DOCSIS and PacketCable

Categories:Uncategorized

Author: John Coates

As we all know, Cable is an increasingly popular method of providing services to customers’ premises yet an initial impression could be that the capital costs of providing the infrastructure would rule out any reasonable business plan being accepted.  So what is it that makes it a viable business alternative?

From the exclusivity of ownership point of view it is clearly a ‘no-brainer’ but there are also technical reasons that make it a viable commercial platform.  The transition of cable  companies from entertainment-centric providers into Service Providers offering most of the services of established Telcos is also a key and very lucrative reason.

The Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications (DOCSIS) employed over cable networks has seen four major revisions to bring us to the current DOCSIS 3.0.  Thus the development has seen improved QoS allowing voice calling, increased upstream reliability, massively increased speed allocations and latency guarantees, IPV6 support and, of course, IPTV.

So this is where PacketCable comes in.  PacketCable uses the DOCSIS infrastructure to act as the basis for using IP across a wide range of multimedia services to enable the provision of multimedia services including  telephony, conferencing and interactive applications, with a particular focus on compatibility of devices.

Apart from the USA and the UK, DOCSIS3.0 can be found in a surprisingly large number of countries, including Holland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Finland, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal.

Learn more about DOCSIS and PacketCable on our DOCSIS 3.0 Supercamp:

TEDxLiverpool

Categories:Uncategorized

Author: Jamie Roberts

The TED organisation started out in 1984, formed out of the belief that ideas have the power to change the world that we live in. The TED conferences bring together people from the worlds of Technology, Entertainment and Design to speak about the work they have been carrying out. The speakers at these TED global conferences are always inspirational and the topics can often provide a breath of hopeful fresh air in times where the mass media often focuses on the ‘doom and gloom’ view of how humanity is developing.

The TED format had spread over the years and spawned a number of TEDx events. These are organised independently of the main TED organisation (though with it’s blessing) locally and follow a similar format, though usually focused local rather than on global issues. In February, I attended TEDxLiverpool and was very impressed with the spekers. I plan to talk more about the content in a future blog but today I’d like to focus on the context.

The event was smoothly organised, hosted in the Liverpool John Moores University Art & Design Academy, and compere’d by @herbkim, who’s expert hosting  set the tone. There were two sessions during the day, followed by an after-party at a nearby bar. Between the sessions the area outside the lecture hall has been set out in a format conducive to mingling, indeed, I spent most of the day with a few people I’d not previously met and ended up leaving the bar at closing time.

The speakers from the day all attended the after party and I had plenty of time to speak with all of them, about this work, the experience that led them to it and also purely socially. The format lends itself so well to networking, so many business functions revolve around specific fields of work but as the topics are so varied during the day it forces you to move outside of your comfort zone and really think through the subject matter in an environment where the expert has a drink in their hand!

With a day of thought provoking talks and an evening with new friends I went to sleep that night having been challenged and entertained and feeling connected to a new community.

Nothing Can Be The Same…

Categories:Uncategorized

Author: John Coates

It’s apparent in designing your own house and just as recognisable at every level down to such mundane areas like buying clothes, PCs and even garden fencing – The desire for your service providers to mould their products and services so they reflect exactly what you want or need.

Gone are the days when you could have a Ford car in any colour as long as it was black or the famous (infamous?) British Motor Corporation policy in the 1960’s of not accepting that their cars could be delivered with existing problems.

I used to work for British Telecom in the days when they were called the Post Office and all their customers were called ‘subscribers’.  How grateful we must have been to be accepted as a ‘subscriber’ and get our phone installed within 6 months of order!   But as in all things there was also good with bad.  Foremost amongst the good aspects about the Post Office in those days was the brilliant apprenticeships covering all aspect of telecommunications and the underlying yet unspoken adherence to quality in everything that was done.  So many people in positions of influence are there today due to their early training in BT.

Another very strong ethic that it was a public service where a little old lady with a party line (a phone line shared with another ‘subscriber’) received the same level of response as a large company with sixty lines.  Was that wrong?……Discuss in no more than 1000 words…….

But to get back to my point – We are now in the age of instant gratification and to succeed markets must not only be swift to close opportunities they must also offer the customer a wide choice.  Everyone’s needs seem to be different.

In Technical training this is definitely the case.  Standard courses often only offer a barebones appreciation of specifics because there are so many options and sub-options to suit the needs of each customer.  Unified Communications is a perfect example of this trend where not only are there multiple choices from vendor specific solutions (Cisco Unified Communications v9 is an example) but there are also multiple vendors filling the needs with interfaces that are or are becoming industry standards.  And these functions are needed to ensure their own customers are given the options they need – circles within circles

This is why NTS have developed and are continuing to add to our Multi-Vendor Unified Communications lab – to allow customers the ability to define, trial and receive training on their own specific aspects.  Much the same as designing your own house, really……….

First conference of the year

Categories:Uncategorized

Author: Eileen

Learning Technologies (http://www.learningtechnologies.co.uk/) and Learning & Skills Conference (http://www.learningandskillsevents.com/) always gets an interesting mix of people. Training companies like us, academics and trainers, HR L&D people looking for courses/LMSs for their employees, e-learning technology providers, recruiters looking for L&D and e-learning people, and the list goes on. Nearly everyone who touches professional continuing education is there, and you get a chance to speak face to face with people usually fenced off by well-meaning gatekeepers.

Four things to remember at the exhibition: make a plan of who you can’t miss, don’t fill up your schedule with presentations, approach anyone whose stall looks interesting to hear what they have to say, and exchange your business cards liberally.

The first thing I do at the exhibition is form a plan of attack. This is to make sure we don’t miss anyone particularly important to us; it’s a big exhibition. If I’m over-prepared, I’ll have scoped out the vendors before the day and made note of who looks interesting. Once my badge and the big conference booklet are collected, I take a seat in the food area, grab a coffee, and take half an hour to skim through the vendors, marking the most interesting ones and circling where they are on the floorplan.

Now, the person who first suggested I attend LTLSC had insisted on avoiding the exhibition presentations. She said — just talk to the people. This year we sampled the presentations and I understood why. The presentations we sat in were either replaceable by visiting a stall, or the content and delivery were lacking. We had expected to gain great insights into the future of e-learning, only to find out that we were already up to speed. Perhaps the presentations at the actual conference run alongside would have served us better in this.

We did however have our approach to learning echoed by the industry 70-20-10 rule mentioned in both presentations: that 70% of learning takes place on the job, 20% from your peers, and 10% in the classroom. We understand this. This is why we make sure our training is job-focused, and we lean towards providing experiential learning such as hands-on workshops that are going to be memorable, instead of death-by-powerpoint.

Post-presentations we started working through vendors circled on the map, while trying to sidestep the unmarked vendors trying to pull us into their stalls. This can be daunting. After visiting a few stalls, we embarked on a new strategy — look for the vendors with creative and interesting logos. Surprisingly, we found this worked, as only fun and like-minded people would choose something like a dinosaur for their logo (curatr.co.uk).

We also stopped for anything that caught our tech expert’s eye – like a device that could make any screen into an interactive whiteboard (www.interactivecorporatesolutions.co.uk), or a voting app (www.qwizdom.co.uk) for smartphones that interacted with PowerPoint so you could check learner understanding as you went through a presentation, or a colourful hands-on exercise for technical people and non-technical people to communicate more effectively (the solution was, in fact, trivial).

Next year we hope to be at both days so do keep an eye out for us.

Co-working

Categories:Collaboration, Uncategorized

Author: Sean Gleeson

Wherever you work from, it’s easy to get caught in your own little bubble, and fail to see other points of view. In an office, at least you have other people around to bounce ideas off of, but what about those of us that work from home? What if you’re a freelancer, and only have your own thoughts for company?

To combat this, numerous co-working days have sprung up around the country. These events, where people can go and work with others like them, are invaluable for the lone worker, or even just for those who like a change of scenery from time to time.

Here in Liverpool, Jelly is one such co-working day run out of Leaf on Bold Street. For those of you that don’t know, Leaf is a tea shop-cum-bar that caters to a wide variety of patrons, and provides a large, airy upstairs room solely for Jelly’s use on the first and third Thursday of each month. Here, a wide variety of workers come to chat, network, and generally get on with the tasks they have in hand.

The first time Jamie and I attended, I was unsure of what to expect. I had envisioned something like a business lunch, with people milling around and passing out business cards. What I actually found was lots of people sitting at long tables working on laptops. It was a touch intimidating, but we sat down and got on with our work. If nothing else, being in a different environment meant that this felt more like we had ‘gone to work’ and we got a lot done. However, by the end of the day, we had spoken to no-one else. In fact, it took a few visits to really get the lay of the land and speak to some of the other attendees.

By then, we had begun to recognise people, say hello, and, finally, break out and chat. We started to discover who people were, what they did, and why they were there. It was then that the real power of these days became apparent. Although we may not find people there that are in the training market, nor indeed potential customers, what we have found is creative people, people that can look at what we’re trying to do with fresh eyes and offer a different perspective. Just as the graphic designer, working on a logo for a small business, might be interested to hear the ideas of the people sat next to him, and get feedback on how his designs make them feel, so we can discuss our plans and ideas with people who are not our competitors, who don’t have a vested interest in our success or failure, but are merely offering friendly advice for no other reason than they can – and they may one day want some advice from you.

Everyone likes to feel needed and included, and by allowing people from different spheres of business to come together in this way, co-working days bring a very different perspective to your work, and can breathe fresh life into even the most jaded of workers.

And, if nothing else, it’s always nice to get out of the office.

Kickstarted

Categories:Uncategorized

Author: Jamie Roberts

Reading the coverage from this year’s CES it’s been very apparent that the future seems to be in crowdfunding. The more I think back about the past year, the more I realize that most of the most exciting sounding products have been paid for long before they’re available.

The Ouya games consoles runs android and is poised to deliver a whole new paradigm into console games development. Their idea is to bring the ease of deployment from smartphones into the living room, freeing games developers up from the lengthy and expensive process of getting their games published for any of the major consoles. Their funding total currently stands at over 900% of their original target and we’ve seen the developer editions of the hardware delivered into excited waiting hands.

Starting a business is fraught with challenges to overcome and at first, cash-flow issues are the main reason why otherwise successful businesses fail. Platforms like kickstarter must provide a brilliant injection which is repayable only by fulfilling pre-orders! Cash-flow Nirvana.

This kind of innovation enabling solution can only be good for the industries it applies to and the wider business community. I’m looking forward as ever to seeing what new kinds of products, particularly in niche markets can be funded this way now we’re starting to see some major successes to build the awareness. There must be thousands of business ideas in the back of peoples minds that would have been impossible to fund years ago that maybe now can be brought to light.

Working in a Bubble

Technology nowadays is pretty amazing, we can work from near enough anywhere and use the same tools on our phones as we do on our desktops. A lot of what we do at NTS is done through the cloud now, which is great, and because of this I’m able to work from home most of the time.

Recently though, I’m starting to feel the bubble close around me and despite all of my collaboration tools and the conversations and video conferences I’m having each day, I still feel sometimes like I’m missing out on some aspect of work that I had when I was tied to an office.

On the other hand, I’m a lot more productive now than I ever was before, this bubble stops 80% of the distractions I faced in an office and it seems like I get a lot more done with my time. What’s the balance? Well Sean and I live close by so we’ve been experimenting with working at each others houses one day a week. Most of the time we get the distraction free environment, and that one day we get to freely bounce ideas off one another and tell jokes and chat a little more than we would if we weren’t face to face.

So far it seems to be working well, the sense of isolation seems to be dropping off and I’ve progressed some ideas that I hadn’t in while. As a technology company, it’s easy for us to think of all the benefits of collaboration enabling technology but even with all of that, the value of face to face collaboration is still huge.

Collaboration Flying High!

So I managed to have a call with Richard Bennett from Avaya while he was mid-flight to new york, he was using his Avaya Flare experience client over the Gogo wifi service in flight. Not only was it good to catch up but it’s when you have experiences like that one that you really realise how far unified communications and collaboration has come over the past few years. It’s one of the technologies that some people complain has never really blossomed the way people expected but I think that those people might be underestimating the impact the technology has had so far and how far it can go.

I’ve recently upgraded to 30Mb broadband at home and suddenly I’m using video much more frequently. Up until now the experience hasn’t been seamless enough but with our changeover to office 365 internally and the upgrade in broadband speed, suddenly I’m collaborating more, and the technology has come into it’s own.

I always feel that once technology gets to the point where it can work effectively over consumer grade equipment and connections, then the value of it increases exponentially. Over the coming months I’m going to be pushing this further, seeing how we can leverage these technologies internally and externally to make our business run better and seeing what can be achieved between Richard and myself when he’s on a plane has made me feel like there’s even more possibility than I thought.

Google Glass Demo from Google I/O

Categories:Uncategorized

Author: Jamie Roberts

 

Yes this really happened, a live streaming, skydiving, first person webcast from Google’s forthcoming glass product.

Reminds me of the opening scene from Iron Man 2…

Social Media: Getting to Grips with LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become an invaluable tool for many organizations, and I see no reason why it should be any different for ours. However, getting to grips with it has been a tricky proposition.

Firstly, I’ve had to decide exactly how to use my LinkedIn account. Although it may well be nice to add every friend that approaches you, I quickly realised that this was going to leave my profile bloated and unusable. The plain fact of the matter is that no matter how good a friend you are with a primary school teacher, they are going to be unlikely to help you find business and bring in revenue. And, let’s be honest, if they’re that good of a friend, then why wouldn’t they just tell you about any opportunity that they heard anyway?

The counterpoint to that is how many of your friends and acquaintances can be of use to you. A quick search of my university classmates turned up some surprising results – I had a new and social media analyst in New York, a Financial Controller for an IT company in Hong Kong, and an IT support worker for a major magazine in London (not quite so surprising, to be honest, as I’m still close to him). On top of this, friends whose jobs I only had a passing familiarity with suddenly became much more interesting when looked at through the eyes of a possible working partner. Connections were made, and roots laid for possible future business.

The best way to make a good first impression is to ensure that your profile is as complete as possible. Now, I’m still working on this, so I can’t claim to be the expert, but adding a photograph, work history and personal details immediately make your page look ‘live.’ There is nothing more frustrating than finding an old colleague or friend, and finding their page to be barren. Without a photo, how can I tell if this is the John Smith I worked with three years ago? What clues has he left behind? If the answer is none, then you may very well have missed out on a potential partner.

Elicit recommendations from the people you work with. If it comes down to a choice of two potential contractors, one with no recommendations, and one who has ten people saying what a great person he is to do business with then, if all other things are equal, who would you choose?

Finally, don’t be afraid to be cheeky. We’re all used, in this Web2.0 age, to being ‘friends’ with people we’ve barely met, and so we’re conditioned to accept requests. Although this seems to be at odds with my first point, it’s really not – I’m not talking about real-life friends, I’m talking about the people you don’t know, but who may be useful. If you talk to someone on the phone for two minutes, immediately add them on LinkedIn. If you’re fresh in their memory, there’s every chance they’ll accept, and, if they do, then you’ve just opened up a new route to your partners or customers.

As with Facebook, however, it’s always important to remember that, behind every profile is a person. So, whether it’s for business purposes or not, a friendly hello every once in a while doesn’t hurt. Oh, and it may just remind the people behind the profiles who they should have been talking to to help them out of a bind recently…

Feel free to visit my LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sean-gleeson/50/785/b57 and let me know what you think. Remember, it’s very much still a work in progress, so if you have any tips or hints of your own, let me know, and you may get credited in a future blog.