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Podcast 5: Smart homes revolution is coming!

September 18, 2020

Posted by: IoT global network

Brand new connected home over IP (CHIP) standards from the Zigbee Alliance are set to give frustrated smart home owners the ease of use, security, and interoperability they demand. But not before Jeremy Cowan and his guests Steve Hanna of Infineon and journalist Dave Howell tackle the messy issues of Elon Musk and pigs’ brains, anti-COVID wearables, and ‘smart motorways’ that are just dumb!

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Podcast transcript:

Jeremy Cowan  0:04 

Hi, and welcome to the latest Tech Trends
podcast brought to you by VanillaPlus, IoT Now and The Evolving
Enterprise
. I’m Jeremy Cowan, and I’m so glad you could join us for today’s
sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted look at digital transformation for
enterprises.

Now in a moment, our guests are going to
share the serious tech news that’s interested them lately. Our first guest is a
senior systems architect and a specialist in networking and security. And I
will be quizzing him on the chances of a revolution soon in the adoption of
smart homes coming about through new standards. And our second guest is a
hugely experienced tech journalist. Even better than this, both of them are
practised podcasters so you can relax, at least two people here know what
they’re doing. And finally, in “What The Tech!”we’ll share the
stories that have made us smile or just curse lately. So, let’s meet our
guests. First, I want to welcome to the Tech Trends Pod, Steve Hanna,
senior principal at our sponsors for today, German semiconductor company Infineon
technologies. Steve, welcome.

Steve Hanna  1:19 

Thank you, Jeremy. Great to be here.

Jeremy Cowan  1:22 

Steve, where do we find you today?

Steve Hanna  1:25 

I’m here at my home in lovely Florida,
sheltering in place and enjoying some pleasant weather.

Jeremy Cowan  1:32 

Well, we can all be envious wherever we
are, I’m sure. Well, we’re doubly pleased for your involvement, Steve. I’ve
been wanting to talk about smart homes since we started these podcasts. And
we’re delighted to have Infineon here as the sponsors of today’s pod. So, thank
you.

Steve Hanna  1:49 

Our pleasure.

Jeremy Cowan  1:51 

Our next guest is UK-based technology
journalist, Dave Howell, welcome to the pod. Tell us a little bit about your
background.

Dave Howell  2:00 

Hi, Jeremy. Yep. Great to be part of this
one. Basically, I’ve been writing about technology, it’s probably been three
decades, I guess, now. I started off back in the day, sort of writing about
home computers, Ataris and Amstrads and Dragon PCs, all the rest of it. So,
I’ve kind of seen how it kind of started out with some very basic tech and then
we started talking about AI, and intelligent homes. It’s been an interesting
journey.

Jeremy Cowan  2:33 

We’ve all come a long way. Well, it’s great
to have you here. Okay, let’s start with the headlines. Dave, I’m going to come
to you first. What caught your attention in the news?

Dave Howell  2:42 

Well, for me, I’ve been tracking I guess
what we call wearable technology for decades, to be honest. Yeah, we all wear
technology, you know, a wristwatch is a piece of technology. We’re used to
that. You know your spectacles are a piece of technology, but it’s interesting
for really the last five years that’s really accelerated. And recently in the
news, we’ve been looking at, I guess, the next evolution of what it means for
that particular piece of technology. What do you mean when we say we want to
wear a piece of tech? And then we have bioactive inks. We have wearable
textiles, we have intelligent e-textiles. It’s all very, very sort of sci-fi,
but not so much, because this stuff is proven. Wouldn’t it be great to have a
garment that was intelligent? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to wear a jacket
or a shirt or a cap, or these days a facemask that was intelligent, that had
some kind of intelligence built into the textiles? And that kind of thing is
here. That’s not science fiction anymore.

Jeremy Cowan  3:50 

That’s an astonishing turnaround. Even six
months ago, we wouldn’t have been talking about face masks. So things are
evolving quickly. What sort of applications do you think are likely to become
the most popular in the next few years?

Dave Howell  4:04 

Well, initially, this kind of tech came out
of fashion. You may have seen stuff on the news for the last few years, some of
the more advanced fashion houses were putting some LEDs into clothing, on the
catwalk, that kind of thing. The most interesting stuff, of course, is coming
out of medical. That’s really where the advances are being made. What can we do
with that kind of technology? Wouldn’t it be great to have my shirt, say – I’m
sitting here with a shirt on – and what if that shirt was monitoring my vital
signs? What if that information was being beamed directly to my GP’s (doctor’s)
server? And if I’m sat here and I have a bit of a turn, he knows about that. You
know, that kind of thing has been possible with watches and with other sort of
wearable devices which are strapped to your body. It becomes more interesting
when you go to your local supermarket and buy some clothing and its intelligent.
Medical healthcare really is going to embrace this kind of stuff very, very
quickly because there’s an obvious gain there. It’s not a piece of technology
you need to give people and make them wear, we all wear clothes. So, let’s make
them intelligent. Let’s monitor vital signs. But it’s more interesting than
that.

Because we’re in the age of COVID, let’s
move that sort of idea forward. What if we had clothing, maybe even facemasks, that
could detect the COVID virus, so you’re walking down the street and if you did
come in contact with a COVID particle, your clothing tells you that, changes colour,
makes a noise, beams something to your local GP. Maybe your face mask changes
colour, maybe someone that you’re walking down the street approaching, and
their face marks changes colour, maybe red becomes the COVID colour. And of
course, then you can cross the road because you don’t want to get near that
person because you may or may not be exposed to the COVID virus.

That kind of thing is really interesting, I
think. It’s something that is accelerating very quickly. And I think
ultimately, if we sort of take this stuff to its conclusion, what do we end up
with? Well, we kind of end up with, I guess what you’d call sort of a digital
epidermis, your skin becomes a digital platform for lots of different things,
not just medical, for entertainment, and all the rest of it, but medical first.
So that idea of a digital skin is really coming into focus.

Jeremy Cowan  6:35 

You know, we’ve been talking about digital twins for industry for that long. It sounds as though digital twinning could come much closer to home in the consumer environment. That’s really interesting. Thanks, Dave.

Dave Howell  6:40 

No worries.

Jeremy Cowan  6:48 

Steve, let me turn to you. Which tech story
did you notice recently?

Steve Hanna  6:53 

Well, I’ve been working on smart home for
more than 20 years now, and I saw a news story in Verge – and I think it
actually appeared a couple of other places as well – which to me is the most
exciting news that has appeared in that more than 20 year period. The news
story is about a standards effort, connected home over IP. And this standard
effort is a movement. I think you could call it a groundswell, an industry-wide
trend and effort to create a fully interoperable, smart home ecosystem spanning
all the different companies and their different products. And this includes not
only companies that make appliances and light bulbs and switches and the like,
but also companies like Apple and Google and Amazon and Samsung, who have their
own ecosystems, their own smart home systems that until now have not been able
to really talk to each other. So, this is incredibly frustrating. I’m sure your
listeners have shared my experience of going out and buying a new smart home
device and bringing it home. And despite your best efforts, you can’t get it to
work with the other ones that you have at home already. And, you know, then you
end up needing to buy everything from one company or all part of one ecosystem
to make it work together properly. The promise of this connected home over IP
effort is full interoperability across all of our devices, our smart home
devices, and across all of our controlling devices and ecosystems as well. So
you should be able to control any appliance or other smart home device with any
of your tablet or smart speaker or anything like that, and do it in a uniform
way that ensures ease of use, efficiency and security. That’s what we want out
of this smart home, not something where it takes me half the day to set up a
device that I bought at the store.

Jeremy Cowan  9:26 

Yeah, I’m sure you’re right, I can see open
standards being an absolute godsend, not only to the early adopters, who’ve
struggled as you said, but bringing this to a much, much wider audience who are
going to find it’s no longer the province of the technologically most
proficient.

Steve Hanna  9:48 

Exactly. You shouldn’t need a doctorate to
set up a smart home. (Laughter)

Jeremy Cowan  9:53 

And I’m sure so many people listening to
this will have tried to do this. So how soon do you think we will be getting to
the stage where these kind of standards are not just being talked about but
actually deployed?

Steve Hanna  10:09 

I would expect, and the Verge story
confirms, that next year in 2021, when we all emerge from our caves, so to
speak, post-COVID, I’ll be optimistic on that as I am an optimist, that at that
time we’ll have these devices available. Of course, it will be a gradual
transition, a trickle turning to a stream turning to a torrent over time as
these devices become broadly available, or as the technology is built into
devices that we may already have. But yes, that’s the goal and the announcement
from ZigBee Alliance last week indicated that we are still on track to see that
goal being met. So, it’s not on the distant horizon.

Jeremy Cowan  11:09 

I think that’s just another reason to be
looking forward to 2021. So, it’s great to hear it. I’ll tell you, there was
some news last week that really struck a chord with me. I’m a bit of a
petrolhead that makes me possibly someone from the 19th century rather than the
or the 20th century anyway, not the 21st. And one topic that really makes my
blood boil at the moment is so called “Smart Motorways”. I don’t know if you’ve
come across them where you are. These are three lane highways in each
direction, now being expanded to four lanes to speed traffic flows. So far, so
good, you may say. Except some bright spark had the idea that to save space and
construction time, by taking away the escape lane used in emergencies, it would
turn it into a fourth lane. So, If you have an emergency while driving on a UK
smart motorway, you’d better hope that you can free-wheel to the next escape
area. And by the way, that may be a mile and a half away or over two
kilometers. So the UK Government admitted in January when pressed by the media
that smart motorways have already been responsible for 38 deaths. That’s 38, in
my view, avoidable deaths in the last five years – except by now, since
January, it’s probably more. Some people say that’s not an awful lot, although
I suspect there are 38 families out there who would strongly disagree. So, it’s
probably more if you count Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland as well,
which have also adopted smart motorways.

I can hear you saying, what on earth has
this got to do with today’s Tech Trends podcast? The answer is, I was
fascinated to read on IoTNowTransport.com that help may at last be
coming. And help is coming from a strange source; induction loops or cameras
are currently installed every 400 metres along UK motorways and many others.
But these point sensors obviously can’t monitor the entire motorway, and the
camera system used to spot broken down vehicles can take an average of 17
minutes to spot a vehicle in trouble. Even worse, it then takes another 17
minutes for a rescue team to reach the scene. But there’s a UK company called
Fotech – I think they are a spin-off or a subsidiary of BP – that points out
that sensor networks for smart motorways are actually connected via fibre
cabling which could be used as a sensor. So, if you add distributed acoustic
sensor technology that can convert the cable into thousands of vibration
sensors, as if almost you’re deploying an army of microphones along the
roadway. Anyway, these IoT-enabled vibration sensors can detect disruptions in
traffic flow, as vehicles slow or speed up or change lanes. And the software
can tell traffic managers what’s happening, and where and when. And it’ll do it
in real time. So, I’m sitting here, I don’t know how you feel about it, guys,
but I hope this works. And that transport officials finally see the benefits of
the technological solution that may be open to them.

Dave Howell  14:39 

Yes, I think some advance has to be made
there. I mean, clearly, we’re on the cusp of a transport revolution with
autonomous vehicles. I think initially, that’s probably going to be in freight.
They’re going to be driverless articulated lorries whizzing up or down the
motorways in the next 10 years. Clearly, there’s gonna have to be some kind of
very, very good safety systems in place there. If an articulated lorry is doing
70 miles an hour, without a driver. That’s going to have to be something that
will all have to be signed off on before that becomes a reality. But I think
that’s initially where this kind of thing will probably get tested. It’s
something that everyone can see is an issue. And there is a technological
solution, but it may be a group of tech, which really delivers the whole thing.
It’s kind of a, we’ll see how that goes. But it’s absolutely right, that
something has to give there. We can’t just rush into this autonomous vehicle
future without thinking about safety.

Jeremy Cowan  15:47 

Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. I know that
the early tests involving driverless heavy goods vehicles have involved
ganging, as they call it, of up to five trucks at a time. And that’s been done
by some of the biggest names in technology, working on trials in northern
Spain, amongst others. So, it’s gonna be very interesting to see what that
does. I’m sure this distributed acoustic sensor technology, you know, is only
one of a number of possibilities, but at least somebody seems to be thinking
that this is needed.

Steve Hanna  16:23 

Yes, very promising. I will caution that
transitioning something from the theory into practice is a non-trivial effort.
And one often encounters, almost always, some unexpected obstacles along the
way. So, it’s good to have the hope and expectation, but it’s good to be
realistic as well that this may not be an overnight sensation, but may require
some additional work to make it practical.

Jeremy Cowan  16:53 

I think those are wise words, Steve.
Anyway, let’s move on from that. Steve, let’s get back to smart homes because,
as we’ve said, there seems as though there may be a revolution coming. I mean,
we’ve talked obviously, you just mentioned that the need to caution when change
is in the air. Can you set the scene for us? What are the current challenges
for smart homes?

Steve Hanna  17:22 

So, I think there are a few that everybody
could agree upon. And these are ones that are borne out by customer surveys. Really
the top three are; it’s too hard to use, things don’t work together, and there
are sometimes security problems. So, ease of use, interoperability and security
are all three cited as concerns, problems or issues by customers and, and a
challenge given an approach where everybody is going their own way and
developing their own smart home technologies.

Jeremy Cowan  18:07 

What is it that you think could help
address these challenges?

Steve Hanna  18:10 

Well, I think the key here is the same sort
of thing that was done when the internet protocol was developed. It wasn’t so
much that there were flaws in the previous networking protocols. It was just
that they, well, they didn’t work together. So, if you were using Apples in
those days, Apple talk, and somebody else was using IBM’s token ring, or something
else entirely, Ethernet or Novell, these things didn’t work. The email systems
weren’t interoperable, and certainly the machines couldn’t talk to each other.

And it was the creation of this common
protocol created as a community effort, an open effort which enabled the full
interoperability and then the subsequent innovation that we saw with the
development of IP, and then the creation of the modern internet. It didn’t come
from nowhere. It came from companies who had the experience of building networks,
proprietary networks, and operating those for decades. And they took the
lessons learned as well as the technologies and brought those together to say,
you know, create a best of breed product that everyone could use.

Jeremy Cowan  19:44 

And you mentioned IP. Could you just
describe the work that’s being done in this push towards Connected Home over IP
standards, or I think it’s shortened to CHIP standards? Why is that so
important?

Steve Hanna  20:00 

It’s essential because it’s one thing to
have a common communication mechanism like IP, and the technologies underlying
it like WiFi or Bluetooth or Thread, for that matter. But it’s another to
actually have interoperability among the different devices. So yes, in theory,
you might have two things connected to WiFi. Could they talk to each other?
Yes, in theory, but in practice, it’s rather like having a cellphone network
where the people speak different languages. Yes, they could talk. But one’s speaking
German and one’s speaking English, it’s not going to happen. (Laughter)

So what you need is not just the technical
interoperability, interoperability of the physical and logical layers, but you
need that interoperability at the application layer. They need to be able to
talk about something in a common and agreed-upon language, and this is the
approach that Project Connected Home over IP, or as some call it Project CHIP, takes.
Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Let’s reuse the wheel and create a common system
of cars and motorways based on the experience that we have already. So, you
know, standardise on things like the shapes of signs, to use that motorway
analogy, so that everybody knows what that sign means. Standardise how large
the vehicles are, and so on and so forth. We’re doing something very similar in
Connected Home over IP, agreeing upon what are the layers and what are the
protocols needed in those layers. And how will those be implemented, and then
creating an open source implementation which actually now is available to
anyone who would like to download it. The project has a GitHub repository with
documents there, as well as source code that people can use, regardless of
whether they’re a formal member of the organisation, to see what’s going on and
how it’s being structured.

Jeremy Cowan  22:21 

Can you give us an idea of where people can
find that information? Where can they access the GitHub?

Steve Hanna  22:28 

The best place to go, the easiest is the ZigBee Alliance, zigbeealliance.org, and then you can find from there, the recent blog post, and from there links to the GitHub. I wouldn’t want to have to try to spell out the whole thing for you. (https://zigbeealliance.org/news_and_articles/project-development-to-reality/)

Jeremy Cowan  22:48 

That’ll enable us to find more. So Infineon’s
obviously taking part in the ZigBee Alliance’s CHIP standard initiative. What
role is Infineon playing exactly?

Steve Hanna  23:00 

Well, Infineon from its founding and even
before its founding, because our heritage goes back to Siemens, the German
technology leader, our DNA is to be a technology leader. That’s who we are. We
create excellent products built on excellent underlying technology. Now, that
being said, we have always been strong supporters of open standards. If you
look, for example, at the Trust Platform Module standard, which is the security
chip used in all of our Windows PCs, and a variety of other embedded systems,
that’s something where Infineom played a leading role. And we are playing a
similar role, a supporting role, but I think an essential one, in Connected
Home over IP. Myself, I’m a security expert. So that’s what I bring to the
effort. Twenty-plus years of experience, in security including with internet
protocols, developing standards in the IETF, the Internet Engineering Task
Force. So, I’m chairing several security groups and involved in all the
security-related groups in project CHIP, but we will eventually assuredly have
products related, but at this time, it’s primarily a technology development
effort. And it’s the leadership and the technical expertise that we can
contribute that we are bringing to project Connected Home over IP.

Jeremy Cowan  24:40 

Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned security. The
question, the last question that I wanted to really get to was, how security
will be mandated for smart home devices. Is it going to be mandatory and if so,
how and why?

Steve Hanna  24:56 

Security is an absolute must for the smart
home. You really can’t have a viable smart home if there’s no security, because
without the security, you lose people’s trust. And trust, once lost is very,
very hard to regain. And for that reason, Project Connected Home over IP has as
a founding principle the necessity of strong security. That is an absolute
requirement and every certified device, every device that’s authorised to
display the logo, will have security adequate to the task of being a smart home
device. We don’t want to have any weak links in the chain, any chinks in the
armour because that’s how the attackers come in. So, yes, it will be built into
not only every device, but every protocol and it is built into every protocol
that we design in Project CHIP.

You know, it even goes to something so
simple as when I take the device out of the box, how do I introduce it to the
network? Do I just turn it on and it automatically finds everything else? Well,
that’s not a secure thing to do. You need to have a more secure way to
introduce the device to the network, so that the device learns, ‘Oh, this is my
new owner’. And the owner can verify, Yes, this is a valid device, and then
they exchange cryptographic secrets, and they’re able to communicate securely
and the device is introduced into the home. It’s not an easy task. I wrote a
paper about this about 20 years ago, about the challenges. And now where we are
after that 20 years of experience is we have concrete, well understood
technologies, the type that are used in many of these devices today where we
can go and say, here’s a good way to introduce the devices. This other way we
tried it, it didn’t work. It was too hard, or, you know, impractical, too
expensive. So, we can take things that are time-tested and known to work and
include those in. But absolutely, security; that is table stakes. It’s an
absolute requirement.

Jeremy Cowan  27:26 

Well, I wish you every success in this.
It’s really encouraging to hear this. Where can we find out more about Infineon’s
work on this, Steve?

Steve Hanna  27:35 

You can go to the ZigBee site, but also go to Infineon. We have a page, Infineon.com/iot-security (https://www.infineon.com/iot-security), where you can find information about our participation in Connected Home over IP and the sort of security technology that we bring to bear, and which can be really valuable for device makers who don’t want to have to reinvent the technology. They would rather build in well-established and certified semiconductors that have security built in – the same sorts of semiconductors that are used in passports and credit cards we have available for IoT devices.

Jeremy Cowan  28:23 

Well, thank you. That’s very encouraging. I
look forward to looking that up and I’m sure you’ll find more traffic coming
your way on that as well.

Okay, we’ve reached the last section of the
podcast called What The Tech, where we share something tech based that either
made a smile or just made us a bit mad. Dave, what’s amused or amazed you?

Dave Howell  28:48 

Oh, that’s an easy one. This whole thing that Elon Musk is doing with pigs!

Jeremy Cowan  28:55 

What?

Dave Howell  28:57

You know, brain implants for our pig friends.
When I read the headline I thought have I misread this? Is this an episode of Black
Mirror? (Laughter)

What’s going on there? And then I read a bit further on and Yep, the guy is implanting pigs with electrodes and other controlling devices, this kind of thing. And it’s very serious, apparently. It’s something that they are actively pursuing, initially to hopefully help with anyone that has some issues with paralysis, that kind of thing. But you read on in the story and I think one of the journalists in the audience asked, well, how are these things installed? And I think the lead scientist said, Well, yeah, we install these things and there may be a little bit of brain damage, but let’s not worry about that. Or there may be a little bit of bleeding on the brain. But again, let’s not worry about that and the pig seems to be fine. It’s just a little bit Frankenstein’s monster for me.

Jeremy Cowan  30:03 

And what’s the ultimate goal? I mean, have
they got a midterm goal, either for the pigs or for the technology?

Dave Howell  30:10 

Absolutely. I think the idea, and I guess
the driving factor behind this is a good idea, it’s to use some kind of
electronic implant to help with a variety of issues. Paralysis always gets
pointed to, but it could be other things like Alzheimer’s maybe, or even simple
things. If you have issues with sight loss, that kind of thing, this kind of
thing could potentially develop some kind of therapy, or at least some kind of
implants. Whether you’d be very keen to have that kind of thing implanted in
your brain, we will see. And we have, you know, cochlear implants and they work
extremely well for people with hearing difficulties. I think it’s just the spin
that Musk puts on these things that, yeah, we’re gonna push the boundaries of
what technology can do with implants. And guess what? We’ll start out with
pigs, and we’ll see what we can do with those guys first. How that’s gonna end
I have no idea, we’re gonna have some kind of cyber pig at some point. I don’t
know. We’ll just see how that goes. But that idea that well, let’s not worry
about brain damage at this stage is a little bit worrying.

Jeremy Cowan  31:26 

Well, you’re right to point out the value
of cochlear implants. And I’m sure, you know, it’s easy to scoff, but it does
mean I’m gonna look at sausages slightly differently for a while.

Steve, what’s tickled you?

Steve Hanna  31:40 

Well, I recently stumbled upon an article,
with some lovely photos as well, on CNN. And this features these photos of
glass, well booths, shall we say, in Tokyo parks that have recently been
installed in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. And at first one says, okay,
you know, maybe it’s a telephone booth or something like that. No, you look a
little more closely and you see that these glass booths are public toilets,
public facilities. (Laughter)

Which seems like it might have a few issues. Well, you’ll be happy to hear that
technology is here to save the day. Of course, the advantage is you can see
into the toilet to see that it’s clean and yes, a place that you want to go and
do your business, so to speak. And when you lock the door, the glass turns
opaque to ensure your privacy. But apparently when you’re on the inside looking
out, you can’t tell the difference or might not notice whether the glass is
actually opaque or not.

Jeremy Cowan  33:00 

Oh, that’s reassuring!

Steve Hanna  33:01 

For that reason, they’ve had some problems
where people go in and they think they locked the door. But no. (Laughter)

You know, they’re doing their business in public. I know, you know, people who
live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones and all that. But I think this may
have made it out of the laboratory a little too early.

Jeremy Cowan  33:27 

(Laughter) I think you may be onto
something there.

Gents, I want to share a story from IoT
Now
. I guess in this case, it falls more into the amazing category. It’s a
news story headlined, “Global citizens face digital frustration and wants
cities to get smarter
”. My own digital frustration tends to start when
Google or Microsoft don’t recognise my passwords, but for some it starts with
where they actually live. According to Capgemini Research Institute, today’s
city living is falling well short of some citizens’ rising expectations in the
digital age. Mind you, this was no small study. The institute explored
responses from I think it was 10,000 citizens and more than 300 city officials
across 10 countries and 58 cities. Don’t ask me how they managed to get so many
city officials to reply. I have trouble getting our council to answer the phone
or emails when the bin lorry doesn’t turn up. Yes, I’m looking at you East Hampshire
Council.

Anyway, Capgemini found many citizens are
fed up with the digital situation in their own city and they seem to be ready
to vote with their feet by leaving for a more digitally advanced city. My first
thought was, I’m not selling my house changing jobs and uprooting my family just
to get 5G or an IoT-connected bus service. But that’s perhaps why Capgemini
didn’t ask me. They say that, on average, 40% of global citizens may leave
their city in the future because of various digital frustrations, and they do
mention some serious issues. For example, 42% of citizens say that pollution is
a major concern, and 36% point to a lack of sustainability initiatives, which
are, you know, serious problems. Six out of 10 citizens believe Smart Cities
are more sustainable and provide better urban services. So, perhaps that
explains why more than a third of the people who were surveyed would actually
pay more for a better urban existence.

Dave Howell  35:54 

I think that’s true, isn’t it? Absolutely. Wasn’t
there some research, probably over five years, I think Ofcom (the UK
communications regulator) did something, didn’t they? And they asked people
what for you are the essentials of life? What you cannot live without. I think
top three was mobile phones and an internet connection and satellite telly.
Yeah. These are the essentials of life, apparently. Food and good family life
and children was well below on the list of stuff that people just cannot live
without. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Capgemini survey right across
the western world is saying, well digital services are an essential part of
life. Everyone understands the frustration when your Wi Fi doesn’t work, or you
want to use Netflix and it doesn’t work and that kind of thing. But does that
become as an essential part of life? Apparently it does.

Steve Hanna  36:50 

Well, I can testify personally. I’ve been
working from home for the last 16 years and a few years ago my wife pointed out
that we could live anywhere you wanted to, as long as we had a good internet
connection. So, at that point we did a little looking around to choose what was
the right place. I think a lot of people in the next few years, now that we’ve
had such extensive experience with remote working, will be doing this to find
what is your ideal location if you really can work from anywhere. Where is that
anywhere going to be? And I expect to see a lot of small, innovative cities
really sparking a Renaissance. This is what’s happening in the city that I live
in now – Clermont, Florida – to put in a plug there. We have it all, we’ve got
a smart city and municipal WiFi, we’ve got a lovely bike trail along a lake
here, not to make anybody too jealous. But I think, really that’s on the cities
to decide, are you going to be a laggard or are you going to be in the avant
garde of technology? If you want to attract that, well, well-compensated
knowledge workers, then you really need to be in the avant garde because they
have their choice of locations. And if they’re and if you don’t have what
they’re looking for, they’re going to pass you by and, and move on to the next idea.

Dave Howell  38:27

I think that’s very interesting, isn’t it?
I was thinking about just the same thing the other day. I read something about
the fallout from COVID, pushing people out of cities and out of large
conurbations to the countryside and small villages. And, of course, in the UK
you go and relocate to a small village and expect a really good internet
connection, well, you’re deluded. You’re not going to get that. So it’s interesting
that COVID and maybe pushing people out of cities into more rural areas might
actually push the large Internet providers – I’m looking at BT – to actually
put decent connections into those rural areas. Finally. So that may be the
positive which comes out of this whole pandemic, if people do leave the cities
in large numbers and demand, really, really very, very good digital services,
which at the moment, you cannot get unless you’re prepared to dig up your own
road and put a very large satellite dish on your house.

Jeremy Cowan  39:28 

You’re right, you’re right, Dave. This is
no longer just about smart cities, which has been a discussion for the last
decade or more. This is about smart countries and smart countryside too. Anyway,
I think we’re just about out of time, guys. I’m very grateful for all your
comments. Let me finish by saying, therefore, a really big thank you. First to
Infineon’s Steve Hanna for all your expertise, Steve, and second for sponsoring
the podcast.

Steve Hanna  39:57 

Happy to do so. Thanks for having us.

Jeremy Cowan  40:00

It’s been great to have you here. And huge thanks also to freelance writer, Dave Howell. Thanks, Dave.

Dave Howell  40:03

It’s been a great chat.

Jeremy Cowan  40:05

It’s been good fun. Thank you, too, Ladies and Gentlemen, for joining us around the world. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you found this pod. And be a total star, give us a 5 Star rating and say something that’ll bring a happy tear to our eyes. It makes such a difference when people are looking for a new podcast.

So, until the next time, keep safe, keep checking IoT-Now.com, VanillaPlus.com and TheEE.ai for tech news and views. And join us again soon for another Tech Trends podcast looking at enterprise digital transformation. Bye for now!   

Our speakers:

Jeremy Cowan,
Editorial director www.IoT-Now.com, www.VanillaPlus.com and www.TheEE.ai

Steve Hanna,
Senior principal, Infineon technologies

Dave Howell
Tech journalist