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Friday, October 31, 2008

Quantum Cryptography

Schneier on Quantum Cryptography. It is interesting, but not a part of the problem that we need to solve.

Subtlety of Privacy Agreements

Just received this note from a large company I have had dealings with, informing me of a change in their privacy agreement with me:

" ... the new privacy statement (like the old one), continues to note that we will not share your personal information with marketers outside of P&G without your explicit consent. The key change in the new Privacy Statement which we wanted to bring to your attention is that within P&G, the information you provide to one P&G brand may now be shared internally, within the company, across other P&G brands. We believe that this change allows us to 1) better tailor our advertising and offers to you and 2) tell you about all of the products and services offered by our company which we think may be of interest to you.

To view the complete text of the updated Privacy Statement, please click on the following link ... "
Another part of the message allows me to opt out of sharing information entirely.

Winners Curse in Academic Publishing

In the Economist, about winning and truth:

" ... IN ECONOMIC theory the winner’s curse refers to the idea that someone who places the winning bid in an auction may have paid too much. Consider, for example, bids to develop an oil field. Most of the offers are likely to cluster around the true value of the resource, so the highest bidder probably paid too much. The same thing may be happening in scientific publishing ... ".
Although this article is not about auctions, see previous posts about auction analysis.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Costco Supports Comments

Costco is supporting customer comments on its products for the first time. The idea of retail welcoming online customer opinions is not universal but becoming more common.

Bosses Embracing Social Tech

BBC piece on why businesses should embrace social technologies like Facebook as a means of internal communication.

Robot Maid

Video of a robot maid, likely to be most useful for eldercare applications. Also looks like the kitchen has been architecturally prepared for its use, a very expensive thing to do. The standard home is a hostile place for robotics.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Newspapers on the way out?

The Christian Science Monitor, one of the first major papers I remember reading online, is moving from a daily to a weekly printed paper, with most operations online. A major change in strategy. NYT is losing money rapidly. Implications?

Sic Trancit Automata

Long time correspondent, game (SimLife) and model developer Ken Karakotsios has developed a gem of an IPhone application that delivers visual images from cellular automata. These systems obey simple rules, yet produce emergent complexity. They have been used to create many models of reality. Even suggestions for modeling the physics of the universe itself. Experimenting with these forms inspired me and many others to investigate these methods for solving real business problems. Ken has two versions of Trancit, one free and another at a small cost. The models can be manipulated to construct many startling and evolving images. Like the one at the right. See Ken's blog on the topic for more details. He has continued plans to update their capability.

Wal-Mart Pushes Mobile Internet

AdAge reports: Will Wal-Mart Bring Mobile Internet to the Masses?
Links Up With T-Mobile to Hawk Android Phones.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Visual Analysis Needs are Examined

Was hoping to make it to the InfoVis conference last week in Columbus, but could not make it work. I see that Bryan Pierce writes about the conference in a post: Are visual analysis tools poised to become pervasive?, which covers Christian Chabot's talk re flawed assumptions about why people use visual analysis. (looking for a video of the talk) Good perceptive read. These learnings are good and I generally agree with them ... most people's problems have data, complexity, and needs that can be solved on small machines today ... given the right tools.

Based on my own experience with analysis problems, there are often cases where a person without modeling training 'hits the wall' and cannot move forward without help. Visualization, though always useful, may not be enough to step forward and solve some problems. There is a temptation then to over-simplify to be able to show the pictures. The cost of error can be high. You may want to have a professional available for help.

So I agree, visual analysis can solve many problems .... people should be trained in easy to use tools. They should also be first trained in 'stating the problem' in such a way that it clearly and correctly states a goal. That part at least should be collaboratively reviewed, based on the cost, opportunity or otherwise, of solving the wrong problem, or getting the wrong solution for the sake of a picture. Saw that when spreadsheet tools became common, and seeing some of that now.

Gambler's Fallacy in Business

Working paper from HBS, implications in knowledge management and use. By Gregory M. Barron and Stephen Leider. Not the same thing, but consider some connection to 'confirmation bias', too often seen in consumer testing.

" ... This paper asks whether the way we acquire information, by sequential experience or by simultaneous description, plays a critical role in the emergence of the bias in a binary prediction task (betting on red or black roulette outcomes, for example). The results show that the fallacy only occurs when decision makers experience outcomes over time and not when past outcomes are revealed all at once ... "

Deal of the Day at Big Lots and Woot

Big Lots is doing something called Deal of the Day. Sales of soon to be out of stock items at ultra discounts. Brings to mind the online system Woot, which combines daily deals for technology items, an often sarcastic and self-deprecating commentary, open user comments and the immediacy of a daily offer that you just have to be aware of. Creates lots of buzz. Not sure if this same thing works for the kind of categories that Big Lots sells, but they should take a look at Woot for an approach that works.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Buy-Ology Reviews

Sally McKenzie reviews Lindstrom's Buyology and provides a nice overview of the findings. Just discovered, she has an informative blog. More press.

Google Earth on the Iphone

Google Earth is now on the IPhone. Their announcement. Even on my first generation phone, it works fine providing you have WiFi available. Some crashes. Practical? Well for most it is just a very informative, educational toy. But that is enough.

Update: I finally got to try it away from WiFi in more detail, and it operates fairly quickly there as well.

Why We Smoke

Just finished Martin Lindstrom's Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About What we Buy. Very readable, personal exploration of Lindstrom's exploration of biometric technologies to understand how we really react to all those marketing messages. A video and a book excerpt is here.

Notable, and what is getting most of the publicity, is the work he did with those warning messages on cigarette packs. Have never been a smoker, but I always thought that those messages would at least make sure people understand what they were risking, and as a result would decrease smoking. In the US the pack messages are increasingly large text warnings, in other countries they are often graphic images of disease.

Counter-intuitively, Lindstrom discovered that the brain reaction of smokers to such messages, even the most graphic, were not negative. The pleasure centers and 'craving spots' of the brain were still being lit up, the smokers were not reacting rationally to the messages, no matter if they were being delivered textually or graphically. The package of cigarettes, despite how adorned, was still an overall pleasurable message. He even suggests that these messages, now expected and part of the cognitive package, could increase smoking.

No exploration of if the messages might be effective for young people who were considering or just starting smoking. I would further like to understand how the findings from the brain scans might predict specific buying decisions.

Roger Dooley explores this further, asking if these warnings are ads.

BlueHouse and Prolifiq

IBM's Bluehouse is in part positioned as a means for companies to connect with customers, this partnership would appear to make it easy for companies to organize material that they commonly use for customer interaction and support. Previously.

" ... Prolifiq Software, the expert at distributing content from within social networks to outside audiences, today announced a partnership agreement with IBM to integrate Prolifiq 1:1 communication for the sales channel application into the “Bluehouse” set of collaboration services. “Bluehouse,” the new social network for business, combined with Prolifiq will provide network members with immediate access to the content they need and quickly share it with customers, partners and prospects ... "

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Innovators at Work.

The NYT writes about Johnny Chung Lee and the nature of innovation in an Internet age. Lee became well known last year for developing a way to create cheap virtual reality. His web site. He used YouTube to do research and to promote his ideas. It a prime and instructive example of open innovation and of the potential of Connect & Develop style methods. Driven by the Web. Now Lee is at Microsoft's Applied Innovation Group, hope his creativity continues in a corporate setting. On that topic, see HBR's blog: Is Management the Enemy of Creativity?

Social Media ROI

How do you measure social media ROI? In the early days, say four years ago, we always said you couldn't. You cannot avoid the question forever, so this overview post outlines a recent Aberdeen Benchmark report that explores the question a few years later, with interesting conclusions about how the landscape has changed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Siggraph

Someone asked me what Siggraph was. It is the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques. I attended meetings for years. At times it seems to have been taken over by the entertainment and gaming industry, but still useful for those with more mundane visualization interests. The link above will point to some their content from this August's meeting.

Cloud Computing Intro

The Economist gives a good overview of the meaning of cloud computing.

Algorithms of Attractiveness

An NYT writeup about work from Siggraph that deals with altering images of people to make them more 'beautuful', while still being completely recognizable. There has been lots of work in understanding the concept of attractiveness. Applications to cosmetics marketing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Google and Brain Scanning

From Nicholas Carr's blog, the post includes a link to the original presentation:
Google dives into subconscious marketing
Google believes that the effectiveness of the transparent InVideo advertisements that it has begun running on YouTube clips cannot be measured by traditional criteria like click-through rates. Instead, you have to get inside viewers' brains, literally, and monitor things like "emotional engagement" and "memory retention" and "subconscious brand resonance." Teaming up with the neuromarketing firm NeuroFocus and the branding consultancy MediaVest, Google conducted a study in which it measured people's nervous-system responses - through brain scanning..."

Advanced Packaging

Packaging can be extended using cell-phones and it can also be enhanced in a number of ways that that address the senses with form, color and even scent. Signage that attracts a shoppers attention is becoming commonplace, but another view is to add these capabilities on the shelf, even to the package itself. As an example, a company call Nth Degree is doing some interesting work. Dupont's work in the area is also worth looking at, an image example at the right. Electroluminescense is a process that is now employed to deliver printed illumination suitable today for displays and ultimately for packaging. Cost and sustainability, especially at the package level, still big issues.

AdAdge writes
about some recent trials:

In-store displays and product packaging are getting a whole lot flashier -- literally, with lights and streaming video.

Henkel's Right Guard is testing use of printed electronics to power flashing lights in corrugated in-store displays at Walgreen's stores in the Chicago area, a first step for a technology from Arizona start-up company Nth Degree that could eventually bring low-cost streaming video to printed displays, packaging, direct mail or magazine inserts ..."

Shelves Looking Back

It has long been in the mind of retailers and manufacturers to understand shoppers behavior. Now from StoreFrontBackTalk, an article about a company called Intava which says they have:

" ... a new audience measurement tool that tracks consumers' faces as they look at interactive displays. A small camera mounted on a digital display follows a customer's eyes and examines the characteristics of the face to determine if the shopper looked at the screen and for how long," ... '
Takes the idea far beyond the simpler approaches such as those proposed by Prism. The personal privacy element looms large here, retailers would be very cautious. More likely that these methods would be tested in laboratory environments.

Carrefour and Teradata Business Intelligence

Mega global retailer Carrefour is reportedly giving their business intelligence work to Teradata. Teradata is widely used in retail.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wal-Mart Social Applications

Josh Bernoff at Forrester posts about social technology applications at Wal-Mart. They are doing some very useful things to connect with their many consumers, a number are outlined. Enlightening.

Creativity in Business

From the Harvard Business Review: Creativity and the Role of the Leader, they also have a related blog that I have not yet examined.

Spam is Improving AI

In the sense that research underway to solve CAPTCHAs is leading to improvement in some kinds of pattern analysis. Ironic AI challenge between those that create the Captcha letter puzzles and those that solve them. Is this an argument for gaming in business? Maybe it is not about competing to find a better solution, but competing at contrary aspects of the same problem? Can a business problem be positioned that way?

Exploring AdPlanit

Interested in exploring a method used by some of the largest and sophisticated companies to plan their media spending?

I got a personal demonstration of AdPlanit by Ken Karakotsios of Decision Power today. The online beta allows anyone to plan advertising campaigns based on budgets and the choice of or 'mix' of media to be used. Powered by a simulation method called agent based modeling, creating a virtual population of your customers. It assembles an advertising plan and then simulates the resulting sales through time. It models down to the DMA level and lets you construct a detailed marketing plan that is guided by product category and location. Includes such details as the precise newspaper, TV channel, web sites and radio stations you choose to use, and when your campaigns start and stop.

In particular useful for relatively local advertising activities. Meant to guide rather than precisely predict. It also important to note this is an early stage release seeking feedback. Bugs are still be sought out. Very impressive, you can try it out personally. I am exploring now. Previously about AdPlanit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Second Life for Business

I recently tore into the current applicability of Second Life to real business collaboration. I was sent this short article about how Linden labs and River Runs Red are partnering ... to create 'Immersive Workplaces', a new business collaboration suite built on the Second Life Grid platform ... . (video on the rrr site) Also work is going creating behind corporate firewall versions of SL to provide security and shield participants from griefers. Go for it. Agree with the direction.

New SNCR Publications



The Society for New Communications Research has a number of interesting commissioned and sponsored research projects. The latest is on the ROI of online press releases.

Download SNCR’s latest research reports, whitepapers & executive summaries:

New Media, New Influencers & Implications for Public Relations
made possible by a grant from the Institute for Public Relations & Wieck Media

Customer Care & Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media Executive Summary
This research was made possible by our Corporate Partner member, Nuance.

Exploring the ROI of Online Press Releases - Executive Summary
This research was made possible by our Vendor Council member, Vocus

Knowledge Cartography

The underlying knowledge mapping metaphor is not new. Have seen several attempts at using this corporately. Now there are a number of packages, commercial and open that allow you to map your own knowledge spaces. I have tried a few. Works reasonably well if you have in your own head the layout of your knowledge is and if you religiously and often update your 'territory'. Relatively few people are that methodical.

Problematical if you try to get multiple people to use it as a means of sharing knowledge. You first have to convince the group of the lay of the land and the details of the context that is implied. Wikiness clearly works in environments where contribution is easy, even without any cartography.

Here is another look at the idea, Knowledge cartography:

" ... to extend the cartographic metaphor beyond visual analogy, and to expose it as a narrative model and tool to intervene in complex, heterogeneous, dynamic realities, just like those of human geography ... The map is thus not only a passive representation of reality but a tool for the production of meaning. Just like a text, the map makes selections on reality, distorts events, classifies and clarifies the world in order to selections better tell a particular aspect of a territory, an event, a space ... "

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

P&G Selling Directly to Consumers



Procter & Gamble is bypassing retailers to sell some of its most popular products on theEssentials.com. A third party, which owns the inventory and will be treated like other retailers, is running the Web site, a company spokesman said. Bypassing big retail channels used to be frowned upon, though this cannot be significant yet.

Stengel on Purpose-Driven Branding

Jim Stengel Shares Lofty Vision for Marketing With Peers:
Outgoing P&G Exec Working on Book About Purpose-Driven Package Goods. Article and video. Talks his upcoming book.

Selling Pizza Through Social Networks

From StoreFrontBackTalk, a massive extension of sales channels. Now you can buy pizza everywhere, and where are all the consumers? In social networks. Reminds me of the MIT dorms' legendary 'emergency pizza' button. Much more detail at the post.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Buy-ology Debuts

Martin Lindstrom appeared on the Today Show this morning selling his just released Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About What we Buy book. Reading. The video and a book excerpt is here.

"Does sex sell? Can subliminal advertising really influence our behavior? The results of a major scientific study are revealed in "Buy-ology." In this excerpt, author and marketing expert Martin Lindstrom looks at product placement in TV shows and movies... "
Update: Also noted in the Neuromarketing blog.

Explaining Extended Packaging

Joe Horwood of GS1 writes about demonstrating extended packaging: '... a standards-based approach to allow consumers to access additional information about products through their mobile phones' .

" ... we promised to give you some easier ways to demonstrate the concepts the GS1 Mobile Com group is working on. We've now done just that at:
http://www.gs1.org/productssolutions/mobile/ep.html.

This page will enable your mobile phone to read barcodes with a list of different barcode reading applications and explain the concept of Extended Packaging using a simple demonstrator ... "
I like what the term 'extended packaging' term is trying to say but the term is unknown to the general public, or even much of the mobile community, so this kind of demonstration is very useful.

Prophecies about AI

Will Wright, creator of Sim City, the Sims and Spore, makes some predictions about Artificial Intelligence. One, humbly, is that machines will never achieve human intelligence . Anyone who has built simulations has a true appreciation of the difficulty of delivering intelligence.

Update: I got responses to the word 'never' above. Well first of all I never said it, it is a quote from the article. I still say that intelligence above the level of fooling some people some of the time is very hard.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

IPhone Biometric Applications

Been following some of the biometric applications on the IPhone. Notable is the recently released heart rate monitor. Have now also tested several pedometer applications for my walks. Calibration problems seem to be common with repetitive reading applications, due to the inability to repeat the context exactly. I very much like the idea of adding useful sensors on phones. The IPhone accelerometer is a good start.

Circuit City Harmonizes Prices

Circuit City has announced and is advertising that it will equalize all product prices, whether they are in their stores, on store kiosks or online. Historically online prices for some products have been somewhat lower, but there were objections by some consumers that this was a scam. It was also about in-store employee kiosks showing different prices. Perception, even by a few, rules. More detail.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Reuters Leaves Second Life

I am now out of date regards the Second Life virtual world. Followed it for some time as a potential method for science, technology exploration, design and collaboration. I came away intrigued but unimpressed in the SL implementation. It needs lots of work to make it useful. It still attracts tens of thousands every day. I still get and scan feeds of some media that cover it. I see that the Reuters correspondent attached to SL with great fanfare several years ago has now left, and the Reuters structure in SL has been abandoned. I had visited Reuters in SL, but there was rarely anyone there. Not sure what this means overall, but not a good indicator. Some of my previous posts about SL.

Seeing in Four Dimensions

We see in three dimensions. Businesses operate in many more. Business intelligence packages can slice data so we can construct models that hint at the complexity of reality, but I think, still fail to make the transition we require to make sense of the world.

In the August Science News ... Mathematicians create videos that help in visualizing four-dimensional objects ... Mathematicians, freed in their imaginations from physical constraints, can conjure up descriptions of objects in many more dimensions than that. Points in a plane can be described with pairs of numbers, and points in space can be described with triples. Why not quadruples, or quintuples, or more? ...

Older Worker Employment

Steve King reports on recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data on older workers ...
" ...What makes this data intriguing is this older worker employment growth has happened prior to baby boomers reaching this cohort. The oldest baby boomers are still in their early 60s. This means the aging of the workforce has just started and will increase substantially as baby boomers join these ranks ... "

Friday, October 17, 2008

Junk Charts

I was recently reminded of the Junk Charts blog, which looks at data visualization uses and abuses. It is all about simplicity, providing the simplicity does not mislead ... unless that was what was intended. Useful for anyone thinking about visualization applications. On my feed now.

Mars Customizing

Short video from the candy company Mars about the success of their product customization work. It is expected that this kind of product personalizing will become increasingly common. In this case it only about personalizing your M&Ms, but it is a hint at the future.

New GE RFID Sensor Platform

Have seen presentations by GE on their tagging applications, primarily in the area of active and powered RFID for use with expensive assets. It was always impressive, but not directly applicable to the domain of cheap tags for consumer package goods. This new research from their labs looks interesting ....

" ...GE Global Research has developed a low-cost, RFID-based sensor platform that is capable of detecting multiple chemical or biological agents -- all without a battery. The passive RFID tags could potentially be used in health care, food safety, water treatment and security applications.

The GE system (which will not be commercially available for at least two years) combines passive 13.56 MHz RFID tags with special chemically or biologically sensitive films that are placed on the tag's antenna structure. When an RFID reader excites the tag, the chemical film produces complex differences in the impedance signal that indicate the presence and concentration of specific substances ... "

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Smell Science by Machine Olfaction

You can see from recent posts that I have been researching smell science. Not too long ago I mentioned MIT's digital nose. I have been working my way through Russell Brumfield's densely provocative Whiff! The Revolution of Scent Communications in the Information Age. No aspect of smell research and delivery uncovered. On the topic of artificial noses, also called machine olfaction, he mentions the E-Nose, which came out of CIT, and was licensed to Cyrano Sciences and became the portable Cyranose 320. (You cannot make that up) Put to use in the food industry to detect spoilage and other toxic emissions. Mentioned in an IDEO case study. Eventually was bought by Smiths Detection to be determine if it could also be used for physical diagnostics. I see it is no longer featured in their technology list. So that may mean there has been a pause in development of machine olfaction. The MIT nose may be an indicator of new interest in the area.

Socialtext 3.0

Socialtext was the first wiki package that I had any experience with. We evaluated it extensively for internal use with hundreds of people. Like most wikis, it works best with a self-selected group of people who are interested in using it. It is hard to get others to engage substantially. It particular it is hard to get the specific people with the detailed knowledge to engage. Incentive, material or recognition. Their new version tries to improve its use in the enterprise. One aspect of that is their

" ... Socialtext Dashboard - Customizable home pages that let each person decide where to focus their attention. Socialtext 3.0 delivers connected collaboration with context, both internally within the organization and externally with customers and partners in extranet communities. It is built on a modular and integrated architecture that enables rapid integration with other enterprise systems and makes other enterprise applications social ... "
Not a bad idea, the easier and more sharable the better, but it is still a matter of getting enough people to engage with the wiki technology.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Facebook Announces 10 Billion

Facebook announced that it has 10 billion photographs in its system. Flickr claims to have in excess of 2 billion images. PhotoBucket about 6 billion. Is the sum of this more than there have ever been images on earth? Impressive.

Innovation is Key

P&G CEO A.G. Lafley says innovation key in tough economic times.
.

BlueHouse Examined

After a little trouble getting let into the IBM Bluehouse collaborative networking capability I attended a conference call with other beta explorers. About 60 people attended, it appeared they were mostly IBMers. I was impressed overall. They led us through the process of using Bluehouse for extended meetings and sharing documents and screens. Well thought-out with capabilities of other web based project management systems, but not too many to make it confusing. That is important, since many users will have only casual interaction.

IBM has made it fairly easy to invite external people to meetings, a key capability. Explicitly cloud oriented. There were a number of glitches found by folks, to be expected for a Beta. Will continue to attend these meetings as I explore. I was able to pick up the basics in an hour or so. This will not be free forever, IBM plans to charge a monthly fee after beta.

EBay Offering BI Services

On the surface it may look odd, but based on a visit last year, it was clear that EBay knows much about the analysis of very large streams of data that need to be understood in near real time. Now EBay is considering offering business intelligence as a service to other companies. " ... the online auctioneer has built a 5 petabyte data warehouse that adds 50 TB of new data each day ... With the Teradata-based data warehouse able to turn over a terabyte of data in just 5 seconds ... "

GS1 Links to 2D Barcode Paper

The standards body GS1 points us to GSMA's recent paper on 2D barcodes. Previously published: On Mobile commerce. On Mobile codes and on Camera-based barcode scanning. All quite useful in this domain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Joost TV Relaunches

Did an exploration of the Joost Web TV service last year as a potential venue for ads. They are re-launching this week. It is up and running, includes ads. The new version does not require a client download, which was a major problem with its previous site, much simplifying its use. It now competes with full length commercial videos now being done on YouTube.

Interview with a Chatbot

The Loebner prize is an event held yearly since 1990 to determine if computers have become smart enough to fool humans. It is a watered down form of the Turing test, the AI has to fool only 30% of 12 human judges to win. This year the chatbot called Elbot from Artificial Solutions fooled three judges, only 25%. You can play with it yourself here. An overview article has a transcript of the interview. The experts appear to be technologists rather than ordinary people.

I have worked with applications of chatbots for marketing and information style interactions. People have become very used to search. So it is not clear you want to use natural language queries, with all of their complexity, as an interaction method with a system. Still you may want to 'fool' someone, produce the same intelligence, cadence, humor, flexibility etc. of a human conversation so you could not tell it was a non-human. That might make you feel good thinking that the company you were talking to was using expensive people ... until most companies did. Then you might feel ... fooled. More commentary.

Certainly Irrational

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely does a good job of outlining his field and its methods in Predictably Irrational: The hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions. Includes a look inside feature at Amazon.

He explores such items as the 'cost' of zero cost, and how we interpret free in a very odd way. Relativity is a well known feature of pricing and how expectation can drive behavior. The ethics of behavior and how it can be manipulated. His techniques are interesting, though he seems to groping for the surprising. Are things always surprising, or is that another form of confirmation bias?

Even arousal is neatly investigated. He investigates this only with males. Why? Because his study ethics council would not approve any 'truth' for women that can be even remotely interpreted as negative? He knows what happened at Harvard. Have now read several books on behavioral economics and I always wonder what the influence of using say all MIT students versus a broader sample of people would be.

I agree, we are irrational. Not so sure about the predictable part. He also has a site blog which looks at items in the news as they are interpreted through this lens.

Monday, October 13, 2008

MEMS Overview

In the latest print issue of SmallTimes Magazine, a good overview of the economic state and new ideas coming from MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems). The economics of this technology has been driven by a lagging automobile industry, the article shows where else it is evolving. See also here for introductory information.

Wal-Mart Focuses on Private Label

The AdAge article mentions success in personal care and household ...

" ... After de-emphasizing private label for more than a year, Wal-Mart Stores is looking to ramp up its program by adding package-goods marketing talent, and the move could present a substantial new challenge to marketers who rely on the world's biggest retailer as the economy worsens ... "

Beware Geeks Bearing Formulas

Cautionary NYT Op Ed on the use of advanced models in finance. I remember attending a meeting at the Santa Fe Institute on the use of complexity models for investment. There was near ovation level reaction from the audience.

It struck me at the time that such models work very well as long as the market is rising. Soon afterward there was a downshift and the very clever analysts did not look so good. I don't recall that any retractions were issued. Even worse when the models begin to close the loop. Caution from a quant.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

IBM Bluehouse

Last year we closely examined some of IBM's social technology work, they link it to their large workforce very successfully.

They have released a beta that includes many of the tools useful for working together in teams, including " ... a social network, a document sharing tool which includes tagging for quick access, a task management solution, a forms wizard, a charting tool and a chat application ... ". And most fundamentally, screen sharing. This is still under their Lotus URL, but does not require Lotus Notes.

I have done some examining of information sharing capabilities for remote meetings, and most are either too expensive or problematic. I also like their notion of an 'extended meeting'. They have several short videos that explain this. Free cloud signup here, still exploring.

Update: For any of you intending to explore this, I discovered later that this is not a completely free and open beta. You can sign up, but later found the signup is an application and by some unclear criteria you will be accepted or not. Still trying to get access to do an evaluation.

Update2: Now up and running on the Beta. If anyone out there would like to co-evaluate this (it is a collaboration venue) let me know. I will publish my findings in the upcoming weeks.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Aroma Company

A correspondent sends along a link to a AromaCo, working in the scent space.

Risk Appetite Measurable

A recent study appears to indicate that FMRI brain scans can be used to determine a person's risk adversity. The breadth of application of these techniques is widening.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More about AdPlanit

Ken Karakotsios writes more about AdPlanit, nice idea!:

" ... AdPlanit is DecisionPower’s new online media planning service. We’ve just opened up the beta version, and are very interested in the feedback of potential users and partners. Our goal is to help businesses that advertise locally, including enterprises that have local branches (e.g. auto insurance), retailers investing manufacturer’s co-op dollars, and independents. All are united in seeking the best way to investing their advertising dollars among fragmented traditional media and emerging new media, while at the same time being held increasingly accountable for the performance of that investment.

AdPlanit is designed to make it as easy as possible to create and evaluate media plans, even for people who know nothing about media planning. For me personally, this is very much in the direction of my vision of simulation in general, and Agent-Based Modeling specifically, to help non-experts make confident decisions in complex situations.

With AdPlanit, you describe the goals, constraints and target audience for your advertising. You then either build a plan from scratch, or ask AdPlanit to generate a plan for you. Your plan is simulated on a population of virtual consumers, and their response to your advertising is measured and reported to you. This unique “try before you buy” capability empowers businesses to optimize their plans across all media and advertise with confidence.

As beta software, AdPlanit currently implements the first step in our vision, which over time will expand to additional media types, more detail in the types of ads available, finer geographic resolution, and more analytical functions. We believe that many will find this beta version interesting and useful, and I’d very much like you to try it out and get your feedback! ...."

Planning An Advertising Campaign

Connection and modeling guru Ken Karakotsios of Decision Power has launched something called AdPlanit. " ... Only AdPlanit uses a virtual population of consumers to test your advertising plan before you buy expensive media ... Only AdPlanit uses advanced modeling technology to simulate the success of your advertising ... View “The Power of Planning” to learn more ... ". Have not explored it yet.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

GeoEye Takes a Look

Google is starting to use the GeoEye-1, the world's highest resolution commercial satellite (.5 meter), to augment its Google Maps and Earth offerings. You can't hide.

Microsoft Links Excel to Intelligence Tools

Many people do their business intelligence with Excel. It's an obvious solution. Excel is ubiquitous and so it is easy to get the required expertise. Many of the BI projects I have done have started with Excel data. It is often a good place to start. Yet as you look for more leverage, and seek to deliver tailored and interactive solutions, it is not the best solution. So it is natural that Microsoft is looking for ways to link Excel more strongly to their databases and more advanced BI tools.

Artificial Noses

This idea, here from MIT, has been around for some time. When I worked in Coffee research and development we had several vendors come to us with related ideas. None were adequate for the specifications required in an aroma rich category like coffee. Most interesting in this space is the potential for devices like this to detect certain diseases.

Drunkard's Walk

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow.

A very good book about the importance of randomness in our lives. The author, who teaches the topic at CalTech, likes history and gives lots of examples of how people are not very good at understanding the implications of the random. No equations, but some of the examples require effort to understand, and are worth it. Being a math and modeling geek I have seen many of the examples before and he does a very good job of making them understandable.

He discusses for example, the heelbone 'dice' used by the ancient Greeks for gambling, called astragali. And the surprisingly deep Monty Hall problem (The WP description of this problem linked to here is very detailed)

Wordy at times, could have used a few more diagrams, but eminently useful for thinking about the world. Good introduction for managers dealing with the subject.

Mlodinow's web site.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Meijer Online

Meijer Stores has launched an online bulk sales program.

First Moment of Truth Webinar

Procter originated the term 'First moment of truth', which is defined as the interaction between shopper and product on the shelf, commonly now called the FMOT. The definition of the FMOT has not made it to the Wikipedia. The term was used to divide functional aspects of the innovation centers. It has now spread throughout the industry. This related seminar looks interesting:

Complimentary Web Seminar from Consumer Goods Technology

The First Moment of Truth: A Global Conversation
Thursday, November 6, 2008 | 11:00 a.m. ET
Register ...

Speakers:
- Lora Cecere, VP, Consumer Products, AMR Research
- James Walton, Chief Economist, IGD
- Patrick Medley, Partner, Global Consumer Products Industry Leader, IBM Global Business Services

Real Conversation… Around the world in 60 minutes… a global perspective on the changing “first moment of truth” for Consumer Packaged Goods Companies in tight economic times....

Kara Romanow, CGT’s Executive Editor, will host a panel of expert including Patrick Medley, Partner, Global Consumer Products Industry Leader, IBM Global Business Services; Lora Cecere, VP, Consumer Products, AMR Research; and James Walton, Chief Economist, IGD. ...

Kermit and Visual Thinking

In Presentation Zen, a piece about Kermit learning visual thinking.

Typographic Explorer

An experimental news space explorer called Doodlebuzz that uses text connections. A doodle as subtructure. I don't really see this as useful, but the visuals based on a 'doodle' are intriguing.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Technology Intelligence Group

Christian Renaud has launched his Technology Intelligence Group website. Aimed to provide access to a number of top notch emergent technology experts and their views of the world. Worth watching.

Sims Ads Become Dynamic

Sims 3 will be adding dynamic in-game advertisements.. The ads will be switched in and out via an Internet connection. Maybe next ads will be switched based on the behavior of the players and game characters?

Google on AI

It is well known that Google has been promoting artificial intelligence. Much of what they have done for years can be described as AI ... artificial intelligence ... advanced algorithmic methods to link the search behavior of consumers to their predicted desires. In other words serving up advertisements. A recent piece in Blogoscoped surveys the idea.

They are starting to play at the edges of what is possible today. Image analysis is an example. It is still an unsolved problem to analyze arbitrary images to determine their content. They have been serving up an image labeler game for some time to get people to do the heavy lifting. I have played, not sure how many people are participating.

They have supported work on image analysis. They admit that natural language is hard for translation. These are the premier examples of AI that still need cracking. It is nice to see a company placing so much emphasis on those tough AI problems.

Monday, October 06, 2008

TikiTag for NFC Recognition

Another example of a move to an Internet of things, the tikitag service with which you can tag items and the read them with NFC - enabled phones. Then linking you to receive web services on the phone. It is important to note that few phones are now enabled in this way, compared with those that have cameras. One report expects a 3 percent phone penetration of NFC by 2010, 21 percent by 2012. More about tikitag, including a demonstration video. Previously about camera-enabled solutions to object recognition.

Mirror Power Innovation Examined

Roger Dooley considers the power of the mirror. Made me remember that the concept of mirrors has often come up in innovation spaces. Have explored it a number of times. Especially the idea of integrating a message within a mirror. Perhaps the most common idea is using the mirror as a sensor (camera behind) and as a way of projecting information (projection behind) to augment the reflected image.

I saw some some excellent examples at Philips innovation centers, now being marketed (right). Taking that a step further, Mirrors that show a persons image, plus alternative virtual makeovers. In the home or in the cosmetic aisle. There are still technical issues with delivering all this together at a reasonable cost. Image recognition and analysis, delivery methods and required intelligence. There is power in the mirror if we can find a means to deliver it.

WOM at Consumer Goods Companies

A couple of new examples of the use of word-of-mouth promotion campaigns, much seasoned with coupons. An example is KraftFirstTaste and General Mills has a 'Psst Network'. A quick look shows that the very active online freebee networks have picked these up and are running with them.

Spam Joins the Freshman Class

Carr writes about the pressure on universities and other entities to offload the management of e-mail systems, now largely about managing the spam it carries. E-mail is still essential, dare we be substantive at times? We can't all just be twittering.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mirror Neurons

Have been examining the topic of mirror neurons. Has been a powerful meme in the last two years. Though not without criticism. Know of a balanced overview?

30% of Shoppers Make Choice in-Store

I thought the percentage was much higher. I had heard and used a number like 70%. Of interest also is that this study is global. From Progressive Grocer. Also makes a case for (FMOT) first moment of truth in-store merchandising, but does it mean less?:

" ... 30 percent of shoppers around the world wait until they're actually in the store to decide which brand they'll buy, according to a new global study released by the Ogilvy Group.

The study was based on more than 14,000 shopper interviews conducted in 700 retail outlets across 24 markets worldwide, said Ogilvy. It spanned five retail channels across six product categories, to examine how shopper decisions differ across channels, product categories, and brands; and also how those decisions vary by nation and shopper profile ... "

NeuroScience Sources

Encephalon, a blog devoted to neuroscience advances, aggregating a number of articles and resources.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Blog History Review

This blog was established an in internal effort within P&G in 2003. It replaced a newsletter that I had run since the late late 70s that covered new technologies and analytical methods, then mostly in supply chain matters. Later it acted as a means of spreading the word about corporate artificial intelligence methods.

Once we discovered blogs, the newsletter was naturally replaced by an internal blog in 2003. It also acted as a way to keep visitors to our innovation centers up to date on new ideas. I also used it as a means to show vendors that we were promoting their innovations internally. We grew to hundreds of reads a day, very good for an internal technical blog. Relatively little commenting occurred, but I got many private inquiries. This fit with the expectation of Procter corporate culture.

It eventually led to a much broader use of 'Web 2.0' capabilities. Executives chimed in and it led to a number of innovation speaking opportunities. It acted as a part of P&G's Connect & Develop program, pointing employees to outside opportunities.

I created this parallel public blog in 2005. Internal posts were sometimes cross-posted here when they did not contain confidential material. When I retired earlier this year, I continued blogging publicly. Some of the posts here are also still posted internally, depending on their relevance. If anything, the internal blog was more technical than this one, since I could cover the specifics of projects.

Blogging books say it is good to focus when you write you blog. This blog covers what I am most deeply interested in, so it is not focused. I don't advertise and write mostly about what I am passionate about. Posts often help me formulate my own thoughts about a topic. I write to people with like interests. Business intelligence, retail innovation, data mining, visualization, modeling, sensory, analytics and emergent tech are typical areas of coverage. Readership is growing weekly though comments are still low.

This blog also works because of a number of external correspondents I have with vendors, industry and academia. Many from my industry innovation days. Send along things that you think might fit into my interests and I will pass them along.

Looking forward to continuing this. Comments please. I'm an active consultant in the topics above, and well as in blogging and other Web 2.0 areas. I welcome private inquiries, my address is in the top left sidebar.

New Blog Search

Google has a new blog search that I exercised for a number of topics that I cover. Led me to some useful new sources in some of the areas I cover. Mostly about news, but I even showed up sometimes. Includes some interesting gadgets like email alerts and other search linkages for those that need to be connected in real time.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Risks of Connected Kiosks

Evan Schuman writes about new risks of interconnected devices. Devices like Kiosks that were never thought of as risks before are becoming interconnected and a potential security issue. I once accidentally discovered I could wirelessly and openly connect into a kiosk installed for a test.

Knowledge At Wharton High School.

I thought this was a great idea. The well-known Knowledge@Wharton newsletter is starting up a new version designed for high school students. It is planned for start up in February 09, you can find out more about it here. " ... the site will offer articles, videos, podcasts, business-related learning simulations and interactive tools designed to help the coming generation understand business concepts and the role of business in today's global marketplace ... ". Wish I had access to this kind of thing in school or when my kids might have utilized it. Stay tuned.

Mr Clean Actor

Readers of this blog will recall that I was involved with some early novel online efforts with the Mr. Clean Brand. In particular, trying to understand how people interacted with avatars online. Now the actor. House Peters Jr who portrayed him in early TV ads of the 50s has died. Adds a little more to the brand history.

Quantified Self

Via Future Commons: Kevin Kelly's: Quantified Self Blog. "... Tools for knowing your own mind and body ... ". If you are going to be in Palo Alto CA on October 23 (corrected), there is going to be a presentation about the Quantified Self at the IFTF offices at 7PM. If you are interested, send me a note and I will pass along details.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Happy 400th

One of the oldest and far reaching scientific instruments sees its (approximate) 400th birthday.

Visualization Challenge

Colleague Sammy Haroon writes about Science Magazine's 2008 Visualization challenge, points to graphics of the winners.

RFID Benefits

CW says that RFID tagging is very useful in tagging assets. GE has been impressive in using it to track very expensive assets, but this takes the scale down.

P&G, Avon, Kraft Talk Innovation

In Consumer Goods Technology:

P&G, Avon, Kraft and More Talk Innovation
In the competitive and ever-changing consumer goods market, even the best of ideas won't stand a chance if you do not have the right people, processes and technology in place to back their timely delivery to market. On September 24-26, more than 70 senior-level consumer goods executives gathered at The Four Seasons in Miami, Fla. for the third annual Consumer Goods Growth & Innovation Forum. There, they heard from Procter & Gamble, Church & Dwight, Avon and Kraft, among others, on how to cultivate a true culture of innovation ... "

Music Genome Project



I don't know where I have been ... just learned about the Music Genome Project, started in 2000 and now implemented on a site called Pandora. I learned about it because they recently created an application for the IPhone. Well implemented for a mobile device. Good for people that like to listen to wide ranges of music and be introduced to other music.

And from the technical side, the idea seeks to :" ... capture the essence of music at the fundamental level using over 400 attributes to describe songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them ..." . What is not to like about that? :) A good case study for other practical classification problems. The actual 'closeness' analysis looks easy, the tagging of the music harder and costly.

Free now, supported by an ad model ... you can buy what you are hearing on Itunes. But there are dark clouds on the horizon, increased fees for serving up the music may require the service to be shut down or severely change their economic model. It has already been stopped outside the US.

See also the similar internet radio station Last FM.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

DataDepot for Sharing Time Series

MS Research has created a web site called DataDepot that allows participants to share time series data. A little reminiscent of IBM's Many Eyes, but far fewer options. Seems to make everything public and you can point to it from anywhere, but besides that not too enticing. Maybe they should add some forecasting options?

Making Your Web Mail More Secure

Good Wired piece on making your Web Mail services more secure.

Secrets of Social Media Marketing

Paul Gillin's new book: Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business! has been published. In the process of reading, what I have read so far is very good, an update of his New Influencers. See also the book's site, which will be updated with references.