Autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, are likely to be seen more widely on roads in 2015. Already, legislation authorising the use of autonomous vehicles has been introduced in the US states of Nevada, Florida, California and Michigan, with similar legislation being planned for the UK. To date, these laws have focused on legalising the use of autonomous vehicles and dealing, to an extent, with some of the complex issues relating to liability for accidents. But as with other emerging disruptive technologies, such as drones and wearables, it is essential that issues relating to user privacy and data security are properly addressed prior to the technologies being generally deployed. Understanding autonomous vehicles There is no single, uniform design for autonomous vehicles. Rather, it is best to understand an autonomous vehicle as a particular configuration of a combination of applications, some of which – such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, collision avoidance and parking assistance – are already part of current car design. The most well-known prototype, Google’s self-driving car, uses a variety of technologies, including: a laser range finder (LIDAR) that generates a detailed 3D map of the environment; radars; cameras for detecting traffic lights; and a GPS. Other projects, including prototypes being developed by Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Toyota and Oxford University, use different combinations of technologies. This means that the privacy and data security problems arising from autonomous vehicles depend upon the precise technologies applied in any particular design. Some generalisations are, however, possible. The relationship between the virtual and the real The rules (or “code”) governing the online world have been different to those that apply offline. For example, online activities invariably generate digital traces, including metadata, which can be used to build profiles of users. With emerging technologies, such as drones, wearables and autonomous vehicles, we are increasingly seeing the transposition of virtual models onto the real. One consequence of the range of sensors and data collection devices being deployed (and interconnected) is that our offline activities can leave traces at least as extensive as those generated online. One way to understand types of autonomous vehicles is by reference to the kind of data collected and the ways in which that data is processed. For instance, autonomous vehicles often incorporate event recorders, or “black boxes”, to provide essential information in the event of an accident. This raises questions about who has rights to this data and about who can have access to the data. Anonymising data There is an overlap here with questions of liability, as insurance companies have clear incentives to collect as much data about user behaviour as possible. The potential for intrusive surveillance of personal activities is particularly jarring, as the car has been an archetypal space of personal privacy and freedom. A fundamental distinction must be drawn between self-contained autonomous vehicles, in which the data collected from sensor devices installed in the car are stored and processed in the vehicle itself, and interconnected vehicles, in which data is shared with a centralised server and, potentially, with other vehicles. Regardless of whether a vehicle is self-contained or interconnected, design decisions have to be made about whether or not the data collected is anonymised or linked to individual users. If the data is not anonymised, especially with interconnected vehicles, this poses serious surveillance threats. After all, once the data exists, and especially if it is connected to a server, it is vulnerable to access by third parties. It is possible to envisage implementations of autonomous vehicles where data about a particular user is linked to other data sources, such as an online profile, for purposes such as tracking or marketing. This might take the form of personalised advertising displayed in the car, or even adjusting a vehicle’s route so that it passes retail outlets which match a user’s imputed preferences. What else is at stake: human autonomy and hacking We are now familiar with technologies, such as predictive search, which in the online context, attempt to predict what we want to do and make more or less persuasive suggestions. It is likely that some versions of autonomous vehicles will implement predictive technologies. In any case, the progressive delegation of human decisions to machines raises system-wide questions about the cumulative impact on human autonomy: the more people are habituated to decisions being made for them, the less likely they may be to make their own decisions. We are also now depressingly familiar with the vulnerability of computer systems to malicious third parties. Just as effective data security is essential to online safety, autonomous vehicles must be designed with a high level of data security, especially given the potentially calamitous consequences of hacked vehicles. As interconnected data processing systems are progressively rolled out in applications such as wearables and autonomous vehicles, we seem likely to see an offline version of the same sort of perpetual guerrilla warfare played out online between information security and hackers. Protecting privacy at the design stage Autonomous vehicles promise significant social and economic benefits, especially in potential improvements to road safety. There are, nevertheless, considerable legal and regulatory challenges. As with other emerging disruptive technologies, it is vital that privacy and anonymity be properly protected at the design stage. To date, in the face of significant challenges relating to the legality of autonomous vehicles and liability issues, the privacy rights of users have been relatively neglected. But unless the era of artificial intelligence is to be accompanied by us sleepwalking into ubiquitous surveillance, we must recognise that safety and security needs to be balanced against the legitimate rights of people to control their own data and to retain their fundamental rights to privacy. David Lindsay is a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
In 2012, the UK’s Sunday Times reported that actor Bruce Willis was going to sue Apple because he was not legally allowed to bequeath his iTunes collection of music to his children. The story turned out to be false (and shockingly bad journalism) but it did start a conversation about what we can, and can’t, do with our digital possessions. It turns out that “possessions” is actually a misnomer. We actually don’t own the music, books and movies we “buy” from Apple and Amazon. As Amazon puts it in its license terms, “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider”. In other words, we are allowed to read the content but we are not allowed to pass it on. It comes as no surprise then that 93% of Americans surveyed were unaware or misinformed when asked about what digital assets they were able to pass on in the event of their death. But the problems don’t stop there. Relatives of the recently deceased are frequently left with a range of decisions and challenges when it comes to dealing with their online accounts, especially social media. This is not made easier by the fact that every company implements different strategies in dealing with accounts belonging to a deceased user, coupled with the fact that in the UK in 2012 at least, the average user had 26 accounts. In most cases, getting an account shut down requires close family to produce a range of documentation to prove that they have the right to request that the account is terminated. This doesn’t allow for those relatives to get access to the content of the accounts however. Taking a lead in making the process of handling accounts of the deceased simpler, Google has implemented their Inactive Account Manager. This allows anyone to specify what should happen in the event that an account has not been accessed for at least 3 months. Up to 10 people can be notified and the contents of the accounts, including services such as YouTube and Google+, shared with them. Alternatively, the accounts can simply be automatically deleted. Facebook will, on request, “memorialise” a person’s Facebook page. This freezes the page with the same permissions as it had when it was last accessed by the user but will stop the page from being discovered in a search and will not actively promote the page to others. The role of social media in the bereavement process has been the focus of an increasing amount of research. Generally, it is thought that social media can help in the bereavement process, although the persistence of a person’s profile online may make final acceptance of the passing more difficult. An interesting finding has been that when people post on a memorial page, they frequently do so in the present tense as if the person was still alive. In the UK, a survey has found that 36% of people would like their profiles to continue being available online after they die, with a larger proportion of 18-24 year olds preferring this option than over 55s. It doesn’t have to stop there. There are now services which allow you to continue Tweeting after you die using a bot that has studied your tweeting style. Other services allow users to send final messages via Facebook and LinkedIn. Digital estate planning is starting to become more of the norm and people are being prompted to think about what they want done with their digital assets and accounts after they die. This is going to be a significant issue for social media companies in the future. Since Facebook started, about 10-20 million users will have died. This number will increase and eventually overtake the number of living users on the site, by one estimate, in 2060. In one humorous envisioning of the future, Tom Scott has produced a disturbing possibility in his video “Welcome To Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers”. In it, he describes a corporate sponsored network as a resting place for the digital version of your consciousness, that is, of course, ad sponsored. In this case as with the question today, it is perhaps best for all if your online social presence ends when you do. David Glance 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.
With all the new mobile devices come the potential new methods for advertisers to keep track of you across all your devices. They are given access through deals done by the large platforms and gatekeepers of your information. Here are a few of the ways the big social media and tech companies are accessing your data and using it for profit. Facebook: It has access to enormous amounts of very personal metadata collected from all of its users, including everything from employment, family, hair colour, friends, travel, home location and many other details. Mined from its users, this information is considered very valuable for advertisers and marketers. Another way Facebook tracks your movements is when you use your Facebook sign-in for other websites. This is also tracked by Facebook. And Facebook owns a number of apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, that collect your information through your usage of the app. Facebook is large and looking to expand both its platform and ability to track your movements. It will keep purchasing and creating new ways to find and sell your information as this is its greatest income source. Apple: Its main tracking is through your email address and iTunes account, which tracks your credit card data and usage. When you purchase anything through an Apple device or using any Apple system, this information is used so the ads you see are normally reflecting your past activities. Google: When you log in to any Google account, you are then tied into the massive Google network. It also uses an Android mobile operating system which assigns each user a Google Ad ID. Google has many ad products and services such as AdSense, which access your ad identifier and compile the information with all the other YouTube, Gmail, Search and other personal digital history information, irrespective of what device you may be using. So why don’t they have to notify you of the use of your personal information? Because when you sign up to their services, you agree to their terms which include using your personal data as they please for advertising purposes. However, Google is still involved in class-action suits in various states in the US regarding its right to analyse message content and sell byproducts to advertisers. It is argued as beyond the scope of what is intended by the use of personal information. Google maintains it has the right to collect even your most sensitive data as long as it flows across an open Wi-Fi network. Google has been doing a lot more than its lobbyists and executives are disclosing when they are defending their initiatives. They could easily make collection of information for advertising more privacy-friendly if they wanted or were forced to, but at the moment we are at the mercy of the dominant operating system vendors who are not required to do so. Be aware: deals are being struck selling your information As you may have seen in the news recently, Facebook has struck a deal to sell access to your data to MasterCard. It claims it is not your ‘personal data’ but it includes your location, spending, connections and much more. This may not be personal data to some but it still seems very ‘personal’. This is likely the first of many deals to help monetise the ‘free’ Facebook model and seems to be the model for many large platform service providers on the internet. It is likely not to be the last. One thing that is important to remember about all this: it does not matter whether you are using an Android or an iOS device; you can still turn off many of the tracking mechanisms in the menu settings. Yet it still makes one wonder what is left under the ‘personal data’ legal definition anymore.
How safe is Microsoft Windows? After all, the list of malware that has caused major headaches worldwide over the last 15 years is long – viruses, worms and Trojans have forced computers to shut down, knocked South Korea offline and even overloaded Google’s servers. Now, how safe do you feel knowing that cash machines across the world run Microsoft Windows? An exploit has been discovered, apparently spread across Russia, India, and China, whereby cash machines can be turned into a free money vending machine. The hack requires re-starting the cash machine – essentially a Windows terminal – from a prepared CD that injects malware into the system to circumvent the security. At set times of the week, a unique code is generated and given to a “mule” who would approach the machine, enter the code, and withdraw up to 40 notes, anonymously and without trace. From skimming to hacking Attacks on ATMs (those more sophisticated than removing the cash machine and cutting into its safe) started around 10 years ago with card reader devices containing a tiny integrated camera and card reader. As a user withdraws cash, the device reads the account details from the card’s magnetic stripe and videos the pin number entered into the keypad. Earlier generations of ATM machines were often built around computer terminals running IBM’s OS/2 operating system (which started life as a joint IBM-Microsoft venture, and which somewhat ironically spawned Microsoft’s Windows NT, the grandparent of modern Windows, and IBM’s OS/2 when that project collapsed). Due to its more esoteric and rare nature there are far fewer attacks for OS/2, but now it is standard builds of Windows, potentially vulnerable to all the usual malware and exploits, that run modern ATMs. So it is not surprising that intruders have started to find ways inside the ATM’s card processing and cash dispensing systems. Malware that can offer external control to an ATM have been reported for some years, allowing attackers to dispense cash, record and print out card details and PIN numbers. Under the hood This latest malware is Backdoor.MSIL.Tyupkin, which while running continuously will only listen for commands on a Sunday and Monday night. The criminal gangs operating the malware generate a random, unique, six-digit keycode that activates the program, which is given to the “mule” who is withdrawing the money. Like previous efforts to crack into ATMs, the malware requires physical access to the ATM, typically by booting the ATM from a CD prepared to install the malware. At present the malware has been active on at least 50 ATMs in Russia and Eastern Europe, but also in the US, China and India. The malware is the file ulssm.exe, which is copied into the c:\windows\system32 directory and which is protected and maintained on the system between reboots by modifying the Windows registry (a database of configuration settings) so that Windows automatically runs the program at startup. The program then interacts with the ATM through the Extension for Financial Services (XFS) library, MSXFS.dll. To avoid detection it will only allow access controller commands on Sunday and Monday evenings. This shows an example of malware installing itself onto a system, updating the Windows registry to autorun when started (at 25:20), and then going into hiding. Playing catch up The threat of re-booting machines from CDs or bootable USB sticks in order to install malware and abusing Windows autorun feature to sustain the program in memory, is an exploit that has been common for over a decade. It seems few lessons have been learned in terms of securing physical access to the device, and also in the privileged rights that malware can gain. Even as companies focus on improving and securing the user interface, often the debugging and diagnostic side can provide further routes into a system. Versions of Windows used in embedded control systems are now sufficiently secure, but as ATM manufacturers use standard installations of Windows they are opening themselves up to further problems – not least because it allows hackers the opportunity to simulate and craft their malware on well-known versions of the operating system. However, at the core of this attack – as with those before it – is the need for physical access to the device, which implies an insider working in the bank. That means with monitoring of who has access to the cash machine, this can be prevented. The key lesson is that the ATM operating system is a weak link in the chain which needs to be closed. *This article originally appeared on The Conversation.
Four health tech startup competition finalists take home a $10,000 prize, as local sector gains critical mass10:09AM | Tuesday, 14 October
The four finalists for the inaugural Janssen Health and Technology Challenge (HaTCH) have been named, with one of the judges saying Melbourne, in particular, is close to developing “a critical mass of ideas”. Each of the four finalists receives $10,000 to go towards the further development of their concepts. They will further workshop their ideas with the judges in a full-day session on October 30, before pitching their ideas to the independent judging panel on December 2 for a chance to win $100,000 to commercialise their idea. The judging panel includes World Medical Association council chair Mukesh Haikerwal and former General Practice Registrar Australia chief executive Amit Vohra. They are joined by Strativity Group Australia and New Zealand partner Cyrus Allen, Janssen Australia/New Zealand managing director Chris Hourigan and Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas. Vohra told Private Media health tech and biotech sectors have the potential to create a long-term home in Australia, but warned it’s still early days for the sector. “For the first time, Australia is creating an ecosystem around health startups. A lot of innovative stuff comes out of Silicon Valley because you have a lot of startups in a small area,” Vohra says. “As with most entrepreneurial activity, it needs a critical mass of ideas and Melbourne for the first time is starting to experience this.” Vohra explains Australia has never been a natural hub for robotics because it never had a strong local robotics industry, and that much of the early use of devices such as Google Glass for therapeutic purposes has been in Silicon Valley. Instead, he says the key strengths of the local health tech and biotechnology sector centre around data systems, data analysis, information sharing, wearables and nanotechnology. “There’s a whole space around consumer wearables that kicked off in the past two years. Before that, there was the app revolution, and now we’re in the next phase of that, with wearables that log that information,” Vohra says. “The next phase gets more sophisticated, where the information gets sent back to your medical practitioner, rather than just collected for lifestyle purposes.” Vohra says another area Australian health tech startups are strong in is information sharing systems, which allow a patient’s electronics records to be stored in a single repository. “Another area, and not just in Australia, is around information exchange. There’s a huge amount of fragmentation in information sharing across the health system,” he says. “Your local general practitioner has a raft of information. But if you go somewhere else for a procedure, that information is sitting in a different silo.” Storing information in a single repository allows for better quality of care at a lower cost, according to Vohra. This is because each intervention, whether it is delivered through a general practitioner, a hospital or a nursing home, will be logged in a single system, allowing medical professionals access to more accurate and complete data about a patient’s health. The four 2014 HaTCH finalists, chosen from 40 entrants, are as follows: 1. Footprints: Falls in the elderly are often result to a deterioration of gait. The Footprint sensor will improve monitoring of gait levels and thereby allow intervening before a fall happens. 2. Life Picture: Chronic diseases involve changes to the molecular pathways of individuals. The Life Picture health monitoring system uses biomarkers and smartphone technology to improve early disease detection. 3. Respiro Flu Test: Seasonal influenza kills more Australians than car accidents. The Respiro Flu Test is the first non-invasive ultra-sensitive test for influenza infection in children and adults. It takes less than 20 minutes and detects all strains of human influenza including H1N1 and bird flu. 4. Track Active: Exercise is considered to be the single most important treatment modality for addressing chronic health and musculoskeletal problems. Track Active is a cloud based platform for health and medical professionals to efficiently prescribe customized, evidence-based exercise programs to assist patients in recovery. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Negative reviews have been around just about as long as the internet itself. Now Brisbane-based startup SayBack is giving businesses the tools to monitor what’s been said about them online, and respond before too much damage is done to their brands. The platform, aimed primarily at restaurant and café owners, monitors reviews on a number of popular review websites like Trip Advisor, Yelp and Google+. When a negative review is posted about a user’s business, they are notified via text message, giving them a chance to respond quickly. SayBack launched about a month ago, and has between 30 and 35 businesses signed up to the service. Founder Kumar Lang, a restaurant owner himself who has bootstrapped the startup, came up with the idea for the platform after finding a negative review posted about his own business. “I only realised about a week later. During that one week, we don’t know how many people would have looked at the review,” he says. “If I was able to respond quickly and help take care of my customer’s needs, hopefully I can win back the client, and perhaps we can turn a negative into a positive review.” Similar services are offered by individual platforms like Trip Advisor, but Lang says he couldn’t find a service which watched over all the popular restaurant review sites. “The problem with Trip Advisor was it doesn’t notify you when there’s a bad review on Menu Log, a bad review on True Local, a bad review on Yelp,” Lang says. In addition to the notification service, SayBack also offers an online brand manager option, which essentially outsources the businesses responses to those reviews. “It’s not about deleting negative online reviews, but it’s about educating people about those negative reviews,” he says. “I’ve spoken to business owners. The reason they don’t want to respond themselves is because the business is very emotional for them. The way the respond is not always professional. So having some other people that are online reputation managers and can potentially respond on behalf of the business is valuable.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
It seems we are headed towards a world where augmented reality (AR) systems will be as common as smartphones are today – it’s already about to revolutionise medicine, entertainment, the lives of disabled people and of course advertising and shopping. The big three tech companies have all invested heavily in research and development in the AR domain. Google will be releasing Google Glass later in the year, Microsoft has been working on its own AR device and not long ago Facebook bought the virtual reality (VR) company Oculus Rift. The notion of AR that these companies are proposing is a kind of “smartphone for the eyes”, as traditional AR and VR converge in the optic realm. The reality boost We are moving into an era where we will, on a commercial scale, be taking our visual information in real time and integrating this with a wealth of external information to transform our daily lives. This will give us some degree of control over how we see the world, in the fundamental sense. For example, we might be offered information about people or objects as they pop into our field of view. Or it could introduce into our visual field view things that don’t exist at all in the real world to potentially filter out of our vision things that are in fact there, such as giant advertising billboards (see below). But this is not just another article about the radical changes that AR is likely to bring about. Rather it’s a call to begin thinking critically about the possibilities AR presents and the idea that perhaps instead of merely augmenting reality, we could transform it. The unspoken future Extrapolating from the recent history of technology gives us a glimpse of what the future of AR is likely to look like in the hands of the big tech companies. First, the idea of the “app” will extend into the visual domain, giving us apps that aid us in all the things we already do: building a house, studying at a distance, travelling in a new city and even making love. Second, the price for access to these new services and of having information at our fingertips is likely to involve surrendering ever more of our personal information. Critically, it will open up new markets for advertisers to promote their products and services in both tacit and explicit ways – an extension of the world of “advertising everywhere”. The increased human consumption of advertising – driven perhaps largely by the increase of screens in the world – has begun to be referred to by some as the pollution of the mental environment. By surrendering control over our immediate field of vision, advertising no longer needs to be limited to a screen or a surface but could become truly ubiquitous. Transformed reality? The name “augmented reality” gives it away. The vision of AR that we are seeing in the media and in press releases for products such as Google Glass is a vision of our world as we know it, but perhaps made a little easier through this technology. In contrast, this technology, that can change what we sense in real time, has the potential to fundamentally change how we live. Do we have the imagination to dream about how instead of merely augmenting reality we could be aiming to transform it? The transformative potential of this technology has begun to be envisioned by a number of different artists. In the Artvertiser project, artists have developed an application that replaces billboards within the visual field with images of art. So instead of subconsciously consuming giant advertisements on a billboard from the bank, users could perhaps be consuming artworks by Banksy. The example above is just the tip of the iceberg. What kind of a built environment do you want to inhabit? Your AR has the potential to change both the cityscape and the horizon, to overlay worlds upon worlds. Other artists have begun experimenting with ways that the technology could be used to add extra dynamics to public artworks, bringing them to life. The advent of AR presents a significant choice. Through detection, replacement and synthesis AR has the potential to both add to and subtract from our sensations. Aspects of the environment, even buildings and people could potentially be filtered in or out based on personal preference – our generation is the first in human history that holds this possibility. The proposal is that rather than simply waiting to see what purposes are dreamed up by the purveyors of this technology, we need to begin thinking about how we want to use it. Now is the time to start dreaming about how the advent of ubiquitous AR could not merely augment society, but transform it for the better. Nick Kelly 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.
Third party Snapchat site Snapsaved has confirmed that its site was breached and 500MB of Snapchat images were leaked, The Guardian reports. Over the weekend thousands of photos and videos from the Snapchat service, a disappearing messaging app for smartphones, were put online. The photos and videos were apparently taken from sites including Snapsaved.com, which ask people to log in using their Snapchat username and password to offer desktop-based rather than handset-based access to Snapchat. Snapchat blamed third party apps for the breach. Reddit loses its GM Reddit general manager Erik Martin, who has been with the startup since its early days, is leaving having spent six years with the company, VentureBeat reports. Martin led some of the popular community news sharing site’s biggest moments, helping organise charity raises, lobbying against bad tech policy like the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Personal Information Protection Act, as well as making Reddit the largest Secret Santa gift exchange in the world. He confirmed the decision in a tweet. Hard decision, but after 6 outstanding yrs I’m leaving reddit. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way & made it an amazing ride! — erik martin (@hueypriest) October 13, 2014 Amazon is Google’s largest search competitor Speaking in Berlin this week, Google’s Eric Schmidt says the company’s biggest search competitor is Amazon. “People don’t think of Amazon as search but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon. They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering questions and searches, just as we are,” he says. However, he is more concerned about the development of an unknown Google-killer, which he says is inevitable. “…someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us. I know, because not long ago we were in that garage. Change comes from where you least expect it,” he says. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 223.03 points to 16,321.07. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s excruciating gaffe that women should not ask for a raise but trust in “karma” that they would be rewarded eventually has been met with widespread condemnation. He made the statement, ironically enough, during an interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. The conference , dedicated to women in technology, had a largely female audience who were confounded when Nadella gave his advice. The statement was met with an instant reaction on social media and Nadella, realising the seriousness of his mistake, issued a retraction saying that his answer to the question on whether women should ask for a pay raise was “completely wrong”. Nadella’s statement is completely wrong for a whole host of reasons but in particular, it highlighted the fact that he seemed completely unaware of the context of the question given that Microsoft’s workforce is made up of just 29% women. When looking at the high status tech jobs at Microsoft, that number drops to 17%. Nadella also seemed unaware that the 17% of the female tech work force at Microsoft are likely to be paid salaries of around 87% the salaries of men. Of course, when you take merit-based bonuses into account, the gender pay gap is even greater, as women receive bonuses that are half the size of men’s. He must have been unaware of these facts, because if he was aware of them, how could he possibly have thought that a woman’s silence would result in the “right thing” happening? For Nadella, a 22 year veteran of Microsoft it is perhaps not surprising that he would have been unaware of the reality of being female and working at the company. The truth of the matter is that he may rarely have encountered women in his day-to-day job other than those employed in non-technical roles. As CEO of the company however, it is particularly revealing that he would have been insensitive to the challenges women face in that working environment. His statements perhaps point to the limitations of his abilities and will now remain as the “elephant in the room” when he is trying to navigate Microsoft from being relegated into irrelevance by its stronger rivals, Apple and Google. At the very least, Nadella joins the ranks of other CEOs who have made similarly public missteps, three of whom lost their jobs as a result: Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich eventually was forced to step down over his support of anti-gay marriage legislation Lululemon’s CEO Dennis “Chip” Wilson also stepped down after blaming the fact that some of their yoga pants became see-through on overweight women saying that “Some women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” for Lululemon trousers” BP CEO Tony Hayward was forced to resign after a series of PR bombs in dealing with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that included his famous quote “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.” The fact that a CEO can lose their job over a single statement reflects the nature of the job. The perceived importance of the CEO to a company’s performance is highly debated, especially when it is framed in terms of how much pay they are worth. However, the consensus is that CEOs have little impact on the overall performance of a company. Nadella comes as a novice to the job of chief executive and his turn in this position follows on from a long reign of the founders running the company. A chief executive’s main role however is to present the public face of the company and to inspire the market and their customers as a visionary. Perhaps we should have expected less of Nadella given that his first email to Microsoft employees encapsulated this vision as Microsoft enabling people to “do more” and that staff should “believe in the impossible”. Presumably the latter was aimed at female staff wanting equal representation and pay at the company. David Glance 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.
Popular online music and audio sharing platform SoundCloud’s rapid growth is seeing its costs runaway from its revenues, TechCrunch reports. The platform is now exceeding 175 million listeners each month, and is on track to reach 200 million. The company posted a turnover of $US14.1 million ($A16.2 million) in 2013, up 40% from 2012. However, its operating loss for the period more than doubled to $US29.2 million. The company says it’s trying to grow SoundCloud into the market-leading platform for listening to, creating and sharing sound. “This has necessitated investment in technology, headcount and marketing. Our overhead base has increased faster than our revenues,” it says. Raspberry Pi sales pass 3.8 million Sales of the Raspberry Pi microcomputer have now passed 3.8 million, dwarfing its creator’s original expectations. Its creators, the Pi Foundation, envisaged selling as few as 10,000 boards of the course over its lifetime. The Pi shipped just over a million in its first year on sale, and two and a half years later sales continue to trend upwards. Patent trolling pays Statistics published by the lawfirm Goodwin Protector as part of a manual that provides tips for fighting patent trolls show that in the US, from 2010 to 2013, non-practising entitles (patent trolls) received three times more in damages than real companies, Gigaom reports. Michael Strapp, one of the manual’s authors, says the result is because of patent trolls squeezing settlements from dozens of smaller companies and then suing larger companies like Apple or Google. He also says another factor is a dysfunctional feature of the American patent system, which allows the trolls to choose the venue of legal action. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 115.15 to 16,544.10. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
A new social network called Mothers Groupie aims to reduce the isolation felt by many new mothers by helping them to meet both face-to-face and online, with the site also recently adding a directory of "helpers". Co-founder Leanne Sexton told StartupSmart the idea for Mothers Groupie was born out of necessity and frustration after moving from Sydney, where she had previously worked in the media industry on titles such as Woman's Day, Cosmopolitan and Madison. “When I fell pregnant with our first child, we decided to have a change of lifestyle and moved away from family and friends to the [NSW] Northern Rivers at Lennox Head,” Sexton says. “There was honestly nothing for a pregnant mother until you had a baby, when you were put in a mothers’ group by the hospital with a group of women you might have nothing else in common with. When I searched online, there were mothers trying to find each other by posting messages on online forums, but those messages date quickly.” Sexton says the experience led her to develop a social network to facilitate face-to-face meetups with local mothers, allowing for online catch-ups in between. The site began as a local service, before expanding its reach and features, and eventually adding apps for the iPhone and Google Play app stores. “Within a month we had over 40 mothers in Lennox Head. That was at the start of the year, after having a baby late last year and we’ve been refining the product since. We started basic and then have been refining it based on feedback from mothers on features they’d like to see,” Sexton says. “A couple of months ago we added an app. Mothers are incredibly time poor – many don’t have time to even use a laptop. They have their baby in one hand and a smartphone in the other, where many do much of their admin. The website now has close to 2000 members and around 300 groups with very little marketing. According to Sexton, privacy concerns, especially the risk of baby photos being shared with strangers, is drawing many mothers away from established social networks such as Facebook. “Women in general are very social beings. When they become mothers, they become active on social media. I can understand first hand, going from working in the media on Cosmo to being at home in Lennox Head. It’s such a growing space, and privacy is a big concern,” she says. “We find there’s a real mix of ages. You go from young mums to mums in their 30s to a growing proportion over 30. There are many demographics that need something like this, such as mothers in rural areas or with FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) partners.” “Post-natal depression is a real issue, and research shows isolation and a lack of support can be a key cause. We’re creating a platform for people to catch up face-to-face and online in between to reduce that isolation.” A feature Mothers Groupie recently added is a directory of reputable "helpers" such as nannies, babysitters, au pairs, cleaners, lactation consultants, child sleep consultants and fitness experts. Mothers can post job ads or search for helpers, read ratings and testimonials, and can pay a small fee to see the contact details of helpers they like. “From a business perspective, it’s a demographic that’s sought after by brands, and it’s a closed and very trusted environment. “We’ve tested the model, it’s working well, and we’re now looking for $500,000 in seed funding to really push marketing, fine-tune development and expand to the US where there’s nothing quite like it.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australia’s national startup festival Startup Spring returns this week promising to build upon the gains it made last year, when it helped push the industry further out onto the national stage. The event, organised by StartupAUS, launches on Friday, with the full schedule of events getting underway on October 13 and running through to November 3. StartupAUS board member Peter Bradd says last year’s event has helped build awareness of Australia’s startup industry, which in turn has led to an increased level of influence with the federal government. Most recently, Bradd, representing StartupAUS, has met with Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson, and Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane, with whom he discussed things like visa reform, digital education, employee share options and crowdfunding regulation. “We hope it raises awareness that we do have a strong startup ecosystem here in Australia,” Bradd says. “We want to tell the stories of what’s happening in the startup ecosystem here and take people on a journey that many are not familiar with. Show them what life is like as an entrepreneur. “I would encourage people to get down to the events. One thing I often hear from people outside the startup ecosystem is how welcoming it is. Everyone has an open door policy it’s very easy to connect and to go from knowing nothing, to knowing quite a lot. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone that has a business idea, or if they’re a university student wanting to know what it’s like to join a startup or go and found a startup.” This year there are 165 events taking place as part of Startup Spring all over the country. StartupAUS board member and Director of Engineering for Google Alan Noble says the festival is the perfect opportunity to place Australia’s startup sector centre stage and celebrate the startup community. “From coding sessions and bootcamps, to awards and networking drinks, there is an event for everybody who has an interest in tech startups,” he says. “We really hope that the Startup Spring festival will inspire the next generation of Australian entrepreneurs. Today’s startups can be tomorrow’s Tesla Motors, iRobot or Google. I believe that, with the right attitude to skills, innovation and entrepreneurship, we can create a very bright future for Australia.” For a full list of Startup Spring events visit www.startupspring2014.org. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
For some years now, I’ve been getting an email newsletter from an old colleague of mine who has his own web design business. The newsletter contains fairly standard fare from design businesses of this type – latest projects, staff tos and fros, even the latest work party. But if we weren’t friends, I would have well and truly unsubscribed from it a long time ago. Not so much because I already know about most of the news he includes, but because – despite working in a constantly evolving and information-rich area of business, the newsletter completely fails to provide any information or advice that the reader can learn from and apply to their business. Just when smaller businesses are crying out to be informed and educated about this complex and ever evolving world, this designer turns a blind eye and instead focuses completely on itself. In other words, they fail to create WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) and instead create IAAU (It’s All About Us). Creating WIIFM Not only is that approach, dare I say, narcissistic, it also maximises its chances of being sent to the trash folder. Even the most reluctant computer user knows that the digital world is completely overwhelmed with information of all shapes, sizes and quality. Unfortunately they would also know that much of it is nothing more than storage-hogging junk. And because we are overwhelmed by so much information landing in our inboxes and social networks, the information that your business and my business releases better be damn good or it wont survive an inbox cull or social network scan. This means that anything that is even vaguely self-centred won’t even see the light of day. What is your content worth? It also means that we need to work extra hard to deliver content that is actually worth something. Content that will genuinely save or make your readers money, or give them an advantage in whatever world you are writing about. It may even be content that not so long back you would have been paid to provide. It’s this point that makes many hesitate. Why should I part with information that I can rightly charge for? Isn’t this my bread and butter? There’s one compelling answer to this and its name is ‘competition’. Cutting through the clutter The truth is that in the battle to gain critical ‘cut-through’ and to gain the position of ‘thought leader’, individuals and organisations are now releasing information that not so long ago, readers would have paid very handsomely for. Outstanding blogs, white papers, eBooks, videos, podcasts, presentations and even online courses are now widely available on websites throughout the internet, sometimes without so much as handing over your email address. And these resources are not from some backyarder. Some of the top brains and institutions in the world are freely providing this amazing content. If in doubt, pick a topic, any topic. Then Google search it to find out just how much free and quality content there is on that topic. All free. And all right there at your fingertips. Find the true value So if you think you will attract attention and subscriptions and most importantly conversions by releasing news about latest projects and staff milestones, it might be worth thinking again. Because your competitors are bound to be offering something far more valuable to your potential customers. So be honest with yourself. Just how valuable is the information you’re releasing into the online world? If its not, it may be a good time to re-evaluate this strategy, before you get unsubscribed or unliked for good. In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. This article was originally published at SmartCompany.
Twitter is suing the US government, alleging that the Justice Department’s restrictions on what the company can say about government national security requests for data violate the company’s First Amendment rights, The Washington Post reports. Earlier this year five other technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, reached a settlement with the government on the permissible scope of disclosure. Twitter vice president Ben Lee says it is the company’s belief that it is entitled under the First Amendment to respond to its users’ concerns and to the statements of US government officials by providing information about the scope of government surveillance. “We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad inexact ranges,” he says. Blockchain raises $30.5 million Bitcoin wallet provider and software developer Blockchain is expected to announce it has closed a $US30.5 million ($AU34.6 million) fund-raising round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Wicklow Capital, The New York Times reports. The investment, raised from Blockchain’s first round of outside financing, is one of the biggest in the digital currency industry to date. Microsoft to hold cloud media event On October 20, Microsoft will be holding a “What’s ahead for Microsoft’s Cloud” event in San Francisco. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group Scott Guthrie will be both presiding during the one-hour event for press and analysts. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 272.52 to 16,719.39. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
Stimulating startups, innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is critical for Australia’s economy. But we need to challenge some of our beliefs about who can and can't do these things if we want to lay the groundwork for substantive change. I'm confident there is a growing sense of urgency around the critical link between startups, STEM and technology and Australia’s future prosperity, with tangible initiatives, focus and metrics in how these are stimulated appearing in many corporate, education and community initiatives. If Australia is truly going to increase innovation and leverage digital tech on a global scale, then we must make some key changes. "Start ups" and "STEM" are stereotypically synonymous with a younger generation. These stereotypes are unnecessarily narrow. At some stage our ideas of who can and can’t innovate with technology (which currently exclude corporate, small business and those outside their 20s or 30s) will become self-fulfilling and self-defeating. We need to invest in building a nation that leads in STEM and critical thinking. Australia invested just $4.5 per capita in venture capital for startups last year, compared with $120 in Israel, $85 in the US, $20 in South Korea and $15 in the UK. We must also take steps to stimulate innovation beyond the stereotype of the young, tech-enabled crowd. Here are three stereotypes we’d do well to reverse. Stereotype #1 – Young entrepreneurs belong only in startups Young entrepreneurial types start from the beginning with building a customer base or idea, and without the constraints of towing caravans of what they should adhere to. We know that a lack of business skills, networks and scale are the main reasons startups often fail, and venture funds look for these very things – previous attempts in the form of second-time-around founders, or those with prior business exposure. What if we took entrepreneurs starting out and gave them a position in large corporates? Switch the assumption that young entrepreneurs only belong in startups and create an employment construct where, say for two years, they have a direct reporting line into leadership to work on new services or products. It’s possible to find the right balance of new thinking, to create options from alternate perspectives, and in delivery, to combine the skills and diversity of that approach with leveraging the commercial, scale, marketing and regulatory expertise of a large corporate. Stereotype #2 – People who work in corporates can’t innovate and don’t have a startup persona It’s evident that after a few years’ experience and building expertise, there are corporate or medium-sized business employees who have a good balance of business experience and feel an urgency to fill a gap in the market. If they don’t, it’s often because they have financial commitments or dependents and fear if they leave the paid workforce, they’ll be locked out. According to a Kauffman Org report, the average age of successful founders is 40, with twice as many successful entrepreneurs over 50 as there are under 25 years of age. Experienced entrepreneurs will probably have had experience in people management, scale and financial management to assist the odds in expanding. We'd do well to reverse the cliché that those of middle age are too late to the game. Such people are experienced in business, scale and leadership and have strong relationship networks to leverage, as well as second nature digital literacy. The suggestion is to offer more middle management the opportunity to take a leave of absence to focus on a new startup idea. Benefits to the sponsor organisation are many. An employee who has been with you for eight years would be revived and focused when they returned after 12 months establishing their own business idea. The sponsor organisation may offer a program, part salary, grant or leave without pay for the employee to have that opportunity. It could then take first right to buy, bring the idea into the organisation under terms, partner or procure. It could be the organisation's data or API is leveraged. We know corporates aren’t short of ideas or highly intelligent people, and we know Australia needs more successful startups. As a quick litmus test, in the PwC innovation team 80% have had their own successful startups or been working in the startup scene, with each returning to corporate life passionate about re-inventing Australia’s corporates and governments. Stereotype #3 – More experienced people are neither innovative nor technology literate, and the business of solving problems is best left to younger generations There’s nearly everything wrong with this perception. Reversing it, and providing the missing link, could have a profound network effect. By the time many in this older generation retire they will have been using smartphones, downloading apps – with higher mobile adoption rates than most countries in the world – and using Google, Amazon, eBay, for example, for 15-20 years. The size of the generation ranging 50-60+ years is increasing as a percentage of population. This generation consists of people who are mostly still fit and active, will live 20 more years after retiring, have good business networks and employment experience, have paid off their assets and have access to their super funds. As Bernard Salt pointed out in The Australian recently, the way we think about 55+ year olds is now different in an age when we live to beyond 85. Most aren't retiring, but adopting "portfolio lifestyles". How great would it be to see this generation of entrepreneurs celebrating a new phase of their lives, and instead of being positioned as a social services consumer, becoming the innovator or mentor or partner with young Australians in business: An architect in her 60s combining with a manufacturing tech-savvy person in a 3D printing venture; or a semi-retired doctor using augmented reality for remote patient diagnosis. Reversing these three myths and providing the missing support will stimulate innovation across the nation, leverage established human capital and accelerate Australia to fire on all innovation cylinders. Reversing each stereotype embodies diversity of thought. It would help accelerate a nation of innovators and create momentum in the economy for technology-literate people and jobs. Kate Eriksson is the head of innovation at PwC Australia’s Digital Change services. A stalwart of the digital industry, Kate’s experience and network spans across some of the most iconic digital businesses in the world such as Google, Facebook, Skype and Twitter.
Hewlett-Packard plans to separate its PC and printer operation from corporate hardware and other units, sources told The Wall Street Journal. The company plans to announce the move as early as Monday in the US. It’s one H-P and its investors and analysts have long contemplated. In 2011, when H-P announced the acquisition of UK software company Autonomy Corp, the company said it was exploring a separation of its PC business. However, under pressure from shareholders the company reversed course two months later. Snapchat wanted MessageMe before Yahoo! acquisition Mobile messaging app MessageMe has been acquired by Yahoo. The deal, according to TechCrunch sources is a talent acquisition and the deal is worth between $US30 and $US40 million ($A34-46 million). Prior to the acquisition, Snapchat had shown interest in MessageMe, as well as European app maker Truecaller. MessageMe chose Yahoo! because they were planning on hiring eight people, more than Snapchat would have done, and the team will get to work together on a new messaging product. Google to make security guards employees Tech giant Google plans to hire more than 200 security guards as its own employees rather than outside contractors. The move comes amid rising concerns about income disparities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The guards will be eligible for the same benefits as other Google employees, including health insurance, retirement benefits, on-site medical services, leave for new parents and more. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 208.64 to 17,009.69. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
A lawyer representing over a dozen celebrities whose iCloud accounts were hacked and nude photos were stolen has written a letter threatening Google with a $100 million lawsuit, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The letter, written by lawyer Marty Singer, accuses Google of “despicable, reprehensible conduct in not only failing to act expeditiously and responsibly to remove the images, but in knowingly accommodating, facilitating and perpetuating the unlawful conduct”. “Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ motto is a sham,” he writes. A Google spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal the company had removed tens of thousands of pictures within hours of requests being made and has closed hundreds of accounts. “The internet is used for many good things. Stealing people’s private photos is not one of them,” the spokesperson says. Cyanogen Inc turned down Google buyout Cyanogen Inc, a startup that distributes software based on Google’s Android mobile operating system, is discussing a Series C round and seeking a valuation close to $1 billion. The news comes after the company reportedly rejected a buyout offer from Google. Glow raises $17 million San Francisco-based startup Glow, which develops apps designed to help women manage their reproductive health, has raised $17 million in a Series B round, as it looks to expand staff and develop more products, Re/code reports. The round was led by Formation 8, who was joined by previous investors Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 3.66 to 16,801.05. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
Google has revealed the finalists for its first ever Australian Google Impact Challenge. The Google Impact Challenge invites Australian not-for-profits to pitch a project aimed at tackling some of the world’s biggest social challenges by leveraging modern technology. Ten organisations have made the shortlist, including the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Association (AIME), The Fred Hollows Foundation and Engineers Without Borders Australia. Their pitches range from creating an app that reports on real-time air quality data for asthma sufferers to an online game that inspires young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to learn maths and science. Google is now asking Australians to vote for their favourite project. The most popular idea will receive $500,000 from the tech giant to help make their idea come to life. Three additional winners will be selected by an expert judging panel that will include Australian sporting legend Glenn McGrath, former News Corp Australia chief executive Kim Williams and Australian businesswoman and philanthropist Anne Geddes. Voting closes at 11.59pm on Monday, October 13. The winner of the Australian Google Impact Challenge will be announced on October 14. For a full list of finalists and their pitches visit the Impact Challenge Australia website. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Brisbane startup Zova is hoping its contextual awareness will carry its female-focused health and fitness app to mainstream popularity. Zova launched for iOS two days ago, and thanks to its Apple Health integration, it is one of 14 apps being featured on Apple Health App Store page. Co-founder Niall McCarthy says while there’s no shortage of health and fitness apps available, none really make the most of a smartphone’s capabilities, nor the communities that want to use those products. The Zova team, in conjunction with its “Zova Ambassadors”, a bunch of exercise and lifestyle professionals, has created a number of exercise programs that combine custom-made music with “exercise science” to achieve better results. The app is also aware of the context. What that means, McCarthy explains, is when its user opens the app, it suggests workouts based on factors like time of day, weather, and location. “Once you’ve downloaded the app, it will recommend based on your time and location. For example, you can click on your workout stream, and follow immediately, visual and vocal cues, along with music and rhythm that will help you,” he says. The music and rhythm aspect of Zova was central to its development. McCarthy and his fellow co-founder James Tonkin originally came up with an idea to use rhythm to help kids exercise, while washing dishes at a pizza shop. They went on to develop a sports product which helped kids get active and rolled out the product to schools around the world. About a year ago they decided to pivot to enter the consumer fitness market with support from the investor and founder of health and fitness company Jetts, Brendon Levenson. “Health and fitness is the next thing to be disrupted, and the time is now with companies like Apple and Google providing wearables to help realise that,” McCarthy says. Users will be able to try the app for a week for free and after that they’ll be asked to pay $25 for a 12 week subscription, or $75 for a yearly subscription. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The cofounder of a pioneering Sydney-based robotics startup, with a Powerhouse Museum display and a successful crowdfunding campaign under its belt, says the sector is set to get much bigger but finance for projects remains an issue. Robological cofounder Damith Herath told Private Media there are a number of exciting robotics startups founded by Australians, including Marathon Robotics and Navisens, and the sector is gaining momentum globally. “It’s kinda like the ‘70s in computing and the ‘90s in the web. It’s the same feeling in the robotics community and the general consensus is it’s getting a lot bigger,” Herath says. “A few good examples are some of the startups Google has recently purchased, or Baxter, or Cynthia Breazeal, who quit her job at MIT to do a startup called Jibo and raised $2 million on Indiegogo. “But we have to be careful, because a lot of people over-promise and under deliver. Robots will move into other spaces, though not in the anthropomorphic sense. “One of the issues is finding people to finance you is tricky, especially for hardware. People are more comfortable with apps and things that get a quick return on their investment.” In January, Robological raised $3031 on Indiegogo for Ro-buddy, a pre-built board that integrates with an Android app, making it easy to build a robot without needing to learn a programming language such as C. Herath says the startup is finalising the board for fabrication in China. “You can build a Raspberry Pi robot straight away, plug in a camera and motors, and within 10 to 20 minutes you have a spy cam working with the Android app,” he says. “We think it’s useful because it’s in the pro-maker space, but it’s not as complex as Arduino. So if you’re building something in home automation, you can get something going with Android.” Aside from Ro-buddy, Herath says Robological does consulting and research work, including working as a research partner with the Australian distributor for Rethink Robotics’ Baxter robot and on Curtin University’s Alternative Anatomies project. It is also “chipping away” on a variation of the cloud-based internet of things robotics ideas put forward by UC Berkley professor Ken Goldberg, although Herath is remaining tight-lipped about what the project involves. The startup began with a robotics display called the Articulated Head, which was on exhibit for two years at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. “The three founders – Zhengzhi Zhang, Christian Kroos and I – met at the University of Western Sydney six years ago on a project called Thinking Ahead, which was a project of the Australian Research Council into AI (artificial intelligence). “We each had a slightly different background, myself with robotics engineering, Zhang with software engineering and Christian with linguistic and cognitive science. “Stelarc is one of the top performing artists in the world; an Australian artist who’s done a lot of work with robotics on stage and theatre. And the project I worked on was conceived of by Stelarc.” The project ended when funding ended, but this allowed the team to develop valuable intellectual property on robots and human interaction. The founders decided to form Robological to continue their research. One of its first projects was called Adopt a Robot, a research project looking into interactions between humans and robots. “It got a lot of good publicity because it captured the public imagination. We gave away seven robots and over six months we changed its behaviour and added a face… Each person who got a robot had to care for it and fill out a questionnaire every four to six weeks,” Herath says. Next month, Robological will jointly organise a workshop on robots and art with Curtin University as part of the Sixth International Conference on Social Robotics in Sydney. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.