Category Archives: Drivel

Connection, Communication, Consolidation, Convergence, Context

Last week I was presenting my thoughts & ideas on future tech & trends with a client, so I thought I’d share them here… but let’s look at where we’ve come from, where we are now & where we appear to be heading.

Connection: Advent of the internet; Arpanet (1969), email (1972), internet mainstream (circa 1982), the web (1989)

Communication: Social media, Amazon (1994), Google (1998), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006). RFID & NFC payment systems, Oyster card (2003), Starbucks (10% of transactions are now NF & Mobile)

Consolidation: (Hub Device) Technology & users reliant on connectivity to the internet. Most obvious tech consolidation is the smart phone, no longer separate cameras, music players, web browser (iPhone 2007)

Now
Convergence:
Individual devices share data & influence one another autonomously (AKA The Internet of Things). We’re moving away from a world of dumb devices, to one of connected intelligent smart devices.
Consumption / Gathering:
Wearable devices: Wrist: Nike Fuel, Jawbone UP, Fit Bit, Nymi, Pebble, Samsung Gear, Sony SmartWatch, Qualcomm Toq, TomTom, Nissan Nismo / Head: Google Glass, Weartrons RnR, Melon / Feet: Nike+ Sensor.
Sensors: Medical Equipment (health, safety) Scanadu Scout Tricoder, Climate & Ambient Systems, Automobiles
POS & POI: Info Boards, Posters, Displays, Barcode Scanning, RFID / iBeacons (Estimote)
Smart Devices & Home Appliances: Music, TV, Lighting, Utilities, Security (locks, access controls, monitoring).
Prime Devices: Sony Lens Camera, POV’s, Audio Recorders
Creation / Output: Bespoke Product Design, 3D Printing

Where we’re heading:
Context: Location & context specific “big” data & actions
(The Age of Context / Networked Society).
Example: You’re on your way to a meeting, your Hub Device, knows where you are, your schedule, where you’re going, who you’re meeting (so it likely knows where they are too), what the traffic conditions are like ahead. Earlier it told you to leave early as there was traffic congestion, but that’s cleared, so you’re going to be early, so it suggests you wait it out at one of your favourite coffee shops (it knows there’s space at the coffee shop and can even tell you where the nearest parking space is, it could even pre-order your drink for you if you want), but it also knows it’s your kids birthday and has access to your to do list, so it suggests you can use the downtime to order & pick up the present, as there’s a special promotion on at the moment.

The Age of Context relies on the autonomous sifting of Big Data and putting it into context. Big Data is a cinch to create, but unfortunately a major stumbling block is the lack of correlation between systems & datasets, there are no open standards or protocols for sharing, and the likelihood of the social silo’s of Google, Facebook, Twitter & FourSquare et al sharing our data anytime soon is unlikely without a disruptive element.

The News & Education sectors will continue to go through major shifts, with Healthcare undoubtedly seeing the next major shake up with advances in self monitoring data & preventative care.

Brands & advertisers have huge opportunities to make their offerings even more granular & responsive, so stand a better chance of interaction, by being more personal & engaging by leveraging the viewers personalised preferences & location based data. In effect Contextual Advertising, is the Marketeers equivalent to responsive web design, advertising that adjusts to the viewers location & tastes.

Keeping with the C theme, I could suggest the next stage will be “Coherence” (the quality of forming a unified whole), but I won’t go that far for now… I can’t predict the future, things we take for granted today, weren’t even launched or invented 2-3 years ago, so who knows what we’ll be using in 5-10 years time?

Below is an example of a Networked Society (more examples on the Ericsson Channel)

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It’s The Way I Roll

What do you get when you take a musician, his band, a friend with a cool central London rooftop pad, a couple of digital cameras, and a very (VERY) hot sunny afternoon? Answer: a photo-shoot and two music videos!

Tech has totally changed the photography & video landscapes, it’s a far cry from the 20 years ago, when I first sat in a plush office in the heart of Soho, on a very comfy leather sofa at the back of a darkened edit suite directing an editor. Then waiting every time he made an edit for the stack of tape decks (which had their own room) to spin up to speed, before finally transferring the edit from tape to tape. The equipment cost £100,000′s, it took hours to edit, and a good editor charged more an hour than a good lawyer!

I’m the first to admit that I’m no Ridley Scott, but below are two videos I directed & shot in an afternoon using would you believe, my Sony NEX 5N (the wonderfully light weight little gem of a camera I bought last year for when I spent three months trekking in the Himalayas). The biggest problem on the day, was the glaring sun and trying to stay ahead of it as it chased us around the rooftop (hopefully you won’t notice that the drummer had to move & set up three times during the Stacey shoot!). Incredibly we also managed to have time to do the photo-shoot for the promotional material & album artwork. Which we were able to review on my iPad while we sunk a few pints down the pub afterwards, something else we’d have never have been able to do years ago!

The album is available as a digital download or as a CD form rollingexile

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Stacey & Deep Down, both from the Album Exile

What iWant iWatch To Be, Not a Watch!

iwatch

While very beautiful, the image above is not what I want a wearable from Apple (or any other manufacturer) to be, and I very much doubt Apple would produce it, not because they couldn’t, but because it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t serve any additional purpose, users already have an iPhone in their pocket, why would anyone slap another one on their wrist?

I haven’t worn a watch for at least 10 years, my mobile is good enough for me when I’m mobile, and the menu bar on my Mac is a glance away when I’m at work, so a watch is redundant for me, if I’m about to put something on my wrist it needs to add functionality, not simply replicate another device (or look worth mugging me for).

I know Apple have started trademarking the name iWatch around the globe, but I suspect that’s either Brand Protecting whatever they do produce from copycats, or it’s putting the rest of the market off the scent of what they’re really working on… who knows, maybe iWatch is a trademark to cover something they’re working on for the Apple TV, referring to what customers view and has nothing to do with time keeping?

I have friends with Pebble watches, but they all tell me not to bother, why? Because they sound great on paper, but in reality they don’t actually add any real purpose or benefit to their daily routine. Example they’ve all said, you receive an SMS, your phone vibrates or goes ping, you start to reach for your phone in your pocket and then the Pebble on your wrist goes ping and vibrates, mmmmm… is that worth $150? There are plenty of others in the market, Sony, Samsung, Google Glass, but personally I don’t want to walk around looking like an extra from Star Trek, at least Google Glass is waterproof! So it has to look like something people would want to wear regardless of it’s function!

Apple have an amazing eco system they can monitor, they monitor how & where users are using their iOS devices, what apps they’re downloading, utilising, erasing, that’s a goldmine of UX. Their partnerships with the likes of Nike have been carefully orchestrated and even more carefully monitored, they now employ a former Nike Fuel Band consultant. They’ve purchased sensor development companies, notably in the medical monitoring and healthcare sectors.

But let’s look at the practicalities… the real world have hard surfaces, technology doesn’t like being smacked around and nobody likes scratching their shiny new bit of tech, why else would their be a multi-billion dollar industry in protective cases. And that’s for something that sits a large amount of it’s time on your desk, in your pocket, or bag… something on your wrist is going to get a lot more abuse, you move your arms around a lot more. And let’s no forget, we’re organic, we sweat, we have bacteria living on our skin, we get wet, we wash, we take showers, we wash our hands, we swim, snowboard, ride bikes, mountain climb, go running etc any device spending the majority of its time on our wrist or any other part of our body, needs to stand up to all of that. Something made of shiny white plastic and glass wouldn’t last long. Plus, with a reasonable size screen power becomes an issue, and with extra batteries comes extra weight.

So rather than a glorified wrist watch that offers a limited and lacklustre phone experience (which in itself is contrary to Apple’s raison d’être), I envisage an elegantly simple looking, non-descript, screenless, virtually seamless device that we forget we even have on our wrist until it reminds us with a little vibration, ping, or illumination. Something water proof, that monitors our biometrics (heart rate, temp, glucose levels, unique ECG pattern, sleeping patterns), our movement, elevation, velocity, has a fingerprint scanner for ID confirmation, handles NFC payments (Ski passes, transportation, Oyster), handles security (opens doors Locitron), connects to other devices around it (BLE & iBeacons), is voice controlled (Siri), has a battery that lasts days, not hours and costs no more than $200-250. If there is a version with a screen, then something with only limited functionality, i.e. SMS, email notifications, alarms, calendar events, media playback control (pause, stop, next, previous, volume etc)… and of course, the time! An always on screen would kill battery life of course, but a screen that only activates when prompted should be ok.

I could go on, but you get the idea, it adds functionality and usability where a mobile phone can’t (or it wouldn’t be practicable). That’s a wearable I’d wear.

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The above image is taken from an Apple patent for a wearable device, akin to a reflective snap on a cyclist would wear.

UPDATE (Jan 2014):
Wow just stubbled across this concept by Thomas Bogner, he must be a kindred spirit!

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iBeacons, Apple’s Stealth NFC Killer (Plus a Retailers Dream!)

I’ve an iOS developers account, so I’ve been playing around with iOS7 for a month or so, and have to say it’s pretty good, there’s still a way to go yet and there’s still a few bugs to iron out, plus I’m glad to see the back of all that digital felt & leather! But that’s not why I’m posting, iOS7 is out now so you can check it out for yourself.

No the reason I’m posting, is iBeacons. Like a lot of people, I’ve been longing for Apple to include NFC in the iPhone, and was hoping the 5S would have it, so was a bit miffed to see that it was still absent… but I missed iBeacons in the launch keynote presentation.

Now it’s all starting to fall into place, fingerprint scanning, Bluetooth 4, iBeacons… oh sneaky! I won’t go into details but let me point out a couple of very important distinctions between RFID & NFC… RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a protocol that allows the wireless non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data. NFC (Near Field Communication) is a set of standards for devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity.

So what does that mean in English… NFC chips are now in almost every credit / debit card and many smart phones, and allow you to make small payments or gather item info etc. As the name implies the great thing about NFC is that the devices have to be in very close proximity to connect… but that’s also a bad thing, as a retailer cannot push notifications to shopper unless they’re within 5 cm.

iBeacons (which is integrated into the iOS7) on the other hand uses the RFID protocol, which means that any iPhone / iPod / iPad (iWatch in the future), can detect other iBeacon devices at a range of 200m (but it can also be limited down to 10cm). So what this means for retailers is that they can transmit customised coupons, product offers / info, location, maps, directions etc directly to shoppers within their stores without needing shopper instigation, is Minority Report Advertising about to become a reality? But there’s another really important factor about iBeacon, the users iOS device isn’t just a passive receiver being bombarded by coupons and offers, as any iOS7 device can also become an iBeacon transmitter! This allows the user to filter out unwanted offers and connections… bad for the retailer you may think, but on the contrary it’s great news, rather than wasting theirs and the customers time with offers they’re not interested in, the user can tell the retailer (or advertiser) what they are interested in, now that’s powerful… plus there’s likely to be greater uptake by users if they can filter what they do and don’t want.

The potential advantages of iBeacons is huge, and with the built in fingerprint confirmation, the concerns over long range cyber pickpocketing or snooping are reduced. Of course if Apple had included a NFC chip as well that would have been perfect, but this is Apple’s way of breaking the back of NFC payments, are at least slowing it down in the short term so it can get leverage (sort of what it did with Adobe’s Flash dominance on the web vs HTML5, and look how that ended up). Apple do have their own a NFC / fingerprint solution in the works, but that may never see the light of day, especially if iBeacons and the fingerprint scanner take off in the way they’re planning!

So maybe I will upgrade to an iPhone 5S after all.

more details here on Gigaom

and check out the Estimote Beacons 

Resigned to Viral Marketing

Fed up with a boss that wouldn’t listen, by being too focussed on viewing numbers and not quality content, Marina Shifrin decided to quit… but rather than simply writing an email giving her reasons why, she created a video herself to get her point across… and with 13,000,000 views in 5 days, she’s obviously getting a lot of attention, news networks, job offers, even several marriage proposals!?!? plus of course the attention of her former employer… who have also released a Meme video themselves, saying, “We’re Hiring”

As I’ve posted before: A campaign can give your product & service exposure, but it can’t make your business a success, only your customers can do that. If your campaign goes viral, great, but if your business or offerings aren’t as well, then the campaign was probably pointless. You want people talking about how good your product is, not how good your viral campaign was.

With 13M hits and counting within 5 days of posting the video, she’s also made a nice chunk of change out of advertising on YouTube.
My rough calculation: Views x 50% of CPM (cost per 1,000 adverts)
13,000,000 x (.5 x  $6.20/1,000) = $40,000

their response

Do You Know Where You’re Going?

Alice asked the Chesire Cat, who was sitting in a tree.
“What road do I take?”
“Where do you want to go?” the cat asked.
“I don’t know” Alice answered.
“Then, it really doesn’t matter, does it?” said the cat.

If your destination or goals are vague, then the decisions you make will reflect that.

You can apply this philosophy to numerous aspects of your life, be it your job, your personal life, your retirement plans etc unless you’re clear on what you really want, then you’re unlikely to make informed decisions that will help you achieve something truly fulfilling, you need a compass to point you in the right direction.

In Branding terms, these are referred to as your Core Values… as I’ve written before “Your core values are the very essence of what you or your company stand for, strip away everything else and the core values remain, they become your compass in good times and bad times, they guide your decision making process” more on that here

Applying this sort of branding technique to your personal life may seem a bit strange at first, but it could really help, especially if you’re stuck in a rut, or find it difficult to make decisions. Core Values are a reflection of who you are, your essence, you don’t make them up, you discover and refine them.

As David Eagleman explains in his book Incognito, “The next time a friend laments that she cannot decide between two options, tell her to flip a coin. The important part is to assess her gut feeling after the coin lands. If she feels a subtle sense of relief at being told what to do by the coin, then that’s the right choice for her. If instead, she concludes that it’s ludicrous for her to make that decision based on a coin toss, that will cue her to choose the other option”

Why? It’s all to do with the fact that the unconscious mind has already made the decision, it’s just that your conscious mind, which is much slower, hasn’t caught up yet, in this instance, your unconscious mind represents your Core Values. So if you’re someone that usually goes with your gut feeling, great, but wouldn’t it be good to refine the process!

It’s Time to Throw in the Tau

I generally keep this to myself, but I’m actually a bit of a maths geek at heart… Hey, where are you going? come back here… don’t worry I’m not about to bore you with loads of maths I promise.

Today is Tau day, 28th June, although you have to use that weird back to front American way of writing the date to see what I mean, it’s 6.28, get it?

No? mmmmm… would it help if I said March 14th is Pi day? (3.14)

OK if you still haven’t got it, Tau = 2x Pi or to put it another way 2 x 3.14 = 6.28 tadah!

anyway doesn’t matter, what does matter is the video below.

A talented musician named Michael John Blake composed a piece of music that transposes the numbers from Tau to 126 decimal places onto the musical scale… and for those math-muso geeks out there, it’s set to 125.6 BPM = 6.28 x 20.

But forget the geekness that lies beneath this composition, just listen to it, it’s wonderful. By the way, Michael also created a composition based on Pi, but had to remove it off the net due to a copyright infringement claim? yep can you believe it, another composer claimed he’d thought of the idea first and composed a piece of music on Pi… what’s next the Fibonacci Sequence!?!?

Oh and for an explanation of Tau, I can’t think of a better way than this very informative and amusing video by Vi Hart

You should follow me on Twitter here

Facebook Timeline Photoshop Template

Facebook timelines have now gone mainstream, as you can see from the screen grab of mine below, you can play around with the top image however you please.

This top graphic is 849 x 312 pixels, with the small square being 180×180 (although this gets scaled down to 125 x 125. But rather than you having to worry about setting that up, I thought I’d upload Photoshop & Illustrator templates so anyone could make their own with little effort.

The .zip file contains layered Photoshop & Illustrator files 849 x 312px with a positional graphic for the profile picture in the Photoshop file.

download .zip
UPDATE: Almost 2,500 downloads in 21 days! Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!

The Web Icon

A couple of years ago I needed a blog icon, realising there wasn’t a universally accepted one in existence, I created one to use for myself and threw it out into the world for anyone to use… it became far more popular than I ever expected, averaging 45,000 downloads a year!

A couple of months ago, I joked that I would look at creating an equivalent icon for websites, I actually sketched out a few ideas, but didn’t take it any further, until this weekend when I was realised I need one for my ID me at website, so I sat down to think about it a little more.

After numerous sketches and scribbled ideas based around “www”, “://” hyperlinks (even, dare I say it, a spider’s web), I eventually came back to a very simple solution and the first thing I’d drawn, a “w”

In keeping with the earliest web standards I used the web colour #0000FF (r=0 / g=0 / b=255) for the blue, plus added an underline to the “w”, both of these referring to the default way to identifying a hyperlink in standard HTML.

I’ve created a stylised “w” although I don’t see a reason why an underlined “w” in another font couldn’t work equally as well. As to colour, #0000FF makes perfect sense, but as with the blog icon, a colour more in keeping with it’s surroundings could be used.

As with the blog icon, I’m throwing this icon out there for anyone to use, tweak, do whatever they like with, totally gratis and without restriction. A mention or link back would be appreciated, but it’s not a prerequisite.

Let me know what you think and whether you’d use it, or know of anything else in use, I’ve included all original vector artwork and PNG’s with the blog icon .zip

 

 

 

 

There Can Be Only One!

aha, I got a few responses/questions to my post last week about the death of email, so thought I’d explain it a little clearer.

Email may be being used less and less but we need email addresses, as they’re the most widely used open standard that we can use to uniquely identify ourselves on the internet. Of course Mr Zuckerberg would like to change that, and make having to have a Facebook ID the defacto ID and login for the web. That won’t happen as the web community naturally resists when a monopoly gets too big. Ironically you still need an email address to create a Facebook ID initially, although I’m sure it won’t be long before you can use just your mobile number to do it.

So why do I think needing an email address is likely to become a thing of the past, let’s look at phone numbers and domain names first.

When you purchase a mobile phone or have a landline installed, you get a unique number for your country or area, these numbers have in turn been allocated to the service provider you’ve chosen. If you choose to change service provider you can usually transfer the mobile number to the new one, thus retaining your number.

When you purchase a domain name, you choose a registrar that offers the services you need and pay them annually to retain it. If you decide to have a website you point the domain name at an IP address allocated to the service provider. The IP address is the unique ID number for the webserver that will host your website, 217.77.185.55 is an example. NB every device that connects to a network has a unique IP address.

So what? Well imagine this…

You go to a service provider that gives you a unique number, just like getting a mobile phone or a domain name, but unlike a mobile number, this number replaces your mobile, email, domain name, message service, voice calls, Twitter ID, Facebook ID, in fact any social network you choose to register it with.

If your number were +878101393436328

http://n.878101393436328 is your domain
@878101393436328 is you email, instant message ID
+878101393436328 is your phone number and entering the number is how you’re found on social networks (the same way someone finds you using your email address or mobile number)

You control how your messages are routed the same way you decide who hosts your website, or handles your email. So if someone calls +878101393436328 you decide if it gets routed to a mobile, landline, desktop, TV, tablet (or they could all ring at once, or in sequence), same when someone sends you an SMS, email, instant message, Tweet, Skype etc, it makes no difference how the message originated, as long as it’s routed correctly… the same way someone can call you on your mobile from the other side of the world using their phone / Skype, the audio gets routed to you instantly, no matter where you both are.

This will only be possible when the standards are open, there’s no monopoly and it’s available to everyone. That’s when email addresses or having to be on the same social network or instant message service or same VOIP service will become obsolete and a thing of the past.

Further reading: The ITU (International Telephone Union) introduced a universal personal telephone number (UPT) +878 in 2001 (wikipedia), controlled by VISIONng. ENUM is the process of converting a telephone number into an internet name space.

Email Est Mort, Vive Le Email

I’ve been pondering the longevity of email for the past few years, wondering whether it’s time was numbered due to the ease and rise of messaging and social networks. And I’m certainly not the only one that’s considered this, there’s been plenty of opinions and debates about this online. Mark Zuckerberg said email was dead a few weeks ago (oh really, well you try signing up for Facebook without an email address, then let me know how you get on), plus on monday the CEO of Atos put a ban on email within his organisation stating employees should all be using social networks and SMS instead! (yeah that’s gonna work isn’t it… the staff will love having their work colleagues on their social networks!)

But think about this, email and messages in whatever format remains, but the days for having an “email address” are numbered! mmm, now that’s an interesting idea isn’t it.

But that won’t be until the various telephone, email services and social networks agree an open standard for messages and voice to flow freely and seamlessly between them, and that is unlikely to happen without coercion. The reason email has survived so long and is so prevalent is the same reason phone calls and SMS have proved so effective and robust, because they rely on open standards that anyone can use without restriction or more importantly, additional licensing costs.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could compose a message and send it, without worrying how the recipients have chosen to receive it, be it on their mobile as SMS, on a social network, as email, or whatever else they’ve decided upon.

Apple are making moves into this area, although very slowly, I write a text message on my iPhone, as I would any SMS, to a friend and it arrives on their iOS device, but it may have been routed to them as data (not an SMS), so via email servers but displays in their Messages app as an SMS.

Doesn’t sound that amazing at first, mainly because Apple have made it so effortless, but when you really think about it, the underlying principle is in fact ground-breaking. I send an SMS, and the recipient still receives it, even if they’re not on a telephone network or have reception (as long as they have internet connectivity)

But let’s take this one small step further, what if you had a single ID (not separate email addresses, mobile, landline, Skype, messaging, Facebook, twitter etc), a single way for people to contact you regardless whether the contact was voice, text, image, email, instant-message etc. How cool would that be? (of course you could still have a separate one for personal and home).

You give someone your unique ID (probably numbers 0-9 only, so it can be input using a phone), then they call, SMS, email, message you and you receive it regardless of the device you’re using, if you preferred you could split the incoming messages so voice goes to your mobile/landline/desktop/tablet/TV, SMS and messages to your messaging app, email to your email app… whatever you want, it’s your choice, the sender doesn’t need to know, it makes no difference to them… it just works.

So how cool would it be to have a single ID… mmmm, now where have I heard that idea mentioned before ;)

Hello World… Ahem, Hello Carrier IQ

How would you feel if your every location, keystroke, button push, SMS, URL and Web search you made on your mobile was monitored, read and stored by a piece of factory pre-installed software that automatically sends it to a company you’ve never heard of, plus this software cannot be switched off or removed? AKA a *rootkit

You wouldn’t like it would you? Well, if you have a modern Android, BlackBerry or Nokia phone, then that’s exactly what’s been happening from the first time you switched it on.

And when I say every keystroke, I mean EVERY single keystroke! so yes every login and password you’ve made, even over HTTPS, has been recorded and is now stored by Carrier IQ

Don’t believe that’s possible, then check out this Wired article, plus the video below (although jump to 11 mins in for the good / scary stuff!)

Trevor Eckhart original post. The root kit creator Carrier IQ

* “rootkit,” a security term that refers to software installed at a low-level on a device, without a user’s consent or knowledge, in order to secretly intercept the device’s workings. Malware such as keyloggers and trojans are two examples.

UPDATE: there’s a Twitter hashtag for this now #CIQ

Too Much of a Good Thing

Here’s a great article from Smashing Magazine on “improving customer experience by limiting choice.”

It’s an issue I’ve encounter numerous times, when a client thinks they are doing me a favour by giving me an open brief, as in reality there’s no worse type of brief to get! So I’ve often said ”Give me the flexibility of a tighter brief”

Plus I’m a firm believer of Occam’s Razor “The simplest solution is always the best” A design isn’t finished when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away

So in keeping with the article’s advice, I’m keeping the options of this post simple, here’s the link