New numbers show Apple moving 4.5 million iPads per quarter, making it the fastest selling gadget ever.
As if selling 300,000 iPads on day one and two million of them in two months weren’t evidence enough that Apple had a hit on its hands with the iPad, it seems the supertablet has recently been elevated to an even higher status: the fastest-selling gadget ever.
According to Bernstein Research, Apple now moves over 4.5 million iPads per quarter, earning it that enviable title. At that rate, Apple moves more than 49,000 iPads in a single day, or about one every two seconds.
“By any account, the iPad is a runaway success of unprecedented proportion.” said Colin McGranahan, retail analyst at Bernstein Research, in a note to investors. By contrast, DVD players sold only 350,000 in their first year on the market, and it took the iPhone an entire quarter to reach one million units sold.
If it stays on track, analysts suggest it could become a category all its own in consumer electronics, ranking fourth behind TVs, smartphones and notebook PCs with an estimated $9 billion in U.S. sales.
Curiously, despite the comparisons to DVD players and iPhones, Bernstein neglected to mention which gadget, exactly, the iPad had replaced as “best selling,” leaving some question of how contested the title really is.
Despite concerns that iPad sales are cutting into traditional notebook PC sales, NPD reported earlier this month that only 13 percent of iPad owners bought their iPads in place of a conventional computer.
Four out of five Cisco enterprise customers have to shore up their wireless networks, says Chris Kozup, director of mobility solutions marketing at Cisco. Many were caught unprepared to handle the sudden swell of mobile devices—iPhones, Androids and now iPads—during the last couple of years, he says.
“We’re going from a period of three years where we saw growth of about 1 billion WiFi-enabled devices to, say, five years where you’re seeing a growth of about 7 billion,” Kozup says. “Apple has led the pack by really delivering a mobile browsing experience that consumes bandwidth at data rates obviously better suited to a WiFi network.”
Flash back to a few years ago, and you’d be hard pressed to find employees carrying more than one mobile device. Now they’ll have a smartphone, laptop and maybe even a handheld barcode scanner or other wireless device. WiFi devices also have taken on a greater role in the workplace. “They are demanding mission-critical performance,” Kozup says.
Kozup figures 80 percent of Cisco’s customers have some work to do to get their WiFi networks in shape, while 20 percent of customer networks are pretty solid.
Organizations in higher education and healthcare tend to rely heavily on their WiFi networks and thus are fairly well-prepared for the mobile enterprise invasion. Consider that the average college student carries four or five wireless devices, Kozup says. Students and faculty at Florida State College, for instance, want iPads for e-books and PDF handouts, as well as other uses.
The iPad and other WiFi devices have also found a foothold inside hospitals, which isn’t a surprise given the inherent mobility of nurses and doctors. After all, hospitals are the birthplace of the pager. “There’s voice over wireless for nurses, patient call systems, infusion pumps, heart monitors that are WiFi connected,” Kozup says. Healthcare CIOs have been on the frontlines of modern WiFi networks, he says.
On the flip side, Kozup says, financial services tend to be laggards when it comes to WiFi network upgrades to the latest and greatest technologies. That’s because concerns over WiFi security had kept technology adoption at bay. Traditionally slow technology adopters such as energy and utilities also need to make WiFi upgrades, Kozup says.
So what should a CIO do to shore up the WiFi network? Cisco tells customers to concentrate on six critical areas:
1. Fill Coverage Holes
In the early days of WiFi, CIOs often put in an access point in hotspot areas such as the conference room. The thinking was that employees might unplug their laptops from the wired network and carry them to the conference room for email.
Nowadays, employees move around and congregate in different places such as cubicles. They are constantly collaborating and thus need to have reliable access to the network. “You don’t want a network that works great in the break room but loses signal in the corner of the building,” Kozup says.
Cisco’s advice: Configure 2.4 GHz for 20 MHz and three non-overlapping channels. Some organizations have proposed changing the 2.4 GHz configuration to support one 40 MHz channel and one 20 MHz channel. But having three non-overlapping 20 MHz channels provides greater flexibility for access point placement and WLAN design than one 40 MHz channel and one 20 MHz channel. This configuration helps enterprise wireless deployments optimize wireless capacity and coverage.
2. Got Weak Signals?
Older devices—namely, those that don’t support the latest wireless standard, 802.11n—have a harder time hearing the signal from the access point, says Kozup. The result: poor coverage.
Cisco’s advice: Utilize radio-frequency beam forming technology to focus the signal strength toward older 802.11a/g clients whenever they come on the network.
3. Disable Really Old Technology
Let’s face it, sometimes really old technology just needs to be turned off. Devices that support the first wireless standard, 802.11b, are just too slow and drag down overall performance, Kozup says. “We’re advising customers to disable this in their networks,” he says. “By doing so, you’re speeding up everything else.”
Cisco’s advice: Because most 802.11b only clients are being phased out in favor of 802.11g or 802.11a/g/n devices, Cisco recommends that organizations disable the lower 2.4 GHz data rates on the WLAN (such as 1 and 2 Mbps).
4. Go with the Higher Frequency
WiFi operates in two unlicensed frequencies, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Most devices, including the iPad, are dual-band clients that can operate in either frequency. “The fact of the matter is that the 5 GHz frequency is much cleaner, much more space than the 2.4 GHz,” says Kozup, “so we want to make sure those iPads are connecting as frequently as possible into the 5 GHz frequency.”
The problem is that dual-band devices tend to connect into the 2.4 GHz. Cisco has come out with a product called BandSelect that automatically gets dual-band devices to use the 5 GHz frequency.
Cisco’s advice: Because 5 GHz has eight times the spectrum of 2.4 GHz, and it is usually less congested, Cisco BandSelect helps make sure that clients that can use the 5 GHz bands do so. This helps free up 2.4 GHz in mixed client environments.
5. Are Mobile Devices Secure?
Are iPhones, iPads, Androids, and other mobile devices secure enough for the enterprise? They can be, says Kozup, as long as they are properly configured with the right authentication protocols.
Cisco’s advice: Certain mobile devices support a variety of 802.1x authentication methods for enterprise environments. WiFi networks are automatically displayed by each device or can be located under the WiFi settings profiles. The correct 802.1x method is automatically selected for each wireless SSID or it can be manually chosen at Settings > WiFi > Security.
If no digital certificate is required, users simply enter their user ID and password in order to gain secure access to the enterprise wireless network. If the organization’s authentication method requires digital certificates, configuration profiles can be created by IT and sent to mobile device users.
6. Clean up the Air Space
If you’re experiencing poor performance with the WiFi network, it could mean that you need to clean up the airspace. Microwave ovens, cordless telephones, Bluetooth devices, wireless speakers, baby monitors, and garage door openers can be cluttering one of the frequencies, Kozup says.
“Think about all the Bluetooth devices that enter a business,” Kozup says. “They could potentially impact performance of iPhones, iPads and Androids in that environment.”
Cisco’s advice: Cisco has a spectrum analysis tool called CleanAir that detects and automatically mitigates wireless radio frequency interference by configuring the wireless network around the interference source so that devices can communicate in a clean spectrum with the access point.
[ Not to be outdone by Cisco, VeriWave is releasing a guide to best practices for enterprise WiFi networks, reports Network World, a sister site of CIO.com. | Find out what CIO Ernest Lehmann learned while upgrading Bryant & Stratton College's wireless network, reports CIO.com. ]
By Rick Schadelbauer
No doubt about it—rural America is shrinking. Over the course of the past century, as our economy has evolved from primarily agrarian to manufacturing to high-tech, the percentage of Americans living in rural areas (generally defined as areas with population densities of less than 1,000 people per square mile, and towns and villages with populations less than 2,500) has steadily fallen. According to the 1900 census, 60% of all Americans lived in rural areas. By 1950, that percentage had fallen to 36%. And by 2000, only 21% of the nation’s population was considered rural.
If this migration from rural America is to be slowed or reversed, the key will undoubtedly be jobs. In today’s information economy, many jobs can be done from virtually anywhere—as long as the worker has access to state-of-the-art broadband services. Absent the availability of high-quality broadband, however, rural America will not be able to leverage its estimable strengths to lure companies and workers.
Toward that end, two major initiatives have recently been taken that could dramatically hasten broadband deployment in rural areas. The first is $7.2 billion in funding made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for loans and grants to qualified broadband infrastructure projects, with the specific goal of expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved communities throughout the United States. The second is the FCC’s recently unveiled national broadband plan, which sets as a goal ubiquitous broadband deployment by 2020. Together, these two initiatives have the potential to dramatically affect broadband deployment in—and, consequently, the economic future of—rural America.
Years Away From Extinction?
Often, the best and brightest rural students go off to college in urban areas, and never return. In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas wrote that “by the 21st century the shortage of young people [in rural America] has reached a tipping point, and its consequences are more severe than ever before. Simply put, many small towns are mere years away from extinction, while others limp along in a weakened and disabled state.”
Carr and Kefalas addressed the problem in detail in their book “Hollowing Out the Middle,” and propose a number of potential solutions for slowing, if not reversing, the rural exodus. These include offering aggressive tuition breaks for medical students who commit to return to rural areas after graduation, embracing immigrants in rural areas and focusing curricula at the local community college level on skills and knowledge—such as computer technology, green energy and sustainable agriculture—that will better serve those rural students who are likely to remain after graduating.
The availability of high-quality communications technologies also is key. Widespread broadband availability not only plays a significant role in the solution to the problem of people leaving rural areas, but it also would benefit current rural residents. As Carr recently told Newsweek, “You don’t have to build amenities just to lure people. You should be building amenities for everybody. Having digital infrastructure and having abundant opportunities for leisure should be something for the commonweal.”
On a positive note, today’s young people don’t seem to be taking the brain drain as a foregone conclusion. According to the Foundation for Rural Service’s “2009 Rural Youth Telecommunications Survey,” 60% of respondents indicated that they would consider living in a rural area after graduation, while only 13% ruled out the possibility altogether. Tellingly, however, 45% said that the availability of a variety of telecommunications services would be an important factor in determining where they will eventually live. Asked what they considered “essential” telecommunications services, 66% of survey respondents chose broadband Internet, second only to the 82% of survey respondents who cited cellular telephone service.
Clearly, young people don’t have an aversion to rural America per se. What tends to lure them away are the opportunities to be found in the cities that simply don’t exist in rural areas. Bringing some of those opportunities to rural areas—while maintaining the unique qualities of rural living—will play an important role in slowing, if not fully stemming, the tide of rural youth moving to the cities.
The Rural Advantage
Proponents of rural America have long cited the numerous advantages to living in less populous areas: lower housing costs, lower crime rates, less traffic, better air quality and an overall lower cost of living. “Our community has great schools, an airport 10 minutes away, and low housing costs,” said Wayne Pearson, former president of the Smethport, Pa., Chamber of Commerce. “You can buy a four-bedroom house in Smethport for $70,000.”
There is much in rural America to lure businesses, as well. “Businesses are attracted to our area today because we are one of the few places in the nation that remains above the economic fray,” said Kelvin L. Hullet, president of the Bismarck-Mandan, N.D., Chamber of Commerce. “Our real-estate prices are stable, we had limited exposure to subprime mortgages, our unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation and the community continues to be ranked in the Forbes Inc. top 5 places for small businesses.”
“We’re promoting Smethport as a place to run an Internet business and, eventually, retire,” said Pearson. “Telecommuting is the future of the workplace. As the next generation of managers takes control, the concept of ‘face time’ will not be nearly as important as it has been in the past. If you can do your job from anywhere, why not choose small-town America?”
Businesses and workers cannot embrace rural areas, however, if they are unable to access the same kind of broadband infrastructure there that is available in nonrural areas. All of the natural beauty and affordable real estate in the world can’t make up for the lack of state-of-the- art broadband availability. “As a rural state, broadband is an essential component to doing business [in North Dakota],” Hullet said. “The world is no longer an isolated place and many of our companies are doing business internationally. Reliable communication is imperative to this business model.”
Although the rural brain drain may be robbing rural America of its young people, a fair number are returning after experiencing life in the big city. “While rural youth might move away after going to college, once they get married and decide they want to raise a family, we’re seeing them come back,” said Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis (New Mexico) Industrial Development Corp. “They realize that they want to raise their children in a small-town atmosphere.”
Kefalas concurs. “There are people maybe with young families or who tried urban living and wanted to opt out and try something else, who could be lured to the region,” she told Newsweek. “Maybe not every 22-yearold, but maybe a 32-year-old who would think, ‘This is great. I can raise my kids, I can buy a gigantic house. And as long as I have the digital infrastructure, I can telecommute. I can have a very good quality of life.’” Absent high-quality broadband access in rural areas, however, there may be no decision to be made.
Broadband to the Rescue
Recognizing the tremendous importance of broadband infrastructure to the future of rural communities, numerous NTCA member companies already have taken significant steps toward bringing broadband to rural America. According to the “NTCA 2009 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report,” 98% of survey respondents are offering broadband to some portion of their customer base. Additionally, two programs that are part of ARRA— the National Telecommunications Information Administration’s Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) and Rural Utilities Service’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP)—have begun to award loans and grants to qualified broadband infrastructure projects, with the specific goal of expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved communities throughout the United States.
The winners of funding in the early rounds of BTOP and BIP awards already have been announced. For example, Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (Bracey, Va.) has been awarded a $19 million BTOP grant and $5 million match to bring high-speed affordable broadband services to 15 underserved counties and the cities of Emporia and Franklin in south central Virginia. “We welcome broadband in our community because it will create jobs and improve the overall quality of life,” said Bill Hodge, executive director of the Emporia-Greensville Chamber of Commerce.
Thanks to the funding made possible by the broadband stimulus program, other rural communities will soon be experiencing the opportunities offered by broadband, as well. Clovis, N.M., for example, expects to benefit from the $11.3 million BTOP grant awarded to ENMR Plateau to light a 1,600-mile ring of fiber throughout the state and to construct 74 miles of new fiber. In Steele, N.D., BEK Communications Cooperative received a $2 million grant and $2 million loan to provide fiber to the premises to underserved homes and anchor institutions in Burleigh County. In Peetz, Colo., the Peetz Cooperative Telephone Co. has received a $1.5 million BIP grant to deploy broadband infrastructure in and around the Peetz community. Dozens of other similar awards have been announced that hold the potential for having a significant near-term impact on rural broadband deployment.
The stakes for rural America are quite high, indeed. In a January 2010 Public Policy Institute of California report analyzing the impact of broadband deployment on economic
development, Jed Kolko estimated that during the years from 1999 to 2006, an area moving from no broadband providers to one to three providers would achieve overall employment growth of 6.4%. Kolko also estimated growth in the working age population of 2.4% resulting from the introduction of broadband into an area over the same period. Most employment growth would occur in management of companies and enterprises; utilities; professional, scientific and technical services; finance and insurance; and administrative and business support services. Significantly less growth would be expected in public administration; arts; entertainment and recreation; educational services; manufacturing; and retail trade.
Rural telcos know the communities within their service areas extraordinarily well, and have a proven track record of serving their needs. Small, locally owned companies are uniquely situated to facilitate the deployment of broadband to rural areas. Businesses, in particular, tend to appreciate the personal touch that small rural telcos can provide. “Locally owned cooperatives are at the table working with us, and are able to provide quick solutions to any problems we might have,” said Clovis Industrial Development Corp.’s Gentry. “We can pick up the phone and talk to the CEO any time, day or night. The bigger the company, the harder it is to get someone on the line.”
Up the Road
The migration of U.S. population from rural to nonrural areas is a long-term trend that some claim may threaten the future viability rural America. While broadband provision in and of itself will not be the “magic bullet” that will reverse the erosion of the rural population, it can be an important part of slowing, and potentially reversing, the trends that are working against efforts to make rural communities thrive again.
- Scientists create an invisibility cloak from silk.
- Silk only interacts with terahertz waves, not visible light.
- Silk-based metamaterials could become a basis for future generation of biomedical devices.
For thousands of years people have worn shimmering silk to stand out in a crowd. Within the next few years people could wear silk to become invisible in a a crowd.
For the first time ever, scientists have created an invisibility cloak made from silk, and coated in gold.
The new metamaterial, as invisibility cloaks and their kin are technically called, only works on relatively long terahertz waves (a region of the electromagnetic spectrum between radio and infrared light), but the Boston-area scientists who developed the technology think that silk could work as an invisibility cloak at much smaller wavelengths, even in the visible range.
The research could lead to a wide range of optically unique materials for use in biomedicine or defense.
“This is an unusual angle for a metamaterial because of silk’s ability to interface with the human body,” something that no other metamaterial is currently capable of, said Fiorenzo Omenetto, a scientist at Tufts University who, along with colleagues at Boston University, helped develop the silk-based metamaterial and detail their new research in the journal Advanced Materials.
“On the sensing side it gives you a platform that is very adaptable.”
Invisibility cloaks, along with their optically exotic cousins, perfect absorbers and perfect reflectors and others, belong to a special class of materials known as metamaterials. Unlike most materials, which derive optical properties like color from their chemical make up, metamaterials derive their properties from the physical structure.
A curly cue, or short spiral, is a common metamaterial structure. Scientists call them split ring resonators, or SSRs. Usually scrawled into metals, SSR can give ordinary materials extraordinary abilities, like absorbing or reflecting all the specific wavelengths of light, or bending a wavelength around an object.
To create their silk-based metamaterial, the Tufts and Boston University scientists, including Richard Averitt, started with a one-centimeter-square piece of silkworm silk. (In another recent paper, Omenetto’s colleague and another co-author of the Advanced Material’s paper, David Kaplan of Tufts, created silk-producing bacteria.) Onto that tiny piece of dielectric silk they stenciled 10,000 gold resonators.
Ordinarily when silk is exposed to terahertz waves they pass straight through it. When the new silk metamaterial was subjected to T-rays the scientists detected a resonance.
A metamaterial that works in the terahertz range is nothing new. But, unlike other metamaterials, silk is biocompatable — the human body won’t reject silk-based implants the way it does with most other materials. The scientists implanted the patterned silk into a muscle, and still detected a resonance.
The new silk research is “interesting,” said Douglas Werner, a metamaterial scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “There is a lot of interest in using flexible substrates for metamaterials, and silk is a good candidate for that.”
The potential applications of silk-based invisibility are huge. Omenetto and his colleagues at Tufts aren’t even focused on Harry Potter or Star Trek-style invisibility materials, although he says that is one potential application.
Their main focus is in biomedical applications. One of the first biomedical uses could be as an implantable glucose sensor for diabetics. As the level of glucose changes inside the body, it changes the silk. Then as the silk changes, do does the metamaterial printed on the silk. That change would then be relayed to the person’s cell phone; no needle prick necessary.
Silk-based invisibility would also allow doctors and radiologists to cloak various organs or tissues and see through them, said Omenetto, getting a better image of the organs or tissues usually hidden behind.
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