Google in 2018 is all about AI. But not only…
In November 2015, Google released TensorFlow, an open source machine learning framework. While we’ve had machine learning before that – at Google and elsewhere, this probably marks the date when machine learning and as an extension AI got its current spurt of growth.
Some time, between that day and the recent Google I/O event, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, probably brought his management team, knocked on the table and told them: “We are now an AI company. I don’t care what it is that you are doing, come back next week and make sure you show me a roadmap of your product that has AI in it.”
I don’t know if that meeting happened in such a form or another, but I’d bet that’s what have been going at Google for over a year now, culminating at Google I/O 2018.
After the obligatory icebreaker about the burger emoji crisis, Pichai immediately went to the heart of the keynote – AI.
Google announced AI at last year’s Google I/O event, and it was time to show what came out of it a year later. Throughout the 106 minutes keynote, AI was mentioned time and time again.
That said, there was more to that Google I/O 2018 keynote than just AI.
Google touched at its keynote 3 main themes:
I’d like to expand on each of these, as well as discuss parts of Smart Displays, Android P and Google Maps pieces of the keynote.
I’ll try in each section to highlight my own understanding and insights.Before we begin
Many of the features announced are not released yet. Most of them will be available only closer to the end of the year.
Google’s goal was to show its AI power versus its competition more than anything else they wanted to share in this I/O event.
This is telling in a few ways:
When it comes to AI, Google is most probably the undisputed king today. Runners up include Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Apple and Facebook (probably at that order, though I am not sure about that part).
If I try to put into a diagram the shift that is happening in the industry, it is probably this one:
Not many companies can claim AI. I’ll be using ML (Machine Learning) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) interchangeably throughout the rest of this article. I leave it to you to decide which of the two I mean
AI was featured in 5 different ways during the keynote:
In each and every single thing that Google does today, there’s an attention to how AI can improve that thing that needs doing. During the keynote, AI related features in GMail, Google Photos and Android were announced.
It started off with four warm-up feel-good type use cases that weren’t exactly product announcements, but were setting the stage on how positive this AI theme is:
From here on, most sections of the keynote had an AI theme to them.
Moving forward, product managers should think hard and long about what AI related capabilities and requirements do they need to add to the features of their products.What are you adding to your product that is making it SMARTER?Google Assistant (=voice and speech)
Google Assistant took center stage at I/O 2018. This is how Google shines and differentiates itself from its main 3 competitors: Apple, Amazon and Facebook.
In March, Forbes broke some interesting news: at the time, Amazon was hiring more developers for Alexa than Google was hiring altogether. Alexa is Amazon’s successful voice assistant. And while Google hasn’t talked about Google Home, its main competitor at all, it did emphasize its technology differentiation. This emphasis at I/O was important not only for Google’s customers but also for its potential future workforce. AI developers are super hard to come by these days. Expertise is scarce and competition between companies on talent is fierce. Google needs to make itself attractive for such developers, and showing it is ahead of competition helps greatly here.
Google Assistant got some major upgrades this time around:
Besides these additions, where each can be seen as a huge step forward on its own right, Google came out with a demo of Google Duplex, something that is best explained with an audio recording straight from the keynote:
If you haven’t watched anything from the keynote, be sure to watch this short 4 minutes video clip.
There are a few things here that are interesting:
You’d like to read what Chad Hart has to write about Duplex as well.
For me, Duplex and Assistant are paving the way to where we are headed with voice assistants, chatbots and AI. Siri, Cortana and Lex seem like laggards here. It will interesting to see how they respond to these advancements.
Current advancements in speech recognition and understanding make it easier than ever to adopt these capabilities into your own products.If you plan on doing anything conversational in nature, look first at the cloud vendors and what they offer. As this topic is wide, no single vendor covers all use cases and capabilities.
While at it, make sure you have access to a data set to be able to train your models when the time comes.Google Lens (=vision)
Where Google Assistant is all (or mostly) about voice, Google Lens is all about vision.
Google Lens is progressing in its classification capabilities. Google announced the following:
That last one is interesting, and it is where Google has taken the same approach as Amazon did with DeepLens, one that should be rather obvious based on the requirements here:
It took it a step further, offering it also programmatically through ML Kit – Google’s answer to Apple’s Core ML and Amazon’s SageMaker.
Here’s a table summarizing the differences between these three offerings:Google Apple Amazon ML Framework TensorFlow Core ML + converters MXNet & TensorFlow Cloud component Google Firebase none AWS SageMaker Edge component ML Kit Core ML AWS DeepLens Edge device types Android & iOS iOS DeepLens Base use cases
Apple Core ML is a machine learning SDK available and optimized for iOS devices by Apple. You feed it with your trained model to it, and it runs on the device.
AWS DeepLens is the first ML enabled Amazon device. It is built on top of Amazon’s Rekognition and SageMaker cloud offerings.
Google ML Kit is Google’s machine learning solution for mobile devices, and has now launched in beta.
This started as Google Lens and escalated to an ML Kit explanation.Need to run ML? You need to think where training the model occurs and where classification takes place. These seem to be split these days between cloud and devices. In many cases, developers are pushing the classification algorithms towards the devices at the edge to gain speed and reduce costs and load on the backend. HWaaS
With everything moving towards the cloud, so does hardware in some sense. While the cloud started from hardware hosting of virtualized Linux machines, we’ve been seeing a migration towards different types of hardware recently:
We’re shifting from general purpose computing done by CPUs towards specialized hardware that fits specific workloads in the form of FPAG.
The FPGA in the illustration above is Google’s TPU. TPU stands for TensorFlow Processing Unit. These are FPGAs that have been designed and optimized to handle the TensorFlow mathematical functions.
TensorFlow is said to be slow on CPUs and GPUs compared to other alternatives, and somehow Google is using it to its advantage:
Google’s TPUs got their fair share of time at the keynote in the beginning and were stitched throughout the keynote at strategic points:
Pichai even spent time boasting large terms like liquid cooling…
It is a miracle that these TPUs aren’t plastered all over the ML Kit landing page.Going with TensorFlow? You’ll need to decide on the cloud platform you are going to use, especially when it comes to dataset processing and training. Google is working hard to differentiate itself there. Wellbeing
I am assuming you are just as addicted to your smartphone as I am. There are so many jokes, memes, articles and complaints about it that we can no longer ignore it. There are talks about responsibility and its place in large corporations.
Apple and Google are being placed on the spotlight on this one in 2018, and Google took the first step towards a solution. They are doing it in a long term project/theme named “Wellbeing”.
Wellbeing is similar to the AI initiative at Google in my mind. Someone came to the managers and told them one day something like this: “Our products are highly addictive. Apple are getting skewered in the news due to it and we’re next in line. Let’s do something about it to show some leadership and a differentiation versus Apple. Bring me ideas of how we can help our Android users with their addiction. We will take the good ideas and start implementing them”.
Here are a few things that came under Wellbeing, and one that didn’t but should have been:
In a way, this is the beginning of a long road that I am sure will improve over time. It shows the maturity of mobile platforms.Not sure how responsibility, accountability and wellbeing like aspects lend themselves to other products. If you are aiming at machine learning, think of the biases in your models – these are getting attention recently as well. Fake News
Under responsibility there’s the whole Fake News of recent years.
While Wellbeing targets mainly Apple, The Google News treatment in the keynote was all about addressing Facebook’s weakness. I am not talking about the recent debacle with Cambridge Analitica – this one and anything else related to user’s data privacy was carefully kept away from the keynote. What was addressed is Fake News, where Google gets way more favorable attention than Facebook (just search Google for “google fake news” and “facebook fake news” and look at the titles of the articles that bubble up – check it also on Bing out of curiosity).
What Google did here is create a new Google New experience. And what is interesting is that it tried to bring something to market that skims nicely between objectivity and personalization – things that don’t often correlate when it comes to opinion and politics. It comes with a new layer of visualization that is more inviting, but most of what it does is rooted in AI (as anything else in this I/O keynote).
Here’s what I took out of it:
One more thing Google did? Emphasized that they are working with publishers on subscriptions, being publisher-friendly, where Facebook is… er… not. Will this hold water and help publishers enough? Time will tell.AI and Machine Learning lends themselves well to this approach. It ends up being a mixture of personalization, trending and other capabilities that are surfaced when it comes to news. Can you see similar approaches suitable for your product offering? Smart Displays
Smart displays are a rather new category. Besides Android as an operating system for smartphones and the Waymo AI piece, there was no other device featured in the keynote.
Google Home wasn’t mentioned, but Smart Displays actually got their fair share of minutes in the keynote. The only reason I see for it is that it is coupled nicely with the Google Assistant.
The two features mentioned that are relevant?
I am unsure why Google gave smart displays the prominence it did at Google I/O. I really have no good explanation for it, besides being a new device category where Apple isn’t operating at all yet – and where Amazon Alexa poses a threat to Google Home.Android P
10 years in, and Android P was introduced.
There were two types of changes mentioned here: smarts and polish.
Smarts was all about AI (but you knew that already). It included:
There was really not much to say about Android P. At least not after counting all the AI work that Google has been doing everywhere anyway.App Actions and Slices are important if you develop Android Apps. ML Kit is where the true value is and it works on both Android and iOS – explore it first. Google Maps
Google Maps was given the stage at the keynote. It is an important application and getting more so as time goes by.
Google Maps is probably our 4th search destination:
This is where people look for information these days.
In Search Google has been second to none for years. It wasn’t even part of the keynote.
Google Assistant was front and center in this keynote, most probably superior to its competitors (Siri, Cortana and Lex).
YouTube is THE destination for videos, with Facebook there, but with other worries at this point in time. It is also safe to say that younger generations and more visual audiences search YouTube more often than they do anything else.
Maps is where people search to get from one place to another, and probably searching even more these days – more abstract searches.
In a recent trip to the US, I made quite a few searches that were open ended on Google Maps and was quite impressed with the results. Google is taking this a step further, adding four important pillars to it:
Smarts comes from its ML work. Things like estimating arrival times, more commune alternatives (they’ve added motorcycle routes and estimates for example), etc.
Personalization was added by the introduction of a recommendation engine to Maps. Mostly around restaurants and points of interest. Google Maps can now actively recommend places you are more likely to like based on your past preferences.
On the collaboration front, Google is taking its first steps by adding the ability to share locations with friends so you can reach out a decision on a place to go to together.
AR was about improving walking directions and “fixing” the small gripes with maps around orienting yourself with that blue arrow shown on the map when you start navigating.Where are we headed?
That’s the big question I guess.
More machine learning and AI. Expect Google I/O 2019 to be on the same theme.
If you don’t have it in your roadmap, time to see how to fit it in.
If you are contemplating build versus buy for your live video platform, or just undecided on which one to pick, check out this 10-part video series.
My consulting projects these days tend to be in one of 3 domains:
I like doing all of these types of projects simply because it keeps me interested. Especially since there’s no specific one that I like more than the others here. It does sometimes confuse potential customers, and probably doesn’t help me with “niching” or “focusing”, but it does give me a very wide view of the communications market.
I want to focus on the 3rd project type, the one where developers want assistance in making sure they pick the right technology, architecture the solution and get it to market with as little risk as possible, this is where things get interesting.
The first thing I do in such projects? Check for NIH.
NIH stands for Not Invented Here, and it is a syndrome of all developers. I know, because I suffer from it as well. Developers are builders and tinkerers. They like to make things work – not get them readymade, which is why when they have the opportunity of building something – they’ll go ahead and do it. The problem though, is that economies of scale as well as time to market aren’t in their favor. In many of the cases, it would be easier to just pick a CPaaS vendor and build your live video product on top of his platform instead of building it all from scratch.
There are many reasons why people go build their own video platform:
I spend some time uncovering and better understanding the reasons for the decision. Sometimes I feel they make sense, while other times less so.
Which is why when I sat down with Vidyo to think about an interesting project to do together some months back, the decision was made to put out a series of short videos explaining different aspects of live video platforms. I tried to cover as much ground as possible. From network impairments, through video coding technologies, through scale, devices and lots of other topics as well.
The purpose was to get developers and entrepreneurs acquainted with what is necessary when you go build your own infrastructure, and if you decide on buying a platform, to know what to look for.
The series is packed full with content. And I’d love to get your candid opinion of it. Check it out here:
The post Choosing a Live Video Platform – a new video series appeared first on BlogGeek.me.
One of the great things about WebRTC is that it is built right into the web platform. The web platform is generally great for WebRTC, but occasionally it can cause huge headaches when specific WebRTC needs do not exactly align with more general browser usage requirements. The latest example of this is has to do […]
There are opposite forces at play when it comes to the next wave of communication technologies.
There are a lot of changes going on at the moment, being introduced into the world of communications. If I had to make a shopping list of these technologies, I’d probably end up with something like this:
Each item is worthy of technobabble marketing in its own rite, but the thing is, they do affect communications. The only question is in what ways.
I have been looking at it lately a lot, trying to figure out where things are headed, building different models to explain things. And looking at a few suggested models by other industry experts.Communication domains – simplified
Ignoring outliers, there are 3 main distinct communication domains within enterprises:
Usually, we will be using the obligatory “aaS” to them: UCaaS, CCaaS and CPaaS
I’ll give my own simplified view on each of these acronyms before we proceed.UCaaS
Unified Communications looks inwardly inside the company.
A company has employees. They need ways and means to communicate with each other. They also need to communicate with external entities such as suppliers, partners and customers. But predominantly, this is about internal communications. The external communications usually takes a second-class citizen position, with limited capabilities and accessibility; oftentimes, external communications will be limited to email, phone calls and SMS.
What will interest us here will be collaboration and communication.CCaaS
Contact Centers are about customers. Or leads, which are potential customers.
We’ve got agents in the contact center, be it sales or customer care (=support), and they need to talk to customers.
Things we care about in contact centers? Handling time, customer satisfaction, …CPaaS
Communication Platform as a Service is different.
It is a recent entry to the communications space, even if some would argue it has always been there.
CPaaS is a set of building blocks that enable us to use communications wherever we may need them. Both CCaaS and UCaaS can be built on top of CPaaS. But CPaaS is much more flexible than that. It can fit itself to almost any use case and scenario where communications is needed.Communications in Consolidation
There’s a consolidation occuring in communications. One where vendors in different part of communications are growing their offering into the adjacent domains.
We are in a migration from analog to digital when it comes to communications. And from pure telecom/telephony towards browser based, internet communications. Part of it is the introduction of WebRTC technology (couldn’t hold myself back from mentioning WebRTC).
This migration opens up a lot of opportunities and even contemplation on how should we define these communication domains and are they even separate at all.
There have been some interesting moves lately in this space. Here are a few examples of where these lines get blurred and redefined:
These are just examples. There are other vendors in the communication space who are going after adjacent domains.
The idea here is communication vendors looking into the communications venn diagram and reaching out to an adjacency, with the end result being a consolidation throughout the whole communications space.External disruption to communications
This is where things get really interesting. The forces at play are pushing communications outwards:
UCaaS, CCaaS, CPaaS. It was almost always about real time. Communications happening between people in real time. When the moment is over, the content of that communications is lost – or more accurately – it becomes another person’s problem. Like a contact center recording calls for governance or quality reasons only, or having the calls transcribed to be pushed towards a CRM database.
Anything that isn’t real time and transient isn’t important with communications. Up until now.
We are now connecting the real time with the asynchronous communications. Adding messaging and textual conversations. We are thinking about context, which isn’t just the here and now, but also the history of it all.
Here’s what’s changing though:UC and Teams
Unified Communications is ever changing. We’ve added collaboration to it, calling it UC&C. Then we’ve pushed it to the cloud and got UCaaS. Now we’re adding messaging to it. Well… we’re mostly adding UC to messaging (it goes the other way around). So we’re calling it Teams. Or Team Collaboration. Or Workstream Collaboration (WSC). Or Workstream Communication and Collaboration (WCC). I usually call it Enterprise Messaging.
The end result is simple. We focus on collaboration between teams in an organization, and we do that via group chat (=messaging) as our prime modal for communications.
Let’s give it a generic name that everyone understands: Slack
The question now is this: will UC gobble up Team communication vendors such as Slack (and now Workplace by Facebook; as well as many other “project management” and messaging type tools) OR will Slack and the likes of it gobble up UC?
I don’t really know the answer.CC and CRMs
What about contact centers? These live in the world of CRM. The most important customer data resides in CRMs. And now, with the introduction of WebRTC, and to an extent CPaaS vendors, a CRM vendor can decide to add contact center capabilities as part of his offering. Not through partnerships, but through direct implementation.
Can contact centers do the same? Can they expand towards the CRM domain, starting to handle the customer data itself?
If salesforce starts offering a solid contact center solution in the cloud as part of its offering, that is highly integrated with the Salesforce experience, adding to it a layer of sophistication that contact center vendors will find hard to implement – what will customers do? NOT use it in favor of another contact center vendor or source it all from Salesforce? Just a thought.
There’s an additional trend taking place. That’s one of context and analytics. We’re adding context and analytics into “customer journeys”, sales funnels and marketing campaigns. These buzzwords happen to be part of what contact centers are, what modern CRMs can offer, and what dedicated tools do.
For example, most chat widget applications for websites today offer a backend CRM-like dashboard that also acts like a messaging contact center, and at the same time, these same tools act similarly to Google Analytics by following users as they visit your website trying to derive insights from their journey so the contact center agent can use it throughout the conversation. Altocloud did something similar and got acquired recently by Genesys, a large contact center vendor.CP and PaaS
CPaaS is different a bit. We’re dealing with communication APIs here.
CPaaS market is evolving and changing. There are many reasons for it:
That last one is key. We’ve seen the large cloud vendors enhancing their platforms. Moving from pure CPU and storage services up the food chain. Amazon AWS has so many services today that it is hard to keep up. The question here is when will we reach an inflection point where AWS, GCE and Azure start adding serious CPaaS capabilities to their cloud platforms and compete directly with the CPaaS vendors?
Where is CPaaS headed anyway?
The future can unfold in three different ways when it comes to communications:
How do you think the future will unfold?
A Linux device, such as PC Engines APU, can be equipped with an LTE modem, but sometimes it’s desirable to use the mobile connection only if the wired connection is unavailable.
The following scenario is for Debian 9 on an APU box, but it’s also applicable to any other Linux device.
The DHCP client is tweaked to ignore the DNS server addresses that are coming with DCHP offer. Otherwise, the LTE provider may provide DNS addresses that are not usable via the ethernet WAN link.
The “ifmetric” package allows setting metrics in interface definitions in Debian. This way we can have two default routes with a preferred metric over LAN interface. The default route with lower metric is chosen for outbound traffic.
The watchdog process checks availability of a well-known public IP address over each of the uplinks, and shuts down and brings up again the corresponding interface. It only protects from next-hop failures. If you want to protect from failures in the whole WAN service, you need to increase the Ethernet port metric if it fails, and then start checking the connectivity, and lower the metric when it’s stable again.
Also the second NIC on the box is configured to provide DHCP address and to NAT all outbound traffic.
Detailed installation instructions are presented here: https://gist.github.com/ssinyagin/1afad07f8c2f58d9d5cc58b2ddbba0a7
Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X is a tiny and cheap (around $50) router with a decent amount of memory: 256MB RAM and 256MB flash. The router offers 5 GigE copper ports, and there’s also a model with an additional SFP port. The device is produced since 2014, and it’s still up to date and a good value for money.
On hardware level, the device consists of a Gigabit Ethernet switch, with one GigE port attached to the MIPS CPU and used as a 802.1q trunk. Also inside the enclosure, serial console port is available for easy debugging or manipulating the boot loader.
The router comes with stock Ubuquiti software which is based on Debian Wheezy, so many files are from 2013-2014. OpenVPN package is pre-installed, but only version 2.3 is available. The software offers a nice GUI and SSH access.
OpenWRT provides excellent support for this hardware. The router is able to perform IP routing at more than 400Mbps (I haven’t tested it with back-to-back connection, so I don’t know the limit).
Also with OpenVPN 2.4 that is available in up-to-date OpenWRT packages, the box performs at up to 20Mbps with 256-bit AES encryption, and at about 55Mbps with encryption and authentication disabled.
In default OpenWRT configuration, the switch port 0 is dedicated to WAN link, and ports 1-4 are used as a LAN bridge. The WAN link acts as a DHCP client, and LAN is configured with DHCP service in 192.168.1.0/24 range. The command-line configuration utilities are quite straightforward, and there’s a Web UI as well.
Here’s a new repository for OpenVPN deployment scenarios and example configurations:
At the moment it lists two scenarios with configuration generation scripts:
WebRTC developers are really hard to come by. I want to improve my ability to help companies in search of such skill.
If there’s something that occurs time and again, it is entrepreneurs and vendors who ask me if I know of anyone who can build their application. Some are looking to outsource the project as a whole or part of it, and then they are looking for agencies to work with. Others are looking for a single expert to work with on a specific task, or someone they could hire for long stretches of time who has WebRTC skills.You a WebRTC Developer?
I’d like to know more about you IF you are looking for projects or for a new employer.
Here are a few things first:
Fill out this form for me please (or via this link):
I won’t be reaching out to you immediately (or at all). I’ll be using this list when others ask for talent that fits your profile.You looking for WebRTC Developers?
Got a need for developers that have WebRTC skills?
I am not sure exactly how to find them and where, but I am trying to get there.
Two ways to get there:
Chat won’t bring carriers to their SMS-glory days.
The Verge came out with an exclusive last week that everyone out there is regurgitating. This is my attempt at doing the same
We’re talking about Google unveiling its plans for the consumer chat experience. To put things in quick bulleted points:
I’d like to share my viewpoints and where things are going to get interesting.SMS is dead
I liked Mashable’s title for their take on this:
While an apt title, my guess is that beyond carriers and reports written to them, we all know that already.
SMS has long been dead. The A2P (Application 2 Person) SMS messages are all that’s left out of it. Businesses texting us either their PIN codes and passwords for 2FA (2 Factor Authentication) and OTP (One Time Passwords) or just sending us marketing junk for us to ignore.
I asked a few friends of mine on a group chat yesterday (over Whatsapp, of course) when and how do they use SMS and why. Here are the replies I got (I translated them to English):
These are 40 year olds in Israel. Most working out of the IT domain. The answers will probably vary elsewhere, but here in Israel, most will give you similar answers. Whatsapp has become the go-to app for communications. So much so, that we were forced to give our daughter her first smartphone at the age of 8 only so she can communicate with her friends via Whatsapp and won’t stay behind. Everyone uses it here in Israel.
You should also know that plans upwards of 2Gb of monthly data including unlimited voice and SMS in Israel cost less than $15 a month in Israel, so this has nothing to do with price pressure anymore. It has to do with network effects and simple user experience.
SMS is no longer ubiquitous across the globe. I can’t attest to other countries, but I guess Israel isn’t alone in this. SMS is just the last alternative to use when all else has failed.
Why is SMS interesting in this context?
Because a lot of what’s at stake here for Google relates to the benefits and characteristics of SMS.RCS is (still) dead
RCS is the successor of SMS for getting carriers into the 21st century. It has been discussed for many years now, and it will most definitely, utterly, completely, unquestionably get people back from their Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat back to the clutches of the carriers. NOT.
RCS is a design-by-committee solution, envisioned by people my age and older, targeting a younger audience across the globe in an attempt to kill fast moving social network with a standardized, ubiquitous, agreed upon specification that then needs to be implemented by multiple vendors, handset manufacturers and carriers globally to make any sense.
Not going to happen.
Google’s take on this was to acquire an RCS vendor – Jibe – two years ago for this purpose. The idea was probably to provide a combination of an infrastructure and a mobile client to speed up RCS deployments around the globe and make them interoperable faster than the carriers will ever achieve on their own.
Two years passed, and we’ve got nothing but a slide (and the article on The Verge) to show for this effort:
An impressive list of operators, OEMs and OS providers that are behind this RCS initiative. Is that due to Google? To some part, probably so.
In a way, this reminds me also of Google’s other industry initiative – the Alliance of Open Media, where it is one of 7 original founding members that just recently came out with AV1, a royalty free video codec. It is a different undertaking:
Why is Google going into bed with the carriers on this one?Google had no choice
The Verge had an exclusive interview with Anil Sabharwal, the Google VP leading this effort. This led to the long article about this initiative. The numbers that Anil shared were eye opening as to the abysmal state of Google’s messaging efforts thus far.
I went ahead and placed these numbers next to other announced messaging services for comparison:
A few things to note here:
Google failed to entice its billion+ Android users to install or even use its messaging applications.
Without the numbers, it couldn’t really come up with a strategy similar to Apple iMessage, where it essentially hijacks the messaging traffic from carriers, onboarding the users to its own social messaging experience.
Trying to do that would alienate Google with the carriers, which Google relies on for Android device sales. Some would argue that Google has the klout and size to do that, but that is not the case.
Android is open, so handset manufacturers and carriers could use it without Google’s direct approval, throwing away the default messaging app. Handset manufacturers and carriers would do that in an effort to gain more control over Android, which would kill the user experience, as most such apps by handset manufacturers and carriers do. The end result? More users purchasing iPhones, as carriers try to punish Google for the move.
What could Google do?
Two years ago, Google decided to go for alternatives (1) and (3). Allo was their own social messaging app. Had it succeeded, my guess is that Google would have gone towards approach (2). In parallel, Google acquired Jibe in an effort to take route (3), which is now the strategy the company is behind for its consumer messaging.
The big risk here is that the plan itself relies on carriers and their decisions. We don’t even know when will this get launched. Reading between the lines of The Verge’s article, Google already completed the development and got the mobile client ready and deployed. It just isn’t enabled unless the carrier being used approves. Estimates indicate 6-12 months until that happens, but for which of the carriers? And will they use the stock Android app for that or their own ambitious better-than-whatsapp app?E2EE can kill this initiative and hurt Google
The biggest risk to Google is the lack of E2EE (end to end encryption).
In each and every regurgitated post of The Verge article and in The Verge itself this is emphasized. Walt Mossberg’s tweet was mentioned multiple times as well:
Bottom line: Google builds an insecure messaging system controlled by carriers who are in bed with governments everywhere at exactly the time when world publics are more worried about data collection and theft than ever.
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) April 20, 2018
Bottom line: Google builds an insecure messaging system controlled by carriers who are in bed with governments everywhere at exactly the time when world publics are more worried about data collection and theft than ever.
The problem for Google is that the news outlets are noticing and giving it a lot of publicity. And it couldn’t come at a less convenient time, where Facebook is being scrutinized for its malpractice of how it uses and protects user data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Google for the most part, has come unscathed out of it, but will this move put more of the spotlight on Google?
The other problem is that all the other messaging apps already have E2EE supported in one way or another. The apps usually mentioned here are Apple iMessage, Signal and Telegram. Whatsapp switched to E2EE by default two years ago. And Facebook Messenger has it as an option (though you do need to enable it manually per conversation).
Will customers accept using “Chat” (=RCS) when they know it isn’t encrypted end to end?
On the other hand, Russia is attempting to close Telegram by blocking millions of IP addresses in the country, and taking down with it other large services. If this succeeds, then Russia will do the same to all other popular messaging applications. And then other countries will follow. The end result will be the need to use the carrier (and Google’s) alternative instead. Thankfully, Russia is unsuccessful. For the time being.Who owns the data?
With RCS, the carriers are the ones that are intercepting, processing and forwarding the messages. In a way, it alludes to the fact that Google isn’t going to be the one reading these messages, at least not from the server.
This means that either Google decided there’s not enough value in these messages and in monetizing them – or – that they have other means to gain access to these messages.
Here are a few alternatives Google can use to accessing these messages:
Google might have figured it has other means to get to the messages besides owning and controlling the whole experience – similar to how Google Photos is one of the top camera apps in Apple iTunes.
By offering a better experience than other RCS client competitors, it might elicit users to download its stock Chat app on devices who don’t have it by default. Who knows? It might even be able to get people to download and use it on an iPhone one day.
The success of Google here will translate into RCS being a vehicle for Google to get back to messaging more than the means for carriers to gain relevance again.Ubiquity is here already, but not via SMS or RCS
I’ll put the graph here again – to make a point.
1.5 billion people is ubiquitous enough for me. Especially when the penetration rates in Israel are 100% in my network of connections.
People tend to talk about the ubiquity of SMS and how RCS will inherit that ubiquity.
They fail to take into account the following:
Think about it.
You can now send out an RCS message from your device. To anyone. If the other party has no RCS installed, the message gets converted to SMS. Sweet.
But what happens when the person you are sending that RCS message is located abroad? Are you seriously happy with getting a payment request from your carrier on a stupid international SMS message, or a full conversation of such for a thing you could have easily used Whatsapp for instead? And for free.
Ubiquity isn’t the word that comes to my mind when thinking about RCS.The holy grail is business messaging
Consumer messaging is free these days. There is no direct monetary value to be gained by offering this service to consumers. Carriers won’t be able to put that jinni back into its bottle and start collecting money from users. Their only approach here might be to zero-rate RCS traffic, but that also isn’t very interesting to most consumers – at least not here in Israel.
The GSMA already suggested where the money is – in business messaging. They see this as a $74bn opportunity by 2021. The problem is that rolling RCS 6-12 months from now, by only some of the carriers, isn’t going to cut it. Apple Business Chat was just released, vertically integrated, with a lot of thought put into businesses, their discovery process and free of charge.
Then there’s the rest of the social networks opening their APIs towards the businesses, and contact center solutions driving the concept of omnichannel experiences for customers.
Carriers are getting into this game late and unprepared. On top of that, they will try to get money out of this market similar to how they do with SMS. But the price points they are used to make no sense anymore. Something will need to change for the carriers to be successful here.
Will carriers be able to succeed with RCS? I doubt it.
Will google be able to succeed with Chat? Maybe. But it is up to the carriers to allow that to happen.
The post RCS now Google Messages. What’s Next in Consumer Messaging? appeared first on BlogGeek.me.
Join Philipp Hancke and me for a free training on WebRTC 1.0, prior to the relaunch of my advanced WebRTC training.
Here’s something that I get at least once a week through my website’s chat widget:
It is one of the main reasons why I’ve created my advanced WebRTC course. It is a paid WebRTC course that is designed to fill in the gaps and answer the many questions developers face when needing to deal with WebRTC.Elephants, blind Men, alligators and WebRTC
I wanted to connect it to the parable of the six blind man and an elephant, explaining how wherever you go in the Internet, you are going to get a glimpse about WebRTC and never a full clear picture. I even searched for a good illustration to use for it. Then I bumped into this illustration:
It depicts what happens with WebRTC and developers all too well.
If you haven’t guessed it, the elephants here are WebRTC and the requirements of the application and that flat person is the developer.
This fits well with another joke I heard yesterday from a friend’s kid:
Q: Why can’t you go into the woods between 14:00-16:00?
A: Because the elephants are skydiving
There’s a follow up joke as well:
Q: Why are the alligators flat?
A: Because they entered the woods between 14:00-16:00
WebRTC development has a lot of rules. Many of which are unwritten.WebRTC 1.0
There is a lot of nuances about WebRTC. A lot of written material, old and new – some of it irrelevant now, the rest might be correct but jumbled. And WebRTC is a moving target. It is hard to keep track of all the changes. There’s a lot of knowledge around WebRTC that is required – knowledge that doesn’t look like an API call or written in the standard specification.
This means that I get to update my course every few months just to keep up.
With WebRTC 1.0, there’s both a real challenge as well as an opportunity.
It is a challenge:
It is an opportunity:
We might actually get to a point where we have a stable API with stable implementations.
But we’re still not thereShould you wait?
We’re 6-7 years in with WebRTC (depending who does the counting), and this hasn’t stopped well over a 1,000 vendors to jump in and make use of WebRTC in production services.
There’s already massive use of WebRTC.Me and WebRTC 1.0
For me, WebRTC 1.0 is somewhat of a new topic.
I try to avoid the discussions going on around WebRTC in the standardization bodies. The work they do is important and critical, but often tedious. I had my fair share of it in the past with other standards and it isn’t something I enjoy these days.
This caused a kind of a challenge for me as well. How can I teach WebRTC, in a premium course, without explaining WebRTC 1.0 – a topic that needs to be addressed as developers need to prepare for the changes that are coming.
The answer was to ask Philipp Hancke to help out here, and create a course lesson for me on WebRTC 1.0. I like doing projects with Philipp, and do so on many fronts, so this is one additional project. It also isn’t the first time either – the bonus materials of my WebRTC course includes a recorded lesson by Philipp about video quality in WebRTC.Free WebRTC 1.0 Webinar
Tomorrow, we will be recording the WebRTC 1.0 lesson together for my course. I’ll be there, and this time, partially as a student.
To make things a bit more interesting, as well as promoting the whole course, this lesson will be given live in the form of a free webinar:
This webinar/lesson will take place on
Tuesday, April 10
2-3PM EST (view in your timezone)
The session’s recording will NOT be available after the event itself. While this lesson is free to attend live, the recording will become an integral part of the course’ lessons.
The post WebRTC 1.0 Training and Free Webinar Tomorrow (on Tuesday) appeared first on BlogGeek.me.
We have covered the “WebRTC is leaking your IP address” topic a few times, like when I reported what the NY Times was doing and in my WebRTC-Notifier. Periodically this topic comes up now and again in the blogosphere, generally with great shock and horror. This happened again recently, so I here is an updated look […]
The post So your VPN is leaking because of Chrome’s WebRTC… appeared first on webrtcHacks.
AV1 for video coding is what Opus is for audio coding.
The Alliance of Open Media (AOMedia) issued last week a press release announcing its public release of the AV1 specification.
Last time I wrote about AOMedia was over a year ago. AOMedia is a very interesting organization. Which got me to sit down with Alex Eleftheriadis, Chief Scientist and Co-founder of Vidyo, for a talk about AV1, AOMedia and the future of real time video codecs. It was really timely, as I’ve been meaning to write about AV1 at some point. The press release, and my chat with Alex pushed me towards this subject.
Before you start, if you need to make a decision today on your video codec, then check out this free online mini video course
H.264 or VP8?
Now let’s start, shall we?AOMedia and AV1 are the result of greed
When AOMedia was announced I was pleasantly surprised. It isn’t that apparent that the founding members of AOMedia would actually find the strength to put their differences aside for the greater good of the video coding industry.Video codec royalties 101
You see, video codecs at that point in time was a profit center for companies. You invested in research around video coding with the main focus on inventing new patents that will be incorporated within video codecs that will then be globally used. The vendors adopting these video codecs would pay royalties.
With H.264, said royalties came with a cap – if you distributed above a certain number of devices that use H.264, you didn’t have to pay more. And the same scheme was put in place when it came to HEVC (H.265) – just with a higher cap.
Why do we need this cap?
So how much money did MPEG-LA took in?
Being a private company, this is hard to know. I’ve seen estimates of $10M-50M, as well as $17.5B on Quora. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Which is still a considerable amount of money that was funnelled to the patent owners.
With royalty revenues flowing in, is it any wonder that companies wanted more?
An interesting tidbit about this greed (or shall we say rightfulness) can be found in the Wikipedia page of VP8:
In February 2011, MPEG LA invited patent holders to identify patents that may be essential to VP8 in order to form a joint VP8 patent pool. As a result, in March the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) started an investigation into MPEG LA for its role in possibly attempting to stifle competition. In July 2011, MPEG LA announced that 12 patent holders had responded to its call to form a VP8 patent pool, without revealing the patents in question, and despite On2 having gone to great lengths to avoid such patents.
So… we have a licensing company whose members are after royalty payments on patents. They are blinded by the success of H.264 and its royalty scheme and payments, so they go after anything and everything that looks and smells like competition. And they are working towards maintaining their market position and revenue in the upcoming HEVC specification.The HEVC/H.265 royalties mess
Leonardo Chiariglione, founder and chairman of MPEG, attests in a rather revealing post:
Good stories have an end, so the MPEG business model could not last forever. Over the years proprietary and “royalty free” products have emerged but have not been able to dent the success of MPEG standards. More importantly IP holders – often companies not interested in exploiting MPEG standards, so called Non Practicing Entities (NPE) – have become more and more aggressive in extracting value from their IP.
HEVC, being a new playing ground, meant that there were new patents to be had – new areas where companies could claim having IP. And MPEG-LA found itself one of many patent holder groups:
MPEG-LA indicated its wish to take home $0.2 per device using HEVC, with a high cap of around $25M.
HEVC Advance started with a ridiculously greedy target of $0.8 per device AND %0.5 of the gross margin of streaming services (unheard of at the time) – with no cap. It since rescinded, making things somewhat better. It did it a bit too late in the game though.
Velos Media spent money on a clean and positive website. Their Q&A indicate that they haven’t yet made a decision on royalties, caps and content royalties. Which gives great confidence to those wanting to use HEVC today.
And then there are the unaffiliated. Companies claiming patents related to HEVC who are not in any pool. And if you think they won’t be suing anyone then think again – Blackberry just sued Facebook for messaging related patents – easy to see them suing for HEVC patents in their current position. Who can blame them? They have been repeatedly sued by patent trolls in the past.
HEVC is said to be the next biggest thing in video coding. The successor of our aging H.264 technology. And yet, there’s too many unknowns about the true price of using it. Should one pay royalties to MPEG-LA, HEVC Advance and Velos Media or only one of them? Would paying royalties protect from patent litigation?
Is it even economically viable to use HEVC?
Yes. Apple has introduced HEVC in iOS 11 and iPhone X. My guess is that they are willing to pay the price as long as this keeps the headache and mess on the Android camp (I can’t see the vendors there coming to terms of who is the one in the value chain that will end up paying the royalties for it).
With such greed and uncertainty, a void was left. One that got filled by AOMedia and AV1.AOMedia – The who’s who of our industry
AOMedia is a who’s who list of our industry. It started small, with just 7 big names, and now has 12 founding members and 22 promoter members.
Some of these members are members of MPEG-LA or already have patents in HEVC and video coding. And this is important. Members of AOMedia effectively allow free access to essential patents in the implementation of AOMedia related specifications. I am sure there are restrictions applied here, but the intent is to have the codecs coming out of AOMedia royalty free.
A few interesting things to note about these members:
AOMedia is at a point that stopping it will be hard.
Here’s how AOMedia visualize its members’ products:What’s in AV1?
AV1 is a video codec specification, similar to VP8, H.264, VP9 and HEVC.
AV1 is built out of 3 main premises:
Simple probably needs a bit more elaboration here. It is probably the best news I heard from Alex about AV1.Simplicity in AV1
You see, in standardization organizations, you’ll have competing vendors vying for an advantage on one another. I’ve been there during the glorious days of H.323 and 3G-324M. What happens there, is that companies come up with a suggestion. Oftentimes, they will have patents on that specific suggestion. So other vendors will try to block it from getting into the spec. Or at the very least delay it as much as they can. Another vendor will come up with a similar but different enough approach, with their own patents, of course. And now you’re in a deadlock – which one do you choose? Coalitions start emerging around each approach, with the end result being that both approaches will be accepted with some modifications and get added into the specification.
But do we really need both of these approaches? The more alternatives we have to do something similar, the more complex the end result. The more complex the end result, the harder it is to implement. The harder it is to implement, well… the closer it looks like HEVC.
Here’s the thing.
From what I understand, and I am not privy to the intricate details, but I’ve seen specifications in the past, and been part of making them happen, HEVC is your standard design-by-committee specification. HEVC was conceived by MPEG-LA, which in the last 20 years have given us MPEG-2, H.264 and HEVC. The number of members in MPEG-LA with interests in getting some skin in this game is large and growing. I am sure that HEVC was a mess of a headache to contend with.
This is where AV1 diverges. I think there’s a lot less politics going on in AOMedia at the moment than in MPEG-LA. Probably due to 2 main reasons:
The end result? The design is simpler, which makes for better implementations that are just easier to develop.AV1 IRL
In real life, we’re yet to see if AV1 performs better than HEVC and in what ways.
Current estimates is that AV1 performans equal or better than HEVC when it comes to real time. That’s because AV1 has better tools for similar computation load than what can be found in HEVC.
So… if you have all the time in the world to analyze the video and pick your tools, HEVC might end up with better compression quality, but for the most part, we can’t really wait that long when we encode video – unless we encode the latest movie coming out from Hollywood. For the rest of us, faster will be better, so AV1 wins.
The exact comparison isn’t there yet, but I was told that experiments done on the implementations of both AV1 and HEVC shows that AV1 is equal or better to HEVC.Streaming, Real Time and SVC
There is something to be said about real time, which brings me back to WebRTC.
Real time low delay considerations of AV1 were discussed from the onset. There are many who focus on streaming and offline encoding of videos within AOMedia, like Netflix and Hulu. But some of the founding members are really interested in real time video coding – Google, Facebook, Cisco, Polycom and Vidyo to name a few.
Polycom and Vidyo are chairing the real time work group, and SVC is considered a first class citizen within AV1. It is being incorporated into the specification from the start, instead of being bolt-on into it as was done with H.264 and VP9.Low bitrate
Then there’s the aspect of working at low bitrates.
With the newer codecs, you see a real desire to enhance the envelope. In many cases, this means increasing the resolution and frame rates a video codec supports.
As far as I understand, there’s a lot of effort being put into AV1 in the other side of the scale – in working at low resolutions and doing that really well. This is important for Google for example, if you look at what they decided to share about VP9 on YouTube:
For YouTube, it isn’t only about 4K and UHD – it is on getting videos to be streamed everywhere.
Based on many of the projects I am involved with today, I can say that there are a lot of developers out there who don’t care too much about HD or 4K – they just want to get decent video being sent and that means VGA resolutions or even less. Being able to do that with lower bitrates is a boon.Is AV1 “next gen”?
I have always considered AV1 to be the next next generation:
We have H.264 and VP8 as the current generation of video codecs, then HEVC and VP9 as the next generation, and then there’s AV1 as the next next generation.
In my mind, this is what you’d get when it comes to compression vs power requirements:
Alex opened my eyes here, explaining that reality is slightly different. If I try translating his words to a diagram, here’s what I get:
AV1 is an improvement over HEVC but probably isn’t a next generation video codec. And this is an advantage. When you start working on a new generation of a codec, the work necessary is long and arduous. Look at H.261, H.263, H.264 and HEVC codec generations:
Here are some interesting things that occured to me while placing the video codecs on a timeline:
AOMedia has been working towards this important milestone for quite some time – the 1.0 version specification of AV1.
The first thing I thought when seeing it is: they got there faster than WebRTC 1.0. WebRTC has been announced 6 years ago and we’re just about to have it announced (since 2015 that is). AOMedia started in 2015 and it now has its 1.0 ready.
The second one? I was interested in the quotes at the end of that release. They show the viewpoints of the various members involved.
Apple decided not to share a quote in the press release.
Most of the quotes there are about media streaming, with only a few looking at collaboration and social. This somewhat saddens me when it comes from the likes of Broadcom.
I am glad to see Intel and Arm taking active roles. Both as founding members and in their quotes to the press release. It is bad that Qualcomm and Samsung aren’t here, but you can’t have it all.
I also think Vidyo are spot-on. More about that later.What’s next for AOMedia?
There’s work to be done within AOMedia with AV1. This is but a first release. There are bound to be some updates to it in the coming year.
Current plans are to have some meaningful software implementation of AV1 encoder/decoder by the end of 2018, and somewhere during 2019 (end of most probably) have hardware implementations available. Here’s the announced timeline from AOMedia:
Realistically, mass adoption would happen somewhere in 2020-2022. Until then, we’ll be chugging along with VP8/H.264 and fighting it out around HEVC and VP9.
There are talks about adding still image format based on the work done in AV1, which makes sense. It wouldn’t be farfetched to also incorporate future voice codecs into AOMedia. This organization has shown it can bring into it the industry leaders into a table and come up with royalty free codecs that benefit everyone.AV1 and WebRTC
Will we see AV1 in WebRTC? Definitely.
When? Probably after WebRTC 1.0. Or maybe not
It will take time, but the benefits are quite clear, which is what Alex of Vidyo alluded to in the quote given in the press release:
“solve the ongoing WebRTC browser fragmentation problem, and achieve universal video interoperability across all browsers and communication devices”
We’re still stuck in the challenge of which video codec to select in WebRTC applications.
AV1 for video coding is what Opus is to audio coding. That article I’ve written in 2013? It is now becoming true for video. Once adoption of AV1 hits – and it will in the next 3-5 years, the dilemma of which video codec to select will be gone.
Until then, check out this free mini course on how to select the video codec for your application
Sign up for free
The post AV1 Specification Released: Can we kiss goodbye to HEVC and royalty bearing video codecs? appeared first on BlogGeek.me.
One of WebRTC’s biggest challenges has been providing consistent, reliable support across platforms. For most apps, especially those that started on the web, this generally means developing a native or hybrid mobile app in addition to supporting the web app. Progressive Web Apps (PWA) is a new concept that promises to unify the web for […]
The post Progressive Web Apps (PWA) for WebRTC (Trond Kjetil Bremnes) appeared first on webrtcHacks.
Demand for WebRTC developers is stronger than supply.
My inbox is filled with requests for experienced WebRTC developers on a daily basis. It ranges from entrepreneurs looking for a technical partner, managers searching for outsourcing vendors to help them out. My only challenge here is that developers and testers who know a thing or two about WebRTC are hard to find. Finding developers who are aware of the media stack in WebRTC, and not just dabbled into using a github “hello world” demo – these are truly rare.
This is why I created my WebRTC course almost 2 years ago. The idea was to try and share my knowledge and experience around VoIP, media processing and of course WebRTC, with people who need it. This WebRTC training has been a pleasant success, with over 200 people who took it already. And now it is time for the 4th round of office hours for this course.Who is this WebRTC training for?
This WebRTC course is for anyone who is using WebRTC in his daily work directly or indirectly. Developers, testers, software architects and product managers will be those who benefit from it the most.
It has been designed to give you the information necessary from the ground up.
If you are clueless about VoIP and networking, then this course will guide you through the steps needed to get to WebRTC. Explaining what TCP and UDP are, how HTTP and WebSockets fit on top of it, going to the acronyms used by WebRTC (SRTP, STUN, TURN and many others).
If you have VoIP knowledge and experience, then this course will cover the missing parts – where WebRTC fits into your world, and what to take special attention to, assuming a VoIP background (WebRTC brings with it a different mindset to the development process).
What I didn’t want to do, is have a course that is so focused on the specification that: (1) it becomes irrelevant the moment the next Chrome browser is released; (2) it doesn’t explain the ecosystem around WebRTC or give you design patterns of common use cases. Which is why I baked into the course a lot of materials around higher level media processing, the WebRTC ecosystem and common architectures in WebRTC.
TL;DR – if you follow this blog and find it useful, then this course is for you.Why take it?
The question should be why not?
There are so many mistakes and bad decisions I see companies doing with WebRTC. From deciding how to model their media routes, to where to place their TURN servers (or configure them). Through how to design scale out, to which open source frameworks to pick. Such mistakes end up a lot more expensive than any online course would ever be.
In April, next month, I will be starting the next round of office hours.
While the course is pre-recorded and available online, I conduct office hours for a span of 3-4 months twice a year. In these live office hours I go through parts of the course, share new content and answer any questions.What does it include?
The course includes:
In the past two months I’ve been working on refreshing some of the content, getting it up to date with recent developments. We’ve seen Edge and Safari introducing WebRTC during that time for example. These updated lessons will be updated in the course before the official launch.When can I start?
Whenever you want. In April, I will be officially launching the office hours for this course round. At that point in time, the updated lessons will be part of the course.
What more, there will be a new lesson added – this one about WebRTC 1.0. Philipp Hancke was kind enough to host this lesson with me as a live webinar (free to attend live) that will become an integral lesson in the course.
If you are interested in joining this lesson live:
You can always take it later on, but I won’t be able to guarantee pricing or availability of the office hours at that point in time.
If you plan on doing anything with WebRTC in the next 6 months, you should probably enroll today.
And by the way – if you need to come as a team to up the knowledge and experience in WebRTC in your company, then there are corporate plans for the course as well.
CONTENT UPGRADE: If you are serious about learning WebRTC, then check out my online WebRTC training: