Archive | September 22, 2015

Are you still wearing a watch?


A couple of years ago everybody was wearing a watch, nowadays we see more people wearing a smart watch instead. The degree to which consumers know what is available in the marketplace, including the precise attributes of different product and service offerings, has changed consumer behavior. Some consumers make their product choices based on an assessment of what product offers them the best fit and with all the current technologies consumers expect more practical functionality in their purchases. While smart watches provide features such as a camera, accelerometer, thermometer, GPS navigation, map display, SD cards and so on, it can also communicate with several other gadgets. With all these functionalities people can wonder ‘Why still wear a watch instead of a smart watch?’.

Each year Deloitte presents a Deloitte Watch Industry Study, a study based on an online survey, discussions with executives and a consumer survey which was conducted among people in China, France, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and the US. The fourth annual Deloitte Watch Industry Study revealed the following key findings:

  • Average price of exported Swiss watches peaked at CHF 730;
  • Pessimism hits four-year high;
  • External risks are back;
  • Smart watches taken more seriously;
  • Significant consumer interest in smart watches in China, Italy and France;
  • The rise of digital media.

In this blog I want to highlight the fourth key finding of this study. With the release of the Apple Watch in April 2015 a new era of the smart watches industry was arrived. Even though the Apple Watch is not revolutionizing in the genre of the smart watches it does have a special feature in contrast to other smart watches, the Apple Watch is positioned as a fashion accessory. The Apple Watch Hermès for example is equipped with high-end leather bands and a dedicated Hermès dial. This watch is sold in Apple and Hermès stores which confirms the positioning. But the major competitors like Motorola, Samsung, LG and Sony would be a fool if they did not react on this positioning. Therefore they have all individually started to take action. New models have been produced with more upmarket finishes, and features that are closer to traditional watches, for example by adopting a round form factor. These companies have also anticipated by producing different kind of versions, with the underlying idea that everyone should be able to find a smart watch of their taste. You can think of sport, luxury, man and woman versions, they are all available on the market. In my opinion in spite of all these new products, the market of smart watches is young and companies with traditional watches still have a window of opportunity to develop their own alternatives. For example I prefer an elegant watch, and personally do not see the added value of a smart watch next to a smartphone. Within the watch industry, the smart watches are seen as a competitive threat. The intensity of this perception has doubled compared to last year.

Schermafbeelding 2015-09-22 om 21.13.57

What do you think, will smart watches take over the traditional market for watches?


Read more about the Deloitte Watch Industry Study:


The actual gameplay and technologies behind Pokémon Go

I was fascinated and hyped when I saw the promotional video (see below) of Pokémon Go, but at the same time I was skeptical and interested how the actual gameplay will look like. So I decided to look more into which technologies they use, how they make use of it and how they combine the technology with the real world.

You can define Pokémon GO as an augmented reality game that combines virtual and real-world gameplay. The game allows users to explore their own neighbourhoods and cities, powered by GPS, to locate Pokémon or other people to battle or trade with on their phones. For example, maybe you’ll find Bulbasaur at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station or Pikachu beneath the Eiffel Tower. Judging from the trailer, it looks like users will as well be able to battle and cooperate with large groups to defeat rarer creatures from the game.

It sounds cool and the promotional video looks awesome. But screen captures really do show a game that takes place on your smartphone’s screen alone, so while there may be GPS components and interactivity, you’ll still need decent service and still be staring at a screen most of the time. That was true of co-creator company Niantic’s last gaming experience as well, a niche AR mobile game called Ingress, which asked users to join two sides and use their smartphones to claim territory around portals of energy (actually just real-world buildings and sculptures).

Nintendo is trying to reduce this amount of time that players spend staring at their smart devices in order to play the game by a Bluetooth-powered device called Pokémon Go Plus. Players can wear the device on their wrist or pinned to their clothing. It has a built-in LED light and a vibration function that will notify players that something important is happening in the game, such as a Pokémon appearing nearby.

This is what we know up till now about which technologies are involved in the game and how the gameplay will look like. I’m curious how it will work out when the game is released (2016). Above all, it’s interesting to see what is possible with combining the latest technologies.


Drone-mediated Reality

The unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) is the technological invention that turns more and more industries around today. Every day the news reports for a new innovative use of the drones, unheard and unbelievable, which could be a disruptive innovation in a certain field. Military forces, media, archeology, and businesses – they all change because of the drones. The question, though, is what is the nature of this change? Are drones making our lives easier, or are they solving short-term problems, thus creating long-term disasters?

There is no answer to these questions. As every genius technological invention, the drone has its pros and cons.  For sure its development benefits one, and harms other, but it is not about the drone itself, but the usage different people make of it. So, answering these questions, would be answering the question about the nature of human behavior. It just depends.

A week ago, BBC posted an article describing an interesting event in Dubai – a competition on the demonstration of the different usages of the drone technology which can benefit civilians. This competition challenged different teams to think how society can actually benefit of the unmanned aerial vehicles, and presented solutions which bear unbelievable changes for the society. A competition, or only one prize, can incentivize teams to deliver solutions that could change the nature (clear fog, plant trees), automate human labor, and be the ears and eyes on places and events, where no man can go.  This two-day challenge serves as evidence that drone technology could be beneficial, and that is indeed a great invention.

However, a simple adjustment to all these drones shown on the competition, can convert them into an invisible human enemies. On a London drone exhibition, Superflux showed how a drone can basically: “see a man, scan his face, and quickly look up his criminal record. Elsewhere, a traffic drone spies on vans and cars, checking their emissions and identifying illegal drivers. Another hovers in a living room, sees a little girl has a cat on her T-shirt, makes an algorithmic decision, and feeds a cat-related advert to her parent’s phone”, BBC reports. Drones thus create an invisible world of information – drone-mediated reality, where every kind of data is accessible. This is an example of the usage of an existing technology to understand the material world, and collect the information behind it. A simple drone can meet us on the street and report all available information about ourselves and in addition report our current emotions.

The inaccessible is now accessible, yet controllable and uncontrollable. Drones interfere in wars, media, archeology, society and make a change. How one perceives this change is just a matter of point of view.

Ekaterina Marinova

SID: 436554


Food, Shelter, Smartphone: Why do refugees have smartphones?

The current refugee crisis has led to many controversial and often uninformed debates in Europe. Very often, people tend to question the ‘real’ intentions of these asylum seekers that are often travelling thousands of kilometers to eventually reach Europe. A very popular argument among critics of the current immigration policies is the “smartphone argument”.

“Why do almost all of these refugees own smartphones?”

While the question itself is quiet ignorant, as it indicates that refugees who might have lived wealthy lives are somehow deserving less items than you, it does present an interesting topic when thinking about the actual use of the phones during the long journey to Europe.
The massive amounts of refugees that are on their way to Europe this year, are heavily relying on smartphone applications, as they are exposed to perilous sea crossings, unfriendly boarder crossings and need to stay in touch with their loved ones.

blogpost 1.1

                                                                  Facebook: A travelling agency
How do you find a humaboatn trafficker that will take you across the Mediterranean sea, and where can you find more information about his service? – Exactly, on Facebook.
Human traffickers advertise their services on Facebook like any legitimate travel agency. On the arabic language Facebook group “Trafficking to Europe”, one trafficker offers a 50% discount for children. Another post, asking for a group discount for families gets 32 likes. As brutal and unethical as this practice sounds, thinking about the Information Strategy topic of Session 2, it also becomes evident that the opportunity for refugees to post pictures and discuss their experiences is quiet liberating. More specific, the effects of word-of-mouth and observational learning also apply in the human trafficking industry. While Facebook helps human traffickers to grow their business, it also helps refugees to evaluate their option when travelling to Europe.

A map, a guidebook, and an instruction manual
The current refugees can use GPS and mapping services like Google Maps, in order to navigate themselves to Europe. Additionally, many refugees that already made their safe journey have used Facebook groups and the WhatsApp messenger to spread their experiences in different locations. In this way, refugees can inform themselves about current issues such as boarder patrols for specific locations on their smartphones, and independently navigate their way to Europe. This behaviour has made an extensive cut into the business of human traffickers. While most refugees were dependent on human traffickers for the entire way to Europe in the beginning, the only trafficking services that is still extensively used route from Turkey into Greece. Compared to a few months ago, prices of human traffickers have halved. Follow this link to see the obstacles refugees have to overcome, region by region.

A measure of last resort
The use of smartphones has saved many lives since the outbreak of the refugee crisis. An article by Quartz Magazine has described the way a young man saved his life by sending his GPS location to the Greek boarder patrol once his sinking ship has entered the Greek territory. According to numeral reports, this technique has saved many lives, as refugees are able to contact the outside world in case of emergencies. According to Greek officials, this behaviour is actually encouraged, in order to prevent future catastrophes of sinking boats, as have been occurred on several occasions in the past months. In order to take advantage of these benefits and in order to be able to organize big groups of people more efficiently, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has started to give out sim-cards for phones and solar-power lanterns that can also charge phones in refugee camps in Jordan.

blogpost 1.6What to do once you are there?
Once you are on the run, you have to decide which country to aim for in Europe. Different legislations provide different benefits to asylum seekers, such as the preferred treatment of families that are reunited in Germany, or the fast bureaucratic processing in Sweden and the Netherlands. Since the availability of internet in Syria, for instance, is very limited, people need to make these decision on the journeys, rather than in their home country. Additionally, many refugees tend to organize a smartphone only after having left Syria, since many people who are captured at the Syrian boarder are forced to present their Facebook password and pictures, in order to determine their allegiance, when a smartphone is found in their possession. Hence, a smartphone becomes essential for refugees to speed up their asylum process upon arrival.
Additionally, a website and smartphone app of the red cross, called Trace the Face helps refugees to reconnect with their family members by uploading their pictures through their phones.

Syrian migrants take a picture after their safe arrival  on an overcrowded dinghy to the coast of the southeastern Greek island of Kos from Turkey, on August 15, 2015. A ferry boat has been sent by the Greek government to the resort of Kos to speed up the registration process of hundreds of Syrian refugees, docked on August 14 afternoon at the harbour. The Eleftherios Venizelos will stay moored in Kos for some two weeks, during which time authorities will register newcomers to the island, which is already overflowing with refugees and migrants. AFP PHOTO /LOUISA GOULIAMAKI

Syrian migrants take a picture after their safe arrival on an overcrowded dinghy to the coast of the southeastern Greek island of Kos from Turkey, on August 15, 2015.


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How to cope with office politics as a data scientist?

Office politics is a phenomenon that exists in every company ranging from SME’s to multinationals. Many describe it as the political landscape of a firm that structures the hierarchy between departments, teams, and individuals. Moreover, office politics is often interpreted as a negative phenomenon and associated with the power game that is constantly at play (Vigoda-Gadot & Drory, 2006). Active practitioners use it to tactically manipulate co-workers to gain individual prestige (Vigoda-Gadot & Drory, 2006). However, in some cases office politics stimulates the efficiency, especially when working on cross-departmental projects because it can strengthen interpersonal relationships that oils the decision-making process. Nevertheless, to avoid the discussion whether office politics has a positive or negative effect, it is important to be aware of the phenomena and to posses the basic skills make advantage of it.

Data scientists are often subject to strong negative office politics because they provide empirical evidence for business problems that are usually approached from a gut-feel and experience perspective (Penn, 2013) Since both approaches are usually not resulting in similar solutions, data scientists get the reputation of disrupting the status quo, hence challenged with heavy resistance (Penn, 2013). Additionally, data scientists are regularly working on projects with a cross-departmental scope, whereof the agenda’s of the departments are not aligned, which again result in strong office politics (Glassman, 2014).

Although ignoring office politics is not an option, using basic tactics to make use of it can be exploited and benefitted. One basic tactic, which is well known and often classified as ‘kiss-ass-behavior’, is to engage with and gain trust from the person in power (Pfeffer, 2011). Consequently, this can function as leverage when running into problems or when having disagreements with the staff (Penn, 2013). Another successful approach, when working on cross-departmental projects, is to fully understand the different agenda’s at play, because this enriches the capability to restate goals in such a way that all parties are respected and collaborate willingly. Additionally, engaging in discussions with co-workers may be necessary but trade-offs are always made (Truter, 2008). Therefore, it is important that data scientists pick their battles cautiously and take into to account the trade-offs at hand (Pfeffer, 2011).

To summarize, data scientists are confronted with strong office politics because of the potential disturbance of the status quo and the cross-departmental nature of their activities. Nevertheless, engaging with the person in power and using it as leverage can minimize office politics. Similarly, by fully understanding the different agenda’s and by carefully considering the discussion to engage in, office politics can be used as an advantage.

My question to the reader: Which other skills can be practiced to positively make use of office politics by data scientists in your opinion?



Vigoda-Gadot, E. & Drory, A., 2006. Handbook of Organisational Politics. 1st ed. Massachutts: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Glassman, J., 2014. Workplace Politics Hinder Data Driven Initiatives. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 20 September 2015].

Penn, S., 2013. Data Science Central. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 20 September 2015].

Pfeffer, J., 2011. Don’t Dismiss Office Politics – Teach it. Wall Street Journal.

Truter, I., 2008. Power in the Workplace. SA Pharmaceutical Journal, 75(1), pp.50-52, 70.

How to lose your Internet weight!


Ever wonder why seemingly simple web pages take long to load? Chances are it’s not the content that is weighing you down, but third party trackers. These parties track your movement over several websites, analyzing your behavior and record your browsing habits.

To put things into perspective the following example from a Guardian article provides some figures. In loading the popular tech site ‘The Verge,’ the actual content only ran 8k, whereas the surrounding ads ran to 6MB. During a second study, it was discovered that almost an order of magnitude more data is needed for the trackers than the article itself. A more recent study explained this ‘weight’ in a measure more familiar to the everyday user; seconds. By turning off third party scripts, the homepage loaded within 2 seconds, down from 11 seconds.

We can therefore conclude that third party trackers take up more data (and thus more time) not only during the launch of a page, but throughout the entire duration of our browsing. These are two luxuries few of us can afford on our mobile contracts nor during our busy lives. An additional consequence for portable devices is less battery.

But fear not, solutions are available, with my personal favorite being Ghostery! This extension for your browser identifies which services are trying to track you and then gives you the option to block them. When first installing the extension the following categories are given; Advertising, Analytics, Beacons, category_iso, privacy and widgets. Given you full control of where you would like to make exceptions.

I like the newly found control I was previously unaware of. Since installing I can say I have observed a slight increase in speed. However, I do enjoy it when I load specific websites that a customized experience is opened for my profile, for example making my purchase recommendations better or my preferred settings more familiar. This customization is reduced if not lost when disabling all the trackers, therefore in the future I might consider allowing certain websites to use third party trackers for my own benefit.

Remember; “if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer, but the product!”


-Is this something you would install?

-What are some additional trade-offs of these services?

-If adopted on a grand scale could these extensions create problems?


Quantum computing: technological holy grail or dystopian nightmare?

Our daily overdose of news shows us the myriad inventions that have the potential to revolutionize industries. One such invention that is subtly appearing, yet gaining fast popularity is the possibility of quantum computers. What is this technology and what is its potential?

As you may know, a classical computer uses binary bits to perform calculations. They are the smallest unit of information in a classical computer and can hold one of two forms: 0 or 1. A quantum bit (abbreviated as qubit) exploits one of the quirks of quantum mechanics, allowing it to be in a state of both 1 and 0 at the same time. This allows multiple simultaneous calculations, which is in complete contrast to current computers. As you can imagine, this means that a fully functioning quantum computer would increase the number of potential calculations by an almost unimaginable amount. There are still many issues which stop quantum computers from appearing in the next 5 years (such as coherence limits, phase errors just to name a few), however researchers are confident that the golden age of quantum computing will arise within the next 10-30 years.

So what does this mean for business?

Big Data and Quantum Computing

The possibilities that quantum computing present are endless. One field that would be impacted by quantum computing and bring huge contributions to the business domain is big data.

Big data is an advancing field, but it is meeting some limitations which have slowed down its rise to glory. Such limitations include:

  • integrating sets that have completely different structures
  • moving large amounts of data efficiently through a highly distributed network

Moore’s law is still in effect but for how long? Already since 2005 has this law still existed only due to changes in processor architecture, since it is not humanly possible to make transistors much smaller than they currently are. At this point, the quantum computer seems to be the only solution on the horizon. As explained above, the significant increase in computational volume would almost instantly solve current problems in the big data domain.

This is just one potential use of quantum computers. There are many more (for example drug discovery and design for pharmaceutical industries). However, can only good come out of quantum computing?

The Quantum Arms Race

Quantum computing could potentially be very dangerous as well. One form of danger it poses is its potential to crack many of today’s used forms of encryption. Should such powerful computers fall into the hands of the wrong people, companies’ records, users’ bank accounts and many more forms of private information could become publicly available. Events such as the Ashley Madison hack could become commonplace.

Even if this prediction is on an extreme level and might not happen, quantum computing will be an incredibly disruptive innovation in an industry that has only benefited from incremental innovations since the Web 2.0. Consider how expensive it would be for a company to replace most of their systems with quantum ones. Would all companies be able to afford such technologies? It is highly unlikely, and yet the corporate giants will upgrade and gain a considerable advantage against startups, potentially stifling innovation.

There is no way to tell if quantum computer evolution will follow the same growth path as classical computers did. Hopefully commercialization will happen faster. At this point in time, all we can do is speculate.

What do you think?


I would have come up with an appropriate title, but my cellphone distracted me

A lot of us know we spend too much time on our cellphone. We check Facebook, Twitter and the News regularly, especially during the moments we are not being occupied by anything exciting. But aren’t things getting a little out of hand here? Recent studies show that we spend three hours and sixteen minutes on average on our cellphone every day. That is eleven minutes of every hour staring at a 5 inch screen (assuming an 7 hour sleep at night).

As you probably would have guessed, the majority of this time we are occupied with Social Media and communication. We send about 65 messages and check out Facebook 14 times per day. I believe that our mobile phone takes a too important place in our lives


  U.S. U.K. Japan
Communications 12% 9% 16%
Shopping/Commerce 2% 5% 6%
News/Info 2% 5% 5%
Productivity/Function 11% 7% 6%
Entertainment 6% 15% 9%
Games 9% 18% 16%
Social 28% 29% 24%
Others 29% 12% 17%
Source: Nielsen

Table one: Share of time spent using smartphone apps by category

Given these extreme statistics, I believe that it would improve your life is you install “Moment” on you smartphones and use Moment to take control over your mobile internet time spent.

First, a little introduction of Moment, in case you have not heard of this application before (like me before I started doing research on this topic). The only thing that the free version of Moment does is monitoring you daily time spent on your cellphone.

However, if you do the € 4,99 upgrade, additional functions are unlocked. These are typically the functions that you are looking for when actively taking control over the time you spend on your cellphone. In the pro version of Moment, it can activate your smartphone’s alarm when you pass the time limit of the day. You can set and decrease this time limit yourself. More rigorously, Moment can deactivate your mobile phone, and limit its functions to emergency calls when you pass the daily time limit. This evidently forces you to decrease the time you spend on your mobile.

The reasons you want to decrease the amount of time you are occupied with your smartphone are obvious.

First of all, unlimited and uncontrolled mobile internet usage can cause psychological and social distortions. This is due to the fact that you (unconsciously) feel that information streams can continuously be exposed to you, which decreases the feeling of privacy and makes relaxation more difficult. Moreover, being occupied with your smartphone all the time, decreases the time you spend on face-to-face social interaction. Studies show that this can cause social isolation. Both are important drivers behind stress.

Secondly, as has been demonstrated above, social media is an important category that we spend our time one while using our smartphone. Social media is often perceived as harmless media with infinite possibilities.


Figure 1: Interaction between actors of a social media network.

However, there are dangers behind the usage of Facebook, Twitter etcetera. This is due of a couple of factors. First, one could think of the world as presented on the social media as the real world, where people’s life are a continuum of highlights and successes. Studies show that people project this distorted “real world” on his or her own life unconsciously, decreasing his/her self-image. If you would limit the amount of time you spend on looking at these social media, there is more time to put the updates, tweets etc. into perspective.

Secondly, too much social media can get people addicted to the mini ego-boosts (caused by little endorphin shots) from every like or comment that is being given by someone else. This leads to a decreased capability to deal with setbacks, which causes stress. Third, research has shown that one is only capable of maintaining 150 social relations. Without going into detail about the evolutionary implication of this study, due to social media we exceed that number significantly. This is another driver behind stress.


Figure 2: Ambient intimacy when having more than 150 “friends”

Limiting your time spent on your smartphone does obviously not decrease the number of friends you have, but it does force you to only look at the posts of friends that are really relevant to you.

Last but not least, excessive smartphone usage has a negative effect on your concentration. Knowing that an exciting message from your friend might pop up every moment decreases the ability to isolate yourself from the outside world and focus on work or education-related materials. A study conducted by the Whittemore School of Business and Economics shows that 51% of students experience a decrease in their performance due to the activity on their smartphone.

So there are convincing arguments that excessive smartphone time spent leads to a variety of negative implications. Fortunately, Moment can help you in a very practical way to gain control over this problem. It is momentarily only available for Iphone. However, the “Quality Time” application is a good substitute for Android users.

Fabian Dekker


Addicted to likes

More than 50% of the youth spends over three hours a day on social media. When we wake up, two out of three, looks directly on their mobile phone to check their social media accounts and pages. Roeland Dietvorst (neuroscientist), argues that when we use social media we use the so called pleasure centre of our brains. This centre also plays a major role in addictions. When people ‘like’ your Facebook message or photo, it feels like a reward to our brain, it gives us some kind of satisfaction. Because of this satisfaction we want to get more and more likes. We keep on looking over and over again for the confirmation, that other people ‘like’ what we share on social media. 30% of the youth admits, that they are addicted to social media. On the other hand one out of four argues that they feel negative about being online all the time. They think it can be a huge distraction. For a part I really understand that, sometimes I really put my phone away for a few hours, so I don’t have to worry about it. It can be quite annoying, when people are asking for your attention while you’re busy.

Personally, I think social media plays a major role in our lives. We can see this on a daily basis, when we are in class, waiting for the bus or sitting in the public transport. There are always people around you using social media, even when we are going out or during dinner. For me it can be a big frustration, when I’m talking to someone and they are playing on their phones during the conversation.  But sometimes I detect myself doing exactly the same thing.

I’m online for almost two hours a day, but I don’t feel like I’m addicted to social media. How do you feel about this? Are you addicted to social media?


From ownership to membership

In the past few years we have seen several examples of industries that have changed the way consumers search, buy and use products or services. In this blog I will short look at some influences on IT in the consumer market, but also the B2B-market.


Around the 1950’s, mass production came up and led to more efficiency, lower prices and higher wages. As a result, the average household gained acces to expensive products that, for decades long, were only available to the elite.

These days, the Internet has made the access to all kind of services much simpler: a small investment is enough to use a certain service, and a big investment to own a product is nog longer needed (think of the Sharing Economy). This applies, for example, to cars, but also in relatively low-cost products such as CD’s and DVD’s. Spotify and Netflix have changed the way people consume their media. Why should you buy a DVD if you want to watch the film only once?


We thus see a shift in the consumer market from the ownership-model to the subscription-model. This also applies in the B2B-market. IT-infrastructure therefore has to change quickly as a result of this new reality, but, in practice, this is often a gradual process. This is because of the fact that companies have spent much, and long time, on developing their IT-infrastructure to meet business needs.  They are therefore unable to respond flexibly to changing market conditions (subscription-model).

The changing market conditions has an impact on IT:

  • From procurement perspective: a flexible subscription-based contract with a software supplier gives the IT-department the power to use services that can be deployed rapidly. User licenses are scalable, responding to the need. Through the cloud, companies can expand their infrastructure an applications, with new business processes, more insights, creating more value.
  • The demand of 24/4 availability. IT-systems therefore always have to be online, to offer the promised services. This asks for an investment in the infrastructure that guarantees high availability and security.
  • Companies that deliver products or services based on subscription or membership, are using a different way of (financial) administration. Customers don’t invest in the product or service at the beginning, but are paying a fixed payment per month. From the business perspective, this provides more opportunities for customer retention, loyalty and upselling. Also, when analyzing the customer behavior it is much easier  to offer customized products or services.


It is certain that the digital revolution will bring further dramatic changes in the future. Forward looking firms are seeing the changing technologies as opportunities rather than threats. They can benefit from these disruptive technologies by standing in front by using or delivering them.


Harm-Jan Rijneveld

SN: 370370hr.



Belk, R. (2013) ‘You are what you can access: Sharing and collaborative consumption online’, Journal of Business Research, 67, pp. 1595-1600.

E-Book Subscription Service Oyster To Shut Down

Is the ebook market only for big players?


Oyster, founded in 2012, is a platform that allows users to read books on their smartphone, tablet or in the web-browser – online and offline (US only). This sounds familiar, right? However, what made them stand out was their, at the time, unique business model in this industry. They allowed users to sign up for an ‘unlimited plan’, a subscription service that let users read (open…) as many books as they liked for a monthly fee.

With its business model, and numerous unique features in its reading app, Oyster set itself apart from competitors such as Scribd, and the one dominant player in the industry: Amazon. This helped it gather numerous investors, resulting in USD 17 million of funding, and a name in the industry.


In July 2014, Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited (KU), its own e-book subscription service at USD 9.99. This left the last untouched playing field for smaller companies and startups with a bad taste. At first, Oyster seemed to have an advantage, because they had numerous titles of the ‘Big Five’ publishers, while most of Amazon’s selection was made up of KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) titles. Oyster even tried to fight back by launching an e-book store outside of its unlimited product, hoping to increase the customer base and revenues.

  Kindle Unlimited Oyster Unlimited
Price (USD) 9.99 9.95
Trial period 30-day 14-day
eBooks +1,000,000 +1,000,000
Big Five titles No Yes
Platforms Web, Kindle devices, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry Web, Android, iOS and Kindle Fire

However, Amazon took the market by storm and never let the small player reach a significant market share. According to a consumer survey, by April 2015, 12.4% of ebook readers had a KU subscription, while under 1.4% had an Oyster subscription.

On September 22nd, after an aqui-hire by Google, Oyster announced that it would close down its service by early 2016.

It makes me wonder, did the founders give up hope, because there simply was no chance of building a sustainable (profitable!) business in this industry? Or do they plan to use Google’s resources to launch an even stronger competitor in combination with the currently existing ‘Google Books’ platform?

This leaves two important questions;

  • Is there any amount of innovation that can allow small players to survive in the ebook industry?
  • Can small firms co-exist in this industry, or do the big players want to take it all?

Seeing how Scribd continues as the only significant competitor, can give an answer to some of these questions.

SN: 353884mk


Hyperloop: Another Great Idea of Elon Musk?

Elon Musk is the man behind Paypal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX and showed that he is a game changer in the world of technology. For example, SpaceX is outcompeting NASA by building cheaper spaceships in less time by using new technologies. And Tesla Motors is shifting electric cars and battery endurance to a higher level. Is Hyperloop the next bright idea of Elon Musk that will find its way in society?


What is Hyperloop?

Hyperloop is a reaction to the California High-speed Rail system (CHR), which is currently under development to provide fast transportation between San Francisco (SF) and Los Angeles (LA). Hyperloop consists of two massive tubes stretching between SF and LA wherein pods carrying passengers would travel through those tubes. The most important feautures of Hyperloop are lower costs, higher speed, immune to weather, sustainable self-powering and resistance to earthquakes. See the table 1 for a comparison with the CHR.

Hyperloop California High-speed Rail system
Costs 6 billion 68 billion (!)
Speed 1120 km/h 130 km/h
Immune to weather Yes No
Sustainable self-powering Yes No
Resistant to earthquakes Yes No

These features suggest that traveling from SF to LA by Hyperloop will only take 35 minutes instead of 6 hours by CHR. On the other hand, there are of course some drawbacks. The high speed will make it hard to take large turns or to deal with elevation. Public approval, legislation, regulations and contractors are something else to worry about when Hyperloop technically can be realized.

The Hyperloop developments

Elon Musk is not developing the pods for the Hyperloop himself. SpaceX only provided a test track for the producers of pods. SpaceX engineers provide feedback on the engineers and students who participate in the competition to develop the best pods. The applicants will get the opportunity to test their pods on the Hyperloop test track in June 2016.Hyperloop track

This will probably the most impressive competition ever. However, there is no promise that anything concrete will arise out of the competition. As Will Nicol of Digital Trends said: ‘the contest is a way for engineers and companies to exchange knowledge and maybe get the ball rolling to make the Hyperloop system a reality. Like a world’s fair expo, it’s a place for visions of the future to become a little bit clearer’.

The future will show whether commercial Hyperloop systems will ever be widely adopted. As the population will grow, better mass transportation systems will become useful. Pods developing companies are now receiving funds (Hyperloop Technologies raised 80 million dollar), so a wider trust in a success is real. Lets see what the pods competition for the Hyperloop will bring is in June 2016.

A presentation on Hyperloop is shown below if you like to know more about it:


BUX: Stock broker and game combined

Many young people consider the stock market as boring, and as ‘mainly for older people’. BUX is a new smartphone application, available in Dutch, English and German, which is aiming to combine investing with a game. BUX believes that the stock market is the biggest and best game in the world. They aim to give access to the stock market for everyone, not just the ‘big boy bankers’.


How is BUX different from traditional stock brokers?

BUX picked a few popular listed companies (including Heineken, Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, etc.). Therefore, it is not possible to invest in any listed company you want, just the ones that were selected by BUX. Also, while using BUX, you do not actually purchase the stocks. The application works with derivatives, which are securities with a price that is dependent on the underlying asset (in this case: the stock)(Investopedia, 2015). You actually sign a ‘contract of difference’ (CFD), which is an arrangement made in a futures contract whereby differences in settlement are made through cash payments, rather than the delivery of physical goods or securities (Investopedia, 2015) with Ayondo Markets, the stock broker BUX works with, for every transaction you make. To summarize: you pick one of the selected companies, estimate if the stock price will rise or fall, and make a profit of loss with your CFD based on the actual stock price.

Stock broker or game app?

After hearing about BUX, I was instantly interested; I wondered if BUX was really about investing. After some research I found out that the answer is rather simple; BUX is more a gambling game than a stock broker. Investing is about making sure that your savings have a better return compared to a savings account at a bank. An extensive risk profile should be made and companies should be evaluated on their fundamentals. BUX on the other side, is about short term ‘investing’, which makes evaluating the fundamentals of the company useless. Therefore, BUX is, in my opinion, more a gambling game than a stock broker.


BUX as a game

Even though BUX cannot be seen as a real stock broker, BUX still has the potential to grow a lot larger. There are many people interested in the stock market and BUX could be an easy way to learn the basics of stock trading. However, commercials by BUX stating that you can play with the ‘big boy bankers’ and get rich are misleading and incorrect. BUX is fun, but only works with small cash amounts and over a short period of time.

Niels van der Wolf



Van der Vliet, H (2014) Hoe ik niet rijk werd van beleggen op mijn telefoon, NRCQ, 03-10-2014, Available at, last reviewed on 22-09-2015

Spelier, P. (2014) BUX maakt aandelenhandel toegankelijker en leuker, Emerce Innovatie, 06-10-2014, Available at, last reviewed at 22-09-2015

Investopedia (2015), Derivative, Available at, last reviewed at 22-09-2015

Investopedia (2015), CFD, Available at, last reviewed at 22-09-2015

Pokémon Go

Pokémon is probably one of the first games everyone in our generation has played (on a Gameboy). The original game was created in 1995 by Satoshi Tajiri, and has been a great success selling 270 million games. The game started on a Gameboy, and has been turned into different versions for all Nintendo platforms and consoles, an anime television show, card games, comics, movies and magazines. And although it has been 20 years and most people have forgotten about all the fun they had playing this game, the creators of Pokémon didn’t forget about us. They teamed up with Niantic (developer of an augmented reality game called Ingress) and are putting their game in a very 2.0 or even 3.0 jacket, and with some help of new technologies are going to release this new and improved version of the game in 2016 for android and iOS.

As you can see in the video above, the creators of Pokémon Go have used augmented reality, to create a PokéWorld within our own. This enables you to actually walk out the door and start catching Pokémon. The game will probably be using GPS to determine where players are, what Pokémon are near them and what possible opponents are near them. You will use your smartphone’s camera to see the world around you, and the application will add an extra layer to reality, featuring your favourite game. Players can trade Pokémon with other players via their smartphones, and are able to fight each other. And although the game is going to be nowhere near as cool as the trailer, this entire new way of gaming gives a great view of the future of this branch, especially when combined with technologies like Google Glass, or the even better Microsoft Hololens.

The video has been watched more than fifteen million times since it was uploaded two weeks ago and has become a viral success. The game will also be accompanied by a wearable technology called Pokémon Go Plus, which will enable players to play, without having to look at their smartphone non-stop. It’s connected to the game via Bluetooth, and will let you know if a Pokémon is nearby. The device, which is shaped like a Pokéball, also lets you catch Pokémon and perform other simple tasks by pressing the button.

The game developer Niantic is looking to update the world of gaming with all new technologies that have become available, and are successfully looking for new ways of gameplay.

Sjoerd Poppelaars