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Razan Itani, Solutions Manager at Monty Mobile

Inside Telecom Staff

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Razan Itani - InsideTelecom Interview

Monty Mobile is launching a Health Check Mobile App, Corona Care, which will rely on the full cooperation of people and their awareness to fill a daily health check questionnaire covering COVID-19 symptoms.

A team of data scientists will build algorithms to analyze the data collected, and the support of medical experts is required to accurately identify and extract stats of COVID-19 symptoms. Monty Mobile is utilizing its experience and resources to cooperate with key mobile operators in an effort to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

Miss Razan Itani, Solutions Manager at Monty Mobile talks us through their new app, Corona Care, which will be available to download at the end of April.

What is the Corona Care App? What is it used for?

First, I want to start by expressing my admiration and respect to the doctors and nurses who are doing their best in fighting against COVID-19. This emergency requires global effort from engineers, scientists, developers and leaders in technology. As Monty Mobile is part of that community, we have developed a new Mobile App as a quick scan and check-up tool for COVID-19 symptoms. Its strength lies in its simple yet advanced features, especially in regard to data analytics, as we aim to collect and study symptom variation based on user profiles and segmentation.

What are the main features of the App?

Initially, we will focus on the basic features, it is expected that users on a daily basis will fill questionnaires for symptoms in a chat log. If any critical symptom is identified, we will ask again if symptoms persist and advise them to consult a doctor. The App will calculate the quarantine percentage of users and track accordingly. Moreover, users will have access to the latest WHO releases, as it is the only trusted health information source.

Advanced features related to location tracking and notification for users include those who are in areas of infected people, which will be released at a later phase, with the possibility of integration with Red Cross or Emergency Centers.

What kind of personal info are people required to submit?

We do understand that people’s privacy is a priority, but so is our health and saving lives. We will ask users to fill their general profile like Age, Gender, Weight, Location, Medical Stats – key criteria needed to make a diagnosis.

Misinformation regarding the virus is one of the biggest issues. Besides stating facts about the virus, can the app help clear the misinformation? If so, how?

Yes correct, in regards to our App, we will only use and share official WHO information.

How does Monty Mobile plan on using the technology to further accelerate the advancements in medical tech?

Collecting data from different countries for different profiles needed for analysis, will be a key factor. We have a group of data scientists who will take the lead in profiling, segmenting, and clustering big data, based on different algorithms.

We are then ready to put such data in the hands of doctors, scientists, and researchers; the data is only as accurate as the information provided by our users, which is why users play an essential role in this process.

How do you plan on reaching out to as many potential users as possible?

The Corona Care App will be released to App and Play Store. The main target will be to collaborate with Mobile Operators or Governmental Health Institutions who already have mass reach to subscribers and who can easily organize bulk campaigns to promote the App.

How is big data going to be used, and how can this help people stay safe?

There are plenty of examples here. China used technology and big data to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence played an important role in developing dashboards and monitoring the spread of the virus to alert people. Since China is fully equipped with face recognition and infrared temperature detection technology, AI companies have claimed that these tools can recognize people even wearing masks, thereby helping to track infected people and identify who they have been in contact with. Smartphone apps are also a tool to keep an eye on people’s movements and determine if they are in contact with an infected person. Smart surveillance cameras have ensured that those who are quarantined, do not step out.

How will the data be analyzed in order to serve better findings next time?

It will be valuable to have insights into the evolvement of the symptoms and how it varies according to different profiles. Also, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy challenged researchers to analyze about 29,000 scholarly articles to answer key questions about the Coronavirus. Such data is needed to better understand the origins and transmission of the Coronavirus in order to support efforts in finding a treatment/vaccine.

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to implementing the Corona Care App?

We need the user to trust and feel comfortable with the app, as the users are the only source of information for symptoms. COVID-19 is not a taboo and the main aim of the App is to raise awareness and provide support.

How do you plan on expanding, after you have launched the app?

Applying quarantine is one way to limit the spread of COVID-19 – it is a crucial measure at this time. But because we are living in an era of technology and social media domination, it is necessary to utilize technological advancements to help fight against COVID-19, in every way possible. Corona Care will be recognized as an achievement at Monty Mobile, but we will continue moving forward in bringing innovative solutions to our global community.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

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Interview with Fabien Jordan, Astrocast founder and CEO

Karim Hussami

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Interview with Fabien Jordan, Astrocast founder and CEO

Astrocast builds and operates the most advanced satellites based on IoT space technology. The company’s mission is to connect the world and transform the way people live and work through a sustainable, efficient satellite IoT network.

Inside Telecom spoke with Astrocast Founder and CEO, Fabien Jordan, to find out more.

Can you talk us through the development kits that connect different devices to the satellites?

In the context of our pilot program we currently operate two types of pilot devkits. A Wi-Fi kit and a satellite kit. They both feature the same hardware, electrical and software interfaces. The Wi-Fi kit provides a low latency environment to accelerate the development of the interface between your asset and the Astrocast’s platform. It comes with an STM Nucleo board that is pre-configured to emulate an asset, giving you a reference interface to work off as well as a sample C code that can be adapted to suit your asset. Once your application is developed on the Wi-Fi kit, you can seamlessly switch to the satellite kit. It comes with a small external antenna providing everything you need to connect your asset to the Astrocast’s pilot nanosatellite network whilst enabling you to easily retrieve your sent messages via our API and online web portal. The kit supports message acknowledgements to inform your asset when your message was successfully received by our pilot nanosatellite network.

Both pilot devkits have been very successfully tested by dozens of customers all around the globe during the past year, preparing us and them for our market entry that will follow the launch of our next 5 commercial nanosatellites scheduled later this year on a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket.

The next step is the release of our full commercial devkit, called the “Astronode DevKit”, which is everything you need to fully develop your application and rapidly connect your asset to our commercial satellite network.

How will people benefit from the full launch of commercial services in 2021?

Our core product, the “Astronode S”, will be available for sales in large volumes. It is a bidirectional solder-down module for customers who want a simple serial interface connection to Astrocast network. Its small size allows for its use in embedded applications. The Astronode S has by far the lowest peak power consumption available in the market and operates in the L-Band frequency range allowing for the use of miniaturized antennas that reliably work in all weather conditions. The Astronode S has a total cost of ownership up to 3 times less than traditional satellite IoT alternatives.

What are the advantages of the Satellite DevKit and how will the technology facilitate daily activities?

The Astronode DevKit has the Astronode S architecture at its core, enabling you to quickly and securely connect your assets to the Astrocast nanosatellite network. All the hardware you need to develop and connect your asset to the Astrocast’s network is in a single box. You can set up the DevKit to communicate with our satellite network in less than 20 minutes. You have access to a complete software development environment, including access to our API and Portal.

Have you extended your services to the Middle East, Asia and Africa? Where are your future target markets?

We are a global operator and will extend our services everywhere on Earth. We are currently operating our pilot program in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Oceania.

How will your collaboration with Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) help you expand your activities in a more efficient way?

We have a key partnership with KSAT to utilize the integral flexibility of the KSATLITE ground network as a relay for our satellite network. Our two companies have been working together for more than two years on the Astrocast Network’s precursor and In-Orbit-Demonstration missions. With this partnership, we will make use of KSAT’s ground network which is optimized for large constellations of small satellites.

How does Astrocast serve a large number of applications like rail car monitoring, livestock tracking with its pilot program?

We start at small scale with a limited number of assets connected to the network and we validate the communications between the assets and the satellites directly in the field with the customer. The demand for testing has grown significantly in the recent 6 months and it is challenging for us to run all of these pilot tests in parallel in different geographies, but we have done it successfully so far and we have had excellent results.

“We track assets, monitor the environment, and save lives by building and operating the most advanced and sustainable satellite IoT network.” Can you explain this mission more? And can your technology solutions save lives?

Millions of people have no access to clean water or quality food. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and our world is warming, polluted and provides fewer renewable resources. A lot of people go to remote places and put their lives in danger without access to emergency services.

With Astrocast, companies and governments can manage assets much more efficiently, save costs, reduce CO2 output, raise productivity and standards of living for their employees and grow their economies.

We believe that bringing a low-cost and practical solution to the world can provide significant benefits across many sectors by providing businesses and governments greater efficiency, cost savings, expanded safety and well-being at sea and on land. The opportunities are endless.

You launched 80 operational satellites (more than initially planned). How will this move better serve your customers? 

We will start operating commercially in 2021 after the launch of our first 5 satellites in December. This will allow us to deliver at least one message per day per asset connected to our network. We will then be launching more satellites on a regular basis to reach a full constellation of at least 80 satellites. The launch of the first 50 satellites of the constellation are already booked. The more satellites we put in orbit, the more we reduce the latency of our service. When fully deployed, our constellation will be able to offer a low-latency communication globally.

IoT is rapidly advancing, what are the current and future IoT trends?

The increasing demand for real-time data from connected devices requires a ubiquitous coverage and uninterrupted data access from wireless connections, boosting the IoT market. New emerging technologies such as smart devices, machine learning or 5G will change how communication shapes business and will offer new possibilities for the IoT space.

As terrestrial IoT and cellular networks are limited and cover roughly 10% of the world’s surface area, there is an increasing demand for satellite IoT solutions and this represents a significant opportunity for innovative players. I can tell you that “direct-to-satellite” IoT or “sensor-to-satellite” IoT is definitely a hot topic right now and our unique solution is gaining a lot of traction.

IoT devices generate a staggering amount of data, which has raised many privacy/security concerns. Do you have a robust security protocol in place? What are the current challenges you face?

The Astrocast network is designed to handle sensitive data and security is at the core of our solution. Our system offers bidirectional​ communications enabling acknowledgments, asset commands and deployment of security patches and software updates. Over-the-Air updates are critical in this regard and we haven’t seen any of our competitors taking this essential feature very seriously. We want to lead by example in this domain, developing Unicast and Multicast capabilities, offering Multilevel AES 256-bit encryption. On top of that, we still always encourage our customers to encrypt their data to guarantee data integrity.

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Exclusive Interviews

Stefano Linari, Founder & CEO of Alleantia

Karim Hussami

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Internet of Thing (IoT) is a technology that will transform daily life. How does ISC software and Plug & Play integrate with any device?

What we agreed on since our inception in 2011, is an IoT integration platform, creating the tool needed to integrate industrial devices with enterprise application and cloud. It is a pretty unique proposition in the market because we neither produce data nor use it, but we are a gateway in the middle for the purpose of making the integration process as simple, fast, and as inexpensive as possible.

This can be done by creating the driver concept in an industrial space, like when you buy a $50 printer, you receive the driver inside the package or directly from a website. Every application can use this physical resource to the driver, and before Alleantia, the concept of drivers was aimed at commercial hardware not for an industrial one. Thus, we decided to propose our standard for this XPANGO format, meaning a driver which needs communication, semantics, commands, and other information that allow every application to use this industrial device independently from vendors and technology.

How does IoT help data acquisition and connection between machines? Increase speed and efficiency of applications?

This is the main objective for IoT: reducing the data input from humans, whilst someone can obtain precise and fast data about your production. As such, this is the first stage in which we are replacing human input with an automatic one. The second stage is trying to transfer massive quantity of data that humans are not able to acquire – creating big data whilst learning to understand how the machine can be optimized and how one machine can be integrated with others along the supply chain, up to predictive maintenance.

I don’t see that real implementation of predictive maintenance is able to predict a lot of failures, but the reason is not because the model is not running, but because you have to see when machines breakdown more often to configure items. It’s just a matter of time before we can accumulate our statistics and for this reason, which is our third rule, IoT can improve production by creating the database, which many companies are accumulating production data for.

Can you explain more about IoT apps and the way it helps connect IoT edge with any business application via cloud?

Let’s simplify it, we can consider our ISC software to be like the Android operating system and the gateway that ISC runs inside a machine to be like the smart phone carrying that OS. What we allow for our partners, is mainly independence of their vendor or software.

The app can be installed over the gateway together with our ISC accessing certain subsets of the whole data; just like when people install any app on their phones and it requests accessing the contacts, pictures etc. This is what Alleantia does. Then this data is streamed through this application.

The main advantage of this approach is you don’t create an umbrella environment when you get the gateway cloud platform or analytics from one tender but creating something that is more scalable. In this case, you can install an app for each specific usage.

Can IoT software prevent errors and problems from happening? And if problems are present, how can they be solved immediately?

IoT can prevent a certain set of mistakes. Thanks to a proper IoT app, when you launch a production of a certain material, all the recipes needed along the production chain are uploaded to each machine, thus the system is ready to prevent errors.

Another important thing is that what you can prevent is not really an error in terms of production but error in terms of procedure for cyber security. So you can upload files directly from the cloud to the machines.

“One click is enough to create a real revolution.” Give us more insight about the benefits of digitizing our activities?

What we are looking for is to create a simple solution that allow machines to speak with IT words in 60 seconds, in just one click. People have to select a name and an item from our catalogue then insert and click connect.

The first exercise that we suggest to our customers is when you have plenty of data from your machines, just take two of those and automatically fill them into our ISC software – that usually comes later. By just saving the data entry, which is possible in a few minutes, you can start to use other handles of data that you have. Ultimately, with a few clicks, you will change your organization.

Tell us about the XPANGO technology?

XPANGO technology is the idea from which Alleantia was born because we wanted to create a solution that really sets the standard, for the mere fact that every institution is focusing to create a common language in terms of “bit and bite”, to connect industrial devices together then connect them to the app.

No one at the moment is taking care of the semantic data, the usage of a certain value has to be treated in a certain way and this number translated from one unit to another, later transferred to all machines. All this information is addressed by XPANGO which is not just a matter of data exchange but information exchange.

How do we use the XPANGO driver?

When we have to connect the device, you have to select the proper driver like a printer for your pc and click connect; that’s it. If you have to connect to a new device that has never been connected to Alleantia, we provide driver editor and online tools for free, thus creating and distributing your driver over our public library. We are working on an ecosystem and promoting it to create drivers that are freely available.

What are the key IoT trends defining Industry 4.0?

Increase productivity for the end user and for factory owners, increase the OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency), reduce time and activate a predictive maintenance strategy.

IoT is used to increase the topline of your balance sheet, increase revenue, save money by reducing the number of employees in factories due to the coronavirus and enabling better remote ability and enhanced maintenance.

There are even banks that are interested in this process because if you have a smart product, you would pay in a smart way. If the machine is an industrial device, you need a financial institution that helps you create a sort of labor use. Many banks are integrating IoT in their financial services.

Data security and privacy is a growing concern. What is your company’s guarantee for protecting data?

We usually address and solve such problems, but there is always the risk of data theft by cyberattacks which requires adding multiple fire walls and many tools to prevent such malicious activities.

The main problem is data ownership. When one customer decides to use Alleantia, he/she is deciding to choose “access rights” when using IoT apps and who sees the data– similar to installing an app on your mobile.

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Exclusive Interviews

Nigel Bayliff, CEO of AquaComms

Inside Telecom Staff

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Nigel Bayliff, CEO of AquaComms

Based on your many years of experience in the subsea cable industry, what are some of the most prevalent trends? What disruptive trends might affect your operations in the future?

The industry has seen a move away from Carrier Consortia towards smaller private consortium models, with one or two carriers. A number of ‘traditional’ system investors have moved to an asset light model, especially those based in Europe, where hyper-competition in home markets has forced a re-focus. On technology, open systems with more fibre pairs per cable (following a fibre pair investment unit model) are now the norm – they are simple to establish, straightforward to operate and allow quick decision making and flexibility. These changes support our move into offering professional services that range from the planning and design phase of a new cable project, to being the landing party through to operating the cable system to a fully outsourced model on behalf of the investors. 

You recently stated that different elements in the supply chain have had different levels of innovation. What new opportunities in technology today would you like to utilize the most?  

By way of example, repeater housing design has remained static for a few decades, with the exception of some new contender designs; more innovation is needed to create larger bodies with more compact amplification designs.  Also, vessel service life and relative infrequent new building has meant that we largely use the same techniques as ever for laying the cable; accuracy is better, but apart from surveying (with autonomous vessels) the model is still highly weather and people dependent.

The forecasted annual traffic growth for the Trans-Atlantic market in 2020 is an impressive 50%. How does Aqua Comms plan to capitalize on this growth?

Aqua Comms owns/operates two strong Atlantic routes; AEC-1 and AEC-2, we have started the process of enabling AEC-3 (more details to come throughout next year) and have plans in place for a possible AEC-4.  The huge growth rates and general market growth support a small number of independent players in this sector and we strive to be the best in both efficiency, route diversity and quality in the North Atlantic market.

In an earlier virtual roundtable, Aqua Comms directly addressed the challenges affecting telecoms during the coronavirus pandemic. Can you brief us on the main content of the roundtable? What alternative solutions have you proposed to cope in these challenging times?  

Aqua Comms established from the outset as an organization able to operate efficiently in a multi-remote scenario.  Our model combines the decades and decades of experience of our executive and management teams, with flexibility and efficiency of automation, outsourcing and remote management enablers.  We designed an organization and processes that support this, with no dependency on physical location, time zone or specific human resource.  This meant our response to the pandemic was just another simple step in this model – we did have a headquarters office, but less than 50% of the company worked there weekly.  All our team have home-office capability and we have a wide range of tools to ensure connectivity and connected-ness internally within our team, with our support partners in technology and remote activity roles and with our customers and partners.  We were able to expedite orders and deliver multiple terabits of capacity during the main lockdown period in record time to service urgent market needs using this remote-capable, efficient operating model.

How has COVID-19 affected the subsea cable industry in general? What is the economic impact of delays in deployment?  

For projects in final implementation stages (cable in ships, being laid) delays have been minimal with some inevitable disruption due to quarantine routines which has affected crew changeovers.   For projects in manufacturing stages, these seem to have seen delays due to factories closing during harsh lockdown periods but are maybe only delayed by a few months.  Projects which are in the early phases have made some progress, but physical location visits and planning for shore activity has obviously been affected. The unknowns are the projects that are aiming to get to a contractual close – typically these involve many multi-faceted whole group meetings, which have not been easy to hold virtually, to bring all factors to a conclusion so we may expect a quarter delay in this area.  By and large, the industry and our sub-sector seem to have fared very much better than many other sectors (transport, leisure, hospitality, etc.) because internet access is all the more crucial in a remote world, as caused by the pandemic.

Your North Atlantic loop offers an array of diverse services between the US and Northern Europe. Can you tell us more about the services offered with the loop and the benefits that each service yields?

The North Atlantic Loop offers connectivity services, typically 10G and 100G wavelengths, with 400G waves on the horizon, between multiple locations in the US and Northern Europe. This includes core routes such as New York to London, New York to Dublin but also now connecting New York and New Jersey to Denmark, as well connecting Ireland to the UK and Denmark on new, diverse and unique routes. These routes support the major data centre and traffic hubs across the US, the UK, Ireland and the Nordics, all of which are seeing significant growth from the content, cloud and carrier businesses.

Aqua Comms has maintained a presence in recent industry events – as seen from your participation in Subsea World. What significant insights have you gained and how did you apply them? 

As previously mentioned, it’s been gratifying to see that many of our colleagues in other companies are also coping with a remote world well, our sector is generally buoyant based on a realization that connectivity is even more important in a pandemic.  It’s been interesting to see different approaches – some companies who have enormous headcount, generally focused in many large offices, have completely reversed their policies and expect homeworking to be the new normal for them – others are aiming to go back towards an office environment more quickly.  These changes and policies need to be supported as a cultural transition, as the physical set-up often dictates how things are done culturally in such cases.  Because we established ourselves with the goal of being multi-country, a remote working enterprise with a flat structure and rapid decision lines, we have that cultural trait embedded in our core.  One other change likely is that our cooperative culture – enabling many parties to come together to build these large infrastructure projects – is also going to have to modify because the reliance on physically meeting each other a few times a year in far-off destinations is certainly suspended for the next half-year or so (still), and may never return to the way it was in the past.  The longer we operate (and cooperate) successfully in a remote model, the less likely that the past model will return to the same extent.

Your flagship product is FOCUS – Fibre Optics Cables Under the Sea. How has your product developed over the years? In what ways do you expect to see it grow in the future?

This strapline is more our philosophy, than a product in itself.  Fiber Optic Cables Under the Sea. It signifies that we choose to focus on a specific segment/layer of the telecommunications industry – that of undersea fibre optic cables, connecting countries.  We don’t focus on terrestrial fibre infrastructure, we only obtain what we need from others, to connect the sea landings to the major cities and distribution hubs.  We don’t sell any IP services, telephony services or services below a pure transport capacity.  We believe in being the very best at the very specific thing that we choose to do and never competing with our customers.

What are the implications of having Aqua Comms now directly available at 1025Connect’s colocation facility?

We have had presence at 1025 for a couple of years as a pass-through location on our backhaul towards New York.  As major users start to move away from Manhattan as a service location, we have augmented and substantiated our presence there, given its proximity to multiple cable landings, no MRC cross-connect model and carrier-neutral status. 

What are the implications of installing SMART cables? Do you think they are the future?

The SMART cable initiative is intended to gather some basic situational data from telecommunciations cable systems (temp and pressure at amplifier housings), along with derived information (vibrational analysis due to subsea earthquakes/sea level changes) inherent in the optical signals and structure of the cable to provide long-term measurement of such items for the scientific and governmental institutes. This enables one to better understand ocean parameters, enabling better prediction and notification of major events (tsunami/earthquakes) and better modelling of our changing climate and oceanic activity.  As with any new technology in submarine, this will require demonstrator projects (some of which have started), development and standardization of new sensors and adoption of the requirement by the operator and developer community.

Many predict that the future of Subsea cable deployment will be taken over by tech giants such as Facebook and Google. What are your thoughts on this projection? And what would that mean for Aqua Comms?

Throughout my career it has been apparent that the people who need submarine cables most are the people who then get together to develop and build them. It was voice cables in the 80-90’s, so the PTTs were the dominant force in building. Later in the 90’s, it was for data and internet, and private companies consolidated and aggregated demand to build systems.  Then, larger ISPs (L3, GX, etc.) also built their own private cables whilst the PTT/Carrier consortia lessened. The 2010-20’s sees large private companies building for their own needs (same as during the 2000’s) but alongside some private developers (like ourselves) who aggregate smaller demands together with those carriers with large infrastructures.  So my answer would be that those with the biggest need for capacity will always look to build at an infrastructure level for best cost, and there will always be space for those, like Aqua Comms, who choose to FOCUS on serving the needs of the rest of the market.

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