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DUOMENTIS in the news

DUOMENTIS in the news

My latest venture DUOMENTIS has found its way into the news. Jack Marshall over at ClickZ wrote a nice article


I will be speaking on a panel at the OMMA Social conference Thursday, June 17th in NYC with some folks from Foursquare, Nielsen, SCVNGR and Microsoft about "How Mobile Social will Change Commerce"  

The most magical marketing environment for anyone with something to sell would be one that marries the right person, with the right place, with the right product with the right time. But this is no longer a dream. Suddenly, we’re at a point where all of those things can be brought together, with social as the glue connects them. With more and more social activity taking place on mobile, and companies such as Facebook and Google now embracing QR codes, which create a shorthand in which profile data could be read by merchants at the point of sale, the era of in-store customized marketing is almost upon us. What will it look like? And is the early success of companies such as Foursquare indication that portable social profiles are the wave of the future?   

The panel will be moderated by Erik Sass from MediaPost.

Other panelists joining me will be:

Eric Friedman, Director of Client Services, Foursquare
Paul Kultgen, Director Mobile Media and Advertising, Nielsen
Chris Mahl, SVP, Chief Brand Alchemist, SCVNGR
Erin Wilson, Mobile Sales Specialist, Microsoft Advertising - #OMMASocial

Robots In The Cloud

With the phrase "web 2.0" falling out of vogue, the most exciting new uses of the internet are now all about the cloud, a term for servers invisibly doing smart, fast things for net users who may be on the other side of the world.

But it's not just humans that stand to gain, as a recent corporate acquisition by cloud pioneer Google demonstrates. Google has snapped up British start-up Plink, which has devised a cellphone app that can identify virtually any work of art from a photograph. Plink's app will bolster Google's Goggles service, which uses a cellphone camera to recognise objects or eventranslate text. Unlike most cloud start-ups, Plink sprang from a robotics lab, not a Californian garage. Its story demonstrates how the cloud has as much to offer confused robots as it does humans looking for smarter web apps. 

Spatial memory


Mark Cummins and James Philbin of Plink developed the tech while working in Paul Newman's mobile robotics research group and Andrew Zisserman's visual geometry group, both at the University of Oxford. The group is trying to enable robots to explore the cluttered human world alone. Although GPS is enough to understand a city's street layout, free-roaming robots will need to negotiate the little-mapped ins and outs of buildings, street furniture and more.


Image-recognition software developed at Oxford has helped their wheeled robots build their own visual maps of the city using cameras, developing a human-like ability to recognise when they have seen something before, even if it's viewed from a different angle or if other nearby objects have moved.



You are here


Plink gives cellphone users access to those algorithms. Photos they take of an artwork are matched against images on a database stored in the cloud, even if they were snapped from a different angle. Although the Oxford team's algorithms originally ran entirely on the robot, Newman is now working on moving the visual maps made by a robot into the cloud, to create a Plink-like service to help other robots navigate, he says. Like a user of Plink, a lost robot would take a photo of its location and send it via the internet to an image-matching server; after matching the photo with its map-linked image bank, the server would tell the robot of any matches that reveal where it is.


Newman is also testing that concept using cameras installed in cars. "We can drive around Oxford at up to 50 miles per hour doing place recognition on the road," he says.


If image maps from many cities were made into a cloud-like service, any camera-equipped car could look at buildings and other roadside features to tell where it was, and the results would be more accurate than is possible with GPS.


Adept users


Adept Technologies of Pleasanton, California, the largest US-based manufacturer of industrial robots, is also looking cloud-ward. Some of the firm's robots move and package products in warehouses. With access to a Plink-like image-recognition system they could handle objects never encountered before without reprogramming.


"This connection of automation to vast amounts of information will also be important for robots tasked with assisting people beyond the factory walls," says Rush LaSelle, the company's director of global sales. A "carebot" working in a less controlled environment such as a hospital or a disabled person's home, for instance, would have to be able to cope with novel objects and situations.


Cellphones, humans and robots all have a lot to gain from a smarter, faster cloud.

Downloading Books From Your Local Library

I visited my local library the other day and it wasn’t exactly a hive of activity. The Internet and the plethora of technologies capable of distributing its content has forced a decline in activity at your local branch. But a scheme designed to embrace modern alternatives to the printed book could breathe new life back into the service. However, local libraries in the UK are now subsidizing conventional methods by offering eBook rentals online.

The service works by offering access to a rentals web site where readers can download books for free, which are then automatically deleted 14 days later, which saves the problem of chasing up overdue books and handing out late fines. Currently, Essex, Luton and Windsor & Maidenhead are offering the service, with Hampshire, Liverpool and Norfolk looking to get involved in the near future.

Luton library representative Fiona Marriot highlights the increasing interest in the scheme, stating "In recent weeks the number of eBook downloads has been increasing fast, and there are people emailing us from all over the country and even abroad asking if they can join as members online." Indeed, more than 250 new users have signed up to get involved in the Luton area, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize that only local residents can join the service.

eBooks can obviously be transferred to most eBook readers (though unfortunately not Amazon’s Kindle, which uses proprietary software), and with Asus announcing the world’s cheapest last month and other notable parties such as Barnes & Noble and Plastic Logic getting involved, this seems like a market that’s clearly on the up.

Former president of The Society of Chief Librarians Tory Durcan states "Book issues have seriously declined in recent years. This is an exciting development. These are not going to replace the paper book, they are as well as." He also cites additional advantages for older readers due to the ability to control the print size using an electronic reader, and may even consider lending devices to older, housebound residents.

The scheme looks to redress figures recently announced by the department of Culture, Media and Sport, which state that annual library visits have dropped from 302 million 10 years ago to 280 million and are continuing to fall sharply. So although the new service may help increase the number of library visits, they are likely to be of the virtual kind.

JAGTAG and David Ogilvy

It is a great feeling when I see one of the things I have invented being used for something I really like. 

When my Dad was alive he used to ask me why I chose to work in marketing and advertising. I could David Ogilvyunderstand how my work developing technologies for government or products in-house at corporations made more sense to him. But, I would explain that developing technology innovations as a marketer was actually something really important and potentially of great social benefit. The notion of building digital utilities to connect consumers in deep meaningful ways with things and people they care about remains a huge point of passion for me today.

Well, this past week one of the technologies I invented (JAGTAG), connected people to a personal hero - David Ogilvy. If you don't know, David Ogilvy was a notable advertising executive. He has often been called "The Father of Advertising." In 1962, Time called him "the most sought-after wizard in today's advertising industry." He was known for a career of expanding the bounds of both creativity and morality.

So, as the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) met in San Diego, CA, last week to look at the future of the direct marketing industry, OgilvyOne Worldwide was reactivating the principles of David Ogilvy to bring creativity back to the direct response marketplace. Using the tools and techniques that have made direct marketing the hardest working discipline in the marketing tool-box, OgilvyOne is introducing “re:direct,” a movement to reinvent direct marketing in today’s digital age and reassert creativity at its core.

“When David Ogilvy first started talking about direct marketing decades ago, it was the ‘future of marketing’,” noted Mat Zucker, Executive Creative Director of OgilvyOne, New York. “Today it is still the future. We are reinterpreting what that future is with digital and creativity at the heart of our movement.”

Starting with a blog “re:direct” and in new work for clients, the agency is focusing a sharp lens on what defines creativity in the direct space and what good looks like. The blog is one of several vehicles that the agency will utilize to demonstrate how digital strategies enable not only greater ways to improve results and response, but to do it with ideas and innovation.

According to Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman & CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide, “Direct marketing has always been a great source of innovation. We need to keep innovating so that the industry’s future is even brighter than its past.”

So what about Jason Alan Snyder?

Well, demonstrating this the direct marketing in practice, Ogilvy is running a new print-to-mobile experience powered by my JAGTAG 2D barcode technology invention. Using the camera on their mobile devices, people can snap a photo of the JAGTAG 2D barcode featured in print ads and send it to 524824 or @jagtag on Twitter for exclusive video content — in this case, a video of David Ogilvy extolling direct marketing as his “secret weapon” and telling DMA participants that now is a great time to be in the direct response industry.

If you don't know - JAGTAG enables people to request and instantly receive this video content on their mobile devices, without having to download an application. Ogilvy recently leveraged JAGTAG’s technology as part of its new Yahoo! campaign launch.

Mobile Marketing Association - Featured Profile


A couple months ago the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) reached out and asked me if I would like to have the honor of being the first member they profiled in a new feature. I was very flattered by the opportunity and delighted to accept.

The MMA is "the premier global association that strives to stimulate the growth of mobile marketing and its associated technology. MMA members include agencies, advertisers, hand held device manufacturers, carriers and operators, retailers, software providers and service providers, as well as any company focused on the potential of marketing via mobile devices.

As the primary source for mobile marketing information and expertise, the MMA is dedicated to:

  • Providing an industry forum to meet, discuss, plan and work cooperatively to resolve key industry issues
  • Bringing together industry-wide, global and regional work groups that focus on industry initiatives
  • Providing representation for the mobile marketing industry to major legislative bodies worldwide
  • Sharing perspectives on mobile marketing between Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the U.S.
  • Fueling peer-to-peer interaction through seminars, conferences and events
  • Developing metrics for measuring ad delivery and consumer response
  • Developing open and compatible mobile marketing technical and creative standards
  • Defining and publishing mobile marketing best practices and guidelines on privacy, ad delivery, and ad measurement
  • Providing the value and effectiveness of mobile marketing to advertisers, agencies and consumers
  • Serving as the key advocate on behalf of the mobile marketing industry"

I really enjoy being a member of the MMA. The ability to connect with other folks all around the world equally as passionate about mobile technology and it's impact and use for marketing is pretty cool. Sharing ideas, opportunities and results is pretty invaluable and provides tremendous benefits for my clients and helps a great deal in terms of innovation.

Anyway - it's a pretty big honor and I thought I'd share. Click here to see the original article. 

Moving Towards An Open Singularity

Recently, I had a dialogue with some colleagues (Tina and RJ), about technology and the future. The focus of our discussion was the Metaverse and The Singularity. Although, my colleagues were unfamiliar with these exact terms. I believe the dialog important enough to want to share some thoughts about that discussion and the singularity prior to the Singularity Summit (which is happening in NYC on October 3-4). And I encourage anyone reading this to attend.


Yes, this post is long, but worthwhile, if for no other reason than to share the ideas of The Singularity and the Metaverse as well some new thoughts I had on those subjects.


So, the conversation with my colleagues when like this (paraphrasing):


- "What happens when.. virtual worlds meet geospatial maps of the planet?"

- "When simulations get real and life and business go virtual?"

- "When you use a virtual Earth to navigate the physical Earth, and your avatar becomes your online agent?"

-- "What happens then," I said, "is called the Metaverse."

I recall an observation made by polio vaccine pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk. He said that the most important question we can ask of ourselves is, "are we being good ancestors?"


This is a particularly relevant question for those of us that will be attending the Singularity Summit this year. In our work, in our policies, in our choices, in the alternatives that we open and those that we close, are we being good ancestors? Our actions, our lives have consequences, and we must realize that it is incumbent upon us to ask if the consequences we're bringing about are desirable.


This question was a big part of the conversation with my colleagues. Although, that is not an easy question to answer, in part because it can be an uncomfortable examination. But this question becomes especially challenging when we recognize that even small choices matter. It's not just the multi-billion dollar projects and unmistakably world-altering ideas that will change the lives of our descendants. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, profound consequences can arise from the most prosaic of topics.


Which is why I'm going to write a bit here about video games.


Well, not just video games, but video games and camera phones (which many of my readers know - I happen to know quite a bit about), and Google Earth and the myriad day-to-day technologies that, individually, may attract momentary notice, but in combination, may actually offer us a new way of grappling with the world. And just might, along the way, help to shape the potential for a safe Singularity.


In the Metaverse Roadmap Overview the authors sketch out four scenarios of how a combination of forces driving the development of immersive, richly connected information technologies may play out over the next decade. But what has struck me more recently about the roadmap scenarios is that the four worlds could also represent four pathways to a Singularity. Not just in terms of the technologies, but—more importantly—in terms of the social and cultural choices we make while building those technologies.


The four metaverse worlds emerged from a relatively commonplace scenario structure. The authors arrayed two spectra of possibility against each other, thereby offering four outcomes. Analysts sometimes refer to this as the "four-box" method, and it's a simple way of forcing yourself to think through different possibilities.


This is probably the right spot to insert this notion: scenarios are not predictions, they're provocations. They're ways of describing different future possibilities not to demonstrate what will happen, but to suggest what could happen. They offer a way to test out strategies and assumptions—what would the world look like if we undertook a given action in these four futures?


To construct the scenario set the authors selected two themes likely to shape the ways in which the Metaverse unfolds: the spectrum of technologies and applications ranging from augmentation tools that add new capabilities to simulation systems that model new worlds; and the spectrum ranging from intimate technologies, those that focus on identity and the individual, to external technologies, those that provide information about and control over the world around you. These two spectra collide and contrast to produce four scenarios.


The first, Virtual Worlds, emerges from the combination of Simulation and Intimate technologies. These are immersive representations of an environment, one where the user has a presence within that reality, typically as an avatar of some sort. Today, this means World of Warcraft, Second Life, PlayStation Home and the like.


Over the course of the Virtual Worlds scenario, we'd see the continued growth and increased sophistication of immersive networked environments, allowing more and more people to spend substantial amounts of time engaged in meaningful ways online. The ultimate manifestation of this scenario would be a world in which the vast majority of people spend essentially all of their work and play time in virtual settings, whether because the digital worlds are supremely compelling and seductive, or because the real world has suffered widespread environmental and economic collapse.


The next scenario, Mirror Worlds, comes from the intersection of Simulation and Externally-focused technologies. These are information-enhanced virtual models or “reflections” of the physical world, usually embracing maps and geo-locative sensors. Google Earth is probably the canonical present-day version of an early Mirror World.


While undoubtedly appealing to many individuals, in my view, the real power of the Mirror World setting falls to institutions and organizations seeking to have a more complete, accurate and nuanced understanding of the world's transactions and underlying systems. The capabilities of Mirror World systems is enhanced by a proliferation of sensors and remote data gathering, giving these distributed information platforms a global context. Geospatial, environmental and economic patterns could be easily represented and analyzed. Undoubtedly, political debates would arise over just who does, and does not, get access to these models and databases.


Thirdly, Augmented Reality looks at the collision of Augmentation and External technologies. Such tools would enhance the external physical world for the individual, through the use of location-aware systems and interfaces that process and layer networked information on top of our everyday perceptions.


Augmented Reality makes use of the same kinds of distributed information and sensory systems as Mirror Worlds, but does so in a much more granular, personal way. The AR world is much more interested in depth than in flows: the history of a given product on a store shelf; the name of the person waving at you down the street (along with her social network connections and reputation score); the comments and recommendations left by friends at a particular coffee shop, or bar, or bookstore. This world is almost vibrating with information, and is likely to spawn as many efforts to produce viable filtering tools as there are projects to assign and recognize new data sources.


Lastly, we have Lifelogging, which brings together Augmentation and Intimate technologies. Here, the systems record and report the states and life histories of objects and users, enhancing observation, recall, and communication. I've sometimes discussed one version of this as the "participatory panopticon."

Here, the observation tools of an Augmented Reality world get turned inward, serving as an adjunct memory. Lifelogging systems are less apt to be attuned to the digital comments left at a bar than to the spoken words of the person at the table next to you. These tools would be used to capture both the practical and the ephemeral, like where you left your car in the lot and what it was that made your spouse laugh so much. Such systems have obvious political implications, such as catching a candidate's gaffe or a bureaucrat's corruption. But they also have significant personal implications: what does the world look like when we know that everything we say or do is likely to be recorded?


This underscores a deep concern that crosses the boundaries of all four scenarios: trust.


"Trust" encompasses a variety of key issues: protecting privacy and being safely visible; information and transaction security; and, critically, honesty and transparency. It wouldn't take much effort to turn all four of these scenarios into dystopias. The common element of the malevolent versions of these societies would be easy to spot: widely divergent levels of control over and access to information, especially personal information. The ultimate importance of these scenarios isn't just the technologies they describe, but the societies that they create.


So what do these tell us about a Singularity?


Across the four Metaverse scenarios, we can see a variety of ways in which the addition of an intelligent system would enhance the audience's experience. Dumb non-player characters and repetitive bots in virtual worlds, for example, might be replaced by virtual people essentially indistinguishable from characters controlled by human users. Efforts to make sense of the massive flows of information in a Mirror World setting would be enormously enhanced with the assistance of sophisticated machine analyst. Augmented Reality environments would thrive with truly intelligent agent systems, knowing what to filter and what to emphasize. In a lifelogging world, an intelligent companion in one's mobile or wearable system would be needed in order to figure out how to index and catalog memories in a personally meaningful way; it's likely that such a system would need to learn how to emulate your own thought processes, becoming a virtual shadow.


None of these systems would truly need to be self-aware, self-modifying intelligent machines—but in time, each could lead to that point.


But if the potential benefits of these scenarist worlds would be enhanced with intelligent information technology, so too would the dangers. Unfortunately, avoiding dystopian outcomes is a challenge that may be trickier than some may expect—and is one with direct implications for all of our hopes and efforts for bringing about a future that would benefit human civilization, not end it.


It starts with a basic premise: software is a human construction. That's obvious when considering code written by hand over empty pizza boxes and stacks of paper coffee cups. But even the closest process we have to entirely computer-crafted software—emergent, evolutionary code—still betrays the presence of a human maker: evolutionary algorithms may have produced the final software, and may even have done so in ways that remain opaque to human observers, but the goals of the evolutionary process, and the selection mechanism that drives the digital evolution towards these goals, are quite clearly of human origin.


To put it bluntly, software, like all technologies, is inherently political. Even the most disruptive technologies, the innovations and ideas that can utterly transform society, carry with them the legacies of past decisions, the culture and history of the societies that spawned them. Code inevitably reflects the choices, biases and desires of its creators.


This will often be unambiguous and visible, as with digital rights management. It can also be subtle, as with operating system routines written to benefit one application over its competitors (I know some of you reading this are old enough to remember "DOS isn't done 'til Lotus won't run"). Sometimes, code may be written to reflect an even more dubious bias, as with the allegations of voting machines intentionally designed to make election-hacking easy for those in the know. Much of the time, however, the inclusion of software elements reflecting the choices, biases and desires of its creators will be utterly unconscious, the result of what the coders deem obviously right.


We can imagine parallel examples of the ways in which metaverse technologies could be shaped by deeply-embedded cultural and political forces: the obvious, such as lifelogging systems that know to not record digitally-watermarked background music and television; the subtle, such as augmented reality filters that give added visibility to sponsors, and make competitors harder to see; the malicious, such as mirror world networks that accelerate the rupture between the information haves and have-nots—or, perhaps more correctly, between the users and the used; and, again and again, the unintended-but-consequential, such as virtual world environments that make it impossible to build an avatar that reflects your real or desired appearance, offering only virtual bodies sprung from the fevered imagination of perpetual adolescents.


So too with what we today talk about as a "singularity." The degree to which human software engineers actually get their hands dirty with the nuts & bolts of AI code is secondary to the basic condition that humans will guide the technology's development, making the choices as to which characteristics should be encouraged, which should be suppressed or ignored, and which ones signify that "progress" has been made. Whatever the degree to which post-singularity intelligences would be able to reshape their own minds, we have to remember that the first generation will be our creations, built with interests and abilities based upon our choices, biases and desires.


This isn't intrinsically bad; emerging digital minds that reflect the interests of their human creators is a lever that gives us a real chance to make sure that a "singularity" ultimately benefits us. But it holds a real risk. Not that people won't know that there's a bias: we've lived long enough with software bugs and so-called "computer errors" to know not to put complete trust in the pronouncements of what may seem to be digital oracles. The risk comes from not being able to see what that bias might be.


Many of us rightly worry about what might happen with "Metaverse" systems that analyze our life logs, that monitor our every step and word, that track our behavior online so as to offer us the safest possible society—or best possible spam. Imagine the risks associated with trusting that when the creators of emerging self- aware systems say that they have our best interests in mind, they mean the same thing by that phrase that we do.


For me, the solution is clear. Trust depends upon transparency. Transparency, in turn, requires openness.


We need an Open Singularity.


At minimum, this means expanding the conversation about the shape that a singularity might take beyond a self-selected group of technologists and philosophers. An "open access" singularity, if you will. Ray Kurzweil's books and lectures are a solid first step, but the public discourse around the singularity concept needs to reflect a wider diversity of opinion and perspective.


If the singularity is as likely and as globally, utterly transformative as many here believe, it would be profoundly unethical to make it happen without including all of the stakeholders in the process—and we are all stakeholders in the future.


World-altering decisions made without taking our vast array of interests into account are intrinsically flawed, likely fatally so. They would become catalysts for conflicts, potentially even the triggers for some of the "existential threats" that may arise from transformative technologies. Moreover, working to bring in diverse interests has to happen as early in the process as possible. Balancing and managing a global diversity of needs won't be easy, but it will be impossible if democratization is thought of as a bolt-on addition at the end.


Democracy is a messy process. It requires give-and-take, and an acknowledgement that efficiency is less important than participation.


We may not have an answer now as to how to do this, how to democratize the singularity. If this is the case—and I suspect that it is—then we have added work ahead of us. The people who have embraced the possibility of a singularity should be working at least as hard on making possible a global inclusion of interests as they do on making the singularity itself happen. All of the talk of "friendly AI" and "positive singularities" will be meaningless if the only people who get to decide what that means are the few hundred who read and understand this blog posting.


My preferred pathway would be to "open source" the singularity, to bring in the eyes and minds of millions of collaborators to examine and co-create the relevant software and models, seeking out flaws and making the code more broadly reflective of a variety of interests. Such a proposal is not without risks. Accidents will happen, and there will always be those few who wish to do others harm. But the same is true in a world of proprietary interests and abundant secrecy, and those are precisely the conditions that can make effective responses to looming disasters difficult. With an open approach, you have millions of people who know how dangerous technologies work, know the risks that they hold, and are committed to helping to detect, defend and respond to crises. That these are, in Bill Joy's term, "knowledge-enabled" dangers means that knowledge also enables our defense; knowledge, in turn, grows faster as it becomes more widespread. This is not simply speculation; we've seen time and again, from digital security to the global response to influenza, that open access to information-laden risks ultimately makes them more manageable.


The Metaverse Roadmap offers a glimpse of what the next decade might hold, but does so recognizing that the futures it describes are not end-points, but transitions. The choices we make today about commonplace tools and everyday technologies will shape what's possible, and what's imaginable, with the generations of technologies to come. If the singularity is in fact near, the fundamental tools of information, collaboration and access will be our best hope for making it happen in a way that spreads its benefits and minimizes its dangers—in short, making it happen in a way that lets us be good ancestors.


If we're willing to try, we can create a future, a singularity, that's wise, democratic and sustainable—a future that's open. Open as in transparent. Open as in participatory. Open as in available to all. Open as in filled with an abundance of options.


The shape of tomorrow remains in our grasp, and will be determined by the choices we make today. Choose wisely.

Charge Your Mobile Device Just By Carrying It Around

M2E Power has announced the development of an external charger for mobile devices that will use kinetic energy as its source.

Retrieving power using kinetic energy has been employed in watches, flashlights, and some automotive braking systems, and this application is similar.

M2E Power's solution utilizes a unique generator, though. This is based on converting of kinetic energy into electric current via magnetic induction. According to company, "the technology originates from a fundamental change in magnetic architecture, and is composed of an integration of unique generator capability and energy/battery management electronics."

This unique design allows it to convert relatively slow motions into current. Users won't have to work hard to recharge their mobile devices, just carry the charger around with them.

Coming Next Year

M2E promised recently that it will introduce a small portable charger next year. This will allow someone to charge a phone for 30 to 60 minutes by carrying it around for 6 hours or so.

It hopes to someday see portable electronics with this technology built right into them.

The company is also looking into military applications and energy solutions for wave and wind turbines.

For more information, visit the M2E Power website.

By 2012 "Circular Entertainment" Will Erode Traditional Media

According to a new prediction from Nokia, up to 25% of the entertainment consumed by people in 2012 will have been created, edited and shared within their peer circle rather than coming out of traditional media sources. This user-generated content phenomenon has been dubbed “Circular Entertainment” and could be the future of news information delivery.

twangonokiavideosharing.jpgThe statement from Nokia is backed by a global study, entitled "A Glimpse of the Next Episode", carried out by The Future Laboratory and views from industry leading figures with Nokia's own research from its 900 million consumers around the world. The mobile phone giant has constructed a global picture of what it believes entertainment will look like over the next five years. With a marked rise in awareness of movements such as Wikipedia, Creative Commons and blogging, there has been a shift in thinking regarding user-generated content. No longer is it considered untrustworthy or inaccurate as was the case many years ago. “The trends we are seeing show us that people will have a genuine desire not only to create and share their own content, but also to remix it, mash it up and pass it on within their peer groups - a form of collaborative social media," said Mark Selby, Vice President, Multimedia, Nokia. Of the 9000 people surveyed in the Future Laboratory study a staggering 39% watch TV on the internet, - 46% regularly use an instant messenger program and 29% regularly blog.

Nokia's views Circular Entertainment working like this - someone shares video footage they shot on their mobile phone from a night out with a friend, that friend takes that footage and adds an MP3 file, then passes it to another friend. That friend edits the footage by adding some photographs and passes it on to another friend and so on. The content keeps circulating between friends. Interesting.

According to Tom Savigar, Trends Director at The Future Laboratory, "Consumers are increasingly demanding their entertainment be truly immersive, engaging and collaborative. Whereas once the act of watching, reading and hearing entertainment was passive, consumers now and in the future will be active and unrestrained by the ubiquitous nature of circular entertainment.” This “immersive living” is the rise of lifestyles which blur the reality of being on and offline. Entertainment will no longer be segmented; people can access and create it wherever they are.

Well, no kidding Nokia...

Mobile Phone Sales Keep Growing

According to new research from Gartner, sales of mobile phones in the third quarter of this year reached 289 million worldwide. Sales for all of 2007 are expected to hit around 1.134 billion handsets sales to end users, a marked increase on last year.

Nokia_logo.jpgThe research from Gartner indicated that key regions driving mobile sales are Asia/Pacific, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Asia/Pacific had a 26% sales increase from the third quarter in 2006 while sales in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa reached 49.6 million units, a rise of 3.5 %. Sales in Japan were up 21.8% to 13.1 million and Latin America reached 32.2 million units, an increase of 8 percent from the same period last year. The North American handset market continued to show strong signs of growth with sales to end users reaching 45 million units in the third quarter of 2007, a 10.3 percent increase from the same period in 2006. Western Europe was also up with a 14.9% increase.

Sales of the Samsung Ultra Edition II series continued to gain momentum in key markets such as Western Europe, where Samsung reached 21 percent market share, its strongest performance in the region. LG on the other hand faced strong competition in India, where the CDMA market has become challenging as operators closed deals with new entrants such as ZTE. With no signs of slowing, the mobile phone market will continue to be a competitive field. Only time will tell if anyone is able to knock Nokia off its number one spot. 

A Quarter Of A Billion Served

According to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), the total number of estimated wireless subscribers in America has officially passed the 250 million mark. Growth in subscriptions has more than quadrupled over the past ten years from just over 55 million in 1997 to more than 250 million today. This represents an increase of 352%.

mobile_phones.png“This explosive growth shows that the mobile communications revolution is in full swing,” said CTIA – The Wireless Association President and CEO, Steve Largent. “Wireless has become a way of life for more than 250 million Americans, and each year more and more consumers are experiencing the incredible benefits that only wireless can offer. Whether you work on Wall Street or at home, live in a small town or a big city, wireless reaches people exactly where they’re at and gives folks the ability to communicate and connect with friends and family while on the move,” continued Largent.

 This follows recent reports from Merrill Lynch and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), that further illustrate a thriving wireless marketplace in the U.S. that is working hard to meet the needs of consumers. According to Merrill Lynch’s Global Wireless Matrix 2Q07, Americans use more minutes for less cost than any other consumers in the developed world. Earlier this year Merrill Lynch reported that Europeans still pay an average of 19¢ per minute for an average of 153 minutes a month, compared to 5¢ per minute for 834 minutes a month for customers in the U.S. The FCC reports 98% of Americans can choose from at least four service providers. The FCC also says mobile high speed subscribers increased by about 600% in 2006, to nearly 22 million, and that mobile wireless subscribers made up 60% of all new high speed lines.

“The statistics speak for themselves,” continued Largent. “The bottom line is that wireless companies are listening to their customers and in doing so are providing Americans of all walks of life with the mobile products and services that they want and need. Competition, innovation, and consumer value are driving the dynamic U.S. wireless marketplace, giving people access to amazing technology with plans almost anyone can afford and more choices than anywhere else in the world.”

CTIA is an international association for the wireless telecommunications industry which represents carriers, manufacturers and wireless Internet providers.


Another Physical World Connection Product

Marketers are always looking for new ways to reach customers and the ongoing boom in mobile phones has seen mobile marketing become an important part of the mix. As frequent readers know, I have spent the past few years inventing and developing just these sort of Physical World Connection technologies.

Picture%201.pngA new player, SnapTell, has emerged as a provider of image-recognition-based mobile marketing solutions, announcing the release of its "Snap.Send.Get" solution that they purports turns every camera phone into an opt-in marketing device. Snap.Send.Get enables consumers to obtain information with the snap of a photo while marketers, in the process, get to create a personalized and targeted brand conversation with their customers. The SnapTell solution works with all camera phones, using existing collateral and product packaging, thereby doing away with the need for special barcodes or additional software.

The application allows consumers to take a photo of an advertisement that they are interested in receiving more information on, such as a billboard, and then send the photo to SnapTell where it is matched against a database of images using SnapTell’s algorithm for image matching known as ASG. Once the image has been recognized SnapTell is able to send the consumer content such as ringtones, games, videos and WAP links.

According to SnapTell, the technology works effectively on photos taken with almost all camera phones including lower end phones that have VGA cameras or low resolution (640x480) cameras. The technology also works with a wide variety of subjects including magazine print ads, outdoor billboards, posters, product packaging, branded cans, bottles and logos. SnapTell technology is also able to automatically extract text embedded in camera phone images and use the extracted text to drive a search - useful in scenarios in which the target image is not already registered in the database.

“Brands are using the mobile channel more than ever now to reach their desired audience. We saw a clear opportunity to apply our innovative image-recognition technology in the mobile environment to offer marketers something that wasn’t available before,” said Gautam Bhargava, Co-founder and CEO of SnapTell. “We make it easy for brands to reach out to consumers on the go. The SnapTell Snap.Send.Get solution simply uses existing packaging or collateral materials to create a personalized marketing experience that is fun and easy-to-use for the consumer. Our goal is to unleash the power of mobile marketing using the camera phone,” added Bhargava. “We believe that the mass adoption of camera phones makes the camera phone the ultimate marketing device, allowing brands to have a direct connection to their consumers.”

Currently, the company is in discussions with major brands and agencies with deployment expected in the upcoming weeks.

Cash Ban On The iPhone

Apple has announced that it will not accept cash or Apple gift cards as payment for an iPhone. If you, like me, have questioned the legality of Apple stores banning cash for iPhone purchases then this posting is for you. The reason Apple has given for the non-cash and gift card policy is that it wants to discourage unauthorized resellers from modifying the devices so they work on networks other than the intended carrier, AT&T.

As you can see in the below video from station KMBC in Kansas, the reporter talked with employees at an Apple store at where one worker admitted that "it's crazy" not to accept an Apple gift card.

Apparently, the pertinent portion of law that addresses this issue is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, entitled "Legal tender." This happens to be the section many are citing as proof that Apple's no-cash policy is illegal. It reads, "United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks), are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues."

What that means, however, is that all U.S. money (be it bank notes or coins), "are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor." In fact, there is no federal law that prohibits a private business, a person or an organization from dictating what currency or coins they do accept for payment for goods and/or services. Indeed, businesses like Apple are free to develop whatever nutty cash policies it likes unless there is a state law which says otherwise.

You can see the posting from the U.S. Department of Treasury here.