Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
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.
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 🙂
The contents of a building where I used to work are being slowly sold off.
The closure and sale of BBC Television Centre has ignited strong emotions and there was a protest to prevent planning permission for a redevelopment, involving some high-profile celebrities of British culture, to no avail.
As an armchair economist it’s fascinating to pick out a couple of results of some of the completed parts of the auction, because for me at least, the prices just don’t make any sense.
They sold for a combined total of over £1,000!
I’m amazed, particularly as there’s not much about these which is scarce. The BBC still occupies three buildings across the road from TV Centre – I’m in one of them most weeks – and there’s still a machine that makes these signs and labels. If they’re worth this much money, someone should be running that machine night and day cranking more of them out!
How about lot 1444:
£55 for a door to nowhere, and you could surely make this for half that price with bits from a DIY shop. With this piece though, I can understand more why it is valued highly
It would be interesting to know the history of this door. It’s possible it was originally made for radio drama and came over to Wood Lane if it was needed to re-dub sound effects for TV. Or it could have a longer heritage and started life in a film dubbing suite, maybe in Ealing, or in Lime Grove. It could however just as easily been knocked up in 20 mins by a TV Centre carpenter in the 1980s.
It’s clearly the possibilities of this history, and the unusualness of the item which make it worth more.
Time for a reality check though. TV Centre was also full of functioning valuable equipment. Great for radio stations, universities, or small TV / film companies. Let’s take a look at the going rate for something still being used, like a professional digital videotape recorder.
I think ‘thetoplens’ got a bargain there!
The sale of stuff from TV Centre isn’t over yet! Two more auctions are scheduled, more equipment here, and you can still buy the satellite dishes and comms equipment. Although being unmaintained and exposed to the elements for well over two years, I’m not sure how much operational value there’s left in them. Plus for a domestic bidder in need of a new birdbath, you’re going to need a very large garden, and probably planning permission!
flickr / peterdaniel
Let me know in the comments if you got a bargain, or whether you consider you got something valuable, no matter what you paid.
While rummaging in the back of my odds and ends drawer today, I came across my old Palm device.
Welcome back to 2001! Palm called this a ‘handheld computer’, although I think I thought of it as a digital diary. I put in a couple of AAA batteries and it powered straight on (no proprietary batteries or connectors – yay!).
The m125 had a 33Mhz processor, was the first Palm to include an external memory card. It sold for $250 thirteen years ago, about the cost of a top-end Nexus 7 or a mid-spec iPhone 5S today.
The memory card in mine was still in place and still had applications installed!
Let’s see what we have:
AK Mirror: Could turn your palm into a torch. Maybe on a different model. This has no camera, no flash and a black & white screen. AKeysoft now nothing more than an abandoned WordPress page.
Avantgo. Now part of Sybase and appears to be some kind of mobile content pushing system, if it’s even still being used. That’s a shame. Avantgo was the RSS and Instapaper of its day.
And a couple of games. Dopewars is basically a free-market simulator. It’s still around online, and mobile. Here’s the Apple version with modern graphics, and an android version that’s much closer to the original.
And just to prove the thing does work, here’s me playing Hardball (a version of Breakout)
Frankly I’m surprised any lost phones make it back to their owners at all.
Last week I found a phone on a train. It was well after 11pm and with few people around, I took the phone home, aiming to try tracking down the owner myself, else hand it in to a staffed office.
Find him I did, but the whole exercise made me really wonder how any lost iOS devices ever get returned (assuming they haven’t been stolen).
I made a short film about what happened …
… but I want to use this post to detail a little more about how it was done.
I’d been on the train since it started in Brighton, and was walking up through the carriages after we left Clapham Junction when I found the phone, so I’m guessing that’s where the owner got out in a hurry.
It was an iPhone 4S, lying on the edge of a seat . There wasn’t anyone else in that part of the carriage. It was in flight mode, so the ‘Find my iPhone’ function would have been inoperable.
I don’t have an iPhone, but I’m prepared to bet there are lost property rooms packed with dozens of lost iPhones/Pads all over the world, particularly in airports and train stations.
They are unable to be reunited with their owners because Apple’s security features make it impossible and the owners themselves haven’t planned for their possible loss.
Here are the issues:
This is the first hurdle most people will fall at. Unless you know the code, you can’t get into the contacts to start ringing obvious numbers, eg. Home, or Mum/Dad.
The simplest thing here is to take a photo of your contact details and use this as your lockscreen wallpaper. It’s in the Settings menu.
There were a couple of other things I thought were worth trying before resorting to phone hackery.
SIM card details
I removed the SIM card and tried it in another phone. ‘Find my iPhone’ wasn’t running, but if the SIM was still enabled, the owner would hopefully try to ring their phone.
Alas, the AT&T SIM was either blocked already, or had never been enabled for the UK phone network. I also had a look for any contacts that were saved on the SIM. Nothing there either.
Now the technical bit. Getting past the passcode is boringly unsophisticated. It’s a brute-force attack where your computer runs through every possible 4 digit combination and then tells you what the code it. It takes about 30 minutes, max.
I used the Gecko iPhone Toolkit for this. This exploits a previous iPhone vulnerability, so you must also put the phone into firmware update mode and inject an earlier version of the firmware into the device.
The beauty of this hack is that it maintains all the existing phone data.
Once I had the code, I was immediately able to see the owner’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, so I contacted him on both.
@warrenpacific Hopefully you were feeling lucky today … I’ve found your phone! It’s missing its owner too, so msg me 🙂
— R Freeman (@robf) July 15, 2013
In the contacts. I found a number for Mum/Dad. I also saw the phone did have the icon for Find my iPhone, so I turned off the flight mode and connected the phone to my own Wifi, so the phone could start signalling home.
Finally I flicked into the Email, to find that address too. Here I struck lucky. With Wifi now on, the phone updated the inbox and the first message to pop in there was the copy of the online form the owner had filled in with the railway company.
It had a UK number in there as a contact point. Bingo!
I rang the number, and learned that unfortunately the owner was on a plane back to the USA, but his friend Nick, (who handily lived on the same tube line as me) would come and get it straight away.
So I found the phone at 2300 on a Sunday night, and it was in Nick’s hands by 1800 on Monday. Warren, the owner got it back later that week and was mightly pleased.
For the rest of us – plan for loss
I firmly believe that most people would do the right thing and try to get the phone back to its owner. But good grief, how many people would be as geeky as me?
I suspect many phones, even finding their way to an official lost property office, just languish there.
If you have a smartphone, take a look at it and think how anyone would get it back to you if you lost it. Why not put your contact details on the lockscreen right now?
iOS users can do this by replacing their lock screen wallpapers (screenshot above) .
Android users go to Settings > Lockscreen > Owner Info (if you have Jellybean).
Settings > Security (if you have Ice Cream Sandwich).