The Signal #9: AI, 5G, dormant elves and turning 9

Friends –
Whoa. Two months have passed since our last newsletter. There are many reasons, none good: the elves who normally write this didn’t come back from holiday! There was a (highly) localized calamity! Plague!  Pestilence!  Suffice it to see we have seen the light.  It won’t happen again. 

A lot has happened since we last wrote.  In the field of AI, Google’s Alpha Go program defeated professional go players under official rules, a first for AI, and seemingly akin to IBM’s Deep Blue beating chess grand master Garry Kasparov (even if that’s been revisited since). Go, with its massive amount of permutations, was held to be an arena where brute force calculation of possibilities wouldn’t work, and indeed AlphaGo apparently relied on deep learning to learn winning strategies.

In telecom, 5G seems to be becoming…something real.  NTT DoCoMo is well along with its testing and ecosystem development.  Korea’s SKT and KT both promoted at MWC; KT aims to have it ready for the Winter Olympics in 2018.  Verizon is planning trials this year.  It doesn’t seem that long ago – actually it wasn’t – that Verizon launched its 4G network here in the Bay Area.

What’s 5G, you ask? Good question. To our understanding, it’s not so much one thing as a lot of things. Higher and wider spectrum. Smaller and closer base stations. What stands out the most to us is 1 ms latency. The human eye may notice frame lag at 60fps, or 16ms, so this is well below that threshold, for example.  More importantly, perhaps, this means network-based smarts can be deployed to devices and systems that require real-time information. Self-driving cars, for example.  (At the speed of light 1 ms = 1 million feet, or about 190 miles. Thus, assuming 1 ms one-way latency – meaning, assuming no other latency –  a request could hit a metro-area server and return to a car going highway speeds in the time it took the car to go 2 inches. We think that math is right…)

We’ve been busy and neglected to commemorate a milestone – we entered our ninth year of business at the end of January.  Speaking of milestones, we are delighted to welcome long-time friend and collaborator Michi Kaifu to the site.   


from Team Blue Field