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Monday, November 30, 2009

Unitasking Rampant

Do we need the twitterpeek?. A unitasking individual piece of hardware? I agree with BusinessWeek it's a case where less is less.

Learning Markets from Communities

From Josh Bernoff in Groundswell: A number of interesting case studies about doing market research more economically and accurately by using communities of your customers. Good thoughts. I note that SNCR also awarded Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li visionary of the year awards.

On the Future of TV

A good catch up piece on technologies, incentives and directions re this topic. What will the consumer engagement media-mix of the very near future be? ... The Future of TV - We'll Be Ordering Up Our Own Video, Ads and Products on a Web Convergence Device. But Who Will Reap the Revenue? ... '

Large Company Sustainability

I was recently asked what P&G was doing in the area of sustainability. Their positions, commitments, reports, video and background information can be found here.

Computers Saving Hospitals Money

A Harvard survey that says that IT rarely saves hospitals money. A shocker to me. I have been a close-up observer of how systems are used in hospitals. I guess my followup question is based on the data intensity and requirements of the modern hospital, would a modern hospital be possible without information technology? ' ... The recently released study evaluated data on 4,000 hospitals in the U.S over a four-year period and found that the immense cost of installing and running hospital IT systems is greater than any expected cost savings. And much of the software being written for use in clinics is aimed at administrators, not doctors, nurses and lab workers ... '

Winning in Turbulence

Just brought to my attention: Winning in Turbulence, by Darrell Rigby. On my reading list. Excerpts on the Bain site.

' ... Turbulence creates extraordinary threats and opportunities. Many companies won't survive, others will be considerably weakened, but some will rise to the top of their industries. What will separate the winners from the losers as the cycle plays out? What moves do you need to make now to ensure your company's survival - and its future success? .... '

Guilt Trips

In Martin Lindstrom's latest newsletter: Fighting Back Against Shoppers' Guilt. A piece about how ' ... Guilt has always been part of the shopping experience. But retail executives say it has become such an overriding emotion among shoppers since the economic crisis set in last year that it is delaying the recovery of the luxury-goods industry. Shoppers are suffering from "luxury shame," consulting group Bain & Co. said in a research report earlier this week ... ' .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bayes Methods and Manufacturing

Regret won't be able to attend this, is of technical interest:

Directed Bayes with High-Level Data Applied in Manufacturing by Theodore T. Allen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Integrated Systems Engineering. OSU Friday, 12/4/09 AT 1:30 p.m. – 214 Lindner Hall, University of Cincinnati

We propose the “directed Bayes” framework which involves incorporating knowledge/beliefs in ways other than through prior distributions only. Increasingly, users of Bayesian statistics apply noninformative priors and essentially no subjectivity. This occurs, in part, because a priori the users are not able to assemble beliefs confidently into an informative distribution. The directed Bayes framework permits the users to see the results from initial analyses and apply beliefs when greater confidence and relevance are possible ... '

For more on the QAOM Seminar Series, contact craig.froehle@uc.edu or visit the QAOM Seminar Series online.
I will report on this further as I can.

Cloud Computing, Long Ago

When I first heard about cloud computing a few years ago I thought it sounded familiar. Central computing utilities. Well it is, as far back as 1965. Just didn't have all the needed pipes and power back then.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Microsoft and Business Intelligence

Good overview of what MSFT is up to in the business intelligence area for large companies, the whole article contains useful details:

' .. Microsoft has unveiled the details of its upcoming business intelligence (BI) and data warehouse releases, and the watchwords are self-service and scalability.

Previously codenamed Project Gemini, Microsoft plans to release an Excel add-on called PowerPivot that will give casual users access to more data sources and the ability to report and analyze more raw data in Excel than ever before, according to the company.... '

Neuromarketing in Neuromarketer

In Chiefmarketer, on neuromarketing. What the Human Brain Means to Your Campaign.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Crashes

Evan Schuman reports on a number of e-commerce crashes in StoreFrontBackTalk. Not unexpected as we move online.

Kitchen Computer 1969

I recently posted about a 'home system' being advertised by Verizon. Part of our innovation center research was to understand how specialized systems in a home could help the consumer. Based on consumer interviews the kitchen was considered the center of that experience.

UK correspondent Richard James reminds me that about the same time that I was being introduced to any kind of digital computing, Honeywell was featuring its 'kitchen computer' in the 1969 Neiman Marcus catalog. Intriguing, though the article says there is no evidence that any were ever sold. Perhaps because: ' ... It sold for $10,000, weighs over 100 pounds, and is used for storing recipes (but reading or entering these recipes would have been very difficult for the average cook as the only "user interface" was the binary front panel lights and switches) ... '

Redlaser Scanner Re-look

Redlaser has just issued an update for their IPhone barcode reader. They say it is faster than the previous version. I uploaded it and tested it on a dozen or so barcodes around the house. Worked well. It does seem to be a bit faster. Worth a look. It still requires orientation of the barcode, will not read them in reverse. So it will work best for an item or two, not for a basket full of items. They are moving in the right direction, though. Ultimately this needs to be a common smartphone sensor.

Signatures of Consciousness

In the Edge: Signatures of Consciousness. Very interesting progress: Stanislas Dehaene writes:

' ... For the past twelve years my research team has been using all the brain research tools at its disposal, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness. I am now happy to report that we have acquired a good working hypothesis. In experiment after experiment, we have seen the same signatures of consciousness: physiological markers that all, simultaneously, show a massive change when a person reports becoming aware of a piece of information (say a word, a digit or a sound) ... '

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Google Analytics Illegal?

Google Analytics illegal, say German personal data protection analysts.

Plant Social Life

This is not in the normal realm of what I write about, but I am an amateur botanist and all things botanic do interest me. It is also an interesting lesson in experimentation. Back in the 70s there were many articles that suggested that plants reacted to social stimulation from people. It turned out that the cause-effect relationship was being misapplied and it was debunked. Now in Wired, an article suggests that plants communicate socially and certain plants, especially invasive ones, recognize their own kin and promote their growth. Sort of a a social networking of plants. The journal this was published in seems legitimate enough, but I would be very cautious about this kind of causal analysis and wait for multiple replications before I bought it. I have grown many invasive ground covers, and based on their behavior you certainly want to believe this causal chain. All the more reason to be extra cautious.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Acquisitions as Retail Geography

A BNet article that looks at P&G past acquisitions, and speculates about future M&A in terms of retail space coverage. I like the idea of understanding products in terms of the context in which they are sold. Yet how does this translate into increasing online exposure?

Learning with Serious Games

On learning through games and simulations. ' ... Karl Kapp, professor, author and speaker, understands the value of games and simulations in learning. In this two-part interview, Karl covers everything from video games to virtual 3D worlds, their cognitive advantages and future trends in online learning ... '

IBM Crowdsourcing

An instructive piece on how IBM sources skills to a job. Requires registration.

Drawing as Thinking

David Sibbet passes along a link to a video by Milton Glaser on drawing as another form of thinking.

Embracing an Innovation

A timely piece in Knowledge@Wharton on choosing innovations. Something we and all enterprises struggled with under the topic of knowledge management and portfolio analysis, Aspects of it can be optimized, but the measures involved are often difficult to accurately obtain and get agreement on. I have seen this done in many different ways, from executive popularity contests to multiple dimension visualizations. The memory of why something was done is often less than objective:

Popularity Contests: Why a Company Embraces One Innovative Idea but Shuns Another

Multinational corporations have a lot of good things going for them. They have built up a rich store of knowledge over the years, allowing their subsidiaries to share ideas and best practices in ways that smaller companies can only dream of. They also exploit their vast global reach and on-the-ground knowledge to sniff out new concepts or products being used by rival companies in other parts of the world. But these processes aren't always as successful as they could be. Felipe Monteiro, a Wharton professor of management whose recent research looks at how and when new knowledge gets the thumbs up within firms, explains why ... ' .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

fMRI used in Sentencing

Having just personally experienced my first fMRI, this caught my eye. Apparently the first time that this has been done in a courtroom. Not that the method is being used to determine truth/falsehood, a much tougher thing, but rather general state of mind. More evidence perhaps that approaches like neuromarketing that use these methods, among others, may gain acceptance.

An Extra Piece of Chicken

I see that Marco Marsan has set up a new site and blog for Marco Polo, his strategic innovation company. So what is this about chicken? See his great story about this aspect of under promising and over delivering. The Lagniappe in action. Have worked with them and they are always provocative, useful and interesting.

IKEA and Facebook

IKEA uses facebook tagging to promote creative new store opening.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Smart as a Cat?

Just a while back I linked to a press release about how IBM had claimed to have created a brain simulation that had as many neurons and synapses as a cat. With the implication that we were getting close to building mammalian brains. Here is a good overview of why there is still far to go.

L'Oreal Case Study on Mobility

I see that Consumer Goods Technology will be presenting a webinar tomorrow: The Booming Value of Mobility - In the Enterprise and Beyond. L'Oreal will be among the case study presenters. Details here.

Printing all the Science News that Fits

I have been a fan of NYT science writing for years. Enjoyed it and thought it was well written and mostly objective. Yet now, on particularly important topic, they refuse to publish information because it may have been inappropriately or illegally leaked. When did the NY Times stop publishing leaks? They have done it for many years, even when it meant the erosion of national security. Only, though, when it fits their agenda. It is not science to pick and choose your evidence, even if it is construed to be for our own good. It is examples like this that will continue to destroy the press. I don't like the idea that we will soon only be reading media that match our own opinions, but the Times will be part of the reason.

Smartbooks vs Notebooks

Why carry yet another unitasking device? What ultimately is the difference? Good piece on this. I would personally like it all on a smartphone device, though the physical size of fingers and acuity of eyes my prevent that, at least in the short term.

Evolution of Pepsi vs Coke Logos

Brought to my attention recently the relative evolution of Pepsi vs Coke Logos. It was later pointed out to be that this is somewhat selectively inaccurate, yet still intriguing that there was much evolution in Pepsi, and little in Coke.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Augmented Reality, Head-To-Head

In the blog Augmented Planet a head-to-head comparison of a number of augmented reality browsers for the purpose of finding a restaurant and finding sites in London. Followed by a part 2, working with immediate surroundings. Includes some useful screen shots. My overall impression, not overly useful, the links to information on the sites on online resources like the Wikipedia are useful. Short range GPS accuracy in cities is often a problem. I can see where this is going, yet it still would have many problems for the average user.

Lining Up

A just discovered blog that covers aspects of queueing theory, both the idealized mathematical aspects and the psychological issues to discover how people relate to lines. Its a technology that I rarely used in industry after having been taught it in school, but it comes up often enough to make it useful to have a single source regarding related queueing and related topics.

Things that Mobile Phones will Obsolete

In Recombu: Ten Things that Mobile Phones Will Make Obsolete. I am sure we can expect others. The laptop included.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Steve King SNCR Fellow of the Year

I see that compatriot Steve King has been named SNCR Fellow of the Year. He is a great guy, runs an excellent consultancy and blog on innovation and the issues of small business. We had him present to the enterprise a number of times during the early days of social networking and we learned much from him. Congrats Steve.

Reading Barcodes

Short Wired article on reading barcodes without a device, in other words with just your eyes. Cute parlor trick, but of course barcodes usually contain the code in numbers right below the bars, and numbers can already be read by most people. Still nice general explanation.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Intel Says Brain Will Control Computers

Intel: Chips in brains will control computers by 2020
Brain waves will replace keyboard and mouse, dial phones and change TV channels ...'

Sparklines in Excel

Sparklines (example above) are a simple means of including quantitative visuals in lines of text, conceived of by Edward Tufte. There has been recently much ado about Microsoft applying for a patent on sparklines, without mentioning Tufte's name as prior art. Tufte himself comments. I am always suspicious of criticism of Microsoft, since they are such an easy target. It turns out that the patent applied for is more of a view of how sparklines can be used within Excel. Much more reasonable. Not sure of the legal implications, but at the very least the writers of the application should have indicated their provenance. What this means or if it will be approved, remains to be seen. Another example of that patent rules should be reworked to record and promote creativity and aid creators, not hinder them.

LED Tattoos

In Wired Gadget Labs: Illustrated Man. We examined the use of LEDs on clothing for advertising, which can be readily done, but this takes it to the next level. Visited Philips Labs in the Netherlands, which is an amazing place. Cannot imagine it personally, but my generation would not. Applications beyond advertising? Using the hand as a display? Medical readouts? Communicating without words?

Process Model for Data Mining

This CRISP-DM model (updated) was looked at within the enterprise. Re-examined. It attempts to be very detailed and universal. Worth a look though it does not seem to have been updated for some time.

' ... The CRISP-DM project developed an industry- and tool-neutral data mining process model. Starting from the embryonic knowledge discovery processes used in early data mining projects and responding directly to user requirements, this project defined and validated a data mining process that is applicable in diverse industry sectors. This methodology makes large data mining projects faster, cheaper, more reliable and more manageable. Even small scale data mining investigations benefit from using CRISP-DM...." 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Predictive Analytics

This afternoon at 3PM EST, a DM radio broadcast on Predictive analytics. Which they enthusiastically call an enterprise crystal ball. The broadcast is also recorded for later review. More information and register here.

... We'll talk to Jim Kobielus of Forrester, Eric Siegel of Prediction Impact, Rob Walker of Chordiant and a special guest. Attendees will learn:

• Best practices for designing predictive models
• Proven use cases for predictive analytics
• Pitfalls to avoid in implementing a program
• How to balance different predictive models
• Examples of adaptive models that work


Thinking Chips

From IEEE Spectrum: IBM Unveils New Brain Simulator. ' ... Scientists and engineers at IBM revealed yesterday that they have created the largest brain simulation on a supercomputer to date. The number of neurons and synapses in the simulation exceed those in a cat’s brain; previous simulations have reached only the level of mouse and rat brains. The cortical simulator, called C2, runs on Dawn, a Blue Gene/P supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory ... ' . ... It has as many neurons as a cat, but is it as intelligent as a cat? Update: Here is a good response to the reality behind this cat and mouse game.

Incorporating Consumer Insight into Marketing

From Jeffrey D. Mills of ThinkVine

The following article, posted on MediaPost this morning, is my attempt to describe in layman’s terms why and how to incorporate consumer insight into marketing planning. Specifically, four (4) marketplace dynamics have converged that are forcing many businesses to seek out a better way to plan their marketing spends:

1. Heightened emphasis on measuring & optimizing marketing return-on-investment (MROI)
2. A changing consumer landscape (see Ad Age article on the “death” of the average consumer)
3. A pace of change (behavior, perceptions, word-of-mouth) that happens far more frequently than once-a-year marketing planning can keep up with
4. Fragmentation of media that is showing no signs of slowing down (not just new media, but evolving cross effects between media types)

Getting your arms around this new reality not only requires new thinking, but new approaches to marketing planning. Core to my point is the realization that understanding the consumer has to come back to the forefront ... The article can be read at its source at Mediapost.
Jeffrey Mills | Vice President, Marketing & Client Management | 513-477-1729 Office | http://www.thinkvine.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Sensing

Introduction of attachable NFC/RFID reader for the IPhone. Yet another smart phone sensing example. And speculation that next generation IPhones will include NFC readers.

Verizon Hub

A wireless VOIP Hub phone.

Have now seen a number of ads for the Verizon Hub phone. It has now been around for a while. A phone that provides central family functionality for the home. This is something we tested in the late 90s using a small for the time, dedicated laptop. A number of companies also tried to provide this capability with specialized devices that hung on the the frig or under a cabinet. Of course today most smartphones provide the same capabilities. Does it makes sense to have a separate device to do this with so many smart mobiles that can do the same?

Social Media Impact

Good piece on SNCR research on social media and decision making. The Post emphasises the professional use and collaboration using social media. Some useful statistics.

An AI Takeover

In Foresight: A view of the different levels of intelligence that would be required to take over from the intelligence of humans. Our own exploration of AI was largely on intelligence embedded in software, rather than interacting devices like robots. We understood that any device with an ability to interact with an environment, like robots, would be able to learn more quickly.

Coke Global Social Media Push

In AdAge:

Behind Coca-Cola's Biggest Social-Media Push Yet
How Expedition 206's Global Search for Happiness Came Together ... Coca-Cola is gearing up for its largest social-media project ever, one that will test its own internal flexibility and force a number of its global markets into the digital and social-media space ... '

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

IPhone as Sensing Platform

The IPhone positioned as a version of the Tricorder, a universal information gathering device that can connect the right data to the right analytical methods that lead to a mobile solution. A huge opportunity for analytics.

' ... The iPhone, in addition to revolutionizing how people thought about mobile phone user interfaces, also was one of the first devices to offer a suite of sensors measuring everything from the visual environment to position to acceleration, all in a package that could fit in your shirt pocket.

On December 3rd, O'Reilly will be offering a one-day online edition of the Where 2.0 conference, focusing on the iPhone sensors, and what you can do with them. Alasdair Allan (the University of Exeter and Babilim Light Industries) and Jeffrey Powers (Occipital) will be among the speakers, and I recently spoke with each of them about how the iPhone has evolved as a sensing platform and the new and interesting things being done with the device ... '
Much yet to achieve, yet this can be the start.

Bing Takes Some Searchers from Yahoo

Not unexpected. Like I have said I have found Bing to be a usefully different search method. No doubt that Google has huge inertia, but Bing has shown some useful distinction from Yahoo. And if you want to try something socially different, try Zakta.

SAS Visual Data Discovery

We did some very early work for executive suite discovery applications using SAS graph. More about what SAS has today in data discovery. A quick look seems to show that they have quite a strong suite. Now this application reminded me of their capabilities:

' ... SAS a provider in business analytics, is helping BKV, a 200-person full-service interactive and direct marketing agency, improve efficiencies and focus on the creativity that drives client results. BKV’s analytics department is using SAS Visual Data Discovery’s advanced analytics, exploratory data analysis and interactive data visualization to optimize national direct-response campaigns.Leveraging visualization to quickly see trends and opportunities in data helps media buyers and marketers manage client campaigns – investing in the right place and the right channel for the right segment for better results. With companies spending less on marketing in today’s economy, a healthy return is paramount ... '

Linkedin Connects with Twitter

Linkedin has now connected with Twitter, apparently to pick up to some of that high volume of Twitter traffic. By giving Linkedin your Twitter ID you can have your entire stream show up there, or just Tweets that are tagged with #in. You can also have your Twitter ID show up on your Linkedin profile. More here.

Web 2.0 for E Commerce Success

In Ecommerce Times: Top Web 2.0 drivers for ecommerce success by retailers.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Science Behind Neuromarketing Webinar

This Wednesday I am attending a Webinar by Sands Research ' ... presented by Dr. Steve Sands, Chairman and Chief Science Officer, on Wednesday, November 18th at 2:00 PM EST / 11:00 AM PST ...

"The Science Behind Neuromarketing - Exploring Metrics and Sample Deliverables"

To receive the sign in code or for more information, contact: info@sandsresearch.com

Mobile ChaCha at Marsh

A very simple marketing idea where you text a mobile question to ChaCha, get an answer and a promotion to be used at Marsh, and go to a local store to pick it up. Gets people in their stores.

Unilever: Major Innovations Underway

Former P&G exec now Unilever CEO Paul Polman says very big innovations are underway: ' ... Unilever says its products soon will be available using results from its Genesis projects, which invested in scientific breakthroughs that could be used across products. Chief Innovation Officer Genevieve Berger described the coming launches as "big wins" and said the first products would be in the personal-care category .... '

SAP's Corporate Social Network Analyzer

Interestingly enterprise transaction software giant SAP has developed a prototype system that analyzes network data to determine business relationships. You can even experiment with it directly here. We experimented with this concept a number of times. Thanks to Wim Van De Velde.

' ... The social network analyzer prototype aggregates existing enterprise data, using business intelligence techniques, to help you find entities/people based on multiple criteria, understand their relationships, connect with them and get up-to-date statistics on your organization.
The purpose of this technology is to deliver an environment where people can easily and quickly analyze corporate network relationships and find the information they are looking for in their daily jobs. The social network analyzer prototype lets you import and aggregate all the business network relationships between people that are already recorded in your business applications, such as:

- Management hierarchies from your human resources system
- Data on who worked on which deals, from your sales force automation system
- Partner, customer, and partner supplier contacts along your supply chain system
- People who work on similar transactions or projects within your operational systems... '.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Augmenting Your Reality: Junaio

More augmented reality methods for online and mobile.

Took a look at the Junaio augmented reality browser on the IPhone today. The basic idea is to let you augment what you are seeing in a specific location. It can be your own private reality, or you can share it socially with others. The Junaio approach is to let you add a number of prefabricated 3D objects to a real physical space. These can be animated, images, links or text. The result places these in a 3D space overlaid onto a map space. The little animations are cartoony and cheesy, but I can see how they could be improved to be more realistic.

The live view version, for the IPhone 3GS only, allows you to view a space live, so imagine yourself in a space that has been annotated by others in 3D and then you walk through it with your device held up in front of you.

Overall I am intrigued by the idea. Yet it has the same inherent problem with many of these ideas. I am not likely to use something like this unless lots of people have annotated a space already. The method is not hard, but hard enough to be a barrier for many people. Its also hard to really express yourself in each 3D space unless you are clever in 3D design, not common either. If there were enough demand I imagine these could be commissioned.

Worth a look. See also Junaio's blog.

Also see Layar, which also has a competitive method.

Text Mining Handbook

Long on my stack, just making my way through: The Text Mining Handbook: Advanced Approaches in Analyzing Unstructured Data by Ronen Feldman and James Sanger. A very good overview of methods in unstructured data analysis. Largely non-technical, good introductions to methodologies, architectures and metrics required. Also like the chapter on the use of visualization techniques to augment text mining methods. Has an inside-the-book capability on the Amazon link.

What it Takes to Lead Now

By John Baldoni in the Harvard Business Publishing Blog, A majority of managers just don't understand what it means to be a leader ... '

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bias of Convenient Study Choices

Always thought there was something wrong with using US college students for determining universal psychological facts about populations, except when determining the truth about US college students. Sure it is cheap and convenient, but does it completely bias the study? Have seen the same when populating marketing and merchandising studies. We can do better. Much more on in this recent Cambridge University Press article, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (in press)

Computational Complexity and Games

From MIT, an interesting piece about representing the real world, always a good thing to think about. I never thought that game theory could accurately represent the real world, more evidence in that direction.

' ... Constantinos Daskalakis, an assistant professor in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has exported those techniques to game theory, a branch of mathematics with applications in economics, traffic management — on both the Internet and the interstate — and biology, among other things. By showing that some common game-theoretical problems are so hard that they’d take the lifetime of the universe to solve, Daskalakis is suggesting that they can’t accurately represent what happens in the real world.

Game theory is a way to mathematically describe strategic reasoning — of competitors in a market, or drivers on a highway or predators in a habitat. In the last five years alone, the Nobel Prize in economics has twice been awarded to game theorists for their analyses of multilateral treaty negotiations, price wars, public auctions and taxation strategies, among other topics ... '

Friday, November 13, 2009

Phone as Chemical Sensor

And an application proposed by NASA that converts an IPhone into a chemical sensor. Looks like a very rough mashup, but I much like the direction. Could something like this detect anomalies like stains?

Got a Stain? An IPhone App for that

I see that the Tide Stain Brain is now available as a free IPhone App. This work has a long history at P&G and I had several involvements in the knowledge being delivered. The driving idea is to figure out how to take knowledge that the consumer package goods has and deliver it to the consumer at home and on the road. It has to be simple since consumer products are meant to be easy to use.

The stain advisor was first delivered via a CDRom in the early 90s, then via an 800 line number and next with a very sophisticated animated, talking artificial intelligence character based on 'Mr Clean'. Finally it resided as a application on the Tide Web site. Unilever soon copied us with their own detergent based stain site. Now its available for those with mobile stain needs on the IPhone. Don't know how much the knowledge has changed, the interface looks very simple.

Also uses a more social networking approach than previous implementations. That also makes this an interesting case study for delivering and sharing knowledge.

Press release. Tide is also on Facebook.

What Google Knows About You

This is worthwhile for just general caution if you are into Google applications. ' ... Google may know more about you than your mother does. Got a problem with that? ... '

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wolfram Details Mathematica R&D

More from the 2009 International Mathematica User Conference:

' ... In this second video clip, Stephen gives a detailed description of what’s coming in the R&D pipeline for future versions of Mathematica, including features like a strong set of partial differential equations, a new structure for probability and statistics, enhanced charting features, new high-level image processing functions and much, much more.... '.

Deep Data Dives

In the CACM, Discovering natural laws using massive amounts of data. Also called knowledge discovery, here with some new directions:

' ... Mining scientific data for patterns and relationships has been a common practice for decades, and the use of self-mutating genetic algorithms is nothing new, either. But now a pair of computer scientists at Cornell University have pushed these techniques into an entirely new realm, one that could fundamentally transform the methods of science at the frontiers of research ... '

Retail Commission on Shopper Marketing

Am a bit late to this, but of interest:

' ... As part of its ongoing Shopper Merchandising and Marketing leadership strategy, Coca-Cola North America (CCNA) is sponsoring the creation of the Retail Commission on Shopper Marketing. This group of prominent retailers will work with industry experts to determine how to best leverage manufacturers' insights to develop shopper-based marketing approaches and capabilities that enhance the shopping experience and increase same-store sales and profit performance ... '

US Destroying Manufacturing Jobs

You probably have one, a sink garbage disposer, many are made by Emerson Electric along with other electrical equipment. Emerson's CEO says the US Government is doing everything possible to destroy US manufacturing jobs. Lead on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bing and Wolfram Alpha

In what is a useful direction, Bing and Wolfram Alpha are collaborating. Google already does some of this by understanding some kinds of numerical dimensionality to answer searches like: 'How many quarts in a peck'. The Bing approach then links to tables that do appropriate numerical analysis. So if you ask it to calculate bmi (Body mass index) it shows a table for the required input and does the calculation. Wolfram provides the tables. Its the proper choice of tables that may be the trick.

Artistic Bar Codes

In FastCompany: Examples of using art embedded in standard barcodes. I have seen this before, but have yet to see it in the wild. Do shoppers pay attention to this? Still a good idea. At the right a sample code.

Google's Open Source Go

Google has released its internally used open source language GO. Taking a look. And here. For rapid application development and scalability. The language site.

Backing Out of Google

It was not too long ago that sites were falling over themselves to get found on search engines, and particularly on Google. Now an alternative strategy is popping up proposed by increasingly profit hungry news providers. Block Google, providing only the first para of an article, then monetize the clickthrough full article via subscription. Similar to the WSJ's approach, apparently successful. Will it work, or will other sources take over? Google has since responded: no problem.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Emulating Neurons

Interesting Mindhacks summary of a piece on brain emulation on a chip in Discovery. We were closely involved in the whole topic of 'Artificial Neural Nets' back in the 90s and used them successfully for certain kinds of analytical models. We knew that these models were vast simplifications of the neural nets that drive out brain, yet were intrigued by the relationship to physical brain models. Pointers also to the Stanford brains in silicon project, which I will examine further. At the right, the complexity of stained neurons in the human hippocampus.

Persuasive Technologies

FuturePundit on Persuasive Technologies. I am also reminded of Stanford's Persuasive Technology lab, who we worked with several times. And their blog.

The Eternal Conference Call

Nick Carr on the Eternal Conference call. I think I am still on that call. Insights on asynchrony versus synchrony in communications.

Adoption of RFID

This issue has been on the table since at least 2000. Its such a good idea, so why isn't it taken up by everyone? The benefit studies have been done, the companies are there to provide hardware and software, the problems it solves are well known. Yet the rollouts of apparently very successful projects are slow.

Business Use of Twitter, Facebook Exploding

From CW: I am a bit surprised that these are seeing very widespread use. Article also covers some of the privacy and security watchouts. ' ... People using Twitter to get the word out about their company, sales and promotions jumped more than 250% from this past spring ... The number of companies using facebook for such tasks grew by 192%, the study found. The report said that workers are using social networks as promotional vehicles both with and without management knowledge ... In the same time frame, market leader Facebook saw its already impressive market share increase by 194%, letting it easily maintain its recently attained place atop the U.S. social networking market. ...'.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Massively Complex Agent Environments

I am reposting this article from over a year ago to remind myself and readers of interesting work done in very large scale agent models. Here from Simulex, (Simulex link no longer works) which positions itself as developing Synthetic Environments for Analysis and Simulation. Simulex originated via expertise at Purdue. Although I cannot provide many details, Simulex tailored its SEAS agent-based economic models, developed for DOD applications, to important regional demand and growth applications for us.

" ... we use our exclusive license to SEAS to provide the next generation of consulting services to our clients in government and the private sector. Instead of experimenting with real people, SEAS allows clients to interact with synthetic people and observe what is happening. Using agent-based modeling in a business war-gaming environment, SEAS seamlessly incorporates all aspects of managerial decision making to provide a complete and integrated view of economies, industries, and organizations ... ".
Some of their application case studies, (Simulex links no longer work) with strongly visual outputs. Worth a closer look for bottom-up economic and interaction system simulations. Note also the inclusion of gaming environments.

Social Isolation and New Technology

Yes, it does cause some isolation, but also opens many new doors as well.

Cellphones as Microscopes

In the NYT: ' ... Microscopes are invaluable tools to identify blood and other cells when screening for diseases like anemia, tuberculosis and malaria. But they are also bulky and expensive. Now an engineer, using software that he developed and about $10 worth of off-the-shelf hardware, has adapted cellphones to substitute for microscopes ... In one prototype, a slide holding a finger prick of blood can be inserted over the phone’s camera sensor. The sensor detects the slide’s contents and sends the information wirelessly to a hospital or regional health center. For instance, the phones can detect the asymmetric shape of diseased blood cells or other abnormal cells, or note an increase of white blood cells, a sign of infection ... '

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Retinal Displays

For applications like augmented reality it makes sense to investigate ways to better get data directly into your eyes, without having to find a screen or move a smartphone around. And even for the most common interfaces it would be great to simply display the results directly to your retina. Sounds a bit obtrusive or even dangerous, but much work has been done in the area and seems to be close to delivery. At the right a simple example, I tested something similar several years ago. Can implantation be far behind? Some work in this area shown in Engadget and an article in Popsci describing work by NEC and Brother.

Increased Use of Video

AdAge reports about increased use of online video by a number of consumer packaged goods players.

Future Direction of Wolfram Research

Colin DeCair sends along a link which features a video clip from Stephen Wolfram’s keynote address at the 2009 International Mathematica User Conference. In this video, he talks briefly about the history of Mathematica and future directions of Mathematica and Wolfram. I have always been impressed by Wolfram Research's work, even when they sometimes extend reach beyond grasp. It can still show the way.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

On Amazon's PayPhrase

In StorefrontBackTalk, a discussion about Amazon's new payphrase system and what the longer term implications for how you purchase. Speed and the ability to customize point of purchase decisions.

Gamma Rays in Lightning

Antimatter signatures, gamma ray flashes, have been detected in terrestrial lightning storms. Don't recall this ever having been mentioned before. New safety implications, now beyond worrying about cosmic rays? A new energy pathway? How rare is this? Our always surprising earth.

Scratch Programming for 'All'

In CACM, the evolution of a programming language for all. I have looked at the Scratch site, but have not tried it for a real application. My argument to these kinds of ideas is always: "Do we want everyone to become a car designer or mechanic?". So why would we want that in programming?

In particular these methods are always oriented toward girls, as is this article. In fact the approach seems condescending in its approach to make sure the details of programming will be appealing to girls. Wouldn't it be better to aim this idea at higher levels of problem solving? There are many fine women car mechanics. Yet at my local shop the gender ratio is about 5:1, and I am sure that is also an outlier. So what?

Beyond that complaint, I still like the idea of easier-to-use languages, and new social ways to collaborate when programming, and this is a good case study:

"Digital fluency" should mean designing, creating, and remixing, not just browsing, chatting, and interacting.

When Moshe Y. Vardi, Editor-in-Chief of Communications, invited us to submit an article, he recalled how he first learned about Scratch: "A colleague of mine (CS faculty)," he said, "told me how she tried to get her 10-year-old daughter interested in programming, and the only thing that appealed to her was Scratch."

That's what we were hoping for when we set out to develop Scratch six years ago. We wanted to develop an approach to programming that would appeal to people who hadn't previously imagined themselves as programmers. We wanted to make it easy for everyone, of all ages, backgrounds, and interests, to program their own interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations, and share their creations with one another ... "

Friday, November 06, 2009

Near Real-Time Flu Tracking at CDC

I was involved with a project that sought to use retail data to do something similar. With the potential to use it for epidemics or bioterror detection and tracking. Now ' ... The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched an effort this week to better and more easily track for H1N1 and other seasonal influenza activity throughout the US. The CDC said it is now tracking data on 14 million patients from physician practices and hospitals stored on a database hosted by GE Healthcare ... ' . Full piece and links in Slashdot.

Limits of Social Media Marketing

A cautious piece about social media marketing. Its more than just starting up a free presence and expecting people to engage.

Entrepreneurial Resources

Useful: In Inc. Top Entrepreneurial bloggers and in Mashable: useful tools for Entrepreneurs.

IBM Sets up Indian Analytics Center

In my early days in the enterprise we worked directly with IBM to use their optimization software and resources to solve tough analytics problems. Over the years this changed to other sources of expertise augmenting our own. Now they are building huge centers of expertise in this area. Visited Bangalore a few years ago and was impressed with data mining/analytics resources via the Universities there.

IBM has set up a center in Bangalore that will focus on offering high-end expertise to the business analytics market worldwide.

The center, called the Business Analytics Center of Competency, will have over 200 consultants in the area of business analytics who will interact with customers worldwide, said Simon Thomas, service line leader at IBM India for the global delivery of business analytics and optimization services.

IBM's global business services operation in India is already doing work in the area of business analytics and optimization with about 2,000 staff. But most of the work done so far consisted of developing applications, and delivering services and support to customers ... '

Thursday, November 05, 2009

On the Age of the Informavore

In the Edge: ' We are apparently now in a situation where modern technology is changing the way people behave, people talk, people react, people think, and people remember. And you encounter this not only in a theoretical way, but when you meet people, when suddenly people start forgetting things, when suddenly people depend on their gadgets, and other stuff, to remember certain things... ' ... Some interesting takes, yes, I may rely on devices more, but I think as a result I am more informed than ever before.

Internet Choice Perception

From O'Reilly:

' ... Individual perception of increased choice can occur while the overall choice pool is getting smaller

This gem from Whimsley makes the point - with extensive statistical modeling supporting the argument - that our algorithm-obsessed, long tail merchants are actually depleting the overall choice pool despite the fact that as individuals we may be experiencing a sense of more choice through recommendations engines... '.

Reading and Augmented Reality

An upcoming issue of Esquire plans to include a number of readable Q codes. So Engadget suggests that this is augmenting reality. It is augmenting reading, and I have seen a number of presentations by companies seeking to add codes to ads or posters or kiosks and then have consumer interact with them via their cellphones. This only the slightest augmentation, and only a few devices are ready for it. Still much in the gimmicky realm, but shows it can be done and alerts the consumer to its possibilities.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Buyology Inc Launches

I have mentioned the work of Martin Lindstrom here a number of times and I am working with Buyology Inc, a US - based company that seeks to connect some of the newest neuroromarketing science with tough and profitable marketing decisions. It is an increasingly hot area that seeks to put together a new and more accurate set of perceptions to marketing science. Today's press release clarifies their approach further:

BUYOLOGY INC Forms To Shift Traditional Marketing Focus From Segmenting Brands To Consumers, To Segmenting Consumers To Brands
Marketing and consulting industry veterans join together to make neuromarketing more actionable by using technology to uncover powerful insights into the non-conscious

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--BUYOLOGY INC. (www.buyologyinc.com), a marketing solutions company focused on helping marketers segment consumers to brands by tapping into the consumer non-conscious decision making process, has launched.

Comprised of veterans from the marketing and consulting industries, BUYOLOGY INC. has been formed to help marketers adapt to the reality that consumers are self-segmenting in their product purchase behavior and that a need exists to focus on segmenting consumers to brands in order to more effectively market to target audiences .. "

General Mills Innovation Portal

From Consumer Goods Technology, General Mills has created an innovation portal. " ... The new G-WIN innovation portal provides visitors with details on nearly 50 technical challenges that the company is looking to solve. Those who join the G-WIN community by registering online will receive ongoing updates about specific technical challenges that match their unique abilities and expertise ... " . More details.

Fun Theory from Volkswagen

Via IFTF: The Fun Theory Site. Some ongoing contests for innovations in this space.

' ... This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better ... '

Shopper Assistant Adds Store Flyers

Recently I mentioned the IPhone Shopper, a store shopping list and aisle context application. I have done some additional explorations with the idea.

In a recent press release they have added the ability to get personalized promotional fliers from a number of chain stores.

They have ' ... launched weekly flyers from leading retailers such as Target, Best Buy, K Mart, Sears, Meijer, Walgreens, Lowes and Home Depot (among many others) in the app. Busy consumers no longer need to flip thru the weekly printed circulars to find deals on the items they are looking for. Users simply keep their shopping lists as they always have, and Shopper searches local stores for relevant specials ... ' Full Press release.

Regrettably it does not include US megachain Kroger where I do most of my chain shopping, nor Costco where I venture weekly, but I have set it up for nearby Meijer and CVS. Note it does cover far more retail than just Grocery. It is said to personalize fliers for you based on your shopping lists and the location of your store. Have yet to see some offers here, but I just set it up. A move in the right direction. What I want to do is to have it automatically indicate offers whenever I enter, or get close to a store. In fact why not have an option to bring up promotions for any participating store when you approach, regardless of your shopping list?

Ultimately would also like to see this connected to a fast and reliable IPhone 2D scanner such as RedLaser, previously reviewed here. The Redlaser system has its problems, for example it will not read something as simple as an upside-down bar code or a reflective surface.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Consumers More Resourceful

In Supermarket News: Kraft Foods says that consumers are becoming more resourceful. Although I have always viewed myself as resourceful, I have found myself becoming more so this year.

How the Brain Reveals Why we Buy

From Sciam, " ... an excerpt from Mindfield: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World by Lone Frank, to be released in the U.S. November 10 ... " A good lay introduction to the concepts of neuromarketing, its origins and directions, with some useful links, largely positive view. See also the book's site.

Predictive Modeling at Transaction Level

Well done - " ... a case study of a simple “policy component,” plug-in software to automate, streamline and efficiently apply predictive and risk models into the work flow. A policy component is a small piece of plug-in software which implements institutional policy. The definition and description should become clear in the case study ... "

Muscle Interface

A 3D pointing interface without any mouse, using EMG sensors. Another attempt at using something other than a dongled mouse for interaction. I tested a foot-mouse in the late 80s. It did not last long. I like the idea of an open air gestural interfaces, though simple designs like the classic mouse can last a long time.

IT is not just Overhead

I remember well the Peter Drucker article about corporate overhead mentioned below. I was lucky to have worked at Procter & Gamble under several CIOs that strongly believed that information technologies were transformational. After the Internet, the Web and the emergence of fast,mobile and very powerful computers to solve difficult problems, it hardly seems necessary to repeat the argument, but here it is in Computerworld, read all of it:

Opinion: IT is not the mailroom
By Paul M. Ingevaldson
Computerworld - In 1989, Peter Drucker penned a famous article for The Wall Street Journal titled "Sell the Mailroom." In it, he made the case for shedding those elements of your business that "do not make a direct and measurable contribution to the bottom line." These he listed as "clerical, maintenance and support work." Drucker argued that such departments would have a much better chance of improving their productivity if they were part of an organization whose job it was to do that kind of work. If those departments stayed in-house, he wrote, the people working in them would have "little incentive to improve their productivity." .... '

Monday, November 02, 2009

Coin Toss Depends on Starting Point

In the Freakonomics blog: Is the common arbiter of binary decisions not so random? Short article points to resources that say it may depend on its original position in the hand. See the 2007 background Stanford paper: Dynamical Bias in Coin Toss.

DVR Users Don't Skip

In the NYT. Some fascinating results from the set-top clickstream. Including that a surprising number (46% in 18-49) of people do not fast forward over ads. It seems the danger of DVRs to commercial messages was overstated. Pure laziness? Personally I often forget I am watching a recording.

When Customers Negotiate

Attended a most interesting talk at UC this past week on negotiation models. Readers will recall that I previously covered auction analysis here. A simplified model, but great work. I will post a link to paper or slides here when I get them.

Update:Paper on dynamic pricing and negotiation, paper on channel implications of negotiation.

When Customers Negotiate: Implications for Dynamic Pricing and Supply Chain Management
Goker Aydin, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Haggling has become increasingly popular in recent years: 72% of American consumers haggled during the holiday season in 2008 compared to 56% a year earlier. Beyond the usual suspects such as auto dealerships and furniture stores, customers successfully bargained at stores such as Best Buy, Home Depot, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Nordstrom. This landscape presents a new challenge for retailers: whether or not to engage in bargaining. We study this question in two separate contexts: a retailer dynamically adjusting the price of a product with a short lifecycle; and a distribution channel, where both the retailer and the manufacturer have a stake in the decision to bargain.

Many retailers that were reported to discreetly allow negotiation sell short lifecycle products such as high-tech consumer electronics (e.g., Best Buy) or style goods (e.g., Nordstrom). For such products, retailers frequently change the posted price over time. In such a retail environment, the outcome of the negotiation depends on the inventory level, the remaining selling season, the retailer's bargaining power, and the posted price. We characterize the optimal posted price and the negotiation outcome as a function of inventory and time. We show that negotiation is particularly effective when the inventory level is high and/or the remaining selling season is short ... '

Active Wallpaper

We can use flat surfaces at home or work as a display or or changeable view. Even talked to an office environment manufacturer that was looking at embedding this idea in cubicles. Here the idea is to use a wall surface as an interactive device that includes a number of sensors that can detect temperature or touch to signal devices connected to it. A feature of the smart home? Or should devices just be as simple and as movable as possible? Inclined to think simpler is better.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Loyalty Hasn't Disappeared

Professor Byron Sharp, Director, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute
University of South Australia

Last week the New York Times reported that American's loyalty to car brands has plummeted. I've written on this myth before (see short article).

People fall for such myths because they don't know about the laws that govern loyalty metrics. Repeat-buying levels vary little between rival brands. The Double Jeopardy law says they can't plummet, not unless Detroit suffered a catastrophic drop in market-share – it has been declining but not a free-fall drop.

Actually repeat-rates in the US have been steadily around 50% for many years, that's amazing loyalty (the sort we see in every product category). Detroit has been losing market share but the main cause is a lack of customer acquisition.


For the past ten years some of the world's leading marketers (like Unilever, Mars, Coca-Cola, and British Airways), have been funding a special
research program to answer fundamental questions about buyer behaviour and how brands grow. See www.MarketingScience.info for more information.

Augmented Reality in Virtual Worlds

IBM continues to do interesting enterprise enabling virtual world work, here with Nokia:

' ... With support from IBM (NYSE:IBM) Research and Nokia Research Center, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland created an experimental system that enables people in multiple locations to interact and collaborate with avatars and objects in a single, virtual meeting. Objects and avatars are located in a "virtual" space that mirrors the corresponding physical room.

Sensors, cameras and microphones located on both ends of the conversation allow voices, head and hand gestures and movements to change in concert with the behavior of participants, enabling participants to sense the vital visual cues of body language. In this proof-of-concept, participants in physical rooms wear video see through glasses that depict three-dimensional images of their online counterparts as they stand, walk, talk or demonstrate and manipulate virtual objects shared between the spaces ... '