The July 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Metcalfe’s Law is Wrong

Communications networks increase in value as they add members—but by how much? The devil is in the details

12 min read
Illustration: Serge Bloch
Illustration: Serge Bloch

Illustration: Serge Bloch
Of all the popular ideas of the Internet boom, one of the most dangerously influential was Metcalfe's Law. Simply put, it says that the value of a communications network is proportional to the square of the number of its users.

The law is said to be true for any type of communications network, whether it involves telephones, computers, or users of the World Wide Web. While the notion of “value” is inevitably somewhat vague, the idea is that a network is more valuable the more people you can call or write to or the more Web pages you can link to.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

This Startup Is Using AI to Help Keep Store Shelves Stocked

Wisy’s platform eases supply-chain issues by tracking inventory

4 min read
Phone screen with Wisy platform on black background

Store employees take a picture of a product on display using Wisy's platform, and the AI records information based on the photo.

Wisy Platforms

Shoppers are seeing more and more empty shelves, as stores around the world struggle to keep products stocked. The situation is the result of supply-chain issues caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. The product-unavailability rate increased from 5 percent to 15 percent during the past three years, according to the Consumer Brands Association.

To make it easier for stores to track inventory, startup Wisy developed an AI platform that uses image recognition to detect which products are out of stock or running low, as well as those that are available but haven’t yet been put on display.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

When Gamers Get Nasty

Researchers grapple with subjectivity as they develop algorithms to detect toxicity in online gaming

2 min read
A man wearing a headset is seen in a dark room playing video games
Getty Images

Online gaming is a chance for players to come together, socialize, and enjoy some friendly competition. Unfortunately, this enjoyable activity can be hindered by abusive language and toxicity, negatively impacting the gaming experience and causing psychological harm. Gendered and racial toxicity, in particular, are all too common in online gaming.

To combat this issue, various groups of researchers have been developing artificial-intelligence models that can detect toxic behavior in real time as people play. One group recently developed a new such model, which is described in a study published 23 May in IEEE Transactions on Games. While the model can detect toxicity with a fair amount of accuracy, its development demonstrates just how challenging it can be to determine what is considered toxic—a subjective matter.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Harnessing the Power of Innovation Intelligence

Through case studies and data visualizations, this webinar will show you how to leverage IP and scientific data analytics to identify emerging business opportunities

1 min read
Clarivate
Clarivate

Business and R&D leaders have to make consequential strategic decisions every day in a global marketplace that continues to get more interconnected and complex. Luckily, the job can be more manageable and efficient by leveraging IP and scientific data analytics. Register for this free webinar now!

Join us for the webinar, Harnessing the power of innovation intelligence, to hear Clarivate experts discuss how analyzing IP data, together with scientific content and industry-specific data, can provide organization-wide situational awareness and reveal valuable business insights.

Keep Reading ↓Show less