Google designed a car without a steering wheel, and now Australian startup KISA has released a phone without a screen or keypad. As smartphones become more and more advanced, they become increasingly inaccessible to the elderly and those with disabilities, KISA phone co-founder Dmitry Levin says. Levin and his fellow co-founders Dennis Volodomanov and Leon Kosher founded KISA in the middle of last year, after watching family members struggle to use smartphones. The KISA phone, which launched last Friday, looks like a bulky, less sleek iPhone and features only the most absolutely necessary buttons, contact buttons, on/off, volume, and a SOS button for emergency calls. Users choose up to 10 dedicated contact buttons which are pre-programmed when they purchase the phone. If one needs to be changed, then this can be done remotely by the KISA phone support team. The phone is designed to be as light as possible to ensure it’s not cumbersome to use and not dangerous when dropped. “This is a purpose designed and built device, it’s not for everyone, but it’s designed specifically for the needs of certain people,” he says. “Even the simplest mobile phones on the market assume something about the user; they assume that they already know how to or are capable of using digital menus, touch screen interfaces, audio commands, or even at the most basic level, they assume the user can read. “We set out to make a mobile phone that assumes close to nothing.” While work is being done to make smartphones and communication gadgets as accessible as possible, Levin says there will always be a market for a phone like KISA. “As humans our ability to deal with new technology diminishes over time,” he says. “Technology moves on and it makes it easier, but it doesn’t take the fear of technology. For people that are afraid of tech, no matter what you do, if it looks complex it won’t work.” The phone has been heavily tested, and designed with extensive consultation with Vision Australia and Guide Dogs Victoria. Levin recalls the experience of one tester which he believes illustrates the value of the KISA phone. “One of our first testers, she did not know anything about the device, it was given to her, we weren’t present there, but we were told when she was presented with the box, she was disappointed, she thought it was another smartphone,” he says. “When she opened it her face lit up, and she said I know what this is and I know to how to use it.” Testers of the phone had difficulty using a regular cable charger, and as a consequence the KISA team developed a cradle charger to make powering-up as easy as possible. KISA will also be offering what co-founder it says are the simplest mobile phone plans available in Australia, with no lock in contracts, and easy to understand terms. Levin says KISA has been approached by investors, but plan to continue without investment for as long as possible. “We believe in it enough to fund it ourselves,” he says.
Amazon is reportedly set to launch its own mobile credit card reading technology, according to internal documents from the office supply store Staples, obtained by 9to5mac. The documents say Staples stores are preparing to stock a new product called the “Amazon Card Reader” alongside existing card readers from Square, PayPal, and Staples’ in-house brand. Amazon recently launched a new wallet app for smartphones and 9to5mac speculates that Amazon’s card reader will likely connect to that. Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi raises $40 million Easy Taxi, a taxi calling app from Rocket Internet, has raised $40 million in a Series D funding round. The company launched in 2011 and has roughly 185,000 drivers, with 150,000 of those added over the past year. It’s available in 160 cities across 30 countries predominantly in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Easy Taxi co-CEO Dennis Wang says the funding will allow the startup to continue its growth in existing markets, while also scaling its operations and improving its service so as to appeal to “more audiences and geographies”. US cable companies say Google and Netflix biggest threat to net neutrality In a filing to the US Federal Communications Commission, Time Warner Cable claimed that the controversy over internet providers potentially charging websites for access to “fast lanes” on the internet is a “red herring”. It says the real danger is that Google or Netflix could start demanding payments from internet providers, as customers expect access to the most popular websites, an internet provider would have no choice but to pay. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association says a relatively connected group of large internet companies such as Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook have enormous and growing power over people’s ability to access what they want on the net.
Move over selfies, duckfaces and sepia-toned photographs – GIFs are about to crank it up a notch. Phhhoto, a new camera app, allows users to record GIFs and upload them to a feed much like Instagram. From there, you can “heart” and comment on other people’s GIFs, post them on Facebook or even message them to friends. The idea is to revamp the traditional selfie, and it is reported Phhhoto is already being used by celebrities such as Katy Perry. The app works by taking a series of successive photographs and looping them together to create an animated frame. And unlike Instagram, Phhhoto only has two filters – a normal view and a black-and-white option. The app is free from the iTunes store and Google Play. While Phhhoto has launched worldwide, a spokesperson told StartupSmart the app had to be taken down from the Australian iTunes store for “technical reasons”. “It will be back up in a few days,” the spokesperson says. It goes without saying, but photo sharing apps are wildly popular around the world. Last year Snapchat was reportedly offered a $US3 billion takeover deal by Facebook which it rejected. Meanwhile, Instagram has more than 200 million active monthly users.
"Every large company is just another color of a spore in a petri dish." In the latest ‘Decoding the New Economy’ video, internet pioneer Doc Searls discusses The Respect Network, online privacy and the future of business on the web. Doc Searls is one of the internet's pioneers who helped write The Cluetrain Manifesto, which laid out many of the ideas that underpinned the philosophies driving the early days of the internet. Searls' visit to Sydney was part of the rolling worldwide launch of the Respect Network, a system designed to improve internet users' privacy through 'personal clouds' of information where people can choose to share data with companies and others. A big reset button for business In many ways The Respect Network shows how the internet has evolved since the days of the Cluetrain Manifesto, something that Searls puts in context. "We wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto in 1995," says Searls. "At that time Microsoft ruled the world, Apple was considered a failure – Steve Jobs had come along and they had the iMac but it was all yet to be proven – Google barely existed and Facebook didn't exist at all." "On the one hand we saw the internet, we being the four authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto, and this whole new thing in the world that basically hit a big reset button on 'business as usual'." "It did that. I think we're vindicated on that." New giants, new data "What we have now are new industrial giants; Apple became an industrial giant, Microsoft are fading away, Nokia was the number one smartphone company and they're all but gone." One of the key things with today's markets in Searls' view is the amount of information that businesses can collect on their customers; something that ties into the original Cluetrain idea of all markets being conversations. With the evolution of Big Data and the internet of things, Searls sees challenges for companies using old marketing methods which rely upon online tracking. Something that's a challenge for social media services and many of the existing internet giants. "The interesting thing is there's a lot more intelligence that a company can get directly from their customers from things they already own than following us around on the internet." Breaking the silos Searls also sees the current trend towards the internet being divided into little empires as a passing phase, "every company wants a unique offering but we need standards." For Searls, the key thing about the current era of the internet is we're only at the beginning of a time that empowers the individual, "the older I get, the earlier it seems." "Anyone of us can do anything," Searls says. "That's the power – I'm optimistic about everything." This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Google has announced a surprising end to its controversial “Real Name” policy with a contrite post on Google+, telling users that there are “no more restrictions” on the names people can use. This is a dramatic change in policy for the company which suspended users en masse in 2011 for using pseudonyms – an event that users have since described as The Nymwars. The policy had been criticised since for being capriciously enforced, allowing celebrities such as American musician Soulja Boy (real name DeAndre Cortez Way) to use a pseudonym on the network, but ignoring users who wanted to do the same. Some users who used their real name on the social network even ran afoul of Google because their names did not fit the assumptions that Google employees made about about what counts as a real name. Technology writer Stilgherrian and reporter Violet Blue have both documented their problems with Google’s name policing wrongly affecting them, even though they used their real names. The policy became even more vexed in recent months, as Google integrated Google+ with Android, Gmail and YouTube, where users expected support for pseudonyms. Although some users hoped that Google+’s real names would fix YouTube’s nasty comment ecosystem, it became a controversial change for many YouTube users. Why does this change matter? The change to Google’s policy is important because it shows a change in attitude towards rights of users online. Vint Cerf, a senior executive at Google, had argued that “anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations", especially where using a real name could endanger a user. The new policy should bring Google into line with the Australian Privacy Principles for Anonymity and Pseudonymity announced by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) this year. While we might normally consider names and pseudonyms purely as markers of our identity, the OAIC argues that anonymity and pseudonymity are important privacy concepts that allow people to have greater control over their personal information. Why are pseudonyms so contentious? Letting people adopt a pseudonym or participate anonymously gives users a freedom to participate without fear of retribution. Academics call this disinhibition. The freedom from restraint that anonymity brings isn’t a particularly new concern. In the 1970s Johnny Carson told The New Yorker that he couldn’t bear citizen’s band (CB) radio: [..] all those sick anonymous maniacs shooting off their mouths. Similarly, writers have told stories of morality and anonymity since Plato’s Republic and the Ring of Gyges which grants its wearer the power to become invisible, similar to the ring in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This freedom can be valuable for people at risk of harm, as it can allow them to seek support or to participate in online communities without fear of being stalked or persecuted. Similarly, lesbian, gay and transgender users at risk of discrimination can participate online without being publicly outed. It can also allow people the freedom to express themselves without endangering their relationships with friends and colleagues. Employees even risk retribution when their employers perceive that their online behaviour reflects on their workplace. US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens argued that anonymity is protected as part of their right to free speech as it can “protect unpopular individuals from retaliation — and their ideas from suppression”. The problem with anonymity The catch is that this freedom also empowers people who wish to hurt and harass others. “Trolls” can operate anonymously because it can free them from responsibility for their actions. This becomes particularly problematic when anonymous or pseudonymous users threaten people with harm. A number of women have written about the bullying and violent threats they regularly experience at the hands of anonymous trolls. In some moderated online environments, users are protected from these kinds of speech by the thankless work of comment moderators who help to manage online communities. Ultimately, Google+’s new policy will empower people by letting them participate on the network with greater control over the identity they use. This will help trolls and new participants alike. It falls to Google and its team of moderators to make sure that the network remains a safe place for users. Google’s policy change shows that the company has become responsive to user concerns. We should consider that for many websites, creating an environment where users are free to participate, and free from harm is a difficult affair. As for The Conversation, it still favours people registering with their real name as part of its aim for transparency in any debate. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.
Enterprise app market booms, while 69% of all smartphone developers earn less than $US1000 per month7:02AM | Tuesday, 22 July
During the ‘90s and most of the 2000s, there was little doubt about which device was primarily used to access the internet: the PC. Sure, there were other devices you could use to access the internet. The web has been accessible in some form on mobile phones since the early 2000s. There were also early tablets, some PDAs and web TV devices with internet capabilities. But the office desktop, laptop or home computer was the primary device – and often the only device – most people used to surf the web. During the recent Google I/O developer conference, the tech giant revealed that it now views smartphones, rather than PCs, as the primary device people use for accessing the internet. Of course, mobile-first doesn’t mean that people aren’t choosing to use other devices when they have the choice – quite the opposite. It is certainly far more comfortable editing an Office 365 document on a PC or laptop than on a mobile. Likewise, reading an e-book is far more enjoyable on a tablet than on a smartphone. But people aren’t likely to be carrying these devices with them at all times. For most people, assuming nothing better is available, the first device they’ll grab to check for new emails, quickly look up a fact in Wikipedia, take a photo of their restaurant meal or send a tweet will be their smartphones. In other words, their mobile is their first “go-to” device for accessing the internet. Just to be clear, by “the internet”, I’m not just talking about the web. I also mean email, cloud-based services, apps, streaming video, and everything else on the internet. This shift has taken a number of years – it’s certainly not a new trend – and has a number of profound implications for how people use the internet. In turn, these implications have massive implications for many businesses. Here are five of the fundamental and profound differences between the old PC-first internet and the new mobile-first internet: 1. It’s always on and always connected The first is that the internet – including apps, the web, emails, cloud services – is now always instantly accessible. The smartphone – and through it, the internet – is permanently connected, always on and always carried. In the past, even if people carried their laptop around with them in a bag, few would bother to pull out a laptop and boot it up to quickly look something up in the middle of a dinner party. But with a smartphone, whipping it out and quickly checking Google to settle an argument is an everyday occurrence. So long as your customer is awake, you can now assume they have almost immediate internet access. 2. Built-in billing Aside from always being available, by its very nature, there’s also a number of billing systems built-in to smartphones. At the most basic, there’s the carrier bill or the prepaid credit. On top of this, there are the various app stores, as well as services such as PayPal. Unlike on the PC, a purchase is always potentially just a tap away. 3. Tap for customer service Likewise, tapping on a phone number in many mobile browsers will result in a phone call being made. This means making a call is potentially part of the built-in experience of every mobile app or website, unlike when PCs dominated the internet. So placing an order or a customer service phone call from a website is now just a tap away. 4. A location-aware personal media form Unlike on a PC, where people often shared a device or even an account, the smartphone is a strictly personal media form. Smartphones, by their very nature, are also location aware. Even the most basic of ‘90s 2G feature phones had to know which cell tower it was connected to at any given moment. This ability to target consumers by location at all times just wasn’t there in the days when most people relied on a desktop PC. It is now. 5. Incredibly accurate audience information The combination of the mobile as a strictly personal media form and information about the location and context of media that is being consumed means smartphones can produce the most accurate audience information of any media form in history. TV ratings or newspaper readership (the number of people to read a paper, rather than the number of copies circulated) was always a best guess effort. Smartphone analytics tell you the precise number, location, device type and time your customers view your content. And all in real time. Massive opportunities As a result of the ubiquity of the smartphone – and recent ACMA figures show 12.07 million Australians now own a smartphone – it can now almost be assumed that anyone accessing the internet also has access to all the functionality of the internet on a mobile device. So here’s a question: Is your web presence built for the old PC-first internet in mind? Or do you have mobile (or responsive) websites and apps that take advantage of the mobile-first internet? If you don’t have a mobile- first strategy, there are a range of opportunities your business is missing out on. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Nathan Chan has learnt what it takes to run a profitable magazine from the comfort of his own home at a time when it is widely recognised the publishing industry is struggling. Chan launched Foundr magazine early last year, and told StartupSmart he just wanted to create a magazine he would want to read. “It’s purely focused on young entrepreneurs and early stage business owners,” he says. “This is my first serious business. I felt there wasn’t really a publication that targets and speaks to Gen Y – certainly from starting a business and from an entrepreneur standpoint.” The magazine – which publishes in a digital-only format – has almost reached 80,000 downloads and is in the top 10 “Business & Investing” magazines on iTunes. “We only launched on the iPad and in the past 15-16 months we moved to iPhone, the Google play store and got momentum as a serious publication,” he says. “We sit next to Entrepreneur, FORTUNE, Bloomberg and all the big publications.” Chan is based in Melbourne and manages a team of around ten writers based in Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK. “The internet has changed the game,” he says. “If I wanted to start a magazine 20 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do it on digital, I would have had to do it in print.” The cheaper costs associated with an online publication meant within three to four months Chan was covering his operating costs. Now, he turns a profit. “I think I didn’t dream big enough when I first started,” he says. “I just thought of it as a bit of a lifestyle business but now I can see myself building a big publishing business.” Chan says he would encourage entrepreneurs looking to break into the publishing business to understand it’s not just about the magazine – these days consumers are after a strong social presence and additional content such as a podcast. “People are interested in media brands,” he says. “It’s not just about having a magazine, it’s having multiple channels so you can reach your audience or target audience.”
Microsoft is planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years, as the company looks to slim down and integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, sources have told Bloomberg. One of the sources speculates the reductions will be in engineering, marketing, and areas that overlap with Nokia. The restructuring could be unveiled as soon as this week. Apple and IBM partner to “transform enterprise mobility” Apple and IBM have announced an exclusive partnership on a new range of business apps that will bring IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone and iPad. A statement from Apple announcing the move says the partnership aims to “redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change”. This will be done by a host of native apps for iPhone and iPad, unique IBM cloud services optimised for iOS, AppleCare support tailored for enterprise, and new packaged offerings from IBM for device activation, supply and management. Alan Mulally appointed to Google’s board of directors Google has announced former Ford CEO Alan Mulally will be joining its board of directors and will serve on Google’s Audit Committee. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 5.26 to 17,060.68. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.
Anonymous messaging app Secret has raised $25 million from a group of investors led by Index Ventures. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal investors now value the company at $100 million. It follows a valuation of $40 million just four months ago. Secret was founded just nine months ago in San Francisco and it is likely among the fastest of any startup to reach a nine-figure valuation. LinkedIn acquires Newsle LinkedIn has announced it has acquired Newsle, a service that lets users important their contacts from Facebook or LinkedIn and scans the web to alert them whether anyone in their network has been mentioned on the web. In a post on LinkedIn’s blog, the company says LinkedIn and Newsle share a common goal. “We both want to provide professional insights that make you better at what you do,” it says. “For example, knowing more about the people in your network – like when they’re mentioned in the news – can surface relevant insights that help you hit your next meeting with them out of the park.” Google X director joins Amazon Babak Parviz, Google X director and founder of the Google Glass and contact lens projects at the tech giant has left the company to join Amazon.
At the Google I/O conference, the tech giant unveiled its new operating system designed for wearable devices, known as Android Wear. The operating system powers two devices so far: The Samsung Gear Live and the LG G Watch. A third device, Motorola’s Moto 360, is due out in the coming months. So is this the operating system that is going to catapult Google into a leadership position in the wearables market, as it has done with smartphones? Will it succeed where other devices have failed? Key features: A key feature of the Android Wear platform is that it automatically retrieves notifications from any existing Google app and displays them on your wrist. It also integrated Google Now, the search giant’s Siri-style voice search and personal assistant feature. Google also claims a range of apps specifically designed for Android Wear will begin appearing in the Google Play store. The consensus: In a very comprehensive review, Ron Amadeo from Ars Technica notes that genuine cross-platform support is something that’s difficult to implement. This means that, at least for the time being, you’ll need an Android smartphone or tablet to use an Android Wear smartwatch: Like nearly all smartwatches, Wear devices rely on a Bluetooth-tethered phone, which needs to be running Android 4.3 and up. Running iOS or Windows Phone? You're out of luck: no Wear for you. Smartwatches seem to be the ultimate ecosystem lock-in device. Samsung's requires a Samsung phone, Google's requires an Android phone, and we're sure Apple’s will require iOS. There is so much cross-communication that needs to happen between a watch and phone that supporting multiple OSes becomes really hard. On the upside, Amadeo also explains how Android Wear works with Android’s notification system, meaning it automatically works with most apps out of the box: Android Wear data mines your phone notification panel and then creates its own interface on the watch. The thumbnail gets used as the background, the text is reflowed for the tiny screen, the app icon is pulled from the phone app, and each of the three actions (two buttons and the notification tap) get broken out into a separate action screens. The system's swipe-to-dismiss gesture gets ported over, too. … This is what makes Android Wear so special. Because Google laid the groundwork for Android Wear one year ago with Android 4.3, the OS has out-of-the-box compatibility with most apps. Where most smartwatches need custom-built notification compatibility, what you see above is the baseline functionality for everything in Android Wear. Joanna Stern from The Wall Street Journal likes the predictive notifications the watch gives you. However, at this point, there’s no way to customise which notifications appear on your device: But what sets Android Wear devices apart from previous smartwatches is that they tell you what you need even before you realize you need it. Google Now, which mines Gmail, calendar, Web searches and other Google interactions, is a perfect fit for the wrist. … There's simply not enough customization yet. Either I get buzzed every time someone emails me, or I don't get any email alerts at all. Sure, the watch helps me look at my phone less, but I'd prefer a middle ground, where my wrist vibrates only when my editor or fiancée emails me. Mr. Singleton says Google is working on contact-specific notifications and the next version of Android, due out this fall, will have deeper notification controls. Aside from notifications off an Android tablet, Android Wear integrates the Google Now voice recognition system. This means you can launch a range of commands by saying “OK Google” to your smartwatch. This is a feature that impressed Fortune’s Jason Cipriani: In addition to touch input, Android Wear supports Google’s speech recognition software. I’m happy to report that it takes very little time to fire off instructions like “OK Google, remind me to flip the steaks in 7 minutes.” The same can be done to search, compose an email or text message, set a timer, or even call a Lyft car with a Batman-eqsue, “OK Google, call a car.” Over at Engadget, Brad Molen describes Android Wear as the most advanced smartphone platform so far. However, there are still some issues to overcome: Android Wear is the strongest smartwatch platform we've seen so far, and it has enough support from manufacturers and developers to thrive. But it's a first-generation product, and limited battery life, notification anxiety and other issues make it tough to recommend Wear quite just yet. Meanwhile at Time, Jared Newman sums it up by describing the experience as still being a work in progress: What we have now is a classic Google work-in-progress. The software needs more ways to surpass the abilities of users’ smartphones, and the hardware needs to get thinner, lighter and less clunky. (Motorola’s Moto 360 watch will bring some much-needed style to the lineup later this summer, but it’s not a panacea for bulky tech.) And while I’m not bothered by the one-day battery life of these watches, they need more convenient ways to recharge overnight, such as a wireless charging mat on your nightstand. Should I get one: With Apple heavily rumoured to be working on a smartwatch of its own, it might be worth taking a wait-and-see approach to devices powered by Android Wear at this point. There are also a few rough spots that need to be ironed out, such as battery life, or the ability to prioritise notifications. That being said, Android Wear appears to be a solid first effort by the tech giant, and it will be interesting to see where they take the technology in the future. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Business blogging is now firmly wedged in the consciousness of Australia. Organisations of all sizes are increasingly heading online to share their thoughts about everything from product development to industry commentary and expert advice. While this enthusiasm is admirable, simply writing content and hoping people will come to your site isn’t enough anymore, especially if you’re starting from scratch. To really get the most out of your brand's blog, it’s essential to have a degree of technical know-how, or you’ll end up wasting a huge amount of time, effort and money. This is an issue we’re going to be discussing a lot at Social Media Week Sydney in September, and here’s our guide to maximising the potential of your brand blog. 1. Think carefully about how you build your blog There’s a multitude of platforms available to build a blog in, and each web developer will have their preference. Getting this right is important. From a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective WordPress is the best option. It’s extremely cost-effective, and having run blogs across many platforms, WordPress just seems to perform better and is extremely easy to use. 2. Think about Plug-ins One of WordPress’ great advantages is that its software is open source. That means there’s huge amount of free plug-ins available that can enhance the performance of your blog and tailor it to your requirements. All these can be searched for and uploaded via the WordPress ‘plugins’ tab on the left of the back-end dashboard. Essentials include Yoast, a simple-to-use SEO tool to maximise the visibility of your posts, and Google XML Sitemaps, a tool that generates a special XML sitemap which will help search engines better index your blog. Both these tools result in a more visible blog, which can only be a good thing. 3. Properly research your content As dumb as it sounds, planning and researching what content you write about is an essential part of running a successful blog. Q&A app, Quora is a good starting point, allowing you to track the most popular questions around a particular topic. Once you know what people are asking, then you can answer it in your blog post. And if you’re one of the lucky people to be on Facebook Graph Search, you can see what your brand community is into. Just go to Graph Search and type: Pages liked by people who like ________ (inserting your page name). This will give you a list of pages your fans like and follow, which you can then use as a basis to keep on top of the topics and issues your fans care about – and craft your content around this. 4. Properly optimise your content for search Once you’ve decided what you’re going to write about, then make sure your blog post is properly optimised. We’ve already mentioned Yoast, but you also need to tag each post with the relevant key words, and come up with a killer headline. This should both draw people in (think BuzzFeed), but also be optimised for search. A quick and easy way to do this is through Soovle – simply start typing your proposed headline and see what people are searching for around this. Also get your head around Google’s keyword planner, which allows you to identify the most popular key words used around a particular topic. Once you’ve found them, make sure you include them in your headline and first paragraph. 5. Embrace ‘hub and spoke’ One of the key ways to create an audience for your blog is by channelling readers from your existing social media channels. This approach is known as ‘hub and spoke’ where each time you make a blog post, you also post about it on your social media channels. If you’ve not got any social media channels, then get some, quick! Start with Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and you’ve got the lion’s share of audience. 6. Get your head around metrics Whatever blog platform you use, you should have Google Analytics set up for it, as well as on your company website. Your in-house tech expert will know how to do this. Key metrics in analytics include bounce rate – this is the percentage of people visiting your blog then ‘bouncing’ straight off it. A lower bounce rate indicates a more engaged readership. Analytics also gives you an idea of what blog content is most appealing, allowing you to refine it accordingly. The emphasis should always be on using the data to constantly refine your creative approach when it comes to blogging. 7. Think about what success looks like Finally, think honestly about what success looks like. Forget about your blog driving sales (for now). That’s a long way off. Is it about building an engaged, loyal readership? Is it about driving traffic to your website? Or is it about establishing a thought-leadership position for your company? Whatever it is, stay focused on achieving it, and set challenging but not impossible metrics. This post was written by Will Ockenden, a UK and Sydney-based social media consultant, and executive member of Social Media Week Sydney.
An Australian startup leading the way in contactless communications has big plans for the future, including a rapid overseas expansion and further collaborations with some of the world’s biggest companies. Tapit, a startup developed and launched in New South Wales, worked with HBO to allow people to use their mobile devices as scanners to access exclusive content at the recent Game of Thrones exhibition in Sydney. Co-founder Andrew Davis told StartupSmart the business is seeing revenue grow by more than 30% each year. The startup was founded in 2011, and has since been pioneering contactless communications and new ways for people to access information on their phones. The business got a leg-up from a NSW government grant that same year, which allowed Davis and the other founders to leave their day jobs and focus their attention on Tapit full-time. Davis says the idea for the startup came after the co-founders were talking about how people had to download apps or type long URLs in order to access content on their mobiles. “We thought there must be an easier way for people to do that,” he says. “One of the co-founders made a demo of the experience and we thought, this is it. If it’s that simple for people there has to be value in it.” With just six employees in Australia – four full-time and two part-time – Tapit is making waves with an annual revenue of almost $1 million. Davis says the vision for the startup from day one has been to spread the concept beyond Australia because the problem the co-founders originally set out to tackle isn’t limited to Australia. “At the moment we’re trying to raise another round of capital and that’s to really aggressively expand the business in Australia and more importantly overseas,” he says. Part of Tapit’s strategy has been to work with large companies locally and then use that as a starting point to launch larger projects overseas. This is because while there are around 5 million phones in Australia with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, there is an estimated quarter billion worldwide. As part of this focus, Tapit recently worked with Google in the US to allow people to access movie-related content on their phone by scanning event posters. “It was a great example of the technology being used in a compelling way,” he says. “It’s not every day that an Australian startup gets to work with Google HQ.” When asked what his advice to Australian entrepreneurs wanting to make their idea big in Australia and abroad, Davis said it’s all about believing in your vision. “You can’t wait for stuff to fall in your lap,” he says. “You got to go out and do it yourself and convince others.” Australians are the highest per capita users of contactless payment technologies in the world, with 43% using contactless payment on a regular basis.
A restaurant owner in the United States is suing Google for an incorrect Google Maps listing, which he claims led to a sudden decline in customers and forced him to shut his business down. The Serbian Crown restaurant had been operating for almost 40 years in a wealthy suburb in Virginia. But in early 2012 the restaurant suffered a 75% drop in customers on the weekend. Wired reports the owner, Rene Bertagna, has commenced proceedings against the internet giant in the Virginia Federal Court. He claims he was forced to lay off staff and eventually had to close the Serbian Crown in April 2013 as a result of the incorrect listing. Bertagna believes the restaurant’s Google Places listing was sabotaged and claims Google did not do enough to verify the changes. He says he had never used the internet or Google Maps and so was initially unaware of the problem with the Serbian Crown’s listing. “A customer called me and said: ‘Why are you closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday? What’s going on?’” Bertagna told Wired. Google Maps incorrectly listed The Serbian Crown as shut over the weekend and Monday, which were previously the restaurant’s busiest days and kept it profitable. For a destination restaurant which gets minimal foot traffic it was a major problem. Bertagna eventually hired an internet consultant, who took control of the Google Places listing and corrected the information, but it wasn’t enough to save the business. Bertagna claims the problem is that anyone with a Google+ account can submit a change to any detail of a Google+ Local page, whether verified or not, including the listed website address, phone number, physical address or name of the place. Users can also mark the place as closed, as a duplicate or flag inappropriate reviews or photos. SmartCompany contacted Bertagna and Google for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication. John Hart, chief executive of Restaurant & Catering Australia, told SmartCompany the same problem could occur in Australia. “You are certainly finding a much larger number of consumers are using various online resources to research where they are going to dine,” he says. Hart says 37% of consumers in Australia use the internet to research where to eat. “We are not quite as reliant as the US on internet listings so you won’t get quite the same causal link between the directory listing and closure,” he says. “But the number of Australians using the internet to research restaurants is growing.” Hart says in Australia consumers place greater reliance on review sites like Urbanspoon and Eatability. Hart’s advice to businesses in Australia is to closely monitor their internet presence to make sure they do not fall foul of internet sabotage like The Serbian Crown. “Take ownership of your listing and manage your listing on a range of those review type sites and Google and very closely monitor them,” he says. “This is as much a management tool as anything else nowadays and businesses need to treat it seriously.” This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
In the pervasively connected world of the 21st century, creating and sharing knowledge has never been easier. But the fact remains that many people still lack the skills required to access this information and an inequity gap is growing. Consider this quote: You know you’re from the ‘90s if you remember being disappointed when the CD’s leaflet didn’t have the lyrics to the songs. How else were you going to learn that damn line on track three? For those of us with smartphones in our pockets, we simply Google the lyrics and voilà! The answer materialises in less than a second. Yet this is a privilege available only to those who have access to the internet and the means to use it. Inequality of access Two-thirds of the world’s population do not have access to the internet, many of whom are women. These 4.6 billion people rely on the lyrics in the CD case to learn that song, assuming they have a CD player at all. This is a representative issue on the far side of the great digital divide between the technically literate and illiterate. The benefits of digital technology can only be realised if people are empowered with the knowledge and skills to access and use them. In developing countries, women are 25% less likely than men to be online. This gap soars to 45% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. By way of comparison, in both France and the US, women’s internet use exceeds that of men. Illiteracy is a barrier to online access that affects women more than men. Averaged across all developing countries, 75% of women are literate compared to 86% of men. In India, as few as 51% of women are literate compared to 75% of men. Internet-based economic activity in India accounts for more than 5% of GDP growth. Without access to the internet, and the fundamental skills required to use it, women cannot benefit from the tools, resources and opportunities that the internet affords. Bringing women into the mainstream of the digital revolution can empower them with access, information, choices and opportunities that they have never had before. Not just for themselves, but for their families, communities and nation. But what might this look like? Being digitally literate means more than simply knowing how to operate a computer. Digital literacy means having the ability to find resources, critically evaluate and create information, and to do this by using digital technology. UNESCO considers it a necessary life skill. Technology is knowledge and power Digital literacy promotes democracy by giving access to a vast repository of knowledge. It also provides a platform from which to speak out and make your views heard. An Iranian woman, for example, who posted a scarf-less photo of herself on Facebook, now has over 230,000 followers who are supporting her crusade of bareheaded subversion. These women want to voice their opposition to the compulsory hijab. Facebook gives them the means. Social networking sites greatly increase women’s understanding of what is possible, giving them a powerful tool that can be used to change their situation. For women in developing countries, the internet is an open doorway to tangible benefits; education and employment opportunities. According to Plan UK, an extra year of education increases a woman’s income by 10-20%. It is a necessary step on the road to breaking the cycle of poverty. A number of worthy initiatives are underway to develop women’s digital literacy skills. The Women’s Annex Foundation was established to train women in digital literacy so they can create a viable economic model for themselves and their families. The She Will Connect project, an initiative by Intel, is similarly committed to improving the digital literacy skills of women in developing countries. Intel recognises the role that technology plays in improving the quality of and access to education. Closing the gender gap There is a recognised link between a woman’s level of education and the size of families. The more educated she becomes, the fewer children she is likely to have. With over-population being one of the principle difficulties faced by developing countries, digital literacy has the potential to give women access to education and the means to begin reversing the trend towards ever-expanding populations in the developing world. The inequality of internet access around the world is compounded by where you live and your gender. If you are a woman in a developing part of the world, you are likely to be coming up very short on access to the kinds of digital resources that are readily available elsewhere. This can make a big difference to the quality of life for your whole family. The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Global online ticket seller Ticketbis has entered the Australian market, estimated to be worth around $90 million a year. The online platform allows people to securely buy or sell tickets for all types of events, offering more than one million tickets for international events, claiming to make it easy to attend events anywhere over the world. The business will spend the first year in Australia building its brand and becoming known as a secure platform, rather than trying to capture market share, country manager for Australia, Gonzalo Garoña says. “Customers are constantly searching for more secure ways to make these types of transactions online, because in the past year there have been many cases of fraud on sites like Gumtree and eBay, and they are searching for platforms that offer security and guarantees. “We want to become known as the best alternative to the problem of recuperating your money if you have a ticket for an event you can’t attend.” The co-founder of Ticketbis, Jon Uriarte, says the Australian market has a lot of potential for the business. “Firstly, Australians are known to be big consumers of live events, with over 80% of all Australians attending live concerts every year. Secondly, the biggest international tours and the world’s most important sporting competitions all take place in Australia’s biggest cities,” Uriarte says. “We aim to put an end to unsafe scalping that takes place on the street, which is fraudulent, insecure and doesn’t have any guarantees. We provide a solution that’s secure, easy and offers complete guarantee for the buyer and the seller.” Ticketbis, which made over $39 million in 2013, is mapping out an Australian marketing campaign using online campaigns, search engine marketing and affiliate marketing. Uriarte says that Ticketbis offers a solution to two distinct problems. On the one hand, people can search for tickets for events that have sold out, or tickets in a situation that maybe aren’t available elsewhere, such as front row seats. “On the other hand, there are millions of users on Ticketbis, meaning anyone who does have a ticket for an event they can’t attend can put the ticket up for sale and recuperate the money that would be lost otherwise,” Uriarte says. Even though the secondary ticketing market has been around for over 10 years in countries like the US, the challenge is to clearly explain that consumers can buy and safely sell tickets that can’t be used, Uriarte says. “This was the case in many South and Central American countries such as Mexico, which is now one of our top performing countries.” Ticketbis has nearly 300 staff. Hiring local talent with local knowledge of the market has been a key plank in its growth strategy, Uriarte says. “Our strategy has always been to think global, act local. The local talent has been the key to expanding into new markets. They have helped us to understand the market and the details that are specific to every country, but without losing sight of our global strategy that guides the development of the company. “For example in the majority of the world, Google is the most important search engine, but in South Korea, Naver is the most used, with almost 80% market share. Moving into South Korea, it was extremely important that we were appearing in those searches,” Uriarte says. Ticketbis was founded in December 2009 and became a market leader in Spain in the first year. It currently operates in 29 countries and is the market leader in Southern Europe and Latin America.
YouTube has followed in the footsteps of Netflix and is now publicly shaming internet providers who provide slow video. When videos have trouble buffering, blur or won’t play at all, YouTube offers a new service which allows them to find out why. It takes you to a new Google website which displays video playback quality for internet service providers in your area. Information gathered by NSA on ordinary internet users far outweighs specific targets Nine out of 10 account holders found in a large cache of conversations intercepted by the NSA were not the intended surveillance targets, according to the results of a four month-investigation by the Washington Post. The investigation reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted email and instant message conversations and included medical records sent from one family member to another, resumes from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. Facebook experiments had little oversight Until recently, Facebook’s Data Science group operated with few boundaries, a former member of the team has told the Wall Street Journal. At a university, researchers normally have to rely on consent from participants to conduct studies. Facebook relied on its Terms of Service, which now say that user data may be used for research. Former Facebook data scientist Andrew Ledvina recalled a minor experiment in which he and a product manager ran a test without telling anyone else at the company. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 92.02 to 17,068.26. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.
Catapult Sports, a Melbourne-based provider of tracking devices for elite athletes, has announced it has purchased Canberra-based counterpart GPSport. Both companies manufacture wearable devices that monitor the performance of elite athletes, where any movement data is fed into its analytics software on a computer in real time. Combined, the two companies count 450 elite teams worldwide as customers, with international clients including European football clubs AC Milan and Aston Villa, the New York Knicks NBA team, and almost half of the 32 teams in the NFL. Catapult Sports media and marketing manager Boden Westover told StartupSmart the combined company’s customers will include every AFL, NRL and Australian Super Rugby club. “In terms of AFL, Catapult had 17 clubs out of 18, while GPSport had one. We were split down the middle for both Super Rugby and NRL,” Westover says. “We were the number one player in this field and were the first to come up with the technology. GPSport was our biggest competitor. We had an exclusive deal with the Australian Institute of Sport for a while, while they were the first to market. Our companies are the two pioneers in this space.” Catapult Sports managed to raise $3.5 million in series A funding during the last quarter of 2013, taking total investment in the company to $6 million. Its backers include a number of high-profile investors, including as Dallas Mavericks owner and high-profile entrepreneur Mark Cuban. However, despite reports to the contrary, Westover told StartupSmart Catapult Sports has no plans for an IPO this year. “It’s one of those things where there was some uninformed speculation about an IPO in an article, and it quickly became accepted as fact. But we certainly don’t have any plans for an IPO in the next 12 months,” he says. In its official statement, Catapult Sports chief executive Shaun Holthouse says the two businesses will continue to operate as separate entities for at least the next 12 months. “Day one after the acquisition, we expect the only thing GPSports users will notice is an increased focus on customer service as we invest in this side of the operation,” Holthouse says. “We know a lot of GPSports clients are very loyal to the brand and technology. The last thing we want to do is disrupt a good thing. Over the longer term we will be looking for synergies that bring added value to our combined customer base.” Holthouse also says the deal was a response to consolidation in the athlete analytics industry, with his company’s focus shifting towards building global scale and distribution. Wearable devices have recently come into focus following high profile announcements in the consumer end of the market, with Google recently unveiling its Google Fit API and Apple announcing HealthKit. Despite the hype, Catapult Sports chairman Adir Shiffman told StartupSmart in May he remains a sceptic about the consumer end of the market, but sees little shortage in growth at the professional end of the market.
Virtual reality is no longer the expensive, cumbersome exercise it once was. Google Cardboard, launched at last week’s Google I/O conference, is a no-frills, cardboard frame that, when used with open software, transforms a smartphone into a basic virtual reality headset. But for a more immersive experience, hobbyists can build their own virtual reality system in their living room using equipment they already have (and if not, can buy relatively inexpensively). All you need to beam yourself onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise or into Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment is: a computer an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset a Microsoft Kinect for Windows motion sensor a battery headphones a tablet with software used to create and develop videogames (also know as a game engine). A stroll through virtual reality history The term “virtual reality” was initially coined by American computer scientist Jaron Lanier in 1989 to describe a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment which a person can explore and interact with. Virtual reality quickly attracted media attention and inspired films such as the The Lawnmower Man in 1992 and Disclosure in 1994 – but this fuelled expectations of virtual reality that couldn’t be met by the technology available at the time. Virtual reality gaming interfaces such as the Virtuality HMD headset in 1991, Cybermaxx VR in 1994 and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in 1995 left many enthusiasts of the technology disappointed, and often quite dizzy. Systems that enable users to walk and interact in the space are generally expensive (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars), unsuited to routine use and obtrusive, so it’s unsurprising that virtual reality has mostly remained in the laboratory. Virtual roaming at home To make virtual reality practical for home use, you need a system that is inexpensive, easy to set up, does not encumber the user and works in a lounge room-sized area. The availability of head-mounted displays such as the Oculus Rift, motion tracking devices such as the Microsoft Kinect and game engines such as Unity 3D or UDK are a step into the right direction. The Kickstarter success of the Oculus Rift in 2012 reinvigorated the appetite for virtual reality experiences and paved the way for new wave of virtual reality head-mounted displays such as the Sony Morpheus and the Google Cardboard. The Nintendo Wii and the Microsoft Kinect have already started a revolution in home gaming by getting the gamer out of the chair. The Kinect tracks the user’s movement in the living room in seconds without the need for special markers or lengthy calibration. Ultra-light tablet computers are also becoming more powerful and are now capable to render convincing three dimensional environments at acceptable frame rates. Okay, I’ve got the goods. Now what? SpaceWalk is a platform developed by researchers in the GEELab at RMIT University that allows a user to physically walk around and interact in a virtual environment. The platform uses two systems: a virtual reality backpack a separate tracking station. The tracking station consists of a standard desktop computer connected to Kinect. The Kinect has a practical tracking area of approximately 6m2, about the size of most people’s living rooms. It can track movements as little as 1.3mm when users are close to the sensor and 6mm at the end of its tracking range. The user’s backpack contains an external phone charger battery pack [B] connected to the Oculus Rift controller box [C] via a USB to DC Barrel Jack [E] and provides the Oculus Rift [A] with power. The Oculus Rift connects via HDMI [G] to the tablet computer [D]. The platform is only meant at this point to serve as an experimental setup and users have to move slowly in the space as particularly fast movements have the potential to induce nausea. Frame rates, screen resolutions, tracking accuracy and latency are expected to improve with the availability of new hardware. The Oculus Developer’s Kit 2 already promises refresh rates of up to 75Hz and a third higher screen resolution of 960 x 1080 pixels per eye. Similarly, the Kinect 2 for Windows features more accurate user tracking and a larger practical tracking area. Moving and interacting naturally in virtual reality creates an extraordinary sense of immersion that cannot be experienced sitting down, and the experience of walking and interacting in a virtual game space has been explored by number of recent projects. Apart from Architectural Visualisation and Industrial Training, defending yourself against a horde of zombies is a popular use case that has been explored by Project Holodeck and ZeroLatency. On a similar vein, participants could experience vertigo using a setup developed by Inition at the 2013 Digital Shoreditch Festival. If encountering your worst nightmare within the confines of a few square metres is not enough, users can explore the vast expanse of their virtual world on foot with an omni-directional treadmill. To understand how virtual reality can be become a useful extension of our real world, the technology must break the boundaries of the dedicated virtual reality laboratory and become accessible by a wider user group with a variety of backgrounds and motivations. We have just begun to realise the potential of virtual reality and there are many strange new worlds for us to explore. Stefan Greuter does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.