Archive | October 8, 2015

Hating Facebook…

Most of us spend a considerable amount of our time looking at the screen of our phone. Our phone is our main channel to the world outside of our student lives. Each day, it gives me proof that I live in a country full of people I don’t understand.

I am talking about my main scrolling addiction: my Facebook wall. As I am usually quite interested in current topics, I often read news articles posted by various instances or friends. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. However, it really gets interesting at the end of the article, where every Facebook user gladly takes it upon himself to give his opinion on whatever the article is about. Often, a whole battle unfolds between the ones agreeing and disagreeing- usually ending up in some sort of debate about refugees. What strikes me most however is the language of some of these comments: poor spelling, rude phrases, unfounded opinions and worst of all, hateful messages.

To be fair, this is one of my guilty pleasures: I love all the dumb people on the internet, because –let’s be honest- its like watching a really dry British comedy. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that there are actually people behind all the slander on Facebook.

That’s exactly the point of this blogpost. There are actually people behind every hate-post. As Belgium tv show ‘Karen & De Coster’ proved, most people are not so tough when confronted with their own online comments in real life.1 Apparently, people feel safe enough to say things that they wouldn’t dare to say straight to anyone’s face. Those people know they crossed a line when they where confronted afterwards, but that did not deter them from commenting in the first place.

Under Dutch law, it is forbidden to provoke hatred, discrimination or violence. On that ground, the Dutch court fined 8 people today for discriminatory and inflammatory comments on the Facebook page ‘Steun de PVV’. The defendants posted messages calling people to set fire to mosques and other Muslim properties. On the ‘Steun de PVV’ Facebook page, many commented outraged on the ruling, claiming it was against the principle of free speech.

So where is the line? Is there a difference between online and offline slander/discrimination/inflammation?

Sources:

http://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/binnenland/boetes-voor-discriminatie-op-facebookpagina-steun-de-pvv

http://www.elsevier.nl/Nederland/achtergrond/2015/1/OM-opmerkingen-op-Facebook-pagina-Steun-de-PVV-strafbaar-1695696W/

http://files.elsa.org/AA/Final_Report_OHS_Final.pdf

https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/discriminatie/inhoud/verbod-op-discriminatie

https://www.facebook.com/Wijsteunendepvv?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/PVVAanhangers?fref=ts

Amazon plans to build live video service

We all know Amazon. Amazon has once started as bookstore, but they were soon expanding their brand with several features. For example, they have Prime Video. With Prime Video you will be able to watch unlimited movies and TV shows. Not only do you have access to movies or TV shows, you have also access to music and books, and you have unlimited photo storage. All of this together will cost you $99 per year. Students even get a discount. The price is recently increased for the first time.

Amazon already announced that they will stop selling media-streaming devices from Google and Apple. In particular the devices that use streaming media players competing with Amazon. This will lead to a battle! Amazon will only promote and sell products from their own retailing strategy. Amazons shows that their streaming media channel is successful, their TV shows have won certain awards. Of course Amazon did not take this step without a reason. They are planning to combine their TV shows with on-demand programming. They already have a sort of Netflix with their Prime Video, but they would like to expand this. They already have reached out to CBS and NBC. CBS and NBC will potentially include their channels in Amazon’s Prime Video. Also will Amazon develop a live service with video entertainment. Amazon would challenge directly the cable providers with this new service.

It is now too early to complete agree that Amazon really will develop these feature, but there is definitely a chance. They already have spoken to certain companies. This will indicate that Amazon is really planning to develop this feature. Even more, because they have cut the streaming use of Google and Apple devices, this strengthens the rumors.

Amazon also revealed today their other new feature. They will launch a market place for handcrafted goods. This is a similar idea like Etsy; therefore they will directly compete with Etsy.

References

Art or sales? Handmade at Amazon vs. Etsy

Ever heard of Etsy? I didn’t, until now. Etsy is a peer-to-peer e-commerce website. The website was launched in 2005. Etsy is an online marketplace for handcrafts, vintage items and unique factory-manufactured items. These items cover a wide range including; art, clothing jewelry, photography, quilts, knick-knack, food and toys. They follow in the tradition of open craft fairs. I hear you thinking, Is there really an online market for this stuff? Yes there is, and it is pretty lucrative as well.

EtsyBellRingingNasdaq1

By the end of 2014, Etsy had 58 million registered users, with 1,9 million sellers and 19.8 million buyers. Sellers can list there products for $0,20 per item and have to pay 3,5% of their sales value to Etsy. Etsy now generates transactions worth $1,8 billion per year! The company went public in April 2015 and had a sales revenue in 2014 of $195,6 million. Not bad for selling knitted socks and leather bracelets.

Now Amazon is gunning for a piece of this booming online market. Amazon launched their own version of Etsy this morning at 3:00am Eastern time, named: Handmade at Amazon. They have all the capabilities the need to make their version a great succes. They have a lot of marketing power, and they they are already operating globally.

481452-handmade-at-amazon

Amazon is gigantic and focussed op mass commerce, so there are always people looking on the website for handmade crafts. In this case creative entrepreneurs can boost their sales. But is this a strength? Not everyone likes big corporate organization. Etsy is popular because it is not focussed on mass commerce. And by the way, art should not be focussed on mass commerce, right? For me this seems to go against handmade. This is really a challenge for Amazon. Creative entrepreneurs who want to list their work on Amazon handmade also have to find a balance between creating art and sales.

According to Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, Etsy is meant to be community based business. They want to connect people and create an Etsy economy.

What do you think about Amazon taking over the online handcraft market? Should Amazon leave the market to be relatively small and community based or should they exploit this booming market?

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Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/business/amazon-challenges-etsy-with-strictly-handmade-marketplace.html

http://uk.businessinsider.com/etsy-ceo-chad-dickerson-interview-2015-10

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etsy

A useless toy or a game changing expedient?

Despite the fact that no average-customer has ever tried it in person, everybody knows what Samsung’s Gear VR is. In theory as being defined as a portable, wearable device to display a virtual reality, in practice … just an other Oculus Rift

samsung-gear-vr-announcement-970x0

We have seen pictures and we have read articles since 2010 about this kind of products, but we are far from integrate these devices in our life. In addition to this, when we think to any possible applications, the only thing that comes to our mind is the gaming industry.

In other worlds, right now they are complex and expensive toys.

Is not of this idea Audi, the famous automobile company. The German firm has find an innovative way to use the Samsung Gear VR to enhance the customer engagement. In simple words: a great marketing expedient. Audi, in order to support the launch of the new TT, have crated the first ever digital car showroom (these are the exact words used by Raju Sailopala, head of Sales at Audi city London) and it has provided all its115 Audi centres with the Samsung visors.

Customers can now choose the model, customize it and see it in a matter of second in first person. Audi has also recorded a test drive and now the customer can seat as in the passenger seat and enjoy the experience of a test drive.

After this first success, also another member of the Volkswagen Group has embraced this marketing strategy and has proposed at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show a virtual driving experience on the new amazing Lamborghini Huracan LP 610.

Audi will for sure leverage this new technology to open new stores in the great metropolis and capitals, where the space is a premium and there are no competitors, but will it dare to abandon the traditional dealerships?

Virtual Reality: Is It Progressing?

sony-living-room

Many of you might have heard about Virtual Reality. Does Oculus Rift ring any bells? Virtual reality has been around since the late 80’s and 90’s. It is often associated with a virtual environment, in which a user can explore and manipulate a world that is created by technology to emulate the feeling of being in that digital world. While there are various definitions of the VR experience, there are few common agreements among those definitions (Strickland, 2007):

  1. The experience exists of 3D images that are close to the proportions of reality.
  2. The technology has the ability to track a user’s head and eye movements, reflecting the user’s actions into the digital world.

While I think we would all like the idea of being in an alternate world, escaping from me the current reality for a few moments, enjoying ourselves exploring new places and experience things we could not in real life, the current technology is limited and therefore is not allowing the full on experience Virtual Reality could offer.

Let us take a look at current technological advances in this area of interest. The most prominent advances in Virtual Reality have been in the gaming industry. The prime example is the Oculus Rift. It started out as a Kickstarter project in which Oculus VR gained enough funds to develop the product. It was the first time a user could just walk through the hallways of a virtual haunted mansion, fight against zombies or experience a virtual rollercoaster, feeling fully immersed in the environment. By the next year it will be one of the first VR products available to the masses (TheVerge, 2015).

project-morpheus-vs-htc-vive-vs-oculus-rift1-640x381

Sony has joined Oculus VR in the pursuit of Virtual Reality and announced it will release a headset in 2016 as well. The difference in the ‘PlayStation VR’ as their product is called is that it does not only focus on the gaming experience. Sony has revealed that they will be making non-game applications for users to run with their Playstation VR. Next to this, it will be the first VR headset that is integrated with a console, allowing the product to be introduced to a mass audience who do not need to purchase additional products for the headset to work on (Gaudiosi, 2015). This is where the future comes in sight.

What could the future of Virtual Reality bring to us? When I think of the current advances in technology in all industries, it seems inevitable that Virtual Reality will be embedded in our lives. Think about our phones. They used to be devices on which we could only call or text, but today a lot of companies are dependent on the smartphone. Not only companies, but humans are dependent on their phones. A lot of products we were using back in the days are now integrated into the internet, most of the times in the form of applications. We are streaming videos off Netflix, streaming music off Spotify, reading eBooks on the Kindle or writing our college reports on our tablets. A lot has changed. Virtual Reality could help us in our everyday lives. May it be in our jobs, using VR as a means for creating architectural structures, or to recreate holidays that we need in order to relieve stress, there are a lot of opportunities the technology provides and the companies will sooner or later thrive to implement into their products and/or services.

~ 366004ko

Sources

Gaudiosi, John (2015), ‘Here’s the big advantage Sony has over the competition’, http://fortune.com/2015/06/25/sony-morpheus-vr-e3/, accessed on 08 October 2015.

Strickland, J. (2007), ‘How Virtual Reality Works’, HowStuffWorks.com, http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/other-gadgets/virtual-reality.htm, accessed on 08 October 2015.

http://www.theverge.com/a/virtual-reality/

Procrastination? Get things done with momentum!

social_media_distractionHas it ever happened to you, that you when you opened up your browser on your laptop, you instantly lost focus of what you wanted to do and ended up wandering around cyberspace of internet? I am sure you are familiar with a such situation. Especially, when you have to write an assignment, you open up the browser to do some research, but soon after you happen to be reading or watching content about topic that has nothing to do with the assignment.

Deadlines for the assignments are coming up, so I decided to tap into this field, and potentially help someone to become more efficient.

At first, I would like to explain the background of the problem. When we search for anything online we have to navigate through some relevant but mostly not relevant information (Stibel 2009). Most of the websites are designed in a way to provide us a number of different links with intriguing titles intermingled in the webpage (Warner 2013). We tend to click on the links because our brain craves variety (Warner 2013). There, also, seems to be a neurological basis for our actions or, in other words, attention dopiness. In the book, Find Your Focus Zone by Lucy Jo Palladino, it is explained that our dopamine levels raise when we watch TV, play video games, or ,in this case, discover new thing on the internet. When dopamine level is high we are inclined to keep the it high, and thus, search for other distractions (Palladino 2007). In this way, we tend to browse through different pages, explore new information and loose the sense of time. I think you get the idea behind the how our mind, in this case, works.

The question arises, how do we keep the focus, and motivation to get thing done?

I would like to share a little innovative tool that potentially helps to tackle the problem. It is called Momentum.

Momentum is an extension for the Google Chrome browser, which gives you a distraction free homepage. It appears every time you open a new tab or window, that way it shows what is your main focus. The homepage enforces three main elements,

  • Focus, by providing you the option to input your main goal of the day
  • Motivation, by showing new inspirational quotes and pictures everyday
  • Track of things to do, by allowing you to keep the to do list

Hereunder, I share my momentum homepage from the afternoon today, to give you an indication.Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 15.27.53

I suggest, you give it a shot a see for yourself, whether your productivity improves. Furthermore, let me know bellow if the tool helped you to avoid procrastination on the web and get more things done!

Sources:

Palladino, Lucy Jo. Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload. 1st edition . London: Free Press, 2007.

Stibel, Jeff. Why the Internet Is So Distracting (And What You Can Do About It). 20 October 2009. https://hbr.org/2009/10/why-the-internet-is-so-distrac (accessed October 8, 2015).

Warner, Russ. THE INTERNET AND ITS INCREDIBLE POWER TO DISTRACT. 23 March 2013. http://ikeepsafe.org/balancing-screen-time/the-internet-and-its-incredible-power-to-distract/ (accessed October 8, 2015).

I’m Watching You!

In the last couple of years the world has learned more and more about how some websites store information on you. As the world is becoming more aware of this concept, you can see a trend arising where people are beginning to protest and develop an aversion against this phenomenon.

It all started when Edward Snowden leaked about the existence of the PRISM surveillance program in June 2013, under which the USA collects Internet communications from at least nine major US Internet companies, including Google (Gellman and Pointras, 2013). The acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook in 2014 sparked this conversation once more, as one of the new terms of agreement of WhatsApp would be that Facebook is allowed to store all content sent via WhatsApp (Smith, 2014; Page, 2014). Since then, many applications or websites focused on user-privacy have gained popularity all over the globe.

Graph 1
Graph 1
For example, the amount of search queries for the words ‘incognito mode’ on Google spiked halfway 2013, showing an increased interest in this browser extension (graph 1). In addition, the Dutch government made it compulsory for websites to ask permission from the use before starting to track cookies and finally, a number of privacy focused search engines have increased immensely in popularity, such as DuckDuckGo and Hulbee.com. The amount of search queries on DuckDuckGo increased from 54.4 million to 105.6 million requests per month (graph 2), after Snowden’s revelations on PRISM (Kumparak, 2014) and Hulbee.com just announced that it raised 9 million dollars to invest in its pro-privacy search engine (Lomas, 2015).

Graph 2
Graph 2
All of these examples show that we are starting to become aware of what happens behind the scenes at for example Facebook, WhatsApp and Google.  It also shows that we are increasingly trying to find ways to limit the amount of information these companies have on us. And even though this trend is only on its way for 2 years or so, it might very well be that it soon will start to snowball and take up an even more prevalent spot in the way we surf the Internet.

References:
– Kumparak, G. (2014) DuckDuckGo’s popularity exploded in 2013 following the NSA/PRISM leaks, http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/duckduckgos-popularity-exploded-in-2013-following-the-nsaprism-leaks/, 08-201-2015
– Gellman, B. and Poitras, L. (2013) US Intelligence Mining Data from Nine U.S. Internet Companies in Broad Secret Program, The Washington post, 15 June 2013
– Smith, L. (2014) Facebook likes Whatsapp and buys it in $19bn deal, The Independent, 19 February 2014
– Page, C. (2014) Facebook’s Whatsapp buy is a privacy nightmare for users, but I makes sense for the social network, The Independent, 20 February 2014
– google.com (2015) Google trend on ‘incognito mode’https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=incognito%20mode, 08-10-2015
– Lomas, N. (2015) Hulbee bags $9M to grow its pro-privacy search engine, http://techcrunch.com/ 2015/10/07/hulbee-angel-round/, 08-10-2015

The future of online grocery shopping

“What if AH would use the accumulated ‘Bonuskaart’ data to truly stand out from its competitors?”
ah-gratis-bezorgingonder
In this blog post, I would like to share with you a service AH could implement in an effort to regain its relevance. I am curious to hear what you think!

The grocery sector has been lagging behind in terms of its online presence (online grocery accounts for 1.3% of the total Dutch grocery sector, compared to 25% for sectors such as electronics and fashion), but the emergence of aggressive competition is accelerating the online channel development. Market leader Albert Heijn (AH) is facing intensifying competitive pressure. Offline, the company has to deal with increasing popularity of low(er)-cost competitors such as Jumbo and Lidl. Online, there is a threat from traditional players as well as new entrants (Hello Fresh, Picnic) with innovative business models. It is clear that AH should respond before its position further deteriorates.

As you may know, AH uses a personal customer loyalty card called ‘Bonuskaart’ to gather data on its customers’ shopping behavior. With these data, AH is able to better understand its customers and provide them with personalized offers. This is nice, but does not lead to a unique value proposition. But what if AH would use the accumulated data to truly stand out from its competitors?

AH could introduce a ‘personal grocery prediction’ service. By using the latest analytic technologies, each customer’s shopping behavior can be analyzed so that patterns appear. Based on these patterns, an algorithm could generate a personal grocery list for every customer that requests one on the AH website. If needed, customers can adapt this grocery list in order to make sure it completely fulfills their needs, and click ‘order’. In combination with the current AH online shopping infrastructure, which includes pick-up points and delivery, this could provide customers with a convenient and time-efficient grocery shopping experience.

A number of additional services could make this service even more appealing. Think of adding a ‘discover new meals’ option, in which the system suggests recipes from the Allerhande recipe database and automatically adds the products to the customer’s grocery list. The better the service gets to know each customer’s preferences (by improving the algorithm and observing adaptations customers make to the proposed grocery list), the better the predicted lists will become. In the ultimate situation, AH could offer an ‘automatic order and delivery’ option, which would basically turn the service into a personalized version of Hello Fresh’ meal box, but then also including products that are not related to dinner, such as cereals and toilet paper.

What do you think of this idea? Is it feasible? Would you use this service if AH would offer it? Or do you know people who would? Let me know!

In case you were wondering: yes, we used this idea in our DBA assignments, so credit goes to 356849mm, 362278cl, 414788cl, and 418375nl.

Sources:
– Syndy (2015) The State of Online Grocery Retail in Europe. Available at: http://syndy.com/knowledge-center/
– Keswiel, M. (2015) Waarom Michiel Muller AH en Jumbo wél aankan met Picnic. Available at: http://www.sprout.nl/artikel/e-commerce/waarom-michiel-muller-ah-en-jumbo-w%C3%A9l-aankan-met-picnic
– Smit, J. (2015) Waar ging het mis bij Albert Heijn? In: HP De Tijd. Available at: http://www.hpdetijd.nl/2015-04-18/ging-mis-albert-heijn/

Expedition – free field-trip simulation software

You might have heard of Spotlight stories, a 360-degree movie app developed by Google. But you might not have heard about Expedition, the same concept but enhanced with virtual reality technology.

Expedition is a project that Google currently is running to enhance the learning experience in the classroom. Just a ordinary Smartphone and a pair of cardboard goggles is sufficient to create the sense of really being on the spot (Statt, 2015). So far, Google and its educational partners have developed around 100 virtual reality field trips, such as virtual visits to the Great Wall of China, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and El Capitan, a rock formation in Yosemite National Park (Singer, 2015). The students are not only able to see the scenery from every angle, but at the time it also improves the understanding of the certain topic. This will make the learning experience more enjoyable than ever before. But there are other applications, for example it can also serve as a tool to help student virtually shadowing professionals throughout their workdays, which is in my opinion an excellent way to prepare for the future job.

29google-web-master675

Despite the fact that the simulation only satisfies two senses: sound and sight and therefore the whole experience atmosphere is incomplete. It is still way better than the plain image and video what we are used to. Because the degree of involvement is just incomparable. And above of all, Google is providing this service for free (at least for now), the company does see the opportunity to charge for the service, the price however will depend on whether they can manage to drive the cost to an acceptable level.

Currently, the project is taking its place in several part of US, Brazil, UK, Australia and New Zealand. But I am really eager to see it spread out to the rest of world, especially to the developing countries, since it will mean a huge boost to their education level.

Source:

– Statt, N. (2015) Google is offering its virtual reality classroom system to schools for free, http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/28/9409571/google-expeditions-virtual-reality-field-trips, 8 Oktober 2015

– Singer, N. (2015) Google Virtual-Reality System Aims to Enliven Education, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/29/technology/google-virtual-reality-system-aims-to-enliven-education.html, 8 Oktober 2015

The future of the Wearables

The future of the Wearables

When the first tablet was introduces in the Netherlands I was pessimistic about the future success. I was wrong, in 2013 there were already more than 5,6 million satisfied tablet users (tweakers, 2013).  When the first Wearable glasses was introduced, I was more optimistic but also asked myself, is this going to a success? Will people actually buy these glasses for navigation or will they use the ‘old fashion’ GPS on their smartphone.

Knipsel

Nowadays there are more and more wearables introduced like  the Google Glass and smartwatches of Apple and Samsung. These are technologies you can ‘wear’, like the most known glasses and watches. The provide users a continues monitoring option to their daily activities, the term ‘lifelogging’. You can use a wearable for example by exercising to monitor your heartrate, Facebook/twitter, GPS and route navigation, to monitor sleeping patterns etcetera.   Also newly gaming technologies like gloves and shoes who will extend the gaming experiences are introduced.  Companies are heavily competing in this new fast growing market, because everything is relatively new there is lots of market share to win. The big question is if these markets are going to succeed to grow out of the hype stage is a grown up market.

In daily businesses
maxresdefaultThe use of wearable glasses is growing in companies, they are used more and more to monitor the work performance of employees to make sure they are as efficient as possible.  Glasses are used for multiple sorts of situations, they can make things much easier, for example at workforces in big warehouses they could make use of glasses to see which pallets. This would result in faster daily activities, more efficient work  and more profit for companies.

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A second example of the use of Google Glasses in hospitals in which they are testing glasses to see if the devices enhance the work of doctors. A medical school in California is incorporating the Glass into its program for medical students, who will learn their anatomy and clinical courses using the Google glass. Furthermore the glasses make the work faster and doctors do not have to actually use their hands to look for files or in computers, they can search with a blink of an eye though the digital files and can stay all the time at the patient.

After reading all sorts of information about the wearables I have much more confidence about their future. By wearing these glasses people could look up things much easier  and in my opinion this is a real big benefit. Lives could be saved, if something unexpected happens like a accident you could help faster after seeing in your glasses how to reanimate than by looking up how to do this. I still have some concerns about everyone wearing some kind of computers on their faces but in my opinion the wearables will get the benefit of the doubts!

Do you want to share a situation in which wearable glasses could make a change?

http://www.cnet.com/news/google-glass-handed-out-to-all-medical-students-at-uc-irvine/

http://blogs.sap.nl/heeft-wearable-intelligence-de-toekomst/

http://www.cnet.com/topics/wearable-tech/best-wearable-tech/

Humble Bundle (pay whatever you want)

Humble Bundle

Last Monday in class we talked about “the effect of multipart pricing on consumer purchasing behaviour”, and “pay what you want” (PWYW) pricing models. Radiohead & NIN both tried PWYW (pay what you want strategy); the one (Radiohead) being more successful than the other as we learned in class.

By using such a pricing model you allow for the market to segment itself. An emerging problem inherent to this type of pricing is that a lot of consumers may choose to pay as little as possible (except if they want to really support the artist/developer because they are “avid fans”).

I would like to share with you today a different example of PWYW pricing (HumbleBundle) which has some subtle differences compared to the ones we originally talked about in class.

Humble bundle is a site/platform where you can buy bundles of mobile- (and to a less extent pc-) games and software (nowadays even bundles of e-books) and pay how much you choose to. However, HumbleBundle have implemented PWYW differently than the previous examples.

The 3 factors differentiate humble bundle from the previously discussed PWYW pricing models are:

  • The bundles sold on the site are offered only for a limited duration of time (sometimes only one week); this increases “scarcity” thus increasing customers’ willingness to pay).
  • If you pay more than the average price paid thus far, you get additional bonus content (additional software/games). This motivates the customers to pay more than the current average and moves the price upwards while the duration of the current offer lasts.
  • The consumers can choose how their proposed price is divided between the following 3 parties:
  1. HumbleBundle themselves
  2. A Charity chosen by HumbleBundle
  3. The developers (or author in case of e-books).

How does HumbleBundle differ from other platforms selling games, software and books (when not looking at the pricing)?

  • Firstly, you can only buy bundles, so you will probably always get some games/software that you were not really interested in. However, this bundling increases the chance that you are willing to pay for at least some software in the current offer (even if you do not care about the rest and see it as a “bonus”).
  • Secondly when you buy a game/software from HumbleBundle you get access to this on all platforms that it exists (meaning you will get the game on your PC and on your mobile device (provided that the software is available for both). This is a huge difference to other platforms such as Steam or even the PlayStore/appstore. This second part is an innovation that I think is very welcome to the consumers since everyone owns so many devices nowadays.
  • Last but not least; products included in the bundles bought from HumbleBundle do not have any form of DRM (digital rights management) allowing you to actually own the products that you buy.

It seems that using this pricing method the total profit of participants are often lower; however, their sales volume is higher. For a lot of participants this is acceptable because most of them are indie-developers that do not have a lot of money for marketing purposes; using this pricing scheme they enhance their sales volume thus increases their products’ familiarity to the public and subsequently increasing future sales (when the product is no longer offered on HumbleBundle).

Furthermore, research suggests that privacy negatively affects the consumers’ chosen prices. When the artists/developer would be able to see your name you might be inclined to pay more (especially if you really enjoy that artists or the product). However, I believe that this does not have such a significant effect in HumbleBundle’s case because they only offer bundles (with products created by lots of different developers/artists).

Is the PWYW phenomenon here to stay; what further innovations can we expect in this field?


www.humblebundle.com

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humble_Bundle

(Tobias Regner, Privacy is precious: on the attempt to use social pressure on internet to increase revenue, 2014): http://www.eea-esem.com/files/papers/EEA-ESEM/2014/1102/MagnatunesPrivacy_JEEA2014.pdf

(Tobias Regner, Voluntary payments, privacy and social pressure on the internet: a natural field experiment, 2012): https://www.econstor.eu/dspace/bitstream/10419/68231/1/734357842.pdf

Author:                Euclid Alexis Haralambidis

S.I.D.:                  313081eh

Passwords are so yesterday!

Hasn’t it happened to every single one of us? We decided to add a new password (or maybe just a new variation of an old password) to our list of two to four passwords that we use for all of our accounts – either because we feel like we have used it too many times now, or because the requirements ask for a different kind of special character combination than the two versions of the same password you already have. We thought we were so clever when we created this super-complicated and super-safe new password, and we decided not to write it down because… well, we all know we are not supposed to do that. But now we are sitting in front of our laptop staring at the screen hoping that this super-safe password will find its way back into our thoughts.

At some point not too long ago, fingerprints and other sorts of biometric data like iris scans were considered to be the ultimate safety precaution. However, in today’s interconnected world, biometric data is more and more vulnerable to getting into the wrong person’s hands. When the U.S. Office of Personnel Management was hacked in 2015, a number of 5.6 million fingerprints were stolen. Even though the ability of hackers to make use of those stolen fingerprints is still limited at the moment, this is considered to change quickly as technology evolves rapidly (TheGuardian, 2015).

So if we keep forgetting our passwords, we are not supposed to write them down, and even fingerprints and retina prints are soon not to be safe anymore – how can we protect our private property?

Do not fear, the answer is inside your head.
brain waves

Researchers from Birmingham University have developed a way for security systems to identify a person’s identity through that person’s brainwaves. A study showed that brains react to different words with different kinds of electrical potentials that represent neural communication, and that those different reactions can be used to verify a person’s identity with an accuracy of 94 percent. The study also shows that those potentials stay the same over time, making it possible to use this method over long periods of time – for example for security systems. The study also proves that only the minimum number of electrodes required for obtaining clean data has to be placed on the scalp of the person in order to measure his reactions – three (Armstrong et al., 2015).

Those reactions, the so-called ‘Brainprints’, are considered to be a very safe way to protect private property since they cannot be easily stolen by hackers as can be fingerprints or retina prints. Furthermore, finger or retina prints are not cancelable (they cannot be changed). You cannot simply get a new fingerprint or a new retina print. Once this kind of biometric data is compromised, it is not valuable for the use with security systems anymore. The biometric data from ‘Brainprints’, however, is indeed cancelable. In the case of a compromised ‘Brainprint’ through hacking activities, these ‘Brainprints’ can be reset, making this method of property protection very reliable (Birmingham University, 2015).

Do you think this innovation will turn into a technology that will be widely accessible to everyone in everyday life? Or do you think it will only gain relevance (if so at all) in a high security-seeking business or governmental context?
How do you personally feel about this new discovery? Would you rather stick to your analog passwords that you have gotten so used to? Or are you looking forward to a future where you do not need to remember all those annoying password variations anymore?

______________________________________________________________________________________
References:

Armstrong, B. C., Ruiz-Blondet, M. V., Khalifian, N., Kurtz, K. J., Jin, Z., & Laszlo, S. (2015). Brainprint: Assessing the uniqueness, collectability, and permanence of a novel method for ERP biometrics. Neurocomputing.

Binghamton University, State University of New York. (2015, June 2). Brain’s reaction to certain words could replace passwords. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 8, 2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150602160631.htm.

TheGuardian (2015). US government hack stole fingerprints of 5.6 million federal employees. TheGuardian.com. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/23/us-government-hack-stole-fingerprints.

Forget apps, messaging bots are the future!

No more tapping and switching between endless number of websites and apps, each with different interface to get used to. No more a sored thumb and wasting precious seconds of your life on opening and closing all these things. Sounds like a dream?

As current search and mobile app paradigm is reaching its limits the new alternative is emerging and moving us into a conversation-based era. Imagine that you can order take-out food, book a taxi and pay bills with only one message. And all that in one app! This can be done with a messaging app being basically a bot. The messaging bot technology is rapidly gaining traction and is shifting entire smartphone Internet experience to new “platformized” level.

Messaging apps are becoming the new platform which incorporates functions played by a mobile operating system, whereas bots are new mobile apps.

Messaging platforms such as WeChat, Line, Facebook, Slack and Telegram subsume third-party services which were previously independent apps so that the bots can automate conversation, actions, workflows and handle transactions in response to users’ queries from within a messaging interface.

When it comes to a messaging bot itself, it is a pogram simulating human activity that operates as an agent for a user or another program what in practice means that it can read and write messages just as a human. Messaging bots are build by developers to provide automated services through the messaging interface of the platforms.

bots1

So for example you can purchase goods and services through e-commerce bots, while food bots order pizza for you. And there are content bots as well which deliver relevant content such as news and weather. If you happen to do some banking or trade stocks there is also a suitable bot for you. When you want to automate some of your business workflows in finance, sales, HR, admin or operations a workflow bot is just perfect. IoT bots will take care of your smart home, car, washing machine and so on. And when you finally get overwhelmed with all these bots, your Personal Assistant bot will come to your aid and grip the whole communication with rest of your bots so that you will receive only the most important requests.

From a development standpoint, since bots involve server-side code which is faster to develop, easier to maintain and platform-independent, bots can reduce time to market for emerging startups and enable developers to reach product-market fir sooner.

Summing up all these benefits, it can be clearly seen that bots render our mobile experience better what, as a result, makes customer acquisition and retention way easier for mobile developers.

Sources:

http://blogs.aspect.com/2015/09/30/if-text-is-the-new-talk-messaging-auto-bots-just-may-be-your-new-buddy/

http://techcrunch.com/2015/08/11/its-operating-systems-vs-messaging-apps-in-the-battle-for-techs-next-frontier/#.plqomq:O0zM

http://techcrunch.com/2015/09/29/forget-apps-now-the-bots-take-over/

Don’t get pocketsurfed!

Your credit cards are not safe even in your wallet! A new trend of hacking known as pocket surfing gives hackers the ability to scan your credit card and acquire all of your credit card information such as the credit card number, name and PIN. For as little as 8 dollars, hackers can build a device capable of scanning credit cards with a range of 25 feet.

Chris Gilpin, the founder and CEO of the company SignalVault has managed to find a solution to the problem. His invention takes the form of a credit card, which is able to block all incoming radio frequency identification (RFID) signals. On a recent episode of Shark Tank (highly recommended show) Chris managed to strike an investment deal with Robert Herjavec  (CEO of one of the largest information security enterprises in the world) and is currently working on expanding his business and education others about the potential threats of pocketsurfers.

The device itself is simple. You put it into your wallet together with all of your credit cards and it will block out any potential hacker from scanning your cards. It does not require any batteries and lasts for 5 years.SignalVault-RFID-credit-card-protector-Shark-Tank-product

“Most consumers only worry about their personal information when they are making a purchase in-store or online.  Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.  Hackers can steal your credit or debit card information just by walking past you in a crowd and we all need to protect ourselves from this crime.” – Chris Gilpin

It seems more and more new innovations within the information technology sector such as the RFID require further innovations for extra security. Before we know it, hackers will find a way around the RFID blocker and we would need another device to counter this. When does this never ending vicious cycle ever stop?

Resources:

http://allsharktankproducts.com/shark-tank-products-tech/signalvault-rfid-blocking-credit-card-protector/

http://www.signal-vault.com/pages/about-us

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Data, oil or fuel?

Data in business has become a hot topic over the past years. New technologies allow firms to collect massive amounts of data about, well, us. Cookies, online profiles, search queries, device tracking technology and even facial recognition software allow firms to track our moves.

That this data is valuable stands to reason. Enough data on a person allows a firm to hit us with personalized content, target advertising and even location based notifications, all designed to influence our behavior and monetize our actions.

Just exactly how valuable is our data? Is it just a way to grease the wheels or is it actual fuel for the economy? Dutch insurance company Achmea recently announced that they are planning to give their customers discounts on their insurance if they allow Achmea to track their behavior and collect data on them. Initial plans include installing tracking and measuring devices in their cars and homes, hoping to modify customer behavior in order to prevent the need for claims. This would essentially put a very literal price on your privacy. As was to be expected, the announcement sparked a lively debate on the right to privacy and how firms should not be able to put a price on it.

In another case on online payment companies, the author puts forward the argument that instead of asking payment fees, these companies should monetize the data they collect on customer consumption behavior. In other words, if I buy a guitar online, why not use the data they collect on my purchase to target me for guitar lessons? Trust me when I say I am going to need them..
These companies would essentially forgo the need for payment fees and generate revenue through the data they collected, making everyone better off (I pay less, they make money, the guy who gives guitar lessons knows his ad is targeted to someone who actually cares).

These cases show that data has actual monetary value. However, Achmea only gives out a discount, they do not generate actual revenue. The payment companies do, but they are in a unique position. It is likely that some firms will generate revenue off of the data they collect, but this will not be the case for every firm. Most firms will probably use data as oil: to target the right guy with the right ad. Like me and my guitar lessons. Let me know what you guys think about companies making money off of our data!

Sources:

http://fd.nl/economie-politiek/1120827/achmea-geeft-premiekorting-aan-klant-die-data-levert

https://datafloq.com/read/what-data-do-the-five-largest-tech-companies-colle/427

Bank of America or Apple Bank: Is the banking sector ripe for disruption?

The economic crisis has made banks much more hesitant when it came to lending out money. The popularity of banks has also been dropping with people holding the banks partly responsible for causing this crisis. Customers no longer feel to have a relationship with their bank, but feel treated like a number. An important question that arises then is: Are banks maybe unwillingly preparing their sector for a disruptive takeover?

This process has already been set in motion. Crowdfunding as an alternative to banks has been growing impressively. Global crowdfunding campaigns are expected to rise to $35 billion in 2015. Although the concept of crowdfunding can hardly be called new – the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty was already funded by raising money from over 100,000 funders – it has become much easier to implement with the internet providing a platform to find willing funders from over the whole world. And it’s not just crowdfunding. McKinsey & Co, a leading management consulting firm, released a report last month warning that increasing profits in the banking sector has already attracted the attention of more than 12,000 fintech startups, who offer cheaper services and are eating the margins of the traditional banks.

These are just the smaller fintech startups who are threatening the market. What if one of the bigger tech companies like Google or Apple decided to enter the market? If they decided to leverage their large resources, market platform and user base they could draw a large share of the market. This scenario might be even closer than most expect. Both companies have already set their first steps in the financial market. Google introduced Google Wallet in 2011 which aimed to replace your wallet with a virtual one, containing all your payment and loyalty cards, for mobile payment in stores. Apple introduced Apple Pay last year where you could pay with your iPhone instores. Although adoption is still slow Apple Pay already succeeded in capturing 1 percent of all retail transactions in the U.S. one year after the launch.

Research by KPMG among young bankers in the Netherlands suggests that these companies will have taken a large share of the Dutch market by 2025. Young bankers see their bank lacking in knowledge of new technologies and unable to provide the personalized service and added value to their services that customers expect.

What these tech companies have in common is that they use innovative technology to provide services to the customer they didn’t even know they wanted. They have a more direct communication with their customers in a world where people have the feeling that banks don’t have the interests of their customers at heart anymore, but care more for their profits. And undeniably these tech companies have the coolness factor working in their favor. A company like Apple already has a popular brand giving any products by the company an attractiveness traditional banks cannot compete with.

McKinsey & Co concluded in their report that banks are facing a choice. Either battle these newcomers in the market or join them. The traditional banks have little time left to to make a choice, before it’s too late.

JH Aben – 171724


Sources:

KPMG, Next Generation Banking Survey (2015) Accessed: October 6, 2015 from http://www.kpmg.com/NL/en/Issues-And-Insights/ArticlesPublications/Pages/Next-Generation-Banking-Survey.aspx

Global Crowdfunding Market To Reach $34.4B In 2015, Predicts Massolution’s 2015CF Industry Report (2015), Accessed: October 8, 2015 from
http://www.crowdsourcing.org/editorial/global-crowdfunding-market-to-reach-344b-in-2015-predicts-massolutions-2015cf-industry-report/45376

Banks Face Fight-or-Join Decision With Tech Firms, McKinsey Says (September 30 2015), Accessed: October 6, 2015 from
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-29/banks-face-fight-or-join-decision-with-tech-firms-mckinsey-says

Apple Pay Faces Tough Crowd in First Year (October 6 2015) Accessed: October 7, 2015 from
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-05/apple-pay-faces-consumer-indifference-in-inaugural-year

Google: An Example of a Corporate Prediction Market

I have recently come across a very interesting example of a corporate prediction market. Did you know, that Google has started one of the largest corporate prediction markets in 2005? Prediction markets are used in a similar way as stock markets. However, they do not trade in stock but in securities of certain outcomes of projects or events that will happen in the future (O’Leary, 2013). Participants of the market can trade with these securities. Depending on how participants estimate the likeliness of an event occurring, the price of the security increases (if the likelihood increases) or decreases (if the likeliness decreases).

Google has used the Iowa Prediction Market as a baseline to set up their own prediction market (McAfee, Lakhani & Coles, 2007). Google uses prediction markets in order to aggregate the information that each employee participating in the market possesses about the company performance on certain projects or events (Cowgill, Wolfers, & Zitzewitz, 2009). Furthermore, they are used as an addition to more conventional forecasting methods on the performance of certain company projects and development activities. In the Google prediction market, a Google currency is used, so no real money is involved. With the normal forecasting methods, it is much more difficult to incorporate the expertise of a huge amount of employees, even if they have valuable information to contribute, and thus the information incorporated into a regular forecast can often be incomplete. Furthermore, it would take more time and effort to for example talk to employees in person or to evaluate questionnaires. Prediction markets can thus make use of the wisdom of the crowds in an efficient way (Cowgill, 2005). Google has been able to get relatively accurate information about project outcomes and projections from its internal prediction market.

A company deciding to implement an internal prediction market needs to make sure to create the right incentives to get people participating. If the critical level of participants is not reached, the information created by the market will most likely not be very accurate (O’Leary, 2015). In addition, one of the problems at Google was that newly hired employees tended to overvalue optimistic predictions compared to the long-term employees (Cowgill, Wolfers, & Zitzewitz, 2009). Another bias can also be that if trading in the market does not involve real money, participants tend to behave more extreme than in the real world (O’Leary, 2013). Companies need to make sure they think about the design of their prediction market beforehand in order to get some valuable results from it.

What do you think of corporate prediction markets? Do you have other examples of companies implementing prediction markets?

Sources:

Ball, P. (2014). ‘Wisdom of the crowd’: The myths and realities. Bbc.com. Retrieved 8 October 2015, from http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140708-when-crowd-wisdom-goes-wrong

Cowgill, B. (2005). Putting crowd wisdom to work. Official Google Blog. Retrieved 8 October 2015, from https://googleblog.blogspot.nl/2005/09/putting-crowd-wisdom-to-work.html

Cowgill, B., Wolfers, J., & Zitzewitz, E. (2009). Using Prediction Markets to Track Information Flows: Evidence from Google. In AMMA (p. 3). Retrieved October 8, 2015 from http://www.columbia.edu/~bc2656/GooglePredictionMarketPaper.pdf

Financial Times,. (2013). Prediction markets: value among the crowd – FT.com. Retrieved 8 October 2015, from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f03fc956-9586-11e2-a151-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3nyGCVPiR

Leinweber, D. (2013). Google Trends Market Prediction: Right Again. Correct On 80% Of The Calls.         Forbes.com. Retrieved 8 October 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidleinweber/2013/06/13/google-trends-market-prediction-right-again-correct-on-80-of-the-calls/

McAfee, A., Lakhani, K., & Coles, P. (2007). Prediction Markets at Google (1st ed.). Harvard Business School. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/product/prediction-markets-at-google/607088-PDF-ENG

O’Leary, D. (2013). Internal corporate prediction markets: “From each according to his bet”. International Journal Of Accounting Information Systems, 14(2), 89-103. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.accinf.2012.02.003

Wall Street Journal,. (2008). A Look at Google’s Prediction Market. Retrieved 8 October 2015, from http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2008/01/07/a-look-at-googles-prediction-market/

UBER to disrupt the logistics industry through UBER Cargo

Uber has long been recognized for its innovative services, but the legality of its disruptive business model has been challenged by governments and taxi companies since its inception in 2009. These speed bumps have not slowed down their rate of innovation, and Uber continuously expand their international transportation network with additional services; UberRush for delivery in NYC, UberPool for ridesharing, UberBOAT for watertaxi in Instabul and the list goes on. Everybody recognize Uber´s disruptiveness in the taxi industry, but I would like to pay more attention to their extension of services into the commercial logistics industry through UberRush, especially their launch of UberCargo earlier this year in HongKong.

UberCargo is a clear statement from the company to offer a logistics service to both commercial and household, beyond just taxi and ridesharing services. This new experiment is taking place in HongKong in which users can request a van to arrive for pickup and deliver the goods to a requested delivery spot – you even have the opportunity to ride together with your goods. Like any other service Uber offer, they emphasize transparency by allowing users to track their shipments. Quite convenient! Even though targeting mostly businesses, imagine yourself buying loads of inventory for your new apartment at IKEA, or moving to another one – request for a “rent-a-van” through UberCargo.

UberCargo is in a beta version in HongKong, but with the Uber network stretching about 60 countries they have a potential to rapidly expand into other markets. They are progressively entering into the business of logistics, and an interesting reflection to draw upon after this trial is the potential extension of the Uber technology into more heavy-weight transport, rail road, air transport and so on. Not just being a logistics provider through mid-size vans, but also with other logistics modes. This might represents an additional avenue with the UberCargo. In addition, this type of service will change how companies think about their inbound and outbound logistics. Will Uber with its innovative business model and technology disrupt the traditional logistics companies with UberCargo in the same way as with the taxi companies?

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2015/01/08/uber-cargo/

3D printing: Will it ever be available for all of us?

Lets start with a little bit of 3D printing history. In the late 80’s 3D printing wasn’t called 3D printing yet. It started off as a way of low cost prototyping (3dprintingindustry, 2015). In the late 90’s and 00’s new 3D printing techniques were developed but were still solely focussed on industrial applications. In the 00’s 3D printing techniques were changing. There were still high-end 3D printing solutions but cheap and low cost 3D printing solutions also originated. This change resulted eventually in the first commercially available 3D printer in 2009 (3dprintingindustry, 2015).

Currently 3D printing is used in many different industries. One of the most well known applications is printing of machinery parts in industrial facilities. Below you see a graph with the fields of application over time.

NaamloosApplication of 3D printing over time (Harrop, 2014)

Next to this application within the business field, 3D printing is also available, for us, as customers. Start-ups such as 3D hubs connect consumers to 3D printers (3Dhubs, 2015). 3D printing is within our grasp with these new platforms and developments, but will we really 3D print the necklace we designed in the future? I think 3D printing is a great solution for the industry in terms of prototyping, spare parts and so on. But I really doubt whether we are really going to use it ourselves, in our own home. 3D printing is not particularly sustainable. If we keep on printing the stuff we want we will be left with a big amount of redundant 3D printed objects. Next to the fact that it is not very sustainable, it also deals with serious safety issues. Everyone who knows to handle a designing program could make a 3D print drawing and print it. How are we going to regulate unsafe printing and enforce this? Apart from the safety issue, we also face the issue of capital insensitivity. To be able to print the things we really want (personalized to a high extend), we need expensive printers that are currently not available for the consumer market. You can buy a cheap printer but it only allows you to print small objects. It is still an illusion that you can print your own designed couch or chairs at your own house.

3D printing offers us great possibilities in terms of designing, personalizing and acquiring the products that we want as consumers. However, I think due to regulation and capital insensitivity it will not become the second printer in your house. Do you think 3D printing will be available for all of us in the near future?

SSID: 345222lh

References

3Dhubs. (2015, 01 01). 3Dhubs.com. Accessed: 10 8, 2015, from 3Dhubs.com: https://www.3dhubs.com/how-to-hub

3dprintingindustry. (2015, 01 01). History of 3D printing: The free beginner’s guide. Accessed: 10 8, 2015, from 3Dprintingindustry: http://3dprintingindustry.com/3d-printing-basics-free-beginners-guide/history/

Harrop, J. (2014, 06 01). Applications of 3D printing 2014-2024: Forecasts, Markets, Players. Accessed: 10 8, 2015, from idtechex.com: http://www.idtechex.com/research/reports/applications-of-3d-printing-2014-2024-forecasts-markets-players-000385.asp

The digital health revolution

It is common knowledge that older people need more care and are the main customers of the health care industry. In the near future the baby boomers are retiring, which leads to a new problem in the healthcare industry. Is there enough capacity for the retiring baby boomers? And how will we bridge the gap off having less people to serve more people who need care?

The digital health revolution is the key solution. The health care industry is one of the industries where most processes are based on outdated techniques. There is still a lot of space for improvement, fortunately there are some revolutionary ideas to bring healthcare into the modern age.

In 2014 the U.S healthcare industry reached a funding amount of $3.5 billion to fund digital health startups. There are many ongoing innovations, too much to assess all. After reading a paper on the innovations in the healthcare industry I became very interested in an innovation based on big data. Epic is one of the organizations that began to tackle the challenge of monitoring and maintaining health data. Monitoring and maintaining this data could help doctors to recognize problems in an early stage, which enables easier treatment.

With the launch of the IOS 8 mobile operating system on an iPhone, a new feature is released. The health app. This app stores various types of our health data. Creating a large platform that connects all this health data on a daily basis will create a powerful information resource for health care providers and researchers.

apple

You might think, how is this related to Epic? Well, Epic is running pilot programs for high-risk patients, it makes the data of the health app accessible for doctors. 23 Hospitals have rolled out this pilot program of Apple’s HealthKit service connected to the software of Epic. This service acts as a repository for patient-generated health information like blood pressure, weight or heart rate. This system allows doctors to watch for early signs of trouble and intervene before a medical problem becomes acute. It could help to avoid repeat admissions at a relatively low cost.

This is one of the hundreds of innovations that will allow the health care industry to prepare themselves for the baby boom tsunami. What do you think, will we be ready for this huge tsunami?

Nudd, Geoffrey (2015) How the digital health revolution will become a reality. http://techcrunch.com/2015/10/07/how-the-digital-health-revolution-will-become-a-reality/ (08-10-2015)

Sullivan, Mark (2014) EHR giant Epic explains how it will bring Apple HealthKit data to doctors. http://venturebeat.com/2014/09/17/ehr-giant-epic-explains-how-it-will-bring-apple-healthkit-data-to-doctors/ (08-10-2015)

Far, Cristina (2015) Exclusive: Apple’s health tech takes early lead among top hospitals. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/05/us-apple-hospitals-exclusive-idUSKBN0L90G920150205?feedType=RSS&feedName=technologyNews (08-10-2015)

The dangers and potential of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a topic that has been getting a lot of attention in the past couple of years. Some famous, highly educated people have been warning us about the dangers of AI. Among them are Elon Musk, Steven Hawking and most recently Bill Gates.

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”
– Elon Musk (At the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium)

“I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”
– Stephen Hawking (BBC interview)

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”
– Bill Gates (Reddit “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” thread)

It has not just been warnings in interviews, symposiums and online fora. Hawking, Musk and others contributed to an open letter, posted to the future of life institute, warning about the dangers of AI.

Besides the highly educated mentioning AI, the entertainment industry has been contributing to the discussion as well. There are several movies (e.g. Transcendence, Avengers: age of ultron) and video games (e.g. Destiny) showing the dangers and potential of artificial intelligence.

But what is so dangerous about artificial intelligence, and why the sudden increase in global interest? The biggest risk is the uncertainty of what an AI would do. Emotions, even though we are quite rational, have a big impact on our daily decision making. An AI would be a completely rational being. For example: humans would never choose to kill of half the population, just because the data shows it would be beneficial. An AI would likely have no trouble making such decisions. There might actually be a point where it would consider humanity useless. A being that has all the computational power in the world, who does not like us, could be incredibly dangerous. This is one of the major reasons that so many people are concerned about AI development.

Besides the above mentioned risks, there is a lot of potential. Think of a consciousness with so much more computational power. The development and research that this AI could perform is so much faster than we humans can. Making AI is probably our best bet for immortality, could lead to huge economical progress and so much more.

I personally believe creating artificial intelligence, to the point of consciousness, would be equal to creating an actual deity (god). The result will either be the start golden age, the likes of which we have not seen before, or human extinction.

This leaves us with one big question: should we pursue artificial intelligence knowing the risks and potential?

We are just like VW

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Monitoring car emissions exists to protect the environment from high waste. The recent Volkswagen scandal showed the vulnerability of the overall current system. Misleading data created an unfounded good-feeling and had a larger impact on the environment than people realized. As unethical the behavior of VW has been the essential critics go far beyond the top of the iceberg which is the VW scandal. From the environment perspective there are multiple more reasons why the car industry is highly misleading when it comes to environment related themes. What about the plug in hybrid cars? The amount of (semi)- electric cars has grown excessively over the last years mainly due to the highly subsidizing attitude of the government. When we look at the Dutch market the huge tax advantages convinced many (business) car drives to buy or lease one of the attractive car models. So far nothing special. But a large investigation has shown that about 80% of the total kilometers driven in (semi)- electric cars has been driven on fossil fuels. So people benefited from a rule which they did not commit to. Reasons for this behavior are laziness when it comes to searching for a suitable plug in station or travelling simply too many kilometers so they switch to the fossil fuel because recharging their car takes up to half an hour. Driving merely on fossils fuels does not only decrease the efficiency it even exceeds the regular emissions of other similar car models while the engine has been developed to be efficient in combining the two power sources. Driving solely on fossil fuels increases the pressure on this part of the engine hence the increase in emissions. So actually most people still prefer financial advantages or profits over the actual well being of the environment. This is the small version of the main motives of VW behind their manipulative actions with the emission software. For the umpteenth time this shows the necessity of critical investigation on available data and statistics. Market data on the amounts and figures of ‘green’ cars should make anyone cautious. We are just like VW.

Sources

http://www.dw.com/en/vw-scandal-is-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg/a-18736107

http://www.telegraaf.nl/autovisie/23317259/__Hybriderijder_tankt_benzine__.html

http://uk.businessinsider.com/heres-what-volkswagen-did-and-how-they-got-caught-2015-9

http://www.z24.nl/ondernemen/plug-in-hybride-leuk-voor-de-leaserijder-kater-voor-werkgever-462312

Russia wants to ban ‘gay-emojis’ on social media

At first, I wanted to write a blog post about the use of propaganda in social media. Then I read an article that really got my attention. Russia is considering to ban ‘gay emoji’s’ on social media. Ridiculous right?! This got the attention in the media after a lot of claims were made in Russia that the icons are illegal under tough laws about homosexual propaganda.

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Apple first introduces the ‘gay emoji’s’ back in 2012. At the same time they were bringing more symbols with more ethnic diversity and a greater range of ages. Another update this year introduces emoji’s showing gay couples with children (IOS 8.3). Apple is even under investigation by the Russian police because the emoji’s would illegally promote homo sexuality.

According to a Russian lawyer, Yaroslav Mikhailov, Apple breaks the Russian law, which states that organizations are not allowed to promote homosexuality to minors. If found guilty Apple has to face a fine ranging from 800,000 – 1.000.000 rubles (€8.500 – €11.000). They also could be suspended in Russia for up to three months when they found guilty. In my opinion, How is an emoticon able to ‘promote’ homosexuality in a country? Of course, we already knew Russia is not as tolerant towards the gay community compared with other western countries, but still.

This also shows that Russia wants to have influence on social media, which is the biggest open communication source in the world. They want to implement limitations for there own social media users. This is contrary to the fact that social media has to be an open communication source without limitations for the users.

I think it is a great idea to bring more diversity in the emoji’s. A lot of social media users, use them  on the big social media platforms, like: WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. By the time of 2011, a lot of social media users were already asking for more diversity in the so called emoji’s. It sounds funny, but in a way is social media and emoji’s supporting equality in the world. It reflects the will of the people for more equality, even in social media emoticons.

How do you feel about social media censoring in this way, keeping in mind that social media is an open communication source? And how should a company like Apple deal with such accusations?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-33738770

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/11895784/Russia-could-be-investigating-Apple-over-gay-propaganda-because-of-emoji.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/russia-ban-gay-emojis-social-6180727

Moneyball in criminal justice

Predicting crime; is it science fiction or reality? And what about our privacy?

I have been watching a series called “The Wire” and it made me think about how safe I actually feel while walking the streets in the Netherlands. It impacted the way I look at the city of Rotterdam even if you compare it with other places such as Baltimore, Maryland where the series is about. I decided to start doing some investigation on the topic and decided to write a blog about it.

15 years ago predicting crime seemed like an unrealistic, very abstract concept. Nowadays fighting crime by smart statistics and rigorous analysis is in the lift. More and more police departments across the world are trialing or implementing the techniques. Predictions go as far as determining where and when the most likely crime will be happening and estimating to what degree there is possibility of relapse with a certain offender (Milgram, 2013)(Accenture, 2012). A common mistake people make is confusing predictive analytics with Minority Reporting. However, Minority Reporting is about the question who while predictive analytics seeks to find the answer to the questions when and where.

In a TED talk by Anne Milgram that I watched, the previous attorney general of the state of New Jersey, she explained how she came to change the way she saw criminal justice. One of her main realizations was the fact that there was no knowledge about who were in the criminal justice systems, no data availability, no data sharing between departments, and no expertise on what was important to look at. In addition, she explains how decisions-making were made based on instinct and experience. Her conclusion was, looking at the entire justice system under her jurisdiction, that they were not doing a good job. This is what triggered her to implement rigorous data analyses and smart statistics to fight crime. The result was that murders reduced with 41% and crimes decreased with 26%.

Nevertheless, numerous questions could be raised. For example: How good are the data used? Is crime data vulnerable to manipulation and error? How do we know the underlying algorithm are not erroneous? Is our right to privacy protected? (Huffington Post, 2015)

To me all these questions and concerns raised are nullified when you look at examples provided by people like Anne Milgram. These numbers tell an important story. In my eyes these numbers matter greatly; public safety is of utmost importance since without it we cannot be educated, we cannot be healthy, we cannot exercise and we cannot be happy.

However, fact is that with big data, privacy issues remain on the surface. Personally, I believe privacy issues are less important than our safety. Unfortunately, there are struggles that come with ‘small data’ being replaced by ‘big data’.

Ask yourself a question: What if the “reasonable suspicion” doctrine of seizing and interrogating a suspect is being challenged by an interconnected web of data and knowledge combined (Ferguson, 2014)?

I believe you cannot fight crime with little yellow post-it notes. What about you?

References

Accenture, (2015). London Police Force Uses Analytics to Fight Gang Crime – Accenture. [online] Available at: https://www.accenture.com/id-en/success-london-police-force-using-analytics-fight-gang-crime.aspx [Accessed 7 Oct. 2015].

Berg, N. (2014). Predicting crime, LAPD-style. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/jun/25/predicting-crime-lapd-los-angeles-police-data-analysis-algorithm-minority-report [Accessed 7 Oct. 2015].

ComputerWeekly, (2015). Met Police trials analytics to fight gang crime. [online] Available at: http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240233449/Met-Police-trial-analytics-to-fight-gang-crime [Accessed 7 Oct. 2015].

Datafloq, (2015). Datafloq – The One-Stop Shop for Big Data. [online] Available at: https://datafloq.com/read/los-angeles-police-department-predicts-fights-crim/279 [Accessed 7 Oct. 2015].

Ferguson, A. (2014). Big Data and Predictive Reasonable Suspicion. SSRN Electronic Journal.

The Huffington Post, (2015). Predicting Predictive Policing in NYC. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-guthrie-ferguson/predicting-predictive-pol_b_7757200.html [Accessed 7 Oct. 2015].

How could Borat’s and Brad Pitt’s identity swap happen unnoticed and what are social platforms’ roles to prevent it from happening?

Catfishing and cyber identity stealing is a problem, that’s for sure. Mostly, there are two types of victims of this phenomenon: people are either too naïve, dupable or ignorant to see the bad in other people or people choose to believe otherwise because they don’t want to lose the relationship they have created with the person on the other side of the screen, even though their intuition tells them to step out of the game. Since naivety, dupability and ignorance are personal traits (of the victims) that could hardly be changed, if change is possible at all, and people who are in love are blind to anyone else’s opinion than their lovers, we need to focus on the other group of people that are playing a crucial role in this social problem, the catfishers themselves.

The reason people choose to catfish others can vary. People could do it out of boredom or because they indeed have malicious intentions towards their fellow human beings. But as a loyal Catfish follower, I know that most people don’t intent to harm or deceive others. This brings another thing to my mind, what if the catfishers are victims themselves? They could be victims of mental disorders which they have no knowledge about. Mental disorders are not something one can perceive from the outside and there are certainly no full body scans which can determine you are indeed suffering from it or not (Mayo Clinic, 2013). Since it is so hard to recognize mental disorders or to distinguish it from normal mental health, patients often could not tell themselves if they are disordered or not. If people don’t know about their condition and pretending to be someone else is the only thing that keeps them from suicide thoughts (I might slightly exaggerating here, but still it is not implausible), do we really have the right, or are we really that cruel to interfere with these people’s pursuit of happiness?

Therefore, I think we need a different approach to fix this problem. Whether intended or not, every (potential) catfisher needs to make a fake profile in order to deceive others. Therefore, (minor) changes about the way of registering a new account are the first step to tackle the problem. If Facebook, or any other social media platform, shines more light on the importance of virtually identity fraud cases, more people would be aware of it. They don’t need to cram the (registering) pages with warnings signs about catfishers but subtle, minor steps of change might add a lot of value. For example, Facebook could bring their policy about fake profiles under the loop and show it directly on the register page, instead of referring to their policy which is left unread by most users. Just by pointing this particular point out, people might be more conscious about their intention. By raising awareness of the (virtually) crime the potential catfishers are about to commit, the idea and fear of getting caught should be increased. This could be just enough for the haloed angel on their shoulder to shine the light on the right path.

Another thing that could be added to the page is links to (anonymous) blogs where people share their stories about catfishing, whether being the catfisher or the victim. This way, potential catfishers could read about real life stories and see what damage they actually could bring by doing something what they thought is not that tremendous. Showing the consequences may trigger guilt and if we assume people are not natural evil creatures, it should be enough to let people think twice about their actions.

Lastly, it is important to emphasize the fact that it is okay to reach out for help. Having the intention of pretending to be someone else does not mean that you are directly stamped as a bad person. There could be more to your own story where others have no knowledge about. Potential catfisher should get the impression that it is okay for them to discuss about their own problems instead of drowning someone else along. Since a sincere smile can be life-saving (Berger, 2015), simple sentences on the register page which shows empathy would do the magic. If we want to take it to a more professional level, names of psychologists or social institutions could be added to the register page as well to let people know where they could find the help they needed.

To put it in a nutshell, catfishers are not always people who have bad intentions to hurt you. They are often the ones that need help more than the victims do. So the next time you find something remarkable about the person you’re virtually connected with, show empathy and discuss openly about his/her problems so we could be one step closer of restoring faith in humanity.

Berger, M.N., (2015) Preventing Suicide, http://marcianaomiberger.com/mental-health/preventing-suicide/, 7 oktober 2015.

Mayo Clinic Staff (2013) Mental health: What’s normal, what’s not, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/mental-health/art-20044098, 7 oktober 2015.