Monthly Archives: May 2008

Cool Mobile Ads with Augmented Reality

There is a lot of buzz about mobile advertisement, but the truth is that the current Mobile Marketing campaigns based on SMS are closer to spam than to a valuable service for the customer.

Here is a new technology that makes mobile ads a richer experience: Augmented Reality for Mobile

From ink to digital, Augmented Reality links the ads in papers and magazines with a multimedia experience. No software client is required. Any UMTS handset can be used. Advertisers simply run a printed media ad campaign embedding an Augmented Reality logo and a short number to dial-in (e.g. 0800). The user that reads the ad and sees the logo, dials the short code and makes a video call. As the phone camera records the printed ad, the user sees in his mobile screen an interactive video related to the ad (be it a 3D representation of a car or a music video as in the demo clip). The video is interactive, 3D images rotate as the handset moves,  and a menu provide options to choose such as buying the item, seeing more items or redirect to a video call with an agent.

If Video Ad Insertion is better tolerated by users than spam SMS, Augmented Reality offers non intrusive advertisement. This is permission marketing. The user decides his response to the printed ad and dials-in if he wants to know more or simply for curiosity. The user decides.

 

My Next Phone

Nokia must be getting more and more worried.

Apple, a new entrant in the market, has stolen from Nokia the top position for high-end phones in consumers minds. The revolutionary iPhone might not have yet a market share comparable to Nokia, but it is definitively the phone we all dream of. The worst is that people has realized how poor was, and still is, Nokia phones usability, and that hurts their image.

And now Android, without a single unit in the market, is generating a hype bigger than iPhone did before launch. And the hype is well deserved. Watch the video:

If handset vendors manage to get Android units in volumes by end of the year, this is going to be a big Xmas hit!

Touchless Computing as in Minority Report?

As can be seen in the demo video from SoftKinetic, 3D motion-sensing software is becoming quite powerful. Similar to EyeToy in PS2, I would not be surprised if Sony soon brings this technology to PS3 to counter-attack Wii’s revolutionary game controller.

3D motion-sensing, or gesture recognition, could change the way we interact with our computers (think Minority Report) and even more how we control the TV screen and Media Center without a remote. See the LinuxMCE demo and picture what you could do with gesture recognition technology instead of the gyro remote.

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer just previewed today Windows 7 with Multi-Touch, expected to be released in 2010. Multi-Touch will enable an intuitive touch interface, similar to iPhone’s (not to say copied), with drag and drop capabilities among others.

Shouldn’t Microsoft be looking beyond and directly go for Touchless rather than Touch computing? Add speech recognition and gesture recognition and the next Windows could be Touchless and Mouseless.

… or they can also leave the true innovation to Apple and copy later…

In the Clouds

Cloud Computing is a fancy term these days that applies to many different things. Concepts such as Software as a Service (SaaS), On-demand Computing, Utility Computing, Managed Services or even older ones as Hosting or Outsourcing, seem to all fall under the Cloud buzzword.

The basic concept is that the Cloud provides IT infrastructure (processing, storage, database or applications) on-demand, on a pay-per-use basis. The most renown examples of Cloud Computing are Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services. Microsoft recently launched Live Mesh, enabling users to upload files, folders, and sync PCs and devices info through the Live Mesh cloud. Web applications such as Salesforce.com or even Facebook, are often referred as clouds, providing SaaS, and Facebook giving APIs to develop applications. Even the recent HP bid to acquire EDS, has been tagged as a move to reinforce HP position in the Cloud market.

A vivid example of what Cloud computing can represent for an online startup can be found in NYT’s article Cloud Computing: So You Don’t Have to Stand Still.

[…] Animoto, an 18-month-old start-up in New York that lets customers upload images and music and automatically creates customized Web-based video presentations from them; […] earlier this spring about 5,000 people a day were trying it.

Then, in mid-April, Facebook users went into a small frenzy over the application, and Animoto had nearly 750,000 people sign up in three days. At the peak, almost 25,000 people tried Animoto in a single hour.

To satisfy that leap in demand with servers, the company would have needed to multiply its server capacity nearly 100-fold, says Stevie Clifton, 30, a co-founder […]. But (they) had neither the money to build significant server capacity nor the skills — and interest — to manage it.

Instead, they had already worked with RightScale, a cloud services firm in Santa Barbara, Calif., to design their application for Amazon’s cloud. That paid off during the three-day surge in growth, when Animoto did not buy or configure a single new server. It added capacity on Amazon, at the cost of about 10 cents a server per hour, as well as some marginal expenses for bandwidth, storage and some related services.

The example illustrate the opportunities that Cloud Computing represents for entrepreneurs for prototyping applications with little investment. Startups can launch without the risk of being killed by success, as they are able to easily adapt IT infrastructure capacity to their growth. See “Cloud” price lists from Amazon and Google below:

Amazon Web Services pricing in USA:

    Storage
    $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used
    $0.100 per GB – all data transfer in
    Data Transfer
    $0.170 per GB – first 10 TB / month data transfer out
    $0.130 per GB – next 40 TB / month data transfer out
    $0.110 per GB – next 100 TB / month data transfer out
    $0.100 per GB – data transfer out / month over 150 TB
    Requests
    $0.01 per 1,000 PUT, POST, or LIST requests
    $0.01 per 10,000 GET and all other requests*
    * No charge for delete requests

Google App Engine provides 500MB storage and up to 5 million pages per month on the free package. ReadWriteWeb discloses that App Engine price will be:

    $0.10 – $0.12 per CPU core-hour
    $0.15 – $0.18 per GB-month of storage
    $0.11 – $0.13 per GB outgoing bandwidth
    $0.09 – $0.11 per GB incoming bandwidth

The old promise of Outsourcing to convert CAPEX into OPEX is now at the service of the entrepreneur. Clouds can be a true engine for innovation.

Picture: Ricardo Carreon

Phoenix Mars Lander reaches Mars today

After ten months of travel, spacecraft Phoenix Mars Lander will reach Mars tonight to explore the Artic Plain in search of water. It will take seven minutes to slow down from 20.000 km/h, entering Mars atmosphere, to 8 km/h when touching ground.

You can follow the live webcast of the landing on:

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

The webcast is scheduled on the Public Channel today Sunday from 6.30pm to 8.45pm Eastern time.

3G brings Mobile Broadband at last

I just discovered this interesting graph in Brough Turner’s post 3G’s biggest success is as a dumb pipe.

The graph highlights two main points: 1) 3G data trafffic has increased more than 10 times in Finland, and 2) 92% of that traffic is Internet Access from PCs. UMTS modems and Data Cards in combination with emerging data flat rates are making mobile broadband a reality. Another reading from the graph is the comparatively low growth from Symbian devices, mainly due to the poor usability of its handset browsers.  iPhone’s Safari and Android’s WebKit based browser will surely outpace Symbian in data traffic when they reach Finland.

Skype and IMS should benefit from true broadband IP access. Once there is a proper wireless pipe, IMS becomes key for telcos to own the subscribers and provide value-added services. For the users, IMS brings a richer communication, Skype-like, only that this time carrier-grade.

Skype service is absolutely great, but would you rely purely on it as a replacement of your mobile line? Wouldn’t you trust an Skype-like service (with presence, IM, network address book, high-def videocall, file-sahring, etc) if offered by AT&T, Vodafone or Telefonica instead?

 

Wireless Sensor Networks

The improvement in chip manufacturing and new low-power wireless standards is enabling what are called Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN). These networks consist of tiny nodes, equipped with a microprocessor and sensors, wirelessly connected in a mesh network to exchange information and trigger actions.  

WSNs can enable a wide range of applications related with supervision, control and tracking in areas such as military, medical, industrial, security, traffic or home and office automation.  

The nodes are specified to have very small dimensions, low power consumption, limited processing and memory, low data-rate wireless transmission and able to support extreme environmental conditions. This autonomy provides the flexibility to deploy the nodes virtually anywhere without need for any wiring, as nodes can be battery or solar powered. Being connected in a wireless mesh network also guarantees extra resilience if a sensor node fails.

ZigBee is one of the most successful open standards developed around the IEEE 802.15.4 spec, and designed to meet the requirements of:

  • low cost
  • ultra-low power consumption
  • use of unlicensed radio bands with low data-rates
  • cheap and easy installation
  • flexible and extendable networks
  • integrated intelligence for network set-up and message routing

A ZigBee tutorial can be found here. There are different software and hardware platforms to implement WSN nodes.

  • TinyOS is an open embedded OS for WSN, written in nesC, a dialect of C
  • Sun SPOT is a device with a 180MHz ARM core and 512KB RAM, and supporting different sensors (light, temperature, accelerometer and analog inputs). Sun SPOT is built on the Squawk Virtual Machine

WSNs is still an emerging topic but it surely represents an important opportunity for entrepreneurs to create innovative applications. Mobile Operators will also show a lot of interest as many WSNs will be back-hauled by a gateway connected to the mobile network, multiplying the machine-to-machine traffic as more an more Wireless Sensor Networks invade our homes, offices and cars.