Wi-Fi

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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.”

Australian startup LIFX light years ahead of big competitors at international innovation awards

5:14AM | Monday, 5 May

Australian light bulb “re-inventor” LIFX has taken out the top award for smart systems in the consumer goods category at the 2014 Edison Awards, beating its competitors and international brand powerhouse Philips Hue. The international awards honour the best in innovation and excellence in the development of new products and services. Oh and did I mention that @LIFX beat @tweethue? Guess the crowd has spoken! #EdisonAwards #lifx pic.twitter.com/xVDbfzBMiw — Simon Walker (@PsymanSays) May 1, 2014 LIFX debuted on crowdfunding site Kickstarter in September 2012 with backers pledging a total of $1.3 million in just six days. It raised an additional $2.1 million from investors.   Philips released its bulb two months after the public Kickstarter campaign.   LIFX head of marketing Simon Walker says the win was fantastic and proved its product was the best in market. The judgement for the award was made by a panel, but they had been kept in the dark (so to speak) as to who was on it.   Walker says the win proved LIFX superiority, particularly around two important differentiating factors.   Firstly, LIFX bulbs were much brighter, operating at 1000 lumens where the Philips’ bulbs were at 600 lumens.   “We made sure that our bulbs were shining at the same brightness as standard 75W bulbs, so that consumers who were used to that would not notice a huge difference,” Walker says.   The biggest advantage over the Philips’ bulb is ease of use, says Walker. Where Phillips’ bulbs require you to purchase a $200-$300 starter pack that includes a gateway and the need to set it up, LIFX bulbs just needed to be screwed in and the app installed on the iPhone.   “Our bulbs essentially have all the tech that is in the gateway, in the actual bulb,” Walker says.   Aside from tech advantages, Walker says the fact LIFX is a smaller company meant it could be much more agile when it comes to innovation.   The LIFX light bulb is not only multi-coloured, but can be controlled through any device with Wi-Fi and an app.   The bulbs can last up to 25 years. In addition to changing colours, there’s a sleep mode that dims your lights at night and brightens them in the morning, as well as a switch you control with your phone.

When Napthine announced Wi-Fi for regional areas, these entrepreneurs jumped on board

4:56AM | Thursday, 10 April

Late last year two Melbourne Hub members, Nathan Dyer and Jake Puhl, jumped on a V/Line trip to Bendigo with the idea that they would get out of the city and create a “regional pop-up hub” for the day.   Their spontaneous trip was part of an increasing global phenomenon of a “reverse commute”, where city dwellers make it out to regional areas for the day.   Up until now, limited Wi-Fi infrastructure made that difficult, but in Victoria at least a recent announcement by Premier Denis Napthine for improved internet and mobile coverage in regional areas has changed that.   Napthine said free Wi-Fi will be available to passengers on several key V/Line train services. He said the package would also be used to reduce mobile coverage blackspots across the state.   Hub member and futurist Julian Waters-Lynch says the opportunity was there to re-invigorate innovation in small towns.   “As yet co-working is really a city phenomenon and building up these pockets in regional areas is a way of making sure that young people don’t feel the need to leave these areas to act on innovation,” he says.   “We’re hoping that more and more people will visit emerging communities and help build them up as centres of innovation.”   Waters-Lynch says that the train journey itself could be used to hold moving hackathons with just better access to power sources needed to make it happen.   There has already been some talk of holding a TedX on a train.   “There’s something about moving that adds a whole new element to it,” he says. “Making TedX a journey is an interesting idea.”   The other big benefit these regional areas offered entrepreneurs, in particular startups, is the lower cost of living compared to the city.   “I’ve thought about whether small towns could host startups at a particular stage of their growth,” he says.   “The idea is not to move startups out of the city, but give them a chance to experience something different – that can unleash a lot of creativity too,” says Waters-Lynch, who commutes between Clunes and Melbourne CBD.   “For me, that switch evokes a different kind of thinking and I love what each setting brings,” he says.   While Wi-Fi on V/Line trains is still a while away, there’s no stopping the entrepreneurs wanting to seize the opportunity and try out reverse-commuting right now.   A second trip to the country has already been made by Hub members who caught a train to Bendigo, inspired by the original trip made by Dyer and Puhl. A third trip to Geelong was made today.   Waters-Lynch says he is aiming to hold a hackathon in a regional town this year.

Google launches e-book celebrating the stories of Australia’s rising startup sector

4:46PM | Tuesday, 1 April

Google Australia has launched a campaign, armed with an e-book and video, to encourage Australians to take up coding.   Written by Fran Molloy, Start with Code shares the stories of the rising startup ecosystem, including startup founders including Noller, Peter Bradd, Marita Cheng and Mitchell Harper.   In the foreword, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull writes about the profound changes the internet and technology have wrought on the world.   “We need to improve the way we teach our kids; we need to inspire a generation of digital natives who are already avid consumers of technology to embark on careers as entrepreneurs and coders, in e-commerce and as engineers.”   The need to overhaul the education system to equip Australia with coding skills is something Atlassian cofounder Mike Cannon-Brookes also argues for in the book.   “At Atlassian, we know in the next 20 years we are going to have to hire a truck load of computer science people. We’ve got to start breeding them way earlier. We need to train them, at school, now.”   The investment in tech skills and the startup community, both key themes in the book, are argued for by accelerator founder and investor Niki Scevak.   “People call it a brain drain, I call it a brain boomerang, where they’re flying over but they’re coming back a few years later and bringing all that skills and knowledge they’ve had in Silicon Valley back to Australia.”   Google has also launched a video with the book, which celebrates Australian innovation so far and suggests learning to code is a fundamental step for any aspiring inventor today.   Check out the Australian inventions such as boomerangs, notepads, utes, wine casks and Wi-Fi in the video below.   {qtube vid:=THEpcW7vFkc}

April Fools’ startup PR pranks: The good, the bad and the downright silly

4:09AM | Tuesday, 1 April

April Fools’ Day is a rallying call for the PR industry, which has whipped out would-be ideas for their clients. Here’s our pick of the five almost-stories that stood out.   Kogan Drone Broadband Network takes flight     The idea serial entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan has (allegedly) launched a Wi-Fi broadband network via drones, which are already in the air around you, is quite fun.   From the release: “The current Australian NBN rollout is going to cost an estimated $73 billion. Frustrated by the delays and cost blow-out associated with the NBN, our team of engineers decided to take matters into their own hands.”   With the ongoing angst about the withering NBN, and Google’s actual ambitions to spread internet via hot air balloon last year, this idea is the perfect combo of political statement meets market demand meets crazy. We actually wished this one was true.   OneShift launches JobSwap   Employment platform for retail and hospitality staff OneShift has launched JobSwap, a service to enable employees to swap employers and responsibilities for a couple of weeks.   From the release: “[Founder Gen] George said that although OneShift was focusing mainly on employer registrations at this stage, staff of participating businesses would be able to sign up via the website in a matter of weeks.”   This one goes into our April Fools’ lemon basket. In a business promoting themselves as pairing people with the right job, surely the idea of interchangeable staff-company fit is a bad one to promote? It’s also low on humour.   iiNet launches Pet-Fi: Wi-Fi-enabled pet collars     Another internet-related prank, iiNet has announced the launch of Pet-Fi to turn your pet into a mobile hot spot.   From the release: “Bringing you the latest advancement in Wi-Fi technology, we give you Pet-Fi, the world's first pet-powered mobile broadband solution. We know you love your pets and you love having them close-by, so why not take advantage of that? Use Pet-Fi to transform your pet into the ultimate – yet cuddly – Wi-Fi hotspot and mobile broadband modem.”   Water resistant, shock proof and almost definitely a joke, this April Fools’ prank is adorable with a hint of animal use that makes it uncomfortable enough to spur the conversation on. Though it loses points for being easily unbelievable.   Swiftly launches Fool your Friends offering     More of an enabler than a prankster in its own right, 99designs' new service Swiftly has launched a series of pictures demonstrating how the software can be used to doctor photos to fool your friends.   Unfortunately for Swiftly, which is fundamentally a design business, the images aren’t remotely convincing or aesthetically compelling. Again, an April Fools’ dud.   Google Maps launched Pokemon challenge     With ample resources and a history of fun gimmicks and Easter eggs, startup folk were quick to check the Google platforms for April Fool pranks.   This year, Google Maps released a video announcing a new position within their team: Pokemon Master.   {qtube vid:=4YMD6xELI_k}   To find the Pokemons, head to Google Maps and hit “start” without writing in anything. Quite frankly, we think the Pokemons should stay.

How to switch off GPS in Android 4.4 KitKat

3:30AM | Thursday, 27 March

By default, Android 4.4 KitKat devices use a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile networks to determine your location.   However, if you want to extend your battery life, you can switch GPS off. Here’s how to do it.   From the setting menu, tap on location and then mode.   There should be three options: High Accuracy, Battery saving and Device only.   Tap the middle option – Battery saving – and your device will just rely on your current mobile network location and Wi-Fi to determine your location – without using GPS.   This is slightly less accurate, but will improve your device’s battery life.

Victorian Premier says free Wi-Fi program for Melbourne’s CBD will help boost businesses

3:33AM | Tuesday, 18 March

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has announced a pilot program providing free Wi-Fi internet access in Melbourne’s CBD.   The pilot program, run by the state government and Melbourne city council, is the first stage in a larger roll-out of public Wi-Fi across the state.   The state government has also opened the tender process for the scheme, with expressions of interest open from March 12 until April 17, with contracts to be awarded in mid-2014.   The program is designed to provide a consistent Wi-Fi experience around Melbourne’s CBD, boosting the quality of life for residents and visitors.   Napthine says he also hopes the scheme will boost productivity and draw help to draw more entrepreneurs to the state.   “As the first step, the initiative aims to pilot fast, reliable and free Wi-Fi services in central Melbourne, in and around publicly owned infrastructure, including public transport hubs and tourist attractions for the next three to five years.   “These networks will be delivered in partnership between the Government, the City of Melbourne and the private sector.   “We are encouraging innovative expressions of interest that will ensure a reliable, sustainable free service that is also filtered for prohibited and undesirable content.   “All responses will be assessed on their commercial viability with strong preference given to proposals where there is no ongoing cost to government, beyond any potential initial investment to establish the infrastructure.   “Government investment could include direct grants or in-kind contributions like advertising, sponsorship and priority access to public infrastructure and facilities.”   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

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