113 million hardcore fans worldwide 147 million occasional viewers US$252 million in global revenues a predicted total prize pool of $71 million for all tournaments and competitions. No, these numbers don’t refer to a traditional mainstream sport like football or basketball. Rather, they come from a sport that saw its major surge begin a mere 10 years ago, a sport whose global revenue has already surpassed the revenue of the entire music industry by $20 million in 2014, a sport that giant brands like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, American Express, Intel and Samsung are vying to sponsor. I’m talking about eSports – also known as competitive gaming, electronic sports or professional gaming – a type of video game competition where professional players battle for the highest rank and the top prize. With an rapidly expanding global fan base and an increasingly organized industry business model, eSports has now become a real deal – so real that participants now qualify for the application of US P-1 Visa, a type of visa that’s long been reserved for professional athletes. But how did eSports become so big, so fast? And what factors have contributed to its growth? The rise of eSports Fun fact on the earliest known video game competition: on October 19 1972, a group of students at Stanford University competed in an “intergalactic spacewar olympics.” The prize? A one-year subscription to Rolling Stone. But the winners of today’s eSports tournaments can expect a bit more: the International 2015 Dota 2 Championship – which took place earlier this month – had a prize pool of over $18 million, making it the largest ever for a single tournament. Just a decade ago, the first-ever professional video gamer, Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, appeared on the cover of BusinessWeek, with an eight-page feature detailing the rise of the industry. Back then, the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) was just starting to eke into the nation’s consciousness. In the five years leading up to the feature, “Fatal1ty” had won more tournaments and pulled in more prize money than any other gamer: more than $350,000. In 2005, he won the big prize of $500,000 at the CPL finals, which were partially broadcast on MTV. Intel was the primary sponsor for the CPL 11-event world tour, with other backers such as Samsung, AMD and Tylenol. Members of Evil Geniuses compete in The International DOTA 2 Championships, where they came away with the grand prize of $6,616,014. Jason Redmond/Reuters Both CPL and the Electronic Sports League (ESL) started in 1997. According to an infographic from ESL, its number of registered gamers grew to one million in its first eight years. By 2013, that number had grown to over four million. ESL communities could be found in 46 countries, with over 883,000 registered teams and more than 30,000 new gamers joining the league every month. Meanwhile, the League of Legends 2014 World Championships had more than 32 million viewers online – which was more than 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 7 of the 2014 World Series and Game 7 of the 2014 NBA finals. Forces behind the growth The major factors behind the growth of eSports include the popularity of new platforms for viewing video games, new business models and a surge in “Geek Pride.” The core reasons, though, center around the creation and growth of new platforms – especially streaming platforms like Twitch, where audiences can see live streaming of professional players competing with each other almost every day. They might tune into see teams of the best players battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields, in both small skirmishes and intense 5v5 competitions. These new platforms have broken down walls that previously limited the gaming experience to just the players in the game. They’ve attracted more people to the community, while allowing for two-way interaction within the space. For example, streaming platforms like Twitch (which Amazon acquired last year for $970 million) have provided incentives for both professional players and audiences to gather and interact. For professional players, they can gain income through a combination of advertisements, subscription fees for streaming their games and donations from viewers, which has made making a living by playing video games an attainable goal. For audiences, streaming makes eSports extremely accessible. Fans don’t even need to be especially skilled at playing video games to participate; they can simply sit back and enjoy the games. According to Newzoo Global eSports Audience Model, about 40% of eSports viewers don’t play the games themselves. What’s more, audiences can actually engage with players via Twitch, sending real-time comments or questions to players as the competitions stream. Some players will respond, while others will even invite viewers to join in on the game. The win-win model of streaming platforms has triggered great interests in eSports. According to a 2014 report from Twitch, there were 16 million minutes watched, 100 million unique viewers and 1.5 million unique broadcasters every month on Twitch. What’s more, the number of peak concurrent viewers hit one million in 2014. The prosperity of platforms like Twitch has greatly increased awareness of eSports and generated huge revenues for the industry. These revenues behind eSports, meanwhile, have attracted big name brands, such as Nvidia, Intel and Samsung, to make more investments. Money from these investments is then used to innovate new streaming platforms such as Hitbox, Mobcrush and Kamcord, which further increase awareness and create large gaming communities, while leading to more revenue opportunities for gamers and brands alike. This healthy innovation cycle in eSports business is a major support behind the surge of professional gaming. Another factor could be attributed to the fact that the term “geek” has seen a resurgence. “Geek” and “nerd” are no longer derogatory terms. In a way, they’ve become mainstream – an identity popularized by a number of new outlets, including Nerdist Industries and the community Geek and Sundry. Today, with the popularity of the expression “Geek Pride,” people who are intelligent and have prowess in the virtual space are eager to find a way to unleash and publicly promote their passions. eSports have simply become a new way to demonstrate Geek Pride. With our culture now taking eSports seriously – and as someone who studies gamers and gaming data – I see immense possibility and potential for eSports and greater spectator interaction in this brave new world. Dmitri Williams is Associate Professor of Communication at University of Southern California This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
We are facing the “silver tsunami” of an ageing society that within a few years will see for the first time, more people over the age of 65 living on this planet than those under 5 years of age. Apart from the increased burden of chronic diseases that accompanies old age, the biggest impact of an increasingly ageing population will be felt in the numbers of people with dementia, and in particular Alzheimer’s Disease. In Europe, around 7% of the population over 65 have dementia. This rises dramatically with age and nearly 50% of women and 30% of men over the age of 90 will suffer from the condition. The Internet of Things For many of us, there is the desire to “age in place”, that is to remain in our homes and stay as active and independent for as long as possible. One possible way of achieving this is to use technological assistance, and in particular use connected smart devices that are collectively called the “Internet of Things” that are rapidly becoming a reality in the home. The Internet of Things can communicate with each other and with software running in the cloud. These devices can act as sensors, monitoring what is happening in the environment and, in particular, with elderly people themselves. They can also process information and take actions, such as controlling heating and air conditioning, locking doors and windows and reminding people to take medications or encourage them to be active, or simply go for a walk. Data collected through the Internet of Things in the home can be used to provide an overall assessment of “observations of daily living”. These observations form a pattern of everyday life from which any deviations can create triggers of that change to alert those living in the home, their family or their health carers. The challenges to letting the Internet of Things do the caring Despite all of the possibilities of these devices helping the elderly to stay independent and active, there are some significant obstacles that need to be overcome before their full potential becomes a reality. The first is acceptance by the elderly themselves. They may see remote monitoring devices as an intrusion on their privacy. They may also see any outward signs of using this technology as a public symbol of their age and frailty and so avoid their use for that reason. They may be concerned about not being able to use the technology properly, in particular triggering false alarms. Finally, the devices may not be considered affordable, or at least, too much of a luxury to spend money on. Dressing up the Internet of Things Some of these obstacles can be addressed by the design of the devices themselves. A US company, Live!y has created a smartwatch, not dissimilar to one from Apple or Samsung, that provides alerts and reminders and also can be used to summon help and communicate with a monitoring service. It also measures activity by counting steps, and usefully, tells the time. The watch acts in concert with a range of sensors that monitor medication use, access of the fridge and movement in various rooms. The watch can also detect falls and automatically call for help. By making the device seem like an everyday watch, it reduces at least some of the potential barriers to the elderly in its use. Sensing the state of their health Telehealth is another field of care of people in the home that utilises connected smart devices. Not only are we facing a rapidly increasing aged population, but a major proportion of that population have one or more chronic conditions. By using remote monitoring of weight, blood pressure, pulse and ECG, problems can be detected without a visit to a GP and more importantly, avoiding the hospital. The smart devices can sense, make decisions locally, and act on that information. Ultimately, if this is to be of any use, the directions originating from these devices need to be followed by those that the technologies are caring for. This is still the most challenging aspect of the entire process. Reminding someone that they have failed to take their medication may be of no use if that person has decided simply that they don’t want to take it. What the health profession can do about the elderly not taking medications as they are intended is a still a major problem and having reminders is not the entire solution. Because a solution does not work for everyone is not a reason for not adopting it for those that it will help. Before we see widespread adoption of the Internet of Things in the home however, we will need to see cheaper, more attractive, affordable, and useful devices that integrate with smartphones and computers and the apps that are running on them. The best chance for this happening are the initiatives from Apple and Google. Although Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Brillo are aimed at everyone’s homes, their popularity may see the next generation of the elderly already prepared for their help in staying independent and active for longer. David Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Microsoft’s aim to make Windows 10 run on anything is key to its strategy of reasserting its dominance. Seemingly unassailable in the 1990s, Microsoft’s position has in many markets been eaten away by the explosive growth of phones and tablets, devices in which the firm has made little impact. To run Windows 10 on everything, Microsoft is opening up. Rather than requiring Office users to run Windows, now Office365 is available for Android and Apple iOS mobile devices. A version of Visual Studio, Microsoft’s key application for programmers writing Windows software, now runs on Mac OS or Linux operating systems. Likewise, with tools released by Microsoft developers can tweak their Android and iOS apps so that they run on Windows. The aim is to allow developers to create, with ease, the holy grail of a universal app that runs on anything. For a firm that has been unflinching in taking every opportunity to lock users into its platform, just as with Apple and many other tech firms, this is a major change of tack. From direct to indirect revenue So why is Microsoft trying to become a general purpose, broadly compatible platform? Windows' share of the operating system market has fallen steadily from 90% to 70% to 40%, depending on which survey you believe. This reflects customers moving to mobile, where the Windows Phone holds a mere 3% market share. In comparison Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure platform Azure, Office 365 and its Xbox games console have all experienced rising fortunes. Lumbered with a heritage of Windows PCs in a falling market, Microsoft’s strategy is to move its services – and so its users – inexorably toward the cloud. This divides into two necessary steps. First, for software developed for Microsoft products to run on all of them – write once, run on everything. As it is there are several different Microsoft platforms (Win32, WinRT, WinCE, Windows Phone) with various incompatibilities. This makes sense, for a uniform user experience and also to maximise revenue potential from reaching as many possible devices. Second, to implement a universal approach so that code runs on other operating systems other than Windows. This has historically been fraught, with differences in approach to communicating, with hardware and processor architecture making it difficult. In recent years, however, improving virtualisation has made it much easier to run code across platforms. It will be interesting to see whether competitors such as Google and Apple will follow suit, or further enshrine their products into tightly coupled, closed ecosystems. Platform exclusivity is no longer the way to attract and hold customers; instead the appeal is the applications and services that run on them. For Microsoft, it lies in subscriptions to Office365 and Xbox Gold, in-app and in-game purchases, downloadable video, books and other revenue streams – so it makes sense for Microsoft to ensure these largely cloud-based services are accessible from operating systems other than just their own. The Windows family tree … it’s complicated. Kristiyan Bogdanov, CC BY-SA Platform vs services Is there any longer any value in buying into a single service provider? Consider smartphones from Samsung, Google, Apple and Microsoft: prices may differ, but the functionality is much the same. The element of difference is the value of wearables and internet of things devices (for example, Apple Watch), the devices they connect with (for example, an iPhone), the size of their user communities, and the network effect. From watches to fitness bands to internet fridges, the benefits lie in how devices are interconnected and work together. This is a truly radical concept that demonstrates digital technology is driving a new economic model, with value associated with “in-the-moment” services when walking about, in the car, or at work. It’s this direction that Microsoft is aiming for with Windows 10, focusing on the next big thing that will drive the digital economy. The revolution will be multi-platform I predict that we will see tech firms try to grow ecosystems of sensors and services running on mobile devices, either tied to a specific platform or by driving traffic directly to their cloud infrastructure. Apple has already moved into the mobile health app market and connected home market. Google is moving in alongside manufacturers such as Intel, ARM and others. An interesting illustration of this effect is the growth of digital payments – with Apple, Facebook and others seeking ways to create revenue from the traffic passing through their ecosystems. However, the problem is that no single supplier like Google, Apple, Microsoft or internet services such as Facebook or Amazon can hope to cover all the requirements of the internet of things, which is predicted to scale to over 50 billion devices worth US$7 trillion in five years. As we become more enmeshed with our devices, wearables and sensors, demand will rise for services driven by the personal data they create. Through “Windows 10 on everything”, Microsoft hopes to leverage not just the users of its own ecosystem, but those of its competitors too. Mark Skilton is Professor of Practice at University of Warwick. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Australian rugby league games could be heading online following reports the National Rugby League (NRL) has been in discussions with Google as part of the sporting organisation’s latest media rights. The discussions are said to be associated with having NRL games broadcast via Google’s YouTube video website. These are not the first discussions rumoured to have taken place between YouTube and an Australian sporting organisation. Last year it was said that the Australian Football League (AFL) was in discussions with YouTube, as part of its new media rights deal to start in 2017. It should also be noted that YouTube has made a shift toward professional sports media over the past few years. In 2010 it secured the live-streaming rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket. Three years later, YouTube began to experiment with major American sports, including Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). How would a deal between an Australian sports organisations and YouTube impact Australian sport media rights? International sport media rights Sports media rights are much sort after. The investment banking group Jefferies Group LLC sees sports as vital for TV channels because 97% of all sports programming is watched live. This is evident by the high stakes of the sports media rights globally. In the UK recently Sky and BT paid a record £5.136 billion (A$10.48 billion) for live Premier League soccer television rights, almost doubling the previous £3 billion (A$6.12 billion) deal. The annual amounts paid for sports media rights in the US range from US$1.5 billion (A$1.93 billion) annually for Major League Baseball to US$3 billion (A$3.85 billion) per year for the National Football League (NFL). The NBA’s recent media rights deal of US$2.66 billion (A$3.42 billion) annually more than doubled its previous deal. How does this compare to Australian sport media rights? The AFL’s current media rights, which includes Seven West Media, Foxtel, Fox Sports and Telstra, are valued at A$1.25 billion. The new media rights are expected to reach more than A$2 billion for a five year deal. The current NRL media rights deal with Nine and Fox Sports are valued at A$1.025 billion over five years, just under the AFL. There is a clear gap between the value of Australian sporting media rights and those in the UK and US, which is arguably one factor in YouTube’s interest in the Australian sports market. Could YouTube become a sport broadcaster? Today the online video market is estimated to be worth US$200 billion to US$400 billion (A$275 billion to A$514 billion), with YouTube having the largest share. YouTube currently has more than 1 billion users, has more than 300 hours of video uploaded to its site every minute, is localised in 75 countries and available in 61 languages. It was recently reported that in the US YouTube reached more Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 than any cable channel, including ESPN. There has also been a 50% growth in the amount of time users spend watching videos on YouTube year over year, of which 50% of viewing is via a mobile. The live streams on YouTube have the potential to far outweigh the highest audience ratings of Australian television broadcasters. Felix Baumgartner’s world record free fall skydive, for example, had 8 million simultaneous viewers. VIDEO 1 Who will pay? Advertisers or the users If YouTube was to commence broadcasts of Australian sports, the question is, who will pay? YouTube has a subscription based services already available that would allow Australian sports to charge per game, per month or per year. But how would this impact the current alternative platforms that both the AFL and NRL have? Both have services for mobile and online viewing, part of digital rights deals with Telstra. The AFL’s deal worth A$153 million and the NRL deal worth A$100 million. Any digital rights deal with YouTube would have an impact upon the current approach toward digital rights. A similar deal could be struck as with the IPL, where YouTube “involves every country outside the US”. YouTube could become a digital partner to broadcast AFL and NRL for countries other than Australia, assisting in the internationalisation of the codes. YouTube and new ways to watch sport In addition to the shear reach of YouTube globally, the other area to consider is broadcast technologies and the way in which YouTube has begun to experiment in this area. In recent months Virtual Reality (VR) and 360 degree video, has been a big talking point. Particularly with the release Microsoft’s Hololens and more recently the new Oculus Rift VR headset, now owned by Facebook. Google has also released Google Cardboard which gives anyone with a smartphone a cheap entry to the VR headset. Google also recently announced its Jump camera rig for 360 degree videos, which holds 16 GoPro cameras, costing well over US$8,000 (A$10,280) with cameras. But there are cheaper alternatives to Jump coming into the market. The Giroptic camera is under US$500 (A$643) and the Bubl camera is US$799 (A$1,027), both are smaller than Jump and extremely affordable in comparison. YouTube allows for 360 degree video to be upload to its site, something that has been taken up by artists such as Björk and the Red Bull Formula 1 racing team. The 360 degree effect only works when viewed in Google’s Chrome web browser. Sporting organisations are willing to experiment with new technologies. This is evident by the recent virtual reality content filmed for Samsung’s Gear VR at the NBA’s all-star weekend. The National Hockey League (NHL) also experimented with using GoPro cameras for its all-star weekend to give viewers a point-of-view perspective. Example of NBA All-Star Virtual Reality via a Samsung Gear VR Headset These new ways of viewing video content could have a major impact on the future of sports broadcasts and what the viewer sees on a screen, but does not need to entirely replace the current methods. Future of sports broadcasting In the current media environment it seems that YouTube will not replace the current broadcast of sport. For Australia, the anti-siphoning laws prevent subscription or pay-for view only broadcasting many Australian major sporting events. This would prevent YouTube from having a major impact in the near future of sports broadcasts, but it could shake up the digital rights component. The other factor is Australian viewing habits of television. The current reports still show a strong difference between television viewing and online video viewing habits. What YouTube could do for Australian sports is allow for both the AFL and NRL to be internationalised by making it available to people outside Australia, something that the AFL in particular has been strongly working on. In addition to providing a liner stream, YouTube could be a potential platform for sporting organisation to experiment further with new broadcast and viewing technologies, such as the 360 degree video. Imagine being able to experience being in the crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. A 360 degree video could allow the viewer – both in Australia and overseas – access onto the ground, a fly on the wall perspective, via cameras installed on goal posts or positioned above the ground. YouTube thus does have the potential to lead the way in new forms of sports broadcasting. Marc C-Scott is Lecturer in Digital Media at Victoria University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Technolog is the first in a (mostly) weekly wrap up of the highlights of the technology news and events of the week. These are the tech stories that hopefully are the most relevant to knowing what is likely to have an impact on our daily lives. Former CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop is fired from Microsoft Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, this week announced the departure of ex-Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and several other Microsoft executives in a reorganisation of the company that saw the creation of three groups; Windows and Devices, Cloud and Enterprise, and Applications and Services. Whilst at Nokia, Elop arguably destroyed any chances of Nokia remaining relevant in the smartphone world by insisting that all of Nokia’s smartphones move to support the Windows platform instead of Android. Nokia’s death blow came when Elop steered the sale of the smartphone business to Microsoft where Elop then presided over its inexorable journey into obsolescence and the sacking of most of the former Nokia staff. The reorganisation is a good one for Microsoft and will allow them to concentrate on their core strength, namely enterprise software. They are also having increasing success with the move of this software to the cloud. Security Password Manager provider LastPass is hacked Users of the password manager LastPass were advised this week to change their master password after hackers stole users' details including emails from LastPass servers. The hackers did not compromise users’ stored password information itself. It seems unlikely that they will be able to crack the stolen encrypted master passwords with the information they obtained because of the particular security measures LastPass uses. The hack of LastPass showed that even though almost anything can be hacked, how you handle customers afterwards can make all of the difference. LastPass’s fast response and disclosure was praised along with the extensive security measures that they had in place to protect user data in the event of this type of occurrence. Using a password manager is still seen as preferable to using the same password for every account or keeping passwords in Notepad on your computer. Finally, using two-factor authentication with the password manager would still have protected users even if their passwords were compromised and so is still seen as a must with this type of software. 600 million Samsung Phones vulnerable to being hijacked A security researcher this week demonstrated a vulnerability that exists in Samsung phones which allows hackers to send malicious code to install and run on those phones. The vulnerability is specific to Samsung phones, and comes from the way Samsung updates the SwiftKey software embedded in its keyboard on the phone. These updates are not encrypted and Samsung allows code downloaded in this way to get around the normal protections of the Android operating system. Although Samsung has issued an update for this problem, it will depend on phone carriers to actually push it out to customers, and they are typically very slow at doing that. In the meantime, there is little users can do to protect themselves, other than not connect to unprotected Wifi, and this may be a good time for them to consider switching to another brand of Android phone? E3 Game Expo 2015 E3 is the biggest electronic games expo for the games industry held each year in Los Angeles. Upcoming releases of games are announced at the expo along with new games hardware and accessories. There were simply too many announcements to summarise here, but the remake of the first-person shooter game Doom, although stunning in its detail, seemed gratuitously graphic and violent. Another anticipated release was the action role-playing open world game, Fallout 4. Set in post-nuclear apocalypse Boston, the game player can adopt a male or female role, enters a fallout shelter and after 200 years have passed, emerges to explore the world above. What will be interesting about this game is the addition of a device (Pip-Boy wrist mounted computer) that will hold a mobile phone and strap to the wrist of the player, allowing them to interact with the game through that device. Other top upcoming games include Star Wars: Battlefront, Batman: Arkham Knight, Final Fantasy XV and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. On the console side, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will support streaming of games to a Windows 10 PC where it will also be able to support Facebook’s Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Microsoft’s also showed off their own augmented reality headset Hololens being used with Minecraft. The video highlights some of the amazing potential of this technology that will be available in the not too distant future. This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Above: GoPro's Jump-ready 360 camera array uses HERO4 camera modules and allows all 16 cameras to act as one. Key announcements by Google at its annual Google I/O developer conference have put virtual reality on the cusp of going mainstream, according to two key figures in the Australian virtual reality community. During the conference, Google unveiled a new virtual reality ecosystem known as Jump, as well as new camera arrays that can capture 360-degree vision, and streaming stereoscopic virtual reality videos on YouTube. Virtual Reality Ventures managing director Stefan Pernar told StartupSmart the commodification of virtual reality is likely to happen over the next 12 to 18 months. “The big news from Google I/O is a virtual reality targeted Go Pro rig, one in a six-camera version and one in a 16-camera version, along with the Jump initiative. There’s also a set of assembly tools that allows you to stitch the thing together and extract 3D info from a range of perspectives,” Pernar says. Pernar says that creating and sharing a virtual reality experience will soon be as easy as buying a GoPro rig and uploading the video clip on to YouTube 360. He also points out that a string of consumer virtual reality headsets are set to hit the market in late 2015 and the first half of 2016, including Sony Morpheus, the HTC/Valve device and the consumer version of Facebook’s Oculus Rift. Samsung is also likely to heavily push its Gear VR headset in the lead-up to Christmas. “That’s what Facebook buying Oculus was all about – sharing your user-created virtual reality experience with your family and friends on Facebook,” Pernar says. “The landscape is changing. Virtual reality company’s focus will not so much be on stitching video together. That problem has been solved. “Instead, they will need to add value, in the form of interactive and value added content.” According to Pernar, creating more professional virtual reality shoots is a potential growth opportunity for virtual reality producers. “The smartphone camera in your pocket is now better than the cameras used to shoot Star Wars. So why doesn’t everyone just whip out their phone and shoot Star Wars? It’s not just a matter of hardware – there’s also cinematography. “A year ago, virtual reality was just a tech process. Even simple, stationary shots were state-of-the-art. Now you need to manage movement.” The announcements mark a very exciting time for the VR industry, according to Anton Andreacchio – whose virtual reality production company Jumpgate Virtual Reality recently released a 90-second trailer for the upcoming Cyan Films horror film Scare Campaign. “It’s what happened with film – it’s democratisation. On the tech side, equipment isn’t cost-prohibitive anymore. From a hardware perspective, this solves the post-production issue of stitching video clips together,” Andreacchio say. “This is another big step, the process of making [VR] a systematic production method, and getting big companies a clearer path. As for Pernar’s sentiments about VR going mainstream, Andreacchio is cautiously optimistic. “I know I should say yes 100%, but we don’t know. But certainly a lot of time, money and energy is being thrown at this at the moment. So I suspect we are, but ultimately that’s up to the consumers,” he says. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Brillo, a cut-down version of Android aimed at embedded devices, and Weave, a framework designed to compete against Apple’s HomeKit API, were among the key announcements from the Google I/O developer conference this year. Other key announcements from the tech giant include a photo sharing service and app designed to compete against Flickr called Google Photos, a series of major virtual reality announcements, and the latest version of the Android operating system, which is known as Android M. Clinicloud founder Hon Weng Chong told StartupSmart that while Brillo and Weave are aimed more at the home automation end of IoT rather than medtech devices, a key issue for any embedded device is the trade-off between ease of programming and memory use. “Right now, we’re not even using Embedded Linux. We’re working on bare metal in Assembler,” Chong says. “There’s always a trade-off. When you use Windows 10 or Embedded Android, you need to have extra memory and more processing power, and that comes at a cost. So the trade-off is between the cost versus how easy it is to program. “Certainly, it will be good for new startups that are just prototyping their ideas. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of getting a product ready, you need to do a bit more work. I’m not sure the trade-offs and chip costs are something Microsoft and Google have really taken into consideration.” Assembler still the only way to go The sentiment is shared by Procept products and marketing manager Rob Crowder, who also serves as the managing director of Smash Wearables. He told StartupSmart Assembler is the only way to go right now, assuming you can write apps that basic. Crowder also says multi-purpose wearable devices such as Android Wear smartwatches and the Apple Watch still lack the precision needed to do something like accurately measure a player’s tennis swing, as single-use wearables such as Smash Wearables’ device does. “Right now, if we asked a wearable to do everything the Apple Watch does, and at the same time have the precision we need it to, you’d probably need a battery the size of a backpack, and no one would buy it. “Our own wearables, that are useful for some very specific purpose, have a shelf life of somewhere around three to five years. At some time, someone will come up with a general device that’s precise enough with a battery good enough for tennis. But right now, there’s still a trade-off. How hard you ask it to work led us to develop our own wearable.” Concerns around Brillo’s memory use David Soutar, co-founder and chief executive at Wattcost, says a lot of embedded devices couldn’t support the memory use Brillo requires. However, not all startups are as pessimistic. Oomi vice president Chris Hall says he intends to take a close look at Google’s IoT ecosystem – as long as it doesn’t compromise the user experience for Apple and Windows users. “At our end, we’ve encouraged an open ecosystem. What’s been happening in the IoT space is a lot of fragmentation. So we’ve tried to be as platform-agnostic as possible,” Hall says. “Oomi Touch integrates with Apple HomeKit to give full value to iOS users. We’re also a partner in Samsung’s Tizen Alliance. “On the Google side, the big talk last year Nest Thread. However with Weave, there seems to be a distancing away from Nest and on the hardware side, we’ll take a close look at what the hardware offers.” Great to have an Apple HomeKit rival LEAPIN Digital Keys cofounder Steve Dunn says he thinks it’s great that Google have finally stepped in and set a new IOT platform with Brillo and Weave to rival Apple's HomeKit. “It means that we can now more easily interface our smart lock products with other IOT products without having to go through a lengthy negotiation exercise with all the different companies with all their different IOT products one at a time. “We’ve been talking with some overseas telcos, other startups, security product manufacturers, and even insurance companies about building interfaces, and pulling together smart home products and kits with our smart locks. But up until now it feels like we've been going on dates with all these other companies, talking and looking at each other’s products, discussing taking action, but not actually doing anything. This Project Brillo announcement by Google levels the playing field now, so it means that the best products can more easily come together and offer more choices for the consumer. “Up until now, it’s only been the loudest voices and best negotiators (mostly in the US) and not necessarily the best products, which are coming together because there hasn't been one primary platform for IoT products… Hopefully, Brillo will enable the smaller startups like us with great IoT products to get all the interfaces done, and get their products out there in front of consumers easier than they do now.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne-based smart home startup Oomi has smashed its Indiegogo fundraising goal, raising $US1.5 million. With 25 days left to go the startup, which is also based in China and the United States, has already raised more money than fellow smart home startup SmartThings, which raised $US1.2 million on Kickstarter in 2012. SmartThings was later acquired by Samsung for $US200 million. The Oomi Cube is a smartphone hub that features eight environmental sensors, a night vision camera – tools which allow it to monitor a user’s home. Combined with Oomi Touch, users can control all smart devices in their home, from lights and music, to television and thermostats. Oomi has also developed a suite of accessories, light bulbs, speakers and cameras, all of which can be easily set up simply by tapping them with the Oomi Touch. Oomi’s vice president Chris Hall says given the fact the startup was not relying on the crowdfunding campaign to create the products, they intentionally set a modest goal of $US50,000. However, internally they’d hoped to raise $500,000. “We raised $250,000 in the first day, we started to realise we could get up and above $1 million,” he says. “We believe the time is right in the market. When you look at the awareness of smart homes, most people are aware of the connected home idea.” Hall credits the strength of the crowdfunding campaign to the fact the startup had already begun to showcase its product to the market. Earlier this year Oomi’s technology was on display at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. It was at CES where Oomi was approached by Indiegogo management, who encouraged the startup to run their campaign with Indiegogo. Up until that meeting Oomi had a Kickstarter campaign that was set to launch shortly after CES wrapped up. The startup has yet to raise any external investment and Hall says, while that’s “the next conversation”, ultimately Oomi is focusing on getting to the end of its crowdfunding campaign, with as much support as possible. “Internally we’d like to think we could reach $1.5 million. If we could take that to $2 million, that would be great,” he says. “The key difference between us (and other IoT startups), is they tend not to have a very good understanding of how the product moves beyond a community,” he says. “One of the mistakes they make is having brilliant community support, but not other go-to market outside of that. So it can sit into markets like aged care, assisted living. So it isn’t the hobbyist, the enthusiast that buys the product, but someone who wants the solution.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian virtual reality production company Jumpgate Virtual Reality has released a 90-second trailer for the upcoming Cyan Films horror film Scare Campaign, which will be the first Australian movie to be accompanied by a virtual reality experience. Jumpgate Virtual Reality’s managing director, Anton Andreacchio, told StartupSmart the pioneering effort is designed to help uncover the value proposition for the new technology. “We started a company called Convergen about eight years ago. That’s an animation company that designs visuals for infrastructure projects,” Andreacchio says. “I first became aware of Oculus Rift DK1 [development kit] a few years ago, and began talking to architects and builders to see if it was relevant. They loved it and thought it was novel, and we began searching for a value proposition. The problem was the first headset was very low resolution, but it was indicative of what the technology could do. “In the past year, you’ve had a number of big developments, including Facebook buying Oculus, the DK2 has been announced, and Samsung has released its own headset. “We decided to start another company, called Jumpgate VR, that’s a production company specialising in virtual reality. We pulled across a few people from Convergen and began working on entertainment, events, AFL clubs and symphony orchestras to try to find the value proposition of virtual reality.” Jumpgate Virtual Reality’s latest VR production is titled Scare Campaign: The VR Experience, and includes an elaborate set (the decommissioned Beechworth Lunatic Asylum in north-eastern Victoria) and a storyline. A 90-second trailer, free for anyone with a compatible headset, is now available on the company’s website. “The main story is a conventional feature film by the two directors who did [2012 film] 100 Bloody Acres – Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes – and stars Olivia DeJonge,” Andreacchio says. While not disclosing at this stage what the AFL project involves, Andreacchio says Jumpgate VR is working on interactive virtual reality projects for a major toll road operator and an induction training project. The company has also created virtual reality films of live concerts and events. “One of our early pieces was a concert by [chamber music ensemble] Seraphim Trio… We shot them at the Melbourne Recital Centre in full 3D, and we’ve also recorded a few earlier proof-of-concept concerts,” Andreacchio says. Andreacchio says the technology is moving very fast. The aim of the projects is not to just “do a piece here and there”, but to explore the technology and help Australia remain at the cutting edge of the virtual reality industry. “The way we look at it is this: look at smartphones. At first, people wanted one because of the novelty. After seven or eight years on the scene, it’s only now that something like Uber has emerged, and that’s a massively disruptive development.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Mpire Media, the online marketing business founded by Western Australia-based technology entrepreneur Zhenya Tsvetnenko, will spring on to the Australian Securities Exchange by June through a backdoor listing with shell company Fortunis Resources. Tsvetnenko, who debuted on the BRW Rich List with wealth of $107 million in 2009, first announced plans to take Mpire public in mid-2014. The deal with Fortunis is worth approximately $10 million. The software engineer listed his bitcoin company Digital CC Limited via a reverse takeover of energy investment firm Macro Energy in early 2014 and was revealed as an investor in now-collapsed tech startup Alphatise. But his first business success came in the early 2000s when he worked from home to pioneer SMS gateway technology and Google AdWords. Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, Tsvetnenko says the deal will give Mpire Media “immediate access” to the cash reserves of Fortunis and he expects to raise between $2 million and $4 million from the market. But Tsvetnenko says another key reason for floating the company is an ASX listing “gives us the credibility of a listed company, which goes a long way in this industry”. Mpire Media is a performance-based marketing firm. The company acts as an intermediary between advertisers and clients and only receive payments once a sale is achieved. It has worked with clients including Amazon-owned Audible and Samsung. Tsvetnenko says he originally founded Mpire Media as a “vehicle” for his previous mobile content business but re-focused the company at the start of last year to better capitalise on Mpire’s proprietary software. In July last year Mpire recorded monthly revenue of $55,000. By February this year, the company’s monthly revenue had hit $1.1 million, with a gross profit margin of between 16-20%. Tsvetnenko says total revenue since July last year is approximately $5.3 million. Mpire has 12 employees in Toronto and another 10 in Perth. Tsvetnenko says the company will need to expand its team later this year as it ramps up plans to commercialise its software and offer it as a service to other firms. “That’s the blue sky plan that we work on every day,” he says. “We’re putting the plans in motion and I think it will be the next phase for the company.” But Tsvetnenko’s focus also remains on continuing to grow Mpire’s revenue base, admitting the Mpireteam has already revised its budget this year having “blown away” its initial revenue targets. “We want to keep hitting and exceeding our targets, increasing revenue and gross profit,” he says. But while Tsvetnenko has chosen to pursue backdoor listings on the ASX for his companies, his advice to other entrepreneurs considering taking their company public is to first look at the market you operate in. “It really all depends on the market, you have got to get it right,” he says. “If you are generating revenue, it is a good consideration if you just need a little bit more money. But if you are making a profit and are cash flow positive, you might also consider taking on private equity.” “Money is often easier to raise in a public market because it is liquid, but there is a trade-off because if you do an IPO, you are giving a lot of your company away.” This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.
The BBC is set to give away a million Raspberry Pi-style computers to British school students to encourage children to take up coding. The BBC reports the program will see the British national broadcaster hand out the small computers, known as Micro Bits, in a bid to replicate the success of the BBC Micro B computer in the early 1980s in teaching kids how to code. The program aims to fill a skills shortage that will see the UK need to find an additional 1.4 million digital professionals over the coming years. A number of leading tech giants including ARM, Microsoft and Samsung are also involved. Microbric managing director Brenton O’Brien told StartupSmart the Micro Bits program is “a fantastic initiative” that should be replicated in Australia. Late last year, South Australian-based Microbric smashed a crowdfunding target for its Edison Lego-compatible robots, which it began shipping in the lead-up to Christmas. “There’s no doubt there’s a lot more demand for people with programming skills not just now but into the future, so it’s a fantastic program. The problem with getting tech into schools has always been affordability. Companies supporting an initiative like this can remove the cost burden from schools and increase the uptake,” O’Brien says. “If you look at the names supporting this, it’s pure capitalism. The companies see that they will need tech workers in the future, and governments aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. “Just this past week, [Federal Education Minister] Christopher Pyne was talking about scaling back the tech curriculum because it’s ‘too hard’ for teachers. The thought that someone would question the need for tech education in this day and age is absolutely absurd. So it’s great to see the sponsors putting their money where their mouth is. “It would be an absolutely fantastic thing to see Australian school kids exposed en masse to tech in a similar way. Coding is the new literacy… Their ability to make computers do what they want them to do is vital to the future of the economy.” However, Macquarie University’s Professor Michael Heimlich warns that while programs such as Micro Bits are well intentioned, they “don’t tell the full story to kids”. “I don’t want to dissuade people from putting tech into the classroom, but you need to make the connection about how kids are going to make a career out of STEM. Otherwise it will be something they leave behind in junior high school,” Heimlich says. Heimlich is helping to organise the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Australia Regional Event, a competition aimed at high school students, which runs at the Sydney Olympic Sports Centre on March 13 and 14. “FRC is quite unique because, if you look at the surface, it’s a robotics competition. But what makes it unique is that it works a little like a startup incubator. So the program rewards things like going out to the community to raise money for their team, getting mentors, social media, website development and gaining skills. Heimlich says that along with raising STEM skills, it fulfils the important role of educating kids about STEM careers. “It’s really not a long step from a first-world to a third-world country. Just think about having a power grid that’s maintained, clean drinking water and trains that run reliably. When people tend to focus on the glitz and glam of the iPhone and Mars – even without an Australian Silicon Valley or space program – STEM has a big impact on the economy. Being a first-world country is underpinned by engineering,” he says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Apple’s event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center was widely expected to focus on the release of the Apple Watch. ResearchKit In a move that took everyone by surprise however, Apple also released a new software platform called ResearchKit. Like HealthKit, the platform enables medical researchers to create applications that specifically support the enrolment of subjects in medical trials and the continuous collection of data for research projects. Five sample applications supporting research into Parkinson’s Disease, Cardiovascular Disease and Breast Cancer, were built with partner universities in the US, UK and China for the launch of the kit. Unusually for Apple, the platform will be Open Sourced which means that others can contribute to the core platform. Apple has made it clear that none of the data collected through ResearchKit will be seen by Apple. The benefit of using a software framework of this type is that it standardises the collection and sharing of research data, potentially in real time from research subjects. Data collected in multiple studies could potentially be linked and shared. Apple is not the first company to throw resources into helping researchers use technology in their research. Google and Amazon have both built computing infrastructure to support research involving large amounts of data and high performance computers. With ResearchKit, Apple is facilitating one of the more challenging aspects of research, interfacing with test subjects. HBO Now In more traditional form, Apple also used the event to announce a lowering of price of the Apple TV box by 30% to US $69. It will also be the exclusive platform for the release of a service called HBO Now, that will provide all of HBO’s content via the device. This means that the new episodes of Game of Thrones can be subscribed to directly from HBO for $14.99 rather than through a cable subscription. Disappointingly to the rest of the world, the service will be available only in the US when it launches. 12 inch MacBook Apple has released a new 12 inch MacBook which is not in the “Air” range but is actually thinner and lighter than any of the MacBook Airs and boasts a retina display. Technologically, the laptop will be the first Apple device to support the new USB C cable configuration which resembles Apple’s Lightning cables but replaces the display, charging and data transfer ports. The MacBook Air and MacBook pros get refreshes with faster components across the range. Apple Watch Although the Apple Watch had previously been announced, the final launch of the watch was expected to fill in many of the questions about what would be actually released, and at what price. Most of the introduction by Apple CEO Tim Cook however was a re-run of the previous event. What was new were especially created apps that were available for the release of the watch including apps from Instragram, Uber, Twitter, SPG (hotel check-in and room key functionality), Shazam, and Apple’s own Apple Pay, Passbook and on-watch Notifications. Apple Watch apps will have their own section in the iTunes store. Although the presentation was not completely new, it highlighted how innovative the interface on the watch was. Time will tell whether this overcomes some of the limitations of this type of interface highlighted by Android Wear and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. The Apple Watch Sport in anodised aluminium will come in two sizes (38 mm and 42 mm) and will cost US $349 and $399 for the two sizes. The stainless steel Apple Watch will also come in the same two sizes and cost between US $549 and $1,049 depending on the band. The gold Apple Watch Edition will be released in limited outlets and cost $10,000. The watches will be available for pre-order on April 10th and shipping on April 24th in 9 countries including Australia and the UK. Questions still remain about how the watch will do, how often it will need to be recharged and whether sufficient numbers of Apple customers actually buy the watch. However, as with all Apple events, the speculation is now over and the debate based on experience can begin. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
While all eyes and ears were trained on news of its smartwatch, Apple also used its spring Keynote to introduce changes to Apple TV, revisions to its laptop lineup, and a new service that builds on the health monitoring aspects of smartwatches to perform data collection for medical research. As one digital TV service after another launches many have been left wondering when HBO, whose television dramas are highly sought and widely watched properties, would play its hand. And here it is: a partnership with Apple that makes the entire HBO back catalogue available through the new HBO Go digital streaming service, available exclusively through Apple TV. So while the Apple TV hardware hasn’t been updated for years, the partnership with HBO (and a price drop to £59) is a nice reminder for those who may have overlooked it. Apple has extended its reach into car dashboards with CarPlay, into home automation with HomeKit, and into health monitoring with HealthKit. Apple hopes that ResearchKit, a new open-source API and service, will form the foundation for apps that can collect health data from larger numbers of volunteers, increasing sample sizes and frequency of data collection, making the data more useful for researchers. Five apps have been developed so far, to investigate Parkinson’s Disease, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease with research groups in leading hospitals. There is an emphasis on privacy, with the user controlling the degree of information that is being shared. The new Macbook – neither Air nor Pro – comes with the latest retina display, a faster, more energy efficient processor, and a trackpad that can supply tactile feedback. In a 12" format that fills out the line between 11" and 13", it is lighter and thinner even than the Air, has a re-engineered keyboard and somewhat controversially rolls many ports into just one: the USB-C standard port, which will handle HDMI video, external hard drives and other USB peripherals. Inevitably this is going to mean buying another set of cables. Watch my watch In any other keynote this reveal would have been the main news item. But of course the main event was the watch. Seven months since Tim Cook first revealed the device, it’s been a long wait for more technical details. Opinion is still split on whether it will be a hard sell. With fewer people wearing watches anyway, the market is split between those who want a fitness tracker and those that want a beautiful luxury object. Is there a need for a device which essentially duplicates the functionality of a smartphone? Apple has to convince us that the watch offers more, in clear terms of where glancing at a watch is preferred to pulling out a phone. Usually reserved to only one or two colours, this time Apple offers 20 different combinations of ways to customise the watch in size, colour, watch and strap material – probably a necessity in order to sell a device that by nature of being frequently visible is more fashion than function. The styling of the watch itself is reminiscent of the first iPhone, with three versions in two different sizes, 38mm or 42mm high: the cheapest Apple Sport at £299 with an aluminium body and plastic straps, the middle tier Apple Watch from £479 in stainless steel and wrist bands in leather, steel or plastic, and the gold Apple Watch Edition, which starts at £8,000 – perhaps more expensive even than the Apple Lisa from 1983, which sold at US$15,000 at the time. Most of the functionality of the watch requires an iPhone within a few metres – maps, messages, Siri and other apps are relayed from the phone using WiFi or mobile data. Apple suggests that the battery will last 18 hours in a typical day. Not first to market, but best? Apple invests heavily in research and development to create new devices and interfaces that differentiate its products, at least, until competitors release their responses. Apple’s watch uses an Ion-X glass or Sapphire crystal screen which is pressure-sensitive to varying degrees. The side-mounted dial, which Apple terms a digital crown, enables scrolling and clicking, and a button below it jumps to frequent contacts. It has a “Taptic” engine which provides vibration feedback for certain apps, for example suggesting directions in Maps. The sensors on watch’s underside detect heartbeat and combine with the accelerometer to measure physical activity, something Apple is pitching as a major selling point. Developers are already creating software that will extend their iPhone apps to interact with and be accessible from the watch, as Apple has with its Apple Pay contactless payment system. Miniature messages appear on the device in what Apple calls Glances, giving the impression of dealing with such messages quickly without the hassle of pulling out a phone. Will it sell? In the past 18 months customers have bought 5m smartwatches or fitness bands, with Samsung flooding the market with many smartwatch devices, but with fitness bands accounting for the majority of sales. Current estimates suggest that Apple could sell more than 8m watches, eight times as many as its largest competitor. While many of its features will appear in competitor’s smartwatches in the subsequent years, for the moment the eponymous watch is best in class. To sound a note of caution: like the first generation iPhone, the second generation device will probably be half as deep and run twice as long. You may be unfazed about the risks of being an early adopter, but if the idea of paying another few hundred pounds for the latest model next year isn’t appealing, it may be sensible to wait. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
The world’s move into the mobile post-PC age has accelerated, it seems, after Apple’s record quarterly sales of 74.5 million iPhones. To put this in perspective, this is almost the same as the total global quarterly sales of PCs, which were around 84 million. Because of the large amount of profit Apple makes from the iPhone, its profit was a record-breaking $US18 billion. This compares with Lenovo, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, whose last quarter saw them make just $262 million in profits. The drivers behind Apple’s success Although the drivers behind Apple’s success include those that are specific to the brand, it is what the phone means in terms of social- and self-identity that determines the difference between buying a Samsung phone and an Apple one. But there is another psychological driver that could be a candidate behind why Apple has succeeded where companies like Samsung have struggled. This driver is one that, according to Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile, is behind what motivates us at work and leads to the greatest levels of job satisfaction. Through extensive interviews and surveys of employers and employees, Amabile and her team distilled down the factor behind creative satisfaction and motivation at work to the feeling of “making progress”. This work actually builds on research reported in the 1960’s by Frederick Herzberg which stated that the principle driver behind worker motivation was a sense of “achievement”. Interestingly, although the research has consistently reinforced the view that making progress and achievement are highly motivating, senior managers and even CEOs commonly rank this driver at the bottom of what they consider important in motivating workers. This probably explains why many workplaces overwhelmingly give their employees a sense of futility in trying to effect change or contribute in such a way that workers get a sense that they are achieving something significant through their work. It is unsurprising then that Gallup has reported consistently that almost 70% of US workers are not engaged or are actively disengaged with their work. How does Apple give us the sense of “making progress”? Apple, and to a lesser extent Google, have brought out a new phone each year, along with new versions of the software that runs it. Each year, customers are able to upgrade the device that they increasingly use as the principal work productivity tool. 40% of US employees use their personal smartphones for work. Contrast this with the fact that employers commonly only upgrade work tools such as PCs ever 4.5 years. Very few employers will be operating on the latest versions of operating systems and the entire environment is locked down with the employee given very little control over the work computing environment. This technological stagnation at work is usually only one symptom of organisations that change very slowly, if at all. In such environments, individuals will find it difficult to experience any sense of “making progress” either in what they actually do, or how they go about doing it. Being able to use your own device, upgraded each year, brings the very latest technological features along with the sense of being in control and making progress. Every year, the phones are faster, lighter, more secure and more functional. Every year, a new technological enabler is made available through the device. This year, for example, through Apple Pay, it is mobile electronic payments. At the very least, it gives employees the belief that they are on an equal footing with colleagues and competitors and are not being “extrinsically disadvantaged”. The fact that companies are now supporting the ability of staff to use their own devices at work acknowledges that they will never be able to provide the flexibility that employees gain by being able to control this for themselves. In fact, the smartest thing companies could do would be to pay staff an extra bonus each year, specifically for this purpose. Of course, what this means is that Apple can theoretically continue to succeed with its iPhone business by providing for workers what their own employers are unlikely ever to do and continue to give them the sense that we are all making progress. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
When technology, and the companies behind it, fails, the end can come in a number of different ways. A technology can be mercifully put down, as with Google’s failed hardware media player, the Nexus Q. Alternatively, a failing company can be bought and shut down, as in the case of the once famous personal digital assistant maker Palm, who were bought, and then shut down by HP. Failing companies can also enter a more indeterminate, zombie state where the company may still earn enough money to stay open, but the company itself, and the products they produce, will never again be a significant force in the technology landscape. Recognising a zombie company Recognising zombie companies and technology is relatively easy. Companies with a languishing share price that shareholders are clearly only holding onto because they hope the company will be bought, is one clear indicator. Blackberry’s shares for example, popped 30% on the rumour that Samsung was about to buy the beleagured mobile phone company. The shares crashed back to their original value after the company denied the reports. Twitter and Yahoo also both benefited from the suggestion by ex CEO Ross Levinsohn that they should merge. The fact that the market should respond to these types of rumours are clear signs that the companies have exhausted the option of developing their own products to continue making them relevant or competing against the market leaders. Discussions about the death of a company or technology Another indicator of a zombie company are the number of discussions that occur about whether the company/technology is actually dead or whether it will see a resurrection. This is being played out right now after Google’s announcement that its much maligned smart glasses were being pulled from public sale. Commentators are divided as to whether this signifies the complete death of the product or merely a pause before some form of re-launch. Google Glass has become a zombie product because even if it does survive, it will never have anything other than marginal interest. In another case, reviews of BlackBerry’s latest phone, the Passport have tried to imply that this will somehow reverse its fortunes. Others propose growth for the company through services rather than hardware. The key thing for zombie companies however is not to confuse the ability to stay in business with the fact that the business is actually viable. In the UK in 2013 for example, there were approximately 160,000 companies that were capable of staying afloat because they could pay the interest on their loans but had no way of ever being able to pay back the actual loans themselves. Companies like Twitter for example, who are as yet to make a profit from anything other than the selling of their shares, can keep going on their IPO proceeds and by convincing people to invest further on the basis that they will eventually make money. The interesting thing with Twitter is that there is the belief that it can still make money somehow, with the right management. There are increasing calls for the CEO Dick Costolo to resign even though it may simply be that there is no viable way for Twitter to make enough money from its social network. Zombie technologies Zombie technologies pose a greater problem than zombie companies because it covers everyone involved in that technology. Zombie technologies are interesting because they often result from over-hyped expectations about their significance leading to a gold-rush surge of companies trying to catch the early wave of expectation. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for example, were going to transform the higher education sector by offering high-quality, free, online courses to the world. Companies like Coursera are still going only because of the large amounts of money that they have raised from venture capitalists. Unfortunately, the higher education industry proved resilient to change and Coursera’s attempts to make money out of ongoing professional education is never going to realise the ambitions of their investors. The same outcome is true for other MOOC companies like Udacity and edX. Another topical zombie technology are crypto-currencies like Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s 80% fall in value since its peak in the past year has cemented its general failure to gain acceptance by governments, the financial sector and the public at large. This doesn’t mean the end of Bitcoin as there will be fringe uses for this technology supported by a core group of loyal fans. Its zombie state however will continue to be confused with a technology simply waiting for the right market opportunity to become the basis for the world’s future digital economy. Zombie companies present a real problem in that they lock in funds, and employees who could otherwise be working more productively within their own startups or other companies. Of course, eventually companies will stop trading, or be bought for their remaining assets, but that time may be surprisingly far into the future. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
An app that can unlock your front door with a digital key and the latest wearable sex tech OhMiBod are just some of the next generation of high-tech gadgets and devices on display this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). So what are some of the big things to look out for from the show, held each January in Las Vegas, in the United States? And how far has our technology evolved over the past year? The Internet of Things This year’s CES presented the largest ever showcase of Internet of Things (IoT) products. The IoT is all about connectivity. It aims to use the internet to connect a whole range of devices and appliances, as well as things like the lighting and window coverings in your home. Large growth is expected within this sector, which Dr Michael Cowling, a senior lecturer in mobile computing at Central Queensland University, said was “long overdue”. “This year [at CES] is all about the gadgets,” he said. “So many little gadgets that can do a specific job. That’s great for diversity. “It’s quite different from previous CES. Previous years it’s been more big showcase things, like last year’s curved TVs from big companies Samsung or LG. Now we’re talking about small start-up companies.” One such company is Petnet. It has produced a device that allows pet owners to monitor the food they are giving their cat or dog, as well as being able to remotely give them their dinner. Other smart appliances for the home include Milky Weigh, a device for your fridge that can tell you how much milk you have left while you’re out shopping. Tracking your health and wearables The plan for Wearables is to be seamlessly inserted into our everyday lives. A major feature in numerous wearables is their health-tracker capabilities. Bragi Dash Smart Headphones won an award for best innovation at the 2015 CES. These are wireless headphones with an accelerometer, heart rate monitor and an oxygen saturation sensor built in. Swarovski Shine is a bracelet and the first solar-powered wearable. It also includes sleep-tracker capabilities. Vessyl is a cup that communicates with an app to measure your calorie intake. These are just some of the technologies to come out of CES this year that are focusing on people’s health and well-being. Dr Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at RMIT University, said that he sees “the next stage of health as the surveillance of your health”. He compared this next step forward for diagnostic sensors to the continued development of GPS systems. “Remember a few years ago, people followed their GPS into a lake,” he said. “But they have became much more accurate since then. It’s the same for diagnostics.” He was “amazed” at the new sensors coming to the market with much higher sensitivity, and sees this trend continuing. “The biggest thing for me is biomedical in the next five years, as the technology is allowing them [the sensors] to become more selective and accurate.” The future of entertainment A big feature at last year’s CES was curved screens for TVs, but these have received a mixed response over the 12 months with some critics labelling it a gimmick. This year, the main focus for new televisions was to get even better quality images with a continued interest in 4K TVs. A new addition to the line-up is the use of quantum dot technology, which is a cheaper alternative to OLED with higher definition. “This year saw TVs with much better resolution and also much better colour, as they introduced quantum dots, so they have very sharp colour,” Dr Kalantar-Zadeh said. “They were able to expand on this into very large dimensions.” 3D printing It’s only in the past few years that 3D printers have become commercially available. The focus at last year’s event was on getting plastic filaments for consumer printing. This year, the CES showcased new materials and techniques. Robo has blended colours into its print, while XYZPrinting now uses laser-cured liquid plastic to create a more structurally sound product. It has also created a food printer. Makerbot is using composite filaments to create products that feel like real wood. Dr Matthew Sorell, a senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide, said real progress was being made in 3D printing although it was still early days in what the technology could do. “I’m reminded very much of having a nine-pin dot printer 30 years ago,” he said. “That was what you could get as a consumer, whereas nowadays we all have a laser or an inkjet. Pretty much everyone has a laser printer in the office.” Dr Sorell sees 3D printers following a similar progression, where we are still in the early nine-pin dot stage. “2014 was just ‘here we are’,” Dr Sorell said. “2015 is really showing the evolving technologies of what we can do.” While 3D printers are becoming more affordable and diverse in their applications, it can be difficult for consumers to create their own designs. Designs can be shared across communities such as Thingiverse, but new products at the CES such as Scanify could also help the consumer. Scanify is designed like a point-and-shoot camera, but will take a 3D image of an object in under a tenth of a second, which you can then print out as an exact replica. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
A year ago, SmartCompany listed the top new technologies set to race into 2014. Well, another year has come and gone, and a new group of technologies are emerging over the horizon. So what new technologies should you look out for in 2015? It’s time to gaze again into the crystal ball and take a look at six technologies you should keep an eye on in 2015: 1. Make-or-break time for smartwatches Over the past year, both in the form of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform and the Apple Watch, the tech giants have made big bets on smartwatches. However, so far consumers have been a bit ambivalent. Sure, smartwatches can bring notifications to your clockface and apps on your wrist, and being able to do a voice search with Google without pulling out your phone or tablet is nifty. On the other hand, a majority of the people inhabiting the planet already carry a far more powerful device with a larger screen in their pocket or handbag, in the form of a smartphone. So the real question now is whether consumers will embrace this new technology. Over the next year, entrepreneurs and innovators will either come up with a “killer app” for the smartwatch that drives it into the mainstream, or else the technology will be remembered as a flash-in-the-pan tech fad. Either way, the next 12 months will be crucial to the long-term prospects of this much-hyped technology. 2. Mobile payments and tickets Another technology rapidly approaching the critical make-or-break point is mobile payments. These days, from “touch and go” chip-and-pin credit cards to public transport tickets, there are a growing number of smartcards that are based on a technology called near-field communications (NFC). Over recent years, a growing number of smartphones have embedded these chips, allowing the “tap to share” features on Samsung Galaxy and Microsoft Lumia smartphones. NFC technology received a surge of mainstream attention with its inclusion on iPhone 6, which uses the chip as part of its Apple Pay payment platform. Of course, the great thing about NFC is that you don’t need to be tied into a proprietary walled garden platform such as Apple Pay. Potentially, all of the smartcards in your wallet could potentially be replaced with an app on a smartphone with an NFC chip. Since we’re now at the point where just about every flagship smartphone has NFC, we’re also at the point where it’s plausible for consumers to replace a wallet full of cards with a phone full of apps. Whether consumers embrace the convenience over the next year will be interesting to watch. 3. Multi-device app development The number of tech gadgets on offer to consumers is greater than ever before. A couple of decades ago, the average consumer just had a desktop or laptop in their study at home, and a second on their work desk. Today, a consumer could potentially use a smartwatch, a smartphone, a tablet, a desktop or laptop computer, a smart TV (or a set-top box or games console) and an in-car entertainment system in the course of a single day – and all of them run apps. Where Apple, Google and Microsoft once created operating systems for single devices, they’re now creating app platforms and ecosystems for devices. With Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, Apple added a feature called Handoff that allows users to pass activities from one device to another. With Windows 10, Microsoft will allow a single app to run across a range of devices, including everything from smartphones and tablets to Xbox game consoles, PCs and servers. Meanwhile, with 5.0 Lollipop, Android apps can now run on Chromebooks. Not only that, but Google has created a range of versions of Android for different devices, including cars (Android Auto), wearables (Android Wear), and TVs (Android TV). For businesses, what this means is that consumers are likely to increasingly expect their apps, websites and online services to work seamlessly across a range of different devices and contexts. 4. Health tech The interesting thing about many of these devices is they have potential therapeutic benefits for people with otherwise debilitating medical conditions. Others could be used as a preventative tool to warn users about possible health risks. For example, Google Glass can potentially overlay graphics for people with poor vision highlighting potential risks and dangers. Cloud platforms can be used to collate health records and readings from a range of different devices and sources. Robotics can be applied to help people with limited mobility carry out everyday tasks. The great news is that there are a range of Australian businesses already doing some great research in this area. A great example is Eyenaemia, a new technology, developed by Melbourne medical students Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang, which allows users to diagnose anaemia by taking selfies with their smartphones. The technology has grabbed the attention of none other than Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates himself. “I could see a future version for Eyenaemia being used in developing countries, especially with pregnant women, since anaemia contributes to nearly 20% of deaths during pregnancy,” Gates says. As of August, a health-tech startup group in Melbourne has already managed to attract close to 1000 entrepreneurs and medical professionals to some of its meetings, and a similar group in Brisbane is attracting around 100. Health tech is an area Australia could become a world leader in over the coming years – if the investment and political will is there. 5. Plastic OLED displays A year ago, low production yields put a limit to the production volumes of curved or flexible screen devices. The first curved screen displays appeared on smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex, and at some curved-screen TVs at the International CES trade show. However, prices were high and volumes were limited. It required specialist types of glass, such as Corning’s bendable Willow Glass, to make. The situation is set to change over the coming year thanks to a new technology called called P-OLED (plastic-organic light emitting diode). P-OLED works by sandwiching a layer of organic material, which lights up on receiving an electrical charge, between two sheets of plastic. Along with the organic material, there’s a thin grid made up of a transparent material that conducts electricity (known as an active matrix) that can deliver a charge to each individual pixel. Unlike LCD displays, which require a backlight, all of the light is generated by the organic material, meaning P-OLED displays are thinner as well. It is also thinner than glass AMOLED displays. LG Display, one of the top three display manufacturers worldwide alongside Japan Display (Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi) and Samsung, says we should expect to see bendable tablets next year, with rollable TVs and foldable laptops screens in 2017. 6. Rise of the Chinese tech giants This last one is not so much a new technology, per se, as it is a potential tectonic shift in the tech industry landscape. During 2014, Xiaomi overtook Apple as China’s second-largest smartphone maker and – according to some figures – overtook Samsung as its largest. By the end of the year, it was the world’s third largest smartphone maker by volume, trailing only Samsung and Apple. But while Xiaomi attracted most of the attention, it’s far from the only Chinese electronics maker set to make an impact over the coming years. Lenovo became the world’s largest PC maker by buying IBM’s PC division in 2005, and has recently completed its purchase of Motorola from Google. Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, is also making its consumer electronics play. In their shadows are a range of other brands, such as Coolpad and ZTE. But it’s not just device makers that are having an impact. Look no further than the record-setting $US231.4 billion ($A258.8 billion) IPO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. In conclusion From health tech to mobile payments, there are a range of technologies that will potentially have a big impact on Australian small businesses over the next year. But perhaps the most important thing for businesses will be to make sure your consumers have a seamless digital experience across all of them. This article originally appeared at SmartCompany.
New York-based video journalism startup NowThisMedia has raised $6 million in Series C funding lead by previous backer Oak Investment Partners, TechCrunch reports. The capital raise follows an investment by NCB Universal News Group earlier this year. The startup, founded by BuzzFeed chairman Kenneth Lerer and Huffington Post chief executive Eric Hippeau in 2012, aims to reinvent video journalism in the smartphone era by producing short news clips than can be distributed across mobile and social media platforms. The company’s videos were watched around 40 million times during the month of November. Samsung considers taking on Apple Pay Samsung is in talks with a startup that would help it unveil a wireless mobile payments system that could rival Apple Pay in 2015. The smartphone manufacturer is in talks with mobile payments startup LoopPay and a prototype has been created, according to Recode. The partnership could see Samsung customers pay for items by waving their phone instead of swiping their card or paying with cash. Apple Pay was launched in September this year, using near field communication technology in the iPhone 6 to do away with credit cards and overcrowded wallets. Jury rules Apple did not violate antitrust laws in 2006 An American jury has decided Apple did not violate antitrust laws in 2006, letting the company walk away from a case that could have seen them pay $1 billion in damages. The Verge reports the plaintiffs in the case unsuccessfully argued Apple’s iTunes 7.0 reduced competition by making it less easy for consumers to purchase music for their iPod that wasn’t from Apple. The eight person jury delivered a unanimous verdict that the update was a genuine product improvement and did not adversely harm consumers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 51.18 points or 0.3% to 17,129.66. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US82 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.