Big Brother is live-tweeting you: artists turn a lightbulb into a surveillance device


When you hear a scandalous conversation, there’s always the temptation to live tweet it for the internet’s benefit — but what if your furniture could do that for you? Conversnitch is a project by artists Brian House and Kyle McDonald which reinvents the humble lightbulb as an internet-connected surveillance microphone. Running off a Raspberry Pi, the hardware records conversations in real time and pushes them to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, where the chatter is transcribed for the project’s Twitter feed. The idea is to generate some alarm about our surveillance-heavy culture, since the bulbs have already been quietly installed in public spaces across New York — although we guess the pair still have a long way to go before they can out-do the folks over at Fort Meade.

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Via: The Creators Project, Wired

Source: Conversnitch (Twitter), GitHub

By: Dr. Augustine Fou Thursday, April 24th, 2014 news No Comments

Facebook Newswire aims to deliver breaking news to journalists


Twitter’s made serious efforts to turn itself into more than just a social network: it wants to be the go-to tool for journalists searching for breaking news. Naturally, it makes sense for Facebook to follow suit as the two continue to play feature tag. Newswire is Zuckerberg & co.’s answer to Dataminr for News. It aggregates shared stories, photos and status updates that might be of interest to journalists and news organizations.

This isn’t just some haphazard collection of BuzzFeed lists and conspiracy blogs ,though. The service is powered by Storyful, a company that specializes in filtering out the noise and delivering “valuable content” through a social newswire service.

In its current incarnation, Newswire is a little bare-bones. There’s a Facebook page and a Twitter account that simply collect popular stories and spit them out in chronological order. Put more simply: journalists are expected to follow this Facebook page and check it regularly for new content.

Even though it’s being pitched at those in the news industry, the page seems like it would be of more interest to the casual news reader. It’s not about getting stories to reporters before they become viral sensations, it’s about highlighting the best stories out there — whether they come from a news organization, a personality (such as the president) or a person who just happened to be at the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time). News simply isn’t as new by the time it reaches that scale.

This isn’t just some half-assed, reactionary response to Twitter’s own tool. Facebook has been making efforts to improve its news delivery and offer services to journalists for some time. It’s been fine honing its Newsfeed for the last couple of years in an effort to surface better content that’s relevant to its users. The company’s also offered news organizations ways to tap into public conversations taking place on the social network to bring context to their reporting.

It’s not hard to imagine that all these efforts will eventually become unified under a single umbrella. Obviously Facebook isn’t saying anything right now, but imagine a day where a customized Newsfeed is delivered to you through a mix of machine learning and hands-on editorial guidance from a human being. It would bring news not just to the casual visitor, but to journalists too who would be able to quickly hop into public discussions to pull quotes for their own articles. Of course, we want to keep our jobs, so let’s hope the future doesn’t come too soon.

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By: Dr. Augustine Fou Thursday, April 24th, 2014 news No Comments

drag2share: Here’s Why Bitcoin Could Disrupt The Entrenched Payments Industry


Average Daily Transaction Volume

People often discuss Bitcoin in terms of its price volatility: Is it up or down? Is it a good investment or a speculative bubble? 

But at BI Intelligence, we believe Bitcoin’s real value is as a payments network. Bitcoin offers merchants and individuals an extremely low-cost, virtually frictionless payments system. Value can easily be transferred around the world without transmitting sensitive information that could be used for fraud, and without forcing merchants to pay exorbitant transaction fees.

In  a recent report, BI Intelligence explains how Bitcoin works, from the moment when local currency is exchanged for bitcoins, to the moment when it reaches the electronic wallet of a receiving party. We look at the key advantages of Bitcoin compared to the legacy players in the payments industry and examine the challenges that Bitcoin faces as a payment network. 

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By: Dr. Augustine Fou Thursday, April 24th, 2014 news No Comments

Taco Bell Is Launching An Upscale Mexican Chain


U.S. Taco Logo

Taco Bell is launching a new upscale taco chain.

The restaurant, called U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom, will feature a menu of 10 premium tacos, thick-cut fries, milkshakes, craft beer, and wine, according to Nation’s Restaurant News, an industry publication. 

The first location is set to open in Huntington Beach, Calif., this summer. Taco Bell declined to elaborate on expansion plans.

Here are some of the menu items, according to NRN.

  • Winner Winner: Southern-style fried chicken breast with South of the Border gravy, roasted corn, pico de gallo, jalapenos, and cilantro in a flour tortilla.
  • One-Percenter: Lobster, garlic butter, red cabbage slaw, and pico de gallo on crispy fry bread.
  • Brotherly Love: Carne asada steak, grilled peppers and onions, roasted poblano queso, and cotija cheese in a flour tortilla.

The side of fries comes with dipping sauces including “ghost chile ketchup” and “roasted poblano crema.” One of the beer-spiked milkshakes on the menu, called the “Mexican Car Bomb,” has vanilla ice cream, tequila caramel sauce, chocolate flakes, and Guinness.

Tacos will be priced at about $4 each, and the average check size is expected to be roughly $12 with a drink. 

Customers won’t be able to customize their tacos like at Chipotle, but they will be able to watch their food being made.

“Most dishes will be prepared in-house, in glass-enclosed kitchens that allow guests to see meat grilling or tacos in the works — though a few ingredients will come from outside suppliers, like the Texas smoked brisket or Southern pulled pork,” NRN reports.

The new concept is meant to attract a demographic of higher-income edgy foodies who would never step foot inside a Taco Bell.

“We could spend time and money trying to get these people interested in Taco Bell,” but they would probably never become regular customers, Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed told Ad Age. “We thought, maybe there’s a new brand we can create to address this opportunity.”

SEE ALSO: Here’s What It’s Like To Eat At Chipotle’s New Pizzeria In Denver

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IBM’s Watson supercomputer will soon be your personal shopper


Watson had been a doctor, a geneticist, a game show contestant and even a chef in the past. But now IBM’s supercomputer has a new career: personal shopping. IBM has partnered with digital commerce firm Fluid to develop a cloud-based app called Expert Personal Shopper (XPS), which uses Watson’s brains to answer buyers’ highly specific questions. In short, the computer with many hats now plays the role of a sales associate when you’re shopping online. IBM and Fluid are currently working with several consumer brands, but The North Face will be the first to feature the technology on its website. When the outdoor clothing and equipment company launches XPS, you can ask it questions like you would an assistant at a mall. If you needed a recommendation on the best equipment to use for a five-day cross-country trip, or need to know the best tent to use if you’re hiking with family, including kids, then Watson’s got your back. It’s unclear when XPS will launch exactly, but IBM has granted Fluid a $100 million investment to speed up the digital shopping assistant’s development — all parties involved are planning to develop it further for mobile applications and devices.

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Source: Physorg

By: Dr. Augustine Fou Thursday, April 24th, 2014 news No Comments

drag2share: Cheap Smartphones Will Create A New Breed Of Innovation


SmartphoneASPThis year, for the first time, BI Intelligence estimates that more than one billion smartphones will ship globally. And many of those smartphones will be purchased by first-time users in emerging markets.

To move these consumers onto smartphones, more manufacturers than ever before  will be offering smartphones at bargain basement prices. Recently, came news of Mozilla’s upcoming $25 smartphone, adding to a flurry of new devices priced well below flagship phones from Apple and Samsung.

The race to build the cheapest smartphone will create a different kind of innovation than what we’ve seen before. New, exciting hardware features will be rare. Going forward, innovation at the top of the market will likely center on continuing to improve known features. And if a new functionality were to debut from one vendor, expect the rest of the market to catch on quickly. Meanwhile, lower-priced handset makers will use talent and creative thinking to incorporate premium smartphone capabilities into low-cost and mid-range handsets.

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By: Dr. Augustine Fou Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 news No Comments

Moore’s Law Gives Way to Bezos’ Law


Cloud providers Google, AmazonWeb Services (AWS) and Microsoft are doing some spring-cleaning, and it’s out with the old, in with the new when it comes to pricing services. The latest cuts make it clear there’s a new business model driving cloud that is every bit as exponential in growth — with order of magnitude improvements to pricing — as Moore’s Law has been to computing.

If you need a refresher, Moore’s Law is “the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years.” I propose my own version, Bezos’s law. Named for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, I define it as the observation that, over the history of cloud, a unit of computing power price is reduced by 50 percent approximately every three years.

I’ll show the math below, but if Bezos’ law reflects reality, the only conclusion is that most enterprises should dump their data centers and move to the public cloud, thus saving money. Some savings occur over time by buying hardware subject to Moore’s Law, plus the fixed cost of maintenance, electrical power, cooling, building and labor to run a data center. In the end, I’ll show how prices are reduced by about 20 percent per year, cutting your bill in half every three years.

How we got here

Google was first to announce “deep” cuts in on-demand instance pricing across the board. To make the point that cloud pricing has been long overdue, Google’s Urs Hölzle showed in March just how much cloud pricing hasn’t followed Moore’s Law: Over the past five years, hardware costs decreased by 20 to 30 percent annually, but public cloud prices fell by just 8 percent annually:

Slide from Urs Hölzle's keynote at Google Cloud Live, March 25, 2014Slide from Urs Hölzle’s keynote at Google Cloud Live, March 25, 2014

Having watched AWS announce, by my count, 43 price cuts during the past eight years, the claim of merely a 6 to 8 percent drop for public cloud seems off. (That would be a 2 percent reduction 43 times to get an 8 percent trend line.)

Nevertheless, applying a Moore’s law approach to capture the rate of change for cloud, one would hold constant the compute unit, while the gains are expressed in terms of lower price. Thus, Bezos’s law is the observation that, over the history of cloud, a unit of computing power price is reduced by X percent approximately every Y years.

A bit of digging on Amazon’s Web Services blog shows how Amazon determined the percentage in computing power (X) and time period (Y) on May 29, 2008. The data from 2008 and the Amazon EC2 Spot Instances on April 1, 2014, shows that in six years, similar compute instance types have declined by 16 percent for medium instances and 20 percent for extra-large instances. Assuming a straight line, the pricing would have tracked as follows:

AWS cloud price reduction
Year Price Reduction Comment
2008 $0.800 $0.640
2009 $0.640 $0.512
2010 $0.512 $0.410
2011 $0.410 $0.328 3 years, 50% reduction
2012 $0.328 $0.262
2013 $0.262 $0.210
2014 $0.210 3 years, 50% reduction from 2011
April 1, 2014 $0.210 6 years, 75% reduction from 2008

For the AWS public cloud, X = 50 percent when Y = 3 years, supporting my claim: Bezos’ law is the observation that, over the history of cloud, a unit of computing power price is reduced by 50 percent approximately every three years.

What’s next

Clearly, cloud, as opposed to building or maintaining a data center, is a much better economic delivery approach for most companies.

And how can an enterprise datacenter possibly keep up with the hyper-competitive innovation from Amazon, IBM, Google and Microsoft? Enterprising tech pros know how this is going to play out. They’re way ahead in asking: “Why should we continue to saddle our company with a huge cost anchor called a datacenter or private cloud?”

It looks as though being a cloud provider isn’t going to be like a retail business when it comes to profits, but it may be too early to tell. It’s a bit like the x86 server business IBM recently sold to Lenovo. There will likely be innovation above the core cloud platform for a long time, which might alter the profitability outlook.

Opinions aside, the math doesn’t lie. It’s not question of if we’re moving to the cloud but how — and when.

Greg O’Connor is CEO of AppZero, which specializes in migrating enterprise software applications to and from cloud computing services. Follow him on Twitter @gregoryjoconnor.

Feature image illustration adapted from Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons

Mobile Now One-Third of Google Organic Search Visits



Source: RKG [download page]

Notes: Mobile’s 33% of Google search visits in Q1 2014 represented only a slight uptick from Q4 2013 (32%), but a more robust rise from 27% share during the year-earlier period. During Q1 2014, Yahoo actually saw a larger share (36%) of organic search visits come from mobile than Google. Overall, mobile devices accounted for an estimated 31% share of US organic search visits during Q1, up from 24% in Q1 2013.

By: Dr. Augustine Fou Saturday, April 19th, 2014 news No Comments

Who’s Still Watching Live TV?



A couple of new studies suggest that despite the apparent rise in over-the-top video consumption, particularly among youth, the vast majority of Americans usually watch TV programming the old-fashioned way: live on TV. According to survey results from Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (OTX), that’s the typical viewing method for 81% of Americans; a separate study from BroadStream Solutions similarly finds that roughly 8 in 10 American adults are watching live TV. Predictably, though, live TV viewing skews towards an older audience.

As the Ipsos survey results indicate, 89% of American adults aged 50-64 usually watch TV programming live on TV, a figure which drops to 82% among 35-49-year-olds and 72% among the 18-34 crowd. That aligns with study findings from Nielsen, which show a strong skew towards older age groups for traditional TV viewing in comparison to TV content viewed on computers and smartphones. Other data from Nielsen also shows that older age groups watch significantly more traditional TV than their younger counterparts, although the recent drop-off among youth hasn’t been as drastic as sometimes implied.

By: Dr. Augustine Fou Saturday, April 19th, 2014 news No Comments

Search Advertising Trends in Q1



Costs-per-click are also slowly rising, per the report, although trends in impression volume appear to be more reliant on the individual client set.

Following are some interesting highlights from the reports not covered in the above chart:

  • Tablets captured 58% of mobile search spending in Q1, versus 42% for smartphones (IgnitionOne);
  • Mobile accounts for 28% of all search impressions, and is projected to reach 40% by the end of this year (The Search Agency);
  • CPCs are as high on tablets ($0.93) as they are on desktops ($0.94), per The Search Agency;
  • Smartphones (18%) and tablets (18%) together generated 36% of search ad clicks in Q1 (RKG);
  • Google returned 33% higher revenue per click for advertisers than Bing Ads (RKG);
  • PLAs, which accounted for 29% of Google paid search clicks for retailers, showed an ROI 14% better than comparable non-brand text ads (RKG);
  • Baidu accounted for about 8% of global search ad spend, 7% of impressions, and an out-sized 24% of clicks (Covario);
  • Advertiser revenue from search advertising grew by 12% year-over-year, while shooting up 191% for social advertising (Kenshoo); and
  • Social ad impressions grew 39% year-over-year, although click-through rates w! ere just 0.1%, down 27% year-over-year.
By: Dr. Augustine Fou Saturday, April 19th, 2014 news No Comments

Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.

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