I love documents based on prediction, because they are beautifully hard to disprove, after all anything might happen. I’ve just read Ericsson’s ConsumerLab report on the consumer trends of this year and it’s a fascinating look not into what scientists think is going to happen, but what the general public predict.
The problem with asking the (mainly non-science trained) general public about what they expect to happen in matters of science and technology is that they will always apply much shorter timescales to things than are generally realistic. I am possible only marginally more informed than the random sample, but here’s my reaction.
Ericsson says: Early adopters are less important
Absolutely. Innovation now happens so fast (because it has become much cheaper for people and companies to innovate) leading to so much choice, making it difficult to discern a consumer trend. This is because as soon as one product iteration has been released, it is just a few days before another spurt-of-the-new confuses the public all over again.
“Successful new products and services now reach the mass market in only a matter of years”
I think Ericsson are off with their timescales here.
With services particularly (I’m thinking software) this can actually happen in months. The report notices the increased speed of mass adoption ‘the network effect’, but consumers are becoming more fickle. The ever changing market is teaching us to be technology magpies and we flit from one new shiny thing to another. Today it’s a smart watch, before that, Flappy Bird.
” as the speed of technology adoption increases, mass-market use becomes the norm much quicker than before”
I sense a tremendous marketing opportunity for services which can appear to be exclusive, whilst still benefiting from the economies of scale of a very broad appeal product. Blackberry used to know what this was like. Remember when ‘important people’ had a Blackberry handset? It was a status symbol which thanks to a quirk of its messaging service became hugely popular with the younger crowd. But then it became uncool (because we are fickle) and the brand was tarnished at the same time. The exclusivity was gone.
TV companies definitely know what this is like, and it’s why a broadcaster like ITV has diversified into a clutch of sub-brands each known for a particular specialism. ITV2 for new and trendy, ITV3 for people who prefer the way television used to be.
The kids are watching video on the internet – Streaming Natives
I fail to see why this is still worth mentioning. Its so obvious when you compare with another market like, well a market. Would you prefer to shop at the single butcher, baker or grocer for the limited amount of time they are open, or would you prefer to go to a big supermarket and do everything at once and benefit from the increased choice, the lower prices and the longer opening hours?
People like television, kids particularly so. When I was in my teens, my mum was forever trying to get me to stop watching TV. I watch even more TV now than I did then, mostly because it’s so much more convenient (and because I don’t live with my mum anymore and she can’t tell me off).
AI ends the screen age
No it won’t. At least not in the 5 year term predicted. First we will get more versatile screens that are bigger and that we can fold up in our pockets. As for talking to an artificial intelligent assistant. We already do that. Except we don’t. When Siri and her ilk appeared, my friends loved to experiment with it. They don’t do that anymore. (We are fickle).
Short instructions to AI systems seem to work much better. Telling my Echo speaker “Play BBC Radio 4” never gets old because I like listening to Radio 4.
50 percent of consumers think holographic screens will be mainstream within 5 years
Here’s that problem about the general public and timescales.
50 percent of consumers think holographic screens will be mainstream within 5 years? Really? This is a technology that has yet to see life outside a lab. I have my doubts that internet-connected light bulbs will be mainstream in 5 years, and you can buy those today!
Strangely, the one thing that the general public thinks the least good of the ideas is the one I think will massively take off. VR dating. What a time-saver for the initial sift of potential spouses to happen remotely! No more uncomfortable and expensive dinners with people who are obviously not a match.
55 percent of smartphone users believe that homes will have embedded sensors within 5 years
Hooray, something I believe will happen. However, given the speed it takes to build and replenish housing stock, I don’t see this becoming anything like mass market for another decade. In the meantime, we will have to cope with a competing bunch of home sensor systems that will harm early adoption, along with the threat that your home can be hacked.
65 percent of smartphone owners are interested in an emergency app, which would alert them in a crisis or disaster, and provide verified, rumor free information
Only 65%? I wonder what the rest wanted? This is clearly a new and necessary role for public service broadcasters. I see a renewed need for organisations like the EBU (aka Eurovision) to provide links between trustworthy newsrooms and maybe have direct access into their various apps to provide and share exactly this kind of infomation.
Everything gets hacked
It’s fascinating that people have caught onto the probability that consumer electronics security is an if not when event. I know many professionals who haven’t worked that one out. Although again, the thing they rate as least likely, wearables, I rate the opposite.
I wonder if people are actually rating the effect a hack might have on them and seeing wearables as immaterial. Either way, they are wrong.
One statistic stands out to me: 43 percent think we will be required to identify ourselves whenever we use the internet within the next 3 years. The creeping surveillance state propaganda appears to be working.
In summarising, the report (like many) quotes William Gibson: the future is already here. Though it suggests that future is much more evenly distributed this time round. I am not so sure.
The things that still matter, are still the things which require the most effort, or the most money, or both: A breakthrough medicine for HIV, replacements for the ticking timebomb of antibiotics, a reusable rocket, the self driving car or what we end up doing with our rubbish.
There are two types of newsroom. Those that have lost data, and those that will.
Last week I was at Eurovision’s news conference – NewsXchange. It’s a fun and thoughtful annual gathering of leaders from (mostly) public service broadcast newsrooms across (mostly) europe.
I produced a session about two currents threats to journalism as I see it. The first is that journalism is increasingly put into the same category as terrorism when it comes to government investigations. This has massive implications for protection of journalists’ sources. If we are unable to keep a secret, because terrorism legislation forces us to reveal it when asked by authorities, how can we expect a whistleblower to trust us with information which is absolutely in the public interest?
The second threat is that large media organisations are increasingly seen as a prestige target by hackers. One example: TV5 was taken off the air for around 18 hours earlier this year.
At the start of the session I asked the audience a set of questions about their news organisation and security of their data. They voted using personal push-button handsets. I want to share the results here as we didn’t have enough time in the session to analyse them in detail.
If you are relatively new to data security threats, they might shock you. Sadly, for the most part myself and the experts I had with me on the panel found some of the results all too predictable.
I should stress this is not a statistically accurate survey, it is simply meant to be an indication of the thoughts of the people in the room at the time.
VPN use: An easy one to start with, and I’m pleasantly surprised that over a third of people use a secure connection on their own computer. However the number of people effectively saying ‘I know I should, but I don’t’ is where I expected it to be.
Data safety away from base: I asked here specifically about how reporters treated any data-carrying equipment once it was out of the office. How well do they stick to the IT rules?
I was particularly interested in the results of option two, as it’s an indicator of the extent to which corporate IT policies get in the way of newsgathering workflows. In many cases side-stepping the rules temporarily in order to speed the story back to base is acceptable as long as you’ve assessed the risks well enough.
I wasn’t prepared for a full two-thirds of the voters either not knowing when their reporters might be taking risks with important data, or not knowing what procedures were even in place!
Mobiles: I’ve seen this on many occasions. A reporter can’t get their work phone to do what they need it to, so they use their own phone, and half the respondents do not think this is an issue! The danger here is that a personal mobile phone is far more likely to be a ‘leaky’ data device. For a start, what happens if it gets lost or stolen with contact details of anonymous sources on it?
To what extent are you expecting a data breach: I am glad to see that most people are realists. It is extremely hard to prevent attacks, what matters is how you prepare for one and what you do afterwards. (The data theft from UK phone company Talk Talk had occurred just a week before. It was the third such attack and the company head didn’t even know if the data was encrypted or not! Astonishing.)
How effective do you think your corporate systems are: At least 20 percent of the respondents have a false sense of security, half need to ask better questions of their IT chiefs. Only a third of those who pushed a button are ready to properly plan for the attacks that will certainly come.
A quick note to the results: I’m displaying the questions in the order they were asked, but I don’t know the total number of votes that were counted, and of the 180 or so people in the room, not all would have voted and not all might have voted for all the questions.
I always welcome insightful comments. If you know something which would add to our understanding of these results, please let everyone know.
Soon to be available nightly, zero days a week
The flexibility of being able to download audio and video programmes to my mobile devices is one of the things that’s revolutionised by media consumption in the last decade. I have a 64GB ipod which is pretty much dedicated to podcasts, and it’s usually complaining that I’m about to run out of space.
I’m a massive consumer of documentary and current affairs, but I watch very little on-the-day TV news. And thanks to NBC’s decision to kill the podcast feed of Nightly News, I’ll now be watching even less.
I’ve been downloading NBC Nightly News pretty much every day for the last couple of years. It’s a great contrast to UK daily news programmes. I enjoy the different presentational style, I enjoy the different editorial decisions. But I also enjoy the very traditional collection of ‘stuff that happened today’ packaged into one simple bulletin.
There’s a helpful announcement pointing me in the direction of other ways to watch, via the dedicated app, or on the web, but here’s why the other options don’t work for me:
Both the app and website options need a live internet connection. I don’t always have one. The fantastic thing about a podcast or download is that it works wherever you are, even when your connection is patchy. I’m almost always enroute somewhere when I’m watching, hence my internet is always patchy.
Neither the app or wesbite options allow me to watch at anything other than real-time. I have something like 35 programmes on my device and in order to fit everything in, I almost always play things back at a faster speed.
This may seem extremely geeky (and I admit it probably is) but I often listen or watch up to 5 hours of media in a day, and I only have about three hours to do so. The ability to compress time is really valuable.
I chose an ipod specifically because is has the best implementation of this that I’ve found so far, as it attempts to keep the pitch the same, while increasing the speed. It doesn’t sound normal, but it isn’t so strange that you can’t listen or understand for quite long periods. A 30 minute show magically becomes 15 minutes long and I have 15 minutes to watch something else.
The audio version of Nightly News will still be available yes, and I could download that and play it back at a higher speed. However, without the pictures, I would do better with a dedicated radio programme instead, radio reporters don’t constantly refer to things you cannot see.
I don’t know the reason NBC are getting rid of Nightly News in video, but in doing so, mainstream TV loses another viewer and they hurt their overall accessibility at a time when ease-of-access is one of the most important things for a media producer. Make it harder for people to get to your offer, and the majority just won’t bother.
If I had the time, I could probably do a screen-scrape of their web video and get the programme back, but there’s so much competition out there, I’ll probably just switch to something else.
I never cease to be amazed at how organisations suffering from audience-flight make decisions which will exacerbate the problem, but at least my ipod has a bit more space now.
Score: Innovation 1, mainstream media nil. Again.
Off-peak – not a thing anymore
Welcome to 2015!
I don’t normally write about topics which appear everywhere else in the mainstream news, but here’s something that I can’t understand isn’t a bigger story, judging by the comments I’ve seen online today.
The news in London, and across much of England is that with today being the first work day of the year for many, it now it costs on average 2.5% more for the train or bus to work.
Here’s the headline you haven’t seen:
Price of off-peak travel in London leaps 38%
You read that correctly. If you, like many, like the cost-saving and lack of crush of travelling after 0930, then you just got what must be the largest fare increase in the country.
In 2014 an offpeak travelcard for zones 1-6 cost: £8.90
In 2015 an offpeak travelcard for zones 1-6 is now £12.00, a rise of 34.8%.
There are some other interesting changes.
The Anytime Travelcard is now also £12 for zones 1-4. There seems to be no incentive at all to travel offpeak anymore with this type of ticket. Live further out? Your fare jumps another 40% higher:
Buy a travelcard at 8am in Oakleigh Park – £12. Buy it at New Barnet about a mile further up the road, and you’ll pay £17. My advice, walk the mile! (Does TFL have a secret pact with the NHS to encourage pedestrians?)
It gets even more interesting when you look at what’s happened to the price caps. This is the maximum possible you will pay in a day if you use an Oyster card, or a contactless payment card.
In 2014 the offpeak price cap for zones 1-6 was: £8.50
In 2015 the offpeak price cap for zones 1-6 is : £11.70, an increase of 38%
And in these zones, TFL have effectively abolished offpeak fares. The peak and the offpeak caps are the same.
Where this does make a difference is outside zone 6. Let’s stay with north London for a price example:
Use Oyster at Enfield Lock at 8am on a weekday and you won’t pay more than £11.70 for the entire day. Do the same at Waltham Cross, again about a mile further away and you will pay a whopping 70% more! The peak cap in zone 7 is £20.
Now let’s compare last year’s peaktime price caps, because in 2014, there was a significant premium for travelling with the herd.
In 2014 the peak price cap for zones 1-2 was: £8.40. It’s now £6.40, a fall of 23%.
In 2014 the peak price cap for zones 1-3 was: £10.60. It’s now £7.50, a fall of 29%.
In 2014 the peak price cap for zones 1-4 was: £10.60. It’s now £9.20, a fall of 13%.
In 2014 the peak price cap for zones 1-6 was: £15.80. It’s now £11.70, a fall of 26%.
It seems if you live in zones 4 or 5, you’re not seeing your fair share of reduction, and those living in zone 1 (possibly those who can afford high prices the most) also see a significant reduction.
There’s one upside however, if you’re not travelling through zone 1. The price of a single between zones 2-6 is still £1.50. After 0930 you can travel from Hammersmith to Heathrow, or from Mile End all the way to Epping for just £1.50. That’s a bargain, a weird sort of bargain, but a bargain nonetheless.
Getting rid of paper
For the last few years, we’ve had a significant additional cost to buying a single paper ticket with cash, now that’s grown to day travelcards as well, with the cost of the paper travelcard being well above the price caps, both peak and off peak. Here’s an expensive example:
Travelling from Sidcup in SE London before 0930 an Anytime travelcard is £17, but the peak price cap is £10.90 so you’ll pay 55% more for that paper ticket.
I can see how the cost of dealing with paper tickets must have increased proportionally as usage of them has dropped. After all, they still need to keep all the gates taking paper, and offices and machines issuing them. But has the dropoff in the use of paper tickets in the last few years really brought us to the point where the cost is 55% more?
And with 2015’s fare regime it looks like off-peak travellers are being massively penalised. And penalised for what exactly? For waiting a bit longer, thus allowing more space for people who don’t have a choice about when to travel?
There isn’t a financial incentive any more if you live within zones 1-4. Just crush onto the trains with everyone else, because with the price-caps the same, you’re not going to pay any more than they are.
By travelling off-peak in 2015 you’re now paying more, not less. While those travelling at peak times can pay less, not more. That’s a strategy I don’t understand.
This morning I outlined some apps I think show interesting trends for the radio and audio industries, and for reference, here they are, with a couple of additions I didn’t get a chance to show.
The first three are all examples of text-to-speech developments. There are many organisations trying to achieve reliable mechanisms to automatically create speech radio.
This takes any webpage or RSS feed and turns it into speech. The computer voice is surprisingly listenable!
Newsbeat adds many more options for customisation and features a combination of computer speech and real human voices to. Weirdly, I find it hard to tell the difference sometimes, not because the computer voices are so good, but because the human voices can be very robotic.
This requires subscription to unlock all the features, but even without a mobile you can get a good idea of what’s it’s like by looking at their website.
Umano is fully human speech. How do they achieve this? The power of crowd-sourcing! You can audition to become an Umano reader, and then upload your finished readings. The users themselves select the stories they think should be turned into audio.
A couple of examples of content companies who have looked at the trends in online music listening and are seeing how they can use those in speech radio.
NPR diligently tag all their live radio and their app creates a live-sounding news and current affairs station. You can tell it what you like, it will start to give you more of that. I like it a lot.
It doesn’t have the personalisation features of NPR, but if you want programme segments, rather than hour-long chunks of radio, this is a nice way of doing it.
Storytelling with audio at the core
Operation Ajax – a comicbook-style docustory. Listen with headphones. I would happily plug in and spend hours going through, not just the story, but all the supporting material as well. An excellent example of genuinely multimedia storytelling.
Vio, is a live vocal processor for iOS. Headphones are a must. Hate the sound of your own voice? You won’t with this!
There must be many other interesting apps for audio and radio, if you know of others that you think are progressive or innovative, do let me know in the comments
Dauvit Alexander / Flickr
You know when you hear something and you just have to respond?
This is one of those posts …
News this week in Britain is full of the imminent independence referendum in Scotland. BBC Newsbeat has been covering it too, with a particular emphasis on teen voters. The 9th of September edition heard from two 19-year-old girls in Edinburgh, both called Sarah.
One was for independence, the other not. Here’s what the first Sarah said when asked why she thought Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.
I feel like Scotland should be independent, there’s not really other unions in Europe.
I thought this was a slightly odd reason, and it wasn’t challenged by the reporter, so let’s examine it now in a rough blast through Europe and with apologies to history scholars everywhere!
France has been getting bigger gradually with various unions since 843 AD. Many gains came from marriage, such as Brittany in the north-west of France. (One might say ‘speared’ onto the side of France, lol) Brittany was semi-independent but joined France in 1491 when Anne, the heir of Brittany married the King of France, Charles VIII.
Spain as we know it has been around since about 1492. Before it united, much of Spain was run by Muslims from north Africa. Historians called it an unusually tolerant society where Christians and Jews and Muslims lived in relative peace. Oh to be back there now.
Tiny Belgium is currently a union between French and Dutch and Flemish speakers. It used to be an even smaller collection of around 6 independent states. There are occasional calls from the Dutch-speaking side, that they should make a union with the rest of the Netherlands.
4. The Kingdom of the Netherlands
Netherlands was created from a group of provinces under the Union of Utrecht in 1579, after a fight with Spain over religion. (The war theme – actually quite a strong driver of unions in all these countries to be honest!)
Greece is particularly difficult to summarise, the story of this country goes back thousands of years, Ancient Greece, natch. Philip of Macedon started unification during 300 BC. His son was Alexander the Great, who continued in the unification tradition by marching into new places with a large army and saying: “You’re all part of us now”.
Sweden was probably consolidated from separate towns into a single nation around 1200 AD. It’s hard to say for sure, because no one in Sweden appears to have written anything down.
Switzerland is a union of self-governing Cantons. Assessment: Mostly harmless.
Italy as we know it didn’t exist before 1861, it was created by a union of dozens of different regions and city-states. Important factors: All spoke same language and enjoyed olive oil with everything.
Before 1871, Germany was a series of large separate states including Bavaria, Saxony and Hanover who were united by Otto von Bismark, who was running yet another separate Kingdom, Prussia.
Germany was artificially separated after WW2 and East Germany was run by a communist government. In 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, East and West Germany united into a single nation again. Also, Berlin is fun. You should go.
There have been two significant breakups of country unions in recent times. The big one is the break of the USSR in 1991. Russia had run out of money.
This contributed to Yugoslavia falling apart the next year. It was a federation of republics that had been pushed together after World War 2. When they broke apart in 1992, it led to another conflict with over 100,000 deaths.
Bonus fact for getting this far …
Not part of Europe of course, but let’s not forget the USA. Starting in 1776, it is a gradually growing union now with 50 separate States, each with their own parliament and laws.