Tag: technology

By Mark Bergen and Jennifer Surane for Bloomberg / Fin24 

For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the US. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for.

But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking. That’s because the companies never told the public about the arrangement.

Google and Mastercard brokered a business partnership during about four years of negotiations, according to four people with knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly.

The alliance gave Google an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending, part of the search giant’s strategy to fortify its primary business against onslaughts from Amazon.com and others.

But the deal, which has not been previously reported, could raise broader privacy concerns about how much consumer data technology companies like Google quietly absorb.

“People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online,” said Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

“There’s just far too much burden that companies place on consumers and not enough responsibility being taken by companies to inform users what they’re doing and what rights they have.”

Google paid Mastercard millions of dollars for the data, according to two people who worked on the deal, and the companies discussed sharing a portion of the ad revenue, according to one of the people. The people asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

A spokesperson for Google said there was no revenue sharing agreement with its partners.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the partnership with Mastercard but addressed the ads tool. “Before we launched this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information,” the company said in a statement.

“We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.” The company said people can opt out of ad tracking using Google’s “Web and App Activity” online console.

Inside Google, multiple people raised objections that the service did not have a more obvious way for cardholders to opt out of the tracking, one of the people said.

Seth Eisen, a Mastercard spokesperson, also declined to comment specifically on Google. But he said Mastercard shares transaction trends with merchants and their service providers to help them measure “the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.” The information, which includes sales volumes and average size of the purchase, is shared only with permission of the merchants, Eisen added. “No individual transaction or personal data is provided,” he said in a statement.

“We do not provide insights that track, serve up ads to, or even measure ad effectiveness relating to, individual consumers.”

Last year, when Google announced the service, called “Store Sales Measurement,” the company just said it had access to “approximately 70%” of US credit and debit cards through partners, without naming them.

More possible deals

That 70% could mean that the company has deals with other credit card companies, totalling 70% of the people who use credit and debit cards. Or it could mean that the company has deals with companies that include all card users, and 70% of those are logged into Google accounts like Gmail when they click on a Google search ad.

Google has approached other payment companies about the program, according to two people familiar with the conversations, but it is not clear if they finalised similar deals. The people asked to not be identified because they were not authorised to speak about the matter.

Google confirmed that the service only applies to people who are logged in to one of its accounts and have not opted out of ad tracking. Purchases made on Mastercard-branded cards accounted for around a quarter of US volumes last year, according to the Nilson Report, a financial research firm.

Through this test programme, Google can anonymously match these existing user profiles to purchases made in physical stores. The result is powerful: Google knows that people clicked on ads and can now tell advertisers that this activity led to actual store sales.

Google is testing the data service with a “small group” of advertisers in the US, according to a spokesperson. With it, marketers see aggregate sales figures and estimates of how many they can attribute to Google ads – but they don’t see a shoppers’ personal information, how much they spend or what exactly they buy.

The tests are only available for retailers, not the companies that make the items sold inside stores, the spokesperson said. The service only applies to its search and shopping ads, she said.

For Google, the Mastercard deal fits into a broad effort to net more retail spending. Advertisers spend lavishly on Google to glean valuable insight into the link between digital ads a website visit or an online purchase.

It’s harder to tell how ads influence offline behaviour. That’s a particular frustration for companies marketing items like apparel or home goods, which people will often research online but walk into actual stores to buy.

That gap created a demand for Google to find ways for its biggest customers to gauge offline sales, and then connect them to the promotions they run on Google.

“Google needs to tie that activity back to a click,” said Joseph McConellogue, head of online retail for the ad agency Reprise Digital. “Most advertisers are champing at the bit for this kind of integration.”

Initially, Google devised its own solution, a mobile payments service first called Google Wallet. Part of the original goal was to tie clicks on ads to purchases in physical stores, according to someone who worked on the product.

But adoption never took off, so Google began looking for allies. A spokesperson said its payments service was never used for ads measurement.

So Google added more …

Since 2014, Google has flagged for advertisers when someone who clicked an ad visits a physical store, using the Location History feature in Google Maps. Still, the advertiser didn’t know if the shopper made a purchase. So, Google added more. A tool, introduced the following year, let advertisers upload email addresses of customers they’ve collected into Google’s ad-buying system, which then encrypted them.

Additionally, Google layered on inputs from third-party data brokers, such as Experian and Acxiom, which draw in demographic and financial information for marketers.

But those tactics didn’t always translate to more ad spending. Retail outlets weren’t able to connect the emails easily to their ads. And the information they received from data brokers about sales was imprecise or too late.

Marketing executives didn’t adopt these location tools en masse, said Christina Malcolm, director at the digital ad agency iProspect. “It didn’t give them what they needed to go back to their bosses and tell them, ‘We’re hitting our numbers,’” she said.

Then Google brought in card data. In May 2017, the company introduced “Store Sales Measurement.” It had two components. The first lets companies with personal information on consumers, like encrypted email addresses, upload those into Google’s system and synchronise ad buys with offline sales. The second injects card data.

It works like this: a person searches for “red lipstick” on Google, clicks on an ad, surfs the web but doesn’t buy anything. Later, she walks into a store and buys red lipstick with her Mastercard.

The advertiser who ran the ad is fed a report from Google, listing the sale along with other transactions in a column that reads “Offline Revenue” – only if the web surfer is logged into a Google account online and made the purchase within 30 days of clicking the ad. The advertisers are given a bulk report with the percentage of shoppers who clicked or viewed an ad then made a relevant purchase.

Most powerful tool

It’s not an exact match, but it’s the most powerful tool Google, the world’s largest ad seller, has offered for shopping in the real world. Marketers once had a patchwork of consumer data in their hands to triangulate who saw their ads and who was prompted to spend. Now they had far more clarity.

Google’s ad chief, Sridhar Ramaswamy, introduced the product in a blog post, writing that advertisers using it would have “no time-consuming setup or costly integrations.” Missing from the blog post was the arrangement with Mastercard.

Early signs indicate that the deal has been a boon for Google. The new feature also plugs transaction data into advertiser systems as soon as they occur, fixing the lag that existed previously and letting Google slot in better-performing ads.

Malcolm said her agency has tested the card measurement tool with a major advertiser, which she declined to name. Beforehand, the company received $5.70 in revenue for every dollar spent on marketing in the ad campaign with Google, according to an iProspect analysis. With the new transaction feature, the return nearly doubled to $10.60.

“That’s really powerful,” Malcolm said. “And it was a really good way to invest more in Google, frankly.”

But some privacy critics derided the tool as opaque. EPIC submitted a complaint about the sales measuring tack to the US Federal Trade Commission last year. A report in August that Facebook Inc. was talking with banks about accessing information for consumer service products sparked similar criticism. For years, Facebook and Google have worked to link their massive troves of user behaviour with consumer financial data.

And financial companies have plotted ways to tap into the bounty of digital advertising. The Google tie-up isn’t Mastercard’s only stab at minting the data it collects from customers. The company has built out its data and analytics capabilities in recent years through its consulting arm, Mastercard Advisors, and gives advertisers and merchants the ability to forecast consumer behaviour based on cardholder data.

Ad buyers that work with Google insist that the company is careful to maintain the walls between transaction information and web behaviour, keeping any info flowing to retailers and marketers anonymous. “Google is really strict about that,” said Malcolm.

Before launching the product, Google developed a novel encryption method, according to Jules Polonetsky, head of the Future Privacy Forum, who was briefed by Google on the product. He explained that the system ensures that neither Google nor its payments partners have access to the data that each collect.

“They’re sharing data that has been so transformed that, if put in the public, no party could do anything with it,” Polonetsky said. “It doesn’t create a privacy risk.”

Future Privacy Forum, a non-profit, receives funding from 160 companies including Google.

Google’s ad business, which hit $95.4bn in 2017 sales, has maintained an astounding growth rate of about 20% a year. But investors have worried how long that can last. Many major advertisers are starting to funnel more spending to rival Amazon, the company that hosts far more, and more granular, data on online shopping.

In response, Google has continued to push deeper into offline measurements. The company, like Facebook and Twitter, has explored the use of “beacons,” Bluetooth devices that track when shoppers enter stores.

Some ad agencies have actively talked to Google about even more ways to better size up offline behaviours. They have discussed adding features into the ads system such as what time of day people buy items and how much they spend, said John Malysiak, who runs search marketing for the Omnicom agency OMD USA.

“We’re trying to go deeper with Google,” he said. “We’d like to understand more.” Google declined to comment on the discussions.

By Veronica An for The Hub

Despite being known as the digital generation, tech-obsessed millennials are spending more money on handmade cards and letterpress stationery.

“Everyone says that paper is dying but our experience is that paper is not dying,” said Rosanna Kvernmo, who runs Iron Curtain Press and the adjacent stationery store, Shorthand, in Highland Park.

According to a report by Paper Culture, the average number of holiday cards purchased by customers has actually increased by 38 percent over the last five years.

“I don’t think this is just a flash in the pan,” Kvernmo said. “I think stationery is here to stay.”

Stationery makers and letter pressers agree that millennials are some of their biggest consumers.

“I interface with people a lot and, yes, I can say that people are sending cards again,” said Elisa Goodman, 62, owner of Curmudgeon Cards. Goodman has an online store and travels to various art fairs and open air markets in Los Angeles to sell her cards.

Goodman has been making her unique brand of handmade cards for 18 years and says her message is one that resonates with millennials as well as Baby Boomers. Goodman started making cards while dealing with a difficult time in her life and said that encouragement cards were among the first she created.

“I’m happy millennials are resonating with my brand so much. They really are appreciative of the quality and not price-resistant to the cost of handmade cards,” Goodman said.

Curmudgeon Cards retail for $10-$12 – about double the cost of digitally printed cards. Goodman sells many of her cards at craft fairs and farmers markets across L.A.

Cost still a factor
Still, other stationery-makers cite price as a sticking point with customers. Letter pressers say that the cost of paper and ink have gone up, not to mention the difficulty of working with machines that are out of production.

Adam Smith, 38, the owner of Life is Funny letterpress, got his start at Sugar Paper letterpress in 2006 and purchased his own press, a 1953 Heidelberg Windmill, in 2013. He said his cards retail at comparable prices to digitally printed cards which make them more affordable than most.

“One of my biggest clients is Alfred Coffee so the people who are buying these cards are who you’d expect …millennials with money,” Smith said.

According to customers, Smith’s sarcastic cards appeal to millennials. One card under the “Love” category tagged as #FirstDateWarnings says “I Use A Lot Of Emojis…I Hope You’re Okay With That.”

In addition to letter presses that have opened recently, older L.A.-based companies are also seeing an increase in business. Aardvark Letterpress, a family-owned letterpress in MacArthur Park, celebrated its 50th year in 2018 and owners say that not much has changed in terms of production.

“People are rediscovering [letterpress] and coming back to us…but the economic factors are still an issue,” said Cary Ocon, co-owner of Aardvark Letterpress.

Ocon said the company saw a drop in sales during and after the 2008 recession but that they are currently doing well. Although sales have not quite surpassed pre-recession numbers, Ocon said Aardvark still does solid business with many celebrities, entertainment companies, and governmental organizations, including the mayor’s office.

“I think there’s this reaction to the temporary nature of stuff – most things aren’t even printed anymore, they’re just read and shared digitally,” Ocon said. “I think people realize that this is a whole different product…so much more work goes into it than digital printing.”

Unique feel
Customers at Aardvark agree, saying that they are willing to pay extra for the uniqueness of letterpress.

“The presentation is everything,” said Darius Washington, founder of the D Hollywood Agency.

Washington was shopping for letterpress and foil printed business cards for his clients and said he had heard about Aardvark Letterpress through Instagram.

“Letterpress has that special feel to it. It’s like old cars, there’s something special about the handcrafted effort,” Washington said.

The handcrafted nature makes letterpress and handmade cards ideal for customization.

According to Entrepreneur Magazine and a report by Forbes, customization is a major selling point for millennials.

Specialization works for Goodman, who said she accepts many commissions for Curmudgeon Cards and Aardvark Letterpress has an in-house designer who can make custom designers for clients.

“People want to connect,” Kvernmo said. “There’s something about connecting with paper that’s more special than connecting through text.”

2018’s worst cyber-security breaches

By Lily Hay Newman for Wired 

Looking back at the first six months of 2018, there haven’t been as many government leaks and global ransomware attacks as there were by this time last year, but that’s pretty much where the good news ends. Corporate security isn’t getting better fast enough, critical infrastructure security hangs in the balance, and state-backed hackers from around the world are getting bolder and more sophisticated.

Here are the big digital security dramas that have played out so far this year—and it’s only half over.

Russian grid hacking
In 2017, security researchers sounded the alarm about Russian hackers infiltrating and probing United States power companies; there was even evidence that the actors had direct access to an American utility’s control systems. Combined with other high-profile Russian hacking from 2017, like the NotPetya ransomware attacks, the grid penetrations were a sobering revelation. It wasn’t until this year, though, that the US government began publicly acknowledging the Russian state’s involvement in these actions. Officials hinted at it for months, before the Trump Administration first publicly attributed the NotPetya malware to Russia in February and then blamed Russia in March for grid hacking. Though these attributions were already widely assumed, the White House’s public acknowledgement is a key step as both the government and private sector grapple with how to respond. And while the state-sponsored hacking field is getting scarier by the day, you can use WIRED’s grid-hacking guide to gauge when you should really freak out.

US universities
In March, the Department of Justice indicted nine Iranian hackers over an alleged spree of attacks on more than 300 universities in the United States and abroad. The suspects are charged with infiltrating 144 US universities, 176 universities in 21 other countries, 47 private companies, and other targets like the United Nations, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the states of Hawaii and Indiana. The DOJ says the hackers stole 31 terabytes of data, estimated to be worth $3 billion in intellectual property. The attacks used carefully crafted spearphishing emails to trick professors and other university affiliates into clicking on malicious links and entering their network login credentials. Of 100,000 accounts hackers targeted, they were able to gain credentials for about 8,000, with 3,768 of those at US institutions. The DOJ says the campaign traces back to a Tehran-based hacker clearinghouse called the Mabna Institute, which was founded around 2013. The organization allegedly managed hackers and had ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Tension between Iran and the US often spills into the digital sphere, and the situation has been in a particularly delicate phase recently.

Rampant data exposures
Data breaches have continued apace in 2018, but their quiet cousin, data exposure, has been prominent this year as well. A data exposure, as the name suggests, is when data is stored and defended improperly such that it is exposed on the open internet and could be easily accessed by anyone who comes across it. This often occurs when cloud users misconfigure a database or other storage mechanism so it requires minimal or no authentication to access. This was the case with the marketing and data aggregation firm Exactis, which left about 340 million records exposed on a publicly accessible server. The trove didn’t include Social Security numbers or credit card numbers, but it did comprise 2 terabytes of very personal information about hundreds of millions of US adults—not something you want hanging out for anyone to find. The problem was discovered by security researcher Vinny Troia and reported by WIRED in June. Exactis has since protected the data, but it is now facing a class action lawsuit over the incident.

Cloud leaks pop up regularly, but data exposures can also occur when software bugs inadvertently store data in a different format or location than intended. For example, Twitter disclosed at the beginning of May that it had been unintentionally storing some user passwords unprotected in plaintext in an internal log. The company fixed the problem as soon as it found it, but wouldn’t say how long the passwords were hanging out there.

After the revelation of a data exposure, organizations often offer the classic reassurance that there is no evidence that the data was accessed improperly. And while companies can genuinely come to this conclusion based on reviewing access logs and other indicators, the most sinister thing about data exposures is that there’s no way to know for sure what exactly went down while no one was watching.

Under Armour
Hackers breached Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app in late February, compromising usernames, email addresses, and passwords from the app’s roughly 150 million users. The company discovered the intrusion on March 25 and disclosed it in under a week—some welcome hustle from a large company. And it seems Under Armour had done a good enough job setting up its data protections that the hackers couldn’t access valuable user information like location, credit card numbers, or birth dates, even as they were swimming in login credentials. The company had even protected the passwords it was storing by hashing them, or converting them into unintelligible strings of characters. Pretty great, right? There was one crucial issue, though: Despite doing so many things well, Under Armour admitted that it had only hashed some of the passwords using the robust function called bcrypt; the rest were protected by a weaker hashing scheme called SHA-1, which has known flaws. This means that attackers likely cracked some portion of the stolen passwords without much trouble to sell or use in other online scams. The situation, while not an all-time-worst data breach, was a frustrating reminder of the unreliable state of security on corporate networks.

One to watch: VPNFilter
At the end of May, officials warned about a Russian hacking campaign that has impacted more than 500,000 routers worldwide. The attack spreads a type of malware, known as VPNFilter, which can be used to coordinate the infected devices to create a massive botnet. But it can also directly spy on and manipulate web activity on the compromised routers. These capabilities can be used for diverse purposes, from launching network manipulation or spam campaigns to stealing data and crafting targeted, localized attacks. VPNFilter can infect dozens of mainstream router models from companies like Netgear, TP-Link, Linksys, ASUS, D-Link, and Huawei. The FBI has been working to neutrallise the botnet, but researchers are still identifying the full scope and range of this attack.

By Noah Smith for The Star 

Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist and one of the pioneers of the world wide web, once declared:

The spread of computers and the Internet will put jobs in two categories. People who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do.

Andreessen has since repudiated this declaration, and taken a more optimistic stance. But economists, a more pessimistic bunch, are taking the possibility of this sort of bifurcated future more seriously. As machine-learning technology enjoys rapid progress, more top researchers are investigating the question of what work will look like in a world filled with computers that can replicate or surpass many of humanity’s own mental abilities.

This is different from the scenario where robots take people’s jobs outright and leave humanity obsolete. While some economists claim to find signs of automation-induced unemployment, the amount is still very small, if it even exists at all. With the labour market having reached pre-recession levels, worries that jobs will become permanently scarce have quieted.

But that doesn’t mean the jobs people have in the future will be good ones. For decades, some economists have fretted about what they call skill-biased technological change, or the possibility that new technologies will reward those smart or mentally flexible enough to master them, while devaluing the skills of everyone else.

As computerisation proceeded in the 1980s, and as inequality rose, some economists worried that skill-biased technological change might already be having a big effect. But they probably jumped the gun. A 2002 paper by labour economists David Card and John DiNardo observed that wage inequality stopped rising in the 1990s, even as computerisation accelerated. The authors also noted that the 1980s saw a diminution of the gender wage gap, despite the fact that women were less likely to have computer-intensive jobs.

But just because skill-biased technological change doesn’t explain the 1980s doesn’t mean it will never happen. In 2010, labour economist David Autor warned that routine tasks – jobs like assembly-line manufacturing or traditional office work – were being automated. These jobs use a lot of brain power, but in a predictable, repetitive way – exactly the kind of thing that computers can do better than humans. Autor found that his measures of routine task input were declining decade by decade:

It’s also possible that the “people who tell computers what to do”, and who therefore reap the benefits of the machine age, will not be workers, but business owners. Some economists believe that cheap technology is causing labour’s share of global income to decline. A recent study by Autor and co-author Anna Salomons finds that since the 1970s, industries with faster productivity growth, international patenting and robot adoption have all seen labour lose out to capital. That’s not a slam-dunk case – there are other reasons these factors could be hurting workers, and the rise of capital income could be mostly due to other forces. But this research raises the disturbing possibility that automation will lead to the final victory of capital over labour.

Now the worries about automation-induced inequality have increased, thanks to the stunning rise of machine learning. Since 2013, there has been a surge of interest in this new technology, which allows computers to do tasks like image and speech recognition that were previously the sole province of human brains:

Meanwhile, entrepreneurs and big businesses alike are dreaming of ways to use machine learning to replace a vast array of human tasks, from driving trucks to preparing food. Venture capitalists are pouring money into machine learning startups – often known by the trendy if inaccurate buzzword of “artificial intelligence”:

Economists, true to form as the dismal scientists, are concerned. If machine learning automates away low-skilled tasks, as some predict, it might not make working-class people obsolete, but it could make their existence miserable nonetheless. It’s possible to imagine a future where lower-skilled people are constantly seeing their jobs get gobbled up by machines, forcing them to always be transitioning to new tasks – perpetually seeking a niche that hasn’t yet been devoured by ingenious entrepreneurs and their subservient robots, even as wages diminish. That scenario doesn’t necessarily involve high unemployment, but it’s hellish enough that it should worry people.

So what can be done to avert this future? The popular ideas include universal basic income, a federal job guarantee and subsidies for the employment of human workers. These are all ideas worth trying out on a modest scale, to see if they work; even if machine learning isn’t the threat some fear, they could be very helpful in reducing inequality.

Another idea is a social wealth fund – a government-managed fund or collection of funds that would use tax revenue to purchase shares in companies and distribute the dividends to citizens. A social wealth fund would create a true ownership society, insuring the working populace against the rise of the robots by allowing each person to own a piece of those robots’ output. Ultimately, this seems like the simplest and most elegant solution.

By Billlie Scwab Dunn for Daily Mail Australia

We live in an ever-changing world and now a futurist claims that everyday things we know and love will soon become extinct.

Michael McQueen, from Sydney, believes that time is running out for credit cards, iTunes, car parks, call centres and service stations.

‘This is just the beginning of the changes ahead which will impact how we live, as well as disrupt a large number of industries,’ he said.

McQueen takes a closer look at these five everyday things about to become extinct and why.

1. Car parks

McQueen explained that the think tank RethinkX believe that the self-driving age will see the end of car parks.

‘They predict that by 2027, 90 per cent of passenger miles in the US each year will be travelled in autonomous vehicles and that many of those vehicles will not be owned by the ‘driver’,’ he said.

‘Instead, this 90 percent of travel will be done in driverless Uber-style vehicles, which will make up 60 percent of the vehicles on the road.’

This means once you arrive at your destination there will be no need to park the car as your vehicle may drop you at your destination and then head off to a designated wait area or perhaps even drive home and pick you up later.

Although this research looks at America, if it does will there is a high chance it would trickle down to other countries, such as Australia.

2. Credit cards

McQueen explained that there are a variety of new technologies appearing on the market that will soon make credit cards useless.

One such company who has done this is the financial services Square, who have developed and released technology that will identify you upon entry to a store.

‘Their Pay By Name system detects when a known mobile phone is in range, identifies the buyer, and displays his or her face on a screen so that the person behind the register can simply tap the picture to complete the transaction,’ Mr McQueen said

‘Chinese payment giant Alipay even unveiled technology called ‘Smile to Pay’ in September 2017 which allows customers to verify their identity and ‘pay’ for a meal via facial recognition.’

McQueen explained that there are a variety of new technologies appearing on the market that will make credit cards useless +6
McQueen explained that there are a variety of new technologies appearing on the market that will make credit cards useless

3. iTunes

iTunes burst on the scene in 2001 and it was a service that no one had seen before and has remained relevant for the last 17 years.

This is why people may find it shocking that Mr McQueen believes soon the platform will no longer be in existence.

‘It was recently announced that Apple Music has 38 million paying subscribers, adding nearly 2 million subscribers a month, with more than 6 million trialing the service for free. That’s a lot of people who aren’t downloading music anymore,’ he said.

‘According to both Nielsen Music and BuzzAngle, music downloads suffered double-digit drops last year. And they’ve been sinking for years.’

iTunes burst on the scene in 2001 and it was a service that no one had seen before and has remained relevant for the last 17 years +6
iTunes burst on the scene in 2001 and it was a service that no one had seen before and has remained relevant for the last 17 years

4. Call centres

Using advanced technology to replace humans in certain jobs will most likely save companies money, which is why companies are rushing to implement automated service technology.

Unfortunately for many who rely on it for their income, this includes call centres,

‘By 2020, technology research leader Gartner estimates that AI-powered chatbots will be responsible for a full 85 percent of customer service interactions,’ Mr McQueen said.

‘As Artificial Intelligence advances, reducing reliance on human representatives undoubtedly spells job losses.’

5. Service stations

Many people won’t be able to imagine a world without a service station as the first record of one was in 1913.

Mr McQueen believes that soon they will no longer be around and this will be because of the decrease in people using petrol.

‘The growth of electric vehicles will see demise of need for petrol,’ he said.

By Eric Johnson for Recode 

Starting with its very first episode, the HBO TV series “Silicon Valley” satirized the idea that tech entrepreneurs were “making the world a better place.” But Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said people in his industry really believe that – or, at least, they used to.

“That’s something that I would say most people in Silicon Valley would like to believe,” Stoppelman said on the latest episode of Recode Decode.

“I think we’re waking up to realize a lot of big companies, presumably under pressure to grow and satisfy Wall Street, are focusing more on growth and making money than sticking to some core set of values that are aspirational.”

Stoppelman said the ongoing crisis of techlash is a reflection of some leaders’ inability or unwillingness to commit to corporate values early in their businesses’ existence, although he agreed with Apple CEO Tim Cook that “not all companies are created equal” in that regard.

“In some ways, Silicon Valley as a whole has lost its purpose,” Stoppelman said. “If its purpose really was, ‘Hey, we’re really trying to have a positive impact,’ just focusing on technology and growth might not be enough. You might actually have to make decisions that hurt growth.”

On the new podcast, Stoppelman also talked about Yelp’s years-long feud with Google. Yelp contends that Google has unfairly favored its own local listings in search results, something Stoppelman said the Google of the past would have criticized.

“The 2004 Google — the Larry Page-Sergey [Brin] Google — would make absolute fun of the search results you see today,” he said. “They pointed at Yahoo and said, ‘Look at Yahoo! They’re trying to trap you in their ecosystem. They don’t want you to get to the best of the web.’”

Scrutiny of big tech, he noted, is one of the few political issues that seems to have bipartisan support in the U.S. right now. But ultimately, despite some welcome regulations in the EU, Stoppelman said Yelp is carrying on with the assumption that the status quo is not about to be upended stateside.

“Obviously, we live in reality, and the government is not the speediest at dealing with these situations,” he said. “So we just find our way.”

How tech will shape the world in 2018

A lot can happen in a year. And when that year is 2018, a year in which we stand on the threshold of an exponential future driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, IoT and blockchain, the world may look very different by the end of it than it does now.

It is often productive to take some time in the early part of a year to consider (and imagine) what the next 10-12 months will hold. At the very least it affords us an opportunity to dream big and consider the implications of new trends, products, and services, as well as their underlying technologies.

At best, we gain invaluable insight into how these technology trends will affect, improve or disrupt our businesses, our work and our personal lives, and help us reach previously unattainable goals, progress, (and even distant planets!)

Here are my (and my colleagues’) top technology predictions for 2018:

1. In aerospace, the commercial airplane industry will see cool, new products and innovations. We’ll see the first legitimate applications of large-scale autonomous air taxis and hypersonic aircraft. In space, the journey to Mars is closer than we think. Our own Head of Innovation, Adriana Marais, is even shortlisted to be one of the first humans to undertake a manned mission to the Red Planet. 2018 is set to re-ignite our imaginations around space travel.

2. In the manufacturing arena we will see the use of 3D Printing (or additive manufacturing) and robotics accelerating as companies position themselves to be more responsive, less wasteful and more competitive in a global context.

3. Across Africa we will see agricultural value chains embracing technology as both government and private sector organisations work towards food security for Africa’s exploding population in the face of climate change, water shortages and land degradation. Technologies will be used to help both small and large-scale farmers achieve better outcomes with less impact on the environment and less wastage in the supply chain

4. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will become mainstream in business in 2018. You can break it down into three categories:
a) Advanced analytics and big data plays, where the aggregation of data will enable fresh and deep insights and allow the creation of new business models,
b) Business process automation, where we’ll see a high degree of back-end business processing being done by algorithms, freeing up human resources to be more productive and creative, and
c) Customer experience, where we’ll see more intelligent and personalised layers between humans and systems, like voice navigation and human-like virtual assistants.

5. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, and blockchain will also enable new business models and create new markets driven by start-ups and agile corporates that can embrace these trends and understand the potential value propositions that can come out of it.

6. On the workplace culture side, we’re going to see a significant refocus on cultural aspects of organisations, specifically how company culture and its practices support the needs and well-being of the organisation. Companies are realising that if they don’t have the culture and the practices to support a healthy, productive environment for their workers, they’re not going reach their goals.

7. Design will assume a heightened eminence as companies, with equal and easy access to the latest technology platforms seek ways to establish a competitive edge in the way they apply technology to unforeseen problems and opportunities.

8. One of the biggest stories in 2018 will be cybersecurity. The explosion in software, technology, and connected devices open many new threat vectors, at the same time that the regulatory environment is becoming significantly tougher. Security systems must keep pace in the same fashion. We desperately need to get those protocols and security measures in place.

9. Today there is a “land grab” happening in the IoT space as vendors, large and small, jostle for leadership. SAP’s global IoT evangelist Tom Raftery predicts that the IoT cloud platform market is going to consolidate quickly. “The IoT hype is going to finish and we’re going to move into possibly a ‘trough of disillusionment’ – as Gartner calls it – that precedes mainstream adoption. IoT architecture will evolve from data ingestion and analytics (the “thing to dashboard” paradigm) to an intelligent event-driven solution for end users. Digital twins will evolve from concepts to implementation providing new simulation and decision-making capabilities within and across companies.”

10. We’re going to see companies reassess their strategic technical plan – possibly even stopping some of the roadmaps and re-evaluating options for the cloud, as well as moving forward with ERP transformations and improving total cost of operations by streamlining business processes and technical architecture. “There will be quite a bit around end-to-end transformation and being more innovative and proactive in business processes.”

By Simon Carpenter, Chief Technology Advisor at SAP Africa

At Google, some employees use a tool that restricts time spent on e-mail. A senior Apple executive said his wife used a device that sets iPhone and iPad limits for their children. Members of a venture capital firm meditate before phone-free quarterly meetings. Slava Rubin, co-founder of crowdfunding site Indiegogo, has a strict no-screen policy for gatherings and adopted a similar rule for his bedroom.

“Literally, the only electricity we use is one lamp,” he says.

Faced with a deluge of text messages, social media updates, e-mails and other distracting alerts, tech executives, entrepreneurs and rank-and-file workers in Silicon Valley are trying to limit their use of the gadgets and digital services they helped create. The efforts show how the industry is grappling with its own concerns about the attention-sapping effects of the smartphone age. A survey released on Monday by Microsoft, the largest workplace software maker, acknowledged that new digital technology can make businesses less productive.

It definitely took a long time and much misery before I figured out where to draw the line
“It definitely took a long time and much misery before I figured out where to draw the line,” said Joe Hewitt, who led Facebook’s early efforts to put the social network on mobile phones. Hewitt said he used to fall into Internet rabbit holes, debating people online and scrolling through Twitter. Now he mutes all but the few friends on Facebook who share his interest in gardening, and he rarely posts anything outside the occasional Instagram picture of a homegrown fig or artichoke.

Some employees of Google use software called In Box When Ready. Downloadable for the Chrome browser, the program lets people schedule “lockouts” so they can’t access messages during certain periods. It also hides notifications of new e-mails except for specific periods of time, removing the temptation to dive into a growing backlog. The tool also provides feedback about how much time a person is spending writing and reading messages, versus targets they set. “I’m using Inbox When Ready to protect my focus,” the e-mails say below user sign-offs.

At Facebook, wood-working and analogue art-making areas at the headquarters campus give employees the chance to step away from screens. In San Francisco, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, now running the business software company Asana, encourages younger employees to turn off notifications on their phones. Rudin of Indiegogo only checks e-mail during designated times, limiting his messages to quick exchanges. Anything that takes longer he does in person or over the phone.

No notifications
Alexander Ljung, the co-founder of SoundCloud, says he turns off all notifications on his phone outside of a messaging app that few people can reach. Thomas Meyerhoffer, a former Apple industrial designer, also blocks alerts on his phone and moved all apps off his iPhone X home screen. Among friends and colleagues, Meyerhoffer said conversations about the consequences of modern technology are common these days. Google searches for “smartphone addiction” hit an all-time high in January.

“There is an increasing awareness,” said Meyerhoffer, who now designs surfboards and co-founded the door-lock company Latch. “Every single person from every kind of occupation is talking about this.”

There’s a growing body of evidence about the harmful effects of social media and smartphones, particularly on younger people. A recent report by researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Georgia concluded teens who spend more time online are less happy than those who spend time on other activities. Another report by Facebook’s own researchers last year found people who passively scroll through posts felt worse afterwards. A group of pediatric and mental health experts are lobbying Facebook to discontinue its Messenger Kids app. In Paris, schools are banning mobile phones altogether.

Meanwhile, prominent figures in the technology industry are criticising companies like Facebook. Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook executives, have said the product is addictive and harmful to mental health. Apple CEO Tim Cook said he wouldn’t let his nephew on social media. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff compared Facebook to cigarettes.

The warnings are beginning to reach board rooms, too. Apple investors Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, recently asked Apple to study the harmful effects of smartphones on mental health and offer more protections for children. A Facebook shareholder is pushing its board to create a risk committee that will study the potential financial harm to Facebook if its product leads to depression or other mental health problems.

“The technology industry is reaching the point where they will need to put more resources into addressing the negative externalities of their products and services,” says Jonas Kron, senior vice president at Trillium Asset Management, the Facebook investor lobbying for the risk committee.

When the iPhone hit, you couldn’t stop the stream of e-mails because the devices were always on people
As “mindfulness” enters the Silicon Valley lexicon, the urge to unplug is creating new business opportunities. Digital detox retreats where people spend several days without technology are increasingly popular among tech workers, as is meditation. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, recently finished a 10-day silent meditation that strictly prohibits any communication.

Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein, who helped create Facebook’s “like” button, meditates one hour per day. Benioff has mandated that each floor of the Salesforce’s soaring new office tower in San Francisco have a meditation room, “where employees can put their phones into a basket or whatever, and go in to an area where there’s quietness”, he said in 2016. And for those without time for a retreat or access to a dedicated space, apps including Calm and Mindfulness Daily are available.

Jon Callaghan, founder of True Ventures and former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association’s board of directors, said phones are not allowed in partner gatherings. At the firm’s quarterly meetings, participants meditate at the beginning of every session. He limits phone usage at home and his family has a no-device policy for meals.

Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive involved in the creation of the iPhone, said he experienced the distracting effects of the device almost immediately after its 2007 release. Most employees at the company didn’t use BlackBerry devices or other pre-iPhone smartphones, meaning e-mail was limited to certain times of the day. Messages outside work hours were rare. “When the iPhone hit, you couldn’t stop the stream of e-mails because the devices were always on people,” Fadell says. He thinks companies should block employees from sending and receiving e-mails during non-work hours.

The technology industry needs to own up to the addictive qualities of its creations and add new safeguards that make it easier for people to put away their phones, Fadell said. Apple and Google, owners of the two largest smartphone operating systems, should offer apps that break down smartphone usage — time spent reading and writing texts, in apps such as Facebook, browsing the Web, writing e-mails — similar to how their health apps show steps walked or hours slept each day, Fadell said.

“They have all that data, just give it back to us,” Fadell said. “This isn’t like building a self-driving car, which is 10 000-times harder and costs way more.”

Companies are beginning to get the message. After Jana and CalSTRS demanded action in early January, Apple said it plans new features to give parents more control over how children use its devices. “We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users,” the company said in a statement. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is changing the company’s news feed to reduce mindless scrolling and increase meaningful interactions between friends and family. Google recently ran an ad highlighting the mental health implications of smartphone and social media use.

“These devices absorb so much of kids’ lives and it’s a bit of a challenge to set the boundaries.”

Regardless, many technology industry veterans are taking their own measures. Fadell, whose family has no-screen Sundays, uses a product called Circle that sets online time limits and blocks certain content. The device connects to a Wi-Fi router, making it easier to set restrictions for any device in a household connected to the network. Devices can be disconnected completely during pre-set hours, like bedtime.

“Some families are more concerned about the kind of content they’re exposed to,” said Circle CEO Lance Charlish. “Others may be worried about device time and life balance.” The company has hundreds of thousands of customers and revenue has doubled every year, he added, without being more specific.

One customer is Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer, according to an interview he gave last year to journalist and award-winning author Maria Teresa Cometto.

“These devices absorb so much of kids’ lives and it’s a bit of a challenge to set the boundaries,” Maestri told Cometto. His wife decided to use Circle as a means to moderate their children’s iPhones and iPads, according to a write-up of the interview by i-Italy, a magazine about the country and its ties to the US. It’s unclear if the CFO or his wife still use the device. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Rudin, of Indiegogo, said that if all else fails, religion can help. His family observes the Jewish custom of Shabbat every Friday night through Saturday, meaning technology use is restricted. “My wife will turn her phone and any other tech off for 25 hours straight,” he wrote in a weekday e-mail. “I try to do the same, but it’s not always possible :)”

Source: Tech Central
Reported by Adam Satariano and Selina Wang for Bloomberg

The tech reckoning – and other trends for 2018

Technology is driving exponential growth and mind-blowing innovation in all areas of life, all around the world.

The tech reckoning 

Certainly, in recent years there have been concerns about rapid changes to our culture and questions about people’s ability to keep pace with those changes. But we have now lived with this generation of consumer technology long enough to all begin seeing very real downsides.

– Facial recognition and other biometrics amp up already serious privacy concerns

– Facebook and Twitter have failed to earn public trust. They’ve failed to police their platforms, letting cyber thugs in to divide the nation and affect an election. Not to mention an avalanche of extremist and offensive postings still finding their way online, despite claims of corrective action by the tech giants.

– Tech ethicist, Tristan Harris, schooled us on the addictive properties of social media, and how we are being controlled by a steady drip of “likes” and retweets — just enough to keep us hooked.

– Some research has shown that depression in teenagers is skyrocketing due to mobile phone use and social media influence.

– Alexa and Google Home are always listening—during a party, at dinner, or even in an argument with your loved ones! The possibility that voice data can be used in court as evidence is going to be the next big hurdle for these products. Where does your privacy begin and end?

– The big five – Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple – (FAMGA) have grown beyond all expectations and are coming under increasing scrutiny for all manner of business, political, and social practices. Coming face to face with a world they didn’t intend to create, Silicon Valley has created its own retreat — disconnected from the billions of “users” they court — in order to reflect on what they wrought.

What this means for business

According to Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer, trust has imploded, reaching an all-time low. Their latest report shows that “85% lack full belief in the system, this belief increases vulnerability to fear and further distrust.”

This is the climate we are in now. Brands, business, boards should take note that this sort of disillusion bleeds over into multiple categories putting loyalty, revenue and brand image at risk.

Retail singularity

The gravitational pull of Amazon continues to challenge all of retail as they struggle to innovate and morph to keep their businesses and customers from being swallowed into the void.

– Just when e-commerce looks to be the only channel, “Spending growth at mom-and-pop businesses has outpaced that of the big chains in the past 2 years”

– “Companies using print catalogs, cut through email clutter social-media saturation to help differentiate brands, sustain existing customers”

– Stores are finding new life as community spaces with live events attracting “Millennials focused on connection and community”

– Bricks and mortar are re-emerging from the black hole of e-commerce. Bonobos and Warby Parker opened physical stores over the last year and now Everlane has just announced 2 new stores. CEO Michael Preysman said “Our customers tell us all the time that they want to touch a product before they buy it. We realized we need to have stores if we’re going to grow on a national and global scale.”

– Technology continues to create amazing in-store experiences for shoppers with VR and AR.

– AI is helping us find the right clothing for every size. Among the many new developments is Start Today USA with their ZOZOSUIT that captures 15,000 measurements so you can confidently order the right size and fit from ZOZO.

– Those dash buttons will probably change into auto-replenishment, subscription services will become even more valuable as they get to know each customer better, and hotels are going to be IoT showrooms answering our every need at a mere mention.

– Micro-leases are the new legal offering that will fill empty spaces with new startups, seasonal, or experiential offerings.

What this means for business

As if Amazon weren’t threat enough, the industry-blurring mega-mergers of Amazon/Whole Foods and CVS/Aetna has more than retailers paying attention. Every big brand should be thinking about how they can be the business that responds to the entire consumer journey — or risk being eaten up by a business that will.

One thing to remember about change is that even though technology is the new shiny thing, people are still your audience and their need for personal attention, products just for them, fun sensorial experiences, confidence in their purchases and authentic community will never, ever go away. Those retailers that can keep innovating around those evergreen consumer desires will eventually win out.

By Mary Meehan for Forbes 

Plan ahead or miss out on 2018’s tech trends

Technology is disrupting the world in ways we’ve never seen before, in nearly every industry – and it will irrevocably change the world of work in the future.

That was the overriding message from a recent Business Day Dialogue, held in partnership with Dimension Data and Cisco, on technology trends in 2018 and beyond.

The biggest challenge facing organisations today is the burden of old technology and capability, said Stephen Green, chief technology officer at Dimension Data Middle East and Africa. Companies that have been around for 10 years or more need to digitise their systems or risk being left behind.

Peter Prowse, vice-president of strategic partnerships at Dimension Data, said legacy infrastructure had to be prepared for the journey ahead. Established companies will shore up their technological infrastructure in the years ahead to help them adapt to an unpredictable market.

He said organisations had to plot a route beyond the digital infrastructure horizon. The first step is to implement programmable infrastructure. “More organisations will be considering networking and security requirements in the development phase and programming their applications to take advantage of software-defined infrastructure.”

The second step involves understanding the platform economy. “In the year ahead, businesses will start to recognise the true potential of the platform economy, the impact it will have on their operating models and the changes they will need to make, including digital front-ends and a higher level of risk,” said Prowse.

Third comes a shift in focus from technologies to services architecture. “Hybrid IT is now generally accepted as the model of the future. However, many organisations are far from having the technology in place, so we expect to see businesses future-proofing or upgrading their business architecture.”

In an era of digital disruption, Prowse added, speed trumps cost. Companies are aware of the risk of failing to adapt fast enough and will therefore choose the technology they can use the fastest.

Last, there will be a surge in interest in software-defined wide area networks, with wireless technologies, networks and wireless-enabled processes expected to leap ahead.

More trends to consider
Other trends in technology that will affect businesses are artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, and virtual and augmented learning, all of which will deliver compelling and complementary outcomes, said Green.

These disparate technologies will come together in the year ahead to create useful business applications. AI will drive voice-enabled virtual assistants in the workplace and everyday tasks will be automated, reducing costs and speeding up processes.

Smart buildings will evolve into smart workplaces, and increasingly employees will ask to bring their own devices and apps to work. “Businesses will have to rethink their value proposition,” said Green.

Cybersecurity will continue to be a threat. Companies will start investing in technologies aimed at gaining the upper hand against cybercriminals, including using blockchain innovatively.

During a panel discussion, moderated by Aki Anastasiou, on how technology would affect the future, Tiso Blackstar Group head of digital Lisa MacLeod explained how technology had disrupted the media industry and the steps the company was taking to transform digitally.

She spoke about the challenges posed to business as a result of a lack of digital and development skills in South Africa, as well as the country’s high data costs, which she said entrenched inequalities in our society.

“South Africa has the most expensive data costs on the African continent, which is a huge issue,” MacLeod said.

Commenting on a local shortage of IT skills, Garsen Naidu, head of channel at Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa, said there was a looming global shortage of cybersecurity specialists. He added that South African curricula had to be adapted to teach relevant skills, including teaching children to code from a young age.

Technology offers huge possibilities for the future, and it is how we use those opportunities that is critical, he said.

Giving a millennial’s perspective on technological disruption, Arye Kellman, founder of influencer marketing agency TILT, said millennials did not call it disruption or technology – to them, it was merely the way everything worked.

Source: Business Day https://www.businesslive.co.za

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