Edge Roundup: May 3 — May 9, 2021

Leigha Schjelderup

Leigha Schjelderup

USPS uses edge computing to minimize missing packages—Google Stadia exec makes a mysterious exit—Wing’s high approval rate is a good sign for drone delivery USPS uses edge computing to minimize missing packages—Google Stadia exec makes a mysterious exit—Wing’s high approval rate is a good sign for drone delivery

It’s been quite the wholesome week of news!

Facebook’s “Oversight Board” upheld Trump’s post-POTUS platform ban (at least for the next six months), Elon Musk made his official comic debut on SNL (and it wasn’t that cringey!), and President Biden waived COVID vaccine patents to boost its availability around the world. 

Though that last bit has garnered a bit of cynicism:

Nevertheless, we’re back, our Yerevan team is (almost entirely) vaxxed, and we’re ready to tackle all things new in telco:

5G & Edge

Execs at Verizon and T-Mobile discussed why they aren’t running blindly with open RAN, particularly due to the amount of “heavy lifting” on the operators’ part, as worded by T-Mo’s Neville Ray. 

 "In addition to recognizing the potential benefits of open RAN to network security, the commission should recognize that open RAN may, in fact, create security risks. Open networks are more prone to cyber security threats because they introduce additional interfaces, additional functions, and functional splits, which expand the surface for potential threats. The fact that open RAN relies on open source software increases the number of potential entry points for security breached." —T-Mobile FCC filing

It’s a lot harder to retrofit existing networks with O-RAN, which explains why Dish Network is the most forthright out of US telcos to incorporate the tech in its ongoing network rollout. While touting its benefits, which include opening up the vendor ecosystem and increasing competition, Verizon and T-Mobile are eager to ensure that the FCC won’t mandate open RAN. AT&T, by comparison, plans on adding open RAN-compliant equipment to its network by the end of the year.

Edge computing execs took to WSJ to spread the good word about bringing compute closer to where it’s needed, from farms to factory floors. 

“Like the cloud before it, edge is fueling the next wave of innovation, enabling organizations to automate operations, create rich customer experiences, and bring new products and services to market.” —Dave McCarthy ,VP of Cloud & Edge Infrastructure Services, IDC

Spending on edge is set to skyrocket in the near future, raising by roughly 23% this year alone (from $270 to $332 billion). 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/companies-extend-cloud-to-the-edge-11620080377

Between threats from the Trump administration to block funding, and struggling to stay afloat amidst COVID-instigated delivery chaos, the US Postal Service went through the ringer last year. Commendably, this hasn’t stopped the agency from innovating. Partnering with NVIDIA to develop an Edge Computing Infrastructure Program (ECIP), USPS will start implementing AI algorithms to get ahead of inefficiencies across its delivery network, particularly when it comes to locating missing packages. NVIDIA’s VP of Federal sites that USPS decided to go forward with an edge AI solution for a reason we know well by now: opting for public cloud services would require a crazy amount of bandwidth.

The global agriculture ecosystem is in a prime position for digital transformation, which the Linux Foundation aims to tackle through its new open source Agritech project, AgStack. Designed to provide free and open digital infrastructure for farming fata and applications, the initiative aims to bolster productivity and innovation across the world in the field of agriculture. In an industry where waste is abundant, any effort to help ensure that production and supply chain gets food into the hands of those who need it is paramount. 

Cable, Telco, & ISPs

Is Vodafone attempting to go under the radar about its increasing ties with Google? Morris Lore for LightReading suggests so, commenting that the operator’s decision to publicly announce it deal with Google Cloud on a UK public holiday presumes that the telco wishes to be clandestine about handing over the keys to its data kingdom to a US hyperscaler. Speculation aside, the deal to create a data platform Nucleus (where have we heard that before?) to compress data and provide analytics.

This lines up eerily with Pipeline contributing editor Mark Cummings’ recent piece warning telcos of the consequences of delegating the task of modernizing network infrastructure and innovation as a whole to hyperscale partners. 

“If the telcos don’t innovate in enterprise service quality and cost, they stand to lose one of their most profitable lines of business.” —Mark Cumming, CTO, Orchestral Networks

Or, as an unnamed Google employee words it:

“When AT&T is dead and being buried, Google will be standing over the grave holding a gun.”

https://www.lightreading.com/aiautomation/google-moves-step-closer-to-running-vodafone/a/d-id/769230#.YJMFNTjDmpc.linkedin

We’re no strangers to covering peoples’ disillusionment with the state of broadband in the US, where average internet bills have increased by almost 20% over the first three years of the Trump administration. 

It’s no surprise then that a recent study from Reviews.com Broadband Research Team found that 40% of participants would consider ditching their existing providers should a Municipal alternative exist. 

“Internet as a utility” is a hotly contested subject; ISPs pushing back against the concept with fervor. But as fast and reliable connections are becoming as essential as electricity—something needs to change in order to ensure it’s accessible and affordable.

When it’s founder and CEO isn’t off hosting a weekly comedy series, SpaceX is busy bolstering its Starlink broadband service. With half a million orders to date, Starlink is busy trying to up its capacity to meet the demand.

"SpaceX Services requests this increase in authorized units due to the extraordinary demand for access to the Starlink non-geostationary orbit satellite system," the company told the FCC in its license-change request on July 31, 2020. At that time, nearly 700,000 people in the US had registered interest on Starlink's website, but that action didn't require putting down any money. The 500,000 orders and deposits that Starlink has received even without saying exactly when the service will exit beta is a stronger indication of people's interest in the satellite broadband system, though this number likely includes non-US residents.” —SpaceX FCC filing

Think you can get away with torrenting on Starlink’s service? Think again! One user tried for “research purposes” and was hit with the familiar case and desist warning.

Gaming & VR

It’s Gen Z’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it. Which is why the broader entertainment industry might want to look into a new study that reflects how today’s teens are ditching remotes in favor of controllers at an increasing rate. 

Consulting firm Deloitte found that in a survey of over 2000 consumers, 26% of those born between 1997-2007 named video games as their entertainment activity of choice, followed by music, internet browsing, and social media. 10% said they’d prefer to watch a movie or TV show at home (compared to 18% for millennials). This is an important finding not only for producers, but for streaming services vying to grow and maintain their subscriber base. 

When Gen Z’ers eventually age into paying for their own services, rather than mooch of the family plan (guilty), will they be as keen to hand over their credit card numbers? It will be interesting to track the effect of rising cloud gaming subscription services have on video streaming’s bottom line. 

While things are on the up and up in the cloud gaming sector, what does it mean behind the scenes at Stadia that its VP and head of product made a quiet exit? John Justice has joined the former head of the now-defunct Stadia games studio Jade Raymond as Google’s latest high-profile exit, which have onlookers speculating whether the vultures are circling on the project as a whole.

Riot Games, maker of the hit games League of Legends and Valorant, invested $6 million in games publisher Carry1st’s Series A alongside Konvoy Ventures. Based in Cape Town, Carry1st looks to facilitate distribution and payments in the broader African market, which has a lot of unrealized potential in mobile gaming.

What a surprise, more Oculus news! Facebook’s Quest 2 can’t seem to get out of the VR spotlight, with a recent report reflecting that the tech giants’ headsets now constitute 60% of SteamVR use. 

But VR isn’t just for gamers. A recent profile on MLB outlines how professional baseball players are increasingly donning headsets to practice hitting...against real (well, simulated) competing pitchers. 

“For MLB guys, they have access to MLB pitchers. So they can go in and face, for example, Justin Verlander in VR the night before, or even an hour before they actually face him. In our application, they can work on release point training, pitch recognition, decision making and timing. We're reconciling everything from their wind up, to pitch type and velocity from real data and footage.” —WIN Reality

In a recent game, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman of the Oakland Athletics hit back-to-back home runs. Is it a coincidence that they both practice with VR?

Drones 

Fresh off the heels of its collaboration with Virginia Girl Scouts, analysts are singing the praises of Wing’s drone delivery service. It’s a silver lining that while initially faced with skepticism by Christiansburg residents when the Google subsidiary took up operation in October 2019, the demands of the pandemic quickly warmed the masses up to airborne deliveries. It also served as a boon for some small businesses. A report Measuring the Effects of Drone Delivery in the United States by researchers at Virginia Tech (commissioned by Wing itself) concluded that:

“Our findings suggest that drone delivery can improve the lives of consumers by expanding access to services, reducing unnecessary travel and saving time. The benefits are pronounced for those who face mobility challenges or live in areas underserved by other transportation options. Drone delivery benefits local businesses by increasing their customer reach, improving their response times and increasing their sales, potentially at a lower cost than alternative delivery models. Finally, drone delivery benefits communities by reducing vehicle traffic, CO2 emissions and road accidents, as well as improving access to healthy foods, medicine, and other essential supplies that support long-term health outcomes.” — Office of Economic Development and Grado Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech

US regional grocery store chain Kroger has hopped on the bandwagon, recently announcing that it’s launching a drone delivery pilot of its own in Cincinnati and Monroe, Ohio. Though packages are capped at five pounds, those looking to place small orders such as medication, last-minute ingredients, or baby supplies are all delivery eligible. [When small drones team up to deliver heavy packages]

Interestingly enough—and while one can’t take comments sections as an accurate reflection of public sentiment—readers responded to the announcement with a range of skepticism to ridicule. While mocking drones as objects for “target practice” or even denouncing them as a “solution in search of a problem” can be dismissed as luddite, the concerns mark the amount of progress drone purveyors still need to make before the technology is mainstream accepted. 

If the Wing trial demonstrated anything, though, is that people seem to change their tune when convenience becomes evident. 

https://www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle/ohio-kroger-testing-drone-delivery-small-groceries

While whizzing conventional consumer goods through the skies may be deemed trivial, there’s no denying the utility of drones when it comes to delivering life-saving medication. In Uganda’s Kalangala district—made up of 84 islands in Lake Victoria—leveraging drones to deliver antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV is game changing. 

“Closing the last mile of delivery and ensuring that people living in remote communities have equitable access to modern treatments for HIV is one of the most significant challenges in global health and in Uganda. Medical drones can help solve this challenge by safely and reliably delivering life saving medications, thereby empowering frontline healthcare workers to allocate more time and resources to performing other essential services, resulting in healthier and more resilient communities.” —Andrew Kambugu, Executive Director, Makerere University Infectious Disease Institute 

The Ugandan Academy of Health Innovation will be able to use the program as a research opportunity analyzing the efficacy of medication-bearing drones, aiming to use the data to help scale the technology and refine its emergency response efforts.

That’s a wrap on the Roundup for this week! 

Oh, and if you forgot to gift your mom some DogeCoin or whatever your NFT of choice is, be sure to send her some belated Mother’s Day flowers.