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In the mobile segment, connected cars are still a bit of a mystery

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October 10, 2014

You could probably agree that the topic of connected cars is a popular one these days, but what isn't fully understood it that it's still relatively unclear in it’s own definition as a concept.

Need more information? Well, although it’s interesting to talk about 'infotainment' and all the things you’ll be able to do while driving in your vehicle to make it feel more like your living room, the reality is that the primary focus of the automotive industry is safety.

And it should be, bare none. This week Rohde & Schwarz announced a partnership with Miro-sys in order to enable test simulations of automotive radar for both development labs and production facilities.

A key factor is ensuring the safety of the occupants of cars and trucks as they travel down the road these days.

From the Miro-sys venture, the solution includes its Automotive Radar Target Simulator (ARTS), a part of its Innovative Technical Systems (ITS) portfolio.

The radar simulator can be used by various production facilities in order to manipulate the potential implications of speed, size and distance of the object and some weather conditions in order to determine the responsiveness of automated driver assistance systems (ADAS).

The ARTS system is optimized for the standard automotive radar band, it it has a broad RF band capability that extends from 75 GHz to 80 GHz.

The functionality shows real-time performance simulation of many real life situations. For example, the detection of a specific object, ie-– are you approaching a bike, car or wall?

And how will the vehicle itself respond to this based on the speed at which it is traveling and the external weather conditions?

Rohde & Schwarz are providing the FSW-K60C signal and spectrum analyzer to the solution. The new system is targeted at research and development teams requiring a tool to test the signal performance of automotive radar.

By testing the signal performance while in the design phase for radar sensors, organizations will be able to determine the true potential impact to the signal performance of external factors such as environment, speed and other critical elements.

Combined, these products enable developers to verify signal processing algorithms of sensors at an earlier stage. There is also the ability to test at a deeper level during the production process.

Distances of less than one meter can be simulated and tested with this solution. Users also have the option to create their own test scenarios and review them at a later time for future simulations.

All test results can be saved for background documentation required by the automotive industry for various safety requirements.

The solution can test 100 percent of the safety-relevant radar components on the production line as opposed to conducting random quality assurance tests where there is the possibility for a key issue to be overlooked.

The major difference compared to offers in the market today is the ability to run real-time tests with different parameters as opposed to individual static test simulations based on optical delay lines.

In other mobile news

Location-based services are entering a new era of opportunities for wireless carriers, with applications for network optimization and personalized offerings for mobile subscribers that are based on the ability to leverage collect and analyze large amounts of location data, according to market research firm ABI.

“Location for wireless carriers is no longer about navigation applications,” said Patrick Connolly, senior analyst for ABI.

“Overall, location-based services will become an essential tool in network optimization and customer experience management, as we move to LTE, heterogeneous networks and personalized subscriber packages. While this in itself gives a clear return on investment, there is also significant upside on new exciting areas such as retail/indoor, financial/banking, big data analytics and advertising.”

ABI expects direct carrier revenues in this area to reach about $2 billion by 2019 “with far greater long-term potential.”

ABI cited an increase in joint ventures between wireless carriers to provide scale in this area, as well as announcements of solutions such as Verizon’s Precision Market Insights and Smart Rewards; AT&T’s Location Information Services; SK Telecom’s Indoor Location; Sprint’s Pinsight Media; and Orange’s Data for Development.

“Wireless carriers have been sitting on a location goldmine for too long, fearing a privacy backlash,” Connolly said. “But through careful segmentation of aggregated, anonymous analytics and advertising, coupled with clear opt in/out options and third-party approval of anonymity, carriers can overcome these unnecessary fears, while giving subscribers the power to choose how their data is used, if at all. Demand is growing for location-based information and there is always a need for a Google alternative. Carriers are well placed in the analytics, retail, financial and advertising spaces to be just that.”

In other mobile news

There's been some rumors flying around these past few days that Vladimir Putin wants to take Russia off the internet in case of an emergency, like war or anti-government protests, according to recent reports. Reports which, of course, the Kremlin denies categorically.

It's difficult what to believe or not when it comes from Putin these days, after all the nasty things he's done so far in 2014.

It’s easy to dismiss such a decision as the madness of Vlad (as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the man is living “in another world”), except that in the calm, well-mannered halls of European governments, leaders are also calling for building similar Internet walls against outside countries.

In February 2014, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande discussed a few ways to create a “European Internet.” This week, representatives of sixteen European countries called for the EU to take several measures to protect their citizens’ data from outside countries.

The enemy they are most seeking to protect that data against is the United States. Of course, not everybody might agree to that concept.

“The EU must impose its data protection standards on third countries, otherwise they will do it first. I am thinking particularly of the United States,” said the Luxembourg representative Viviane Loschester.

It’s no secret that the NSA spying scandal has made Europeans very protective of their data. In Germany, when the news broke out that the U.S. had tapped Merkel’s phone, more than 700,000 Germans signed up for encrypted messaging services that very same day.

Now, a Der Spiegel report written last week states that the NSA’s “Treasure Map” program had infiltrated wireless carrier Deutsche Telekom, gaining access to the private information of millions of Deutsche Telekom users is prompting a new scramble for secure data services based in Germany.

The German government made its own privacy move in June by canceling a contract with U.S.-based Verizon Wirelees in favor of DT, which incidentally is partly owned by the German government, saying it wanted more “technological sovereignty.”

At the EU level, punitive actions are being discussed against companies caught sending personal data outside the EU without permission, including fines equal to €100 million or 5 percent of the company’s global turnover.

The European privacy efforts are not at the same level as Russia attempting to cut its entire Internet off from the rest of the globe, but they do mark a new political stage in the development of the internet, where countries are trying to build virtual borders.

It's all part of a spectrum of isolation-- one that moves from in-country data centers and restrictions on outside companies to cutting off those companies or even the outside Internet entirely.

The ability of European countries to create walls to stop U.S. spying is questionable as long as the internet continues to be dominated by U.S.-based companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.

That is unless they want to exit the global Internet entirely, Putin-style... Given that the Web is known for being lawless and hard to control, there’s also some question whether Russia can accomplish its goal of internet isolation.

Observers seem to come down on both sides, but some countries have had some success in restricting Internet utilization recently ? the semi-successful attempt to shut down Twitter and YouTube in Turkey this spring comes to mind.

But even if Putin can't create a Russia-only Internet, he can probably disconnect his country entirely. After all, Russia has already done that once to another country. Just ask Estonia, and now the Ukraine.

In other mobile news

If you simply couldn't wait a single day to order your shiny new iPhone 6 and went the prepaid route by ordering T-Mobile's no-contract iPhone 6, you may have no idea what to do once it arrives on your doorstep.

It is said that when the new iPhone 6 arrives, most people simply don't know what to do next. There is no information in the box about activating the phone, creating a T-Mobile account, porting your current number, or anything else for that matter.

And if you're not currently a T-Mobile customer, you don't already have a SIM card you could just pop in your new iPhone 6 either.

For the record, if you are a T-Mobile subscriber and do have a matching SIM card, it's probably just a matter of popping it in the device.

Because calling customer-service departments ranks up there with getting a tooth filled, we went to T-Mobile's Web site. Surely they'd have some big, splashy banner-- "New iPhone 6 owners, click here!" No, not at all.

In true honesty, we simply couldn't find anything related to activating an iPhone. After a Google search, we did find T-Mobile's phone-activation page, but the first thing it asks for is an activation code, which was nowhere to be found.

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So we went to plan B-- find a T-Mobile store and get help from a real human. The store locator told me there was a T-Mobile outlet in our nearby Walmart.

Easy enough, right? Except, no-- Walmart apparently no longer handles prepaid T-Mobile phones, only postpaid. Whatever that means.

Ultimately, we gave in and called T-Mobile customer service. After a 7-minute wait on hold, a heavily accented gentleman who I could barely understand told me, sure enough, I'd need to talk to the Prepaid Department, and transferred us over there.

That's when it got really worse. This time, we had a very difficult conversation with a heavily accented woman, who seemed to be working from a script and got totally thrown when we diverted her from it.

She asked for our T-Mobile account number. We explained that we didn't have an account, that's why we were calling T-Mobile.

After a very long silence that felt like 15 minutes, she asked for our phone number. Er, which phone number? We went around and around like this for some time.

We frequently had to repeat ourselves, and she frequently asked questions that didn't pertain to what we wanted -- which was simply to create a new line of service and port our existing number.

In the end, it seemed like everything was all set -- but we still found ourselves without a confirmation number, any kind of T-Mobile account information, or even a phone number to call back for updates.

A day later, when we still didn't have any mobile service, we decided to visit the "real" T-Mobile store in our nearby mall. There, we had to pay $10 for a new SIM card, despite the fact that the iPhone 6 had arrived with a T-Mobile SIM already installed.

The sales rep we'd spoken with on the phone didn't mention this. And if she had, would we be looking at a week-long wait to get the SIM in the mail?

The whole thing didn't make any sense. Also, two sales reps at the store had no idea that T-Mobile's Simple Starter Plan ($45/month for unlimited talk/text and 2GB of capped data) even existed in the first place.

When we insisted that it did (having seen it online), they "found" the option and got me all signed up. Finally!

Note to anyone who might be porting a number from Virgin Mobile: You'll need to supply T-Mobile with your Virgin Mobile account number, and the only way to get that number is to call Virgin Mobile.

To conclude, this was a terrible customer-service experience from start to finish. Maybe some crucial document got left out of the box, or maybe T-Mobile assumes people who order a phone from Apple will instinctively take it to an Apple or T-Mobile store for activation.

Maybe the oversight actually lies with Apple, although we strongly doubt that. Whatever the case, we suspect anyone new to T-Mobile will run into the same head-scratcher-- Just got my new iPhone 6. Now what?

New customers will need to buy a Nano SIM for the T-Mobile iPhone 6, even if it came with one.

The key takeaway is this-- for new customers, the fastest way to get your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus activated on T-Mobile is to take it to a proper T-Mobile store, by which we mean a standalone store, not one haphazardly integrated into a Costco, Walmart, or the like.

We have no doubt that you could accomplish the same thing at an Apple Store, but those aren't nearly as ubiquitous. And good luck getting anywhere near one in these initial post-launch weeks.

You can also call the toll free number 1-877-453-1304 to take a stab at getting your phone activated by a T-Mob rep.

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Source: ABI Market Research.

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