Google is giving startups $100,000 in Google Cloud Platform Credit and 24/7 support to help them take advantage of resources in the cloud, and use those resources to quickly launch and scale their ideas. Google senior vice president Urs Hölzle announced Google Cloud Platform for Startups at the company’s Google for Entrepreneurs Global Partner Summit recently. Sydney co-working space Fishburners is one of a number of the world’s top incubators, accelerators and investors, whose startups will have access to the program. Google says it’s working with 50 such partners to roll out the service, and that number is expected to increase over time. Partners include the likes of Y Combinator, 500 Startups and Startup Grind. It will be available to startups that are less than five years old and have less than $500,000 in annual revenue. In a statement announcing the offer, Google director developer relations Julie Pearl says it supports the Google Cloud Platform’s philosophy. “We want developers to focus on code; not worry about managing infrastructure,” Pearl says. “Thousands of startups have built successful applications on Google Cloud Platform and those applications have grown to serve tens of millions of users. “It’s been amazing to watch Snapchat send over 700 million photos and videos a day and Khan Academy teach millions of students. We look forward to helping the next generation of startups launch great products.” Other prominent startups that have built their applications on Cloud Platform include car-sharing service Getaround, and Leanplum, a platform for optimising the mission-critical metrics of mobile apps. Startups wanting to apply should contact their accelerator, incubator or VC about the offer. Google says if they’re not in the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get them added. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Could your Nest do with a little more Zen? Meet the Aussie startup building a simpler, smarter thermostat9:51AM | Friday, 5 September
Melbourne-based startup Planet Innovation has raised nearly $50,000 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo in just days for a device called Zen, which it claims is the first thermostat that is not either “extremely unattractive” or “too complicated to use”. Zen, a smartphone-controlled thermostat, is designed to work over Wi-Fi with iControl’s OpenHome Labs and other smart home systems such as Apple HomeKit. Aside from being controlled through an app, the thermostat can be controlled with a touch screen on the front of the device, rather than through push-buttons. It features a minimalist design, and is attached to the wall using magnets, unlike other thermostats that are attached with screws. Since starting the Indiegogo campaign on August 31, as of publication, as of publication, Planet Innovation has raised $47,895 of its $50,000 target from 333 funders with 26 days to go. While the device is likely to draw comparisons to Google Nest, Planet innovation marketing manager Roger Langsdon says it is likely to find a different market segment. “I think Nest has helped to take thermostats out of the dark ages, but it’s gone too far and become too complicated,” Langsdon says. “With Zen, it’s a simple design and the smarts are in the app, not in the device… There’s a whole market for people who want a beautiful thermostat, but who aren’t particularly technical. And Nest can be intimidating for them.” Principal industrial designer at Planet Innovation, Ben Druce, told Private Media Zen aims to be “smart” in the sense that it is simple to install and easy to use. “Another difference between us and Nest is the removal of a lot of the in-depth functionality. What we’ve done is present users with the bare minimum of what they need to do, and that’s control the temperature,” Druce says. “It did come about independently,” Langsdon says. “We’ve been playing with home technology and other thermostats for around three or four years now, we ended up putting the two together.” The crowdfunding campaign comes with most of the development work on the device already completed, with assistance from key staff from US-based firm MMB. “The product is well developed at this point. Don’t get me wrong – the money will be useful in setting up the factory tooling for mass production – but we’re mostly using it for market validation. “This is the easiest way of getting feedback quickly by putting it in front of hundreds of users all around the world in order to get feedback.” Langsdon says he would like to see Zen available on a mass scale, with the device already attracting attention from potential channel partners in both North America and Australia. “At the moment, we’re hoping to meet our target in the next few hours. For the team, it’s been an amazing journey. We finished in December and ship in January,” Langsdon says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Envato becomes the first Australian startup to release its diversity figures, encourages others to do the same9:43AM | Thursday, 4 September
Envato has become the first Australian tech startup to release comprehensive workforce diversity figures. Of the company’s overall workforce, 71% are male and 29% female, with a similar divide in leadership roles, 72% of which are occupied by men. The contrast is even starker in tech roles, with 93% of roles occupied by men. Women are considerably better represented in non-tech roles at 42%. Co-founder and chief executive officer Collis Ta’eed says the company is actively trying to improve its diversity, and hopes one day the company can look back on the figures and see how far they’ve come. “They’re not figures we’re proud of, but it fits our value of transparency,” he says. “It also shows potential applicants that this is something that we take seriously, acknowledge we could be better, and not pretending we have got it all figured out.” “I have an especially strong belief that diversity leads to better outcomes, the more varied the opinions in the room, the more different backgrounds and experiences at the table, the more likely you’re going to get the best answer. I feel like it’s about getting a strong team.” When Envato examined its job application statistics, it found that only 5% of applications came from women. Ta’eed says in light of that fact, the company is rethinking the way it approaches recruitment. Like Google, LinkedIn and Twitter before it, Envato admits there’s a problem and hopes the release of its figures will form a solid basis for meaningful discussions about ways to address to gender imbalance in technology. It’s the furthest any Australian tech startup has gone so far. Freelancer releases a small snapshot of diversity in its annual report, while 99designs and Campaign Monitor maintain a level of transparency by including photos of each and every one of their employees on their websites. “I think it’s a broader issue than Envato,” Ta’eed says. “But at the end of the day all we can really work on is our own backyard. But I’d certainly encourage other companies to take a transparent approach. It helps the conversation by providing actual stats so it becomes more than anecdotal evidence.” Envato has implemented a number of policies to try and address its diversity problem. Late last year it created a dedicated group that brought together men and women from across the company called The League of Extraordinary Inclusiveness, which is working on ways to make Envato a more inclusive workplace. It was created after some of Envato’s employees pointed out the diversity problem. “We have a culture of reflection built in,” Ta’eed says. “Henry Ford said ‘I always get a brain when all I wanted is a pair of hands’. We’re the opposite, we want a thinking human; someone who actively wants to improve their work environment.” Some of Envato’s initiatives include improving flexibility for employees, supporting events encouraging women to enter technology, encouraging staff to mentor women in technology, and rethinking recruitment with a focus on inclusiveness rather than closed network. “Our very first employee was a software developer, a man, the next two were people that he knew and that trend carried on,” Ta’eed says. “We primarily relied on the existing staff’s own personal networks, for better or worse, if they happened to know lots of women, it might have been a different story. “So we’re choosing to cast our net further and deliberately go to places where female tech developers and software programmers go. We recruit top talent, we always go to where the top talent is, so we thought if female tech talent is not coming here, let’s go to where they are.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Apple is expected to launch the latest version of the iPhone at an event it is hosting at the Flint Center for Performing Arts in Cupertino, California, next week. Apple has already sent invitations to an event taking place on September 9th at 10am, local time. In a curious move, there are reports the notoriously secretive tech giant has gone so far as to construct its own multi-storey structure alongside the venue. The choice of location is particularly significant because it is the venue where Apple launched its first Macintosh computer in 1984. It is also significantly larger than the Yerba Buena Center or the theatre at Apple’s corporate headquarters, where the tech giant normally makes its major new product announcements. Speculation about the new device hasn’t escaped its key rivals, with a list of consumer electronics giants including LG, Samsung, Microsoft and Motorola – and possibly others – all gearing up for major product launches of their own over the next month. So what can we expect to find from the iPhone 6? Here are some of the more credible rumours about what we can expect from the device: 1. A larger screen and, perhaps, a phablet As far back as November last year, there have been persistent and credible reports Apple has been working on two different models of the iPhone 6. According to most reports, the first model is set to feature a 4.7-inch display, while the second will include a 5.5-inch screen. This would make them close in size to the 5-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the 5.7-inch display used on the Galaxy Note 3. Along with the move to two screen sizes, Apple is reportedly moving away from the plastic casing used on its current low-end device, the iPhone 5s. Aside from the usual Apple rumours sites, reports about the two screen sizes have appeared in a number of credible business publications, including The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. Unfortunately, it is not clear if both versions of the iPhone will be available at launch, with some speculation the larger 5.5-inch phablet version could be on hold until next year. 2. Mobile payments According to a second credible rumour, Apple has been working on its own mobile payments platform centred on the iPhone 6. During the past week, a number of respected publications including The Information, Re/Code and Bloomberg have independently confirmed with sources that Apple has struck a number of deals with major payment providers, retailers, and banks. Those signing up to the payment platform include credit card and payments giants American Express, Visa and MasterCard. The reports suggest the iPhone 6 will include an NFC (near-field communications) chip, a technology used to power tap-and-pay credit cards and public transport systems. It will allow iPhone 6 users to make purchases with their smartphones, rather than by using a credit card or by paying with cash. While NFC-chip technology has long been a standard feature of Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry smartphones, Apple has long held out on using it in its devices. 3. Does Apple have anything up its sleeve? For years, it has been rumoured Apple has had a smartwatch, or iWatch, up its sleeve. In recent years, the hype surrounding wearable devices, including smart bracelets and smartwatches has grown, with many expecting Apple to eventually join the market. Following the release of the Pebble in January 2013, a number of consumer electronics and device manufacturers have dipped their toes in the market, including Sony, LG, Motorola and Samsung, among many others. Other companies, such as Microsoft, are believed to be working on wearables of their own. At the Google I/O developer conference, the search and mobile giant unveiled its Android Wear device platform. Meanwhile, rival consumer electronics makers are working on smartwatches with their own SIM cards, as well as round clockfaces. The growing speculation is that the time is right for Apple to release its smartwatch – before it’s too late. 4. iOS8 Whether or not the iPhone 6 comes in a larger form, accepts mobile payments or is partnered to a smartwatch, one thing is for certain: it is set to run iOS8. First unveiled during the company’s WorldWide Developer Conference during June, iOS8 will bring along a number of new features for users. The new version of the mobile operating system is designed to be interoperable with the new version of Mac OS X, known as Yosemite. The improved interoperability means users will be able to use their Mac as a speakerphone for their iPhone, read and send their iPhone messages from their Mac, or use a feature called Handoff to pass activities from one device to another. It will also come with a new health tracking app called Health, which uses a new underlying API called Healthkit to gather health tracking data from a range of third-party health tracking apps and devices. iOS8 also includes the foundations of Apple’s Internet of Things home automation platform, known as Homekit. 5. A sapphire display In August, some photos of the new device leaked showing a thinner, lighter version of the iPhone. But one feature in particular was notable: the use of sapphire, rather than glass, for the screen. While the choice of material is likely to make the device significantly more expensive, a less shatter-prone iPhone will certainly be music to the ears of anyone who has ever accidentally busted a mobile phone screen. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
The celebrity photo leak was a very targeted attack on specific accounts, Apple says in an update on its investigation into the incident. Apple engineers have been working for more than 40 hours in an attempt to find the source of the leak. “We have discovered that accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the internet,” the statement says. “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find My iPhone. “We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.” UberPop ride-sharing service banned in Germany A German court has banned Uber’s most popular service from operating in the country until a hearing this year is completed, The New York Times reports. The hearing will examine whether or not the service unfairly competes with taxis. UberPop allows people to use their smartphones to book rides with freelance drivers. Uber Black is unaffected by the ruling. Uber says it will continue operations and appeal the ruling. Ouya in acquisition talks Ouya, the maker of a low-cost Android-based gaming console of the same name, is in preliminary acquisition talks with a number of big players in China and the US, including Xiaomi, Tencent, Google and Amazon, sources have told Re/code. Those sources say the acquisition is related to company’s staff talent, rather than the Ouya console. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 30.89 to 17,067.56. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Google is receiving one million takedown notices per day. Not for ‘right to be forgotten’ but for copyright infringement. Online copyright infringement is a rapidly growing problem. With the growth of the internet comes the increase in sharing of images, videos, music and written content. It also coincides with the growth in copyright infringement, use of other people’s designs, using photographs for your business or posting on your site without payment or permission. One week ago, Google reported that it had received eight million search removal requests in one week from copyright owners and reporting organisations for URLs that give access to material that allegedly infringes copyright. Google posts a Transparency Report each week and you can see from the statistics in the graph that the number of removal requests has increased from 2012 to 2014 by more than 200% per year. The number of URL removal requests is only expected to continue to increase. So what is Australia doing about it? Australia is now finally taking action and starting to consider coming into line with some of the other countries that are already trying to tackle this growing problem. The Attorney General has released a public consultation paper on Online Copyright Infringement which is calling for submissions from interested parties and organisations on how to combat this growing problem. This paper suggests important amendments to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) that may potentially have a significant legal impact for ISPs and online content providers. Submissions for comment and consideration on this paper were due by September 1, 2014. The focus for the changes in the law mainly relate to the responsibility and liability of ISPs, including considering what constitutes ‘reasonable steps’ for an ISP to take to prevent any online copyright infringement. There is also the proposal for implementing notification mechanisms similar to the US, UK and NZ which focus on educating users and penalising repeat infringers. The other main issue being proposed is the ability of copyright holders to apply for injunctive relief to be able to block internet websites that operate outside of Australia where the main purpose of the website is copyright infringement. This approach and the short time frame given for comments and alternative suggestions to combat the growing infringement trend means that Australia is now finally taking copyright infringement more seriously and moving more rapidly to have measures in place to deal with the infringements. But whether it will actually be enough to slow or stop this growing problem remains to be seen. Who will be held responsible? The most interesting and important outcome will be who will be responsible. Will it be the publishers or the “pipes”? Where the responsibility lays for ensuring there are no copyright breaches and taking down any content will shortly be determined. The Australian government is already asking for submissions on this and provided a very short response timeframe, meaning they will soon be deciding who is responsible in Australia. With the ‘Right to be Forgotten’, the European judiciary is putting the onus on Google and other search engines to address and take responsibility for the issue. It will be interesting to see where Australia goes with both issues.
E-commerce giant Amazon has splashed out, paying close to $US1 billion ($A107 billion) for live video gaming platform Twitch. Amazon said on Monday it will pay $US970 million in cash for the platform, which had previously been rumoured to have fallen into the hands of Google. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year. “Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month —from The International, to breaking the world record for Mario, to gaming conferences like E3. And, amazingly, Twitch is only three years old,” said Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos in a statement. “Like Twitch, we obsess over customers and like to think differently, and we look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community.” Twitch chief executive Emmett Shear said in the same statement the acquisition will allow it to “create tools and services faster than we could have independently”. “This change will mean great things for our community, and will let us bring Twitch to even more people around the world,” he said. So what is Twitch and why did Amazon fork out the big bucks to purchase it? Here’s five things you need to know about the platform. 1. Twitch allows gamers to live stream their gameplay Twitch enables game lovers to broadcast their gameplay sessions on PC, Xbox One or PlayStation 4 to viewers online, essentially turning what was once a solitary pursuit into a spectator sport. Users typically see the screen of the person playing the game, as well as a video feed of the player’s face and a window that allows they to chat with the player and other viewers. 2. It is used by millions of gamers Twitch has more than 50 million monthly active users and more than 1.1 million members who broadcast videos each month. In a typical month, Twitch users will watch more than 16 million minutes of gameplay. The platform has grown exponentially since it was launched in June 2011 with 3.2 million active users. 3. The platform started out as something called Justin.tv Twitch was founded by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, who also co-founded Justin.tv, one of the first websites to host livestreaming user-generated video. Twitch was born as one part of Justin.tv, which the duo launched in 2007 and allowed users to broadcast their own video live streams. But Business Insider reports Twitch soon took over Justin.tv, so much so that Justin.tv changed its name to Twitch in February this year. Justin.tv officially closed earlier this month, with Twitch becoming the business’ sole focus. 4. Twitch allows advertising As with most other online social platforms, Twitch does share advertising revenue with those who broadcast their videos on the platform. And there is little doubt the advertising potential in the platform is at least part of Amazon’s attraction. According to the New York Times, most Twitch broadcasters, which can include businesses and content publishers, currently earn very little from the platform, although there are some said to be earning more than six figures a year. 5. It may expand to include live concerts in the future While Twitch’s users are dedicated gamers, the platform has experimented with live music concerts, raising the possibility of the platform morphing into a live equivalent of YouTube. In July this year, Twitch hosting a free broadcast of a concert by musician Steve Aoki. According to The Verge, Twitch said at the time it had received feedback that 80% of its users would be interested in watching live concerts. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Australia is at an inflection point. The role of innovation and technology in our lives, shaping business, and growing the economy is profound. The pervasiveness is inarguable, be it from a generation of toddlers expectantly swiping books as though they’re tablets, to the increasing urgency of STEM being taught in schools, through the disruption of the world’s largest companies. As the pace of innovation in digital change has increased, it has surpassed businesses and organisations of all sizes – whether they are multi-billion dollar industries or the smallest of start-ups. Large companies are threatened with disruption, with 85% of CEOs globally and in Australia citing digital and innovation as the top opportunities and priorities for their business. At the other end of the spectrum, growing Australia’s start-up economy is a subject of vigorous debate as we look to grow Australia’s economy and role in a global and digital world. Which is why continual innovation is so important. We don’t read so much about SMEs in the focus on innovation. On the start-up side, businesses are so fast-moving and focused on creating a sustainable business they’re able to pivot into a new area relatively quickly. For large organisations, there is a greater ability to fund innovation through an increasing focus on design thinking, R&D, venture funds or acquisition. For SMEs, however, innovation is just as important for the growth of Australia’s economy and the inflection we are at. Though there are challenges for many SMEs in terms of reduced capital to invest, utilisation and risk adversity, the profile of an SME to be the flagship of growth within Australia and offshore is incredibly positive (despite a lack of venture based investment capital). They’re faster to respond to opportunities, generally have reduced bureaucracy, less shareholder pressure and the length of the chain from which to observe customer behaviour and communicate or find levers in assets is considerably shorter. We need SMEs to be more innovative. PwC research suggests that transforming Australia’s SME laggards to leaders in their use of technology specifically could increase GDP by nearly $6 billion (0.4%) in 2012-2013, increase real wages by 0.5% and raise revenue in the economy by $11 billion. Australia is one of the highest and fastest adopters of technology in the world, a great test market for new services, and there is no impediment geographically for where a service originates. How might SMEs think about continual innovation beyond the brainstorm? What's your relevance? List and revisit your relevance to changes in society and the market when making strategic decisions. Is there a way your audience or competence is able to pivot on subjects like health, aged care, tourism, or Asia? Is there relevance in technology trends such as payment, 3D printing, analytics, crowdsourcing or wearables, such as printing parts, sourcing globally or remote monitoring of equipment? Key an eye on the ecosystem Draw out extended relationships around you and see how to move from a b2b or b2c focus, to an extension of relevance or marketplace. How can you provide for your customer and their family? Are there relations to be formed or extended with developers, app stores, governments, retail presence or competitors? Reviewing startups stimulates opportunities to leverage innovative new capabilities early at low risk to SMEs, and high value to putting faith in our startups if there’s a way to team. Reading outside your normal lens generates new ideas. Some food for thought includes ThereIsIt, Gigya, Idomoo or sites like SmartCompany, Nocamels, Business Insider, and Forbes. Lo-fi testing Finally, go lo-fidelity in testing ideas before running major projects; set some innovation metrics to make sure you’re not settling into the comfort zone; seek feedback and customer insights as they may represent an unmet need on a greater scale; know the R&D tax benefits; and finally, ask your team for two options for any major decisions. For example, have one usual or incremental direction and one radical option. Even if you planned to go to Bacchus Marsh, spend an hour packing for Brazil, at best you’ll confirm your decision, or reset on somewhere in between. It’s true, as the world changes, we won’t have much of a choice. It’s also true there will never be at better chance to jump on the springboard of opportunity. 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. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
One of the issues of self-driving vehicles is legal liability for death or injury in the event of an accident. If the car maker programs the car so the driver has no choice, is it likely the company could be sued over the car’s actions. One way around this is to shift liability to the car owner by allowing them to determine a set of values or options in the event of an accident. People are likely to want to have the option to choose how their vehicle behaves, both in an emergency and in general, so it seems the issue of adjustable ethics will become real as robotically controlled vehicles become more common. Self-drive is already here With self-driving vehicles already legal to drive on public roads in a growing number of US states, the trend is spreading around the world. The United Kingdom will allow these vehicles from January 2015. Before there is widespread adoption, though, people will need to be comfortable with the idea of a computer being in full control of their vehicle. Much progress towards this has been made already. A growing number of cars, including mid-priced Fords, have an impressive range of accident-avoidance and driver-assist technologies like adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, lane-keeping and parking assist. People who like driving for its own sake will probably not embrace the technology. But there are plenty of people who already love the convenience, just as they might also opt for automatic transmission over manual. Are they safe? After almost 500,000km of on-road trials in the US, Google’s test cars have not been in a single accident while under computer control. Computers have faster reaction times and do not get tired, drunk or impatient. Nor are they given to road rage. But as accident-avoidance and driver-assist technologies become more sophisticated, some ethical issues are raising their heads. The question of how a self-driven vehicle should react when faced with an accident where all options lead to varying numbers of deaths of people was raised earlier this month. This is an adaptation of the “trolley problem” that ethicists use to explore the dilemma of sacrificing an innocent person to save multiple innocent people; pragmatically choosing the lesser of two evils. An astute reader will point out that, under normal conditions, the car’s collision-avoidance system should have applied the brakes before it became a life-and-death situation. That is true most of the time, but with cars controlled by artificial intelligence (AI), we are dealing with unforeseen events for which no design currently exists. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Who is to blame for the deaths? If car makers install a “do least harm” instruction and the car kills someone, they create legal liability for themselves. The car’s AI has decided that a person shall be sacrificed for the greater good. Had the car’s AI not intervened, it’s still possible people would have died, but it would have been you that killed them, not the car maker. Car makers will obviously want to manage their risk by allowing the user to choose a policy for how the car will behave in an emergency. The user gets to choose how ethically their vehicle will behave in an emergency. As Patrick Lin points out the options are many. You could be: democratic and specify that everyone has equal value pragmatic, so certain categories of person should take precedence, as with the kids on the crossing, for example self-centred and specify that your life should be preserved above all materialistic and choose the action that involves the least property damage or legal liability. While this is clearly a legal minefield, the car maker could argue that it should not be liable for damages that result from the user’s choices – though the maker could still be faulted for giving the user a choice in the first place. Let’s say the car maker is successful in deflecting liability. In that case, the user becomes solely responsible whether or not they have a well-considered code of ethics that can deal with life-and-death situations. People want choice Code of ethics or not, in a recent survey it turns out that 44% of respondents believe they should have the option to choose how the car will behave in an emergency. About 33% thought that government law-makers should decide. Only 12% thought the car maker should decide the ethical course of action. In Lin's view it falls to the car makers then to create a code of ethical conduct for robotic cars. This may well be good enough, but if it is not, then government regulations can be introduced, including laws that limit a car maker’s liability in the same way that legal protection for vaccine makers was introduced because it is in the public interest that people be vaccinated. In the end, are not the tools we use, including the computers that do things for us, just extensions of ourselves? If that is so, then we are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their use. David Tuffley 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. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
China could have a new homegrown operating system by October, to take on imports Microsoft, Google and Apple. The US and China have had a number of disputes regarding cyber security in recent months. The operating system would first appear on desktop devices, before being extended to smartphone and other mobile devices, the head of an official OS development alliance, Ni Guangnan, says. Ni says he hopes the Chinese-made software would be able to replace desktop operating systems within one to two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years. Coin apologises to customers Connected credit card startup Coin issued an apology to customers on the weekend after mishandling the announcement of a product delay. The San-Francisco based startup was criticised last week after revealing, after months of ambiguity, it would be delaying the launch of its connected credit card and replacing it with a beta program in which its 10,000 pre-order customers could opt in to receive a prototype. They would be required to pay $30 to upgrade to the finished product when it launched. Coin reversed its stance and the beta program will now be free. It apologised to its users for a “lack of transparency and clarity” in its communications. Facebook most popular app in US In comScore’s latest mobile app report, which tracks the 25 most popular smartphone apps in the US, Facebook leads the way by a considerable margin. The Facebook app had 115.4 million US unique visitors over the age of eighteen in June 2014, with YouTube finishing in second with 83.4 million. The top subscription app is Netflix with 28 million unique visitors. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 38.27 to 17,001.22. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Google is rolling out a number of new Android app promotion features across its Google Search, the Google Display and YouTube ad networks targeted at app developers. For developers, Google now allows developers to promote their app through its ad networks, with the ads only appearing for users who haven’t downloaded the app from the Google Play app store. Developers can also embed deep links into content in their apps from ads on Google websites, with the ads only appearing for users that have previously installed the apps. The deep linking within apps mirrors a feature introduced by Twitter in January. In an official blog post, Google’s vice president of AdWords product management, Jerry Dischler, said app developers such as LINE, Zoopla and Booking.com have already signed up for the service. “Here’s how it works: let’s say someone has the Booking.com app installed on their phone and searches for “San Francisco Hotels” on Google.com; now they can go directly to the specific page in the Booking.com app that shows listings for hotels in San Francisco,” said Dischler. App downloads through the Google Play store that follow a user clicking on an ad will show up as a conversion in AdWords without any additional setup. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
There is no doubt that starting a new business is hard. However, the range of new products and services on offer means it is getting cheaper and easier to get up and running. Here are some examples of what many new businesses are using. Shared office space More and more shared office space has been opening up across the capital cities, allowing new businesses to get desks for a fraction of the price of a traditional office. Often they are month-by-month and do not need you to commit to long-term leases. There is a lot of press around the facilities provided by various incubators and accelerators; however, there are plenty of shared office spaces elsewhere. While rates can be as low as $400 per month, in Sydney it is more commonly in the $600 to $700 per month range if you want to be near the city. Voice over IP Essential to the operations of many businesses is a regular phone number. In the past the cost of getting a new number would run to the hundreds of dollars, and then ongoing monthly costs for a basic service would easily start at $30-$50 per month. And that’s before adding basic functions for voice greetings, menus to direct callers to the right place, call queues or even just voicemail. These PABX features used to require small business phone systems to be purchased and physically installed. However, this can all be provided over the internet using voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, which are quick to sign up to online and work on your computer or a cheap IP phone from a local electronics shop. They cost a fraction of the price of a physical system and generally do not have setup fees. They work over your internet connection, so there is no need to wait around for the technician to not show up. A standalone phone number with Internode’s NodePhone service costs $5 per month, and services such as Edgetel offer PABX functions that allow you to automatically answer a call during business hours with a greeting and a “press 1 for support” type menu system. You can also divert calls to different numbers, at different times of the day, ring one number or handset first before calling others, or place callers in a queue. Everything you need to make you sound like a big company, for as little as $20 per month. Online business applications Gone are the days when to have your own email address email@example.com would mean buying your own server, connecting it to the internet and spending thousands getting things configured. The same goes for sophisticated systems such as customer relationship management or building an online shopping website. The recent advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS) means business can now access these powerful applications online and pay for them by the month (often after a free trial). There are a huge range of applications in a broad range of categories. Some common examples include: Office style productivity, such as Google Apps, Office 365 Customer relationship management (CRM), such as Zoho, Highrise, Salesforce Accounting (invoicing, payroll, etc) such as Xerox Websites and online shopping, such as Bigcommerce, Wix, Squarespace Project management such as Jira OnDemand, Pivotal tracker, Basecamp, Trello Source code management such as Github and Bitbucket Offshore software developers For new online businesses, or those who have a significant online component, the cost of software development is usually by far the largest expense. Offshore software developers are an effective way to cut down that cost. All the software development can be moved offshore, or a blended on-shore/offshore team can be used to help maintain control and quality while still greatly reducing the price. Hiring an independent resource overseas is easy to do through myriad contract hire websites such as Freelancer and oDesk. There are also businesses such as SoftwareSeni that complement the offshore resources with Australian-based operations to provide an additional level of technical oversight and quality. Hosting In the old days, servers had to be bought and installed, and system administrators had to set them up and keep them going. Now there are a range of cloud-based hosting services like Amazon Web Services where you pay for what you use and you can increase and decrease capacity quickly. Some of the more sophisticated ones, such as Heroku and AppFog, also provide online setup and automation which empowers developers to manage the hosting, removing the need for a system administrator. Taking advantage of these “enabling” products and services will give you the ability to put your focus on your core business idea, as well as keep your cost base competitive with your peers both within Australia and abroad. Paul Russell is the managing director of SoftwareSeni, a Sydney-based startup specialising in near-shore software development seat outsourcing.
Taxi app Uber will trial a home delivery service in the US, potentially taking on tech titans Amazon and Google in the e-commerce logistics space. In a blog post yesterday, Uber announced its ‘Corner Store’ pilot program will run in Washington DC for the next few weeks. Items such as allergy medicine, diapers and toothpaste can be ordered straight to a customer’s door through the Uber app and be charged directly to their Uber account. Uber is offering free delivery on the items and although the inventory currently includes around 100 items, Uber is taking requests on other items customers would like to see made available. And while Uber says Corner Store is an experiment, it says the more its customers “love it, the more likely it will last”. Wired is reporting the move is a play at Amazon and Google in the logistics space, aimed at transforming Uber from a pure transportation app into a fully-fledged logistics company. Amazon and Google have also stepped up their game in the same day delivery space recently, according to Wired, with Amazon expanding its Get It Today service and Google adding more retailers to its Shopping Express service. Uber has already disrupted taxi and public transport networks the world over, but CEO Travis Kalanick may be looking to further diversify the brand with a long-term vision for Uber. The growing tech company, which started in the US five years ago, hasn’t been afraid to take competition head on in the past, even playing dirty with rivals Lyft. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Australian tech startup Squixa has released the second version of its cloud-based website acceleration platform, having recently completed a funding round. Squixa’s cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) web acceleration platform reduces the size of web pages, optimises page code, and manages content delivery for a flat monthly fee per host. Websites on the platform are served from 168 locations globally through content delivery networks run by Amazon, EdgeCast, OnApp and Highwinds. This means websites are always served from a location close to the end user. The company claims to have attracted 70 high-profile customers, including NRMA, nib, Lorna Jane and Temple & Webster. Squixa chief executive Stewart McGrath told StartupSmart the latest version of the software adds some important new features. “We’ve been in business two-and-a-half years, and in that time we’ve been focusing on adding features and capabilities that weren’t in version one. For customers, that means faster websites and more flexibility to achieve their goals. “It’s a major advancement. The underpinning structure has been shuffled around. We’ve added new modules, including support for Varnish web servers and LUA scripting capabilities, which is something tech folks will be excited about.” McGrath says another growth opportunity, with Google punishing the search rankings of websites that don’t use SSL, is that all content served from Squixa’s platform is automatically served with SSL. “We can help any customer move to SSL, giving them an instant SEO boost,” McGrath says. “We’ve grown and bought on new tech people, but kept the same mantra of doing everything to simplify the lives of website owners. Being a website owner is a challenge for a myriad of reasons, including conflicting options and demands for content and speed.” Squixa was originally founded in 2012 by McGrath and fellow former GraysOnline executive Daniel Bartholomew. In July of last year, StartupSmart reported it was pursuing a funding round. “We closed another small round of funding since then. Existing investors who saw the promise came back in, and we added new investors too.” McGrath says while international expansion is in the pipeline, there are still large opportunities to be had in the Australian market. “The Australian market is an interesting space. There are a lot of Australian websites that can use a little help, especially with a competitive international market. “There are some Australian sites serving Australian customers, some Australian sites serving international customers, and some overseas sites being run from Australia.”
Google has been working to overhaul its Web services so it can legally allow children to use them, The Information reports. It’s looking at features that include a dashboard for parents to oversee their kids’ activities, a child-safe version of YouTube and requiring people who sign up for a Google account on Android devices to share their age. The effort is being driven by Google’s desire to find new ways to expand its user base. Tumblr partner will now scan photos for clues about brand affiliation Yahoo-owned Tumblr has inked a deal with Ditto Labs, a company that analyses photos on social media for brand related data. The deal will see Tumblr start to search through all the images on the site looking for clues about the brand affiliations of users. Tumblr head of business development T.R Newcomb says the company isn’t planning on doing anything ad-related with that data, rather it will be available to advertisers who want to understand how they are perceived on the platform. US nuclear regulatory commission hacked In the last three years, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission computers have been hacked by foreigners twice and an unidentifiable individual once, according to an internal investigation, Nextgov reports. One incident involved emails sent to about 215 NRC employees in a phishing attempt which took users to a cloud-based Google spreadsheet. Twelve employees fell for the attempt. The IG Cyber Crime Unit was able to track the person who set up the spreadsheet to a foreign country. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 175.83 to 16,838.74. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
The worldwide market for smartphones hit a record 301.3 million units worldwide during the second quarter, according to the latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. To put the market size into perspective, the worldwide market for PCs stands at around 75.5 million units per quarter, meaning that there are now just under four smartphones sold each quarter for each PC. The overwhelming majority of smartphones shipped worldwide during the second quarter ran Android, with the platform claiming 255.3 million units and 84.7% market share. This was up 33.3% from 191.5 million units and 79.6% market share during the same quarter a year earlier. In a statement, IDC mobile phone team research manager Ramon Llamas says Android is making significant gains in emerging markets. "During the second quarter, 58.6% of all Android smartphone shipments worldwide cost less than $200 off contract, making them very attractive compared to other device," Llamas says. "With the recent introduction of Android One, in which Google offers reference designs below $100 to Android OEMs, the proportion of sub-$200 volumes will climb even higher." Within the Android market, IDC previously released figures showing Samsung claimed a market share of 25.2% off 74.3 million units, down by 3.9% from 77.3 million a year earlier. By comparison, Apple and iOS smartphones now make up just 11.7% of the market off shipments of 35.2 million units, with the company’s share of the market falling slightly from 13% a year earlier. Meanwhile, Windows Phone shipments fell to 7.4 million units, down 9.4% from 8.2 million a year earlier, while BlackBerry’s fell a massive 78% from 6.7 million units a year ago to just 1.5 million. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
For 20 years, consulting firm Gartner have been calling the future of technology using its now iconic “Hype Cycle”. The Hype Cycle: from hype to reality The Hype Cycle breaks the introduction of new technologies into five phases starting with the “Technology Trigger”, the first point at which a technology comes to the attention of the press and businesses. Technologies then rapidly become oversold or hyped. This is the point at which expansive claims are made about how technology X is going to radically transform and disrupt and the early innovators push to be amongst the first to ride the wave of excitement that technology generates. The initial hype eventually leads to a “Peak of Inflated Expectations” which is subsequently followed by the crash as it is realised that the technology isn’t going to be adopted in quite the way everyone predicted, nor is it generally as useful. This part leads to a “Trough of Disillusionment” which is accompanied by an increasing number of negative articles, project failures and lessening of interest in the technology generally. For some technologies however, the disillusionment is followed by a gradual increase in a more realistic adoption of the technology which eventually results in a “Plateau of Productivity”. Technologies for the next 10 years For Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle, the notable technologies are speech recognition which they are claiming to be well into the productive phase. Certainly mobile phones and increasingly, wearables, have driven the adoption of voice control and interaction and it is definitely usable on a day-to-day basis. Having said that however, Gartner also puts wearable user interfaces as having passed the peak of inlfated expectations and rapidly heading to the trough of disillusionment. Given that Google has based their interface for wearables very heavily on the use of voice, it seems odd that these two technologies would be so far apart according to Gartner. The position of the Internet of Things at the peak of inflated expectations will also come as a disappointment to all of the companies like Cisco that are claiming that we are already well and truly in the era of billions of interconnected and independently communicating devices. The future is lumpy Although the Hype Cycle is a convenient way of visualising the progress of technology from invention to universal use, it over-simplifies the way progress is made in innovation. As science fiction writer William Gibson once said: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed” Technology innovation is never smooth and never takes a single path. There can be businesses and individuals that are using technologies to radically improve productivity at the same time as almost everyone else is failing to do the same. A good example of this is the hype around “Big Data”. Whilst everyone acknowledges that we are creating enormous amounts of data that ultimately must hold valuable information and knowledge, very few organisations are attempting, let along succeeding, in finding it. Those that are experts in Big Data are the companies that have made digitally massive infrastructure their entire existence, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Whilst Gartner has predicted that Big Data will reach the plateau of productivity within five to 10 years, it is also possible that it will never get there and that very few companies will have the skills to be able to take advantage of their amassed data. The other issue with Gartner’s representation of the technologies that it surveys is that it doesn’t distinguish between the different categories of technologies. Those that are aimed at consumers as opposed to the business sector. Here again, we are likely to see very different paths to adoption and acceptance of those technologies with very different time frames. What we are increasingly seeing is how technology is increasingly being used to enable a concentration of a very small number of very large companies. In turn, these companies are able to focus their resources on introducing new technologies for the public, rapidly iterating on designs until they work. Wearables from Apple, Google and companies like Samsung is a good example of this. As always with predictions around technology, it is very hard to tell what will be the key technologies next year, let alone in five to10 years time. Given that the Hype Cycle has been with us for 20 years however, my prediction is that it will still be here for the next 20. 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.
Facebook today unveiled the latest weapon in its digital arsenal: cross-device tracking capability. This enables advertisers to track individuals' usage behaviours between devices. This means that your Facebook (and related) usage patterns are being tracked and matched across devices whether you are using an old-world PC, your latest feature-packed smartphone or possibly even your internet-capable wearable technology. The common thread is your Facebook login. This, in turn, will allow Facebook to offer its paid advertisers the added accuracy to track precisely who had been presented which specific advert, and when, where, how (such as which device you’ve used) and whether they accessed (or clicked) the advert. They will also be able to track your individual site or app usage patterns and behaviours. In other words, your every move is constantly in the crosshairs of the online marketers and our globally dominant digital landlords. Ignore the hype – it’s old news Cross-device or cross-platform reporting is nothing new. Google announced last October a similar cross-device capability for its AdWords paying customers, so the marketing hype around Facebook’s offering has more to do with attracting and keeping its paying advertisers, with you being the product. Your online identity is the key that unlocks the doors to the online advertiser’s kingdom. By being able to attribute your purported Facebook identity such as user name, gender, age and so on to every online interaction through Facebook and related sites, irrespective of which device you are using, this will allow interested parties to stitch together and link these patterns to you and not just the device. For the most part, and without being aware of it, the rules of the marketing jungle are continually being reshaped by the evolution of the underlying technologies, all tied together with our online identity. Face(book) the facts The fact that privacy and internet should not be used in the same sentence is nothing new. What is new, though, is the increasing intensity of the arms race by marketers and commercial organisations in grabbing their share in the monetisation of your every step in cyberspace. As the capabilities of our technologies evolve, your every move on the internet is being increasingly scrutinised with finer and finer granularity. The accelerating uptake of mobile computing devices such as tablets and smartphones together with the relentless push by organisations to have you preferably interact with them online, is further fuelling the global monetisation of our individual use of the internet. The increase in people accessing the internet or using apps from their mobile devices means that there are more “views”, “hits” and “clicks”. These numbers are the fuel for the global digital marketing and advertising engine. The adage that “if you’re not paying, then you’re the product” applies more now than ever before. Rob Livingstone has no financial interests in, or affiliations with any organisation mentioned in this article. Other than his role at UTS, he is also the owner and principal of an independent Sydney based IT advisory and mentoring practice. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
A new app allows job seekers to spam politicians with job applications in response to the government’s proposed work for the dole policy. Founder Bowz Chapman told StartupSmart the idea for DoleBludger came to him after Joe Hockey handed down the Abbott government’s first budget. Since then, the government has released plans of to force job seekers to look for 40 jobs a month in order to be eligible for the dole. DoleBludger hopes to work around the proposed policy – as well as poke fun at it – by spamming politicians with job applications via email. “I’ve been on welfare between jobs so I know what it’s like,” Chapman says. “As an individual, there’s not a lot you can often do. This is the one policy issue I cared about and could actually see a way of doing something against just by flipping it on its head.” The app also gives the user the opportunity to attach a resume and select or filter out parliamentarians based on categories such as their state or party. According to Chapman, the app has sent out 5000 applications in just two days. “As much as it is a joke – it honestly is a joke – I hope people will use it to show the government how stupid this policy really is,” he says. The 27-year-old, who is based in Western Australia, says this is his first app – however he has a background in IT. While the app is only available on Google Play at the moment, Chapman says a desktop and iOS version are currently being developed. “I just thought, if I’m going to do this, I need to get out there as soon as possible so it gets traction while the issue is current,” he says. “It was just easier with the Android than it was with the iPhone.” Since the government announced its proposed job-seeker policy, a range of apps have sprung up as ways to get around having to manually apply for 40 jobs a month. Smartphone app AppApp trawls through employment websites on behalf of the user. Meanwhile, SpamBludger automatically emails job applications to businesses while CCing employment minister Eric Abetz. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The move from HTTP to HTTPS won’t have a dramatic impact on startups just yet, according to Online Store Guys’ strategy director Scott Kilmartin, and Pocketbook co-founder Alvin Singh. Last week Google confirmed that it’s been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in the companies search algorithms. The company says after seeing positive results from those tests, it’s starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. While it’s only a weak ranking signal for the time being, Google may decide to strengthen it because the company would like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. StartupSmart asked Singh and Kilmartin their opinions on Google’s HTTPS push. Scott Kilmartin, strategy director, Online Store Guys: “The washup is that business cannot sit idle with their website if they want to improve user experience and be rewarded for staying with current online technology.” “On a practical level for existing sites, a couple of lines of code need to be written to make the change over. “It may have an impact on the type of SSL certificate required, we’ll know in the next few weeks when Google gives full details. Some sites may need new certificates.” Alvin Singh, founder, Pocketbook: “The general consensus among the SEO community is that it won’t have a big effect on SEO rankings – with a big YET,” Singh says. “Google have said that this is just the start and we can be sure that they will start ratcheting this up going forward – similar to a grace period for the wider internet. “HTTPS has been around since the early days of the internet it is only really now that there has been a large push towards SSL everywhere. It is interesting to look at what is driving this change – undoubtedly for the good of all. “There has been a heightened awareness and sensitivity towards security breaches – as more and more data (and our lives) move online, there has been an increasingly greater urgency to protect that data. “Coupled with this has been the increased activity from all internet and cloud companies world-wide in the post-Snowden era to further secure their data and infrastructure from threats not only from hackers, but also from government associated entities. “We absolutely support this move and in our case, from day 0 we started out on SSL and the highest strength SSL which requires further verification steps. While SSL is about security, it is also about assurance and a mark of trust. It's about knowing that your data hasn't been seen or manipulated by anyone on the way to its intended destination. “It also isn't the be all and end all of security, but it is certainly an absolute requirement for any security architecture to have any credibility. With today’s abundance of computing power and services such as CloudFlare making SSL freely and easily available to all, there aren't any excuses left for not being on SSL.”