Archive | September 16, 2013

Google Now – Creepy or Cool?




Google Now has been named Innovation of the Year 2012. The app, which runs in the background of the Android system, and has recently also become available for iOS, pushes information to the phone user when the phone thinks the user needs it. Google Now uses locations and previous searches you have made to provide you with relevant real-time information, even when you don’t ask for it. Google’s CEO, Larry Page, noted that “Our goal is to get you the right information, at just the right time.”

Google Now provides not only information on nearby restaurants and appointments without you having to ask first but it combines this with maps and detailed instructions as well as the required time to get to the desired location considering current traffic but it also pushes notifications on flights/boarding passes, delivery updates, movie tickets, and more. The required information is obtained through quietly keeping track of searches, calendar events, locations, and travel patterns. A product management director for Google told Mashable: “The more you use it, the more it gets to know you.”

Now is that creepy or cool?

Critics say that Google Now no longer considers citizens capable of deliberation – it is assumed we cannot obtain important information ourselves, keep deadlines and organize ourselves. Well, people have been making use of personal assistants for years. They, like Google Now, make our lives so much easier. So why not save on costs for expensive personal assistants? Critics see another problem: Google’s policy of indexing all of the information it can find about users. Google Now obtains flight information from confirmation emails in your Gmail account, it constantly monitors your location, keeps track of what you have searched for (e.g. you regularly search for a specific music band and you will now receive updates on the band, tour dates, etc.). As more services are added to Google Now, more choices of yours will be kept track of.

Whether this is creepy or cool depends on your own definition of privacy and independence.

Turning consumers into providers – the Sharing Economy



Being a student, one often encounters the same problem: You absolutely want to go on a holiday but your budget is limited. A hotel is out of question but staying in a 10-person bedroom in a cheap hostel is too nauseating. While traveling to Vienna for New Year’s Eve, my friends and I had been in exactly that situation. Luckily, I had already heard about airbnb – a platform through which people, so-called hosts, share unoccupied living space, i.e. their whole apartment/house or a room (even boats and anything else you can think of), with guests.

airbnb is considered a pioneer of what is called the Sharing Economy – a rather recent phenomenon, started with the help of a technology company. It is the Internet-enabled peer-to-peer exchange of goods and services and the sector is growing tremendously. Some even argue that the Sharing Economy is not merely a movement but has the potential to define the 21st century. Indeed, total revenues for the sector have recently been estimated by Forbes magazine to reach $3.5bn this year, with growth exceeding 25%. People nowadays share not only accommodation but cars, bicycles, household appliances, and other items on platforms like RelayRides, Liquid, or NeighborGoods. Also services are offered: Through Fon people can share some of their home Wi-Fi network for getting free Wi-Fi from anyone of the 7 million people in Fon’s network; and on TaskRabbit, tasks like delivery of goods, household chores, moving & packing, event planning, and more can be shared.

These platforms allow consumers to become providers and ordinary people turn into micro-entrepreneurs. Underutilized assets are being made use of and profits can be generated. It is also more sustainable for the environment if assets are being used more efficiently. 

But the sharing economy poses problems, too. Those are mainly concerned with property rights and other laws. In NYC for example, an airbnb host faced a lawsuit due to infringing laws related to illegal transient hotels. In the case of sharing movies or books, careful attention has to be paid to copyright laws. Sometimes people sharing goods or services walk a fine line but with just a little care, the Sharing Economy may boom even further.

The next revolution: Battle of the wrists

In 2001 when Apple released the iPod and iTunes to the world, the whole music industry got changed. In 2007 when Apple released the iPhone and Appstore, they revolutionized the smartphone industry and changed the way phones were used. In 2010 Apple even went a step further when they announced the iPad. The iPad has created a whole new product category and straight out destroyed the netbook computers which were sort of the tablets of that time. Right now tablet sales are exploding and will soon even surpass pc sales worldwide, analysts expects this to happen as soon as the 4th quarter of 2013.

Us being witnesses of the the way in which new technology has disrupted the market space in the past decade, can’t help but ask ourselves ” what the next big revolution in technology will be?”. I believe that the market and the main innovating companies have already provided an answer for this puzzle, and that is the “iWatch”.

The main purpose of smart watches created right now is to act as an extension of the smartphone. E-mails can be checked easier, pictures can be made faster and when going out for a jog you don’t have to take that pesky smartphone together with you ever again. But they cannot function as a stand alone device without your smartphone. An example is the recently announced samsung galaxy gear, you have to own an galaxy smartphone in order for it to work.

However the potential of wearable wrist devices is much greater. When looking at the bigger picture smartwatches have the potential to transform a whole country’s national health care system…. With technology advances in sensors and devices, cheaper personal genomics, and the growth of the mobile app market. These developments are making it possible for consumers to take control and become CEOs of their own health.

Therefore I believe that smart watches should not be extensions of smart phones, instead they should be stand alone health monitoring devices. There should be health care applications available on the watch which help users track changes in their own body’s blood pressure,  sleep patterns, nutrition intakes, etc whenever they want, and even provide them with information on what to do in different scenarios. This will greatly reduce the amount of doctors visits by digitalizing it, and change the whole way in which doctors and patients interact.

A device that continuously keeps on sending real time data about your own body to doctors, nutritionist and insurance companies to ensure nothing is wrong, that is what a smart watch should be. And I believe that these features will all be included in the “iWatch”, set to release in 2014 by Apple. Once again a revolution will take place only this time the target is the healthcare industry.

Today, mobile apps are already solving health problems and providing personalized advice and communities. What do you think about the potential of smart watches? And who do you think will take the biggest piece of the pie? Samsung or Apple?

Feel free to discuss.

321583, Nicholas Chow


SoLoMo—— a double-bladed sword for small businesses

The introduction of cell phone makes our live connected while the introduction of smartphones (together with millions of complementary apps) makes our live sophisticated.

Nowadays, people become almost omnipotent with the help of their smartphones. Listening to music, watching videos, checking emails, checking social networks such as Facebook (this might be the favourite one) and even banking and shopping… This concept is referred as SOLOMO (sounds weird).

SoLoMo stands for Social-Local-Mobile and was first proposed by John Doerr in 2011. It combines three megatrends: smartphone platform (eg. iOS), social network (eg. facebook) and local commerce. This concept not only changes our lives, as we are always connected online and updated with the latest news. It also transforms business strategy and B2C relationship.

According to “Your Business Needs To Get Social, Local And Mobile—Fast” on, recent research shows that majority of customers (97%) search local commerce online, and over 70% of them believe online reviews and around 25% customers of small businesses are attracted through social media. As proved by the research, people become more SoLoMo, thus, companies should catches the fashion and be SoLoMo as well to reach their customers.

Savvy companies adopt SoLoMo quickly and start to use Facebook pages, Twitter and other social networks to inform and interact with their customers 24/7. Thus, SoLoMo makes both parties informative. Based on the data and information collected via social networks, businesses are able to design and produce more customized products. Some of those pioneer companies launched related apps to support their main products and got a huge success. A great example is Nike Company’s Nike Plus running app.

Yet, for small businesses, the trend of SoLoMo adds both challenges and opportunities. Big companies leverage SoLoMo to maintain their market share and building their brands, it looks like there is no room for small companies. However, I do agree with the article mentioned in the previous paragraph (see link below) that small businesses should make use of SoLoMo while focusing on “Lo”. They should focus on local market, design localized products and interact with customers from local social website (Blue Ocean Strategy). In this way, small companies would obtain a niche for themselves in this fast changing business world.

What do you think about the future of small businesses? Is there any other SoLoMo strategy that small businesses can use to be successful?

Related articles:

Are Bitcoin transactions really anonymous?

After today’s technology of the week presentation some of you mind have been left wondering about the potential use of Bitcoins and whether it will eventually become an accepted currency.

A strong point was made today on the fact that Bitcoins allow anonymous transactions, it is however important to know  that Bitcoins are not completely untraceable, as a matter of fact in 2013 the US department of homeland security seized nearly 5 million dollars from Mt Gox [1] the largest exchange for Bitcoins in the world and researches from the university of California where able to create a map based on the trail left by Bitcoin transactions.

Their analysis focused on the digital trail left by Bitcoin transactions, it is used as a way to provide trust in a currency that does not have the support of a government or any other authority. Software run by users of the currency helps maintain the global ledger, under the name of the “blockchain”, which records every bitcoin transaction ever made. [2]

For more information i strongly encourage you to read the following article:



Valuechains or Valuenetworks?



In the 2nd lecture of proffessor Ting Li the well known valuechain of Michael Porter was discussed. A model which seemed to be a profound reflection of the way many businesses operate, and the way they are organized. However, you could ask yourselves if the valuechain still is an appropriate structure to decompose an organization anno 2013. IT for instance made enormous contributions to the areas of communication and flexibility, which made new business models like outsourcing possible. The article of Kauffman, Li and van Heck actually made clear that many businesses today are already creating value by exploiting network oppurtunities.

An other article (Peppard & Rylander, 2006) I read about the evolution of valuechains suggests that nowadays organizations might not langer be part of a valuechain, but part of a valuenetwork. Processes and goods no longer flow sequentially throug the chain but take place simultaneously, at large (virtual) distances from eachother. This means that network players depend on each other like never before. When one player fails to deliver it’s service all others are affected by that and the consumer often immediately experiences the effects.

Take for instance all the parties involved in the 9292OV app (the dutch public transportation information provider). To start with there is the manufacturer of cellphone A with an operating system B that has its own requirements for the 9292OV app, than a connection must be established with network operator C (like Vodafone, KPN, T-Mobile etc.), subsequently network operator C has to make a connection with the Internet Service Provider of 9292OV, 9292OV has to synchronize it’s schedules with data from all the public transportation organizations, advertizing mechanisms should be applied correctly, billing has to be taken care of and so on. In short: a lot of continuous interaction between a lot of different players.

When one of these components/players doesn’t function properly, the whole network suffers. Given this, the factors cooperation and trust suddenly become a lot more important. In my opinion the days, where every single part of the valuechain is incorporated in one single organization, or in a predefined lineair chain, are pretty much counted. A transformation where the (IT) manager anno 2013 should be well aware of! What do you think, is it getting too complex?

Kauffman, R. J., Li, T., & Van Heck, E. (2010). Business network-based value creation in electronic commerce. International Journal of Electronic Commerce,15(1), 113-144.

Peppard, J., & Rylander, A. (2006). From Value Chain to Value Network:: Insights for Mobile Operators. European Management Journal, 24(2), 128-141.

Keep your eyes on the… smartphone

If you wear glasses or contacts you probably have paid a couple of visits to the optician. When you don’t see sharp edges anymore (or less), you go there for the first time to get your eyes tested. Soon enough you will find out whether you have to come back a second time to pick out a pair of glasses or not. When you really needed the glasses, you are a happy person now, because you can see everything in high definition again and you are able to read the traffic signs on time. Thank you mister optician.

But what did you think of going to the store every time? The costs of measuring your eyes? Aren’t there any easier ways to check your eyes?

And did it sometimes occur to you that the optician might be wrong? There was no other option to find out, until now.

In the article (see link below) you can read about a new device on your smartphone that is able to test your eyes. Just take a close look at your smartphone et voila! You know in a few minutes how your eyes are doing and which glasses you need.

My first thought was: ‘Score, it’s easy and fast… no more appointments! (because there is actually never a perfect moment for it)’.
It saves time and money, which are great benefits. And, as you can read in the article, in the future you might be able to directly choose the spectacles you like via the connected webshops of all brands.

Would this mean that you don’t have to go to the optician again, and (as also the articles says) will the role of the optician more of a coaching nature?

If you look at the other side of the story, you might wonder if it isn’t a great risk to fully trust your smartphone? Opticians have really specialized themselves on eyes and probably can give you much more additional information then your smartphone is able to.

Where are the limits when it comes to smartphones telling you what your physical condition is?

My opinion is that it’s a to much of a risk to trust your smartphone on this. Maybe you can use your smartphone as a second opinion, but just keep visiting your nice optician to get most objective and complete treatment, your eyes are worth it.

What do you think?

IPhone 5s’s Fingerprint Scanner

Last Tuesday Apple came out with some new statements regarding the ‘Fingerprint scanner App’, set to be fully usable from the new iPhone 5s onwards. This ‘’biometric kit’’ required to scan your fingerprint is said to be integrated into your phone’s home button. This would mean that instead of an old fashioned password system you could lock and unlock your phone based solely on your fingerprints. This would certainly prevent a lot of Facebook embarrassments in the future.

But immediately as you read an announcement like this multiple objections come to mind. First of all there’s a few business aspects that should mostly just impact Apple. These are mostly that the implementation of the App seems to be a bit much for Apple at the moment. It is said to have delayed production and could possibly delay their release date for the Iphone 5s. Consumer wise this is worldshattering only for a select crowd of fans, but for a business as large as Apple this is quite costly.

These are all mainly financial arguments though. The biggest concern that springs to mind is of course privacy. Especially in a country as tense regarding security and privacy as the United States it is an odd place for an idea like this to be implemented first. Where is your fingerprint data going to be stored? How will this information be treated? With recent revelations regarding the level of monitoring that goes on in everyday citizen’s homes it is hard to imagine that this is not just another iteration of a bigger Big Brotheresque scheme.

Whilst I usually prefer to remain sceptical regarding these conspiracies I have to admit that there’s been a steady influx of tangible proof over the last years.

In the links provided there’s far more discussion about privacy, security, legality and many other facets of this application that I simply cannot all discuss here. I definitely recommend reading into this innovation if you are going to be using it, because while it has got big potential, there are a lot of questions left unanswered. So let me ask you; Do you currently feel safe and protected enough to use a fingerprint scanner on your mobile phone? Why?