Facebook announces new cryptocurrency

This week, Facebook revealed their plan to create Calibra, an alternative financial services system that will rely on Libra, its own cryptocurrency powered by blockchain technology. Facebook is planning to launch Calibra’s first product by the first half of 2020 – a digital wallet app that will also be built into WhatsApp and Messenger, allowing users to buy things and send money.

But how will this work? In a nutshell, people will be able to cash in local currency at local exchange points, get Libra, spend it like its normal money (but without high transaction fees or their identity), and then cash out whenever they want.

To protect users’ privacy, Calibra will handle all crypto dealings and store payments data. As a result, users’ data from Libra payments will never mix with their Facebook data and will not be used for ad targeting.

According to Facebook, Libra is meant to address the challenges of global financial services and promote financial inclusion. For example, today about 1.7 billion adults remain without access to a bank account and $50 billion are lost annually  due to exploitative remittance service charges. With Libra, people will be able to send and receive money at low to no cost, small businesses will be able to accept digital payments without credit card fees, and overall financial services will be more accessible.

However, despite these potential benefits, Facebook’s venture into the financial services industry has raised some concerns. People are questioning Facebook’s motives as well as the usefulness, stability and transparency of cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, given Facebook’s troubled history with privacy breaches, its commitment to protecting user-data and privacy is under scrutiny.

Why it’s hot: 

This is the first time a “mainstream” company attempts to get involved in the world of cryptocurrencies and, if all goes to plan, this new digital currency could fundamentally change global financial systems forever.

Sources: FacebookTechCrunch

How modern life is transforming the human skeleton

Mobile technology has transformed the way we live — how we read, work, communicate, shop and date.

But we already know this.

What we have not yet grasped is the way the tiny machines in front of us are remolding our skeletons, possibly altering not just the behaviors we exhibit but the bodies we inhabit.

New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls — bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer that causes the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure or abrasion.

The result is a hook or hornlike feature jutting out from the skull, just above the neck.

In academic papers, a pair of researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, argues that the prevalence of the bone growth in younger adults points to shifting body posture brought about by the use of modern technology. They say smartphones and other handheld devices are contorting the human form, requiring users to bend their heads forward to make sense of what’s happening on the miniature screens.

The researchers said their discovery marks the first documentation of a physiological or skeletal adaptation to the penetration of advanced technology into everyday life.

Why it’s hot: Should human bodies adapt to technology or should it adapt to us?

Source

Siri Is Listening to You Have a Heart Attack

In the not-too-distant future you may be able to ask Siri if you’re having a heart attack—even if you’re not touching the device.

Because smart speakers are always passively listening, anticipating being called into action with a “Hey Google” or “Alexa!” they are the perfect device for listening for changes in breathing. So if someone starts gasping and making so-called “agonal breathing” (add that to your Scrabble repertoire) the smart speaker can call for help. Agonal breathing is described by co-author Dr. Jacob Sunshine as “a sort of a guttural gasping noise” that is so unique to cardiac arrest that it makes “a good audio biomarker.” According to a press release, about 50% of people who experience cardiac arrest have agonal breathing and since Alexa and Google are always listening, they can be taught to monitor for its distinctive sound.

On average, the proof-of-concept tool detected agonal breathing events 97% of the time from up to 20 feet away.

Why is it so good at detecting agonal breathing? Because the team created it using a dataset of agonal breathing captured from real 911 calls.

“A lot of people have smart speakers in their homes, and these devices have amazing capabilities that we can take advantage of,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota. “We envision a contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby to come provide CPR. And then if there’s no response, the device can automatically call 911.”

Why its hot

What other medical emergencies can be diagnosed through voice products like Siri? We saw the OOH unit that diagnosed dog health issues with their pee. Could there be an in-house doctor that analyzes your health without having to even see a doctor in person?

A Case of Mistaken Identity

With over 20K signatures, accusations against the TV show “Good Omens” are causing a raucous. A US Christian group called the Return to Order has launched a petition to cancel the show saying it presents “devils and Satanists as normal and even good, where they merely have a different way of being, and mocks God’s wisdom.”

Protests and requests for show cancelations are not rare or new. So what’s causing the raucous? The group has petitioned Netflix to cancel a show on Amazon Prime Video.

Why it’s hot:

Brand recognition is EVERYTHING!

 

“Can You See Me Now?” – Introducing Surveillance-as-a-Service

Amazon is gearing up to disrupt another category in the same way it disrupted IT over the last decade*, but its real intent might be to create an entirely new category.

[ * In the world of IT, AWS’s consumption-based business model fueled a game-changing shift from businesses owning on-premise data centers (CapEx), to “renting” the outcomes they need, and using Amazon’s data centers accessed through public cloud (OpEx). Beyond the obvious financial advantages this model delivered to businesses, it also freed up IT teams to shift their focus from “break-fix” to DevOps” – finding new ways of using technology and data to drive business growth. ]

It’s easy enough to connect-the-dots between Amazon’s $1B acquisition of Ring last year, and their patent application for a drone-based surveillance service, and draw the conclusion that it’s all part of a big home security play. Surely a consumption-based model, in which people pay for security in the same way they do utilities, would lower a few barriers to entry and grow the home security category. It would also decrease the need for installed devices (buying or renting them, waiting for the guy to come out and install – between 8am and 4pm), and also eliminate the need to be locked into a service contract and pay a regular, flat monthly fee.

As cringe-worthy as the idea of marauding flocks of “eyes-in-the-sky” might be, a few minutes spent thinking about the potential business applications of this kind of service might make you want to move to a remote desert island. But the question of whether this scares you or inspires you comes down to who’s paying for the service (homeowners, business owners, corporations?), who “owns” the data, and what how they’re using or monetizing that data.

Why It’s Hot: In a world rapidly being reduced to 1’s and 0’s, consider how real-time video surveillance data (possibly with things like facial recognition being run through the cloud), comes together with all of the other data streams Amazon has been cultivating. What do your online purchases, streaming video choices, Alexa conversations, Whole Foods shopping lists and physical movements say about who you are, what you might want and how/where/when you can be reached? What might that mean for marketers?

“Alexa, am I having a heart attack?”

Almost 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiac arrest, but now an unlikely new tool may help cut that number. Researchers at the University of Washington have figured out how to turn a smart speaker into a cardiac monitoring system. That’s right, in the not-too-distant future you may be able to ask Siri if you’re having a heart attack—even if you’re not touching the device.

Because smart speakers are always passively listening, anticipating being called into action with a “Hey Google” or “Alexa!” they are the perfect device for listening for changes in breathing. So if someone starts gasping and making so-called “agonal breathing” (add that to your Scrabble repertoire) the smart speaker can call for help. Agonal breathing is described by co-author Dr. Jacob Sunshine as “a sort of a guttural gasping noise” that is so unique to cardiac arrest that it makes “a good audio biomarker.” According to a press release, about 50% of people who experience cardiac arrest have agonal breathing and since Alexa and Google are always listening, they can be taught to monitor for its distinctive sound.

On average, the proof-of-concept tool detected agonal breathing events 97% of the time from up to 20 feet (or 6 meters) away. The findings were published today in npj Digital Medicine. Why is it so good at detecting agonal breathing? Because the team created it using a dataset of agonal breathing captured from real 911 calls.

“A lot of people have smart speakers in their homes, and these devices have amazing capabilities that we can take advantage of,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota. “We envision a contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby to come provide CPR. And then if there’s no response, the device can automatically call 911.”

Why It’s Hot

Despite the rather creepy notion that Amazon is always listening, this innovation is rather cool. What other kinds of health issues could this predict? As a parent, having a speaker able to predict whether a cough is run-of-the-mill or of the scary croup variety would be invaluable. For health events that need an aural translation, this is one application in the right direction.

Source:Fast Company

The Meeker Report

Image from Medium.com

Every year, venture capitalist Mary Meeker releases a lengthy report on the state of digital marketing. Grab the full report and access an archive  here: https://www.bondcap.com/report/itr19/#view/1

Summary from Medium here, and some 2019 highlights via Recode:

  • E-commerce is now 15 percent of retail sales. Its growth has slowed — up 12.4 percent in Q1 compared with a year earlier — but still towers over growth in regular retail, which was just 2 percent in Q1.

  • Internet ad spending accelerated in the US, up 22 percent in 2018. Most of the spending is still on Google and Facebook, but companies like Amazon and Twitter are getting a growing share. Some 62 percent of all digital display ad buying is for programmatic ads, which will continue to grow.

  • Customer acquisition costs — the marketing spending necessary to attract each new customer — is going up. That’s unsustainable because in some cases it surpasses the long-term revenue those customers will bring. Meeker suggests cheaper ways to acquire customers, like free trials and unpaid tiers.

  • Images are increasingly the means by which people communicate, as technology developments like faster wifi and better phone cameras have encouraged a surge in image taking. More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media; Twitter used to be text-only.

  • The number of interactive gamers worldwide grew 6 percent to 2.4 billion people last year, as interactive games like Fortnite become the new social media for certain people. The number of people who watch those games — rather than participate — is swelling, too.

  • Health care is steadily becoming more digitized. Expect more telemedicine and on-demand consultations.

Regarding the rising cost of customer acquisition in particular, the report cites the effectiveness of free trials or “freemium” tiers of service that can effectively get new customers in the door and convert to loyal subscriptions or users. The other driver highlighted was recommendations – the ability to deliver personalized, curated products and content to potential customers, a la personal stylist companies like Stitch Fix or Trunk Club.

Why it’s hot: It’s worth a read as it’s often a source of intelligence on the client-side, and may help to explain why certain topics of conversation suddenly seem to be cropping up in client interactions. It may help you uncover some blind spots during planning and is a good starting point for hypothesizing with data.

How Spotify Uses Emotional Surveillance for Profit

We all know Spotify’s curated mood-based playlists ranging from “Happy Hits” and “Mood Booster” to “Rage Beats” and “Life Sucks.” But what users may not know though, is that Spotify has been selling access to that listening data to multinational corporations.

Spotify is the world’s biggest streaming subscription service, with 207 million users in 79 different countries. And as Spotify has grown, its advertising machine has exploded. Of those 207 million users, it claims 111 million users are not paying subscribers, meaning they rely on the ad-supported version.

Spotify’s enormous access to mood-based data presents a major value to brands and advertisers, allowing them to target ads on Spotify by moods and emotions. And since 2016, Spotify has shared this mood data directly with the world’s biggest marketing and advertising firms. As of May 2015, advertisers were given the ability to target ads to users of the free ad-supported service based on activities and moods. For example, Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Happiness’ campaign would play when people are listening to mood-boosting music.

In Spotify’s world, listening data has become the oil that fuels a monetizable metrics machine, pumping the numbers that lure advertisers to the platform. In a data-driven listening environment, the commodity is no longer music, the commodity is user’s moods and listening habits as behavioral data. Today, marketers want mood-related data more than ever, to fuel automated, personalized ad targeting. In 2016, WPP struck a multi-year partnership with Spotify, giving the conglomerate unprecedented access to Spotify’s mood data specifically.

Why it’s hot: Music streaming platforms are in a unique position as they hold tons of data related to our emotional states, moods and feelings. As the largest streaming subscription service, Spotify and their mood playlists have become the data-collecting solution for brands struggling to reach skeptical millennials. On the Spotify for Brands blog, the streaming giant explains that its research shows millennials are weary of most social media and news platforms, feeling that these mediums affect them negatively. Spotify is a solution for brands, it explains, because it is a platform where people go to feel good.

Source: https://thebaffler.com/downstream/big-mood-machine-pelly

Forget a Thousand Words. Pictures Could Be Worth Big Bucks for Amazon Fashion – Adweek

Amazon is rolling out StyleSnap, its AI-enabled shopping feature that helps you shop from a photograph or snapshot. Consumers upload images to the Amazon app and it considers factors like brand, price and reviews to recommend similar items.

Amazon has been able to leverage data from brands sold on its site to develop products that are good enough or close enough to the originals, usually at lower price points, and thereby gain an edge, but its still only a destination for basics like T-shirts and socks. With StyleSnap, Amazon is hoping to further crack the online retailing sector with this new offering.

Why It’s Hot

Snapping and sharing is already part of retail culture, and now Amazon is creating a simple and seamless way of adding the shop and purchase to this ubiquitous habit.  The combination of AI and user reviews in its algorithm could change the way we shop when recommendations aren’t only based on the look of an item, but also on how customers experience it.

 

Source: Forget a Thousand Words. Pictures Could Be Worth Big Bucks for Amazon Fashion – Adweek

Other sources: https://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-stylesnap-uses-ai-to-help-you-shop-for-clothes/

LinkedIn Stories: Fail or Employer Branding Dream?

In late 2018, there were rumblings that LinkedIn would launch its own version of a stories feed. Critics believed it was just another platform itching to conquer Snapchat.

Now it’s June 2019, Instagram is the true leader in stories and LinkedIn is still preparing for launch. LinkedIn stories could be a huge fail or it could be an employer branding dream.

Companies have struggled with doing away with the polished workplace culture videos as they try to find a balance between quality and authenticity. Adding a story feature to LinkedIn automatically allows these companies to officially be less polished or well-thought-out while prospective employees gain a behind the scenes look at a company. 

LinkedIn is slated to go live with their stories feature at any moment. Meanwhile, they’ve revised the logo, developed their own custom font and defined a new color palette. LinkedIn is the woman that cuts her hair when she’s overcome a personal crisis.

Why it’s hotter than an IG story from Rihanna: Will this do anything to change the issues with job descriptions or the application process? I foresee the trendy companies using stories as a way to promote new jobs and asking people to swipe up to learn more. I’m unsure if all of these new ways to communicate are making us better or just further complicating processes that could be simplified. Look out for intern takeovers, content from the company thought leaders and IBM dominating the feature with kick-ass content about all the things they create.