The age of drones has arrived quicker than the laws that govern them

9:59AM | Monday, 14 September

 Just because you may not have seen a drone overhead doesn’t mean it hasn’t seen you. And, as was demonstrated by the killing of two British jihadis in Syria recently, these unmanned aerial vehicles are increasingly deployed by the West as frontline weapons of war.   Drones are set to become a defining feature of this century. Thousands are already in operation in most developed countries worldwide – and that is likely to grow to hundreds of thousands as drones of different shapes and sizes are deployed by the media, emergency services, scientists, farmers, sports enthusiasts, hobbyists, photographers, the armed forces and government agencies.   Eventually commercial uses will dwarf all others. Amazon promises to deliver purchases within 30 minutes via delivery drones. Domino’s Pizza has staged hot pizza drone delivery. More than 20 industries are approved to fly commercial drones in the US alone, and developing countries are following suit.   The question is, is this boom in drones moving faster than the law? How to fit such a proliferation of drones into the current regulations? The answers will need to be written into national and international laws quickly in order to govern an increasingly busy airspace. Many existing laws may need to be tweaked, including those governing cyber-security, stalking, privacy and human rights legislation, insurance, contract and commercial law, even the laws of war.   There have after all been numerous suspect or dangerous uses of drones already. For example, illegal flights over seven nuclear plants across France, disruption to US forest fire-fighting, and seven near-misses at airports in the UK. In the US several landowners have shot them down, leading to court cases that pit claims of trespass and the right to privacy against criminal damage.   Piecemeal legal changes not enough French legislators responded swiftly with a police order to the first balloon flights by the Montgolfier Brothers in 1784 by prohibiting all flights over Paris without prior authorisation. In the same way sovereign states ought to define precisely how and when they will permit drone flights over their territory. So far legal development to govern drone use has been very piecemeal; most countries have done nothing yet.   Again, it was France that was first to introduce dedicated legislation governing drones through a decree in 2012 bringing drones within its civil aviation regulations. Drones are allowed to fly between 50-150 metres from the ground and there are penalties up to five years in prison and fines of 75,000 euros for unlawful use of a drone.   Also in 2012, the US congress passed the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Modernisation and Reform Act which required the integration of civil drones into national airspace by the end of September 2015.   The Italian Civil Aviation Authority issued commercial drone regulations in April 2014. The law vaguely requires the operators to comply with data-protection laws and hold insurance. In the meantime, controversial Italian surveillance firm Hacking Team is already developing drones capable of delivering spyware to computers and smartphones, infecting them via Wi-Fi.   However, the UK has struggled with fitting drones into its legal framework as neither the Civil Aviation Act nor the Air Navigation Order provide a good fit. The Department for Transport recently announced plans to introduce fines of up to £2,500 for flying drones in built-up areas. Some clarity is provided by the CAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace Guidance, which requires drone pilots to maintain direct line of sight with drones and limits their altitude to a maximum 120 metres. Small drones must avoid and give way to manned aircraft at all times.     Delivery by drone is already a happening in Switzerland. Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA   Flying in the face of the law The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) plans to introduce policies to regulate civilian drone flight by 2028 worldwide. The EU and US have signed a formal agreement to cooperate on integrating drones into civil air traffic management. But consensus is notoriously difficult in international regulation – it could take decades to achieve a global agreement.   The last international civil air treaty of note is the 1944 Chicago convention. This impressive treaty created the standards for the common use of airspace between nations. For example, that every nation has sovereignty over its airspace and that no aircraft operated by the state (such as military or police) will fly over other states without authorisation. It also required nations air regulations to be obeyed and required aircraft to be registered and display their registration marks.   For drones, however, it’s not clear what types and sizes of drones are required to be registered and display their nationality. There are drones the size of small birds or even coins that can fly across national borders in near-invisibility, upsetting these egalitarian rules. It’s vital these issues are comprehensively dealt with quickly in a new treaty, in the same spirit of egalitarianism as at Chicago in 1944.   Dronefare versus Lawfare For many, drones are typified by their use for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US is reported to have up to 7,000 drones in Afghanistan, with the main source of funding for developing modern drone technology coming from the military.   Successive US governments’ policies of conducting drone assassinations will perhaps go down as one of the most egregious use of air power in human history, with thousands of lives lost in an amorphous conflict against vaguely-defined al-Qaeda and ISIS “affiliates”. The only legitimisation in most cases appears to be White House’s early morning bureaucratic meetings.   The American Civil Liberties Union has correctly addressed this, stating: “The targeted killing program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous … it is dangerous to characterise the entire planet as a battlefield.” A recent RAF strike was the first targeted UK drone attack on a British citizen. However, UK armed Reaper drones have accounted for up to a third of the 100 airstrikes) in Iraq alone as at January 2015.   Lethal drone technology is going to be available to nearly all countries in a very short time. The possibility that even a few dozen states might follow the path beaten by the US is really a scary proposition – as what goes around may fly around. Gbenga Oduntan, Senior Lecturer in International Commercial Law, University of Kent This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Blue sky thinker raises $200,000 to bring Google Analytics-style data to bricks-and-mortar retailers

3:00AM | Friday, 13 March

David Mah, the co-founder of successful online shopping app Blue Sky, has raised $200,000 in seed funding for his latest venture, which provides Google Analytics-style real-time data to bricks-and-mortar retailers.   Mah told StartupSmart Kepler Analytics uses passive Wi-Fi sensors to help retailers measure and understand real-time customer behaviour on a continuous basis, allowing them to design better experiences for their customers.   “Today, brick-and-mortar retailers are not able to get much feedback on in-store marketing ROI, visual merchandising effectiveness and conversion rates. This is because the current methods, like hiring observers and deploying thermal cameras, are very expensive and time-consuming,” Mah says.   “Kepler is built around low-cost, highly accurate passive Wi-Fi based sensors. It’s a different technology to iBeacons, which are based on Bluetooth. We can achieve accuracy of 85% to 95%, which exceeds the industry requirement of 80% accuracy.”   While privacy is a growing concern for many shoppers, Mah is keen to stress that all the data collected through the platform is completely anonymous, allowing shoppers to remain private.   “We don’t want to know who you are. In fact, our sensors are passive and do not capture any personal information. We only report customer behavioural data on an aggregate level to inform retailers on how to optimise their stores,” he says.   According to Mah, there are three key ways his previous experience with online retail has helped him develop Kepler.   “First, having a retailer contact base. It helps a lot knowing people who can provide good-quality feedback. Secondly, we gained a lot of experience with online analytics, which led us to build a product that could provide the same insight for bricks-and-mortar retailers. And third, by demonstrating to our customers that we can deliver.”   “I co-founded the company with Nigel Ang in January 2015. We have secured seed funding of $200,000 and will be applying for a government innovation grant called the Entrepreneur Infrastructure Program that matches investments dollar-for-dollar.”   Despite only being a couple of months old, the company has hit the ground running, and is already trialling the technology with two national retailers and one international retailer, ahead of an anticipated official release in July. Behind the scenes, Kepler has also assembled a team of experienced retail, engineering and data experts   “We are looking for five more medium-sized retail partners to run trials with and strategic investors who can help accelerate our growth. We want to become the standard for in-store customer analytics in Asia-Pacific.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

On-demand streaming space competition just heated up

2:49PM | Tuesday, 17 February

With the launch of streaming service Stan, and Netflix set to hit Australian shores at the end of March, consumers are more spoilt for choice when it comes to subscription content than ever before.   However, customer acquisition, internet speeds, data allowances and increasing competition from other providers are all factors which existing and future on-demand platforms will have to overcome in order to gain a foothold in the local market.   Andrew Julian,product lead at Gyde, told StartupSmart 2015 is going to be a “very interesting and great year” for consumers of on-demand films and television.   “Competition is always great for the consumer and we’ve been underserved in Australia for such a long time now,” he says.   “There’s no question competition is really going to benefit the consumer. It’s also important to understand that the services differ between what’s called subscription video on demand (SVOD) and transaction video on demand (TVOD)… our view is that many more services and not just content are moving towards a subscription model.”   However, just because consumers are welcoming on-demand video streaming platforms with open arms, does not mean these services won’t have to overcome obstacles in order to launch – and eventually scale – in the Australian market.   Chief executive and co-founder of on-demand streaming service EzyFlix, Craig White, told StartupSmart content rights acquisition is the first major barrier to entry faced by on-demand TV and movie streaming startups.   “This isn’t in and of itself for the faint-hearted and you have to prove your business model and case to the content rights holders before you can entertain a second meeting,” he says.   “Then it gets to chequebook time to acquire content that is going to be meaningfully competitive or differentiated. The more people that enter [the space] the more difficult it is to build your business case and get past that first hurdle.”   Issues surrounding infrastructure – such as Wi-Fi speeds and data limits – are also significant, according to White.   “We hope over time the internet will get faster, the NBN will roll out, and data plans will become more competitive,” he says.   “There is a lot of investment that streaming companies need to do to overcome those barriers that aren’t controllable like internet speed and the like.”   Ultimately, White predicts the majority of Australians will have a “staple” on-demand video service – the frontrunner of which will likely be Netflix – in addition to other platforms that cover the rest of their consumer habits.   “They are going to move in and out of the different services and what will anchor them to one or another will be what’s core to their entertainment needs,” he says.   “The first challenge in all that is going to be education because consumers don’t yet know for the most part what differentiates the services and it’s going to be intuitive. In our case the focus is on the new release movies which are the lifeblood of entertainment.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Maker movement inspires startup to develop electronics education

1:39AM | Wednesday, 28 January

The maker movement in Australia and overseas is set for a big push thanks to a startup that wants to make it simple and easy for people to learn about hardware and electronics.   Pirates Electronics wants to make it simple and fun for people to learn about electronics through a series of online tutorials.   Founder Stéphane Recouvreur says he originally had the idea for the startup a couple of months ago after looking to learn more about electronics.   “What I realised was all the resources available online are absolutely horrible,” he says.   “At the same time, Codecademy was teaching coding skills on the internet. I thought there should be a Codecademy for electronics.”   Within two days of putting up a simple landing page, around 400 people had signed up via email to flag their interest in the service. From there, Recouvreur turned to crowdfunding through Kickstarter.   “After a week I collected just less than $7000 and there are still 20 days to go,” he says.   “It’s a very good feeling that people are interested in your project and willing to give money based on a few mock-ups and your idea.”   Recouvreur says he is hoping to get the site up and running in around six months, and will be bringing other people with expertise in electronics and websites to help turn the project into a reality.   “The past couple of years there’s a lot of focus on coding and making websites and I definitely think there’s room for going beyond that,” he says.   “I’ve been helping with a few hackathons – one in Wollongong – and there’s a fair few [participants] that do websites and another group that do hardware. There is a missing link for people – they don’t know where to start. I want to provide them a simple way to get started in electronics.”   Recouvreur says the Kickstarter campaign was a great way to promote the startup.   “From day one it was definitely focused all over the world,” he says.   “I’m looking at a few backers from Australia, the US, Finland and a couple from India. I want the solution to be available everywhere.”   Australia is home to a number of successful startups to come out of the ‘maker movement’, including the Wi-Fi enabled light bulb LIFX which raised $1.3 million in six days on Kickstarter in 2012 before raising an additional $2.1 million from investors. In December, Adelaide startup Makers Empire announced a partnership with US toy giant Sphero.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Health tech startup uses wearables to help seniors have more mobility

1:17PM | Sunday, 18 January

Two-year-old Sydney health tech startup mCareWatch is attracting interest in overseas markets with a smartwatch and platform that can help carers to monitor seniors both inside and outside the home.   mCareWatch’s core product is a waterproof smartwatch that bundles a mobile phone with its own SIM with GPS and Wi-Fi to track location. Unlike other pendant and personal alarm systems, such as sensor platform Curo, the standalone smartwatch works outside the home.   Aside from telling the time, the watch has an SOS emergency notification button and can make calls to one of three numbers in an emergency. It can also be set to send a ‘geo-fence’ notification when the wearer moves beyond a particular distance from their home, which can be used to alert carers to a lost dementia patient.   Carers, be they a family member or a staff member at an aged care facility, can remotely monitor patients either through an app (available for iOS and iPhone), or through a cloud-based web dashboard.   The system was created by brothers Paul Apostolis and Peter Apostolopoulos after a health scare involving their elderly father, and comes as the health tech innovation community is booming across Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne.   Apostolopoulos told Private Media the device is aimed at providing extra mobility for wearers inside and out, allowing them to visit friends, go shopping or have an evening walk with peace of mind.   “We launched the first generation about two years ago. We knew we wanted to enter quickly to test the market and get feedback,” Apostolopoulos says. “When we first launched, the service focused around the mobile app and was originally around the consumer being able to monitor mum and dad remotely.   “We launched the second generation with new features like Wi-Fi and an improved charging mechanism, and we took it into aged care providers with a software solution… Our customers now include Able Care, St Vincent Care and Bankstown City Aged Care, which introduced it as part of their independent living package.”   The product is also gaining a significant amount of interest across South East Asia, appointing a distributor in Malaysia last year and recently opening an office in Indonesia.   The company plans to introduce a ‘third generation’ version of the product sometime around April or May. It has also identified other potential verticals as possible markets, such as lone workers, employees in the logistics industry, and the security industry.   “The next generation will take it more into the mobile health space. It will allow the watch to be a community hub. You will be able to connect biometric measures throughout the home to it, and it will send that information to a cloud platform and then package it for the appropriate person.”   Apostolopoulos says that, especially with an aging population, health tech is set for growth over the coming years.   “Health tech is definitely a growth area and that’s based on wearables. Preventative care is important as people stay at home more and you need technology to monitor patient’s health in a way that’s efficient.   “Preventative care is an important issue because you can provide an intervention before someone winds up in a hospital, which means more spending by governments.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Netflix rules out offline viewing

12:32PM | Wednesday, 17 December

A Netflix executive has ruled out offering customers the ability to view popular television shows and films offline.   “It’s never going to happen,” Netflix’s director of corporate communications and technology Cliff Edwards told TechRadar.   The statement has shot down hopes the popular video streaming service would allow customers to download videos to watch offline in a similar fashion to music streaming service Spotify.   Instead, Edwards argues better Wi-Fi coverage – particularly on public transport – is a more suitable long-term solution as opposed to offline viewing.   Last month Netflix confirmed it would expand into Australia and New Zealand in March 2015. The company has more than 50 million members worldwide.   Leaked emails reveal Snapchat acquisitions   Emails leaked during the Sony Pictures hack have revealed multimillion-dollar acquisitions made by Snapchat, as well as the startup’s plans to include a music feature.   TechCrunch reports that emails leaked between Sony Entertainment chief executive Michael Lynton and Snapchat board member Mitch Lansky reveal the picture and video-sharing app acquired QR scanning startup Scan.me for $14 million in cash, $3 million in restricted stock units and $33 million in Class B common Snapchat stock.   Other emails reveal Snapchat reportedly paid $10 million in cash and $20 million in stock and bonuses for startup AddLive.   Dating startup Zoosk puts IPO plans on hold   Online dating platform Zoosk has backed away from its IPO plans and will revisit its options at a later date, according to TechCrunch.   The company launched in 2007 and filed for a $100 million IPO in April.   The news comes at the same time as a leadership reshuffle, with chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg replacing cofounder Shayan Zadeh as chief executive. Zadeh will be taking up a position on the company’s board.   According to IBIS World, the dating services market is work $113 million in Australia.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 312.33 points or 1.83% to 17,381.2. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US81 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Is anything ‘private’ anymore? How social media and tech companies sniff out your data

10:49AM | Thursday, 16 October

With all the new mobile devices come the potential new methods for advertisers to keep track of you across all your devices. They are given access through deals done by the large platforms and gatekeepers of your information.   Here are a few of the ways the big social media and tech companies are accessing your data and using it for profit.   Facebook: It has access to enormous amounts of very personal metadata collected from all of its users, including everything from employment, family, hair colour, friends, travel, home location and many other details. Mined from its users, this information is considered very valuable for advertisers and marketers.   Another way Facebook tracks your movements is when you use your Facebook sign-in for other websites. This is also tracked by Facebook.   And Facebook owns a number of apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, that collect your information through your usage of the app. Facebook is large and looking to expand both its platform and ability to track your movements. It will keep purchasing and creating new ways to find and sell your information as this is its greatest income source.   Apple: Its main tracking is through your email address and iTunes account, which tracks your credit card data and usage. When you purchase anything through an Apple device or using any Apple system, this information is used so the ads you see are normally reflecting your past activities.   Google: When you log in to any Google account, you are then tied into the massive Google network. It also uses an Android mobile operating system which assigns each user a Google Ad ID. Google has many ad products and services such as AdSense, which access your ad identifier and compile the information with all the other YouTube, Gmail, Search and other personal digital history information, irrespective of what device you may be using. So why don’t they have to notify you of the use of your personal information? Because when you sign up to their services, you agree to their terms which include using your personal data as they please for advertising purposes. However, Google is still involved in class-action suits in various states in the US regarding its right to analyse message content and sell byproducts to advertisers. It is argued as beyond the scope of what is intended by the use of personal information.   Google maintains it has the right to collect even your most sensitive data as long as it flows across an open Wi-Fi network. Google has been doing a lot more than its lobbyists and executives are disclosing when they are defending their initiatives.   They could easily make collection of information for advertising more privacy-friendly if they wanted or were forced to, but at the moment we are at the mercy of the dominant operating system vendors who are not required to do so. Be aware: deals are being struck selling your information As you may have seen in the news recently, Facebook has struck a deal to sell access to your data to MasterCard. It claims it is not your ‘personal data’ but it includes your location, spending, connections and much more. This may not be personal data to some but it still seems very ‘personal’.   This is likely the first of many deals to help monetise the ‘free’ Facebook model and seems to be the model for many large platform service providers on the internet. It is likely not to be the last.   One thing that is important to remember about all this: it does not matter whether you are using an Android or an iOS device; you can still turn off many of the tracking mechanisms in the menu settings.   Yet it still makes one wonder what is left under the ‘personal data’ legal definition anymore.

Customers to provide the hotspots in Telstra’s new Wi-Fi plan

10:16AM | Thursday, 9 October

Telstra’s plans to rollout Australia’s largest Wi-Fi network over the next five years involves asking existing customers to allow part of their broadband connection to be used as hotspots.   More than two million new hotspots are planned as part of the A$100 million-plus strategy to increase broadband connectivity in the places that Australians live, work and visit daily. The first 1,000-hotspots will go live before Christmas.   But only two years ago Telstra shelved its plan to build a 1,000 hotspot Wi-Fi network, citing a lack of profitability and a clear customer preference for 3G connectivity.   So what has changed?   In contrast to the fixed line National Broadband Network (NBN) quagmire, the shifting position of Telstra with regards to Wi-Fi reflects a rapidly evolving wireless telecommunications market.   The continued uptake of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices, and the increasingly central role these devices play in social, economic and political life, is generating a phenomenal demand for wireless data.   This is outpacing the development of cellular network capacity and creating congestion and reduced service quality on these networks. Telstra’s interest in developing a Wi-Fi network to offload some of this data traffic mirrors that by its international counterparts.   The fundamental role that wireless communications now play in contemporary life has also translated into government interest in the provision of public Wi-Fi as civic infrastructure. Governments are well placed to do so since they control assets, such as light poles, on which the large number of low-range Wi-Fi access points can be mounted.   While Telstra will make use of some of its own assets, such as public pay phone booths, it is seeking to establish hotspots in partnership with governments. This will spread the cost of provision, but Telstra are also undoubtedly keen to maintain some control over public Wi-Fi developments to make sure it reduces cellular congestion without cutting into its existing revenue streams.         Telstra has also developed a business model that it believes will make sure Wi-Fi becomes a profitable revenue stream. Use of Wi-Fi hotspots by Telstra’s contracted home and business broadband customers will count towards their already monetised bandwidth allowance.   Those without Telstra home broadband services will pay a fee to access the hotspots, the pricepoint of which will likely be structured to facilitate casual use but encourage regular users to consider signing up to Telstra broadband.   Compelling as these reasons may be for Telstra to dip back into Wi-Fi provision, shareholders might be forgiven for worrying that the rollout of two million hotspots is an overcommitment, and one that will present similar headaches to those faced by NBN Co. But they should fear not, as Telstra will build just 8,000 of these hotspots, with the majority actually rolled out by Telstra’s customers themselves.   A Fon on your Wi-Fi network   A fascinating aspect of Telstra’s plan is its partnership with the European-based bandwidth sharing enterprise Fon. Telstra hopes that two million of its customers will follow the lead of Fon users around the globe and make part of the bandwidth they purchase for their home or business broadband service available to other users.   So what is Fon, and are Telstra’s plans feasible?   Fon was established in 2005 by Argentinian entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky. The company is headquartered in Spain, a country with a significant history of community wireless activism, such as guifi.net.   Despite affectionate references to its community of “foneros”, Fon has moved some way from its cooperative roots. Backed by some heavyweight venture capitalists, Fon broke even after four years of operation.         The company has been signing exclusive deals with foreign telcos like Telstra as a means of rapidly expanding its international hotspot network. The company now claims to have more than 13 million Fon spots worldwide. These will be available to Telstra customers through the deal.   Fon’s bandwidth-sharing scheme is not unique, but its scale and ambition sets it apart. Commentators have been intrigued by the company’s evolving blend of user-generated and commercial elements.   But its service model – which concentrates provision in private homes and residential areas – has been criticised for its variable accessibility and reliability. This concern would seem to be amplified in the large spaces of Australian cities.   How many of the projected two million hotspots will be in low density neighbourhoods where Wi-Fi signals may not extend much beyond the front gate, or where there is little passing foot traffic? Will lingering outside houses to utilise the network boost commitment to the sharing economy, or arouse suspicion?   Such suspicion will hardly be allayed by Fon’s unfortunate description of non-sharing network users as “aliens”.   Telstra, then, will be tasked with boosting provision in commercial and tourist areas, and identifying incentives for householders to sign up and share.   Who benefits from the deal?   Specifically, it enables Telstra to secure a new footing in Australia’s rapidly evolving Wi-Fi scene. By asking Telstra’s customers to purchase and maintain a key component of the network infrastructure – the signal splitting modem – Telstra outsources infrastructure investment.   More speculatively, the new network may generate revenue from casual users and remove data traffic from mobile networks in favour of premium voice services.   Fon is aiming to build its global community but its business is currently concentrated in Europe, North-east Asia and South America. An alliance with Telstra brings Fon into the Asia-Pacific region. Partnering with major telcos may also help counter criticism of Fon’s reliability.   The new hotspot network will provide a new platform for Telstra customers to access bandwidth from their home broadband plan and, depending on pricing and performance, may provide cost effective internet access for non-customers.   More generally, roll-out of the network is likely to expand commercial Wi-Fi coverage in Australian cities, and may promote innovation and further technical development.   Ian McShane receives funding from the Australian Research Council. Chris K Wilson and Mark A Gregory do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Could your Nest do with a little more Zen? Meet the Aussie startup building a simpler, smarter thermostat

9:51AM | Friday, 5 September

Melbourne-based startup Planet Innovation has raised nearly $50,000 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo in just days for a device called Zen, which it claims is the first thermostat that is not either “extremely unattractive” or “too complicated to use”.   Zen, a smartphone-controlled thermostat, is designed to work over Wi-Fi with iControl’s OpenHome Labs and other smart home systems such as Apple HomeKit.   Aside from being controlled through an app, the thermostat can be controlled with a touch screen on the front of the device, rather than through push-buttons. It features a minimalist design, and is attached to the wall using magnets, unlike other thermostats that are attached with screws.   Since starting the Indiegogo campaign on August 31, as of publication, as of publication, Planet Innovation has raised $47,895 of its $50,000 target from 333 funders with 26 days to go.   While the device is likely to draw comparisons to Google Nest, Planet innovation marketing manager Roger Langsdon says it is likely to find a different market segment.   “I think Nest has helped to take thermostats out of the dark ages, but it’s gone too far and become too complicated,” Langsdon says.   “With Zen, it’s a simple design and the smarts are in the app, not in the device… There’s a whole market for people who want a beautiful thermostat, but who aren’t particularly technical. And Nest can be intimidating for them.”   Principal industrial designer at Planet Innovation, Ben Druce, told Private Media Zen aims to be “smart” in the sense that it is simple to install and easy to use.   “Another difference between us and Nest is the removal of a lot of the in-depth functionality. What we’ve done is present users with the bare minimum of what they need to do, and that’s control the temperature,” Druce says.   “It did come about independently,” Langsdon says. “We’ve been playing with home technology and other thermostats for around three or four years now, we ended up putting the two together.”   The crowdfunding campaign comes with most of the development work on the device already completed, with assistance from key staff from US-based firm MMB.   “The product is well developed at this point. Don’t get me wrong – the money will be useful in setting up the factory tooling for mass production – but we’re mostly using it for market validation.   “This is the easiest way of getting feedback quickly by putting it in front of hundreds of users all around the world in order to get feedback.”   Langsdon says he would like to see Zen available on a mass scale, with the device already attracting attention from potential channel partners in both North America and Australia.   “At the moment, we’re hoping to meet our target in the next few hours. For the team, it’s been an amazing journey. We finished in December and ship in January,” Langsdon says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

From quacks to quarks: What crowdfunding could do for duck genitalia and black holes

8:28AM | Monday, 18 August

  Last year US-based scientist Patricia Brennan was forced to defend the National Science Foundation’s decision to fund her study in duck genitalia, something the scientific community regarded as totally legitimate.   It’s not an uncommon problem, and one the University of New South Wales hopes to address by launching Thinkable, a crowdfunding platform that aims to make it easier for the public to understand the value of scientific research.   Thinkable founder and chief scientist Dr Ben McNeil, a researcher at the University of New South Wales, points out it’s often the most “curious” of projects that end up being most important.   Take CSIRO scientist John O’Sullivan, who was investigating black holes when he developed a key patent used in Wi-Fi.   “The importance of those crazy ideas hasn’t been well communicated. It may seem to be completely irrelevant, but the biggest discoveries often come from those areas,” McNeil says.   “These types of areas of research are getting cut and it’s because it’s hard to argue the benefits. We’re trying to give anyone access to learn and fund and track this type of research if they want to.   “In many ways specialisation creates a disconnect with more and more people.   “The ability for people to connect with your research is dampened, paradoxically.”     McNeil describes Thinkable as an open science platform where researchers at universities or research institutions will be able to display their projects, and if they want to, attempt to raise funding.   Users will be able to learn about projects via quick video snippets similar to those found on Pozible and Indiegogo, and track their progress.   “The complexity of science makes it inaccessible for a lot of people, but elevator pitches are the way to change that,” he says.   “There’s this huge broken system of how the world connects to our work, as well as how we engage with the world.   “Anyone can come onto Thinkable and learn, track researchers, see what they do and engage with them – that’s the number one priority for us.”   Five University of New South Wales researchers are the first to showcase their projects on the platform, with ideas for studying ocean acidification, blindness, heart disease, alcohol consumption and obsessive compulsive disorder.”   Thinkable is now calling on more researchers to join the platform and provide updates on their research.   “Right now we’re building the community,” McNeil says.   “We want to build an ideas network with cutting edge ideas from people who are doing really great stuff.   “The initiative will not only accelerate discovery, it will build greater trust and communication between scientists and the public, by democratising science.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Mondelez brands pick their Aussie startup partners for Mobile Futures

7:18AM | Monday, 14 July

Mondelez International has announced its five startup partners for its Mobile Futures program.   They will work with five Australian Mondelez International brands to develop mobile marketing solutions in 90 days.   Cadbury Dairy Milk will be partnering with Snaploader, which uses image recognition to connect images with relevant content.   Marvellous Creations has selected MyShout, a mobile app that allows users to gift their friends with food and drinks at their favourite cafes, bars and restaurants.   Philadelphia Cream Cheese chose Issue to drive branded content via a bespoke magazine that is interactive and shoppable.   BelVita will work with Proximiti, using geo-analytics to create personalised consumer experiences.   And finally, Cadbury Favourites will be taking to the SkyFii with Wi-Fi beacons to help venue owners better understand and engage with consumers via mobile.   The five startups were chosen from 13 who were invited to a pitch event two weeks ago, after being selected from 60 applications.   They will receive $40,000 in funding to work with each brand over the 90 day period with the goal of customising and implementing mobile platforms and activating pilot programs.   Mondelez International head of marketing services Anthony Ho says the company is excited to see what the startups and the company’s brands can create. “Mobile use is increasing and there’s a lot of innovation coming out of Australian startups to cater for these audiences,” he says.   “We want to be leaders in this space and use mobile innovation to connect with consumers and create new experiences with our brands.”   Pollenizer was the main partner of the program in Australia and startup coach Steve Sammartino says the incubator helped Mondelez recruit and select the 13 startups that eventually would pitch for the program.   “We aimed to find some of the most disruptive technologies that are breaking the retail space in Australia,” he says.   “All were excellent pitches, very reflective of the emerging trends coming out of the startup space at the moment.”

LG calls kids an ‘ideal market for wearables’, announces tracking bracelet for kids

7:13AM | Thursday, 10 July

Consumer electronics giant LG is releasing another new wearable, with the device allowing parents to track the whereabouts of their kids 24/7.   The KizON wristband will use GPS, Wi-Fi, as well as 2G and 3G mobile networks to track the whereabouts of pre-school and primary school children.   The device contains a button that allows the child to automatically call a preconfigured number through the device, with the number able to be set using an Android smartphone or tablet.   The device also can be called from any one of the preconfigured numbers, with the device automatically answering the call if the child fails to answer within 10 seconds.   In a statement, LG Electronics Mobile president Jong-seok Park says “children as well as the elderly are ideal customers for wearable technologies”.   "Wearables allow us to stay connected without the worry of losing a device or the inconvenience of having to carry a large item in a pocket. At LG, we’re committed to exploring more ways to incorporate wearable devices into consumers lives in line with our vision to become a leader in wearables," Park says.   The device will be released in South Korea on July 10, with the company promising releases in North America and Europe during the third quarter of 2014. The announcement comes as the company rolls out its Android Wear-powered G Watch wearable.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Startups a beacon of hope for snack food giant’s quest to change its culture

7:48AM | Thursday, 3 July

Are beacons the future for snack food companies? You might think so given they were the common theme amongst the startup pitches at Mondelez International’s Mobile Futures Pitch in Melbourne this week.   The snack food giant is searching for startups that can work to solve pressing problems facing some if its major brands.   Mondelez International owns brands like Cadbury Dairy Milk and Philadelphia Cream Cheese, among others.   Thirteen startups pitched over the course of the two day event, which began on Wednesday and ended on Thursday, hoping to become one of five that will receive $40,000 to work closely with Mondelez with the goal of launching a pilot program in 90 days.   The thirteen startups included:   Streethawk – segmentation, messaging, campaign automation and measurement plug-in for apps. Issue – turns brand content into a magazine that is interactive and shoppable, curating content from social media, blogs and product categories. Popup Brands – an online marketplace for listing and booking short-term commercial spaces. Snaploader – uses image recognition to enable users to snap an image and connect to all the relevant content behind the image and augmented reality to enhance the content experience. Kouperific – an app that distributes interactive, gamified coupons to a consumer’s mobile phone in order to drive impulse buying and improve positive brand perception. Proximiti – a location-based services and geo-analytics platform that helps companies craft personalised customer interactions and discover insights from geo-spatial and customer location data. SkyFii – mobile technology that uses Wi-Fi and beacons to help venue owners understand their visitors and engage with them via mobile. Lighthouse – a mobile marketing platform that leverages Bluetooth low energy beacons to deliver content and experiences based on proximity to things in the physical world. MyShout – a mobile app that allows you to shout your friends food and drinks at cafés, bars and restaurants. OnePulse – a new take on market research that produces real-time consumer insights effectively and inexpensively via mobile. GeoMoby – geo-location platform that uses GPS, BLE, Wi-Fi and GSM to deliver the right mobile message to the right person at the right time. BlueCats – allows marketers to add context to any app user’s experience in real time using BLE beacon, an SDK and a cloud-based management platform. Blocks Global – has developed Screener, a disruptive approach to traditional signage software, delivering stable web content to digital signage in-store, in real-time.   Mondelez International corporate affairs manager Julian Polachek, who was one of the judges for the pitch event, says all 13 startups did a fantastic job with their pitches.   The 13 startups were the best of 60 who applied to take part in the program.   “It was really engaging, so professional overall,” he says.   “Really interesting to see a spread of ages, professional backgrounds and also to see the ideas were so refined.   “There was a ubiquitous mention of beacons throughout the whole thing. Beacons were absolutely everywhere, but the particular take that each startup had on the beacons, you see how differently they could use the technology.”   He says the winning startups will be notified late next week and shortly after they will be linked up with the brands they will be working with.   Brand managers from each brand will then spend an ‘emersion week’ where they go and work inside their respective startups.   Mondelez International has run similar programs in the United States and Brazil.   “It’s so interesting seeing the cultural change aspect of the project really dawn on (Mondelez) participants,” Polachek says.   “Startups are vastly different to how we typically work inside the company. For good or bad we come with 100 plus years of knowledge about how we do things in manufacturing.   “In some sense some of that has to be unlearned. For these guys to be successful, they need to learn to fail often and in small ways, which is what startups are absolutely about.   “The challenge of changing our culture into a more entrepreneurial culture is going to take a while, but what we’re trying to do here is change it rapidly.”

OPINION: How Google Drive for business fits with a home security business

6:39AM | Thursday, 26 June

Google’s main developer conference for the year – Google I/O – has kicked off in California.   For weeks ahead of time, speculation about Android Wear smartwatches, new Google Nexus devices and a possible update to its Android or Chrome OS operating systems.   So Google raised a few eyebrows when, ahead of the conference, it announced it’s shilling out $US555 million (approximately A$591 million) for a company called Dropcam. The newly acquired business is being combined with Nest, the smart smoke detector and thermostat company Google purchased in January for $US3.2 billion.   The company makes small security cameras with built-in microphones and speakers that connect to the internet over Wi-Fi and stream encrypted video and video to the cloud.   Once the camera is set up, the user can use the company’s iOS, Android or web app to stream video and video from their camera, or speak through the camera’s built-in speaker, allowing for two-way communications.   The company also offers the option of recording up 30 days of continuous security video and share favourite clips with family and friends.   The deal sparked a lot of discussion and speculation. Was Google interested in monitoring people’s houses, shops and businesses to glean even more data for its search rankings?   No sooner had the ink dried on the contract when, in Australia, Telstra announced a security deal of its own.   Through a joint venture with firm SNP Security, called TelstraSNP Monitoring, the telecommunications giant will offer will offer monitored security for business and residential customers. While SNP will continue offering guard and petrol services, its video surveillance and security alarm arm will be swallowed by the new venture.   A secure solution   Now, certainly both Google and Telstra have long been interested in security. But it’s mostly been of the cybersecurity and network security variety. So why the sudden interest in catching real-life crooks?   The reason comes down to two topics I’ve discussed a fair bit in recent weeks: Cloud computing and the internet of things.   While people still often think about the “internet of things” as connecting fridges to the internet. However, a real-world example of a situation where there are practical benefits in hooking up a device to the internet is with security cameras.   As I’ve discussed previously, IoT is an evolutionary trend, rather than a revolutionary one. In this case, connecting security cameras and alarms to the cloud allows for easy off-site storage of footage (with a cloud provider), as well as the ability to monitor footage in real time from almost any device anywhere in the world.   In many cases, internet-connected cameras will allow for more flexibility than if all the cameras were physically wired back to a control room or stored at the original location on video tape. (That being said, you can still do both of those things if you stream the footage over the internet).   For reasons I’ve previously discussed, the cost of cloud-based services has fallen through the floor in recent times. Today's announcement of Google Drive for business, with unlimited cloud-based storage for $10 per user per month, is a perfect example.   The cloud adding value   With the cost of providing the underlying cloud computing and storage services falling, the real business opportunity for cloud providers such as Google and Telstra is in providing value added services over the top.   Centralised video camera monitoring and security footage storage over the cloud is one example of where cloud service providers like Google and Telstra can add value for customers.   And if you combine security camera vision in a cloud-based with real-time information from other devices, you begin to build a powerful platform that can be used to remotely monitor facilities and equipment, without physically needing to have staff on the ground.   What it means for you   So what does all this mean for your business?   Well, in many sectors – such as retail or property management – security cameras have long been a fact of business life. A cloud-based, IoT solution could be a far more effective yet cost-effective alternative to existing video surveillance systems.   And if loss prevention is part of your business, that’s certainly worth looking into.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

Internode rolls out free Wi-Fi hotspots in Adelaide CBD

6:58PM | Wednesday, 25 June

South Australians will no longer have to search for a hot spot or a café with Wi-Fi in the Adelaide CBD, as the city today switches on free wireless network access throughout central Adelaide.   While Telstra is rolling out its Wi-Fi hotspots across Australia, national broadband provider Internode, a subsidiary of iiNet, has got a jump on the South Australian Wi-Fi game with the creation of its AdelaideFree wireless network.   Launched today in partnership with the South Australian government and Adelaide City Council, Internode says AdelaideFree’s 300 wireless access points across the city will saturate almost the entire CBD, offering free Wi-Fi to more than 30,000 people.   Internode says the network will provide blanket coverage between North Terrace and Wakefield Street/Grote Street and broad access areas in the south city, North Adelaide and the most heavily frequented parts of the Adelaide parklands.   “Already people in Adelaide are embracing this new Wi-Fi capacity. Internode has recorded about 50 per cent increase in use of the Wi-Fi network since announcing AdelaideFree’s deployment last year,” said Internode chief business officer Greg Bader.   AdelaideFree is installed at external locations throughout the CBD including the Festival Centre, the SA Museum, the State Library, the National Wine Centre and the corporate function centre located in the historic Adelaide Stock Exchange building.   The telco says the network is one of the largest CBD-wide outdoor wireless networks in the world and was well tested during Adelaide’s “Mad March” festival season.

How to prepare to manufacture hardware: compliance testing

6:32AM | Thursday, 19 June

Drawing from our experience bringing Holiday by MooresCloud to market, this series covers the whole journey: concept to design, preparation for mass production, compliance testing, manufacturing, and what to do when things break down – because they will break down.   Part Three: Compliance   After a manufacturer has been selected, the bill of materials supplied, components ordered, and a manufacturing process put into place, a test manufacturing should fabricate around a dozen units. This test run does more than stress the manufacturing processes, because these units will be used in compliance testing.   To purchase liability insurance – a necessary protection when selling products into market – a product must be able to show it complies with all regulatory and safety requirements.   Every nation has its own set of rules to which products must adhere. Products must be non-toxic (or, if toxic, clearly labelled as such), and the normal operation of a product must not put people into danger.   Electronic products must meet those criteria; additionally, they must not interfere with the operation of other electronic products. An electronic product must not electrocute its users, nor can it generate radio interference at levels which disturb the operation of other electronic devices, such as radios, televisions, computers, mobiles, etc.   In order to ensure a product meets these criteria, it must be put through a compliance testing procedure.   Compliance testing can only be performed on manufactured units. A prototype unit, however complete, is not a candidate for compliance certification, because the compliance process is in effect certifying that the manufacturing process is repeatedly producing units that pass compliance tests.     C-Tick compliance   In Australia, compliance is done through a self-certification model known as C-Tick. Rather than having a central certifying authority which holds registration for certified products, C-Tick requires manufacturers to maintain documentation indicating they have passed the required certification tests.   In contrast, America’s FCC requires manufacturers file documentation proving a device generates levels of radio interference within the limits allowed by law.   Compliance must be completed before full-scale manufacturing begins. This creates a chicken-and-egg scenario, where manufacturing must begin before compliance testing can take place, but the results of compliance testing can significantly alter the manufacturing process and even the design of the product.   Selecting a compliance facility   The choice of compliance testing facility can be vitally important. We asked one of our Chinese manufacturing partners to perform compliance testing for us, but grew increasingly concerned that the rigorousness of their testing procedures might not stand up to detailed scrutiny. Instead, we employed local talent at EMC Technologies, located in Sydney.   That turned out to be a wise decision. Having a facility close at hand helped us quickly work through our compliance issues.   Holiday by MooresCloud uses a power supply that comes with its own C-Tick certification, so we didn’t need to certify that component, and because Holiday consumes less than 15W of power, there are no statutory requirements around electrocution risk – the device simply doesn’t draw enough power to be a worry.   Go-to fail   Our major compliance concerns centred on radio interference. Holiday has a seven metre wire – basically, an antenna – carrying high-frequency signals that drive its colour LEDs, as well as a CPU running at nearly half a gigahertz, and a USB Wi-Fi adapter on the 2.4 Ghz band. Holiday is noisy. And Holiday failed compliance tests.   Twice.     The second time Holiday failed the compliance test, an RF compliance testing consultant was brought in to help us locate and fix the problematic areas in our design. It took only a few days – but it cost us.   Not only were these failures expensive – our total certification bill ran to over $7000 – they added significantly to our manufacturing costs. We had to purchase more expensive power supplies, because our original selection lacked the filtering necessary to keep signals from leaking out of Holiday and into household wiring.   We also had to add a tiny capacitor to each LED, to keep the radio interference on the string within regulatory limits.     That component had not been included on any of the 25,000 LED assemblies we had already manufactured. Instead, those capacitors would need to be added by hand, during the assembly process. Those two changes – both required for C-Tick compliance – added over $10 per unit in costs.   Comply early, comply often   MooresCloud learned three key lessons about compliance: ●     Get to a manufacturing run as quickly as possible, so you have units ready for compliance testing; ●     Build compliance testing into your prototyping process – if your prototypes can pass compliance testing, it’s likely your manufactured units will as well; ●     Don’t leave compliance testing until the end.   If we’d followed these steps, MooresCloud would have saved itself a bit of time and considerable money.   Next: what to do when things go wrong.

Your end of financial year business checklist: Five steps to save time and money

6:23AM | Tuesday, 10 June

We’re also a startup business at Legal123.com.au – just like you. And so as we approach the end of the financial year we’d thought we’d post some helpful advice about what’s on our “to do” list with June 30 fast approaching.   1. Change from monthly to annual subscriptions: review your services   Pre-paying expenses is an often repeated end-of-year tax strategy, so pay as many of your expenses pre-June 30 to minimise your tax bill. This is one of the more obvious items you are likely already doing.   But as an online business we use a lot of subscription-type services, which are mostly billed monthly to a company credit card. These expenses are usual for most businesses: web hosting, video hosting, website analytics packages, social media monitoring services, backup plans, etc.   However, most of these services offer discounts for committing to an annual subscription – in the order of 10-15%. It’s worth checking out and this is the time to do it.   So we reviewed all of our monthly subscriptions and services. First of all, we made sure we were going to stick with the service, and if not, found an alternative service or dropped the activity entirely. Then we checked and applied for any annual discounts. Dollars saved are dollars made.   2. Get ready for cloud accounting on July 1   At Legal123, we actually moved onto cloud accounting two years ago. This made such a huge difference to our business, we think it is worth mentioning for this year.   We can’t speak highly enough about cloud computing. For us, the advantages were threefold:   No spreadsheets and end-of-year panic Better communication and up-to-the-minute advice from our accountant Real-time reporting and knowing exactly where we are financially   If you’re not using a product like Xero, you should be. And if you’re thinking of using such a product, get ready and do it now. Transferring over at the beginning of the financial year will make your life a lot easier.   As it was, we transferred over two months after the year started and there’s quite a lot of work importing transactions from bank accounts, PayPal, etc. A lot of this could have been avoided with a neat and tidy switch over on July 1.   3. Outsource those small, nagging projects   This is another part of the pre-paying expenses idea which also takes advantage of the “end of year get it done now” euphoria that small business owners experience pre-June 30.   I don’t know about you, but I love that buzz.   We’ve got six or so smallish projects that have stalled. Plus we’re in the middle of a website re-design. It’s a great time to knock those projects over now.   Publish the project online – we use eLance and 99designs – pick a freelancer, give them all the information they need and let them get the job done. And don’t forget to ensure you pay their costs pre-June 30.   4. Purchase any small assets or consumables   As a 100% online business, we’re surprised how little we spend on office consumables, etc. Almost all our documentation is electronic, we share files, send email (sometimes with massive attachments), almost never go into the Post Office, and we hold Skype meetings rather than battle rush hour traffic.   But we still needed better Wi-Fi in one of our back offices – so it’s a great time to buy a Wi-Fi repeater. We also wanted to upgrade our business iPads and every year we upgrade our computers – so off to the Apple store. And we thought we’d also ‘pre-load’ our online advertising budget, which is probably our biggest consumable expense.   That’s it. Not a lot, but worth doing a check around the office to see what needs upgrading or pre-paying and doing it now.   5. Review our financials and plan for next year   Lastly, we always have a mid-June discussion with our accountant. Just to ensure they know the lay of the land and there are no surprises; they can confirm the superannuation and other payments that need to be paid, etc.   And of course they can just log into our Xero cloud accounts and see everything for themselves. Brilliant. It has saved a lot of time and money, ours and the accountant’s.   But it’s also a good time for us to review the whole year, assess progress. We don’t have set budgets, but we do have a very clear strategic direction and financial goals, so it’s good to review those.   And then the fun stuff – planning the next year and visualising what it will be like. What new products will we add, which will we drop, how will our positioning change, what the message will be, what extra help do we need, where will we find those new members of the team, etc.   Let the heated debates and coffee drinking begin!

Telstra asks small businesses to hand over their Wi-Fi for hot spots

5:25AM | Tuesday, 27 May

Small businesses will be able to use Telstra’s $100 million national public Wi-Fi network to provide free internet to their customers.   Telstra is asking its small business customers if they will turn their service into a Telstra Wi-Fi hotspot and to be promoted by Telstra as a destination to connect.   Alan Crouch, director of connected home at Telstra, told SmartCompany it was a great offer to small businesses such as cafes, shops and doctors surgeries.   “The whole idea is to be able to provide a place for people to connect,” says Crouch.   “When they’re out and about getting a coffee or when they’re at the doctor, they’ll see the Telstra Wi-Fi there and it gives them a chance to have multiple choices on how they connect.”   Telstra broadband customers will be able to install new gateways allowing them to share a portion of their usage quota each month in exchange for free access to the network.   Crouch says the details of commercial negotiations and costs for business haven’t yet been decided.   “It’s really a ‘better together’ scenario, there’s mutual benefits,” says Crouch.   “We’re providing a service to people that’s going to make them want to come visit shops.”   He says the telco has had considerable interest in the Wi-Fi hotspots in the past 24 hours since it announced its new network.   “We’re asking all of Telstra’s small business customers to start this conversation with us.”   Small business owner and Telstra customer Salvatore Malatesta, the man behind Melbourne’s popular St Ali cafes, says he would welcome the Wi-Fi hotspot in his cafes.   But he says the business already spends a considerable amount on corporate phone plans and would not want to pay any extra fees for the service.   “If they want ambassadorial clients to embrace their technology and give them lots of love on social media platforms and that sort of thing, then it should be free,” says Malatesta.   Interested business can register their interest here.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Wireless world: Telcos invest as we become more mobile

5:44AM | Tuesday, 20 May

News that Telstra plans to build a national wi-fi network, as reported by The Australian and Fairfax mastheads, shouldn’t come as a shock. Given the volatility of anything and everything to do with mobile internet use, nothing should surprise us any more. But it should scare you.   Telstra’s plan, which is being announced right on Crikey’s deadline, will — according to tweets from ZDNet’s Josh Taylor — reportedly see $100 million spent showering the country with new modems for broadband customers who choose to act as wi-fi hotspots using Fon sharing technology. It’ll be free to use by the telco’s fixed broadband customers, although any data used will count towards their quota, and a “small daily fee” for others.   Arranging free wi-fi for fixed broadband customers is not uncommon in Asian and North American cities, although the Fon sharing is a less common twist, and it’s a logical move for Telstra for the same reasons. It makes the telco’s fixed broadband packages more attractive, it reduces the load on 3G/4G mobile broadband services in high-traffic areas, and — not talked about so much — it provides more opportunities to track customer behaviour for all those data mining and monetisation strategies that make modern telcos into something much more like a media company.   For all the hype around the “mobility revolution”, and while consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices away from the home or office, the growth in Australia’s mobile broadband market was just 3% in the 12 months to December 2013, according to research released yesterday by analyst firm Telsyte.   The proliferation of public wi-fi hotspots, which Telsyte analyst Alvin Lee says are “sprouting like mushrooms and are now widely supported by local councils, shopping centres, local businesses and increasingly our transport networks”, means that there’s less need for a dedicated mobile broadband device — particularly as most smartphones can now operate as a wi-fi hotspot, and people are becoming more comfortable pressing that button.   “The opportunity for dedicated mobile broadband is diminishing even as mobile traffic continues to grow,” Lee said. As a result, Telsyte believes telcos will only be able to monetise 20% of the consumer media tablet market.   Indeed, why would anyone want to load yet another device into their pocket, perhaps with yet another charger, and certainly with another monthly bill?   Whether this will play out well commercially for Telstra remains to be seen. As Fairfax’s David Ramli points out:   “Other Australian companies have attempted to use Wi-Fi hotspots to give customers more internet services on the go with very low success rates.”   iiNet sees its wi-fi offering more as a marketing tool.   My weekend in San Francisco showed how this might play out. AT&T has wi-fi hotspots across the city, and you see their branding every time you look for a connection. It left an impression. But at the same time, most bars, cafes and shopping malls have “free” wi-fi too — along with power outlets and somewhere to sit.   “Free” is in scare quotes there because the use of wi-fi for tracking consumers is becoming ever more sophisticated. Toronto-based Turnstyle is just one of the companies pushing the boundaries in this regard. By rolling out a unified wi-fi network throughout the shopping district, they can track people as they go about their business. As The Wall Street Journal reported in January:   “Turnstyle’s weekly reports to clients use aggregate numbers and don’t include people’s names. But the company does collect the names, ages, genders, and social media profiles of some people who log in with Facebook to a free wi-fi service that Turnstyle runs at local restaurants and coffee shops… It uses that information, along with the wider foot traffic data, to come up dozens lifestyle categories, including yoga-goers, people who like theater, and hipsters.”   If Telstra is planning something similar — and given that this is increasingly the way things are done, I suspect it’s likely — then this could be the start of one of the most comprehensive consumer tracking databases in the country.   This article first appeared on Crikey.

Aussie startup wants to burst the bubble of expensive hotel internet

5:47AM | Wednesday, 7 May

Slow, expensive and often unreliable internet services in hotels have long been a thorn in the side of many a tourist or business traveller.   It’s such a problem that last year Tourism Australia called on Australian hotels to offer free Wi-Fi to their customers.   The 2013 Hotel Chatter Hotel Wi-Fi report noted that Hilton Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast was charging $A29.95 a day for Wi-Fi, while another the Novotel, St Kilda, Melbourne offered two hours of Wi-Fi access for $US10 ($A10.60), or $US27.95 ($A30) for the whole day.   Australian internet service provider Broadband Solutions has partnered with Reivernet, an Australian-based internet gateway to provide a solution.   The duo is offering burstable bandwidth on demand to the Australian hospitality sector.   What this means is hospitality venues can now access bandwidth that they can pay for on demand, a development that Broadband Solutions managing director Sam Bashiry says could lead to cheaper internet for hotel guests and more efficient internet pricing for the hospitality industry.   “Our new service promises to dramatically reduce the broadband and telephony costs for hotel operators by instantly opening up additional bandwidth for hotels when and if they need it,’’ he says.   “Hotels have a unique need for short term bandwidth flexibility.   “Prior to our solution this could only be done on expensive, long-term contracts, often taking months to approve and install.”   Hotels can pay for speeds ranging between 2Mbps and to 1000Mbps, with bandwidth automatically varying as needed.   “This means that they will only ever pay for the bandwidth they use, providing a better value service to their customers,’’ Bashiry says.   “It’s a superior and more stable product than those currently on the market and is just a fraction of the price – a win-win for customers and operators.”   Entrepreneur and inventor Mark Pesce welcomed the move but said the product was already used widely in IT and, as such, wasn’t really innovative.   The technology is already being used in some Langham and Marriot properties.   “Some of Australia’s leading businesses are already harnessing the value of burstable broadband,’’ Bashiry says.   “Their guests enjoy simple, secure and fast broadband, while the venues operate at the most efficient price point possible.”