Vodafone spokesman said that the company has "things in place to manage DRM that they can't talk about yet".

Armani said that Vodafone is looking at Disternet as a service enablement platform. In the Spanish trial,  Vodafone has utilized the Disternet gateway to enable users to connect to the online Vodafone music store service. The demonstration also showed integration of Skype, by connecting a USB camera connected to the Disternet box, for live picture-in-picture video conferencing while simultaneously viewing other video material.

No comments: