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Rich Lister Zhenya Tsvetnenko attempts backdoor listing on ASX for Mpire Media

3:59AM | Thursday, 26 March

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.

BBC to give away computers to get kids to code: could it work here?

3:36AM | Friday, 13 March

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.

Soon smartwatches will listen to your body to work out how you’re feeling

3:25AM | Wednesday, 11 March

Final details of Apple’s new smartwatch have finally arrived at the firm’s glitzy Spring Forward event. But while the hype machine steps up another notch, there are other issues regarding health and self-tracking and, possibly even more important, over wearable tech companies' interest in our emotional lives.   Apple’s Watch records exercise, tracks our movements throughout the day, assesses the amount of time we are stood up and reminds us to get up and move around if we have been sat for too long – let’s not forget Tim Cook’s “sitting is the new cancer” line. It achieves this by means of an accelerometer, a heart rate sensor, WiFi and GPS. There are already many smartwatches on the market such as the Pebble and offerings from LG, Sony, Samsung and Motorola, among others. Of course, these haven’t had the Apple marketing Midas touch.   Whether the Watch will be a flop or success, Apple’s entry is a significant contribution to industry-wide attempts to get us using wearable devices. The market is predicted to grow from 9.7m units in 2013 to 135m in 2018, according to CCS Insight, while a report from UK retailer John Lewis also records steady growth in wearables for health and well-being: sales were up 395% from 2013. This is notable because John Lewis is not aimed at the tech-savvy, and therefore presents a reasonable indicator of mass-market take-up of wearables. Information is power   To understand the significance of Watch and other self-tracking wearables, we should look to Silicon Valley and the Quantified Self movement. This began in San Francisco around 2007 as the editors of Wired magazine, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, initiated a group of like-minded people interested in “self-knowledge through numbers”, a motto and philosophy of sorts for the Quantified Self movement. It entails a deeply libertarian outlook of de-centralisation, a shrunken state, autonomy and self-reliance, and pre-emptive and preventative measures based on the use of data.   Apple’s move into wearables is inevitable as the market grows, but the broader interest in health is also notable. It reflects an interest from corporations and national health providers alike in promoting preventative and anticipatory technologies. The promise wearable technology offers is information: about consumers' and patients’ behaviour, their health, and whether they stick to prescribed treatments.   This has ushered in an age of medical self-interrogation, in real time and real life contexts, whether this be from office pressure, in relationships, or the impact of disease or physical stresses on the body. Wearables are only part of the health story, as advocates of digital health care foresee how the doctor-patient approach would be radically altered by means of wearable monitors and sensors in the home. Technology behemoths such as Apple and Google alongside many startups would clearly be interested in the possibilities offered by reorganising health provision along these lines. Think and act   Beyond health, Apple’s interest in emotion is key to understanding the significance of its watch. Apple’s website promises that we will reach out and connect in ways we never have. Watch will allow us to draw doodle pictures and observe others as they create theirs, give loved ones a “tap” on the wrist to show we are thinking of them, send real-time heartbeats to others, and so on.   The message is to use connectivity to be intimate even at a distance, with the language Apple uses an attempt to claim intimacy and sociability from afar, and to humanise and make palatable what are essentially tracking technologies.   There is however a more literal emotional dimension to biometric technologies: the Watch is an example of what I term empathic media – machines able to assess, collect and make use of data about our emotions. This can be achieved through interpretation of speech patterns and tone, gesture, gaze direction, facial cues, heart rates, and respiration patterns. While Apple’s product does not offer all this (although earlier iterations of Watch made similar promises), it still sits within a wider context of technologies that quite literally feel our bodily reactions.   Until now the online world has understood our preferences through the search term keywords we use and what we click; empathic media will quite literally feel our reactions. This is important because if companies can understand moods, emotions or states of arousal, they have access to information that may sway the decisions we make.   We have yet to see Apple’s privacy policy for the watch. While I’m sure it will state that no personally identifiable information will be disclosed to third-parties, what remains to be seen is what can be drawn from aggregated biometric and emotional data, and where that data ends up. This is a key revenue stream for other empathic media and wearable companies. Will Apple be doing the same?   *This article originally appeared at The Conversation.

Apple releases its watch and makes a surprise move into the area of medical research

3:52AM | Tuesday, 10 March

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.

Apple may have arrived late to the party, but with Watch it's brought a gun to a swordfight

3:45AM | Tuesday, 10 March

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.

It’s not just your TV listening in to your conversation

2:24AM | Wednesday, 11 February

Be careful what you say in front of your new television, following reports that Samsung’s new Smart TVs are now being programmed to listen to every word you say and send it over the internet to a third party cloud service.   The news was originally reported by the The Daily Beast but soon spread far and wide, with some making comparisons to George Orwell’s novel 1984, which depicted a nightmarish world of a state listening into its citizens.   Left: Samsung SmartTV privacy policy, warning users not to discuss personal info in front of their TV Right: 1984 pic.twitter.com/osywjYKV3W— Parker Higgins (@xor) February 8, 2015 Given Samsung’s reputation for sometimes shady practices, there was notably some concern. But how much should we really be worried?   After all, the idea of computers listening to your speech is not a new concept – in both fact and fiction.   Back in the 1970s, the producers of Star Trek decided that one of the preferred communication mechanisms for computers in the future (the original show was set in the 23rd century) would be for people to simply say “computer” and then make a natural language enquiry about the state of the ship or the location of the Klingons.   The computer would dutifully respond giving Captain Kirk or some other crew member all the information they required. The computer was listening and ready to respond at all times and no one seemed concerned about privacy. It all seemed to work perfectly well, except when the Enterprise crew travelled back in time, of course.   Talk to the technology   In the real world, voice recognition and phrase detection systems have existed for some time, going all the way back to the original Dragon Dictate software for the PC in the 1990s (and now available for Macs), and the Mac Dictate software on the equivalent Mac platforms.   The latest smartphones have also started to integrate this concept of voice activation with Apple introducing “Hey Siri” in its latest operating system update (iOS 8).   Google also has the “OK Google” feature for both their Android smartphones and its Google Glass headset (if ever Google Glass makes a comeback).   With both these features, the smartphone begins to act just like the computer in Star Trek, listening all the time for a certain phrase and then responding back when it hears you address it.   Try it for yourself. On your iPhone, find “Hey Siri” in the settings and turn it on, then shout “Hey Siri” from across the room to ask a question; it’s amazing to set a timer or check the weather hands free! Similarly, on your Android device open the Google search and say “Ok Google” and then speak your request.   So, given that these features have existed for a while, why are people now becoming concerned about technology listening in to what they say?   It’s all about privacy and the cloud. All your data are belong to us   This issue arises because of a key difference between those early phrase detection systems and today’s implementations.   In those early systems, before the invention of the modern internet, all of the voice processing was done locally, on the machine that was listening to your voice. No data about what you said was transmitted over a network.   But, in recent years, voice recognition systems have changed. To deal with the limited processing power present in smartphones (and TVs), and to increase voice recognition accuracy, many voice recognition systems now record what you have said. They then upload this to a server in the cloud for analysis, before returning the result to your smartphone for action.   Those with an iPhone will have noticed this due to the fact that Siri cannot take your commands when you are not on the internet, even if the request is a local one (like setting a timer).   While this does increase accuracy and saves your phone’s processor, it also means that any request you make is being sent over the cloud, possibly to a third party organisation.   Combined with the ability of devices to listen all the time, this may cause some people to worry that the machines are keeping track of everything we say.   With the integration of this listening technology into more devices over time (such as the upcoming Google and Apple smartwatches, as well as recent deals to improve voice recognition in cars), there could potentially be a machine in many places listening to your conversations.   So, what to do? Stop talking so loudly, the Internet might hear   Currently, just like the issue with Facebook Messenger last year – when some users were worried about what information the new app would tap into on their devices – it comes down to privacy policies.   Based on the above, it’s reasonable to assume that many devices will now be listening, so it’s worth checking the privacy policies of the various organisations involved to make sure they have stringent controls on the way that your data is shared and stored.   In the case of Samsung, the company has made it clear that the data in question is encrypted and is only used to interpret your commands as issued to the television.   Google and Apple have similar privacy policies as well. So far all these organisations' machines that are listening are bound in what they can do with the data.   It’s worth noting though that all these privacy policies are subject to change at any time. Until we have global policies that deal with the privacy of our data and how it is used, it is possible that in the future anything you say could be used in a different way than you originally thought.   So, perhaps for now, it’s worth watching what you say in front of your TV … and your smartphone … and also your new smartwatch.   This article was originally published at The Conversation.

Apple's success comes from giving us a sense of making progress

2:23AM | Monday, 2 February

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.

Zombie technology: From Palm to Yahoo, the companies that refuse to die

1:28AM | Monday, 19 January

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.

Smaller is smarter at the 2015 International CES

1:16AM | Monday, 12 January

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.

Gadget guide: six new technologies to watch in 2015

12:51AM | Friday, 19 December

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.

THE NEWS WRAP: Video journalism startup raises $6 million

12:32PM | Tuesday, 16 December

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.

Tapit opens US office following rapid international expansion

12:26AM | Tuesday, 16 December

An Australian startup leading the way in contactless communications has opened an office in New York as part of its expansion into the US market.   Tapit, founded in 2011, has been finding new ways for consumers to access information instantly on their phones – all off the back of an aggressive international expansion.   Earlier this year the startup collaborated with the likes of Google and HBO to allow people to access film and television-related content on their smartphones by scanning event posters.   In September, Tapit entered the Chinese market via a partnership with mobile commerce giant 99 Wuxian.   Co-founder and chief executive Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the company opened an office in New York because it wanted to position itself where its clients were.   “There’s a concentration of media in New York and a lot of iconic brands have their global headquarters there, so it made more sense for us to relocate there rather than San Francisco,” he says.   Conyngham says the startup has been using Australia as a “launchpad” for global deals, which has worked well because it can bring those case studies to the US.   “If you do a deal with Google or Microsoft in Australia you have that case study and you can then go to their global teams,” he says.   “You can’t do that unless you do those deals in the US – Skype only takes you so far.”   The company has been helped by the fact that Australia is ahead with contactless communication in comparison to other countries, according to Conyngham.   “You’ve seen the massive take-up of tap and pay with credit cards and that has put us ahead in the contactless ecosystem. So we’ve been lucky to have headquarters here in that regard because the US is a bit behind – even in the UK.”   Tapit also has offices in Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai. The fast-growing startup has pioneered contactless communications for brands such as Telstra, Vodafone, Coca-Cola, Samsung and Sony.   There are around 635 million smartphones fitted with near-field communications technology around the world, and Tapit expects that number to grow to one billion by 2015.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Inside Slush: day one of Europe’s biggest tech conference

11:14AM | Wednesday, 19 November

The first impressions of Helsinki in winter evoke words like “grim” and “desolate”. Rather than shying away from the imagery of a frozen northern landscape, Slush embraces it with the slogan “welcome to the north”.   While slightly foreboding, the message is one of a frontier in both location and the startup ecosystem. Where Nokia once held the world’s attention for Finnish tech companies, the country’s gaming scene has charged into focus with Rovio’s Angry Birds followed by Supercell’s Clash of Clans as almost default downloads for addictive mobile gaming.   The Slush experience starts right from the beginning, at a sparse airport with a surprising amount of the non-European startup community spilling out into the freezing winds. Including more than a few Australians, who we will meet over the coming days.   Day One    With what can only be called spectacular growth, Slush has outgrown its previous venue and settled into the Messukeskus convention centre on the edge of town. With an almost absurd amount of attention to detail, the team have converted an enormous convention centre into a thriving and beautiful rave, complete with smoke machines, lasers, and dubstep breakdown.   The venue is set up around four major stages, one dedicated entirely to the startup battle pitching 100 international and local startups against each other for a top prize of 250,000 euros. Yes, euros. This alone would be an incredible ringside event, but the day kicks off at high speed with Finland’s Prime Minister Alexander Stubb taking the Silver Stage to launch the event. In the process affirming his support for the national tech and startup community and sharing his belief that "kids need to learn coding at school”.   A small comment but a big point of difference compared to the debate surrounding reports in Australia released by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, suggesting that a digital technologies curriculum was unnecessary in Australia as a point of focus for our future workforce.   Cementing the contrast are furthers comments by Estonia’s young Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, taking the stage to boast that the country sets the record for most startups per capita, and that he has actively studied the success of major local startup success stories that include the Microsoft acquisition of Skype.   Also on the political tip, a few words from surprise guest Chinese Vice Prime-Minister Wang Yang, who despite the pomp and ceremony of his attendance, managed to drop a locally relevant joke by way of “I’m not angry, I’m a fan of Angry Birds”. A little lost in translation perhaps, but it’s the thought that counts.   Game On    Elsewhere, the schedule splits the crowds into three major streams of Gaming, Leadership and Enterprise Software. On the gaming tip, Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani speaks about leading the curve in converting his company to operating in English, a tactic that is now taught in business school as one of the secrets of Samsung’s success on South Korea. For Mikitani’s moves, he said the appreciation was a long time coming.   “Many people really critiqued me & called me crazy,” he said. “But it now allows them to hire from all over the world, and 80% are non-Japanese and the diversity has helped us to become more innovative and is core to our growth.”   Similar scaling lessons were shared by GungHo Online Entertainment founder Taizo Son and Supercell’s CEO Ilkka Paananen in a surprisingly intimate fireside chat.   Taizo Son notably sharing tales of the days of his shame in being unable to make payroll for the staff of the then-fledging gaming company. The now-billionaire laughing now about advice that startup life is not unlike a video game. "You are like Super Mario,” said Son. "You are struggling in the first stage but its fun to play”.   Building a successful company is a game that has come at the cost of many mistakes, with Son claiming that more than 80% of his decisions over the last 15 years have been failures. He advises that startups embrace the opportunity to fail as not only one to learn, but one to define the potential path.   "In most of cases we can’t execute what we think ideally so we have to align with the failures.”   Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen on the other hand advised a theme of team dynamics and persistence as a path to luck.   "Most successful people don’t know why they are successful so luck does play a role,” said Paananen.  "Even if they did know, how do you know those methods are applicable to you situation?”   Instead of reliance on advice he spoke of the importance of forming a hard working team with a strong dynamic, and taking the input of adviser’s with a grain of salt.   "Be humble and listen to everybody, but make the decisions yourselves and trust your instincts,” Paananen said. Adding a cautionary comment on the topic of diversity, stating that he "would never invest in a group that does the same thing as I did".   Back from the dead (but where is Snake?)   Of the many product announcements making the most of the event’s media platform today, the most high profile was the launch of the Nokia N1 tablet. Being released in time for the Chinese New Year of February 15, Nokia is jumping back into the consumer hardware space with a competitively priced $249 tablet.   The bombastic launch and focus on releasing into the Chinese market first showed a renewed enthusiasm after the Finnish company sold its handset business to Microsoft. To be clear, this is the Nokia mothership reasserting its relevance after selling off it’s most well-known product arm, and we will reserve judgement until we get our hands-on media demo on the second day of Slush tomorrow. In the meantime, the bravado is infectious. At least as far as Scandinavian culture goes, with Nokia’s head of products Sebastian Nystrom taking his time to soak up the stage.   “They said RIP Nokia. I say they couldn’t be more wrong”.   It wasn’t quite a Jobs-esque performance, but the local crowd were rapturous with the potential of the local heroes rising again.   Mikko, don’t kill my vibe    In the “mind equals blown” category of the day was the direly titled “RIP Internet”, presented by Finnish security expert (and regular conference celebrity talker) Mikko Hypponen. As a veteran of computer security, Mikko spoke of the looming dangers in the infrastructure of the internet, and the potential for it to be damaged or destroyed by either neglect or intent.   “Sometimes it feels like we’ve built a monster,” Hypponen reflected. “We are running our critical infrastructure with ‘projects’”. While an advocate for open source, he points out the recent Heartbleed and Shellshock vulnerabilities of popular and in many cases essential open-source projects, and asks if there’s not a better way to ensure the development of such ubiquitous infrastructure technology.   On a darker note, Hypponen walks through an example of governmental interference, showing examples of a WhatsApp message sent during the Hong Kong riots. The message claimed to be from protesters, linking to software to allow them to communicate and organise via a private network. The network allegedly run by the Chinese government as a way to access personal details and track the key organisers of the riots. Heavy.   Other examples of impending doom included known cases of bot networks formed via insecure devices in the category of the Internet of Things.   “Who wants to infect [web enabled] toasters? It beats me - but combined they make an effective bitcoin mining network!”   Design first (or when you need a pick-me-up)    For those needing a break from the security downers, a Product Design feature on the Green Stage ranged across topics of interface design, UX and hardware design.   Microsoft’s hardware phone designer Peter Griffith talked about obsessive details in hardware development, while Infogram’s Ikko Jarvenpaa talked about the responsibility and ethics of startups where trends and opportunities outpace the legal framework.   “Technology moves faster than laws, creating unregulated opportunities,” said Järvenpää. “But we need to be mindful of societal repercussions. With great power comes great responsibility, yes, but those of us working with highly scalable technologies wield great power”   What does on sauna stays in sauna    As the sessions wound down for the day the halls were cleared to transform into party mode, seeing a literal army of local volunteers spill out to convert the promo stands, stages and social spaces into one big party venue.   Given it already looks like that rave I accidentally went to that time and didn’t inhale at, it’s no surprise.   But what goes on startup tour, stays on startup tour. Unless you follow the tweet stream, in which case you can tune in tomorrow for more live action on the floor of Slush 2014 – including a hands-on with the Nokia N1 and an introduction to the (crazy) Australians that have made the pilgrimage from Down Under to the northern frontiers of global technology and startup culture.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How these six new technology predictions fared in 2014: Control Shift

11:03AM | Thursday, 13 November

Futurologists are a common feature at business conferences.   Unfortunately, many aren’t held accountable to how their predictions pan out. We’re all still waiting for our flying cars, clean reliable fusion power plants and 3D holograms.   In November last year, I picked six new technologies that were likely to make an impact in 2014. So how did they fare?   Here’s what happened:   1. Curved and flexible displays   This first pick came with a caveat:   “Unfortunately, getting devices with a curved or flexible screen produced on a production line designed for flat screen devices has turned out to have been far more difficult than it initially seemed… As a result, you’re unlikely to see these devices outside South Korea in the immediate future.”   Sure enough, at the International CES in Las Vegas, Samsung demonstrated curved-screen TVs as the centrepiece of its display. In January, LG launched the G Flex curved-screen smartphone in Australia.   Meanwhile more recently, at its Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event alongside the IFA trade show, Samsung unveiled a new curved-edge smartphone called the Galaxy Note Edge.   As predicted, there have been issues putting flexible and curved glass into mass production. However, LG Display appears to have come up with a solution: Using plastic instead of glass in a new display technology called P-OLED (Plastic-Organic Light Emitting Diode).   The thin, flexible display technology helped it to create a round-screen Android Gear smartwatch called the G Watch R, along with a smartphone that has a display that runs right to the edge screen.   The company expects smartphones and tablets that are designed to bend (and fold flat after being bent) to begin appearing next year, with rollable tablets, foldable-screen laptops and flexible TVs coming sometime in 2017.   2. Smart TVs   Whether it’s smart TVs that run apps out of the box, set-top boxes or HDMI thumb sticks (such as Google ChromeCast), 2014 was a massive year on the smart TV front.   The year kicked off at CES with LG reviving the Palm Pilot operating system (webOS) for its smart TVs and Panasonic partnering with Mozilla to put Firefox OS on its TVs.   Not to be outdone, in June Google announced Android TV, a new platform for smart TV apps and content. Last month, it announced the first set-top box to use the platform, known as the Nexus Player. Also from Google, a little device known as the ChromeCast finally reached Australia in May.   Amazon saw the action and said “me too”, releasing its version of the ChromeCast in October and a set-top box called Fire TV in April.   So what will people watch on all these smart devices? The best news is that streaming video service Netflix is set to launch in Australia.   It seems the humble “idiot box” has never been smarter than it was in 2014.   3. Smartwatches   Apple Watch was announced this year. Need I say any more?   Even putting Apple Watch aside, 2014 was a huge year for smartwatches. Google also announced its smartwatch platform, known as Android Wear, which in turn powers devices from a range of companies including Sony, LG, Samsung, Motorola and others.   These devices are all packed with a range of apps and features – and they’ll even tell you what the time is.   4. Augmented reality glasses   Google Glass got a limited public release this year with a range of fashionable frames and prescription lenses. Sony released the software development kit for its Google Glass clone.   But the real big mover was a related technology called virtual reality. Jaws dropped when Facebook paid $2 billion for virtual reality device maker Oculus. Last month, Samsung announced the first consumer device based on the technology, known as Gear VR.   You could say 2014 was the year augmented reality and virtual reality became a reality for consumers.   5. Home automation   Google kicked off the year by launching its home automation push with the $3.2 billion takeover of smart thermostat maker Nest. The tech giant encouraged other businesses, including Australian smart-light maker LiFX, to build new devices that connected to Nest.   Apple responded in June by launching HomeKit as part of iOS 8. The technology makes it easy for third-party device makers to allow their devices to be controlled with iPhones and iPads.   6. Low-end smartphones   This is a topic I’ve touched on over the past couple of weeks. The short version is we’re reaching a saturation point in the smartphone market, while low-cost vendors such as Xiaomi are booming in China.   The great news for consumers is, even with the Australia tax, buying an affordable smartphone has never been more affordable.   Throughout the year, a range of devices (including the Moto E and Moto G, the Kogan Agora 4G and the Microsoft Lumia 635 and 530) hit the local market. Each boasted features once the preserve of high-end devices and – best of all – prices well under $300 outright.   Conclusion   Forget about waiting for that flying car.   From smartwatches to smart TVs and low-end smartphones to home automation, the six technologies on the future gadget form guide ran a strong race in 2014.   When some of this technology will make it into the average person’s home is another question.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

'Bendgate' tests: Just 31 kg of pressure to deform an Apple iPhone 6, compared to 68 kg for Samsung Galaxy Note 3

9:37PM | Monday, 29 September

It takes significantly less pressure to bend an Apple iPhone 6 than most other smartphones, according to tests conducted by US consumer website Consumer Reports.   The results come after claims on social media and online message boards that the company’s latest flagship smartphones can be easily bent went viral.   Following reports on social media about iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones being bent in users’ pockets, YouTube user Lewis Hilsenteger posted a series of videos demonstrating how easily the device can be bent with human hands.   The videos appear to show that applying pressure on the back of an iPhone 6 Plus at a specific spot near the volume controls while at the same time pushing downwards on the edges of the screen can cause the device to first warp and then break.   Consumer Reports responded by testing how much pressure it takes to break the iPhone 6, although with the pressure applied across the middle of the device rather than in the specific spot demonstrated in Hilsenteger’s videos.   The report notes that the iPhone 6 bends at 70 pounds (or 31 kilograms) of pressure and breaks at 100 pounds (45 kg), while the iPhone 6 Plus bends at 90 pounds (40.8 kg) and breaks at 110 pounds (49.8 kg).   This is significantly less than the 130 pounds (58.9 kg) required to bend the iPhone 5 or 150 pounds (68 kg) for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.   For its part, Apple is claiming just nine users have complained about their device bending within the first six days of the product’s release, although the bending phenomena was noticed by Wired in its review of the device.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany..

LG agrees to partnership with Microsoft on Internet of Things

9:15AM | Thursday, 25 September

LG will partner with Microsoft on the Internet of Things, in a deal that will see the consumer electronics giant develop new products and services based on Microsoft’s cloud computing platforms.   According to reports in the Korea Times and the Korea Herald, the agreement was struck between senior LG executives and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella during a dinner meeting at the InterContinental Hotel in Seoul.   The agreement will see LG unveil new products aimed both at consumers and the business market at a Microsoft event in Las Vegas, Nevada, next year.   Both LG and Microsoft are members of the AllSeen Alliance, an industry body which is working on open standards for Internet of Things devices.   The agreement comes just a day after Microsoft agreed to peace talks with Samsung over ongoing patent infringement litigation between the companies.   However, it is unclear whether LG is planning to build smartphones in the future running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, with its plans subject to change due to “market conditions”.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany..

Apple and Google make changes in the battle for new markets

9:47PM | Tuesday, 23 September

Has Google finally decided to take total control of its Android destiny with the release of its Android One operating system?   Aimed at “emerging markets”, such as India, Google will operate the smartphone device rather than handing over to hardware partners such as Samsung and HTC.   Historically, Google has taken a hands-off approach to Android, providing it “free” to manufacturers as an open source product.       These manufacturers have a reputation for adding on their own extra features such as the Samsung TouchWiz user interface.   The assumed goal was that a better mobile experience for consumers would funnel them towards Google’s other products such as its popular search.   In contrast, Android One will not allow that customisation, giving Google full control of the operating system users get. So perhaps the latest move represents a paradigm shift for the company?   The life and times of Android   The approach taken with the Android operating system has always been more open than that taken by rival Apple with its iOS operating system.   In fact, in general Android has always been considered more open than iOS, starting from the very beginning before the company was acquired by Google and the original Android operating system was released open source to the community.   That version of the operating system still exists today and is used by companies such as Amazon on its Kindle Fire tablet. This creates what software developers call a “fork”, with the base Android operating system sitting underneath the customisations that Amazon makes.     But in recent times Google has begun to demonstrate a desire to take more control of its operating system. Starting with the Nexus phones and devices, which involved Google providing a reference design for both phone and operating system free of the extras added by the hardware manufacturers and the carriers.   This has continued with the announcement of Android One, with Google starting to become more involved in the entire process and trying to own the user experience.   Products such as Google Glass represent other forays into this vertical integration, an area traditionally embraced by their main competitor, Apple.   But Apple is starting to change its approach as well.   A more open Apple?   Apple has always been a product focused company. Starting with the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 and continuing with the iPhone and other iOS devices, Apple has always strived to control the whole experience of hardware, software and services.           Earlier this month in a television interview with Charlie Rose, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple values vertical integration and wants to control their primary product.   But looking at Apple, industry insiders can begin to see a shift in the way that the company operates. The most recent hardware and software announced by Apple (announced one week before the first Android One smartphones) provides a lot more control for developers and users than they’ve ever had before.   Features such as extensions allow apps to communicate with each other and users to share data among apps through the share pane. Developers can add features to place small apps called widgets in the notification centre or to enable actionable notifications, allowing you to (for instance) respond directly to a Facebook message from within the notification.   And, in an unprecedented move, users can replace the Apple provided keyboard with a third party alternative. While all of these sound like small changes, they represent Apple relinquishing control of some parts of their iOS experience back to developers, a major departure from when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007.           In his interview with Charlie Rose, Tim Cook was also asked what companies Apple competed with and, without hesitation he nominated Google as the main competitor, even going so far as to downplay Samsung as a competitor as the Android operating system was created by Google.     This is especially interesting given that Apple has slowly moved Google out of its phones, (in)famously replacing Google Maps with Apple Maps a couple of years ago as well as slowly enhancing the voice recognising personal assistant, Siri, to perform many of the functions that Google performs with search.   Even though the Apple Maps launch was riddled with problems (with users claiming the experience was sub par compared to the Google offering and prompting Tim Cook to issue an apology), Apple is clearly looking to shed itself of Google and own more of this part of the experience too.   A new battle for market (and mind) share   So, over the course of September, both Google and Apple have shown a new side to themselves. Both are pushing into new markets, with Android One specifically targeted at the China/India market.   Many analysts suggest that the iPhone 6 Plus is an Apple foray into the desire for “bigger phones” in the same market.   To conquer this market and maintain a foothold on the market in existing developed countries, it would appear both companies are making some changes - with Google taking control of its destiny while Apple becomes more open.   Both are baby steps for now, but perhaps this is the beginning of a new battle, for the market (and mind) of more and more consumers.

THE NEWS WRAP: Oculus offers glimpse to the future of virtual reality with Crescent Bay prototype

9:21PM | Sunday, 21 September

Oculus has unveiled its new prototype Crescent Bay. It’s not an official developer kit, rather a “feature prototype” designed to show off the future of what Oculus is doing.   Crescent Bay features a faster frame rate and is lighter than previous prototypes, has 360-degree head tracking, and integrated headphones.   The prototype was revealed at the Oculus Connect conference where Oculus also announced the new Oculus Platform, which is coming to the Samsung VR.   The platform brings virtual reality to a large audience through mobile apps, web browsers and a VR content discovery channel.   Getty launches image sharing app   Getty Images, the company which sells image licensing rights, has launched an iOS app, Stream, targeted at non-professionals, Businessweek reports.   The app lets people browse through Getty’s images from professional photographers, with a special focus on curated collections.   Google Plus no longer mandatory for Gmail   Google is no longer requiring Gmail users to connect their account to a Google+ profile, a move which Wordstream’s Larry Kim speculates could be another sign the end is close for the troubled social network.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 13.75 to 17,279.74. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US89 cents.

Apple iPhone 6 release: Australian app developers and startups react

9:54AM | Monday, 22 September

Apple has now released its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones in Australia, and the near inevitable crowds are – once again – lining up around the block.   So what does the news mean for Australian software studios and app developers?   Is this likely to be an “insanely great” development that will boost revenues and sales for local startups? Perhaps it will mean more headaches for developers? Or will this mean less than some would anticipate?   We asked a number of developers and entrepreneurs to find out:   Clipp co-founder and chairman Greg Taylor   It looks like a bigger iPhone 5s – but with some amazingly beautiful and innovative new rounded edges!   The best part for Clipp is Apple Pay. Apple Pay will provides our customers with another payment option to credit card and PayPal, the major benefit being customers not having to enter their credit card, overcoming any concerns of credit card security.   Apple Pay will be a huge driver to mobile payment adoption, which is great for Clipp.   Anytime Apple releases a new iOS, I get very nervous, particularly a major release like iOS 8. There is a strong history of many apps not working on each major release. I have already received an email from a widely used app this morning warning customers not to upgrade to iOS 8. Apple don't give developers much time at all from releasing the final version until consumers can download it. If something does not work, there is not enough time to fix it, test it and put it through the App store approval process (approximately two weeks) prior to it hitting the market.   Tapit co-founder Jamie Conyngham   The fact that NFC is in the iPhone 6 is a huge reversal for Apple, and we are super excited by it. As recent as 12 months ago TechCrunch reported that Apple was never going to take NFC up so we're really glad to see it's there.   The fact that they have put it in for payments is amazing for the industry and we are already feeling the shock waves. People now understand that everything is going to be NFC payments in a short amount of time. We have been waiting for the banks, credit card companies and retailers to begin educating the mass market about NFC for payments for a while, as it was always going to be a big driver for the technology so it will be a great opportunity. Organisations are finally realising that NFC services are coming and they are all going to start planning for it.   Unfortunately, it won't be available for other great NFC applications like tag reading/pairing and apps for about 12 months. In the meantime, Tapit will continue working with open NFC partners like Samsung to improve and innovate on new ways to use NFC, as well as executing bigger information and advertising projects. Tapit will also continue using beacons and QR for Apple users in the meantime as well.   Outware Mobile director Danny Gorog   “iPhone 6 and iOS 8 are an incredible opportunity for Outware. Many of our clients including ANZ, Telstra, AFL and Coles are excited about the new larger displays and the added flexibility that iOS 8 provides. We’re already well underway to ensure our clients apps are fully iOS 8 and iPhone 6 compliant.   As specialists in large scale finance and insurance apps, we believe the new NFC capabilities in iPhone 6 will change the mobile payment landscape and the way Australians want to pay and shop. Australia has one of the highest penetration rates of tap and go terminals in the world so we are a perfect fit for this technology.”   Squixa chief executive Stewart McGrath   Devices like the iPhone 6 are a response to the consumer demand for easier access to more content. In the last four years, the average webpage size has nearly tripled while average connection "speeds" have only doubled. This is putting great pressure on website owners to utilise better ways of delivering increased content to these devices but still maintain a quality user experience.   The challenge to keep pace and make use of the attributes of these devices is now being pushed back onto website owners. Higher resolution screens mean images need to be sharper and improved processing capacity means laggy web content delivery is more noticeable for a user.   We expect the consumer demand for content to grow at an exponential rate and platforms like the "six" are the hardware manufacturers' answer. The pressure is on website owners now for sure. The ones who are responding are setting themselves apart from their competition.   Will Heine, Wicked WItch Software   Again the new iPhone launch has been very successful, so there will be more iPhones in the marketplace and new consumers that can enjoy our games like Catapult King. As well as more users, the new devices are again more powerful, which allows more advanced features of our game engine technology to run on mobile and tablet devices, resulting in improved graphical and gameplay quality in all of our upcoming titles.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Microsoft at risk of being in contempt of court for not handing over Irish emails: The News Wrap

9:32PM | Wednesday, 3 September

A United States federal court judge is considering whether or not to hold Microsoft in contempt for defying orders to give the US government e-mails stored on a server overseas.   It is the first case that is testing the Obama administration’s position that any company with operations in the United States must comply with valid warrants for data, regardless of where the content is stored.   The US government is after email stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland that it believes is associated with drug trafficking.   Samsung reveals the latest additions to its Note series   The fourth smartphone in Samsung’s Note series, the Galaxy Note 4, has been revealed.   It features a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560x1440 Super AMOLED) display, a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera, a 2.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor with a 600MHz Adreno 420 GPU, and 3GB of RAM.   The phone will be available in October, although the price has not yet been set.   The Galaxy Note Edge includes many of the same features, albeit a slightly smaller screen at 5.6 inches. Where it differs is with its sloped edge screen, which includes a default quick launcher that gives users access to a bunch of their most used apps.   Isis rebrands   The US mobile wallet platform Isis backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon is rebranding and in a few weeks will become Softcard.   The startup announced a few months ago that it would be changing its name in an attempt to distance itself from any potential association with the Islamic militant group of the same name.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 10.72 to 17,078.28. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

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