Two travel brands are essentially telling you to leave your laptop home this summer. If you use any of the Google services like Gmail you won’t need it. Why? They’re offering free Chromebooks for their passenger and customer use. Starting July 1, Virgin America and the Ace Hotel will provide the devices to their customers. The idea is that all your information is in the cloud so the device will let you go out and grab it. The Ace has even created an app for the device that provides a field guide to New York.
The U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies has long supported (for the past ~5 years) an online system for pulling area-based employment and residence data using a visual map-based selection tool called OnTheMap. This software is fairly intuitive and fun to use, but can also be quite useful in exploring a specific market or region to understand where workers live and work, and how that has changed over time.
OnTheMap is useful for more than work location, however. It’s a multi-layered mapping tool, with companion data on demographics, earnings, industry characteristics. We’ve also used it to identify exact metropolitan statistical areas and radius ranges, to find transportation routes, greenspace, and tribal and military lands, and to simply better understand a physical marketplace.
For years, organizations like the Census Bureau relied heavily on point-in-time estimates, tables of statistics and physical and static maps for data exploration like this. As new systems come online, are developed further, and improved over successive versions, our ability to access information from our desktops is not only facilitated but empowered.
Last Tuesday Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) led the questioning of Apple executives (among several companies, including Google) about the legitimacy and intent of their products’ location data collection. The hearing was prompted by myriad recent reports of Apple’s iPhones and iPads tracking and storing users’ movements. An Apple executive explained that the software only keeps track of which Wi-Fi Hotspots and cell towers the phone connects to and nothing more.
While many consider the potential pros and cons of this software, two German data analysts have taken it upon themselves to explore the collected information stored on iPhones. The two have asked for volunteers to share each of their phone’s collected data and are mapping out the results in a new project called Crowdflow.net
The project’s website explains that their mission is to “create an open database of Wi-Fi and cell networks and thus visualize how these networks are distributed all over the world.” Michael Kreil, one of the projects’ founders, added that it was simple scientific curiosity that led to the inception of Crowdflow.net. Quite the humble scientist, Kreil confessed he doesn’t know what the data will eventually prove, whether it’s cell coverage quality or whether it’s simply an interesting experiment to see where and when the masses are on the move (hence the site’s title moniker, Crowdflow).
At this juncture, the results are rather preliminary – only 700 iPhone data logs have been gathered thus far. Still, even in its nascent stage, Crowdflow.net is already proving to be an interesting enterprise to some and a cause for paranoia in others. But could location tracking have a positive impact? Advocates say it is an exciting data visualization experiment whose results could make beneficial changes in the business world while its opponents see it as a sign we may be spiraling toward an Orwellian dystopia fraught with intrusions into our private lives. One day, location tracking could prove to be a marketing mainstay; geographically focused advertising based on the user’s precise location in the country – or indeed the world – could streamline the entire industry. For now though, the potential for businesses to utilize this software remains unrealized, floundering in an ethical gray area.
Infomous is a dynamic and intuitive navigation solution – perhaps soon to pop up on websites you visit. Web developers for content-rich sites have integrated word cloud and tablet-style flip navigation over the past few years, but this is a solution that seems to combine aspects of both: reference triggers and dynamic script. The tool is currently available in preview/beta version through a relationship with the provider, but will roll out later this year, ready for embed. More info at Infomous – they have a demo up for world news, a version for sports news, entertainment news, science news. It’s easy to explore and find links to try.
So, as we all know the Google Motion system was Google’s way of pulling one over on most of us, with a few exceptions. As Nick Bilton from the New York Times points out, if we already have the Microsoft Kinect, and other motion detection devices, we are not but one small step from creating a real email motion system with a teachable lexicon of movements.
To learn about how the real guys do it, click here.
Google has recently unveiled a new form of email communication entitled Gmail Motion that may just sweep you off of your feet, literally. This new method of maneuvering through your inbox, writing emails, and updating settings enables you to stand up from your desk and “speak” to your Gmail account using your whole body as a keyboard.
Gmail Motion is still in its beta phase, and I, for one, am curious about the learning curve involved in becoming proficient in this new language. Even if the new system works for some and not all applications, anything that encourages workers to move more during the day is just fine in my book.
I love finding new ways to use the technology around me, especially when it makes my life easier. There might be no better place for this to happen than at the airport, which can be a mire of frustration for many travelers. While traveling this past weekend I discovered a great new way in which the airline industry is making it easier for us to get to our destinations, and I’m not talking about the signs promising new scanners that allow us to keep our shoes on (although I am looking forward to that as well).
I’m talking about the new paperless boarding passes that the TSA and many airlines are now offering. Hoping to pass through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International as quickly as possible this past weekend, I found myself with no printer to print my boarding pass from before going to the airport. That’s when I saw the option online to have my ticket sent to my smart phone via text message or email. With my Droid in hand I cruised through security and boarded my flight, feeling like the most tech savvy passenger in the place.
This wasn’t the only experience on my trip where I used my phone to get me from point A to point B though. The prior day I had successfully navigated the web, found a taxi service, and scheduled a ride, all from my handheld device. Even more impressive was that I was notified the moment the cab was on its way and when it would get there through text messages. Through chatting with the taxi driver I learned that the number of people hailing taxis this way is steadily increasing.
While the convenience of mobile business transactions and documents are apparent to consumers, I still wonder what kinds of benefits (if any) there are for businesses and the environment. Of course this technology allows companies to scale back the amount of paper they use, which cuts costs instead of trees, but I’m interested in knowing if they are saving substantial money and reducing their carbon footprint in the long run. Firms are spending an increasing amount of money to keep up with advances in business technology, but the industry is advancing so quickly it can be difficult to tell where it’s headed. In addition, new consumer electronics seem to come out every other month (how many iPhone versions are there now?), which makes me ask: are we really benefitting the environment by upgrading our smart phones every year instead of printing our boarding passes?
To learn more about the new e-boarding passes visit the TSA website.
For decades Hollywood has been predicting how companies will be advertising to consumers in the future. From Blade Runner to more recent examples such as this scene from Minority Report, the movie industry has envisioned a world of high-tech, interactive and overwhelming promotions crowding our urban areas. In a rare occurrence, it seems as if the entertainment industry may have gotten this prediction correct.
A recent article from ScreenMediaDaily.com showcases a joint interactive advertising effort from Yahoo! and several advertising and technology firms. The campaign consists of large, touchscreen displays mounted at bus stops in the San Francisco and D.C. areas that allow patrons to not only view different ads but also interact with them. So far Yahoo!’s Bus Stop Derby games, which allows users to compete against others over the web, has been a big success. But the fun doesn’t end once your ride shows up, as these games are also available on mobile devices, further engrossing consumers in the experience.
Another innovative advertising campaign comes from Clear Channel Airports, the world’s largest airport advertising firm. The company has partnered with Mirrus, the creators of a “Digital Advertising Mirror.” By installing these mirrors throughout airport restrooms, advertisers are able to “insert” consumers into their ads as they (hopefully) use the sink area before leaving.
These are two early examples of how new technology is engulfing consumers in advertisements on a daily basis. Other recent campaigns have featured eye sensors and new social media applications allow for highly personalized messages. With combinations of some of these technologies as well as new tools such as directional speakers we could very well be on our way to realizing the consumer world that we see in our favorite films.
Every company that sells products online is currently clamoring to squeeze a few extra dollars out of a sale, or just make a sale for that matter, while still maintaining that it has the best deal in town. To achieve this goal, within the online marketplace, what used to be called “price discrimination” has now been softened to read “dynamic pricing” or “price customization.” Online retailers can now legally charge you a different price for the same item than it charges the next guy. The price you receive is determined by your online shopping patterns, types of products purchased, perceived eagerness to purchase, credit card sophistication, and other factors.
This version of price discrimination is fully legal, as long as it doesn’t creep over into more demographic information such as race, age, or gender. These behavioral analytics have become a prevalent and, as some see it, an invasive means of profiling consumers before assigning them a price tag. (You can receive your free copy of Behavioral Analytics for Dummies here)
So how do we avoid being overcharged this holiday season, and beyond?
Here a few tips: First, shop the website from two different browsers and compare prices. Depending on the type of browser you use you may be handed a sweeter deal. Which brings me to my next point; using a new-fangled browser (like Google Chrome) can set you apart in the computer’s eyes and it may persuade the system to charge you tech-savvier shoppers a discount price. Also, keeping your computer cookie-free (which is easier to do for the computer than for ourselves) may fool the site into thinking you are a unique consumer, which prompts it to work harder to grab your attention.
Finally, a great way to pick up some deals, if you have a little more time to spare, is dumping your items into the online shopping basket and letting them sit. When you return you may see free shipping waiting for you, or even a discount, as the company would be remiss to let you go without a fight. And for you desperate few, always remember that if you email customer service and ask for a discount, plain and simple, they have been known to shell out savings on request.
It is a simple extension that makes sharing content a more intuitive part of the web browsing experience. So much of what we do online is tied to sharing and the workflow for this behavior is often complicated, requiring new tabs, copying and pasting, and shortening links.
With Cortex, you simply hold down the mouse button for a beat and a wheel pops up with options for where you would like to share. You can add text to your link, hit return, and you are done.
Cortex is one of those tools that does something so simple, so well that you wonder how it didn’t already exist. Chrome users should check it out.