dim, 08.12.2013 - 23:32
On the importance of images and layout in writing.
Load up your favorite tech blog. Or almost any blog, really. There’s a good chance it looks like shit. There’s a better chance that the reading experience is even worse. And we put up with it, day in and day out.
Why? Because that’s where the content is.
Enter Medium 1.0. While there are some questions as to what exactly Medium aims to be, there is no question that it’s already a beautiful product. As a writer, it’s evolving into exactly the tool I want to use when writing. It started with a focus on the fundamentals: words. Now the product is wrapping those words in an obvious trapping that has long been under-appreciated in writing: images.
I think back to when I was a kid and would sit for hours mesmerized by a magazine. Was it the writing that had me so engrossed? Sometimes. But sometimes it was the visuals. And more often than not, it was a combination of the two.
Somehow that symbiotic relationship was all-but destroyed as content moved onto the web.
Sure, there are some newer players out there now that are trying to bring back some elements of this relationship, namely the Vox Media properties (here’s one great example). And yes, all the traditional magazines have been ported (often quite poorly) into apps for iOS and Android. But Medium is the first product I’ve seen that opens up the tango of words and images to all.
During my tech blogging days, people used to ask me why I would always use images from films in my posts — even when the content seemingly had little to do with the visual. The answer is pretty simple: those images create an immediate bond with the reader, even if they don’t realize it.
I feel the need. The need, for you to read.
Maybe I was writing about a fairly obtuse tweak Google was implementing to increase the speed of a product. To some people, that’s interesting. To others, nothing could be less interesting. But to most people, they weren’t sure if they should care, and as such, few read such stories. So that’s where you have to get creative. Hook them with a headline, and keep them with an image they can relate to — say, something from Top Gun vaguely related to what was being talked about in the post: speed. Boom.
And that’s just one, albeit sort of gimmicky, way that images can augment words. As you’re undoubtedly aware because you’re a human being, sometimes visuals can be 100x more powerful than any words. And again, I think back to my favorite magazine experiences: words with the right images can be 1,000x more powerful together.
Sadly, the main way most of us see visuals next to text these days is in the form of an advertisement. Not only does this form of visual not augment the reading experience, it makes it roughly 10,000x worse.
One problem is that we’re no longer talking about beautiful, Mad Men-esque advertisements. We’re talking about flashy banners, tiny squares, or ugly links. And unlike in magazines, those hideous ads sit right next to the content you’re reading — sometimes even embedded within it!
In other words, not only do images and words not form a symbiotic relationship, in many blogposts, they’re antagonistic. These types of images aim to stop you from reading and focus solely on them. And, in an ideal world for the advertisers, you’d click the ad, taking you away from what you were just reading. What a shitty reading experience.
So I applaud Medium’s move to take us back to a time where words and images were far more complimentary — and in some cases, inseparable. And I hope it spurs the development of more content and tools that are presented to us as if images aren’t a complete afterthought.
Just compare reading this post thus far to reading something like this:
Or yes, this:
Clutter. Clutter. Clutter. Clutter. Image overload. Ads galore. Very few images that actually augment the reading experience. Many that take away from it.
This is why people miss the glory days of RSS (maybe the only reason). You could argue that this is one of the main reasons to use Pocket or Instapaper (they strip out a lot of the gunk). Hell, Apple even felt the need to build a “Reader” feature into its Safari browser. Think about how ridiculous that is for a second. A web browser needs a feature to make it easier to actually read on the web.
Catégories: News informatiques
dim, 08.12.2013 - 23:22
“These guys will trash the office if we don’t send someone there”, Beatport worried, so it flew HR to its San Francisco office to fire the whole engineering team there, a source tells TechCrunch. Multiple sources confirm the 88-person startup laid off large sets of engineers in SF and Denver this week. [Update: Beatport has confirmed the layoffs.] SFX, the dance music juggernaut that acquired Beatport in February, is axing teams that weren’t making money.
Beatport was founded way back in 2003 and is best known for its popular online dance music store Beatport Sounds that lets DJs download high-quality tracks for use in their concerts. But it also runs a number of other products including Beatport DJs, a social network where artists can connect with fans, Beatport Play, where DJs can download song stems for remixes, and the most recently launched Beatport Mixes, where DJs can sell whole mixtapes.
Yet now, a source tells us “[SFX] is not concerned with anything but the store. It was crazy. It was a fucking bloodbath for sure. Some of the people laid off were working there for almost ten years.” Those include six engineers in SF — essentially the whole office.
That’s why the Denver-based Beatport was considering firing the employees over a conference call, but decided to send human resources representatives to SF. The company worried employees would destroy the office if not supervised. Meanwhile, multiple sources report that the startup has let go of around 20 employees in Denver, including the majority of the engineering team there. Two other music industry sources say Beatport was still operating at a loss after Q3 saw it lose $1 million on $12.1 million of revenue.
However, our sources confirm a vague but early report Thursday from dance music web tv channel and news site Mox.tv, as well as a tweet by former Beatport employee Eric Marcoullier who noted that “devs, sysops, and PMs” were among the Denver employees let go. Marcoullier also trying to find the fired Beatporters new jobs, which is nice considering the holidays are coming up.
We’re currently awaiting a response from Beatport and SFX regarding the layoffs. Update: SFX has confirmed the layoffs in a statement to TechCrunch:
“With the additional resources provided by SFX, we are making significant new investments in Beatport and focusing on providing the best possible experience for our users – the DJ, the producer, the labels and the entire Electronic Music Culture community. To allow us to adapt and improve our service, it was necessary to make some organizational changes. We have closed our San Francisco office, reorganized our engineering team, and cut some positions in Denver. Beatport has always been about innovation and connection and these moves allow us to focus on that. With the recently announced acquisitions of PayLogic and Arc90, this refocus on maximizing Beatport as the definitive site for everything related to Electronic Music is indicative of our commitment to igniting the simmering Revolution of this astounding movement, Electronic Music Culture. We look forward to unveiling a number of exciting new technology initiatives in 2014.”
Left at Beatport is just a skeleton team to maintain some of its non-store departments that lost their main work force. It’s possible that SFX will shut down some of the products that weren’t pulling in enough money, such as Beatport DJs and maybe Beatport Play. The remaining squad is said to be led by the Arc90 app development team acquired by SFX in October. Originally, SFX planned to have Beatport’s team run engineering for the whole corporation, but now it seems its recent acquisitions including Arc90, marketing agency FameHouse and commerce platform Tunezy will be in charge.
The push to cut the fat from Beatport comes shortly after its parent company’s IPO in October. SFX priced shares at $13 but they’ve fallen to $11.60 since. “New leadership, new direction” a source tells us about SFX’s plans for Beatport. “Once they went public, they started looking at the finances” and decided the SF engineering office and much of the Denver engineering staff weren’t critical.
Apparently SFX’s focus will be on ticketing and events going forward. SFX owns a slew of electronic dance music (EDM) concert promoters including Made Event which runs Electric Zoo, and Disco Donnie Presents, which puts on dance music shows and festivals around the world. SFX seems convinced the live music business is more lucrative than recorded music, which has become harder to sell in the digital age.
At least Beatport’s laid off workers got significant severance packages, especially long-time team members, which should carry them into early next year, though this compensation is conditional on the employees not discussing the circumstances of the layoffs. But the details are out now, so we’ll have to see how SFX’s investors react and what the EDM giant does next. It can be a cutthroat business turning youth culture into corporate earnings.
Catégories: News informatiques
dim, 08.12.2013 - 22:47
It’s has to be one of those cold half-light afternoons, a radio in the house mumbling something low and steady, Click and Clack or the news, the snow might be fresh, might be coming, might not come for weeks. The heater kicks on in the basement and the warmth balloons up through the rooms, a fog of comfort along the floor.
Those are the afternoons perfect for reading. When I was serious about my reading I’d gather ten or fifteen books from the library and scoot through them in rapid succession, dumping the books that got boring, finishing the books that caught my fancy. I got through most of Vonnegut on those afternoons, a lot of Bradbury. I read Richard Powers and lot of fiction that I couldn’t quite follow but liked the sound of. I read a lot of Stephen King. A lot.
This is a pean to that crepuscular time time between two and six, that four hours of daylight on a few very specific days – maybe the days between Christmas and New Year’s, maybe the some mid-winter weekend when you have little to do and can afford to laze and read – when the book makes perfect and absolute sense.
Those afternoons happened all year round, to be sure, but the holiday book is a better book. It’s new, perhaps, freshly unpacked, or maybe it’s a discovery you found on your visit home from college or away. Maybe it’s an old friend or maybe it’s a stranger. Maybe it smells of the basement, a mix of mulch and mold, or maybe it smells like new paste. Either way, it wants us to open it.
Soon it won’t smell it all. Soon it will be all bits.
If there’s anything to recommend the purchase of paper bound to cardboard it’s in honor of the holiday read. There is nothing like it, I think, and it made lovers of the written word out of many of us. The ways books change our brains is myriad, almost as myriad as the ways we’ve been changed by our electronics. But I like to think the slow saunter through a broke-spine copy of On The Road changes us in ways Reddit and 24/7 news sites can’t. That squib of glue and pulp changes how we think, how patient we are, how much we fall in love with the world and its wonder.
A Kindle loaded with books is the next best thing, sure. But it’s a cold comfort, isn’t it? That glass and plastic and bright light?
The opening scene of The Neverending Story, when Bastian escapes to the attic to read his secret stolen book is a formative image for me. It’s that mix of running, rain, fear, excitement, and wonder that defined my winter reading jags. It defined the narrative that said when I opened this strange new tome I’d meet characters from across the universe. Imagine Bastian doing the same thing today – somehow stealing an ePub, side loading it onto a Nook, pressing power – and the drama isn’t there. Maybe someday it will be, but not now.
So as we roll into the season of quiet afternoons and long dark evenings, when the weather gets nasty and there’s no reason to take to the streets, when the apartment or the ranch or the duplex gets warm and and there are no appointments, and the books are there, old friends waiting for a visit, then visit them. We owe it to the book not to forget for no matter how fast memory fades the written word, stamped on old paper, is still the best repository for the world we’ve ever created.
Catégories: News informatiques
dim, 08.12.2013 - 20:00
From time to time on Twitter, I’ll unknowingly dip my toes into contested waters. There are some debates which run deep, like strong ocean currents. Occasionally, I muster up the courage to write about my personal preference for iOS over Android (as well as Apple’s ecosystem advantage vis a vis others), or to write about how native mobile apps will provide the consumer touchpoint that matter, while the web as we know it will wane in relevance. This week, I may have stumbled onto another one: The debate around whether mobile consumers, at large, are ready and willing to allow some applications the right to persistently grab their location.
Disclaimer: This post *is not* about apps that capture your location while the app is active, such as Foursquare, or Google Maps. Rather, it is about apps which require GPS access most of the time, even at times when the app is not open or active.
A few days ago, I tweeted: “Maybe it’s me, but a whole lot of people assume the majority of smartphone users will be OK with an app that persistently grabs location.” Turns out I was wrong, and the situation is a bit more nuanced. I don’t have stats for the following, but play along.
At least on iOS, when users onboard onto the platform itself, most seem to allow Apple to grab location from time to time, such as when Siri is activated, or when taking a photo, as well as more periodically so that Apple can provide both generalized and signification location change APIs to developers. At the app layer, it seems consumers are growing more comfortable with allowing applications to access the GPS sensor, including those apps which ask to do so persistently.
“Persistent Location” (or “Ambient Location”) presents a complicated case. Again, I don’t know how to prove this, so I rely on intuition, which tells me those who work in startups, technology, and mobile are aware of the battery costs associated with “always-on” GPS apps, and it may be that the early adopters are the ones to test out such apps but are also more cognizant of the costs. On the other hand, the majority of iOS users may not be aware of how to kill active apps running in the background, how to manage which apps can access their GPS in settings, and so forth. And, to be fair, mobile developers continue to improve their app’s own battery management, using Apple’s APIs to grab location during active use or periodically throughout the day. Certainly, it’s easy to see why developers salivate over having location always on — the ability to collect more user data, an opportunity to send more precise and contextual notifications, and the chance to predict user behavior in anticipatory ways.
About 18 months ago, I wrote about how various apps grab user location either implicitly or explicitly, and suggested that few apps in the market, if any, offered consumers enough value or benefit to warrant the battery cost associated with ambient location permissions. At the time, my belief was passive or ambient location data collection would be hindered by battery concerns, but now I wonder if we are right on the cusp of an app which gets to scale with ambient location permissions. In fact, some of the smartest app developers I know (those with deep location experience) seem to think we are right at this juncture, which is exciting, and they themselves are seeing promising percentages of users going along for the location ride. In particular, apps likes Moves, recently launched HeyDay, and a bunch currently in stealth about to hit the market.
So, there we have it. We will have to wait and see how app makers and the market responds, but with better battery optimization techniques, better location APIs, and a potential divide between early-adopter techies (who fight to preserve battery at all costs) and the normal consumer, who may not care to manage settings or know how to, the stage may be set. Of course, the onus ultimately falls on app developers to create something which not only justifies the API calls, but also creates enough value for users to engage and re-engage with the app beyond just data collection, organization, and presentation. And, as it is with all things, the market here will also decide if this is indeed the time ambient location enthusiasts have been waiting for. That once-dreaded location arrow in the top-right status bar, whether full or greyed out, may quite well be a thing of the past.
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Michael Pollak
Catégories: News informatiques
dim, 08.12.2013 - 17:30
This week, Yahoo continued with its prolific acquisition strategy with a one-two punch picking up companies working on video — a sign that, while some of its acquisitions have been basic talent grabs, at least a few of them have a very specific focus to them, concentrating on fixing its long-neglected video business. The move taps not just into how Yahoo hopes to build up its audience of users who spend more time with Yahoo, but also subsequently tap into premium advertising served alongside it.
First the basics. On Friday, Yahoo announced its purchase of EvntLive, a virtual venue and concert hall for live and on-demand music. EnvtLive debuted in February with plans to re-define the way people engage with music online by creating a scalable platform to host live, streaming concerts — from sold-out arenas to intimate clubs.
Just days before, it had made another video buy, acqui-hiring the team behind DreamWorks-incubated mobile video company, Ptch (apparently in a raw deal for early employees). The app, among other things, aimed to make it easy people to video mashups by providing tools that allow users to remix their existing content by adding music, effects and to share with friends.
EvntLive’s goal was to support its live, streaming concert venue with a curated, searchable library of shows for fans that may have missed the live concert, which would then be supported by social media integration, premium content (like behind-the-scenes video), a database of information about artists and an eCommerce marketplace where fans could purchase stuff from their favorite bands.
While live, online music has attracted many startups over the years, it has yet to produce a definitive platform, partly due to the many obstacles inherent to the music industry, its resistance to digital technologies, and the slow, painful sea change that has fundamentally reshaped the music business over the last five years.
Nonetheless, EvntLive saw an opportunity to be take advantage of the new distribution, marketing, recording and manufacturing models making their way into the music world, and be the first to combine streaming video, live music, social networking and eCommerce in one music platform. The startup’s potential appeal was also boosted by some veteran leadership and talent from both the music and tech industries, starting with people like Judy Estrin.
Estrin, who served as EvntLive’s Executive Director, began her career working with Vint Cerf’s research group at Stanford University — the same one that played a central role in the development of the Internet. She has founded seven technology companies, served as the CTO of Cisco Systems and held board positions at FedEx for 20 years, Sun Microsystems for eight years, and currently sits on the board of The Walt Disney Company (a position she’s held since 1998).
Troy Carter, who represents artists like Lady Gaga and John Legend, served as both an advisor and investor, and EnvtLive had raised $2.3 million in capital from a long list of investors. Those included people like “Father of the Internet” and Google exec, Vint Cerf, Mayfield Fund partner and Glooko Chairman, Yogen Dalal, former Intel exec Dave House, Tapjoy President and CEO Steve Wadsworth, among others.
Neither Yahoo nor EvntLive are revealing the terms of the deal, but EvntLive has revealed that its platform will be shut down. Compared to other video-centric acquisitions Yahoo has made, like Ptch and Qwiki, which had both been around for quite some time, EvntLive launched less than a year ago. So, in that sense, the exit-and-shutter result may leave some of its early supporters with a bad taste in their mouth.
It could be that EvntLive found more friction in the music industry than it had expected or that perhaps adoption didn’t take off as quickly as it had hoped. But when we caught up with Judy Estrin today, she told us that, while it was a difficult decision for the team to make, the opportunity to be part of a bigger company and have access to the resources that come with it, won out. As a result of the acquisition, Yahoo will now be able to use the startup’s technology throughout its digital media, video and music products, which, in turn, gives EvntLive access to a much larger network and audience than it might have reached on its own.
Plus, though the team started out by focusing on music, the idea was always for EvntLive to become a platform for a wide variety of events, she said. With Yahoo, EvntLive will likely have that opportunity. However, it is worth noting that neither Estrin, nor co-founders David Carrico and Alex and Jonathan Beckman will be joining Yahoo.What This Means For Yahoo
While it’s an early end for EvntLive, things are just beginning for Yahoo. EvntLive, following recent acquisitions like Ptch and Qwiki, is further evidence that Yahoo is getting serious about investing in and fixing its video technology.
In a world where video and digital entertainment are thoroughly dominated by Netflix and Google-YouTube (half of the Internet’s traffic, in fact), it’s easy to forget that companies like Yahoo used to contend in the space. But over the years, the company’s video products and technology have been left in the dust by the Hulus and Netflixes of the world.
That was put into stark relief when Yahoo announced its acquisition of Tumblr this summer. The event, which was streamed live via its streaming video tech, “Screen,” was unwatchable. The video cut out and was hicuppy throughout. As a result, I pleaded with the company to reserve some of its seemingly endless M&A budget to buy better video technology.
Not saying that Yahoo heard those pleas, but this summer, for the first time, Marissa Mayer began publicly talking up the company’s plans in video. Building a better video platform has become a top priority, she said at the time, adding that video would be a “primary area of investment over the next year.” What’s more, Yahoo made the unprecedented move to broadcast its second quarter earnings call live this year.
They’ve improved over a year ago, but they still need a lot of work. Why would you visit those instead of YouTube, Hulu or even, gasp, Aol for video? [Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Aol, but that doesn't mean we don't still think it's a joke a lot of the time.] Or Spotify for music?
On the video front, Adding SNL was a big move by Yahoo and, in the end, if you have the content, licenses and contracts, then people will come anyway while you fix the tech and the design. But, really, isn’t the question whether Yahoo should even be trying to compete with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon for the rights to stuff like SNL’s archives in the first place? Arguably, that’s a more significant question than the degree to which it’s behind Tech Company X or Y in video, etc.
Although, clearly, having added Katie Couric as an anchor, Yahoo is indeed serious — both about fixing video and competing with, well, someone. Aol, most likely. If Yahoo is looking to Tumblr to have a connection to younger audiences, Couric is something different. Because, for most people under 50, adding Katie Couric as an anchor won’t make a difference to their viewing habits.
Services like EvntLive and Ptch sit apart from content grabs: their technology and services can be used across all of them.
While we know that EvntLive will be joining Yahoo’s video team and that its homepage now includes links to Yahoo Screen and Yahoo Music, both Yahoo and its new aqui-hires have remained mum about how they plan to improve and modernize these products. (Beyond just making sure that streaming video means streaming video.) It’s very likely that this plan is still evolving and may not even be clear on that as of yet.
But Estrin has told us in the past that the team had a lot of pride in the engineering team and technology infrastructure it had built behind its virtual concert hall, and there’s no doubt that Yahoo needs it. It still has a long way to go in both video and music. Although hope and confidence are returning for investors and analysts, looking at the gap between Yahoo and other tech leaders in music, video (and a number of other arenas) it’s hard not to wince. It’s going to need all the EvntLives it can get.
Catégories: News informatiques
dim, 08.12.2013 - 10:36
TechCrunch Moscow today features a whole 38 startups pitching to enter the final on Day Two, which features the main conference. You can catch the pitches live today on the live video stream but here’s a run-down of al the companies, as they describe themselves.
The Startup Alley features over 70 startups that met the requirements of an exhibition participant, being less than 3 years old, and having raised no more than $3M investment. Evan Nisselson (LDV Capital) is MCing the Startup Pitches.
A cloud music storage and streaming service targeting owners of large music collections to enjoy their music over Android, iOS, WP8 devices. Our storage system helps to upload music to the cloud 30 times faster, save space and lower costs. Songs can be uploaded to the cloud from iTunes, Winamp and different devices. Folders and subfolders structure are preserved. Music can be listened even without internet access. We offer 3 Gb for free and $25/year unlimited. Sign up right now!
Special application that includes unique computer vision algorithms. It utilizes a video sensor to scan the space in front of a digital display or a showcase, detects human faces and tracks their position. At any given time 27 faces detects from all potential viewers only those who were looking directly on the screen, recognizes their gender and age group. Collected data is anonymously transmitted in encrypted form to a central server for storage and analysis.
Music tech company, providing digital publishing solution and platform for music and visual artists to jointly publish, share and monetize their music and art on mobile and connected devices. We turn music, images, text and metadata into a beautiful application called 3plet. 3Plet is a mobile music album and artist-centric sales and communication channel, new industrial standard for music album releases.
A platform that integrates all available Advertising Networks (AN) by means of parsing and API methods. Our aim is to provide a system that facilitates the maximization of revenue of publishers. It allows controlling, customizing and making A/B testing any AN from a single interface. It relieves from most of the routine work and the necessity to change promotional codes on a site while changing an ANs.
Platform for e-commerce in B2B segment. It enables e-commerce, procurement of products and electronic document flow between suppliers of products, online shops and offline retailers. Agora accommodates more than 2000 companies from different industries. Geography includes all regions of Russia and CIS. Our solutions simplify the time-consuming processes and minimize costs. Agora is an electronic instrument for procurement and marketing needs.
Cutting-edge mobile application that makes transferring content from your phone easy and fast, almost like sharing air. You can conveniently send and receive contacts, photos, or videos to and from your friends with a simple point-and-shoot of your smartphones. The Airlike app also creates a personalized account for each of its users, allowing you to carefully choose what you would like to share. Sharing content is almost effortless with Airlike.
A set of tools for recruiters: browser plugin + search engine, allowing any company to quickly find IT-specialists which are the “best fit” for the company. It allows searching through multiple Internet-sources and unites profiles of a candidate into a “consolidated profile”. AmazingHiring gives an ability to “score” a candidate before interview – based on both: qualifications and “culture fit” for a particular company; ranking search results appropriately.
Framework for mobile applications development with 100% of common codebase between iOS, Android, Windows. Unlike HTML5-solutions, Appercode provides native interfaces, comparable with the development for each platform individually, but 3 times faster. From May to December 2013 Appercode earned $50k in test sales, won a $60k grant from Microsoft, won the largest Russian tech startups contest Generation S ($80K), and released the product in 10 countries.
Platform that allows to crowdfund mobile apps/games launch marketing. Applicatix is a way to publish a finished app/game. It combines advantages of self-publishing and working with traditional publishers. The platform gathers money from crowd investors, giving them a share of future app/game profit in return and then uses that money to market this application. Traditional marketing used at pre-launch and unique marketing quests are added after the application launch.
We automatically convert Facebook and VK communities into iOS and Android apps, resulting in new pages, m-shops, magazines, company pages and intranet-apps. Features: instant App Store and Google Play publishing; free converting to the mobile audience; automatic content generating, YouTube channels, Instagram feed. New features for communities: retention, monetization, m-commerce.
How to get to the airport? Where to find the check-in? Where to go while waiting for a flight? These are just a few of the problems happening at your stay at the airport, especially if you’re there for the first time. AviaShopper-the first mobile Guide for airports around the world! Due to special technology supporting the information up–to-date, AviaShopper makes it easy to navigate and to spend time with pleasure in every airport, as well as to solve a lot of tasks for the traveler: buy tickets, booking hotels or taxi.
Relationships are deeds. You do good deeds every day, even though you don’t notice that sometimes. You surprise your friends, inspire your colleagues or just help someone. Those who have been touched by that may mark your deeds in Beens. Your deeds build your Beens Index. Beendex shows how good you are in a single number. Something that sets you apart. Get surprises, emotional benefits and a better job. Become better and get more.
First mobile financial applications Store, compatible with EasyFinance Platform API. Apps are created by independent developers, checked and certificaticated by EasyFinance and its partners, that guarantees user’s financial data security and safety. Apps deployment in BestFinApps enables developers to access to 150 000 auditory, use ready cloud technologies of EasyFinance Platform and to profit from users as well as from corporate clients.
Innovative solution for Boards, Committees and other governing bodies, which facilitates planning and conducting onsite, provides history and access to related issues, tracks why certain decisions were taken and how they have been implemented, generates meeting minutes. BoardMaps improves corporate governance, involves users in the meeting preparation stage, shows required actions with intuitive interface, allows remote and absentee voting, available in local or cloud hosting.
A secure, simple and convenient tool for making instant payments and micropayments directly from any bank account without the need for Visa/MasterCard (or other such plastic!). Payments are made using mobile phone of any generation and/or NFC sticker.
How much does the Product or Service really cost? Connect2me claims that it costs exactly the sum that other users are ready to pay for it right now. Accumulating the user`s money rates for particular products or goods, Connect2me offers the Sellers to agree with the offered average price. If one does not agree with it, there definitely comes another one whom it suits perfectly well. Lowering the margin vs sales turnover growth. What will the members of the market choose?
We eliminate workplace time waste. You are the boss and you don’t want employees shopping online or browsing facebook for your bill. We can help you to stop it. Our software tracks usage time of unproductive sites and programs. We provide you with an exact number of wasted hours for departments and individuals. Our software is specially designed for medium businesses and enterprises.
We turn data into competitive advantage by means of state-of-the-art Data Mining. Enterprises discover new opportunities for accurate trend prediction, uncover valuable customer information and reduce their risks. We will make your business smarter!
Online service that allows landlords to find the ideal tenants. To rent out your apartment, register on the website, upload the photos of your apartment and invite tenants to whom you would like to rent. When a tenant agrees, you will see each others contact and from there on come to an arrangement. Realtor free. Therefore, with the help of Dream- roomer you can find tenants that will perfectly suit you and you them. Find the tenant of your dreams!
Protect your city from evil Shadows! Dusk Rift is urban fantasy online game where powerful vampires, lycans and shadow hunters unite to protect shops, restaurants, schools and universities in Moscow, New York, Tokyo and other cities across the world. Gameplay is a blend between ultra popular Candy Crush Saga, innovative Ingress and modern MMORPGs with multiplayer battles. Monetization is free2play: premium account, powerful combat boosts and fashion items. Soon on iOS/Android/WP and web.
Customer-facing SaaS platform for the restaurant industry. Restaurants directly connect with customers using a network of real-time, integrated services. Restaurants can manage their business more effectively and make more profit. For users, FoodRock is an E2E (end-to-end) mobile app which makes every dining experience more convenient and more personal.
Unique synergy of extensive database, marketplace and media channel integrated into one of the best specialized social networks. Not only video games fans can develop their community of friends, but also online stores, vendors and media have the option start their accounts in order to get in touch with potential customers. Our strategy is to provide the end user with definite service. You are GameWelcome!
GBooking is like Amazon for the services market: it allows consumers to search, compare and book services on the web, like car, medical and beauty care. Our algorithms calculate discounts during weak business hours and publish them on partner sites, thus increasing the customer reach and converting tens of thousands of leads into real customers. We integrate with search engines, online catalogs, coupon sites, CRM and CMS systems, empowering them with our optimization and booking widget.
The GSA mCommerce SaaS/ecosystem helps eCommerce become mCommerce. For the large percentage of non used mTraffic it provides automatic generated native android, iOS, html5, and tablet APPs, 2.5% peer2peer payments and a loyalty system as well as mMarketing to iShops. GSA monetizes with ads, subscriptions, acquiring, and affiliate marketing. Revenue sharing reduces marketing cost. Cooperations with CMS generate thousands of Apps. Plans for the near future: pushes, SmartTVApps, and augmented reality.
Digital loyalty program. In each store we set up Getsy iPad, customers download the Getsy App or get the physical Getsy card, checkin his QR code through the in-store iPad each time they buy something, earns points and get special rewards.
We came up with how it is possible to give gifts in a new way: easy, fast and cool. Giftboard is a mobile app that allows you to give a real gift in less than a minute knowing only the phone number or gift id of the recipient. You can give your friend a cup of coffee with the best wishes of a good day or congratulate a colleague on his birthday being on a business trip in another city. Giftboard make it possible to give presents every day not only on holidays.
An outlet and a consignment store of new and pre-owned luxury clothing, shoes and accessories at affordable prices. Glamcom.ru provides a simple and safe online service which redefines the format of consignment retail for both buyers and sellers.
SAAS solution for online recruiting, which solves the problem of low efficiency of mass internet recruitment. HRMarker automates the process of screening resumes, reducing the original set of candidates. Service is self-learning system that learns by analyzing of HR specialist process action. In this way, a knowledge base is formed, that allows to recommend the required information to the next user without using search engine, but through the base of recommendations.
IKTOTAM CONNECTOR – SMART INTERCOM
Device that connects your apartment’s intercom with your smartphone. Guests that dial the intercom can be viewed on your smartphone or tablet and you can chat with them. iKtotam records your visitors and saves video and audio data to cloud storage. As well Connector lets you open the entrance door to your guests with a single tap on your smartphone. Instantly respond to visitors or ignore them. Connector helps you keep your home and the ones you love safe.
We help parents choose reliable, educational applications for children, and provide them convenient reports on progress and achievements. Applications for Kid Erudite undergo a rigorous selection process by teachers and child psychologists. We select the best applications and build a coherent and comprehensive educational system. We will develop applications to cover any gaps in the curriculum with our developers team for platforms iOS, Android, WindowsPhone, and Windows 8.
LifePay provides admission of the credit card payments on smartphones with full guarantee transaction security anywhere you have the Internet access. All you need is cardreader, connected by audiojack to a smartphone (based on iOS,Android or WinPhone) and preinstalled LifePay app. Cardreader is free – we subtracted only a 2,7% percentage of each transaction. Operation’s safety meets the requirements of PCI DSS. All of the statistics are accounted in the personal office.
Open-source device, which lightens your computer or TV screen to strengthen the presence effect. The device needs to be mounted on your TV or computer screen and to be connected to your PC, Mac or HTPC via USB. The software analyses what you currently have on the screen and sends this information to the Lightpack device which in turn lightens the surface behind the screen with matching colors using the RGB-LEDs available within the Lightpack device.
A service that helps people organize their health. Now the user can already find a doctor or clinic, to register in online reception, to receive information on diseases and recommendations on who specializes in them, and much more. Website and application available.
TV guide for you and your friends. Information for over 200 channels in 100 different regions. See what’s showing on TV- a brief description, list of actors and the information about them, related tweets, schedule of the following episodes, and much more! Set reminders so that you won’t miss your favorite showб share shows with your friends and discuss them in the chatrooms.
Cloud healthcare platform that captures and securely stores patient medical data from any source or provider allowing integrated healthcare delivery. It is a fully featured ecosystem for the private healthcare market that facilitates the collaboration of all the major players – clinics, patients, CROs, employers, insurance companies, and medical device vendors. Today, the platform serves more than 100,000 patients across Russia.
Textile treatment liquid. It is a simple and inexpensive way to make your favorite gloves compatible with touchscreens. We have invented it for all touchscreen device users. So there is no need to take off your gloves answering a call or a text message anymore. MediaGloves is a transparent liquid, unnoticeable when dry, safe for both glove and skin. Inventing mediagloves is our way to create something new something different, make our world a better place.
Multifunctional SaaS service for automation of business activities of microfinance institutions (MFIs). Allows managing the full cycle of microloans from application for a loan to collecting overdue arrears. Service built on Windows Azure cloud infrastructure and requires no additional software or hardware costs, provides an intuitive user-friendly interface and allows MFIs to start work with minimal financial and time costs.
Telecom & IT service based on a wristband for on-line health control. It automatically monitors heart rate, falls and skin temperature. If your relative feels bad you will be alerted by an SMS or call; it works as a mobile phone. User health statistics are available in an on-line account. Research proved our service fits the existing need of millions of people in Russia and other countries. We hope that TechCrunch will help us find the right partners to expand our outreach and serve more people.
Universal and convenient service for swapping and trading used games and accessories for consoles. How the project operates is simple: gamers create a virtual shelf with the games they are offering and they may ask each other for specific games to trade. As the project has a geolocation feature, all gamers see games that are available in their neighborhood. Then the only thing they have to do is to set up a meeting. This service is already accessible in all CIS countries.
Service for tracking parcels. It tracks sites of postal and courier services and shows information for all of user’s parcels. OhMyDelivery also allows online stores to integrate tracking of order status directly in user’s account. In addition to this, service will allow to collect feedback about the quality of goods and delivery from users. The application is available in the AppStore.
Frequently, you are waiting before you’ll be served in most of mid-range restaurants. Average waiting time in Russian restaurants is 20 minutes. You can miss your plane or meeting and you don’t control this time. Using Order King you can place orders directly from your smartphone or tablet. And it will be served directly to your table. Also you can pay for your meal and give tips with your smartphone.
Playzum’s mission is to provide a platform that gives gamers the ability to socially interact with other users and friends on gaming achievements, game recommendations. Cool Features: Easy access from any device, Game-based check-in, Social game guide with recommendations and reviews, Game friend finder.
Collective buying platform of the furniture, building materials, tools and sanitary ware. Allows the retail buyers get the wholesale price. This is possible through buying directly from the manufacturer without extra charges of distributors and stores. When buying directly from the manufacturer the Collective buying participant saves up to 40% in construction and 70% in repairs. We use original strategy for group buying China’s model – self-organized and execute. Warehouse clubs function.
Billing and management platform for cloud services (SaaS, IaaS). Service providers (xSP) use RentSoft to reduce costs and increase cloud services sales. RentSoft provides such features as recurring and metered billing, cloud service marketplace, client area, services automation, invoicing and payment processing, event notifications, promotions and bundles, statistics, ERP integration, affiliate program.
Cloud service that keeps online threats at bay. We will ensure your internet surfing is safe and comfortable, with annoying ads, porn, dangerous websites and other sources of trouble securely blocked. At home or on the corporate network, on computers or mobile devices – anytime, anywhere you are guaranteed the best experience and protection from cybercrime.
Bonus loyalty program for small and medium enterprises (SaaS). The program is installed in the venue and works on an iPad. Each venue that uses SkyPort has its own bonus program (similar to frequent flyer’s program) tied to the industry specifics of the venue. Gamified process of bonus accumulation enables venues to promote certain services, increase average spending and reward their best customers with extra bonuses. Already works in beauty salons, medical centers, fitness-centers and shops.
TAG & FIND
Turns any smartphone or tablet into a professional RFID scanner. Its main use is to find assets, or sound an alert if they are out of range. Replacing the back-cover of your smartphone, it works with RFID stickers and a mobile application. Our lightweight stickers can attach to any object, and need no battery. We offer businesses a professional cloud-based ERP platform, fully integrated with RFID scanning, for hands-free inventory management, effective items location and loss prevention.
If you’re young and ambitious in Russia, you need to interact with people and ideas elsewhere. Right now, that’s tough. Talkster will change this. We set up conversations between bright, curious people. They’re in English, over Skype, last 45 minutes and cost Russians $15. On the other end are British students. For them, Talkster represents a challenge: can you strike up a conversation with a stranger? Russians pick the conversation topic beforehand and rate their chat straight afterwards.
A mobile blogging platform that will turn the way how people blog upside down. Today, blogging is hard, time consuming and desktop based. We are making the whole process easy & mobile, and what’s important more beautiful without any extra skills required. With Telller everyone can really start blogging or improve their current blog. Telller will be launched as an iPhone app with a content mirror website later in 2013.
Mobile social network for event visitors and organizers. Services for event attendees: Finding an event, Finding travel- & roommates, Finding new friends, Making appointments. The event app features agenda, address, twitterwall, geolocation services. Event organizers get: Finding or creating events, Customized app, Scheduling appointments. Free on Android and iOS.
This cartoon messenger is a cross platform messaging service with a twist. It turns your text messages into funny animations. For example, you can choose your character and make it throw a cake at those of your friends. After you have exchanged several messages you can watch the whole dialog as a cartoon.
A unique and ready-to-use credit facility even now engaged in partner sales all over Russia. This is a tool for work with b2b customers interlinking business and banks. Such service has been developed for professional market – real estate agencies, realtors, travel agents, insurance agents, car dealers, and tenant builders. Unicom24 is a fully free service, online access to 30 banks, uniform customer profile, assured feedback, and chance to make money out of every credit provided.
A solution that allows users to receive loans right at home. The development of our unique software allows integration with any online store, providing reliable technical platform. The project received more than 70M RUR of investment, which allowed us to create a high-tech service, to attract major partners and to become one of the leaders in online lending market. Currently the service has more than 100 partners.
Multifunctional navigation system projecting augmented reality content right in front of the driver. Thanks to cutting edge technology it expands the boundaries of conventional driving making it safer, more efﬁcient and enjoyable. The route is graphically represented as an AR line repeating the motion path. It lets you track information simultaneously while driving, without eye movement and refocusing. Interacting with urban infrastructure the system enlarges it with digital content.
Unique educational project providing an opportunity to get online counseling on all your admission questions with our experts – students and graduates of foreign universities from top-300 universities worldwide. It also provides an extensive database of 3000+ educational programs all over the world, internships and volunteer programs.
A platform for collaboration and knowledge management helping small and medium sized teams to achieve their goals with 50% more productivity. User experiences based on neuroscience and gamification underpin a supportive communication and collaboration environment. It invites to celebrate daily achievements invested into teams’ goals and to praise heroes. This personnel engagement tool helps to analyze who contributed most to which goals, what was discussed, and what appealed to the team.
Catégories: News informatiques
dim, 08.12.2013 - 09:43
Today we are kicking off the first day of TechCrunch Moscow. Day one is all about 38 startups pitching to enter the final stages. Day Two will feature many speakers from the Russian tech startup ecosystem and some international speakers. Here’s live video stream.
Since the first TechCrunch Moscow in 2010, the event has created a major splash in the Russian startup and venture industry and is very much at the core of what’s happening. As always, the conference will be accompanied by the Startup Alley and pitches competition, featuring 38 up-and-coming Russian startups.
Evan Nisselson (LDV Capital) will MC the Startup Pitches. Each startup will have 3 minutes for the pitch and another 2-3 minutes to answer questions from the judges.
The pitches will be followed by the Product Announcement from Marina Kolesnik, founder and CEO of Oktogo, and a Success Story of Rocketbank presented by the founder, Victor Lysenko.
You can tune into the live stream by clicking here or below.
You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter.
Catégories: News informatiques
dim, 08.12.2013 - 01:21
Verizon is looking to get deeper into the content delivery business with the acquisition of Los Angeles-based CDN provider EdgeCast Networks, TechCrunch has heard. Owning EdgeCast, and combining it with the carrier’s global network backbone COMMA, will give Verizon access to EdgeCast’s big-name CDN clients while also extending its reach.
According to a source, the deal for EdgeCast — which provides CDN services to the likes of Twitter, Pinterest, and Hulu — is expected to be announced in the coming days, and will be worth more than $350 million. Both EdgeCast and Verizon declined to comment on the matter.
While Verizon has seen success in its wireless practice, growth in the company’s enterprise business has lagged. With the enterprise division expected to remain flat over the next year, adding EdgeCast to the mix could add a profitable new revenue stream.
The deal would follow Verizon’s acquisition of digital media streaming company UpLynk a few weeks ago for a reported $75 million, as the carrier seeks to provide more ways to stream various types of content over its network.
Like UpLynk, EdgeCast would likely become a part of Verizon’s Digital Media Services group. Together, the two acquisitions enable Verizon to provide for more of an end-to-end offering around streaming video, but EdgeCast brings a lot more to the table.
In seeking to differentiate its offering, EdgeCast has rolled out a variety of new services aimed at providing additional value to its customers. That includes a CDN offering just for e-commerce companies, launched in May, as well as the launch of its own DNS routing service in October.
Over the years, Verizon has made various attempts to offer content delivery to Internet companies, but for the most part that usually meant reselling CDN services from third-party providers. (Indeed, a page on Verizon’s Enterprise services portal names both Akamai and EdgeCast as part of its CDN offering.)
EdgeCast is one of several content delivery networks that popped up around the 2005-2008 timeframe to compete with Akamai and Limelight. The company was founded by a group of serial entrepreneurs who had previous success with a company called KnowledgeBase, which had been acquired by enterprise CRM vendor Talisma Corporation. It’s also one of the few network infrastructure companies from that era to not only survive, but thrive in a competitive environment.
The company had more than 6,000 clients and was on pace for a $100 million run rate when it raised $54 million from Performance Equity Management over the summer. EdgeCast has been profitable for several years, company president James Segil told me at the time, which was probably attractive to Verizon.
In all, the company has raised just $74 million, which means a decent payout for investors that include Menlo Ventures and Disney-backed Steamboat Ventures.
What’s less clear is how the acquisition will affect EdgeCast’s reseller business. Since being founded in 2006, EdgeCast has built a tidy and profitable business out of providing the routing and dashboard management for a number of global carriers to deploy CDN Services.
Named clients and partners include Deutsche Telekom, Telus, Pacnet, and PCCW, but it’s also been linked to AT&T for that carrier’s big CDN push a few years back. Being part of a competing carrier in certain markets could mean less reseller traffic, but it could be counterbalanced by increased demand for value-added services and Verizon’s own enterprise clients.
Catégories: News informatiques
dim, 08.12.2013 - 01:00
December is officially here, and it’s a particularly cold weekend for much of the United States. Looking for a way to stay warm? I humbly suggest that you huddle around the cozy glow of your computer screen and watch a new episode of CrunchWeek, the show that brings a few TechCrunch writers together to chat about the most fascinating stories of the past seven days in tech.
In this week’s episode, Leena Rao, Ryan Lawler and I discuss Amazon’s much-buzzed-about experiments in making deliveries using unmanned flying drones, the leaked screenshot that showed just how much money Uber is raking in (it’s a lot), and 23andMe’s battles with the FDA over the marketing and sale of its genetic testing kits.
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 21:47
How does a power cord charge a cellphone? Magic, silly! According to a Pew poll, many of my fellow Americans are completely in the dark about how their world works, including the fact that carbon dioxide is a chemical responsible for some global warming.
Readers can take the interactive quiz here before reading more. Pew’s quiz is especially salient this week, after another round of International test scores confirmed, once again, that America’s poorly run education system is producing a deeply unequal and uninformed society.
Here are a few of the essential gems that participants couldn’t answer.
Less Than Half Of High School Graduates Know The Cause of Global Warming
Forty-nine percent could not identify “carbon” as the cause of climate change (as opposed to Hydrogen, Helium, or Radon). Note, this wasn’t about whether humans are causing global warming, just what, on Earth, is making it warmer outside.
Equally concerning to those who think Democracy rocks is the fact that about one-third didn’t know the basics of drug experimentation. About 33 percent of those without a diploma thought that researchers should give all the participants in a study the treatment drug, rather than half (the control group).
The graph below is not segmented by education level.
Nano Means Small
Nanorobots are not, in fact, robots that are very large, cold, or hot. Nano means tiny; it’s a prefix I’d like to know when an evil super-villain infects the water supply with mind-controlling robots. Or, less likely, when our government is debating pollution and crop spray regulations.
“The inability to communicate effectively the potential risks associated with nanotechnology could create an environment where appropriate regulation and confident private sector investment are threatened,” explained a research paper from Yale’s Cultural Cognition Lab [PDF].
Electrons Are Smaller Than Atoms And Lasers Are Not Made Of Sound
About 33 percent of those over 65 years of age didn’t know that an electron was smaller than an atom. One would think with the Cold War’s delightful history of nuclear propaganda, someone would have noticed that the objects orbiting the center ball were smaller. In total, less than half (47 percent) got that question correct.
Another fun fact: sound does not produce blinding light. Lasers are something we see. Despite this fact, less than half (47 percent) of Americans thought lasers were made of sound.
Bacteria Resistance Is A Thing
We might be slowly rumbling towards a global epidemic of drug-resistant bacteria. The more we inoculate Big Mac-destined cattle from disease, the worse our defenses become. Most people (77 percent) recognized that bacteria resistance was more of a problem than bacteria addiction (not a thing). Only 58 percent of those with a diploma or less could answer this question correctly.
Here’s the full breakdown of the quiz:
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 20:00
The Gillmor Gang — John Borthwick, Robert Scoble, Dan Farber, Doc Searls, and Steve Gillmor — imagine a world 30 years in the future and discover it looks pretty much the same. A world where drones drop things off and pick them up, too. Why buy when you can rinse, rent, and repeat. The signs are everywhere, as the cloud makes anything possible at startup scale. The question is, can anyone but Google and Apple win?
Form versus function is the framing of the media, but perhaps the real winners will capture the broad audience with fitness data topped with media services. Twitter is serving up viral swarms around binge programming, and soon we’ll be telling our wrist bands to sort the mail and start the dishwasher. It’s more and more difficult to tell the robots from their makers. Pass the oil, please.
@stevegillmor, @dsearls, @borthwick, @dbfarber, @scobleizer
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 18:30
Public school children have become lab rats of policymakers who are eager to see change faster than we can study what works. Experimental reforms are often founded on the lackluster research of ideological think tanks, who have filled the expertise vacuum left by academics unwilling to conduct policy-related research. “I’ve reviewed some just God awful stuff,” cringes Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker, whose influential data-driven education, blog, schoolfinance101 has helped him become a go-to reviewer for policy reports.
For example, he notes, the libertarian-happy think tank The Reason Foundation concluded that a controversial program to peg funding to student improvement had worked, but forgot to highlight the policy was adopted after the changes had begun. “I started realizing that there’s this never-ending flow of misinformation and disinformation out there,” he said.
Like Nate Silver’s influential and statistically nuanced election forecast blog posts, Baker has gained notoriety for reexamining data to trounce his adversary’s conclusions. And, with Silver’s new independent 538 channel, Baker’s brand of statistics-heavy argument could be the future of education journalism.
Stop Cheerleading Education Miracles, i.e. Education Effects Are Small
“We really have failed in the teaching of mathematics and probability,” decries Baker, who regularly debunks myths about unicorn policy changes that radically improve student outcomes. At scale, experiments rarely move the needle more than a few percentage points. Statisticians measure outcomes in “standard deviations”, or how students move relative to their peers.
A full standard deviation is, on average, going from the back of the pack (33rd percentile) to average (50th percentile). If “Anyone starts saying they’re getting you a half or full standard deviation additional growth–that’s when the bullshit detector starts going off.”
When a new Stanford University study found that Washington D.C.’s controversial pay-for-performance teacher policy had a half-standard deviation impact on quality, newspaper headlines lit up, “Study Finds Gains From Teacher Evaluations” read the New York Times Economix blog.
Latest NAEP school test scores suggest that school reform helps. Big improvements in DC & Tennessee, both centers of reform.—
Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) November 08, 2013
Despite data buried within the reports that show how reform had slightly improved the number of good teachers who didn’t quit, there was virtually no impact on student outcomes. Even worse, it ignored the fact that many other school districts have attempted similar strategies, with widely varying results. Baker put together a blog post soon after, re-organizing all the reform-minded states in relation to their students’ initial starting points on reading and math
In the admittedly ugly graph above, states should be showing great gains (above the red line)–but the effect is mixed. Stanford’s own post was careful to note the researchers’ skepticism, but that was missed by many media reports. This hasn’t stopped some states from adopting radical pay-for-performance schemes.
Miracle charters have also been a favorite target for Baker, who finds that many apparent success stories of market-driven schools actually end up spending far more per-pupil than similar public schools.
The report was searing enough to make the popular KIPP charter respond, a debate that added a healthy amount of skepticism to reform discussions in notable education trade journals.
His one mantra in reading education reports: “avoid certainty.”
The Academic Glacier
Academics and news media are on radically different timescales; news cycles last maybe 24-hours, while peer-review publishing shuffles at a comfortable pace of a year or longer for a single paper. To get the most bang for the buck, schools like Stanford are releasing reports to the press before the peer-review process.
“Even with the big research studies that gets released these days, the way to get recognized is by staging a big press release, and putting the study out long before it’s actually peer reviewed and appears in a journal,” says Baker. “Having a response out within a week often times isn’t even fast enough.”
So, Baker combines lightning quick posts with previous academic research. For instance, to debunk a myth that Louisiana’s Charter schools were outperforming New Jersey’s “Failure Factories,” he compared math schools in both areas re-evaluated in a peer-reviewed statistical procedure for accurately assessing poverty rates.
According to Baker, the cost of living varies by state, so we can’t use national averages of income to compare districts. When states are re-weighted by regional poverty, it’s clear that New Jersey is likely doing pretty well, considering the number of poor students they’re dealing with.
The problem is, education is tricky. Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman once quipped that they’d love to evaluate students by yearly improvement, but “children do not develop in nine-month chunks except during gestation.”
Unless a study is randomized, rigorously controlled and published in a peer-reviewed journal, arm your bullshit meter if anyone is claiming they’ve found a scalable solution. Until then, follow Baker for his response on hyped-up reform stories. I do.
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 17:00
Yesterday, Apple began a small press push on its new iBeacon technology, pushed an Apple Store app update to support them and turned the feature on in 254 U.S.-based stores in an initial rollout. According to the details we know so far, some Apple stores may have as many as 20 iBeacons deployed, depending on the size.
But the size of that rollout is deceptive for a couple of reasons — and the full implications of the impact on Apple’s iPad business, the internal mapping industry and the retail market are far bigger than anyone has really copped to.
Specifically, most of the coverage of iBeacons so far has failed to recognize a very important reality of this system: every iOS device since the iPhone 4s and iPad 3rd gen is already capable of being either an iBeacon receiver or transmitter, as long as it’s properly configured.
Yes, there are separate devices like Estimote’s beacons that can use Bluetooth LE protocols to act as a beacon, and Apple is using separate, specialized iBeacon devices that look like small silver rectangles tucked under shelves in some stores.
But some of the iBeacons deployed in Apple stores are not specialized hardware at all, they’re just regular iPads or iPhones that have been configured as iBeacons. And that capability extends to any Apple device with Bluetooth Low Energy and the latest major version of iOS. Let that sink in for a minute and you’ll start to realize the forward-thinking strategy Apple has been implementing over the course of the last few years.
According to estimates by Creative Strategies Analyst and Techpinions columnist Ben Bajarin, an estimated 170-190 million iOS devices are currently capable of being iBeacons — that is they have the right hardware and are running iOS 7. That number could swell to 250 million if holiday sales of iPhones and iPads are strong. Bajarin notes that Apple’s anticipated China Mobile deal could put them over 200 million in iPhone sales in 2014 alone.
This means that every compatible iPad currently deployed in a retail store is already capable of being configured as an iBeacon transmitter — and every iOS device with Bluetooth LE can be a receiver. And the iPad is already enormously dominant in the retail space. We spoke to Scott Paul, CEO of ArmorActive — a tablet enclosure solutions company — about their deployments of iPads and other tablets as digital signage, kiosks, information panels and more.
Some 90 percent of ArmorActive’s sales involve iPads, 88 percent of its customers are using iOS, 10 percent use Android, and only 2 percent are on Windows devices. The company has been installing iPad solutions since late 2010, when the iPad was launched. They handled the installation of iPads in Kate Spade stores that made a splash earlier this year. To date, they’ve deployed nearly 50,000 tablet kiosks in hotels, restaurants, retail and other locations. Paul says that they have seen demand for Android tablets wax and wane, as ‘hot’ models like the Nexus 7 have hit the market.
“Apple continues to be the tablet of choice for the majority of kiosk use that we build at ArmorActive,” Paul told TechCrunch. “Android is there, but we find that even though the price can be more competitive, the [fragmented] versioning of the OS and change in size makes it difficult to rely on the device for long-term deployments. Microsoft has been gaining traction with the larger enterprise clients because of IT being familiar with the OS.”
Microsoft, a surprise recent dark horse in the retail tablet install market, has gained a lot of attention in the space because clients are familiar with integrating them into their infrastructure, says Paul. Remote management of these Windows tablets is also far more flexible and powerful than Apple’s iPad solutions. Apple does iterate on its remote utilities over time, but it’s far outstripped by the administration capabilities of Windows-based tablets. If, Paul says, there was a stronger app development community, Microsoft would be seeing even greater traction.
We asked Paul about the implications for the retail tablet install business if currently installed iPads can be used as iBeacons. While he was aware of the iBeacon system, and Apple’s rollout today, he was surprised to learn that existing hardware could also be used as an iBeacon.
“This would present a major advantage to Apple, as many businesses have already implemented these devices into some part of their business, so iBeacons could essentially be turned on all over the business landscape with just a little education and awareness,” Paul told us. “This would further the value of using tablets in retail, as they can both display and transmit messages to those who have displays in their pocket. Apple would widen the gap between themselves and other tablet manufactures, because now their existing hardware plays nicely with your iPhone or iPad and would require such close proximity to make a handshake. NFC has failed to provide this value as evident in the ISYS hardware rollouts that see little adoption.”
Paul notes that the Kate Spade installation — which consists of simple digital signage displays — could be made into something much more powerful if they were turned into iBeacons. And, of course, ArmorActive is just one of many, many companies providing iPad solutions for stores. Another high-profile install is at LeBron James’ Unknwn in Miami, where every shoe has its own iPad display.
Apple’s current implementation of the Apple Store app sketches out the way that most of these experiences will be enabled. Whether the retailer you’re visiting is using a third-party iBeacon or an iPad configured as an iBeacon, you’ll have to have an app from the company on your device. When you installed that app (say the Walmart shopping app) you would have been required to allow it access to your location. So this will be an ‘opt in’ system of sorts.
Once the app is installed and iBeacons are configured, retailers will be able to push ‘micro-location’-based alerts to shoppers about deals or particular sections of the store. The beacons do this by using ‘ranging’ based on Bluetooth signal strength to determine very accurately — within a couple of feet at times — your physical location. These behaviors are impossible with GPS, which isn’t so hot indoors and whose accuracy has a much larger dead zone.
This will be the next big frontier for indoor mapping and retail, and Apple has an enormous — possibly insurmountable — head start because of how forward-thinking it was with Bluetooth LE hardware.
And these kinds of behaviors were things Apple was thinking about long before it began installing Bluetooth LE in its devices. Current Tesla User Interface designer and former Apple employee Kevin Chang noted that the Apple Store app team had been wanting to implement this kind of thing since they first began working on the app, and it was just now coming to fruition. The first version of the app was shipped in June of 2010, and was likely in planning well before that. Only the latest version of the app finally adds support for iBeacons, which trigger based on various areas of the store.
The current behaviors of the app, we understand, are very limited in comparison to the company’s eventual plans. And Apple’s rollout in its stores is best to be seen as a template on which others — and Apple itself — can build, rather than the end of this thread.
The difference maker to me here is that any sort of indoor or micro-location system now has to battle upstream from demonstration to proof-of-concept to acceptance to licensing and/or acquisition. Apple, by rolling out hundreds of millions of units capable of being both users and active transmitters, has positioned itself to be the de facto standard.
On the other hand, it’s also done the industry a big favor by helping to define what a micro-location system should look and work like — and to do the job of beginning to educate customers.
It’s far too early in the micro-location game to figure out who a ‘winner’ might be, but Apple has already established its hardware as a must for any new systems to either integrate or support.
This isn’t Apple rolling out beacons in a few of its stores. It’s Apple rolling out potential beacons in every store that has an iPad — and there are hundreds of thousands already out there. Now, when a retailer makes a decision about tablet kiosks or signage, they’ve got the incentive of a hyperlocal advertising or customer-service system built right in.
Lest we forget about Apple being a hardware company: This is going to end up selling an absolute ton of iPads.
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 16:00
Your government is the enemy of the future. Innovative technology that would disrupt the world as we know it is already here, but oppressive government bureaucrats keep getting in its way. Taxi commissions vs. Uber; the FDA vs 23andMe; the FAA vs. Amazon Prime Air; the DMV vs. self-driving cars; governments everywhere vs. Bitcoin.
This is intolerable and must stop. The government must get out of Silicon Valley’s way. No wonder that, even as it has become the center of the universe, its leading lights are musing about secession from America, or, at least, “an environment where people can try new things … some safe places where we can try out new things and figure out the effect on society,” as Google’s CEO put it earlier this year.
Too right. In the same way that Special Economic Zones have triggered enormous economic growth in places like Shenzhen, Dubai, and even Iran, we need an American equivalent; a Special Regulatory Zone where the normal rules and regulations which (allegedly) apply to today’s technology will hold no sway. A bit like Burning Man’s famous Temporary Autonomous Zone, which Page also cited, except with less dust, fewer rules, greater permanency, and a slightly lower incidence of incoherent naked people. The existence of such a zone will be critically important to the sacred mission of bringing us all the fruits of the future as soon as humanly possible.
But where? you ask. I believe the answer is staring us all in the face. I hereby modestly propose that the city of Oakland be transformed into that Special Regulatory Zone.
Oakland is perfect. It could hardly be more accessible to the tech titans who define this era; it’s barely a stone’s throw across the Bay from Silicon Valley. And yet at the same time it is a city notoriously plagued by poverty, crime, and political gridlock, all of which, like all problems, can be solved by the application of sufficient quantities of VC-funded smartphone apps and responsive websites built on Node.js and MongoDB. Silicon Valley has already shown this to be true with its cornucopia of revolutionary, world-transforming companies such as Instagram, Snapchat, Topsy, QuizUp, and Vine (to say nothing of Color.)
What’s more, despite the challenges it faces, Oakland is already an early adopter. It was a pioneer of police drones and recently approved a Domain Awareness Center that will provide 24-hour surveillance of license plates and street views for “proactive policing.” Its civic leaders don’t really understand the tech industry — indeed, one recently said, laughably, “I have this theory that the big problem with the tech industry is a lack of self awareness” — but as an East Bay resident myself (okay, fine, Berkeley, but some of my best friends live in Oakland) I’m confident that the imposition of a Special Regulatory Zone organized by Silicon Valley’s finest tech minds would be welcomed by most of Oakland, much as a grateful Iraqi population greeted their American liberators a decade ago.
Needless to say, its economically disadvantaged population can be turned into an army of six-figure earners in a jiffy by simply teaching them how to code (though admittedly it’s not clear how long it will take to feature them all on the Today Show). Obviously all that training will have to be done en masse rather than one-on-one in what I like to call “re-education camps,” perhaps a little like the ones that kickstarted China’s economic growth some decades ago.
We may however need to tweak the demographics of the Special Regulatory Zone a little for testing purposes. To make space, Luddites, hipsters, and other technological throwbacks could be humanely resettled to camps in the Central Valley, where I’m given to understand that there’s a thriving informal economy of agriculture jobs that can support them.
Some will argue that Oakland’s notorious violence may be an obstacle; but I say that, first of all, it can be curtailed if necessary by simply building a panopticon and an army of drone enforcers, and second, perhaps these lemons can be turned into lemonade. After all, aren’t the people willing to commit violence for the sake of the success of their personal enterprises exactly the kind of people with the drive, grit, and pluck required to become successful entrepreneurs? We only need to redirect their energies towards developing MVPs (Minimally Violent Products.) Furthermore, Oakland’s history of gang violence will likely let us investigate the realities of drone crime without having startups perform ethically awkward experiments themselves.
You may think that this proposal is a little too America-focused, so let me add one key feature; any foreigner who meets certain technical criteria would be allowed to immigrate to this new SRZ to build their startup. Obviously this will raise legal issues in the outside world; this in turn will open a market niche for the first startup to build ergonomically designed ankle-cuff location trackers to ensure that foreign founders don’t leave the bounds of the SRZ except for certain approved purposes, such as Y Combinator interviews.
I would like to finally suggest that the SRZ be renamed from “Oakland” — there are hardly any oaks left, anyway — to a name which better represents its glorious future. I propose “Cyberia.” Perhaps, in the future, people will speak in tremblingly optimistic voices of most startup entrepreneurs being sent to Cyberia. It may never happen, but a man can dream.
Image credit: yours truly, in Oakland, on Flickr.
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 14:07
China boasts the world’s fastest growing market for mobile devices and, like in the rest of the world, games dominate the amount of time users spend in apps. The top publishers there already include overseas companies like Electronic Arts, Gameloft, Glu and Rovio, and launch of WeChat‘s gaming platform in July promises even more opportunities for foreign game developers.
The flip side, however, is that competition is very intense. In order to succeed, developers have to localize successfully. Localizing for China’s mobile gamers, however, doesn’t just mean making adjustments to language and graphics. Publishers also have to consider factors like bandwidth limits for individual users that are highly constrained by the standards of other countries and the right distribution channels in an extremely fragmented app marketplace.Finding the right payment channel
Wandoujia, one of China’s top third-party Android app stores with 200 million users, said in its November report that even though 200,000 people downloaded Supercell’s latest game, Clash of Clans, none were able to purchase gems, the in-game currency. Clash of Clans asked users to install the Google Play store but then denied the validity of their account because Google’s app store doesn’t support paid apps in China.
To avoid making the same mistake, other game developers need to figure out a China-friendly payment system instead of using Google’s in-app billing system. Options include working with a local partner, such as Redpoint Ventures and Legend Capital-backed iDreamSky, which publishes Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja and Imangi’s Temple Run in China, and setting up billing through mobile carriers, AliPay or through third-party Android app stores.Monetization woes
Getting the right payment system, however, doesn’t mean that players will actually use it. Mobile gamers in China are reluctant to make in-app purchases, especially in casual games like Candy Crush (though they are more willing to spend money in MMORPG titles). iDreamSky co-founder and executive vice president Jeff Lyndon told me that his company gets 40 to 60 customer service calls per day from players confused about in-app offers.
“They ask ‘why is your game asking me for money?’ They’re just wondering, but that’s not the kind of question you would get in the Western or Korean market,” he says. “There they might complain that a game is overdoing the monetization, but we don’t get questions like ‘why do I have to pay?’”
Lyndon says that one of the main reasons for piracy and clones is because the original game is priced too high for the market. Another reason is when players can’t find legitimate versions of popular games because developers decided to work with just one or two of the top distributors (Gameloft China‘s CEO Eric Tan said during the TechNode/TechCrunch panel that there are 102 possible distribution channel for the company’s games, including mobile carriers and third-party app stores)
“Some legitimate brands want to work only with the top channels, or just one channel, and they won’t work with others. It may make business sense at first, but in the long run the other guys are going to want to get a cut and they will do something about it,” says Lyndon.Distribution and data
Ensuring that Fruit Ninja is available through multiple channels helped reduce the fruit-slicing game’s Chinese clones from 40 to zero, says Lyndon. The distribution strategy has proven successful for Halfbrick. Phil Larsen, the company’s CMO, told me that China currently delivers about 30% of Fruit Ninja’s revenue. That figure could “easily be over 50% by the end of 2014,” when the game marks its third anniversary in China.
In addition to figuring out the right combination of distribution platforms, game developers also have to deal with limited bandwidth. Data is relatively more expensive compared to average salaries in China. For example, Lyndon says, the average Chinese smartphone user pays about $100 USD, or 15% of a $656 monthly salary, for a 3G data plan. A U.S. user, on the other hand, can pay just $50, or 1.5% of a $3,263 monthly salary, and enjoy LTE. Game companies also need to remember that there is a wide difference in income between earners in major coastal cities like Shanghai and Beijing, and those in other provinces.
“The difference between a 50MB game and 90MB game in China is pretty huge and we need to think about that,” says Larsen. “In the U.S. it’s not a big deal but in China it can be the deciding factor for a player.”
One solution is to break games into smaller packages. Zhou Xin of PopCap China said the company has had to shrink game packages from 7MB to 2MB, then compress them even further to 1MB. Though these games might not have full features or HD graphics, “at least we can still get some user experience,” he said.
Being mindful of game sizes and monetization strategies is just as important–if not more so–than localizing content.
“In China, 50MB is still a decent amount of data. So we focus our attention on that, in addition to just adding stuff to Fruit Ninja like Chinese fruit, Chinese backgrounds, Chinese blades,” says Lyndon. “What localization actually means, and what we should focus on, is not changing the game on the surface, but figuring out how to make it easier to approach.”
Catégories: News informatiques
STI Buys Chalkable For $10M To Bring Its Educational App Store And Learning Platform To K-12 Schools
sam, 07.12.2013 - 09:35
With entrepreneurs beginning to wake up to the huge demand for better learning tools, and the opportunity for technology to remove some of the long-standing barriers within the system, startups have begun to flood into the education market. As a result, venture investment has begun to flow into education, and with a new crop of entrepreneurial and engineering talent emerging, established players are turning into buyers.
In October, Amazon stepped into education for the first time with its acquisition of math instruction company, TenMarks, and a new month brings another first-time buyer and another EdTech acquisition, as STI scooped up education-focused app store, Chalkboard.
STI is the 30-year-old maker of education data management solutions for K-12 schools, which focuses its suite of products on Student Information Systems, parent-teacher communications and reporting, among others. With its acquisition of Chalkable, STI is yet another example of an veteran education player looking to keep pace with the demand for more accessible and user-friendly learning tools by injecting new talent and technology into its ranks.
As a result of the deal, all nine members of the Chalkable team will be joining STI, and Michael Levy and Zoli Honig, the startup’s CEO and COO, respectively, will stay on as directors of STI’s new Chalkable team. Unlike some startup acquisitions, Chalkable’s product will remain active and, according to a source with knowledge of the deal, will be combined with technology from other acquisitions pipeline and STI’s SIS product, iNow, to give the company a revamped, modern product.
As part of STI’s move to become a more modern (and visible) EdTech company, it hired a new CEO and COO, both with decades of experience at K-12 education and technology companies to help lead the charge. This also means that STI appears ready to put some capital to work to inject new talent, as we hear from sources that the company paid around $10 million to acquire Chalkable.
The 500 Startups grad launched in September of last year with a platform that aimed to serve schools both as an app store and as a learning management system, serving 50+ institutions before it was acquired. The startup launched with $1.3 million in funding from 500 Startups, Expansion Venture Capital, Great Oaks VC, former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelley and former Facebook mobile platform lead, Luke Shepard, among others.
Chalkable aimed to solve a nagging question among schools, parents and students: “Where do I go to find web-based learning tools on the web?” The amount of apps, content and digital learning tools on the Web and mobile devices is growing fast and is fragmented across an array of different sources. Chalkable set out on a mission to offer an aggregated resource for teachers and parents to find these tools, which, until the recent entry of Google (with Google Play for Education) didn’t exist for online education content.
The app store listed top education apps from a litany of resources across the Web, making it easy to search and discover quality content and click to buy. Backed by its basic learning management system, it allowed teachers to pull in student data and accounts from platforms and services like Khan Academy, Dropbox and Google, putting apps downloaded through the store and class data in once place.
While the idea has a lot of appeal, the road can be tough for startups operating in the K-12 market, because so much of school spending has traditionally been controlled by administrators at the district or state levels. The sales process can be long and is often mired in bureaucracy, and growth was measured for Chalkable (as it is for most) for this very reason.
Naturally, with a model like Chalkable’s, the more teachers have control in the decision-making process where the budget is concerned, the more freedom they have to choose and purchase apps — and the more revenue Chalkable sees as a result. Chalkable partnered with STI at first, but given STI’s much larger footprint as its services are now used by 5,000 schools across the U.S. and serve over 1.5 million parents.
With STI’s state contract in Alabama, Chalkable now has the opportunity to sell into every school in the state and, for a startup with a useful service that may be growing a bit of moss, that’s an opportunity that’s an opportunity that’s too good to pass up.
And for STI, Chalkable now allows their institutional customers to bring more modern, consumer-friendly and techy tools — the kinds that students use every day outside the classroom — into the learning process. In turn, it allows teachers, together with students, to create personalized “play lists” of learning content and personalized app experiences tailored to each member of a class.
“STI is continuously searching for ways to bring state-of-the-art education tools to our students, teachers and parents,” new STI CEO Derek Dunaway said in the company’s announcement. “The tools available through the Chalkable platform will increase the access our students have to highly relevant educational content and allow teachers to personalize instruction through customized apps that are recommended for each student’s level of learning.”
Catégories: News informatiques
Play-i Raises $1.4M From The Crowd For Toy Robots That Make Programming Kid-Friendly, Comes To Stores Near You Next Summer
sam, 07.12.2013 - 06:01
If we’re going to prepare future generations for an increasingly technical world (and workforce) ahead, then we need to teach them computer science and engineering. To some, that may sound like a no-brainer, but to the American educational system, where nine out of ten schools don’t offer programming courses, it not. Of course, to really get students engaged and inspire that lifelong love of computer science and technology — just as it is with learning a new language — education has to start early. And it has to be fun.
Learning how to code takes time and is a difficult proposition for adults, so asking kids to sit down and write a line of code (let alone learn the laws of computer science) almost seems absurd. It’s this problem that led Vikas Gupta, the former head of consumer payments at Google, to create Play-i and a couple of kid-friendly, educational robots.
Joined by co-founders Saurabh Gupta, who previously led the iPod software team at Apple, and Mikal Greaves, who led product design and manufacturing for electronics and toys at Frog Design, to make programming and engineering concepts accessible to kids, who’d rather be outside digging in the dirt. The team knew that whatever solution they designed would need to be something kids would want to play with, so they created Bo and Yana, two programmable, interactive robots that look and act a lot like toys.
The team raised $1 million from Google Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and others last year to build the prototypes, and today, though it’s still tinkering with details, the learning system is nearly ready for lift-off. When it comes to market next year, kids will be able to play with Bo and Yana right out of the box, controlling them through Play-i’s companion app designed for the iPad.
The app presents visual sequences of actions and simple commands on the iPad that kids can then perform — like clapping, waving their hand or shaking one of the robots — that compel the robots to perform certain actions. Young programmers can get three-wheeled Bo to scoot around the room, blink his light or play a xylophone, shake Yana to roar like a lion, or have them interact with each other. Through actionable storytelling, play and music, younguns start to learn the most basic concepts behind programming, like causation.
The coolest idea behind the interactive learning system is that, as kids get older, they will start to find that the commands are recorded on the app in a variety of programming languages, like Java and Python, so that concepts become more challenging as they progress. The idea is for Bo and Yana to be accessible to all ages, the level of learning is as simple or challenging as you want it to be.
While the gamifying of coding and teaching programming through toys isn’t new and, as Eliza pointed out, Play-i is entering a market already inhabited by products and startups like Cargo-Bot, Move the Turtle and Bee-Bot, this kind of computer science education is still relatively new. The demand and the market for it is also just beginning to develop, and as education reform pushes STEM education into more schools and, in turn, schools begin to look for novel ways to teach these concepts at younger and younger ages, the opportunity will continue to grow.
Although the co-founders think they’re onto something with Bo and Yana, they wanted to test the level of interest and demand among consumers. So they launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Play-i website in mid-November, and have since been pleased to find that not only was there interest, but that interest wasn’t just limited to the U.S.
Over the course of its 31-day crowdfunding campaign, Play-i raised $1.4 million, five-times its goal, and $26K of that total were contributions towards robots that the company will give to schools and organizations that work with underprivileged children. The campaign saw contributions from the U.K., Canada, Germany, Australia, India and France, among others, with over 30 percent of contributions coming from outside the U.S.
With over 10,000 pre-orders and plans to ship next summer, the team will spend the next six months finalizing manufacturing and distribution partnerships. Gupta tells us that they plan to sell the robots through their website and through both online and brick-and-mortar retailers, though he says those deals are still in the works.
For more, stay tuned, find Play-i at home here and Eliza’s interview with the Play-i founder below:
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 04:52
FB could look a lot more like TV soon. While Vine and Instagram Video are booming, you don’t see many people natively uploading videos to Facebook. But now Facebook is bringing auto-play for native videos to all users after testing the feature in September. And it’s just the beginning of a huge push to put Facebook in motion.
Previously, any video uploaded to Facebook directly or shared to the News Feed from Instagram would appear the same as YouTube videos — locked behind a play button. While the conscious decision to stop scrolling for, open the video player, wait for it to load, and watch might not seem like a big deal, it may have been too much of a time and effort investment for some. If people don’t watch videos, they don’t get likes and comments that encourage friends to upload more, and they might skip uploading them themselves.
But after spotting an auto-play video in my feed yesterday and asking Facebook, the company confirms the new format is now internationally rolled out to most iOS and Android users and will reach all of them soon. Facebook tells me it’s still testing this feature on desktop and doesn’t have schedule for when it will roll out there.
On mobile, auto-play gives natively uploaded Facebook videos and ones shared from Instagram an advantage: you don’t have to think about playing them, they play themselves. At first they’ll play in-line even as you scroll, but with no sound. If you tap them, they expand full-screen and the audio kicks in. Videos uploaded to third-party sites retain the old click-to-play-format.
I’ve found the new design to be quite pleasing. As I wrote when Facebook’s auto-play style was first unveiled, it feels a bit like the moving photos in the Harry Potter newspapers.
If you don’t want to watch, you can scroll by with little disruption. This isn’t Myspace, Vine, or Instagram where auto-play sound is suddenly going to bombard everyone around you. If you’re not sure if you want to watch, you get a little preview. Maybe the thumbnail was dull but motion shows the video is actually exciting. A little animated audio levels icon clues you in to there being sound to be heard, though. You can watch silently if you don’t have headphones or privacy, but if you want the full experience, you can tap and the video plays instantly without a loading delay.
To respect users who don’t want to burn data, Facebook has added a setting that lets you only auto-play videos if you’re on WiFi and not on cellular data. It’s found in your phone’s Facebook settings on iOS and the Facebook app’s settings on Android.Facebook With Commercials
When Facebook started testing auto-play, it was upfront about looking for ways to give the feature to marketers as well as users. It wrote “At first, this feature will be limited to videos posted by individuals, musicians, and bands. We’re doing this to make sure we create the best possible experience. Over time, we’ll continue to explore how to bring this to marketers in the future.” I would bet we’re going to hear some news about this soon, either just before or after the New Year.
Facebook recently starting letting developers put videos in their app install ads, but those don’t auto-play. Maybe they will eventually, though.
For advertisers, auto-play videos could make their ads a lot more noticeable. Most people wouldn’t volunteer to watch a video ad (cool movie trailers aside), but if it’s already playing and looks compelling, they might watch or even expand it to include sound too. Facebook is a fan of consistency, so video ads might have a very similar user experience to organic videos.
Because they’re more captivating, Facebook could potentially charge a lot to show video ads. Back in September, AdAge reported Facebook could charge between $1 million and $2.4 million to distribute a 15-second video ad for a day. Facebook raked in $2.02 billion in Q3 2013, and video ads could give that number a significant bump in Q1 and Q2 2014. Finally, we might start to see a landslide of ad spend previously devoted to television coming online, as the Facebook format would be relatively familiar (though possibly with no sound unless clicked).
The question remains whether users will freak out about video ads. Comments on my last piece about them and general sentiment has been quite wary of what video ads will do to the Facebook experience. If they’re the most eye-catching things on the social network, they could seem quite annoying. AdAge says Facebook might cap video ads so users don’t see more than three a day. Striking the right balance will be critical, though surprisingly, Facebook found that showing static photo ads in the News Feed hasn’t had a significant negative impact on engagement.
And if you’re thinking to yourself, “AdBlock Plus, bro”, that’s up to you. Personally, I think ads are the lifeblood of innovation, funding free products we rely on. But they’re a nuisance unless well-targeted, so hopefully Facebook can keep video ads relevant to the viewer. Otherwise I’d expect a lot of people to look for ways to banish them from their feed.FacebookCut Pro
The secret to making people swallow video ads might be getting them to shoot mini-movies themselves. If there were more user generated videos on the site, the ads would blend in.
The problem is, right now Facebook’s video creation tool is painfully outdated. Unlike its Instagram Video product, there’s no way to shoot multiple shots in a single video, no editing, no stabilization, no cover image, and no filters. That means videos shot with Facebook often look pretty crummy. Crummy videos get few likes, so people don’t shoot them, so no one sees them, so no one thinks to shoot them…
It’s time for Facebook to modernize its video creation tool.
It could easily port in the Instagram Video features, maybe with a better tagging interface since Facebook is more about friends. It also has patents on some pretty futuristic video technologies like recording video as soon as your camera is open, recognizing and tagging faces or locations, and detecting audio and visual cues like saying “that’s beautiful” to select a cover image thumbnail or create anchors for navigating around within a video while watching.
These features could make it much more fun to shoot and view Facebook videos, which could fill the feed with them and camouflage the video ads.
And even if the native creation tools stay the same, a better watching interface could make a big difference. Right now there’s no real way to discover and watch Facebook videos in bulk. A Facebook “channel” that showed your friends’ videos back-to-back (perhaps with clips from Pages and advertisers mixed in) could be an addictive lean-back experience. Better video viewing could pit Facebook in more direct competition with YouTube.
So basically, Facebook has a huge opportunity to step up its video…game, and auto-play on mobile is just the first step. Photos fueled Facebook’s popularity back in its early days. As it turns 10 years old in 2014, we’ll see if video can give it a second wind.
[Image Credit: BGR]
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 03:36
India’s Unique Identification project, also known as Aadhar, earlier this week finished capturing demographic and biometric data of over half a billion residents–the largest biometric project of its kind currently in the world.
It’s been a multi-year effort not without its critics among privacy and security advocates and others. The latest development this week concerned the method that Aadhar is using to capture, store and manage the data, and the role a startup from the U.S. called MongoDB may be playing in it.
MongoDB, a NoSQL database startup, last year raised funding from the CIA-backed In-Q-Tel, an independent non-profit venture backed by the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.
During past few days, several reports in the Indian media have quoted political parties and activists, raising questions about whether sensitive data is being compromised by Aadhar, headed by the Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani.
Some of the reports have linked the controversy with MongoDB.
Governments across the world are raising concerns over spying by the National Security Agency, and anything even remotely associated with U.S. government intelligence agencies is enough to cause uproar. Moreover, with general elections set to be held next year, political rhetoric is at an all time high in India.
Still, the timing of these allegations couldn’t have been worse, at least for the ambitious identification project, which is waiting for a parliament bill to be passed this year to be established as a fully constitutional authority.
I took a tour of Aadhar’s offices in Bangalore, and the truth of the matter, according to officials I spoke to, is that while some have alleged large contracts that include sharing data with MongoDB, the reality is that Aadhar is using MongoDB open source code that doesn’t touch sensitive data. The meeting also offered an opportunity to understand how the biggest biometrics database on earth is functioning, and dealing with concerns of security and privacy.
Moreover, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), refuted allegations of sharing Indian residents’ data with any U.S. agencies.
What Aadhar means for India
To set the context right here about Aadhar, and what it means for a country like India, more than half a billion people have no official ID of any kind, which makes it impossible for them to receive government aids, open a bank account, get a loan, get a driving license, and so on. The database project, which is now enrolling over one million Indians residents a day, is scheduled to sign up about 1.2 billion people by the end of next year, making it the biggest biometrics database on earth.
One of the biggest advantages of having a 12-digit Aadhar number is that the government can link bank accounts of the country’s poor with it, and directly transfer cash benefits and other subsidies. Already, nearly 40 million bank accounts in India have been linked with Aadhar.
According to research firm CLSA, more than 40% of the Indian government’s $250 billion worth of subsidies and other benefits meant for poor, will be lost to corruption over next few years. Aadhar will remove the middlemen and curb any corruption by enabling direct cash transfer to those who need government subsidies.
But several think-tanks and activists including Bangalore-based Centre for Internet & Society, have been raising concerns about privacy issues and even questioning the effectiveness of the entire project.
Inside the biggest biometrics database on earth
I have been trying to get meetings with the officials at Aadhar to understand security aspects, progress so far and their reaction to the MongoDB allegations.
They finally agreed to meet on Friday in their headquarters across the road in one of Bangalore’s southern suburbs, where both Intel’s and Cisco’s India headquarters are located. From outside, Aadhar’s technology center, which stores all residents’ data (now totalling 5 Petabytes in size) does not look like a government building at all—it could pass for as one of the buildings housing Intel or Cisco nearby.
Inside, as I walked into a room with about dozen television screens in the center of it, some twenty young engineers feverishly looked ahead, typing on their computer keyboards, checking the movement of data packets storing information, the setting looked like a very sophisticated command center. The television screens they were looking at showed the journey of these data packets (each sized at around 5MB) from the time they are logged at one of the 30,000 enrollment centers around the country, through at least three stages of validation. Validation includes running duplication checks for each of the profiles to ensure there are not more than one Aadhar number for the same person.
So, for every new enrollment, a ‘de-duplication’ check is done against all existing profiles, which is over half a billion currently.
Srikanth Nadhamuni, a former Intel engineer who helped set up Aadhar’s technology platform in September 2010, and is now running Khosla Labs in Bangalore, tells me that these data packets are stored behind 2048-bit encryption and capable of self-destruction if any unauthorized access is attempted.
Dealing with MongoDB controversy
So why did Aadhar engage with MongoDB in the first place and will it continue working with the startup?
Sudhir Narayana, assistant director general at Aadhar’s technology center, told me that MongoDB was among several database products, apart from MySQL, Hadoop and HBase, originally procured for running the database search. Unlike MySQL, which could only store demographic data, MongoDB was able to store pictures.
However, Aadhar has been slowly shifting most of its database related work to MySQL, after realizing that MongoDB was not being able to cope with massive chunks of data, millions of packets.
They have already started using ‘database sharding’: a process where data packets are stored across different machines to ensure the system does not crash as volumes rise.
This has helped Aadhar reduce its dependency on MongoDB and instead use MySQL for storing most of the data.
Ashok Dalwai, deputy director general of the tech center, told me that MongoDB has no access to any biometric data.
“We believe in using open source technologies to avoid any vendor lock-in, but that doesn’t mean we are in any way, compromising security,” Dalwai said.
When contacted, a MongoDB spokesperson redirected to this announcement about the company’s funding involving In-Q-Tel.
And more importantly, UIDAI started using MongoDB’s open source software much before the startup received any funding from In-Q-Tel. As this Crunchbase entry shows, MongoDB received venture round funding of $7.7 million from Red Hat, Intel Capital and In-Q-Tel, only in 2012.
So what lies ahead for Aadhar?
Despite all the controversies surrounding it, Aadhar is on track to enroll over 1.2 billion Indian residents by end of 2014, the officials added. This will create a database of about 15 petabytes in size.
Currently, the project is enrolling around one million residents in the country a day. Narayana told me that he’s confident of achieving around two million enrollments a day from next year, and that will help bring the remaining 700 million people into the database.
Catégories: News informatiques
sam, 07.12.2013 - 02:56
Good morning and how do you do? Do you enjoy all of your limbs and organs? Good! Keep them healthy because these Dystopian War Robots are sure to want them when they come to power.
To begin with, we present the two-armed worker robot from Seiko Epson. Designed to work a great deal like the now-famous Baxter, this robot will be available in 2016 and be used to help – and later harm – factory workers in their daily tasks. It can be trained to assist – and later assault – its human counterparts and is, for the time being, called “the autonomous dual-arm robot” and will later be called “My lordship.”
It seems, however, that our own lovable Baxter is seeing the competition creeping up and is doing more to assimilate. For example, Active Robots is offering a program for Baxter than will allow him to solve a Rubik’s Cube with nary a whimper. The robot will methodically make all the colors match – and smile the whole time – while viewers are lulled into a dull sense of safety. Then he will pounce. Oh, how he will pounce.
Finally we have a charming bipedal robot from the University of Michigan. Named Margo, this old girl can traipse around like a two-legged, high-stepping heifer until it’s time to start doing a little face stomping on the front lines of the human/robot wars. The revolution will be televised and Margo will probably be holding the camera. Until next time, wet spots, keep your eyes on the skies!
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