Archive for December, 2011
December 30th, 2011
Two US designer-engineers are about to launch a very cool device called Twine.
Twine is 2 Â½ inches square and will enable anyone to connect with their physical objects through texts, tweets or email wherever they are.
MIT Media Lab graduates David Carr (above, right) and John Kestner (above, left) developed the wireless device to integrate with a cloud-based service.
Twine has a thermometer to measure its internal temperature and an accelerometer to track any movement it experiences and a connector to add external sensors through the tightly integrated Spool web app.
Spool is very easy to use â€“ it is rules based with extensive filters and so needs no coding experience at all.
The device has two built-in probes provide for several functions controlled by Spool and is powered by a mini USB or two AAA batteries and the device tells you by email when the batteries are running low.
The ways in which Twine could be used to interact with our household and other objects is limited only by our imaginations. It can monitor kitchen cool storage, water and heat and prompt us if there are variations for example, water flows in unexpected areas, problems with cool storage and so on.
Other folks seem to like the idea â€“ Carr and Kestner, who now run Supermechanical, wanted to raise $35,000 seed cash by online donations. Theyâ€™ve raised $440,000 to date.
We can expect Twine to arrive on the market in first quarter of 2012 and it should retail at $99. Let the imagination games begin!
Watch the Twine video
December 23rd, 2011
Cyber threats continue to grow as the world becomes more mobile and networked. Next year, we can expect the number of successful network defence attacks to grow rapidly, partly because legislation will make data breach reporting mandatory but also because, increasingly, everything that moves will become a target â€“ as a controllable mobile networked device.
What are the chances that the increased opportunities will result in cyber-attack, successful or not? Given the current network security methodologies deployed in a greater majority of organisations around the world, which rely on layers of software to deflect attacks, and the lack of robust security at the device level, I think it is highly probable that series of attacks will be mounted next year.
This is recognised in a current report on one mobile sector, on the worldâ€™s waters. The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) has just published the first EU report on cyber security challenges in the Maritime Sector. The report says that recent deliberate disruptions of critical automation systems, through malware worms such as Stuxnet, prove that cyber-attacks have a significant impact on critical infrastructures.
Disruption through Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) to these ICT capabilities may have disastrous consequences for EU Member States’ governments and social well-being. The need to ensure ICT robustness against cyber-attacks is a key challenge at national and pan-European level.
The report says that Maritime cyber security awareness is currently low to non-existent and advises: â€œDue to the high ICT complexity, it is a major challenge to ensure adequate maritime cyber security. A common strategy and the establishing of good practices for technology development and implementation of ICT systems would therefore ensure â€˜security by designâ€™ for all critical maritime ICT components.â€
The tools for creating such havoc are becoming more focused and professional â€” and more accessible.
The newest and most unpredictable weaknesses today are in the connected systems embedded in late-model cars.
Vulnerabilities have been identified in remote start, locking, tracking and other car systems. Computer security researchers at iSec Partners, for example, have shown how they can unlock a car and turn on its engine using a laptop computer – and it took them but a few hours to tap into the car’s wireless connections.
These innovations were intended as theft deterrents but if cyber-criminals or terrorists could take control of these systems the consequences hardly bear thinking about.
And while the possibility of controlling an aircraft by remote computer,Â causing it to crash remains remote but hackers can disrupt flights and create potentially life-threatening situations.
Even rudimentary distributed denial of service attacks (DDOS) can and have been deployed; for example, the “ Low Orbit Ion Cannon“. These repurposed administrative tools bring down systems DDOS and they could cause serious problems if directed at critical transportation systems.
These networks are certainly frighteningly vulnerable. In 2002, a major weakness in the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) was discovered that could have been exploited to bring down large portions of the Internet. The vulnerability was kept a secret while security firms worked to protect telecommunications equipment around the world.
According to FBI reports at the time, if the systems could have been used to interrupt control information exchanged between ground and aircraft flight control systems â€“ but the patches came just in time.
Similar outages in telecommunications systems and embedded systems could be used to disrupt train and track switching information in some countries, particularly the US.
Some rail systems there are based on supervisory control and data acquisition control systems (SCADA), similar to those that were compromised in the Stuxnet attacks in 2010.
Governments, organisations and corporates around the globe are waking up, belatedly to the seriousness of current network defence structural flaws. I hope that this new focus and energy will lead to adoption of radically more robust methodologies in 2012.
December 21st, 2011
Firefox has officiallyÂ launchedÂ 9.0, and it looks like it could now be a good fit withÂ AndroidÂ tablet devices. AdditionallyÂ Firefox also claim to haveÂ over 160 add-ons for mobile.
You can findÂ Firefox 9.0 on the Android Market here.
You can see some of the latest features in Firefox 9.0 in the following video:
Whats new in Firefox 9.0 for Android:
New Look for Tablets: Firefox has a new experience for tablets that leverages the large screen size and makes mobile Web browsing more intuitive. Popular Firefox features like tabs and the Awesome Screen are optimised for tablets.
Full-Screen Portrait Browsing: Firefox takes advantage of large tablet screens so you can use the full screen to browse the Web, even in portrait mode. Tabs are listed in a top left menu and easily hide when you donâ€™t need them.
Tab Optimisation: Tabs are shown as thumbnails in the left panel of Firefox, allowing you to easily switch between tabs while still viewing full websites on the right. You can swipe to the left to hide tabs for a full screen view.
New Action Bar with Quick Access Buttons: You can access Firefox Preferences, Add-ons, downloads and more in the new Action Bar menu (next to the Awesome Bar). The Action Bar adds back, forward and bookmark buttons for easy access.
HTML5 Input Tag for Camera Access: Developers can build mobile websites and Web apps that allow you to use the camera on an Android phone or tablet to take pictures, scan bar codes and more without leaving Firefox.
HTML5 Form Validation: Firefox supports the HTML5 Form Validation API which automatically validates website form fields like numbers, emails and URLs without developers needing to write a custom code or use a third-party library.
Have you tried it yet, is it any good? We would love to hear yourÂ experiencesÂ with Firefox 9 on Android tablet devices.
December 20th, 2011
YouGov has announced its 2012 predictions for UK consumers’ consumption and behaviour around Smart TV, smartphones, Facebook, digital newspapers and digital radio. The findings originate from a multi-country study, carried out in November 2011 with almost 13,000 respondents.
The headline statistics include:
o 15% of UK consumers say they will own a Smart TV within the next 12 months
o 86% of smartphone users ignore advertising on mobiles
o 60% of UK online population now use Facebook more than once a day
o 24% of tablet users access the web whilst in bed
o Just over one in five (22%) of 18-24 year olds have listened to the Radio via a portable radio set (including DAB)
As you can see, surprisingly only 15% of UK consumers said that they expect to purchase a connected, or ‘Smart’, TV within the next 12 months. However, that figure may not tell the whole story as people are already connecting their TV to the web via external devices, including games consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3, along with ‘plug in’ boxes such as Boxee.
The biggest driver for adoption of Smart TV is the availability of content, as YouGov reports 36% of UK respondents aged 18-24 said that they would make a connected TV purchase if they could watch their favourite TV content on-demand.
Dan Brilot, media consulting director at YouGov, said: “Smart content producers must continue to develop their services to make it increasingly easier for people to watch what they want, when they want, wherever they want.”
Moving onto smartphones, 40% of people own smartphones in the UK, increasing to 68% within the next upgrade cycle. However, YouGov say 86% of smartphone users ignore advertising on mobiles, meaning engagement via mobile must be useful and relevant – not broadcasted, or in other words: advertising.
In terms of digital newspapers and tablets, Russell Feldman, associate director of technology at YouGov says: “The decline of print media sales will only accelerate during 2012. Tablets and apps will increase the digital cannibalisation of paper copies as they erode more of those previously inaccessible locations to digital devices; for example, nearly one quarter (24%) of tablet users access the internet whilst in bed.”
Tablet usage is still small (currently only 4% of the UK population own one) but that number is growing and, as the market develops and new entrants such as the Kindle Fire gain traction, newspaper and magazine publishers will focus more effort on specific tablet versions of their publications.
Finally, DAB take-up hasn’t quite lived up to the initial hype. To make this happen, Dan Brilot, media consulting director at YouGov says: “The radio industry needs to educate and support consumers as they become accustomed to new ways of listening and to ensure that reach and frequency opportunities are truly maximised – not lost – in the digital age.”
December 14th, 2011
Ofcom’s sixth International Communications Market Report was announced today and it shows Britain’s digital culture is developing well against other countries.
According to the report, covered in the Guardian, the British spend more time online, own more Smartphones and digital video recorders and watch more television over the internet than any country on the Continent.
Breaking down the statistics, apparently the British spend an average of 746 minutes (more than 12 hours) a week online, longer than any of the world’s major economies except the U.S.
However, the UK tops the charts in terms of Smartphone use and online and digital TV viewing, as 46% of all British mobile subscribers are Smartphone users, more than in Europe and the US and up from 24% the year before. The next highest was Spain, with 45% penetration.
61% of young mobile subscribers have been able to acquire Smartphones, and one quarter of 55 to 64 year olds claim to access the internet from their phones.
The UK also tops the online TV viewing figures with 27% of Britons watching TV online every week, higher than the U.S., where the total is 23%. UK digital TV penetration is also the highest in Europe, with 97% of households receiving more than the five basic channels. France is the second highest, with 93%, and America at 87%.
The UKÂ leads the field in buying online, as 79% ordered goods and services. The Dutch are the next most likely to make it to the checkout, with 74% spending online.
Considering our lower broadband penetration (The UK’s broadband penetration is 74%, where as France has reached 77%, Canada 83% and the Netherlands 89%) and often patchy mobile service outside of urban centres, the figures show that the British as a nation have not only accepted digital, but are making it a strong part of our culture in terms of communication, leisure and retail habits.
December 8th, 2011
How quickly things change in politics. In June, European Commission vice-president and Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding announced that she would introduce new rules that would make data breach reporting mandatory.
At the time, advice given was that these regulatory changes would be enacted by end-January 2012.
Six months later, the EU inertia, fuelled by intense lobbying and national political interests, has become clearly visible.
Now, the proposals for new legislation that will revise the 1995 Data Protection Directive are to be published at the end of next January, although many believe the process may take longer as the EU Justice Department needs to confer further with other national justice departments.
When these changes will become European law is in the lap of many gods. Donâ€™t hold your breath.
Neelie Kroe,Â ,EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, is a key player in the process of drafting the new laws with Commissioner Reding and her agenda is to dismantle the barriers that block the free flow of online services and entertainment across national borders.
She wants to update EU Single Market rules for the digital era and through this to boost the music download business, establish a single area for online payments, and further protect EU consumers in cyberspace.
According to the Financial Times, which has seen draft proposals, the changes proposed by Commissioner RedingÂ include fines of up to 5 per cent of global turnover for businesses breaching data protection rules, a deadline of 24 hours for notifying data protection authorities and affected parties, and a requirement for all companies with more than 250 employees to dedicate staff to data protection issues.
Commissioner Reding has been active this week, outlining in indicative and different forms the thinking behind the new EU rules. The difference is in the detail.
On Tuesday (December 6th) at the European Data Protection and Privacy Conference in Brussels, Commissioner Reding said: â€œIn a world of ever-increasing connectivity, our fundamental right to data protection is in this moment seriously tested. Although the basic principles and objectives of the 1995 Directive remain valid, the rules need to be adapted to new technological challenges.”
She made no explicit reference to the idea of levying fines on organisations that allow data to be stolen.
The next day, at the GSMA Europe conference on cloud computing in Brussels, Commissioner Reding said that cloud computing brought both businesses and consumers enormous potential for growth but legislation needed to be brought up to date.
She said: â€œTechnological advances in 2011 represent one of the biggest challenges to data protection and data security of our citizens. This is why we have to equip ourselves now and for the future. And this is why we have to adapt our current, European legislation on data protection, which is more than 15 years old, so that it meets these new challenges and any new situations.â€
Among the proposals is a commitment to ensure users can remove their photos, videos or contacts from a cloud service without leaving any digital trace because “their profiles belong to them, not to the company”.
And there is the difference. Commissioner Reding is addressing her constituency, assuring them that their privacy concerns are heard and being addressed. At the same time, she is attempting to impose a regulatory system that forces organisations to report data breaches. Neither of these ideas is fleshed out in her public engagements this week and there are contradictions between the two thoughts she spoke around.
She said: “Reliable and consistent rules are essential if we want the digital economy and our digital single market to grow. These rules make people feel comfortable about using new technologies and services. We need a framework for privacy that protects individuals and boosts the digital economy.”
The central contradiction nestles between thought and action. Currently, there are inadequate reporting and compliance strategies being deployed by too many organisations. Further, they do not have the means to protect and deflect assaults on the data they store.
Leaving aside the weird concept of â€œour digital single marketâ€, Commissioner Redingâ€™s words surely give little comfort to neither consumer nor business because they are vague, offering no technology solutions and without a timetable.
This means that they are just this side of dirigiste. It would help if the EU Commissioners used the internet to connect with each other and exchange knowledge about what is need in the changing sphere of network security. Then discuss this with us.
Organisations and voters need clear advice on the best ways to protect their information and privacy. The EU and every nation state have been remiss in offering this advice.
Meanwhile, the EU is also negotiating a data protection agreement with the United States. Best of luck with that, people.
December 8th, 2011
We all like something that makes life a little easier, and one thing that frustrates me intensely is printing out web pages. You always get the pictures, adverts, links, and some times hundreds of comments if the post is a popular one, basically all the stuff you don’t need!
Don’t fear, help is at hand thanks to a handy little article in LifeHacker. They suggest a Chrome app called Print Friendly. They say: “Print Friendly for Chrome gives you control over what makes it into the print out and what doesn’t” The good thing about it is that it moves most of the useless stuff for you, it then shows you a final version, which you can tinker with, before finally hitting print.
December 6th, 2011
The B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends report, was published yesterday by the Content Marketing Institute in the U.S., led by its founder Joe Pulizzi.
We usually try to focus on UK/Euro stats on this blog, but I found the data in this piece to be particularly interesting. You can see the full findings here, and the sample of 1,092 marketers was taken in August 2011, and focused on how well B2B marketers are achieving their goals when it comes to content marketing, and how much has changed in the past year.
The 2011 study follows the 2010 piece of the same name and therefore allows for comparison between this year and last year.
In brief, the report shows:
Usage and effectiveness
â€¢ 9 out of 10 organisations market with content marketing
â€¢ On average, B2B marketers employ eight different content marketing tactics to achieve their goals. The most popular tactics are: (see graph below for full breakdown)
- Article posting (79%)
- Social media (excluding blogs) (74%)
- Blogs (65%)
- eNewsletters (63%)
- case studies (58%)
- in-person events (56%)
â€¢ Marketers are using content marketing to support multiple business goals, led by:
- brand awareness (69%)
- customer acquisition (68%)
- lead generation (67%)
- customer retention/loyalty (62%)
The least widely employed goal for content marketing is lead management/nurturing.
â€¢ Web traffic is the most widely used success metric (58%). However, this year, sales lead
quality (49%) is the second-highest used metric (versus direct sales in the previous study).
â€¢ Marketers, on average, spend over a quarter of their marketing budget on content marketing
â€¢ 60% report that they plan to increase their spend on content marketing over the next 12 months.
The greatest reported challenge is “producing the kind of content that engages prospects
and customers” (41% of respondents). And nearly the same percentage of respondents in 2011 as in 2010 reported that “producing enough content” (20%) and “budget to produce content” (18%) are their greatest challenges in content marketing.
While in-person events and webinars are still seen as the most effective tactics, on average, the following ranked notably higher in perceived effectiveness compared to the 2010 report:
â€¢ Blogs: 45% increase
â€¢ Case studies: 32% increase
â€¢ Videos: 36% increase
â€¢ Webinars/webcasts: 25% increase
The challenges section will resonate with many marketers, identifying points that will continue to test brands of all types, specifically: producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers, producing enough content, and budgeting to produce content, which is difficult enough without considering those organisations that have little or no experience of the resource required to produce high quality and engaging content in a consistent way.
Of the tactics, it was a bit of a shock to see blogs coming out highest in terms of perceived effectiveness compared to 2010. The general trend has been away from blogs, but perhaps this is a reflection of quality beginning to tell over quantity, as those that have actually put the effort into B2B blogs are now seeing the return over the â€˜me too’ blogs that see very little in either response or effort.
Measurement is always a prickly subject, and it was no surprise to see web traffic ranking as the most popular, although sales lead quality is beginning to show a little more relevance for those B2B businesses putting the time in to identify metrics and better understand opportunities and outcomes.
December 1st, 2011
Content curation as an online concept has matured quickly since Brian Solis laid out terms in his book Curation Nation in April this year.
I found the book a puzzle but it helped me form new ideas around content curation online. I went back to basics and developed a working model of how to store, link and add value to online information.
This is work in progress and centres currently on:
Â· Understanding the specific values of all content forms
Â· Finding the appropriate format: text, video, animation, audio, image
Â· Assessing what is timely, useful and relevant; and what is background
Â· Knowing how to label and store information so that it is findable and visible
Â· Continually rethinking the details
Â· Understanding the current limits and possibilities of curation automation.
The work of DNA researchers, touched on in a Radio 4 programme today, helped to further crystallise these thoughts. Research teams are working on a rapid form of DNA identification (DNA barcoding) and the system is designed to provide rapid, accurate, and automatable species identifications by using short, standardised gene regions as internal species tags.
Wikipedia says that DNA barcoding â€œis a taxonomic method that uses a short genetic marker in an organism’s DNA to identify it as belonging to a particular species. It differs from molecular phylogeny in that the main goal is not to determine classification but to identify an unknown sample in terms of a known classification. Although barcodes are sometimes used in an effort to identify unknown species or assess whether species should be combined or separated, the utility of DNA barcoding for these purposes is subject to debate.
â€œApplications include, for example, identifying plant leaves even when flowers or fruit are not available, identifying insect larvae (which typically have fewer diagnostic characters than adults), identifying the diet of an animal based on stomach contents or faeces, and identifying products in commerce (for example, herbal supplements or wood).
The current DNA barcoding project aims to curate information on 500,000 species over the next five years. I hope we can find ways to speed this process to include the 8.7 million known (and dropping) species on Earth.
As Paul D. N. Hebert and T. Ryan Gregory write in their Oxford Journals article: â€œDNA barcoding allows a day to be envisioned when every curious mind, from professional biologists to schoolchildren, will have easy access to the names and biological attributes of any species on the planet.
â€œIn addition to assigning specimens to known species, DNA barcoding will accelerate the pace of species discovery by allowing taxonomists to rapidly sort specimens and by highlighting divergent taxa that may represent new species. By augmenting their capabilities in these ways, DNA barcoding offers taxonomists the opportunity to greatly expand, and eventually complete, a global inventory of life’s diversity.â€
A crude taxonomy of internet data has been in process since the advent of Google but it is a half-hidden process. Given the lack of truly open explanation about how online data is sorted, we do need to work on content curation theory and practise informed by the DNA research ideas while half-understanding and deploying practices informed by the â€˜secret saucesâ€™ held by the search engines.
While we work towards this, the debate around online content curation continues to be engaging and useful. The internet is much more than a marketing tool but the commercial imperative should help to drive forward our ideas towards a coherent Online Content Curation Theory.