time for blogging to evolve?

•April 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Wrote an article recently at my private blog about time for blogging to evolve?. The idea behind is the fact that I have just resumed my private blogging and I realised it is not that convenient when you have gotten used to facebook and twitter. It can all be linked of course but only by those who care to spend the time to do it and find out how to. It is not as easy as pressing the “follow” button on twitter if you want to follow a person.

So the conclusions is, maybe it is time for blogging to evolve and be more user friendly.

Facial Recognition and Online Privacy

•September 2, 2008 • 1 Comment

I haven’t been blogging for a long time, mainly du to a change of industry but it also since I have had less time to share my thoughts about technology. There was though one post that I started to write on in february and I decided to post this weekend. It is about privacy online and the development of what can be argued to be integrity intruding technologies, in this case the development of facial and pattern recognition technologies.

There was several articles in february that I planned to comment regarding people being tracked down online, but so much time has passed so I don’t even remember my point anymore.What I do remember, which might be old information now, is my thoughts around facial recognition and the recent development in these area that we have seen. What facinates me with these technology developments is the value the bring and the potential to change behavior online. That technologies can change normal usage is of course nothing new, but there is an aspect of it when it could as well have a negative effect on usage. Facial recognition is not new, but the fact that it is becoming available for everyone is an interesting development. That means the ability to find and recognise anyone online. Image search today is very limited and pictures are only found if the have been tagged or contains the used keyword in the name or description, which of course seldom is the case. This is the problem a growing number of facial recognition companies are aiming to solve.

Polar Rose is a browser plugin that lets you discover who is who in any public photo. Photos are tagged by using facial recognition and by assigning a tag to a photo, other photos with that person can be recognised.

Picollator has been in beta mode since january and is a multimedia search and indexing engine. It scans Internet, collects digital pictures and makes the index, matching visual objects in the images by pattern recognition. You can simply upload a photo with people to launch the search process.

TinEye was launched recently and is an image identification-based web search engine, that doesn’t do any facial or pattern recognition, instead it enables you to find matching pictures. This one I have heard was useful on flickr in a case when someone suspected his pictures were used without permission.

There has been reports about Google trying out facial recognition where the tag face is added to show pictures with a face, so it still offers very limited functionality. Reuters has also been testing facial recognition in video search. Another player is Riya. They started out with facial recognition and visual search, but then moved into object recognition by launching Like.com that allows you to find similar looking products.

Among these facial recognition products – Riya is trying a business model where they utilize their technology for ecommerce. Polarrose I don’t know, their technology is open-source (which of course is great) but as a browser plugin I cannot understand how they will make money from it. Maybe from the integration into different services such as flickr and facebook so the tagging becomes better or similar. Technologies like Picollator (part of recogmission.com) is a technology that is possible to integrate in to search engines, beefing up the existing image search.

There is though an interesting issue coming up, and that is the fact that what is put up on the web is often available to the public. In the good old time, users have lived in a pleasant belief that what is put up will most likely not be found since the web is so vast –  now with better search engines and better pattern recognition services everything can be found easily, a face on a party picture, a presence in a video clip etc. It is just like being tagged on facebook but it covers the whole web and it is automatic. If someone just once have said a person is you, or use a picture of you, they will be able to find you in every media from pictures to videos.

How will this work with copyright and integrity when a previously anonymous person you took a photo of on the street suddenly has a name and identity? Could have interesting complications….

I have always promoted open communities since I wanted what I share to be accessible for friends without the need of being members. But with a technology such as Polarrose offering something like facebook tagging for everything that is public there might be a move towards more closed sharing where you decide what you want public and what you want to only be accessible for friends and family. Projects like open social and single sign on will of course make closed networks easier to access for friends without the need of additional memberships.

So apart from the integrity issue when it comes to widely deployed facial recognition and tagging I do look forward to pattern recognition that enables you to find similair looking objects and photos. That could be very useful when you for example want to find more photos of a car – you can just search for similar ones.

Interesting applications of facial recognition is the two entertainment services provided by Optical Recognition Obectives; Play-Analogia for finding celebrities lookalike and IconDate that is a dating site where you can find a date that looks like a certain celebrity you chose or any other person you want your date to look like. That has to be value adding for dating 🙂

The reason I came into the privacy issue was due to an experience in february at an event in Shanghai. It was an afterwork and one guy walked around taking photos, encouraged by the organiser and the people who posed. But there were also a few people starting to question it and didn’t allow him to take photos of them, asking if they would be put up on facebook. It was clear that they were worried about having the pictures tagged on facebook. I talked with the photographer and heard that it happened at a house-party in Sweden as well, people started to talk about their legal rights and that he is not allowed to take photos of them. An interesting development of how social networks is affecting peoples real life behavior such as photographing a at a party. Which of course is good since it is related. Swedish organisations have published official warnings to people urging them not to tag or comment friends on Facebook due to the implications it can have at a later stage job interview etc.

Despite the privacy implications the discussed technologies have it is not necessary bad. The online behaviour today is not always normal and well thought through, and a change in it will be good for people that for example put up less suitable pictures of themself without realising they easily can be found. At the same time are laws sometimes not adopted to the changing society in all and we have seen this regarding filesharing, music and movies…..maybe we will now enter into the discussion of sharing private information.

Mobile Barcodes and the future of Mobile Marketing

•January 22, 2008 • 2 Comments

Online Marketing is taking over traditional marketing but still suffer from the lack of good metrics and measurement. At the same time is Mobile marketing growing promising thrilling opportunities to reach the customer even more direct and personlised. And it is an attractive option if you look how the cellphone is used and present all the time – no need to emphasize on that.

Scott Shaffer at the Pondering Primate talks about "Mobile Bar Code Reading as the Next Technology Wave". He brings up the idea of how billions of hyperlinks can be created over night by just assigning one to every existing 1D barcode on product packages.

CamClic is a strong entrant focusing on helping companies to create interactive communicaiton with their customers via product packages. This is done via the 1D barcode and a java software on the customers cellphone. On CamClic’s blog it can be read how CamClic together with global leaders in the Pharmaceuptical Industry have identified the needs and the applications for "The Real World Web" that will be attractive and a value for patients/consumers interacting with pharmaceuptical products with their mobile phones. The platform for patient "Real World Web" services is now beeing created.

Mobile Marketing and Barcodes are moving into an exciting era now. Several companies are into 2D barcodes – mainly as technology providers – which has alread been adopted in Japan some time ago. Other solutions are utilising picture recognition of product packages and rfid and NFC (near field communication) that enables the phone to act as a wireless reader. The only problem I have seen with mobile marketing is the promise and future possibility but no real practical opportunity that can deliver value today (maybe until CamClic?). 2D barcodes that recieves the most publicity is not standardised and is yet not in the value chain making it a good large scale solution. It has to be put on every product separetly if to be used. And how do you know what reader to use when there are so many different? Another threshold is the mobile industry itself. There is a large amount of platforms and models so applications has to be customised for each handset and network.

CamClic’s idea make very much sense using existing standardised identifiers such as the 1D barcode to deliver content to the user. Using a barcode on a package doesn’t even need any training, everyone knows it can be scanned to get information such as price.

I believe there will be an interesting development of the mobile industry and that we will see a consolidation of platforms; symbian, linux, windows and openmobile. Nokia is as usually ahead of the competition realising they have to move higher up in the value chain offering value added services and content. 

So even if mobile marketing has a great promise I believe it to be more critical to really be able to measure it. Online marketing still has problems because it cannot be measured accurate enough which barely makes sense since it ought to be the perfect medium for metrics and measurement.

Making technology and internet access available: Case Hong Kong

•December 28, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Wireless City

Originally uploaded by Andreas Sigurdsson

Hong Kong is a fascinating city in many ways. Living in Shanghai it is often a kind of relief coming to Hong Kong. There everything is working effectively, it is clean, nature is very close, its international, and they make use of technology in good ways. Google Maps is working great on cell phones, especially using HSDPA with speeds around 3.8 mbps. Metro cards can be used in convenient stores to shop with, and on the bus I even saw people using their watches as Metro cards.

Walking around in the city I ran into two phone booths that offered wireless access. These can be found all over the city and many stores and places offer wireless access as well. They are even doing campaigns right now in taxis where you can plug in your computer and enjoy internet access. Last time I were in Hong Kong there was another campaign offering wireless access in certain taxis.

The Development of Open Social Networks

•December 17, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Google’s latest move announcing the Open Social Project is a step towards standardising social networking online. To briefly explain how it works: by having a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites, developers can create apps that access a social network’s friends and update feeds. So project developers can build a single social networking application for multiple networks rather then the current model of building multiple applications based on each network’s unique API. This will cut down on development time and costs. Companies who already have decided to support it are for example MySpace and Plaxo.

There are though other similair moves, such as Facebook that recently announced their plans license their platform to other social sites. The idea is similair and builds on that developers will only have to write their widget or small application once if there is a common platform for structuring how the applications integrate with site. According to New York Times (source)Bebo has already decided to use Facebook’s standards for its own Open Application Platform, however, it will eventually support Google’s OpenSocial too.

Another one just entering social networking platforms is Cisco. They will offer the Cisco Entertainment Operating System that is a hosted software-as-a-service platform that Cisco will deliver to various media companies in 2008 according to New York Times.

The whole push for standardisation is good and needed. I have myself just started to try out a service called lifestrea.ms, which offers an attractive way collect all of your online content that you create but also from different networks and feeds. You have five different profiles allowing you to decided to what network of friends you want to post what, for example; public, friends, family and professionals. It is all based on standards and integrate perfectly with a bunch of services. I can for example post blogpost to wordpress, update status at twitter and upload pictures to flickr. It will at the same time be posted in the lifestream of the profile i prefer e.g. friends.

I am not fund of inviting people to different new networks every time so that is why I also am hoping on a standardised solution such as openid to enable people to easy join and be part of multiple networks. The open social project where you easily can import your friendlist and details are a step in the right direction but a big threshold is still the need for registration.

Entering the Chinese online market – Case study: Facebook

•December 15, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Entering the Chinese online market has showned itself to be troublesome for many foreign companies. Chinese websites are often blaimed to copy foreign website and to not be innovative. This is of course not true and there are several examples of innovative Chinese webservices tailored for the Chinese market, but what is more interesting is how and why some "copy". To start with, China is of course not alone in copying websites but get most publicity doing it, and I have to say that they though often are a little too good in the copying including the same colours and graphics so it becomes a rip-off. But what really fascinates my is how difficult it is for foreign companies to create a successful webservice in China. A good example is Facebook and Xiaonei. Facebook has become very popular all over the world except in China. Xiaonei is a local copy of Facebook that looks very much the same (rip-off); colours, icons and the whole concept is the same. Discussing – with a Chinese student – why Xiaonei has become so much more popular then Facebook in China I realised it is a very simple reason. The girl I talked to speaks english and she is a member of Facebook, but most of her friends do not speak english so they are at Xiaonei that has a Chinese interface. So the result is that becuase the majority of her friends is at Xioanei she spends most of her time there as well.

Of course Chinese users can also be said to suffer from the NIH syndrome (not-invented-here syndrome) and prefer local versions but just such a simple things as the language can apparently be a barrier. So it looks like this is a costly misstake Facebook did in China compared to how much it would have cost them to just translate it and ride on the publicity they have all over the world.

Entering a new "online" market of course often needs some customization and the battle between Google and Baidu in China as well as Google’s problems to get a foothold in south korea are good examples of this. But such thing as a social network doesn’t have the same requirements and looking at how Xiaonei managed to succeed just compying Facebook’s functionality shows that here it is not a need of special functionality suitable to China, instead just that they simply cannot use it because it is in the wrong language. 

Chinese IM usage

•November 25, 2007 • Leave a Comment

IM (Instant Messaging) usage in China has surprised me in many ways. Firstly, because it is widely used with the dominant player being QQ.com. Most students I have talked to don’t even have an MSN account. Secondly, most companies allow their employees to use it and all over the office can the pling from IM clients be heard. Thirdly, and related to the second reason, is that is is used for communication with clients and customers. Most people prefer it over using the phone. If you work in an ad agency this is the way to keep contact with journalists for example. When hiring people there is usually a cost involved for the applicant to travel to the interview which can be very far away, before resulting in recruitment being done in the area clsoe by. Today instead interviews are done all over China with QQ and a webcam. This is even often done in an open office using writing when discussing sensitive subjects such as terms and renumeration. A very time and cost effective way that shows how they in China always find useful ways to use new technologies.

The professional usage of IM is an example how the way we communicate has evolved from just being email and phone to utilizing many different tools for different purposes such as IM, sms, phone, microblogs, social networks and other applications to communicate, share and inform people around you.  Something companies probably should keep in mind when restricting access to what can be classified as time consuming non job related services.