Lead Article (Self-help topic – NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS)

I have a terrible confession to make. As the celebrations start for another year, people are kissing strangers and everyone is sharing their resolutions for the next year. I suddenly feel alone and isolated.

I admit that I don’t have any New Year Resolutions.

The party goes quiet. When the champagne is flowing and the alcohol blood level is increasing seems like a terrible time to plan the future success of my life/marriage/business/whatever. That makes me a party pooper…

It is an all too common mistake I see in business. A New Year starts so some drastic plans are put in place. “We must change this and change that and it all starts on 1 January,” says the frustrated business owner to his staff just before Christmas.

The mistake that is made is that some business owners think that business changes, like computer code, is binary. It is black and white. The reality is that the real time to make a change to your business is today. And tomorrow. And the next day. Successful business owners see change as a continuum rather than as a switch.

My advice to people is to make no change whatsoever on 1 January. Statistics reveal that 92 per cent of people will be unsuccessful with their resolution with 80 per cent failing by 20 January! Instead, have weekly business development meetings or monthly progress discussions. Entwine the concept of constant change in every fabric of your business and you will be amazed at how your business continues to grow.

I have sometimes talked to staff at various organisations after they have just had an annual staff review. They walk out of the meeting devastated. They didn’t know they were performing so poorly or they didn’t know how their job was having such a negative impact on the entire organisation. This is terrible. I have often spoken to employers and told them that there should never be a surprise for a staff member in an annual review. Ensure that there is a constant flow of communication between staff and management and then an annual review is simply a way of confirming what everyone already knew.

Business planning processes are identical. You should never sit down at the end of a financial year, look at the bottom line and break down in tears. You need to be constantly monitoring your performance and making changes along the way. When you look at your final figures, they should simply confirm what you already knew to be true.

I know this sounds all very much like I am taking the fun out of New Year but you can still have some fun with the rollover of the calendar year. Get your staff together and have them all write down their best tech prediction for 2013 and seal them in envelopes. At the Christmas Party for 2013 open the envelopes and whoever was closest with their prediction (as voted by the group) wins a prize. At a staff function early in the New Year, ask all the staff for the biggest tech achievements and disappointments for the previous year. It will really drive home what a fast-changing industry we are in and reinforce that concept that change in this industry is constant. When I was younger and braver I used to make my top ten tech predications on my first radio program for the year. After the host started reading them out on my last show for the year, I stopped making predictions because you soon see how foolish they look – in only 12 months.

Despite my reluctance to support the concept of resolutions for the New Year, it can be a great time to clear the mind and come back refreshed after watching too much sport over the break. Tell me your number one resolution for 2013 at md@smallbusinessrules.com.

 Science Quiz Question

Internet connectivity is crucial to so many people and so many industries. Gaining faster and more reliable Internet connections consumes countless hours in R&D for organisations across the world. With huge expanses of low-population density in countries across the world, surely it is inefficient to run cable to those areas and only marginally better to use land-based wireless towers. Why doesn’t the world simply move toward satellite communications for Internet connectivity? With the massive coverage available with satellite, it wouldn’t take many satellites to cover huge tracks of land.

Science Quiz Answer

Way back in 1676, the Danish astronomer, Olaus Roemer, measured the speed of light with some relative degree of accuracy. A bloke you may have heard of, Albert Einstein, seemed to be fairly switched on and he based some of his simple theories, like the theory of relativity, using the speed of light as a constant. The speed of light as we know it today is 299,792,458 metres per second. As we know it today, this is the maximum speed at which all energy, matter and information in the universe can travel. It is the speed in which massless particles and associated fields can travel.

In short, the speed of a signal travelling between a satellite and earth is the same as the speed of light. At close to 300,000km/s you would think this is fast enough.

Not quite.

Satellites used to connect to the Internet are typically geostationary. That means they sit directly above the same spot on earth at all times. To achieve this without burning an incredible amount of fuel, the satellite is launched at a distance from earth where it will naturally stay in geostationary orbit. That distance happens to be around 35,786 kilometres above the earth. To stay geostationary, that means the satellite is travelling at approximately 11,068km/h.

Normally we assume light and radio frequencies to be near instantaneous. A normal Internet connection using terrestrial connections may have latency (or lag) of around 80 to 150 milliseconds. Small enough that we barely notice it. If we used a voice application or any application that relied on two-way communications, this latency would be acceptable.

When you introduce an additional 35,786km to the equation, even at the incredible speed of light, latency becomes a major issue. From your computer, the signal would need to travel up to the satellite and then back down to the earth, use terrestrial components to find the data on the source server and then travel up and back down again to your computer. Ignoring the land based component, this is a round trip of 143,144km. Assuming all travel at the speed of light and zero latency in processing on the satellite, that little journey introduces an additional 477 milliseconds of latency. This is also assuming you are on the equator. As you move further from the equator, the distance increases therefore increasing your latency. By the time you add in the other normal processing times of the signal and retrieval of data, real-world latency in a satellite connection is usually a minimum of 600 milliseconds but can often be over a second.

A second may not seem like a major problem, but try having a conversation with latency of one second and it becomes unbearable. The problem is doubled if the person you are speaking with is also on satellite.

So, despite all the promises of ‘faster satellites’ and better satellite communications, the speed of light is always going to be the downfall of satellites. There are many other minor problems to solve as well in terms of your position on the earth and weather interference and atmospheric refraction but the real issue is simply one of distance. Unless someone can send signals faster than the speed of light, this inherent latency is always going to be the downfall of satellites.

The only possible solution would be to utilise low earth orbit satellites – such as the 66 satellites that the Iridium phone system uses which orbit at 781km above the earth. These are not geostationary satellites but instead orbit the earth many times in a day (approximately 16). At this distance, the additional latency is only 0.01 milliseconds. The disadvantage is the sheer number of satellites required to give you consistent coverage which introduces huge costs.

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