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Monday, June 30, 2008

Future of Computing is in Your Hands

BBC article " ... Sales of smart phones are expected to overtake those of laptops in the next 12 to 18 months as the mobile phone completes its transition from voice communications device to multimedia computer... "

Nielsen Behavior Tracking and Prototype Store

A good descriptive overview of behavioral tracking in stores by Nielsen. See a previous post about the project called Prism. Also mentioned, Nielsen's use of a test store facility, similar to other immersive innovation centers I have known:

" ... Nielsen has built a secretive 3,000-square-foot prototype grocery store inside its Oldsmar data center, complete with grocery aisles, checkout lanes, shopping carts and thousands of dollars in products. (The site is closed to all but a half-dozen Nielsen employees.) Boxes of Tide detergent, cartons of Folgers coffee and rows of cereal boxes pack the model store so technicians can mimic shopping to see if Nielsen's array of sensors can secretly track people as they shop ... "

Grocery Line Balking

A new study reported on in Progressive Grocer indicates that the average time for people to leave or balk from a grocery check-out line is four minutes. Of course there are typically many personal factors in any such decision, so the results should be carefully considered.

An Oral History of Donald Knuth

In the Communications of the ACM this month there is an interview with Donald Knuth, 'premier artist' of computer science, professor emeritus at Stanford. Many of us were inspired by him and his portrayal of very hard problems as art. His delightfully archaic home page. On his 70th. It fits in well with today's design directions. When I left the Pentagon I was given a set of his books as a parting gift. I can't point directly to the ACM article, but I can point to its origin at the Computer Science Museum site. Inspirational especially for those that are thinking about math and science careers.

Also, the Communications of the ACM, the premier computer science mag and now 50 years old, has done a nice job of making its articles more accessible to the practitioner. Like all technical magazines, as a field expands in depth and breadth, even professionals in the field cannot spend the time to understand articles outside their sub-specialties. We do hunger for new frontiers, accurately explained and abstracted. Now I wish I could link to ACM articles from my blog, to my knowledge I cannot. I do understand the economic issues involved with publishing an expensive magazine.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Future Has a Kill Switch

In Wired, security pundit Bruce Schneier writes about the potential abuse of the ability to remotely control physical devices: I've Seen the Future, and It Has a Kill Switch. He defines the idea broadly, everything from a device refusing to record a copyrighted song, to OnStar giving the capability to police to remotely shut off a car's engine. The concept of who gets to control your 'devices' remotely is worth a thought, and we will see more of this in the future. Schneiers's blog. He was also recently interviewed in the Edge.

GS1 Mobile Commerce Paper

I was reminded of GS1's Mobile Commerce White Paper, which I contributed to in a small way. Good source of information. Now also a mobile commerce video.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Social Media in Business

I attended the first summer Twebinar from SNCR.org and Radian6 this week, wrote about previously. Apparently they got a crowd. Chris Brogan did a good of moderating. See his blog. The video recordings, recorded at the SNCR social media conference, were informal, but well done. Only a few sound and picture drop outs. This was almost as good as being at the conference, ignoring the fact that that it was held in Sonoma :) . Very regrettably, I could not twitter-in since I was otherwise engaged, will try next time. Recommended, largely painless participation. More about the idea and a schedule of upcoming twebinars this summer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Machine Learning at Google

Machine Learning is a form of AI ... in some senses the highest form since if you build a smart machine it can learn by itself ... work ongoing at Google, always worth following. This post mentions a recent conference they presented at. No details at all though, so disappointing.

Marketing Spend Endures

Continued strong marketing spend at Procter & Gamble and Unilever. In-store still emphasized. “In a period of food price inflation, more of the shopping list is being decided in the store.” - P&G CEO, AG Lafley

Winning at the Shelf

There is a new white paper at the Consumer Goods Technology site, useful, unfortunately requires registration. Not much depth but a good overview. At the end of the report there is, among the small company micro cases studies, a mention of Procter & Gamble and a short description of their standardizing mobile platforms. They also emphasize their 'moment of truth' classification of consumer interactions. Looked familiar. The paper was written by the O4 Corporation.

Also note a pie chart on page six of the report, which claims to show consumer reactions to out-of-stocks. It may be true on average, but consumer behavior depends heavily on the category and subcategory of product as well as other external variables of execution at individual retailers. A simple chart, which shows consumers reacting to out-of-stocks by buying the item elsewhere 31% of the time, is misleading.

Winning at the Shelf Mobile technology is transforming field execution for the world’s leading consumer products companies. In an increasingly tough marketplace, these companies are leading a revolution on the selling floor with new strategies that help create the perfect promotion, the perfect shelf, the perfect order and "win at the shelf"... ".

Overall the paper proposes a sensor-like interaction with store aisles, which is akin to the previous post here about need for better sensor integration and understanding.

More CGT white papers, which you can also get to after you register.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kinetic Power

In these days of increased sensitivity to power generation and consumption, consider the power of dance.

Replacing Science?

Is it the end of theory? Have we outgrown the need for precision? If we had enough things stored on the Web would it just be a matter of looking it up? Wired's Chris Anderson makes such a suggestion.

Includes one of my favorite quotes, from George Box: "All models are wrong, but some are useful". Often use it when I teach and consult.

He has some good points, and I agree that the world of knowledge is changing. The still nascent semantic web is trying to bring together theory and data. But I am not ready to abandon the beauty of a precise theory by any means.

When we applied AI in industry we hoped for a complete theory of business, what we found to work was a combination of people, (wrong)models, data and theory. That is where the solution lies for the near future. The web gives us new access to more and new kinds of data. We still need the theory. A good rebuttal to Wired from Ars Technica.

Making Sense of Sensor Data

During the early days of RFID applications I thought advanced sensor research would create progress in the area of making sense of sensor data. Have been disappointed so far, especially how these results are visualized. Any pointers? A current CW article on the topic of sensor data in general.

Innovation Exchange

I was introduced to Innovation Exchange ... " an online open innovation marketplace. It's where diverse community members from all over the world respond to challenges sponsored by Global 5000 companies and not-for-profit organizations... " . Look forward to seeing how open innovation is practically implemented.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another Shopping Assistant

Work underway that sees devices communicating with the shelf, a particular interest of mine. The article provides some interesting details, the device is strictly a prototype. The idea of a shopping assistant is an old one. Most solutions in test today are too complex, and require considerable and expensive infrastructure investments. Few consumers want to deal with them. The only plus here is that the idea could be integrated with a personal cellphone, eliminating some of the complexity. The picture shows a device very similar to one we saw from IBM in 2001. See previous posts on the simpler Modstream and more complex MediaCart.

Prototype Mobile Shopping Assistant Uses RFID to Tip 'n Tell
To access product information, consumers and sales associates can bring an RFID-enabled PDA or cell phone near an item, then tap the device's screen to request additional information .... "

Still Dabbling in Virtual Worlds

A good article on the status of doing business in virtual worlds. In a previous job I investigated the idea for a number of possible applications. No killer apps emerged. Although it drew the interest of many, especially employee gamers, it made many things harder than they should have been. IBM, who invested much in the idea, is discussed. Some companies, notably Cisco, still believe that we are only are only in a hiatus period, and virtual worlds will commonly be part of the future fabric of computing interfaces.

Multitasking Detrimental?

Previously saw studies regarding how interruptions such as Email and Internet messaging can delay work. How about if you specifically plan to do multiple things at once, it too can produce problems. Quite common, technically since at least the 70s. What has changed is the ability to increase the level of multitasking more than ever before.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nokia Research

A BBC article on Nokia's research. Both about leading edge things they are up to, and some of their global strategy of innovation. Good case study.

Blurring the Line Between Marketing and Service

I see that local Pete Blackshaw has written an item in AdAge: How Apple is Blurring the Line Between Marketing and Service.... " ... Why Consumer-Facing Brands Can Benefit From Better Customer Interaction .. ".

Lessons from Non Simple Machines

In celebration of Rube Goldberg. Of course this is perhaps best seen as the flip side of the lesson of Occam's Razor, or that the likely (best?) solution to a problem is most often the simplest. Or the solution with the fewest assumptions work best. Or in the most modern view: 'Keep it simple, stupid.'

Monday, June 23, 2008

Photrade Newspaper Coverage

Newspaper coverage: Cincinnati's new photo-sharing Web site to have different focus.

A Casual Look at Neuromarketing

Recent neuromarketing article in the Atlantic, not much substance, but worth a look. Commented on in the Neuromarketing blog. A Slate writer has also chimed in.

TextDigger Semantic Tagging and Search

I have been examining Semantic Web applications and automatic tagging approaches. TextDigger makes the claim of doing this. Exploring.

" ... TextDigger's technology reads the content of a Web page and automatically generates semantic tags. These tags go beyond simple keywords to reflect concepts and context--that is, what the words mean and how they are used. In turn, this richer indexing enables greater findability ... TextDigger was founded by a group of former CNET employees and executives who developed CNET Review's automated product briefs system that generates readable, evaluative review-like pages for tens of thousands of CNET's products.... "

What do You Do When Your Website is Down?

A very observant UK correspondent, who watches retailers Sainsbury and Tesco closely writes about Sainsbury's outages:

Sainsbury's website glitch fixed
"...Sainsbury's has fixed a "technical glitch" which put its online ordering system out of operation for two days..."
"...The supermarket giant said deliveries would resume from 0800 BST on Saturday..."
"...A spokeswoman said no-one had hacked into the website and customers' details had remained secure during the shutdown..." Via the BBC.

Sainsbury’s store IT problems caused website closure
"...Sainsbury’s closed its online store for two days this week as store IT problems prevented its shops from being able to process online orders for delivery, Computerworld UK has learnt..."
"...Sainsbury’s chose to stop access to its e-commerce site after stores could no longer process online orders..."
"...The news follows on from the completion of a major project to bring Sainsbury’s IT back in house. In 2005, Sainsbury’s began the project after cancelling a £1.7 billion outsourcing deal with Accenture..."

"...Some 8 percent of visitors to Sainsbury’s website went straight on to visit Tesco.com during the two day closure, Goad said. “On a normal day, one and a half percent switch from Sainsbury’s site to Tesco’s. That means there was more than a fourfold increase on the days its website was down.”..." Via Computerworld. And Google News.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

World Wide Telescope

Your computer can function as a World Wide Telescope.

Cellphone Anthropologist

An Interview with a Nokia anthropologist. Further, Jan Chipchase's design blog. Increasingly large companies are hiring anthropologists, seeking to understand their customers. Also, a video of him on the subject from Ted.com.

Cassini Mission at 4

The NASA Cassini Saturn orbiter is now close to the end of its four-year initial mission and about to embark on an extended mission. I have followed the mission closely, ever since its launch controversy. If you have not, here are some of the best photos from the mission. Stunning.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

On the Time Cost of Free Goods

Information on the Internet is largely free, but it takes time and effort to consume that information, or even remember or arrange it for later use. Even with the best RSS feed, it still costs us. Can we internalize the cost of free consumption? An essay by Rob Horning explores the problem.

Image Hyperlinking Patent

A Singapore company claims a patent on hyperlinked images. Akin to the BT patent claimed on all hyperlinking. I recall an attorney cautioning me about linking online because of that patent(!). Eventually that patent was invalidated. That reminds me of a knowledge management system I wrote that used hyperlinking. This was early 80s, long before the Web. The concept had been around for some time. Ted Nelson is considered the parent of hyperlinking, as far back as 1965, for a future look at the idea see his ZigZag idea. An intro to its architecture.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Future of Enterprise Software

From Knowledge@Wharton: (videocast and transcript)
SAP's Bill McDermott: The Future of Enterprise Software
As president and CEO of SAP Americas, Bill McDermott is responsible for managing the German software developer's strategic initiatives in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and most recently in Japan, China and India. In an interview with Wharton management professor Saikat Chaudhuri, McDermott offered his views on where enterprise software is headed and how the company has leveraged worldwide resources to deliver its services globally. The two also discussed SAP Americas' relationship with Microsoft and threats the company faces from arch rival Oracle ... "

ConAgra and P&G

Local article on P&G licensing packaging innovations to ConAgra.

Email Interruptions

An old, old problem, brought up during the very earliest days of email. It interrupts. Now we have Twitter as well :)

Very Low Power Sensors

Could revolutionize sensing, since power is such a big constraint:
A 30 picowatt sensor ... It only consumes 30 picowatts in sleep mode, which means that a simple watch battery could power the chip for more than 200 years. Of course, this is not a processor for your next computer. It is designed for sensor-based devices such as medical implants, environment monitors or surveillance .... "
A correspondent writes: One application, the i-button.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nielsen Online, New Blog

Nielsen Online has established a new blog: Connecting the Dots. Some intriguing posts, such as Measuring the Offline Impact of an Online Visit.

Scanning Groceries at Home

Home scanning bar codes of grocery items at home is not new. Tested a number of related systems in the 90s. There was even a system that connected to your trash can so you could scan for replacement as you threw away the packaging. Or use it to determine your ongoing inventory of items, potentially leading to a re-order point for staples. An article in the NYTimes covers the Ikan system and its use for home delivery of grocery. Overall the uptake of such systems is still low, as is home delivery of grocery. More at the Ikan site.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oracle Retailing

Oracle releases what they call insight driven retailing.

LinkedIn Leaps Forward

In the NYTimes today: At Social Site, Only the Businesslike Need Apply. Good overview on this 'businesslike' social networking site LinkedIn. I have been a member for several years, but only in about the last year have I seen a rush of current and former colleagues rush to join. A Facebook for the professional, but very careful to look like it is about the work. They are also starting to work more directly with corporations, in the past it was all about professional individuals. Lately I have started to use it as the only social network profile that I routinely keep up to date. Worth joining to keep up your own professional trajectory and connections to your colleagues.

Summer Twebinars

I got a note from SNCR about a series of summer twebinars they are doing. The upcoming session, on June 26 is: Game Changing Moves - Doing Business with Social Media. More detail at the Twebinar site above.
What is a Twebinar?
A twebinar is a webinar and Twitter mash-up where conversations take place in real-time before, during and after the webinar, on Twitter ... "

Online Grocer Glitch

A colleague reports that major UK grocer Sainsbury had to suspend its online grocery services due to a computer problem this week. Just last week we had Amazon seeing issues as well. Are aspects of our online infrastructure getting wobbly?

Huish and Unilever

Huish, major contract manufacturer for private label detergents, is reported to be in negotiation to buy Unilever's North American detergent business. It is expected this could lead to more price-based competition.

Quality of Patent Applications is Strained

Have been looking at patents of late, and forget poor patent applications, I have seen granted patents that quote Plato, Abraham Lincoln and Ayn Rand extensively.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I am experimenting with ClustrMaps on this blog. This is a geographical visualization of blog visitors. It can be found at the bottom of the blog. I have been using Google Analytics for some time, which also gives you a geographical report, but only by country, of visitors to the blog. Enjoy, I will keep it as long as it is interesting, comments welcome.

Previous Webs

I see that the NYTimes has an article in their Science section on Belgian Paul Otlet's Mundaneum, a previous attempt at the idea of a knowledge network. Pre-computer and way before the Web, and even before Vannevar Bush's Memex idea. In 1934. Read about it previously as background for some speech writing, though it is still little known. I note that the Memex has a very short definitional article in the Britannica, and the Mundaneum no mention at all.


New photography magazine and blog, from Photrade: Helping Photographers be Awesome. See also recent article: Depth of Field with Dwight Schrute, instructive for us photo neophytes.

BT Tradespace

A UK colleague writes: "... BT Tradespace is a new online community where people can come together and talk business, find a business or attract new customers online...". See it here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Web Writing Style

Writing style for print vs writing for the Web, from Jakob Nielsen, who has lots more at Useit.com.

Dymaxion Man

Eileen Clegg in FutureCommons (See her Visual Insight home) reports on the Buckminister Fuller exhibit in NYC. Also a host of other introductory resources. When I was at Penn in the 70s he had offices close by and I heard a couple of his lectures. I remember not being greatly impressed, though he has stood the test of time and is now a certified cultural god.

" ... In a little over a week, a host of celebrations will be surrounding the Whitney Museum's new retrospective exhibition on Buckminster Fuller's work in New York. These events and exhibits are hosted by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, institutions such as the AIANY Center for Architecture and a host of galleries and parks in the city ... "

Whitney Museum’s “Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe”

List of events in the last week of June. Article: Dymaxion Man in the New Yorker. “Weird Science” Slide Show on RBF from the New Yorker. Also his WP article.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Comments Moderated

I welcome comments, have had some excellent ones lately. Comments are moderated, which means I have to approve them. I mostly do this within 24 hours, usually much sooner. Given the waves of spam I have received there is no other way. Comments should be substantively related to the post, not just an advertisement. Sometimes I will point out comments in updates. Feel free to also contact me privately. I am at franzdill on Gmail.com .

Wikipedia Connectedness

A researcher looks at the connectedness of WP articles. A utility allows you to determine the click distance between articles.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hofstadter on Singularity AI

If you thought about artificial intelligence in the 80s, you read Douglas Hofstadter's classic book: Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which explored all sorts of intelligence issues. The book interested many because it was not only about the mathematical logic of intelligence, but also its musical and artistic components. It inspired us, though it was not practical in application. I saw Hofstadter give a talk on the topic that emphasized this fusion. So what does he think now, is he disappointed that we have not come close to generalized machine intelligence? No, he says in a recent interview. He also views some of the hardware-driven views of imminent machine intelligence singularities with suspicion.

RSS for R&D at Pfizer

Pfizer launches RSS for R&D and eyes "Facebook" social network. An interesting large company case-study. My own experience is that there is little up-take of this technology in large non tech corporations.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Origin of Data Breaches

A commonly held belief is that most security incidents are inside jobs, but Evan Schuman writes:
" .. A Verizon Business security report analyzed more than 500 data breach incidents over four years and found that 73 percent started from the outside and only 18 percent were inside jobs ... ".

Supply Chain Complexity Crisis

From Wim Van de Velde: A short piece on the complexity of supply chains. The book: The Complexity Crisis was mentioned. Thanks Wim, it's on the list.

Making the Web More Social

From Knowledge@Wharton, a podcast and transcript:

Google's Joe Kraus on How to Make the Web More Social
Joe Kraus, director of product management at Google, believes every killer app on the web -- instant messaging, e-mail, blogging, photo-sharing -- has succeeded because it helps people connect with one another. For Kraus, this means the Internet has an inherently social character, but it can be enhanced further. Wharton legal studies professor Kevin Werbach spoke with Kraus recently about the socialization of the Internet. Kraus will speak about social computing at the Supernova conference in San Francisco on June 16.... "

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Top Quadrant Semantic Web Solutions

I mentioned Dean Allemang, Chief Scientist at Top Quadrant, and his recent book. Now exploring Semantic Web solutions:

TopQuadrant is a premier Semantic Web solutions company with innovative products and services ... We provide a full range of products, services, knowledge, training programs and methods helping organizations integrate data and processes and to harness the knowledge distributed across systems and parties ... ".
Downloading some of their solutions.

Google Making Us Dumber?

Lots of press on this article by Nicholas Carr in the Atlantic: Is Google Making us Stupid?. Just got to it. He makes some good points ... hyperlinks are not like footnotes, 'they propel you to related works'. Are new forms of reading as 'power browsing' emerging? In fact I am irritated now when an author does not give me links to source works, they are doing that to keep me in their space, I want to get to the primary information. The Web is made richer as a linked environment.

At the end of the article he covers some of the points he made in his recent book The Big Switch, that Google is AI-obsessed and is using a modern day Taylorism to find the one-best-way to solve the world's problems. I think that is taking it too far. Google is trying to find the one best way that they can make profits. He further points out that there were similar fears about the spread of literacy and then the printing press. The potential evils of these technologies were worried over, but the benefits were not understood.

In the end Carr worries and is 'haunted' about the changes he sees. Worth a read, but I think he overplays his fears. We adapted to the spread of writing and the printing press and it seems are the better for it in total knowledge. Above and at the right, the Ramelli Book Wheel, circa 1588.

Berners-Lee: Challenge of the Web

Berners-Lee: Challenge of the Web is 'creative connectivity' The next step could be a Web infrastructure that enables collective thinking to solve problems ... ".
On this note I have been looking at Twine, which some claim is a mix of twitter and intelligence. Or more like a somewhat augmented link-blog, or a Del.icio.us kind of thing. How does it differ from these methods?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

OGSP or Die

Mark Schar, former P&G Global Business Development VP, has a blog: Focus or Die: OGSP Thoughts on strategy, the OGSP process and assorted topics. So what is OGSP? It's " ... One Page Strategy. We also call it OGSP® ... which stands for Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Plans ... " . Has been in successful use for years at P&G. See his blog for more info.

Study of IM and Productivity

Does the use of Instant Messaging improve productivity? Does constant interruption inhibit creativity? Despite the fact that it can be maddening at times, an Ohio State and UC Irvine study says that it does improve productivity. It suggests that new patterns of communication that have developed around IM have made it acceptable to ignore certain kinds of interruptions. The study used some 900 full-time knowledge workers. Good sample size at least. Here is the full paper. Despite what it says in some comments, big enterprise has largely embraced IM. It is used in all of the large companies I have been involved with. Usually optional within work groups. More commentary.

Turning Points in Tech History

On the history thread: 15 Turning Points in Tech History. Some things I had not known, like the connection of Richard Stallman to Xerox's refusal to open their software. I missed what is credited as the first spam in 1978, but I do remember mass mailings on the Arpanet before that which were similar in intent.

Blogging Good for You

From the SciAm: Blogging can be therapeutic.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sometimes Mysterious Semantic Web

Started to read Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist: Effective Modeling in RDFS and OWL by Dean Allemang and James Hendler. The starting chapters that I have read so far provide an excellent overview of defining what smart applications on the semantic web can be. See also the blog Semantic Report : The Business of Semantic Technologies and Applications for more evolving information. Will report more about my findings here as our experimental project progresses.


Nanopaper, made from nanometer-sized whiskers of cellulose, can be stronger than iron.

Mashable Writes up Photrade

Mashable Social Networking News writes up the Photrade Site : Photrade: Sell and Protect Your Stock Photos. The site uses some novel approaches for the control of images on the Web. The first 300 visitors get a free invite.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Looking at Guesstimation

The WSJ's Numbers Guy looks at the new book: “Guesstimation: Solving the World’s Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin” by Lawrence Weinstein and John A. Adam a physicist and a mathematician, respectively — present dozens of such questions, followed by hints, their approach to finding a solution and a reality ... ". Guesstimation is an important skill, eventually you should get beyond the cocktail napkin.

Britannica Seeks User Knowledge

Britannica is rolling out a new beta which will reportedlyallow users to provide input. Previously they had invited a number of well known experts/pundits to participate in their blog which was also covered in BT searches. Exact details of this unclear. Mixed reports if this will include some wiki-style features. They still appear to be very anti-wiki. I have been conducting an informal parallel test, using both the WP and BT when I need knowledge. Mixed results, though the WP wins on tech and contemporary items, as expected.

Marketing Engineering

I wrote about Gary Lilien's Marketing Engineering book some time ago. Engineering still in my blood, I liked the concept. DecisionPro is having a half day online overview on June 12. Details here. Will try to attend.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

River of Lamium

I have another blog, completely unrelated to this one, about the topic of shade gardening. Started the blog a year ago, and now in the process of rehabilitating it. The garden I work on has been around for nearly 30 years. It documents the joys and problems of creating flora landscapes in the shade. If you are similarly interested, would like to get your comments and recommendations. The picture below is a part of the garden called 'river of lamium' (click to enlarge).

Distraction of Older Brains a Plus

Here is something I have apparently been waiting for. Older brains aided by distraction. As one of the comments asks, is creativity aided or detracted from by distraction? Probably examples for both exist. Really big acts of creativity statistically are the domain of the young. How about day to day tactical creativity?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Future of e-Paper, Kindle and TextonPhone

Good article: The future of e-paper: The Kindle is only the beginning. Participated in a test of e-paper as alternative signage. I saw a demonstration of the Kindle book reader last week by a person I met with and was impressed. I referenced something from a book and in a few minutes he bought and downloaded the book and was looking at the page. Readability was good. Though it is another device to drag around.

I am also testing TextonPhone on my IPhone. This has 20K free books available, lots of these from Project Gutenberg. As a test I started to read 'The Great Gatsby'. Not too bad an experience on the Iphone, with a smaller screen than the Kindle, except when I increased the font size for comfortable reading I had to do too much paging. Speed of download very good, even on the pokey AT&T E-network.

More From GS1

Have done some interesting work with the global standards body GS1. They hosted a very successful breakout session at ECR Europe in May entitled "Shopper Dialogue: how mobile technology is bringing consumers and brands closer together". You can find a video about the effort posted at their mobile site. Also a very useful white paper on the topic.

"... GS1 Mobile Com
With over three billion users in the world, mobile phones are becoming an important channel for businesses and consumers to interact. Today mobile phones can "speak" to bar codes, read Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and access the internet. By pointing and clicking a product or magazine, mobile phones bring information and service linked to a product closer to the consumer... and the consumer closer to the brand ... "

War Games at 25

I am a follower of computing technology in film, here is good review of the 25th anniversary of the film War Games, which gave many people their first dramatic, though exaggerated perspective of hacking and its implications. I previously reviewed War Games from an artificial intelligence perspective. At the time of this movie most of the discussion was about how the government could be invaded by anyone. Now we are all parts of the network, so each of us has to worry about being invaded.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Unilever Unifies Their Master Data

"Unilever Deploys Master Data Management
According to Unilever Chief Technology Officer Chris Turner, “Our success as a company depends on good information and keeping things simple.” In an effort to further improve its performance, Unilever’s Asia/AMET region utilizes SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management for enhanced data accuracy, increased business efficiency and reduced costs. Find out how this solution keeps up with 400 brands spanning the food, home and personal care industries... "

Supporting Mobile

Does a site support mobile well? Evan Schuman posts about retail presence on mobile based on a recent Cisco report that surveyed which vendors did mobile well. I never used to care about this, but now that I have used an IPhone for several months, I am getting used to the power of access. Now if only it also worked well when only the low speed E-network is available from AT&T.

Branding is for Cattle?

Baskin Strays From Herd, Asks Brand Marketers to Rethink Strategy, Jonah Bloom in AdAge.
'Branding Only Works on Cattle' Calls for Fresh Approach to Consumer Behavior
Jonathan Salem Baskin's "Branding Only Works on Cattle" is the anti-"Hidden Persuaders." A book that not only raises serious questions about many of the methods used by today's marketers, but actually argues that branding as most people think of it is bullshit and that its proponents couldn't get us to tie our shoelaces, much less reprogram our subconscious to buy their stuff. The central argument here is that for all marketers' talk, man-hours and budgets, they waste a lot of time on things that don't change consumer behavior.... "

Changing How America Shops

Nagesh Challa, Ecrio CEO and long-time correspondent, is interviewed in Fast Company: Ecrio's Revolutionary Cell Phone Applications Could Change How America Shops. He describes one of their latest developments:
" ... MoBeam, a program that uses the LEDs on cell phones to create patterns that mimic bar-code sequences. For years, developers have been trying to display scannable bar codes on cell-phone screens -- unsuccessfully; light reflecting off the screens interferes with the scanners' detection systems. "Then I thought, What if we get out of the paradigm of trying to read the code off of the screen?" Challa says. "It's looking for light reflections, so why don't we just give it the light it's expecting?" The upshot: Instead of printing out online coupons, movie tickets, and boarding passes -- and toting around credit cards and gift cards -- consumers will soon be able to store bar codes in their phones. Visa found Challa's idea so revolutionary that it just announced plans to make MoBeam the centerpiece of its upcoming mobile-phone credit-card program ... "

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Billboards Looking Back

The NYTimes has an article about sensing billboards, these are from a company called Quividi. Their basic mode of use is pictured above. The broad idea has been around for some time, we reviewed a number of other potential implementations of interacting merchandising systems, including one that could present different images depending on the demographics they sensed, though it did not claim to be perfect in recognition. Privacy is always a concern, but these systems don't usually record or transmit what they 'see'. That is not what they are installed for.

It seems these kinds of displays are frequently used for promotional events, but rarely installed permanently in retail. Another, more entertainment driven interactive advertisement system we tested is Reactrix, which can now interact with consumers via gestures. Typical implementations are in trade shows, casinos and movie theaters. Their site has a good demo video.

Defining the Singularity

Nicholas Carr specifies the singularity. the term coined in a futurist sense by Vernor Vinge, then popularized by Ray Kurzweil, covered in a recent IEEE special section:

" ... What we talk about when we talk about singularity
The Singularity, that much-anticipated moment, or nano-moment, when our once-tractable silicon servants rocket past us, intellectually speaking, in a blur not unlike the one you see when Scotty activates the Enterprise's warp drive on Star Trek, pausing only (we pray) to allow us to virtualize our mental circuitry and upload it into their capacious memory banks (watch for the 2035 launch of Amazon S4: Simple Soul Storage Service), thus achieving a sort of neutered, brain-in-a-jar immortality, yes, that Singularity, that Rapture of the Geeks, as it is known to snarky unbelievers, is the subject of a big stack of articles - all written by humans, alas, but worth reading nonetheless - in a new special issue of IEEE Spectrum ... "

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Business Intelligence at Gartner Midsize

The SasCom blog reports from the Gartner Midsize summit on business intelligence topics.


I participated in an hour and a half technical presentation of the Tableau Software visualization system. I had seen a demonstration last year, but had never seen the details of the package. Formerly had been a Spotfire user, also a package which emphasises interaction and iterative work with the visualization. Overall, Tableau is very nicely done. It seems it would take some time to get used to the details, there are lots of them. Yet it is very easy to get started. Once you understand how their drag-and-drop fundamentals work you can construct simple visualizations. I then imported a small Excel spreadsheet and within minutes got used to the basics. This is my typical approach to learning a new application, though it does not usually give you as broad a view of what is possible. That makes good training useful.

What is impressive is that Tableau covers a lot of publishing details that other packages do not. A good example is the ability to do annotation of visualizations to make them ready for sharing. A free reader that consumers of your visualizations can download allows you to readily distribute your work. A server version connects you to live databases. I also like the way they handle dates, frequently problematic. Like all packages like this, it takes time to get up to full speed. Will take working on a more realistic problem. Like what I have seen so far.

Privacy Virus

James Grimmelmann has a short but insightful post entitled: The Privacy Virus. Social networking services entice members to share private information, without any warning about the longer-term consequences.
" ... Facebook is a privacy virus: an organism that reproduces itself within a social network by convincing infected hosts to use their own replication mechanisms to spread it to others. And the way it gets past our privacy defense mechanisms is to turn them against us: social network service interactions have almost all the indicia we look for in reassuring ourselves that we’re in a private setting, rather than out in public ... "

Wal-Mart Tests Classifieds

Wal-Mart is working with Oodle to test classifieds on its web site.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Google Sets

An odd little utility from Google Labs where you present a group of things and it predicts what other things are in the set. Don't see much discussion of it.

IMF Data and Visualization

Always perceptive colleague Wim Vandevelde writes: " ... In addition to the IMF’s macro-economic database there’s a nice graphical interface to GDP data (and their evolution over time) ... " . Very useful for macro economic studies and simulations.

Advertisements in the Car

Steve Rubel of Edelman, suggests in an AdAge article, that the next frontier for ads is in the car. GPS navigator systems are already putting up fast food logos on maps, so why not take another step beyond that? Have had a GPS for months now, and it is already distracting. Intrusive indeed, but likely inevitable. His first paragraph says a mouthful: " ... If you think there's already enough to distract you in your life, just wait. With Americans spending 100 hours a year commuting, according to the Census Bureau, the internet is coming to your car in a big way -- and not just to the front seat either ... ". Please no.

Breakthroughs in Analytics

I just discovered three interesting e-commerce Times articles on business analytics. A good overview of the state of the industry and its importance to the enterprise. See part 1, part 2 and part 3.
" ... IDC's definition of business analytics software comprises performance management applications and data warehouse platform software -- specifically, "solutions used to access, transform, store, analyze, model, deliver and track information to enable fact-based decision-making." The median return on investment for companies that implement a data analytics program is 112 percent, according to one IDC study ... "
I have been a practitioner in this realm for a long time. The field has seen some important changes in recent years that allow for less expertise to be necessary to 'solve' tougher problems. You can also try more things faster, and understand many results visually. Still it is dangerous to assume that there are no underlying bad assumptions that can foul up your model.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Digital Image Forensics.

Sciam on how doctored images are exposed.

Brandcasting Coupons

Via FMI's newsfeed:
"Brandcaster" program aims to make coupons count
Coupons Inc. is launching a system called "Brandcaster" that will display coupon offers based on contextual relevance with the Web page the user is browsing. The concept is similar to Google's AdSense program, and the company hopes the technology will encourage people to use coupons found online.... "

Photrade now Up and Running

The Photrade site is now up and running. " Share. Protect. Get Paid, the most ways to protect and sell your photos." I have been involved in the research and development aspects of the offering. There is also a blog to give you more information, including some photos of life at a start-up. I will report more on this as it evolves.

Fewer People Using Home Pages

Not unexpectedly in my view, a BBC article suggests that consumer behavior on the web, driven by the use of search, is changing radically. The article includes some other interesting results.
" ... There has also been a big change in the way that people get to the places where they can complete pressing tasks, he said. In 2004, about 40% of people visited a homepage and then drilled down to where they wanted to go and 60% use a deep link that took them directly to a page or destination inside a site. In 2008, said Dr Nielsen, only 25% of people travel via a homepage. The rest search and get straight there ... "

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Some Intelligence May be Bottom Up

Embodiment theory suggests that certain aspects of control and intelligence come from the bottom up. The idea is that local intelligence controls certain system functions, rather than centrally from the brain. A FuturePundit article about work at MIT makes the case for locomotion. Implications for AI applications.

Legal Issues of Private Prediction Markets

Can private prediction markets violate the law, and what can be done to protect these markets? A paper discusses.