Good morning, Data Sheet readers. The FCC officially approved a national net neutrality policy, but the drama isn’t over. Apple was sued at least twice this week over patents. Plus, President Obama and Jeff Bezos now have something (actually someone) in common.
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Net neutrality fait accompli, not. Yes, the FCC officially blessed the idea that all Internet traffic shall be created equal—by calling on decades-old telecommunications laws. Major telecos and cable companies plan to appeal the stricter regulations in federal court, while Republican lawmakers are promising a legislative fight. As for big tech companies like Google that were once vocal proponents of net neutrality? Not as excited as it used to be. By the way, Holland passed a similar law two years ago. Here’s what happened.
Sue and sue again. Remember the $533 million intellectual property case Apple lost earlier this week? It faces a second suit from the same Texas company. Over the same patents. Plus, telecommunications giant Ericsson is escalating the two companies’ dispute over LTE wireless technology.
China’s surveillance policy could get even tougher. The world’s biggest economy is considering an antiterrorism law that would require companies—foreign and domestic—to hand over encryption keys. Forget that virtual private network. That creates a dilemma not just for tech companies like Apple and Microsoft that sell into the domestic market but also for businesses with confidentiality concerns. Right, that’s pretty much everyone.
Google’s new playlist. YouTube still isn’t profitable for its parent company, but that hasn’t scared one of the company’s investment arms away from the digital content business. Google Ventures just led a $60 million investment in music rights and publishing company Kobalt—which represents artists including Beck and Paul McCartney. The company’s other big backer: Michael Dell.
Nook e-reader is still on Barnes & Noble’s books. Sales for the division slipped 55% for the holiday quarter, which made it tough to find a buyer. Sales for Amazon’s Kindle actually posted a steeper decline: off 70% for the fourth quarter. General-purpose tablets are cutting sharply into the category.
Fitbit’s plan: Get wearables wearers off the couch. TechCrunch reports that the fitness band maker is contemplating a $25 million to $40 million takeover of apps startup FitStar.
Synchronize your watches. Apple’s latest secretive product launch is scheduled for 10 AM local time on March 9 in San Francisco. Any guesses?
Snapchat’s stripper economy. Porn entrepreneurs are popping up on the teen-fave messaging app, thanks to the Snapcash mobile payment option it developed with Square. Just as quickly, the service is shutting them down.
Not-so-instant message. Apparently, the encryption in Facebook’s WhatsApp service is pretty effective. The app was suspended in Brazil after the company refused to give up information related to a child pornography investigation. The thing it, WhatsApp’s technology actually makes compliance impossible.
Imagine the inventory implications. Just in case its drones can’t deliver your package quick enough, Amazon is envisioning ways to 3D-print certain things—like replacement parts for a car—inside special delivery trucks.
Sun funds. Google is dedicating another $300 million to residential solar installations through an alliance with SolarCity.
Can’t remember a business contact’s name? There are apps for that.
Analyze this. Business intelligence company Sisense hired a new CEO, Amir Orad to scale its North American business from New York. Orad previously led NICE Actimize, which specializes in financial crime analytics. Former CEO Amit Bendov, who lives in Israel, will stick around through the quarter. Sisense tripled its subscription business last year and added a record 114 companies as customers during the fourth quarter alone. Big accounts include Comcast and eBay.
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
Black Eyed Peas frontman hires ex-Sony exec. Phil Moyneux, former president and COO of the electronics company’s U.S. division, is now in the same role at popo musician Will.i.am’s wearables startup.
White House press secretary now heads Amazon’s PR. Jay Carney, who resigned last year, apparently talked to Apple and Uber before heading to the e-commerce giant. His other role: shaping public policy, where his Washington, D.C., connections will be super, super useful.
Senate committee clears ex-Googler for patent post. Michelle Lee has been outspoken against “patent trolls” that amass intellectual property portfolios for the sole purpose of collecting licensing fees (or fines).
WANT TO GO BIG WITH THE INTERNET OF THINGS? PACE YOURSELF
Nothing about the Internet of things is small except, perhaps, the sorts of things being connected.
There could be close to 41 billion sensors sharing data by 2020—deployed on everything from LED lights to industrial equipment. That’s more than double current installations. Intel is at the center of the movement: technology related to machine-to-machine communications represented the chipmaker’s fastest growing revenue line in 2014. It’s betting big.
But consumer-facing applications could take years to emerge, and some of the most practical use cases are strictly business-to-business in nature. Many (most) companies already collect reams of data related to everything from smart manufacturing equipment to trucking and train fleets to jet engines. But very few do anything meaningful with that information, and that’s where the real opportunity lies. “The point is we’re trying to switch from worrying about the objects themselves to focusing on outcomes,” said Bill Briggs, CTO for Deloitte Consulting.
What Briggs likes to call “ambient computing” is one of several disruptive trends that the consulting firm sees driving corporate technology investments this year. According to his team’s report, “the goal should not be the Internet of Everything; it should be the network of some things, deliberately chosen and purposely deployed.”
Briggs adds: “It’s not the billions of sensors you should worry about, it’s the handful of things that matter, and what you can do with them.”
General Electric’s “industrial Internet” strategy is a vivid example of that less-is-more philosophy. By harnessing performance metrics it already collects about jet engines or locomotives, the company is already generating at least $1 billion in new revenue related to predictive maintenance services. Cisco is likewise developing entirely new analytics services, based on the information it collects from network-attached devices such as point-of-sale systems or cameras.
Another example that Deloitte’s team cites is Bosch Group, which makes everything from power tools to automotive parts to solar inverters. Almost all of these products now included embedded intelligence that can be used for telematics, safety applications, and a range of other services.
“Many business ideas and models that were considered prohibitively expensive or realistic are viable now thanks to advances in the [Internet of things],” one of the company’s chief technology officers told Deloitte.
An intriguing statistic: Verizon now manages more than 15 million Internet of things connections for business customers, and this line of business grew rapidly last year.
Aside from predictive maintenance services, Internet of some things scenarios already driving real revenue for businesses include fleet management (the focus of the ambitious Orion delivery route optimization system developed by UPS) and asset- sharing strategies (such as the medical equipment rental system for hospitals touted by Cohealo).
Which opportunities are right for your organization? Briggs offers this advice for answering that question:
Prioritize what matters. Most organizations are overwhelmed with too much data. Focus only on metrics aligned with specific business outcomes, such as improved customer service, faster inventory turns, or improved safety.
Call on creative thinkers, not just technology experts. What workflows might be affected? Could sensor data be the source of entirely new revenue? How much “rewiring” of employee behavior will this require? It’ll take industry knowledge to answer those questions.
Consider security from day one. It goes without saying that an Internet of things solution carries serious implications for both physical security (can someone tamper with a sensor in the field to corrupt or interrupt data?) and cybersecurity (what safeguards will be used to safeguard and archive information over time.) “What you choose to enable has to be managed according to acceptable risk,” Briggs said.
MY FORTUNE.COM BOOKMARKS
Here’s the major obstacle Tinder still faces by Ben Geier
Social media’s biggest business challenge? Keeping brands in check by Erin Griffith
Elon Musk’s craziest project is about to become real by Benjamin Snyder
Apple took a record-high 80% of smartphone profits last quarter by Philip Elmer-Dewitt
ONE MORE THING
On Facebook, your gender options are now endless.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Gartner CIO Leadership Forum: Digital business strategy. (March 1 – 3; Phoenix)
DocuSign Momentum. E-signatures and digital transactions. (March 10 – 12; San Francisco)
Microsoft Convergence: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19; Atlanta)
IDC Directions 2015: Innovation in the 3rd Platform era. (March 18; Boston)
Cisco Leadership Council: CIO-CEO thought leadership. (March 18 – 20; Kiawah Island, South Carolina)
Technomy Bio: The big picture on transformation. (March 25; Mountain View, California)
Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit: Crossing the divide. (March 30 – April 1; Las Vegas)
AWS Summit. First in a series of cloud strategy briefings. (April 9; San Francisco)
Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)
RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)
Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 – 28; Orlando, Fla.)
MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)
NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)
EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 – 7; Las Vegas)
SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)
Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)
Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 – 20; Boston)
HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 – 4; Las Vegas)
Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 – 15; Aspen, Colorado)
VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 – 18; San Francisco)
Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 – 8; Orlando, Florida)
Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 – 29; San Francisco)