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TMCnet Feature

December 02, 2013

NPRG Analyst Deems Mobile Pulse, Nest Founder Fadell Among Best of 2013

TMCnet recently spoke to some of our favorite tech analysts and pundits about the 2013 year and the year ahead in technology. Here’s our interview with Craig Clausen, executive vice president and principal analyst at New Paradigm Resources Group Inc.

Who do you consider 2013’s most interesting person in tech?

“Many notable names that we could talk about, each one as worthy as the next.  I’m going to go with someone whose name might not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but is someone who has played a significant role in technology. The most interesting person to me this past year is Tony Fadell.  Among other things, Tony was the lead inventor of the iPod when he was with Apple. He is now CEO of Nest, a Silicon Valley startup. What’s intriguing (and impressive) to me is that Mr. Fadell is now taking common household appliances most people rarely give much thought about and turning these into devices that incorporate additional sensors and intelligence allowing them to ‘learn’ users behaviors to provide not only improved performance but also enhanced functionality.

“Fadell’s current work initially focused on thermostats and has moved onto smoke detectors – those simple boxes that sit on our ceilings, unnoticed until we go through the semi-annual ritual of changing their batteries when clocks are adjusted due to daylight saving. With the additional sensors and intelligence Fadell has built into them, as well as their ability to be networked and communicate with one another, these devices are the first steps in moving toward the development of a system that creates a truly smart home environment. Given the discussions that have gone on about smart homes (I remember touring a house in Little Rock some 25 years ago that was touted as being smart), the progress that has been made has been marginal at best and takes a piecemeal approach to a much larger set of challenges and targets. Given Tony Fadell’s track record, his vision of what a smart home can be, and his initial steps toward that vision, he’s been most interesting to me.”

What was the biggest tech failure of 2013?

“Without a doubt, the biggest tech failure of 2013 was the Health Insurance Marketplace, the software system developed to facilitate the purchase of medical insurance as mandated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (more commonly referred to as Obamacare). Putting the politics of it aside and looking at the technological aspects only, the Health Insurance Marketplace rollout represents the most significant technological failure in the industry in 2013 for a number of reasons. And with each of these reasons, there are associated lessons worth taking note of. First, and most obviously, the system did not work at the time of launch. 

“Given the central importance of the system to the new health care law, this failure to function would put this as the most significant tech failure of the year. However, there are compounding factors that solidify the Marketplace’s position as the most significant failure or the year. Nearly $1 billion was spent on developing the system and based on previous experiences in software development, NPRG anticipates that correcting the systems flaws will cost approximately 60 to 80 percent of what initial development costs ran. Finally, the Health Insurance Marketplace holds the position for this year’s (decade’s) biggest boondoggle because of the project managers’ lack of knowledge and experience. These, and other factors, came together to make this the biggest technological disaster I can recall seeing.

“There are, however, lessons to be learned and remembered from this debacle. First, an experienced and knowledgeable project management team is essential to the successful development and deployment of any application. And when multiple development teams drawn from multiple vendors are involved, effective project management becomes crucial. Second, rigorous testing of applications is not an option to successful deployment. Testing takes time, and people unfamiliar with the development process may view it as a CYA phase for developers. Shortchanging the testing process for significant development initiatives invariably leads to undesired outcomes. Finally, virtually unlimited budgets cannot overcome deficient project management and poorly conceived testing processes.”

What were the three most important tech developments of 2013?

“Google Glass: While these devices have been the butt of late-night comedians jokes, they are positioned to expand the way we interact with our surroundings, much the way smart mobile devices transformed the way we communicate and access information.

“Google Fiber: With its fiber network launch in a number of U.S. cities, Google is firing a shot across the collective bows of telecom and cable carriers and sending the clear signal that ‘if you guys can’t construct the appropriate access networks needed by users to effectively access Google’s future services , then we (Google) will.’  If the message isn’t heard, Google will continue to ramp up the pressure by building in additional markets.

“Big Data from Mobile Devices: We’re beginning to realize big data’s potential and we’ve recognized the potential mobile devices hold for pushing big data even further. We’ve seen progress toward pulling detailed data from mobile devices beyond what is currently being provided.”

What was the top startup of 2013?

“Mobile Pulse is, in my mind, 2013’s top startup. Mobile Pulse has developed technology that gathers cellular and Wi-Fi network granular data from mobile devices. Initially, it will be used to analyze wireless network performance by network, carrier, device and geography. However, the technology coupled with the richness of the data it can provide holds tremendous potential for delivering insights into a range of network and usage related areas. Mobile Pulse’s technology will also contribute another component of the big data picture.”

What was the most noteworthy acquisition this year?

“Time Warner Cable’s acquisition of DukeNet Communications, the fiber-based carrier arm of Duke Energy, reflects the continued importance of fiber and the opportunity opening for the entities that have been  busy constructing metro fiber networks.”

Which companies are prime candidates for acquisition as the year comes to a close?

“Research in Motion. The company is beyond the point of being able to resurrect itself, and its attractive customer base and portfolio of patents make it an attractive acquisition target.”

Customer experience, the cloud, M2M/IoT, mobile wallet, wearable tech and WebRTC were among the hot topics of discussion in 2013. What do you expect to be the hot topic(s) in 2014?

“Augmented Reality: In part, the launch of Google Glass and other wearable technologies will renew the interest in augmented reality.

“Even Smarter TVs: Manufacturers will bring their focus back to in-home televisions the way cell phone vendors focused on smart phone development. 

“Network Security: especially for health care entities.”

If there's just one thing related to tech that businesses need to know going into 2014, what is it?

“Businesses would be well advised to heed the words of a good friend of mine (and an outstanding technology mind): ‘You’re not safe.’ Network security should be on all businesses priority list for 2014.”

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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