Category Archives: Tech Stuff

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)

cover-full-600

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.

continuous
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!

continuous

WiFi Visualisation as You’ve Never Seen it Before

“In order to study the spatial and material qualities of wireless networks, we built a WiFi measuring rod that visualises WiFi signal strength as a bar of lights. When moved through space the rod displays changes in the WiFi signal. Long-exposure photographs of the moving rod reveal cross sections of a network’s signal strength.”

YOUrban.no

you should follow me on twitter here

Daisy Disk Sunburst UI

I stumbled across this app a few days ago and purchased it, not because I needed or would likely use the app that often, but because I simply loved the User Interface… and while it’s beautifully executed it’s not a case of form over function, this UI is a really elegant solution and works brilliantly… have a look at the video below to see for yourself (they’ve even uploaded the UI development history onto Flickr)

I have no idea what the sales demand of such a utility would be on the Mac platform alone, I don’t think it would be very large, which is a shame as the developers have spent an enormous amount of effort creating a stunning looking app and building a strong brand and identity around it, but it seems to have been abandoned, probably due to lack of sales. It looks like they made the classic mistake of focussing on developing the solution instead of ensuring the problem was big enough to warrant their investment.

Developer: Daisy Disk
UI history on Flickr

 

One For The Ladies

Here’s a novel way of positively implementing facial recognition software for an advertising campaign by Plan UK.

If the poster recognises you as a woman (90% success rate), then it displays a video highlighting how women around the world are denied choices based solely on their gender, with a call to action to become engaged in the plan. If it believes you’re a guy, you’re not shown the advert but instead presented statistics on the problem, turning the table and driving home the message that as a man you’ve now experienced what it’s like to have your freedom of choice taken away purely down to your gender.

Neat idea that should garner plenty of press coverage and undoubtedly get a few people hot under the collar, but that’s a good thing!

more info:
Plan uk
Choices for Girls

Apple’s Flashy iPod Touch Ad

There’s a iPod Touch advert on Wired’s homepage that’s very smart.

Anyone not in the digital media industry, will likely look at the advert and not be overly impressed, but technically, this ad is very impressive, as it extends beyond what you assume is it’s frame, the iPod covers the menu bar above (which remains active), and that my friend is really neat, in a very geeky way.

I’m assuming it’s done with a combination of still graphics synced perfectly with the video below, but I could be wrong. Although the question to ask now, is whether this is all done in HTML5, or did Apple use Flash?

The Next Train Will Arrive in the Vegetable Aisle

Hate grocery shopping? Hate waiting for public transport? Then why not combine them and make them twice as bad? ah, but elementary maths tells us that adding two negatives creates a positive!

This is a really simple, yet very effective way to get customers to try out Tesco’s online retail store. Perfect for South Korea, where 80% of the population have web enabled smart phones. Unfortunately Tesco would unlikely have the same success on their home turf, with no mobile reception and crowded rush hour platforms, the London Underground would be an impossible test bed.

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

eBooks Are For Weirdos

According to a new survey by Harris Interactive 1 in 6 Americans now use an eReader with 1 in 6 likely to purchase one within the next 6 months. That’s 15%, which is almost double what it was this time last year, 8%. Also eBook readers purchase more books and read on average more than paper book readers!

I should know, since I purchased my first Sony eReader I started reading more, and now with the books from my Kindle available on my Mac, iPhone, iPad I purchase and read more than ever!

A case in point, Seth Godin released a new book today entitled, We Are All Weird, but rather than purchase the hard back and wait for it to be delivered (which I’ve not done in many many years!), I clicked the link to the Amazon Kindle store, clicked the “Buy now with one click” and had it on my Kindle before my kettle boiled this morning! Two Clicks and I had the book, why would anyone purchase a book in any other way, and why would an author sell their book any other way?

I’ve been saying this for years, it’s part of my no paper mantra, but it would appear Seth believes the same:

My new book, We Are All Weird goes on sale today. We only have 11,000 hardcover copies on sale at Amazon, with no plans to print more. I wanted you to have first dibs. (PS, Outside the USA? click here). Why limit the number printed?

Conventional publishing wisdom says that the first 10,000 copies are the hardest. In fact, you don’t make money until after that. The goal is to prime the pump and then, if you get lucky, sell millions and millions of hardcovers, day after day, year after year. That’s what pays the bills at all the large publishing houses. The thing is, digital is better at infinity than paper ever will be. Digital is easy to keep in stock, easy to replenish, easy to connect with. Paper, on the other hand, benefits from scarcity.

The Cosmonaut is The Write Stuff

I posted about the Scribbly a while ago, but I just stumbled on the Cosmonaut by Studio Neat, the guys that created the Glif, which in case you missed it is a cool iPhone tripod mount and stand, that had a very successful Kickstarter launch. Well it looks like they’ve done it again with another great idea, the Cosmonaut, as it rocketed (sorry about that), past it’s goal of $50,000 to secure $134,236 in funding!

I can’t wait to grab one myself (actually it’s given me an idea for a no paper add on)

Don’t Build It and They Will Come, 90k Of Them!

That appears to be Martin Hasek’s philosophy, the creator of Noteslate, and it appears to be working. I posted about the Noteslate back in January, I was sceptical then and unfortunately my scepticism was founded, as this CNN report confirmed shortly afterwards, but that doesn’t appear to have stopped 64,000 people clicking the like button on their homepage, 10,000 following them on Twitter, plus over 17,000 optimistic hopefuls liking the Noteslate Facebook page (there were only 500 when I hit the like button!), most of which are keen to see a real noteslate in production, although some are flagging a bit now on the Facebook page, and posting negative and frustrated comments.

So why do this? Surely Martin is going to anger a lot of people when he comes 100% clean, or will he? After all he’s proven without doubt that his college industrial design project (apparently that’s where it all started) has a market, one that may make investors very interested in the concept, although without any IP protection, I’m not sure how interested they’d be… although if you do the maths, based on the original price of $100 per unit (highly unlikely), that’s still 90k fans & likes x $100 = $9m… not bad for vapourware! Plus if Noteslate don’t release it, someone else undoubtedly will.

Either way, I’d personally love to see a noteslate type of device, without doubt I’d use it everyday, it dovetails perfectly with our no paper philosophy, we’d certainly look at ways of communicating with it and automating syncing with our own systems.

One thing Noteslate highlights and proves to us at no paper, is that people have no problem imagining a world where they don’t use or rely on paper, of course we’ve believed that for a long time, but it’s nice to know others believe and feel the same!

more dis-information at noteslate

more information at no paper

Let Sleeping Lions Lie

I admit that I’m not one to shy away from hitting the install button and crossing my fingers (although I do always make a thorough back up… I’ve been using computers long enough to know that!)

So I took the plunge, I paid my £20 to Apple for OS X 10.7, or in Marketing Speak, Lion, or what Apple like to call “The World’s Most Advanced Operating System”, modest to a T as always the guys from Cupertino!

so was I brave, nuts, wise or foolish?

The installation was simplicity itself, after doing one last time capsule back up, I clicked the App Store icon, hit the Lion purchase icon and it jumped down to my tool bar and started downloading… 3.7Gb, yes that is a G not an M… but after 20 mins it was all down, the install dialogue window appeared asking if I’d like to install Lion. But before I proceeded, I copied the downloaded file onto an external hard drive for safe keeping… as the installer automatically deletes itself after installing and I’ve other Macs I want to upgrade, and I don’t wish to download it all again, plus I can now make my own installer DVD or memory stick (details below).

The installation took about 40 mins to complete. I won’t go into all the new stuff in Lion, there’s plenty of that on the web already, it’s a nice update, but it’s just that, it’s an update, the same as Snow Leopard before it was, but the few elements it’s copied over from iOS are nicely done, although don’t exactly have the same obvious UX as you get using an iOS device, after all regardless of what Steve Jobs says, we’re not completely in a post PC world yet, for real creation and effective work, we’ll going to require real computers, and proper operating systems for some time yet!

Any problems? yep, I’ve installed Lion on my MacBook Pro, for some strange reason my headphone socket isn’t working, plug in a pair of headphones and the audio just continues to come out of the speakers? this isn’t a major problem, as I mostly use my AirTunes to play my iTunes over Wifi, plus I’m sure a fix that addresses this bug will come out soon. More importantly, will my Adobe CS4 still work? The answer is yes, So far Illustrator and photoshop are working flawlessly, I rarely use all the other CS4 apps, such as In Design, After Effects, but I opened them all to see if they work and all opened fine. I have the Adobe CS4 Master Suite if that helps anyone else with this question before upgrading. The odd app lost it’s registration when I opened them, but inputting the registration codes again, sorted them all.

I have had a strange font issue, my Helvetica Neu Bold ignores spaces, in Illustrator all my text is coming out like this “HelloI’maMacandI’maPC”, but changing font and it works fine? So I went to look for the corrupt file, but after 2hrs looking I’ve given up, I had several copies of helvetica installed, all of which I have removed, yet some how or other, Helvetica is still installed!!!!

Oh which brings me onto this little nugget, Lion makes your Library folder invisible, which is a real pain in the arse, but there’s a fix, go to http://www.macgurulounge.com/library-folder-mac-os-lion/ for more info, but all you have to do is open Terminal type chflags nohidden ~/Library and it re-appears

Getting back to making your own Installer disk… locate the downloaded installer file, it’s in your applications folder, locate an application named “Install Mac OS X Lion.app” Yes it’s an application not a disk image! copy this to an external hard drive, or if you want to make a bootable installer disk do the following.

OS X applications are actually folders, so if you right mouse click on the app icon and select “Show Package Contents” you are now presented with the folder contents. Locate the file InstallESD.dmg, it’s in the SharedSupport sub folder. Select this image then make a DVD of it like you normally do. That’s it, you now have a bootable OS X Lion Installer disk