Archive for the ‘industry’ Category

Proximity Marketing & Proximity Networks

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

I’ve just finished to put some old material together for a position paper titled “Tapping the Mobile Digital Tapestry: Can mobile 2.0 companies make money without being greedy for personal data? ” Of course, my answer is yes: “if companies were to give up control over user data, how they would make money? One promising way seems to be proximity marketing campaigns: distributing electronic ads among co-located mobile users. Companies like HyperTag and BlueMedia are currently working out how to best do so.”

However, to figure that out, those companies need to be supported by research, which necessarily needs real data. That is why it will be very important to collect data of who is collocated with whom and of what co-located people like. Only in that way will it be possible to preliminarily test the effectiveness of proximity marketing campaigns. Hopefully, that will open up a new research area: proximity & affinity networks!

mobile 2.0 and profits: proximity marketing to the rescue

Friday, November 14th, 2008

A while back we wrote an article (pdf) in which we pointed out that, by retaining user data on their Internet servers, mobile web 2.0 companies are not making any profit. In the excerpt below “Unlocking the Tapestry“, we were purposely controversial – enjoy it ;-).  Still, the question of how mobile web 2.0 companies will make money is  open to debate. The conventional answer is that those companies may capitalize on electronic ads. How to spread ads in a distributed way? Companies such as HyperTag and BlueMedia are already offering proximity marketing solutions (delicious). Another good reason to decentralize web 2.0 services!

2.2 Unlocking the Tapestry … (from pdf)


Selected start-ups at Mobile 2.0

Monday, October 20th, 2008

[Cool video on the aka-aki website]

  • aka-aki (Germany) – focuses on Proximity Networking, as in mobile social networking with Bluetooth-sensing capabilities.
  • Dial2Do (Ireland) – Dial2Do lets you do common tasks by just calling a number and speaking.
  • Nimbuzz (Netherlands) – Mobile IM and Text Message Service.
  • Rummble (UK) – a location based discovery tool and social search platform.
  • Seesmic (USA) – a video service mimicking and aggregating your favorite web products.
  • Zipipop (Finland) – a start-up that is developing Zipiko, a mobile service for sorting your social life on the go.
  • Wubud (UK) – Wubud allows you to take your social network in your back pocket everywhere you go.

Creating Social Networks Will No Longer Be a Luxury

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

In early August, the specialized publication Infoworld gave an award to Elgg, a platform for creating social networks, in the category of best open-source software for collaboration. At that time, hardly anyone other than specialists even knew what it was. That remains the case but things could change in the future. Specialized blogs have celebrated the recent release of version 1.0 of Elgg ( as evidence that open-source software is ready to have its voice be heard in the world of social network creation platforms. In short, Elgg provides a content-management solution that lets anyone create and manage their own social network. The fact that it uses the general public license means it can avoid the limitations of proprietary social networking sites, such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace, for instance, which make their own rules for admission and content.


Ubicomp 2008

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Many blogs have been covering Ubicomp and, a couple of days ago, I promised to write down my own coverage. Here you go ;-)

The first day I attended the Automated Journeys workshop organized by Arianna Bassoli (who gave a talk at UCL a while back), Johanna Brewer (whose recent work has been covered here; for more, check her blog), and . The workshop’s format was not  traditional. As part of the workshop, we went out and had lunch :-), and, while doing so, we observed how people in Seoul use technologies.  Then, we came back and, through group discussions and hands-on design brainstorming sessions, we produced  4 envisagements that  critically reflected on technological futures. It was very engaging! I hope other workshops will replicate/mutate this format. I wished I could attend at least two of the  other workshops on offer: Ubiquitous Systems Evaluation partly organized by Chris Kray (I am in debt with him, and he knows why ;-)) and Devices that Alter Perception partly organized by Carson Reynolds.

At Ubicomp, the speakers did not suffer from powerpoint karaoke syndrome, and their slides were generally  well-designed – less text, more images. That is largely because the ubicomp’s community is made of design-conscious (CHI) researchers. Few talks are already available on slideshare.

Here are few papers I personally found intriguing because of their algorithms, their evaluation, or their interesting ideas. At the end of this post, I’ll point to few datasets that have been used and can be of interest ;-)

1. Algorithms

Navigate Like a Cabbie: Probabilistic Reasoning from Observed Context-Aware Behavior. Brian D. Ziebart showed a new way of making route predictions. He used a probabilistic model  presented at AAAI “Maximum Entropy Inverse Reinforcement Learning“.  Interestingly, he showed that the model works upon data that is noisy and imperfect.

Pedestrian Localisation for Indoor Environments. Oliver Woodman proposed a way of  tracking people indoor. Oliver and Robert showed how to combine a foot-mounted unit, a building model, and a particle filter to track people in a building. They experimentally showed that users can be effectively tracked within 1m without knowing their initial positions. Great results! It’s a paper well worth reading!

Discovery of Activity Patterns using Topic Models. Bernt Schiele presented a new method for recognizing a person’s activities from wearable sensors.  This method adapts probabilistic topic models and has been shown to recognize daily routines without user annotation.  One of Bernt’s students had an interesting poster on detecting location transitition using sensor data (pdf).

2. Evaluation

A couple of papers (including the great work done by Matthew Lee)  used a method called the Wizard of Oz evaluation. The general idea is to simulate those parts of the system (e.g., speech recognition) that require most effort in terms of development or to assess the suitability of your interface(see “Wizard of Oz studies – why and how” (pdf) for more).

Flowers or a Robot Army? Encouraging Awareness & Activity with Personal, Mobile Displays by Sunny Consolvo et al.  They designed a system that makes it possible for mobile users to self-monitor their physical activities and conducted a greatly designed 3-month field experiment.

Reflecting on the Invisible: Understanding End-User Perceptions of Ubiquitous Computing (pdf). Erika Shehan Poole detailed end-user perceptions of RFID technology using an interesting qualitative method that combines structured interviews and photo elicitation excercises. Erika and her mates show that, by using this method, one is able to uncover perceptions that are often difficult for study participants to verbalize.  One of her findings: many people believed that RFID can be used to remotely tract the location of tagged objects, people, or animals!

3. Interesting Ideas

Bookisheet: Bendable Device for Browsing Content Using the Metaphor of Leafing Through the Pages. Trash your mouse. Jun-ichiro Watanabe presented a VERY promising interface (a book made of two thin plastic sheets and bend sensors) with which  a user can easily scroll digital content such as photos. The user  does so by simply bending one side of the sheet or the other.

Towards the Automated Social Analysis of Situated Speech Data. To automatically understand individual and group behavior, Danny Wyatt et al. recorded the coversational dynamics of 24 people over 6 months. They did so using privacy-sensitive techniques. By using this type of studies, researchers may well  gain broad sociological insights.

The Potential for Location-Aware Power ManagementRobert Harle showed how to dinamically optimize the energy consumption of an office. Very interesting problem-driven research!

Accessible Contextual Information for Urban Orientation
. Jason Stewart  presented a prototype of a location-based  service with which mobile users share content (see their project’s website)

Enhanced Shopping: A Dynamic Map in a Retail Store.  Alexander Meschtscherjakov  presented a prototype for mobile phones that displays  customer activities (e.g., customer flow) inside a shopping mall

Spyn: Augmenting Knitting to Support Storytelling and Reflection (pdf). Daniela K. Rosner‘s presentation was masterfully designed! She walked us through her expirience of designing Spyn – a system for knitters to record, playback, and share information involved in the creation of their hand-knit artifacts. She showed how her system enriches the knitter’s craft

Picture This! Film assembly using toy gestures. Cati Vaucelle (who keeps a cool blog) presented a new input device embedded in children’s toys for video composition.  As they play with the toys to act out a story, children conduct film assembly.

4. Datasets

Understanding Mobility Based on GPS Data by et al. used GPS logs of 65 people over 10 months (the largest dataset in the community!) to evaluate a new way of  inferring people’s motion modes from their GPS logs

Accurate Activity Recognition in a Home Setting (pdf) by Tim van Kasteren et al. used 28 days of sensor data about one person @ home and corresponding annotations of his activities (e.g., toileting, showering, etc.) to evaluate a new method for recognizing activities from sensor data.

Discovery of Activity Patterns using Topic Models by Tam Huynh et al. used 16 days of sensor data from a man who was carrying  2 wearable sensors to test their method for automatically recognizing activities (e.g., dinner, commuting, lunch, office work) from sensor data.

On Using Existing Time-Use Study Data for Ubiquitous Compting Applications by Kurt Partridge and Philippe Golle how to use data (e.g. people’s activities and locations) that has been collected by governments and commercial institutions to evaluate ubicomp systems.

The Potential for Location-Aware Power Management by Rober Harletested on location data of 40 people in 50-room office building for 60 working days his proposed strategies for dinamically optimizing the energy consumption of an office.


Juniper Future Mobile Awards

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

This year’s Juniper Future Mobile Awards are given to:

  • ShoZu (UK-based) (upload Flickr albums, Facebook pages and personal blogs via picture messaging/MMS)
  • (social network for mobile users)
  • Jumptap (mobile search)
  • Celltick (it allows companies to buy space on your mobile phone’s idle screen).
  • Greystripe (advertising network for mobile games – it  compensates developers for every time their games are played, not just for when those games are initially sold).

Are Social Networking Sites Useful for Business?

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

“To get the most out of social networking sites, small companies should look past the hype, set concrete business goals, then start experimenting”. From this morning’s BW.

The uses vary by application or site:

  • (for both networking and human resources) LinkedIn can be helpful in connecting with people you want to meet for one reason or another.
  • (for gaining exposure to larger audiences) Twitter and Facebook can be helpful when you’re trying to notify a group of people about something you want to promote or about a happening of some kind

Advertise to the Influencers

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Google has applied for a patent for a method that seeks to identify who the “influencers” in a social network are (see related blog post here). This is interesting- the idea of identifying structure and influence in graphs has been around for quite some time, but now there is a money-making application: serve targetted adds to the influencers. Will this affect how innovations are diffused throughout society? This also seems to reinforce a related post (assuming your influence is proportional to how much people trust you): “trust is not evenly distributed.”

Connected We Work – The power of informal networks

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

This very interesting report is about how companies can harness networks of employees to improve collaboration.


The ladder of fame: Few tyrants at the top

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

To write down a decent research statement (one showing a “vision”), I turned into a McKinsey research analyst these days – I’m reading far more McKinsey Quarterly reports than academic papers, and they aren’t that bad! ;-) In a report that dates back to Aug 07, the authors surveyed 573 users of 4 leading video-sharing websites in Germany and found out:


Get Ready to Rummble!

Friday, June 20th, 2008

The very last session of the IFIPTM 2008 conference was a demo session; there were 3 demos run and the one that I liked the most was Rummble is a web site that, much like other web2.0 ideas, has as foundations a social network: the interesting addition, though (and what makes it so appropriate for a conference on trust) is that when you add a friend you can say how much you trust their opinions. You then go on to “rummble” different locations (shops/restaurants/clubs), by rating, tagging, and describing them with a comment. The neat thing is that combining trust, rating similarity, and social distance, the site can then predict how much you will like other places that you have not rummbled, and colours them accordingly. The site is also fully mobile! (more…)

10 mobile social networks to watch

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

It’s a developing field – and there are issues such as hardware compatibility to overcome… But, it’s a potentially very lucrative market (975 million Mobile Web users expected by 2012). Summary of this post.

1. Dada: to update personal blogs with pictures and video, download mobile entertainment, connect with and meet other local singles in real time and stay in contact with all their friends.

2. Strands: to find music andto network with friends via mobile phones. plus, partyStrands (its service for party organizers, bars, clubs and DJs).

3. Itsmy: to MySpace with your phone

4. Frengo: For developers: (1) to extend support for the Open Social and Facebook platforms to the mobile phone; (2) to monetize applications via the company’s social advertising platform or via premium SMS.

5. Twango: (acquired by Nokia) to organize and share photos, videos and other personal media; in the future, to enable users to share multimedia content through their desktop and mobile devices

6. Shozu: to share your videos and photos via your mobile phone – e.g. from your Flickr account, YouTube, Facebook.

7. Brightkite: to keep track of where friends may be at any moment (no GPS required – users can send updates to the service via text messaging or email, to update their profile with location updates, pictures, and notes; 2. a host of privacy settings; 3. Twitter users are increasingly using the network to update friends with status locations sent to their Twitter streams). Cool!!!

8. Zyb: to backup and synchronize your contacts online (store your phone numbers, calendar and texts, manage this information online; transfer contacts to a new phone).

9. Groovr: to post a picture, message, or video to your Groovr profile and have it sent to all your friends too (the only feature remotely unique is a city’s Explore page on Groovr – all of your posted items are sent to the corresponding cities Explore page)

10. Fon11: to see just how far away your contacts are from you, availability status messages, visibility settings and more (could become the hottest mobile social network for the iPhone; already been ported to Android and Nokia Web Runtime with development plans in the works for J2ME and Windows Mobile platforms; GPS remains an issue)

On Twitter’s business model

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Interesting article in today’s Guardian. “Twitter users are increasingly inured to outages. … Why? … every new tweet (a single message) gets written on to one MySQL database; that is then replicated to multiple slave databases, from which all the “reads” are taken” (more).

What Twitter needs is to expand its capacity while making money from those who are using it. … it needs to deter some people from using it – while benefiting from those who continue to. There are two obvious ways forward. Charge the users, or charge those who want to get at the users. The first option is fine – if it wants to lose 90% of its user base (the rough tradeoff any service sees if it begins charging, however little). The second option might look puzzling, but it has worked before, in the MP3 market.

Perst Lite embedded database for Java ME upgraded

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

“If you’re developing applications for Java-ME (J2ME)-based mobile device, and writing your own data management code, you should check out the Perst Lite open source, object-oriented embedded database from McObject ( …  Since coding a database management system from scratch is no easy job, it makes sense to look at Perst Lite before you “re-invent the wheel” of database capabilities for your next Java ME software project.

You can freely download complete Perst and Perst Lite package. Complete documentation is available here (scroll down).” FromTed Kenney (McObject,

The future of Mobile Web 2.0

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Interesting forecast by Juniper Research. The global market for Mobile Web 2.0 will be worth $22.4bn in 2013. Here is their short whitepaperShare, Collaborate, Exploit ~ Defining Mobile Web 2.0