Jason Ball's TechBytes

Technology & Venture Capital. Early stage venture capital news mixed with personal views and comments

Wi-Fi’d Gas and Water

Via We make money not art

The City of Corpus Christi, Texas, will deploy Wi-Fi system for use by the city-owned water and gas utilities, public works departments, and public safety agencies.

The Tropos Wi-Fi system will provide an automated gas and water meter reading twice per day from all meters in the coverage area. By eliminating the need for utility personnel to visit each meter and manually record customer consumption, the city can more quickly and accurately provide up-to-date billing information to their service recipients. Moreover, customers can access real-time usage data through a Web-based billing and information system automatically updated with each wireless meter polling.

The network will also be available for use by city public works crews, as well as Police and Fire Departments. The city plans to operate GPS-based asset and vehicle tracking applications over the Wi-Fi network, increasing both officer and community safety.

This looks very similar to a business I was looking at about one year ago and thought it was a very compelling idea. All those Wi-Fi meters would literally have created a blanket of connectivity over the city… Gas & Water meter reading plus wireless connectivity for laptops and Wi-Fi enabled phones. Apparently quite a few other VCs thought it was compelling as well…

Filed under: Technology, Venture Capital

Wi-Fi’d Gas and Water

Via We make money not art

The City of Corpus Christi, Texas, will deploy Wi-Fi system for use by the city-owned water and gas utilities, public works departments, and public safety agencies.

The Tropos Wi-Fi system will provide an automated gas and water meter reading twice per day from all meters in the coverage area. By eliminating the need for utility personnel to visit each meter and manually record customer consumption, the city can more quickly and accurately provide up-to-date billing information to their service recipients. Moreover, customers can access real-time usage data through a Web-based billing and information system automatically updated with each wireless meter polling.

The network will also be available for use by city public works crews, as well as Police and Fire Departments. The city plans to operate GPS-based asset and vehicle tracking applications over the Wi-Fi network, increasing both officer and community safety.

This looks very similar to a business I was looking at about one year ago and thought it was a very compelling idea. All those Wi-Fi meters would literally have created a blanket of connectivity over the city… Gas & Water meter reading plus wireless connectivity for laptops and Wi-Fi enabled phones. Apparently quite a few other VCs thought it was compelling as well…

Filed under: Technology, Venture Capital

Wi-Fi’d Gas and Water

Via We make money not art

The City of Corpus Christi, Texas, will deploy Wi-Fi system for use by the city-owned water and gas utilities, public works departments, and public safety agencies.

The Tropos Wi-Fi system will provide an automated gas and water meter reading twice per day from all meters in the coverage area. By eliminating the need for utility personnel to visit each meter and manually record customer consumption, the city can more quickly and accurately provide up-to-date billing information to their service recipients. Moreover, customers can access real-time usage data through a Web-based billing and information system automatically updated with each wireless meter polling.

The network will also be available for use by city public works crews, as well as Police and Fire Departments. The city plans to operate GPS-based asset and vehicle tracking applications over the Wi-Fi network, increasing both officer and community safety.

This looks very similar to a business I was looking at about one year ago and thought it was a very compelling idea. All those Wi-Fi meters would literally have created a blanket of connectivity over the city… Gas & Water meter reading plus wireless connectivity for laptops and Wi-Fi enabled phones. Apparently quite a few other VCs thought it was compelling as well…

Filed under: Technology, Venture Capital

To License or Not to License, That is the Question

A recent article on CNN regarding Real’s reverse engineering of Apple’s FairPlay points out:

“Harmony (Real’s product) could help iPod sales,” says Charlie Wolf, an analyst with Needham & Co. “It could also take some sales away from the iTunes store, but it’s the iPod that makes the money.” “They need [an answer] that doesn’t sound anti-consumer and yet preserves the system they’ve built for themselves,” Bernoff says. “I can’t think of a response that satisfies both of those requirements.”

Well, I certainly I can.

1. Ignore Real.
2. Make FairPlay and the iTunes Music Store better.
3. License FairPlay.

Ignore them like the fly they are: small, but annoying. Apple needs to focus on making iTunes and the iPod better. As a result, FairPlay (and the iPod) will be updated and changed over the course of time. Since Real’s Harmony is essentially a reverse-engineered hack, it will break and songs purchased through Real will no longer work on iPods.

By licensing FairPlay to other parties, say in six months time, if Real decides to continue to provide music using their “hack”, they are the ones that will end up looking incredibly stupid and cheap for not licensing FairPlay from Apple. The iTunes music store has always been a loss-leader (or break-even leader) for Apple, and I agree that having a variety of ways to buy music for my Mac and iPod is a good thing. Apple is obviously aggressively expanding its iPod World Domination to phones and PCs, and a licensing/SDK could open up new distribution and revenue opportunities for Apple and others (such as buying and downloading songs via 3G or Wap portals on those fancy new Motorola phones from Orange, Vodafone, Verizon,etc.).

Apple legal is probably itching to deliver a cease and desist order, but I think that might backfire. By using this three-step plan Apple takes the moral high-road, increases the attractiveness of the iPod to customers, increases revenue and expands the iPod/iTunes ecosystem. It’s a clear winner for everyone but Real.

Filed under: Apple Computer

Safari Search Tool

Acidsearch If you have been wanting to add additional search engines to Safari’s search field, AcidSearch is your software. This has to be my new favorite piece of software (right behind Quicksilver). To add a new search channel:

1. Go to a website that you would like to add and search for something
2. While on that page, go to AcidSearch and click “Edit Search Channels”
3. Click “New Channel”

AcidSearch automatically adds the correct search syntax to the URL field. Feel free to change the name of the Channel and its location on the list.

Filed under: Apple Computer, Software

Why iMusic is a good thing

It has been widely rumored that Apple has a music service in the works, which we may see as soon as next week. I think a $.99 per song music service (iMusic) would FLY. Here’s why:

In Europe, SMS ring tones and logos are selling like hot-cakes. Why? Well, one because they are cheap- 0.90 Euro in Spain (about $0.95) – and two because they are easy to download. You just text “EMIMEM 8 MILES” and send it to a short code like 7777 and about one second later Eminem is your new ring tone.

Is this a profitable business? Highly. For everyone involved- from the Telecom to the ring tone composer. Spain’s largest SMS provider, Movilisto, was recently sold to a UK firm, iTouch for about $60 million. That’s a two year old company that’s worth $60 million based on selling ring tones and logos for mobiles.

And if selling 0.90 Euro ring tones for mobiles is that profitable (I didn’t even mention what the telecoms are making) for SMS providers, it’s not hard to imagine that a $0.99 per song model from Apple would be highly profitable and very successful as well.

Who Wins?

Who is set to win in a $0.99 iMusic world? Apple for sure. Music purchasers? Of course. If I am used to buying even one CD per month, that’s $15 or 15 songs I can pick up this month- and every month. Plus, I get to cherry-pick. No, I’m not interested in every song from Evanescence, but “Bring me to Life” is great. I would definitely pay $1 for that song over waste my time looking for it online.

Does the record label win? Well, yes and no. I, as a consumer, still consume my $15 per month, but that expenditure when turned into a return on artist (ROA) basis looks pretty bad. Which leads me to my next point…

Who Loses?

One hit wonders. If a CD stinks (what a 20th century concept), people will buy just one song. Period. A big waste of money for the labels. The artist loses and the record label loses. But, I think this will usher in a “pay for performance” system; which is just what every industry needs. Outstanding performance is compensated, lack-luster performance is penalized. It’s that simple. Then everybody wins.

Here’s to Apple dropping a bomb next week.

Filed under: Apple Computer

Niche Media, Collective Conscience and the Borg [Updated]

Blogreaders_1 Strangely, one of the main things that I try to shy away from, which is copy-pasting from various news sources, is the one thing that I like best about reading others’ blogs.

In many cases you get the same story 100x. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen “Apple released….”. But looking at more specialized blogs, i.e. venture capital or mobile phones, in the vast majority of cases I see articles or comments that I normally would have missed.

The value of the blogging ecosystem, as I understand it, is that blogs offer an alternative to mass media’s watered-down reporting. Which is true in many cases. But it also fills in gaps for niche areas and provides a service that I couldn’t get elsewhere (well, perhaps, but I would have to pay $$$).

At the same time, no one site fills in all the gaps. This is where the cumulative input from 50 different people acts as a collective conscience and gives a fuller picture of what’s happening in the world. Maybe this should be known as borg-ing instead of blogging.

On that note, I thought I’d post a copy of my OPML file. I need to add many of these to my Recommended Reading list, but haven’t. If anyone knows of VC blogs from London, or has other recommended sites, email me a jasonball at gmail dot com.

Update

I found this graph over at Strategize. It looks like I’m one of the 79.7% of blog readers.

Filed under: Other

Rich media mobile content [Updated]

There were several fundings that in this space that caught my eye this week:

First, “Qualcomm, Carlyle Invest $3M in Chinese Content Company: Wireless communications company Qualcomm and private equity firm Carlyle Group have invested $3 million in Beijing-based Enorbus Technologies. Enorbus is a leading wireless application publisher and developer of games and entertainment content for wireless phones in China. Press Release

Second, KongZhong, which delivers content via mobile handsets in China, made its debut in the U.S. stock market on last Friday where they managed to raise $100 million from U.S. investors. The interest is in part due to KongZhong’s head start in positioning itself to deliver rich-media content via mobile phones.

Third, Mobile messaging infrastructure services company mBlox has raised $10M (USD) in VC funding. The investors of this latest round include Bank of America Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Novus Ventures, Duff Ackerman Goodrich, Entrepreneurs Fund and Avanti Capital Ltd. 160Characters

This last investment is the one that threw me a bit. I’m not sure if this is the result of poor information, overhang or exuberant optimism. The messaging platform (SMSC) space in Europe is very competitive with “Gorillas” like Nokia offering solutions to the operators. The solution would have to be very appealing for Vodafone to decide to use their platform, plus with more innovative areas to explore (like the first two examples) I find it hard to believe they are investing in what is, basically, a commodity.

[Update]

I left off JamDat , another American mobile content company. They have filed for an $86 million IPO.

Filed under: Venture Capital

It’s a Small World

Issue25_cover I just learned that a weekly from my hometown, Jackson, Miss., is at the forefront of cutting-edge newspapers in the US:

“Now the weeklies are trying again: the New Times chain trying to outdo Craigslist with its Back Page initiative, and the Village Voice Media chain appointing a vice president for online. And innovation is coming from the edges, with the Buffalo ArtVoice wading into online multimedia, the Jackson (Miss.) Free Press putting Weblogs front and center on its site, and The Stranger (in Seattle) and Chicago Reader pushing new “aggressively local” online personals.”

Via PaidContent.org

Filed under: Other

It’s a Small World

Issue25_cover I just learned that a weekly from my hometown, Jackson, Miss., is at the forefront of cutting-edge newspapers in the US:

“Now the weeklies are trying again: the New Times chain trying to outdo Craigslist with its Back Page initiative, and the Village Voice Media chain appointing a vice president for online. And innovation is coming from the edges, with the Buffalo ArtVoice wading into online multimedia, the Jackson (Miss.) Free Press putting Weblogs front and center on its site, and The Stranger (in Seattle) and Chicago Reader pushing new “aggressively local” online personals.”

Via PaidContent.org

Filed under: Other

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