posted about 1 hour ago on gigaom
George Washington University researchers reported Tuesday that they have created an ultracapacitor that is both high performance and inexpensive to produce because it relies on a mix of two promising emerging materials: graphene and carbon nanotubes. Like batteries, ultracapacitors are capable of storing a lot of energy in a small space. But they charge and discharge energy much faster than batteries. Once the technology is mature, ultracapacitors could be used in electric cars (Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said so himself) and even handheld devices. Ultracapacitors are made of two plates separated by a thin layer of material. One plate is charged positively while the other is charged negatively, and the material in the middle is responsible for keeping them separated. Graphene and carbon nanotubes, which are made of sheets of carbon atoms, are capable of transmitting electrons at super high speeds. As a result, lots of research teams have studied them for use as the divider in ultracapacitors. But after discovering an affordable way to produce large batches of mixed graphene and carbon nanotubes, the George Washington team decided to test them together. They made an ink out of the mix (pictured above) and rolled it onto paper. The resulting divider performed three times better than carbon nanotubes on their own. Other materials have achieved the same performance, but the George Washington team’s mix is relatively cheaper.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The next generation of battery technologyReport: An Open Source Smart Grid Primer

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posted about 6 hours ago on gigaom
By now, the list of social-media failures has grown so long that it’s difficult to keep track, but there are some standouts — like Kenneth Cole and his Egypt tweets, or failed attempts at engagement by brands like McDonald’s and JP Morgan. Now we have another shining example of the genre, thanks to the New York Police Department, which decided to reach out to some of its fans and encourage them to share photos of themselves with members of the force. The result was a blizzard of anti-police sentiment attached to the #myNYPD hashtag. The initial photo posted by the department was friendly enough: it featured two smiling officers flanking an equally happy member of the public, with a message that asked followers to post pictures with the hashtag for use on the NYPD’s Facebook page. But what followed likely wasn’t what the force had in mind. Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook. http://t.co/mE2c3oSmm6— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 22, 2014 One of the most retweeted responses was from the Occupy Wall Street account, which said that the photo depicted how the NYPD “engages with its community members, changing hearts and minds one baton at a time.” Here the #NYPD engages with its community members, changing hearts and minds one baton at a time. #myNYPD http://t.co/GErbiFFDvY— Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallStNYC) April 22, 2014 Other popular items showed officers pulling the hair of protesters, forcibly restraining others and apparently driving a motorcycle over a wounded man: The #NYPD will also help you de-tangle your hair. #myNYPD http://t.co/nrngQ1bOWv— Cocky McSwagsalot (@MoreAndAgain) April 22, 2014 NYPD officers are known worldwide for their timely and hands-on response to citizen grievances. http://t.co/wuJ8uicGgE #myNYPD— Stop The Wars (@sickjew) April 22, 2014 "And we're going to have to run you over, just for good measure." #myNYPD http://t.co/q6JMNAajxb— Casey Aldridge (@CaseyJAldridge) April 22, 2014 You might not have known this, but the NYPD can help you with that kink in your neck. #myNYPD http://t.co/fzUok1FWXG— Cocky McSwagsalot (@MoreAndAgain) April 22, 2014 Need a mammogram? #myNYPD has you covered! Forget Obamacare! http://t.co/Fusv3WhiRZ— आनिल् (@guru0509) April 22, 2014 As digital-media veteran Dan Gillmor noted, the NYPD hashtag failure was a classic example of not understanding how social media works — and in particular, the speed with which a hashtag or other social trend can be overtaken by less-favorable elements. And now the exercise has become another example of what not to do. So, #MyNYPD in a nutshell: NYPD crowdsources imagery of its' own police brutality on Twitter, if unwittingly :p— Asteris Masouras 正义 (@asteris) April 22, 2014 The NYPD later released a statement saying that the department was trying to create new ways to communicate effectively with the community, and that it was aware that Twitter provides an “open forum for an uncensored exchange” and that the open dialogue was “good for our city.” Post and photo thumbnail courtesy of Pond5 / CienpiesRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.How mobile will disrupt the living room in 2014How LinkedIn is evolving its media businessNoteworthy mobile developments from the third quarter 2013

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posted about 9 hours ago on gigaom
  The internet of things doesn’t exist today. We’re conflating the ease and ubiquity of the internet and the web with things that range from thermostats to jet engines. There is no common language. There is no common hardware. There isn’t even a common sense of why we want to connect all these things. That’s the input from Peter Semmelhack, the CEO and co-founder of Bug Labs, a company that builds connected products. Semmelhack is on the show to discuss what’s missing from the internet of things and how he thinks “things” will migrate online. He’s also discussing his vision for a technology stack for the internet of things. We focus on a tool for getting devices online called Dweet.io and Freeboard, a dashboard that will launch later on Tuesday. You can get the scoop here first, while getting a somewhat contrarian viewpoint about the future of connected homes, businesses and cities. Listen up. Host: Stacey Higginbotham Guests: Peter Semmelhack, CEO and cofounder of Bug Labs. What’s holding up the internet of things? Is this the Dropbox moment for IoT when connecting devices becomes easy? What does the IoT stack look like? A bit about Dweet, Freeboard and connected whiskey distilleries. Internet of Things Show RSS Feed Subscribe to this show in iTunes Download This Episode PREVIOUS IoT PODCASTS: Drones 101 and why your August smart lock hasn’t shipped just yet What would you do with $100M? We talk to Prodea about connecting the world Let’s get industrial data online, and moving the connected home Dude, where’s my car? Plus a tour through a Savant home Cooking with the internet of things and the coming wave of dumb “smart” devices Another take on wireless power and the cool IoT stuff at SXSW Will the smartphone eat the fitness tracker market? RunKeeper’s CEO says yes. Overclock your car and hack the Google Glass prescription limitations How do you bring the internet of things to the consumer? Two perspectives. The internet of things is a developer nightmare … and opportunity Podcast: Meet Skynet, an open source IM platform for the internet of things Supporting a connected home is about education, not troubleshooting Does your coffee machine need its own domain name? Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Gigaom Research predictions for 2014The Internet of things: creating tomorrow’s health careHow to utilize cloud computing, big data, and crowdsourcing for an agile enterprise

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posted about 10 hours ago on gigaom
AT&T appears to have a hit on its hands with its new Next upgrade program. It had 2.9 million Next smartphone sales in the first quarter, accounting for 40 percent of the smartphones it sold or upgraded. And despite the fact the program only launched in July, AT&T upgraded 1.1 million customers to new devices in the quarter, letting them take advantage of accelerated payment programs or other promotions. As we’ve argued in the past, upgrade programs aren’t quite the deals that carriers make them out to be. Basically customers are trading in the subsidy they’d normally receive for signing a new two-year contract for the full cost of the device, with the option to trade in once you’ve made the requisite number of payments. AT&T, however, has made the program much more fair by charging customers on Next (or any off-contract customer) lower monthly rates than it would its contract customers.   Apparently those customers like what they see. AT&T added more 1 million net new subscribers in what is usually a lackluster post-holiday quarter. The mix of new customers wasn’t as smartphone heavy as AT&T has seen in the past, but of its 625,000 postpaid net additional customers (customers not on a pay-as-you-go plan, but not necessarily on contract), 311,000 were smartphones. But as in previous quarters, Ma Bell was able to make up for slowing smartphone growth by adding new slate customers. New tablet connections actually exceeded new smartphone connections at 313,000 net additions. AT&T also saw a smartphone boost in its prepaid business of 255,000 net additions. The move to Next and other no-contract plans is providing a lot of benefits for AT&T. Since it’s not subsidizing so many devices, it’s starting to book a quickly increasing revenue stream from monthly device installments. AT&T said its equipment revenue was up 50 percent from last year, while its service revenue was up only 2.2 percent. And while these customers aren’t technically on contract, they’re still on the hook for their device payments and can’t flee to other carriers (though T-Mobile is trying to entice them by offering to pay off their debts). The percentage of customers AT&T lost to other carriers stayed the same as last year. The faster upgrade cycles also mean AT&T is moving its customers more quickly onto more advanced — and more data hungry — devices. Of the 53 million smartphones on AT&T’s network, 57 percent are now LTE handsets, and 46 percent of its customers have migrated over to shared data plan of 10 GBs or larger. AT&T posted a profit of $3.7 billion for the quarter off of $32.5 billion in revenues. It now has 116 million total subscribers.    Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Why LTE in the iPhone mattersIn Q3, the Tablet and 4G Were the Big StoriesGigaom Research predictions for 2014

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posted about 10 hours ago on gigaom
Promising to reinvent preventative medicine by bringing genomic data, medical research and connected devices together in a single platform, a startup called BaseHealth launched on Tuesday. The company, which has raised $6.3 million from a group of investors led by RONA Holdings and Bobby Yazdani, hopes a personalized and predictive approach to will help patients identify their prospective problems and then take the right steps to prevent them. The way its platform (called Genophen) works is to combine patients’ lifestyle data, genetic data and medical records to get a sense of what risk factors someone has and suggest how they might prevent them. It can identify more than 40 “common complex” diseases (e.g., Type II diabetes, heart disease or breast cancer) from the genetic analysis, while the other data will typically provide a multiplier effect. Smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, for example, would increase someone’s chance of developing diabetes beyond their natural hereditary risk. The real key to Genophen, though, it its ability to help patients figure out what they can do to mitigate their chances of developing the illnesses for which they’re at risk. It tells them the total risk reduction if they optimized every aspect of their lifestyles, or can answer “what if” questions, such as what the effect of losing 20 pounds might be. Genophen get as specific as how someone’s genetics will affect specific drug or food choices. Right now, patients can enter information as they work through their wellness plans, but they can automate some aspects via an API integration with Fitbit. However, BaseHealth CTO Prakash Menon said, “[We're] trying to find a device for every risk factor we can think of.” The easier and more accurate it is for patients to share their information with their doctors, the more effective the platform will be at reassessing their risk. He noted the Withings scale as another device with which the company plans to integrate, but also said it will be difficult to find devices for difficult-to-measure factors such as sleep position. One thing that sets BaseHealth apart from other recent personalized medicine startups, such as 23andme and anything available via an app store, is that it’s only accessible through a doctor. There are probably some financial reasons for this (i.e., doctors will pay for it), but also some practical ones. When we’re talking about potentially life-threatening conditions, it’s probably best to have a trained professional interpret the results and explain what they mean. One does have to wonder, though, for how long that will be the case. The advent of cheap genome sequencing and analysis, advances in machine learning (even the ability to access IBM’s vaunted Watson technology via API), and an increased acceptance of crowdsourcing and on-demand services — even in fields such as law — seem to suggest that accurate straight-to-consumer medical advice might not be too far off. One thing BaseHealth definitely gets right, though, is its promise to remain prudent when it comes to reading insights into the data the Genophen generates. Menon said the company does plan to analyze data around risk factors, treatment plans and outcomes to identify correlations, but no findings will be rolled into the platform’s models until the findings have been through a peer-review process. “People here are scientists first,” he said, “and we tend to be very conservative about how we use data.” Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user kentoh.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Connected world: the consumer technology revolutionIs the 3D printing market a hype, a hope, or a threat?How big data analytics drives competitive advantage

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posted about 10 hours ago on gigaom
Good news for Roku users: The YouTube channel, which first launched on the Roku 3 in December, is now available on all “current-generation devices,” according to a post on the Roku blog, which also lists an exact list of all models that can now access YouTube. All of these devices also support DIAL, which makes it possible to send YouTube videos from your mobile device to your Roku, Chromecast-style.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.A look back at this year’s CES and what it means for tech in 2014Smart TV forecast: gigabit Wi-Fi in the living roomWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPG

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posted about 11 hours ago on gigaom
Bug Labs, a consulting and design firm behind a of a variety of connected devices and services, is sick of the fragmented nature of the internet of things. So it has created a technology toolset to help tie different devices together and make playing with connected hardware a little easier. The first tool, Dweet was launched in February and lets you insert a bit of code onto a device to start tracking it. The second tool, launched Tuesday, is called Freeboard, and it takes the data streams of Dweet and lets you assemble them in a visual way on a dashboard. According to Peter Semmelhack (pictured on the far left, above), the CEO and co-founder of Bug Labs, the idea is to help push the internet of things to its “Dropbox moment,” when it becomes so easy for people to use a new technology it becomes mainstream. “Dropbox didn’t invest online storage, it just made it easy for people to do it,” Semmelhack says in a podcast I recorded with him. That’s the goal with the Bug Labs approach here. A freeboard screenshot. If we want the internet of things to move beyond disparate connected devices into some type of gestalt ideal — where devices from different industries or ecosystems can connect and share information — we need some powerful software to link it together. This is not a new idea. Efforts like Skynet are trying to make it easy for devices to talk to each other, while projects like Node.red from IBM are offering visual ways of interacting with thing data. Outside of these more modular approaches, there are a network of cloud providers from Axeda to Xively trying to provide all of these services in one cloud-hosted platform. But Semmelhack thinks modularity is the way to go here, given how fragmented the market already is. Some cloud platforms sync to specific hardware, while the data you want might be spread across a variety of clouds with different licensing terms. So you can use one element of the Bug Labs toolset and ignore the others. And there will be others: Next month or so he hopes to launch another tool focused on setting alerts and actions based on what the data resulting from Freeboard shows. Another important element for Bug Labs was that the platform be free to use. So much like the GitHub model, Bug lets people use the services for free and charges when companies want to make the data private. Semmelhack believes that while companies are experimenting with connected device projects, this model will help reduce friction in getting people to try things out, but it will also let people learn from the mistakes of others. My laptop sharing my location and where the mouse is. As an IoT project becomes more strategic or worth something, then businesses can pay to keep the data private. For now, you can check out some of the projects available on the Dweet or Freeboard sites, such as a connected whiskey still that’s running 24/7 thanks to the ability to monitor the temperature and other parameters needed. Semmelhack also used an example of a landlord using the service to bring connected gadgets inside of rental properties online so she could monitor important aspects of her properties — from electricity use to leaks. As products go this is surprisingly easy to play with — even for me, a non-coder. I simply opened up Dweet.io in my phone’s browser and started broadcasting. My handset showed up as a device available for mapping on Freeboard and I could see where I was on a map and track the phone’s accelerometer so you could see if I was moving around. IT was a bit creepy. But for monitoring a sensor or something, all I have to do is grab the code from Dweet and plug it into an Arduino or onto the application I might use with a sensor and those devices can start reporting. Granted, Semmelhack’s target audience isn’t necessarily the DIY crowd playing with connected gadgets in their homes, but for R&D groups and makers who are trying to build out cool stuff without having to invest in a lot of technical know how or in a systems integrator to make an IoT pilot project. He’s not alone in this mission, but I like what he has to offer and am curious how the business model behind it evolves.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The internet of things: a market landscapeHow to utilize cloud computing, big data, and crowdsourcing for an agile enterpriseThe influence of M2M data on the energy industry

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posted about 11 hours ago on gigaom
The next time you call your cable company to complain about paying $100 a month for hundreds of channels, get ready for them to agree. That’s because pay TV operators are starting to realize that not all customers are created equal, and that some might be much better served with content that has traditionally been ignored by TV networks. Case in point: AT&T, which operates its own TV service as part of its Uverse offering, just agreed to jointly invest $500 million with the Chernin Group into a new venture that will acquire, invest in and launch online video services. Some of these services will be ad-supported, while others will be subscription-based. AT&T and the Chernin Group didn’t offer additional details about the types of content they’re looking at, but a good indicator is that the Chernin Group contributed its newly-acquired majority stake in Crunchyroll to the new venture. Same-day access to Japanese TV shows Crunchyroll, which we have covered numerous times before on Gigaom, has become the premier service for Japanese anime content in the U.S., offering anime fans ad-supported episodes as well as a subscription tier that comes with same-day access. Crunchyroll subscribers can watch episodes of their favorite anime shows just hours after they air on Japanese television through a variety of apps for mobile and connected devices. Crunchyroll recently branched out with the launch of KDrama, a new subscription offering for Korean dramas, and Crunchyroll founder Kun Gao has long said that he wants to expand into other content niches as well. “There is a huge demand for hyper-targeting users of other verticals,” he told me two years ago, when Crunchyroll announced 100,000 paying subscribers for its service. Crunchyroll, and competitors like Viki and DramaFever, have also highlighted another advantage of the niche: Content is oftentimes much cheaper than the TV shows Netflix and Amazon are competing for, while still highly valuable to certain audiences. Crunchyroll and its competitors license Anime and Korean dramas only for use outside of their home markets, giving broadcasters in Japan and Korea another way to monetize their content. The same could be done with domestic content that hasn’t gotten enough traction on cable, like college sports events other than basketball, other other niche sports like fly fishing, dressage or even competitive cycling. Other audiences could include Spanish-speaking viewers or other minorities underserved by traditional broadcast programming. Competing with Comcast, billing through mobile For AT&T, there is another upside in going for the niche: The phone company’s Uverse network still isn’t available in all markets, and it often competes heads-on with TV and triple-play offerings from Comcast and other cable companies. With niche video services, it could reach every consumer, regardless of their broadband provider, and even use its wireless service for marketing and payment services. The idea that TV operators would one day move beyond their physical footprint and compete directly with streaming services has long been framed in the terms of virtual cable operators that would offer consumers complete bundles of everything from ABC to HBO, something that Intel Media tried with its OnCue service. But increasingly, it looks like operators may be looking to the niche to make their first moves. Aside from AT&T, DirecTV has also started to investigate niche online programming, and there have been persistent rumors that Comcast is looking to launch niche online offerings as well. In other words: The future of pay TV could be about paying for TV you actually want to watch.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Note: Telco Strategies for Over-the-Top VideoWhat first-quarter 2014 meant for the mobile spaceWhat the fourth-quarter 2014 meant for tech buyers

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posted about 11 hours ago on gigaom
Advertising can ultimately define the user experience. It can underpin the whole look and feel of a service. It’s about combining the quality and creativity seen in organic content with the commercial aspects of paid-for marketing. It has the potential to once again be an artistic feature if done transparently and responsibly. This means designing ads that are intuitive, not intrusive. At WeTransfer, we are using native content to build better relationships with our users, not destroy them. We do this by partnering with some of the world’s most recognized brands and exciting creative minds. This allows us deliver beautiful content, whether it’s paid for or not. Perhaps this is why our clickthrough rates (anywhere up to 2 percent) are so much higher than the industry standard. Our service is designed to intrigue consumers, not interrupt them. The advertising, in the form of full-screen images and videos, is designed to improve the experience of our users. They add relevance, experience and creativity to our platform. Next to advertising we offer 50 percent of our ad inventory to young creatives free of charge. This means we are not entirely reliant on marketers to produce content for our platform. We seek the most exciting and relevant content for our users. This in turn heightens the creativity and quality of paid advertising. For us, supporting both advertisers and the creative people who would use our service is intuitive. We are building an ecosystem that will ultimately strengthen our brand, not damage it.

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posted about 12 hours ago on gigaom
Motorola Mobility moved into its new corporate headquarters in February, but on Tuesday it held its grand unveiling, opening up its four floors of Chicago’s historic and imposing Merchandise Mart to media and other visitors. The event was big on local dignitaries like Chicago’s colorful mayor Rahm Emanuel and largesse (Motorola donated $150,000 to Chicago libraries for its maker lab program). There were surprisingly few mentions of Google — Motorola’s current corporate parent — and absolutely none of Lenovo, which is attempting to buy Mobility for $2.91 billion. Mainly, the event was intended to celebrate Chicago’s emerging tech sector. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking at Motorola’s opening event You have to forgive Chicago its tech boosterism because, frankly, this is a big deal for the Windy City. Motorola is Chicago’s wayward son. It was founded 80 years ago here, and for much of its history it was a dominant force in the telecommunications industry, even creating the first cellular phone. But for half that time, Motorola wasn’t actually in the city of Chicago. It followed the paths of white flight to suburbs like Schaumburg, Arlington Heights and Libertyville where, for a time, it earned its fortunes at the top of mobile handset heap. A typical work space in Motorola’s new home It’s a bit ironic that the Motorola returning to Chicago is a shadow of its former self. Its networking and device divisions have been diced up into different companies or sold off. The Motorola Mobility taking up residence in Chicago isn’t even an independent company; instead, it’s 2,000 employees on Google’s payroll. It long ago lost its leading role in handsets to Nokia, which in turn succumbed to the likes of Samsung and Apple. The lobby A break room with Chicago’s “L” train map used as information display But I think I speak for most Chicagoans when I say “we’ll take it.” In a city that’s more known for Teamsters than programmers, Motorola brings mobile engineering credibility back to the city. As Mayor Emanuel hopes, its presence might even encourage tech workers from Illinois’s big engineering universities to stay in the Midwest, rather than flee to Silicon Valley. Detail of the light wall in Motorola’s new lobby Motorola’s giant anechoic chamber, basically a shielded room where engineers can test radio technologies without interference. Motorola is also intended to serve as an anchor for Chicago’s big tech real estate project. The Merchandise Mart was once the largest mercantile showroom in the country, bringing in wholesalers from all over the world to its massive art deco floor spaces. Those merchants are now largely gone, and the Merch Mart is trying to reinvent itself as a gigantic tech hive. Chicago’s tech hub 1871 was already located there, and Motorola has taken over the building’s top four floors, totaling 600,000 square feet. The imposing Merch Mart. Motorola occupies the top four stories (source: Flickr / HarshLight) Motorola took over the top of the Merch Mart giving it rooftop access Of course, the big elephant in the room is what will happen when Lenovo takes over. Unlike Google, Lenovo has a big mobile phone business of its own, and it happens to be based in China. Luckily for Motorola and Chicago, Lenovo’s mobile business is largely overseas, while Motorola’s focus remains in the U.S. Motorola’s architecture firm Gensler punched through the ceilings of the 18th and 19th floor to create a central gathering area. This way to the elevators Machine shop complete with MakerBots All photos by Gigaom / Kevin Fitchard except where noted  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What first-quarter 2014 meant for the mobile spaceA look back at the first quarter of 2014Applying lean startup theory in large enterprises

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posted about 12 hours ago on gigaom
YouTube’s most popular creators bring in millions of views. Their audience is young, and should be every marketer’s dream. However, their content has yet to draw the kind of ad rates that will be sustainable in the long-term, which is why during next week’s NewFronts, YouTube is going to highlight thousands of selected channels to potential advertisers. The question is: How many of these are native YouTubers, and what does this selection tell us about the future of YouTube? As reported by Tubefilter and the Wall Street Journal, YouTube has curated a selection of channels  that represent the top five percent of YouTube across fourteen categories: Anime/Teen Animation Beauty Cars Comedy Entertainment/Pop Culture Family Food Music News Science Sports Technology Video Games Wellness The “Google Preferred” initiative, as it’s known, will showcase for advertisers exactly what kind of content they’re buying ads against, and also reserve space for advertisers who commit to buying into top shows. It’s also promised access to a highly desirable demographic — from the Journal: Ad buyers say YouTube has been making presentations to advertisers with comparisons of the audience makeup of YouTube versus the makeup of audiences of cable networks such as ABC Family. These comparisons showed that YouTube reached more people in highly coveted demographics, such as people aged 18 to 34, than many high-profile cable channels. The range of content — from online video mainstays like The Young Turks to the official channels for The Ellen Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live to nearly any popular beauty vlogger you might care to mention — is massive. Using Tubefilter’s list of 400+ channels, which reflect the top one percent of channels involved, I went category by category to see how many came from YouTube-grown talent. The results were a pleasant surprise — with a few exceptions, the split tended to lean towards the YouTuber side. The categories that were dominated by outside brands weren’t too surprising. Music does showcase some artists who developed audiences through YouTube, including Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix, but the majority of the channels come from pre-established artists and record labels. Sports also shows a reliance on pre-existing brands, though it did feature a few YouTubers with unique takes on the genre, such as DevinSuperTramp and Dude Perfect. And the majority of the News category is dominated by channels for long-standing journalism mainstays like Vice, ABC News, the Associated Press and the New York Times. Even The Young Turks, which has become a true YouTube success story, was originally born as a talk radio show. The trend I observed — if a category had clearly defined roots in traditional media, the more channels it included from outside brands. Conversely, if a category came from traditions and genres born of YouTube, the more likely it was to be dominated by YouTube originals. For example, one category was completely dominated by YouTubers — Beauty. All 40 channels, to the best of my knowledge, come from women who have built their followings primarily on the video platform; given how specific the genre is, and how much it owes to the vlog format, this makes a lot of sense. The Tubefilter list isn’t a complete list of the channels being offered up to advertisers. But it does show that YouTube is not only committed to highlighting the content that’s working, but that by and large the YouTubers who have been a part of the site from the beginning are a major part of its plans. Because making more money off its ads doesn’t mean YouTube needs to stop being YouTube.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What happened in social in the fourth-quarter 2013How the consumer space battled licensing issues in the fourth-quarter 2013Why the TV industry matters for Google

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posted about 13 hours ago on gigaom
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed an application called Kinetica that’s designed to let iPad users sort through data in a manner better suited for tablet devices than traditional spreadsheets. In Kinetica, data points are represented as colored spheres. Instead of analyzing data via dropdown menus and typing in functions, it’s analyzed via gestures. The idea behind Kinetica is obvious, and one that some startups have begun investigating as well: In a mobile-first business world, users will need data-analysis tools that don’t require them to manipulate tables full of values, type complex functions or write specialized code. Because they have small screens and typically aren’t connected to real keyboards, tablets and mobile devices are arguably better suited to visual and gesture-based interfaces. Younger users might require that experience. I’ve also covered a startup called ZoomData that sells something similar to Kinetica. The company has built an business intelligence application designed for tablets, on which users swipe between visualizations and data palettes to filter, compare or otherwise analyze their data. Source: Carnegie Mellon University / Kinetica Aside from just letting users analyze data in an intuitive way on a tablet, tools like Kinetica could actually help users think about their data in a different way because of how the app visualizes the steps leading to the final result. A press release about the application explains how: Data points don’t just pop into place after they have been manipulated with Kinetica, as they do in a traditional spreadsheet. Seeing where data points come from as they are sorted can give the user deeper insights into relationships … . For instance, when a user drags a virtual sieve across points to filter them, they can watch as the points are screened out. Outliers — data points that don’t fit with most of the others — also can be readily identified. As we enter what appears to be a golden age of data, tools for analyzing it are going to have to come to the people in ways they can understand and on the devices they use. Most people — even flush with data about themselves and things that matter to them, and increasingly able to generate what they don’t have – won’t be rushing to bloated desktop applications or programming libraries to do anything with it. It’s worth noting that Jeff Rzeszotarski, a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. candidate who co-created Kinetica, was a 2013 Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellow. Microsoft recently announced the availability of Office for iPad, which includes an iPad-specific version of its hugely successful Excel spreadsheet application. Kinetica will be available for download soon, but the project’s website includes this video showing the user experience. Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The influence of M2M data on the energy industryDelivering positive ROI from mobile-enabled projectsHow data warehousing is now a cost-effective solution for businesses

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posted about 13 hours ago on gigaom
Do we really care about who is around us? Many social media companies have envisioned the internet as a facilitator for real world interaction — a way to make it easier to see the people we care about. So far, though, it’s been tough to get a critical mass of users interested in features like these. Can Facebook do better? Last week, the company  announced that it would roll out a “Nearby Friends” feature for mobile, essentially allowing users to not only broadcast their approximate location, but to search for users nearby to meet up with. The feature itself could provide Facebook with a lot of rich data on how users explore their immediate surroundings, opening the platform up to push geolocated ads and other content that could prove to be a big boon for Facebook over time. For Nearby Friends to work, though, people will actually have to use the feature: In the past, bigger companies have phased out the technology and smaller companies have shut down due to lack of traction. Here’s a quick retrospective on a few companies that have attempted to make people discovery happen, and the challenges in taking the feature mainstream. Early Days: Foursquare and Google Early iterations of the Nearby Friends concept are found on Google — with its Latitude Feature — and Foursquare. Both technologies were launched in 2009, as Google brought Latitude to its mobile Maps product and Foursquare launched at South by Southwest. Both services were somewhat primitive. Google Latitude started as a way simply for people to share their location, but became more sophisticated over time. Meanwhile, Foursquare’s technology could only filter friends who recently checked in at a nearby location, rather than seeing everything in real time. Neither company could get its location-based people discovery features off the ground. Google finally shuttered Latitude in August 2013 and rolled some of its features into its new Maps product. Foursquare, after actually removing and reinstating its Nearby Friends feature in 2012, has shifted focus away from check-ins. Most recently, the company has doubled down on passive technology, turning the platform into a recommendations app rather than a gamified social network. It’s also recognized the value of its location data, most recently inked a licensing deal with Microsoft to generate revenue. In short, while Foursquare’s Nearby Friends never really died, the app’s decision to shift made it somewhat toothless. But the changes made by Google and Foursquare were well-informed by their explorations into people discovery, even if the features themselves never took off. Hot trend: Highlight, Sonar, and Glancee The real lessons about the sustainability of Nearby Friends are found in the batch of apps that managed to break through at South By Southwest in 2012: Highlight, Sonar and Glancee. These “passive ambient location” apps that constantly fed personal and social data about users nearby, the three apps made a splash at SXSW — an arguably ideal use case, since a high concentration of early adopters was available to test out the services in Austin. Facebook acquired Glancee in May of 2012, and now members of that team worked on the Nearby Friends feature. Highlight is still up and running, although it continuously struggles to recreate the buzz it had in Austin, and it doesn’t share its current user data. Its last big push was in December of last year, when it unveiled Highlight 2.0 — a “smarter” version of the app designed to dynamically adjust the radius of users and filter out unwanted alerts. But, despite a boost into the Top 100 apps in the U.S. on iOS days after the announcement, the app hasn’t seen anything close to sustainable popularity. Sonar met its end in 2013, and CEO Brett Martin published a thoughtful post-mortem of the company on Medium. The lessons Martin spotlights not only tell the story of Sonar’s demise, but also of the issues of people discovery at large: it has no clear use case, it relies on the effectiveness of other social networks (broadcasting through Facebook or Twitter) to connect with others, and, perhaps most importantly, it drives engagement but not growth: “Growth is the only thing that matters if you are building a social network. Period. Engagement is great but you aren’t even going to get the meeting unless your top-line numbers reach a certain threshold.” Under the umbrella of Facebook’s cash flow, Friends Nearby doesn’t need to carry the company, but it does need to transcend the growth problems that have plagued the trend from the beginning. Right now: Grindr and Tinder The best (and most successful) use cases of a Nearby feature might be found in the dating apps Grindr and Tinder. Grindr, a gay dating app released in 2009, primarily populates its app based on proximity: 100 nearby users show up in a user’s feed, prioritized by distance as close as dozens of feet away. Tinder, a mobile dating app that has quickly become a go-to for college and twenty-somethings, also factors in location to populate the app with singles who share social graph connections or similar interests. While these apps have successfully deployed location technology to bring online social interaction into the real world, there’s one caveat: they help users meet new people, not find friends they already have. In this crucial aspect, Grindr and Tinder really aren’t like Facebook Nearby at all — they serve a different purpose, meeting new people, so their features are used with different intent. But Facebook Nearby can learn from these apps in a crucial way: making discovery addictive. If Facebook can manage to make its Nearby feature fun and simple enough to entice users to check it multiple times per day, then it has a better shot of becoming a feature that more people will use, which will increase value over time. Facebook could do that by bringing surprise into the app — say, alerting users to when friends who aren’t normally nearby are in town, or randomly generating the information of a friend of a friend with similar interests. By incorporating real discovery into people discovery, not just nearby friends, Facebook might finally craft the right mix.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.How to compete with Facebook in 2013Flash analysis: prospects for Google+NewNet Q1: Content Farms and Niche Networks on the Rise

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posted about 14 hours ago on gigaom
At some point during the past year, the media industry seems to have gotten the message that explanatory journalism is the next big thing — how else to explain the launch of not just one but three major efforts in that area, and more to come? The New York Times has just launched The Upshot, which seems like a blend of both the data-focused journalism practiced by Nate Silver’s new site FiveThirtyEight and the explainers of Ezra Klein’s Vox. Each has its own unique flavor, but is the market for that kind of content really big enough to support them all? In his own overview of the three sites, James Ball of The Guardian newspaper’s US unit makes a good point about the dilemma inherent in this boom market for explanatory journalism: who exactly is the target reader for long stories about the statistics behind the Senate race or the problems of the American middle class? What if the vast majority of news consumers just don’t care enough to read all of that explanation and background? Who will go there? “All three sites risk what economists call adverse selection: let’s say you’re writing basic explainers, but the only people finding them are already pretty informed. They’ll find your content superficial, and they won’t return. If you respond by increasing the complexity of your articles, you’ll please the wonks, but alienate a little more of your audience.” @mathewi The story of daily journalism: Set 'em up; knock 'em down; baffle beyond comprehension; then explain, as to a child.— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) April 22, 2014 The Upshot: Clean design — but a tad boring Since it is the newest, The Upshot is getting most of the attention, so let’s start our hands-on review there. As befits something from the New York Times, it is extremely well-designed and shares the clean and easy-to-read look of the rest of the newspaper’s website. It also makes use of the NYT’s formidable design chops for the charts and graphs that make it easier to “navigate through the news,” as editor David Leonhardt puts it in his welcome message. While not all of the visualizations render that well on a mobile device — as more than one commenter on the site has mentioned — there are some unique implementations that make them worthwhile: For example, one of the charts the site uses for a Senate story allows readers to click a button and run a Monte Carlo-style simulation of potential results. It’s not clear just how explanatory that is in terms of the overall topic of Senate races, but at least it’s fun. For its launch day, The Upshot’s line-up included the Senate race story, the American middle class piece, one about what investors have in common with marathon runners, a story about swing voters in mid-term elections, a survey on web censorship and a piece on the causes of Europe’s debt crisis. Almost every piece included a chart or a graph, and in some cases multiple charts and graphs, each of which was fairly clean and easy to understand. Meet our forecasting model, LEO The site also includes some background on its Senate forecasting model, one named after LEO, the first business computer, which was invented by an accountant for a chain of tea shops in Great Britain in 1951 (a chain founded by former Reuters financial writer Felix Salmon’s ancestors, as it turns out). The Upshot piece also notes that LEO is based on the FiveThirtyEight model — and one of the site’s graphs compares its forecasts to Silver’s and to those from several other sites. There’s no question that the pieces on The Upshot are filled with useful background and context on issues like the European debt crisis and mid-term election variability — and the Times will no doubt find them useful to link to as backgrounders when those topics come up in more straight-forward news stories. But as my friend Om notes in his capsule review of the site, they are also somewhat boring: “Reading through it felt like homework,” Om says. Is that going to be a big enough draw to make the resources invested in the site worthwhile? Vox does porn, Nate Silver does math Vox, by contrast, has clearly decided to live up to its commitment to make news “vegetables” as exciting as possible by broadening its explanatory ambit to include topics like the porn industry and the impact of actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” from her spouse, singer Chris Martin. In that sense, it shares a certain irreverence with sites like BuzzFeed, and that could give it more of an audience than a dry explainer site might otherwise get. At the same time, however, Klein’s site has also run into some criticism for the way it handles corrections and updates to its information: One post on a survey of porn-consumption habits that appeared to show Republican states engaged in more porn-related behavior turned out to be based on a flawed premise — which in turn came from a misunderstanding about how geo-coding works. An update was posted, but it rendered the story largely meaningless, and that’s not the only case. The explanatory news fad is an exercise in long winded self indulgence that will test readers patience more than anything else.— David Teicher (@Aerocles) April 22, 2014 Since its much-hyped launch, Nate Silver’s site has also come under fire for some of the ways it approaches its data journalism mandate — including some criticism that it is “Slate but with charts,” meaning it takes a contrary opinion without much actual data to support its case. Several stories have been slammed for using an approach that made them seem to be based on hard data, when in fact they were just opinion, and one on climate change was criticized widely for being just plain wrong. Like Vox, FiveThirtyEight has also been criticized by some for broadening its reach too far into more entertainment-related topics, such as a statistical breakdown of painter Bob Ross’s oeuvre or a look at the most popular days for buying weed. And Silver got some negative response to an early post he did looking at the data behind his former NYT colleague Paul Krugman’s criticisms of Silver — although the FiveThirtyEight founder later said this was intended to be satire. Who is going to read all of this? From a design and usability point of view, both the Vox and FiveThirtyEight sites are much more cluttered looking than The Upshot, and not everyone is a fan of the yellow theme that Vox uses. But Vox’s information “cards” are arguably a better method of displaying quick pieces of background information than the long-form posts that both FiveThirtyEight and The Upshot seem to be focusing on (so far at least). Journalists in general still seem to be overly enamored of the “story” format. What if the problem with "explanatory journalism" is that … a large portion of the population simply does not care to know?— Tom McGeveran (@tmcgev) April 08, 2014 Leaving the journalism aspects aside, what are the prospects for these different models when it comes to actually being a business, or supporting an existing one? That’s a tougher question to answer: The Upshot seems to be in the best position of all, since it is piggy-backing on the resources of the New York Times — although those resources are as strained as any newspaper. Nate Silver has the might of ESPN behind him, while Vox is trying to build something new, and although its parent company (also called Vox) is well funded it will still need to pay its way. Which brings us to the real bottom line: how many competing explanatory or data-focused journalism sites does the market really need? Can all of these different sites — including the Washington Post‘s rebuilt Wonkblog, which is in the works — find an audience, or are they symptoms of a wonk bubble? And what happens when that bubble pops? Explanatory journalism may be the secret to success for one site, but it likely won’t be for half a dozen or more. Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Shutterstock / Docstock MediaRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.NewNet Q1: Advertising, commerce and discovery dominateContent Farms: The Players, The Benefits, The RisksFrenemy mine: The pros and cons of social partnerships for online media companies

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posted about 14 hours ago on gigaom
Amazon’s unannounced handset will employ a 3D interface that “dramatically changes the way users interact with a smartphone,” according to a report published on BGR on Tuesday. Although Amazon’s smartphone has yet to be officially confirmed, last week BGR published what looked like images and specs of the long-rumored handset. Previous reports noted four low-power head-tracking cameras would be included on the front of the handset. Those cameras are supposedly the primary interface for the device, using a variety of unique gesture controls built into Amazon’s heavily skinned Android software. According to BGR’s Zach Epstein, tilting the handset in different directions while in use will bring up menus and options. For instance, a user could scroll through a book in the Kindle app by tilting the phone up or down. Or a tilt could reveal labels under small icons in the calendar or email apps. BGR said that they have been told that “Amazon’s smartphone apps don’t even have traditional menu buttons.” While Apple’s iOS 7 introduced parallax effects on a mobile operating system, Amazon’s reported heavy use of 3D is something new. A wild new interface could be an important point of differentiation, or it could be a thoroughly frustrating user experience. We’ll have to wait: the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the phone will be announced in June with an expected third quarter release.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the fourth-quarter 2014 meant for tech buyersA look back at the first quarter of 2014How to utilize cloud computing, big data, and crowdsourcing for an agile enterprise

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posted about 14 hours ago on gigaom
“Longform” is a buzzword these days and it’s generally used to refer to nonfiction works for adults. But Toronto-based illustrated storytelling platform Storybird thinks longform can work for a younger crowd, too, and this week it rolled out options that let writers serialize longer illustrated works. Until now, Storybird’s two available formats were picture books and poetry. “Eighty percent of our audience is between [the ages of] seven and fifteen,” Storybird co-founder and CEO Mark Ury told me, with a “core” of 9 to 14-year-olds. In all, Storybird says it has about 4 million users. “The picture book format has served us well, but it’s a format that doesn’t suit longform stories, and it feels a little young,” Ury said. “With longform, we’re catching up with our community.” So is Storybird trying to become more like Wattpad — the other, and more well-known, Canadian collaborative storytelling platform that recently raised $46 million to expand internationally? Ury insisted otherwise: “Our focus will always be art-inspired and enhanced stories,” he said, aand “we’re a family brand…we’re looking for the next Harry Potter, not Fifty Shades of Grey.” Storybird also wants schools and libraries to adopt its product; it’s used in over 300,000 classrooms today. “We’re more similar to [children's publisher] Scholastic than Wattpad,” Ury said. In that vein, one of Storybird’s paths to monetization is becoming a publisher. Last year the company hired Molly O’Neill, a former editor at HarperCollins (where she acquired the hit Divergent trilogy), as its editorial director. And Ury said he sees the launch of the longform platform as a possible commercial opportunity for some authors and illustrators. Storybird has already launched ten sample longform projects, which Ury said are “the basis for experimentation with promotion and commercialization,” whether it’s “working with publishers and traditional channels” or launching “our own branded subscription service.” Storybird has raised about $4 million, with investors including Index Ventures, High Line and Lerer Ventures, among others.

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posted about 14 hours ago on gigaom
Bring your own device is coming to a living room near you: Time Warner Cable customers can now buy the $99 Fan TV set-top-box to access the cable company’s programming, as well as a variety of streaming services, through an innovative new interface. Fan TV devices will start shipping to Time Warner Cable customers during this second quarter, and not require any additional fees beyond the existing cable subscription charges. “This is a landmark for the industry,” said Fan TV CEO Gilles BianRosa during an interview Tuesday morning, adding: “This has never been done before.” Fan TV’s streaming device was designed by Yves Behar, and features a unique remote control that comes without any visible buttons, and works more like a touch pad than a traditional TV remote. The device doesn’t offer any DVR capabilities, but is capable of accessing Time Warner Cable’s on-demand library, and features 4 GB of memory for caching, which BianRosa said is enough to pause live programming for more than 20 minutes. The Fan TV also comes with a deep integration into Fan’s existing online content recommendation service, allowing users to access watchlists that they have built on the web or with Fan’s mobile apps, and then watch the content on the TV. Fan also taps into a user’s social graph, giving viewing recommendations based on movies and TV shows friends have liked on Facebook. Check out a promotional video of Fan TV featuring Time Warner Cable content: The partnership with Time Warner Cable is a big win for Fan TV, which started out as a TV recommendation app and service. The device was first introduced a year ago, and was briefly tested by Cox as part of the cable company’s short-lived FlareWatch trial. Bianrosa said that Fan intially is going to sell the device through its own website, but that it also intends to be in retail stores and possibly Time Warner Cable stores in the near future. The challenge for Fan will now be to explain to consumers why its streaming box will offer a better value proposition that Time Warner’s existing cable boxes, and why its initial offering may not live to its full potential. At launch, only a few streaming services will be available through the device, including Redbox Instant by Verizon, Target Ticket, Crackle and Rhapsody. Bianrosa said Tuesday that additional services would be added over time, but declined to give any specifics. Netflix would be a natural fit, since many consumers likely wouldn’t want to buy a streaming device that doesn’t support the most popular over-the-top subscription service. Netflix announced Monday that it will become available on set-top-boxes from U.S. cable operators this quarter, but so far has only committed to being available through TiVo’s set-top box. Fan TV buyers could also find themselves in a situation where the new device doesn’t actually offer all the channels they’re paying for. That’s because Fan’s live TV integration is based on Time Warner Cable’s TV Everywhere service, which doesn’t offer access to all channels in all markets. Consumers will be able to access up to 300 channels in major metropolitan markets, but the line-up may be slimmer in other areas. The other big if caveat is that Time Warner Cable is in the process of merging with Comcast. If approved, Fan TV may find itself confronted with Comcast’s much more controlling approach towards TV experiences and devices. Comcast has invested a lot of money into the development of its X1 and X2 platforms, and the company wants to own the relationship with the customer through those platforms. This could mean that Fan’s BYOD approach may be short-lived, at least for Time Warner Cable customers.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Gigaom Research predictions for 2014What the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPG

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posted about 15 hours ago on gigaom
Is Aereo, a service that lets consumers stream over-the-air TV, akin to a cable company or a hardware provider like RadioShack? The justices of the Supreme Court appeared to struggle with that question on Tuesday morning as they listened to oral arguments in what many media watchers view as the most important TV-related court case in decades. In deciding how to respond to broadcasters’ claim that Aereo is violating copyright, the court expressed repeated concern over how to write a ruling that did not create major ripples for the rest of the TV business on one hand, or for the cloud computing business on the other. “It makes me nervous about taking your preferred route … Where does it stop?” said Justice Stephen Breyer, addressing Paul Clement, the lawyer for ABC and other big broadcasters that want to shut Aereo down. Breyer and other Justices expressed particular concern about the broadcasters’ claim that they have a public performance right in Aereo’s transmissions, which are controlled by its subscribers. Breyer pointed out that a thousand people can  – and do — store a file in a personal cloud service like Dropbox, and can play it back at the same time — which could be considered a public performance under the broadcasters’ version of the case. The “public performance” question is the central issue in the closely-watched case, which turns on whether Aereo’s antenna technology, infringes broadcasters’ copyright, or if the service is instead an extension of existing legal services like remote DVR’s. Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia leaves the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments April 22, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Chief Justice John Roberts also pressed Clement, noting that Aereo appears to provide an antenna in the same way that RadioShack does. But he also expressed deep skepticism over Aereo’s technology, asking why it rents out tens of thousands antennas rather than using just one. “Is there any reason you need 10,000 of them,” asked Roberts, suggesting the only reason Aereo’s technology operates this way is to get around copyright laws. “There’s no technically sound reason to use all those antennas,” added Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. David Frederick, the lawyer for Aereo, responded by suggesting that modular designs help startups who don’t know how quickly they will have to scale up and that, in any case, efficiency questions are irrelevant for copyright purposes. The justices also pressed Clement over how the court could square a ruling in the broadcasters’ favor with the decision in a case called Cablevision, in which an influential appeals court ruled that remote DVR’s are legal. The court noted that the Cablevision ruling was not binding on it, but appeared to agree with its outcome. Clement responded by stating that the outcome in Cablevision was right but that the reasoning that allowed remote DVR’s was all wrong. For copyright watchers, the Justices questions left no clear indication of how the case will turn out. While Ginsburg appeared, as expected, to be clearly in the broadcasters’ camp, the other Justices expressed repeated concern over the cloud computing issue, and also expressed sympathy at times for one of Aereo’s central contentions — that the signals its antenna services are local over-the-air signals that are free already. And, in a possible nod to an argument made in a supporting brief signed by 36 law professors, several justices suggested that what the case was really about was a reproduction right — not a public performance right. As Frederick was quick to point out, the broadcasters did not rely on the reproductive right argument because they would have run afoul of a seminal case 30 years ago that found private copying, such as what is done by consumers with VCR’s, does not infringe copyright. The case is significant not just for Aereo, which operates in 11 cities and is backed by media mogul Barry Diller, but for the entire TV industry. The broadcasters have warned that they may remove their over-the-air signals, and become cable channels if Aereo wins. Barry Diller, who whose company IAC had put up most of the $97 million invested in Aereo so far, says there is “finished” if the court grants the broadcasters an injunction. A decision is likely to come sometime in June or July. The case attracted considerable attention, including an overnight line for seats that began forming on Monday evening. This post will be updated with more details shortly Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The biggest third-quarter events in the consumer spaceConnected consumer first-quarter 2013: Analysis and outlookWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPG

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posted about 15 hours ago on gigaom
Withings, the French company behind a variety of connected home health products, has launched the second generation of its Pulse activity tracker, dubbed the Pulse O2. The company, which is perhaps best known for its connected scale, has crammed a lot of features into the $120 device, including a blood oxygen monitor and an optional watchband. The app got an update as well. Withings’ original Pulse stood out among the myriad other personal trackers out there because it included a heart rate monitor as well as sleep monitoring, calorie tracking, step counting and elevation measurements. It did this in the same price range as a Fitbit (see disclosure), the basic Jawbone and the possibly defunct Nike Fuelband, which made it a compelling option for folks interested in taking their fitness tracking to a higher level. Now, with a blood oxygen sensor on the back, the Pulse O2 is clearly trying to keep ahead of the competition with finer-grained tracking metrics. As with any tracker, there are questions about how accurate the Withings Pulse is when it comes to measuring your heart rate or even steps, but that’s a function of most trackers unless they come with FDA approval. I expect your mileage may vary depending on your activities and how sweaty your hands are when you try to get your pulse. The Withings comes with an improved HealthMate App that seems to focus on giving users suggestions and insights based on their data, rather than just the data. This is probably a smart way to encourage mainstream users to adopt the product, and goes beyond the “step fatigue” that tends to set in once you realize that you take X number of steps each day and that owning one of these things is kind of dull. It also added a wristband. The original Pulse was a clip-on device — a discreet form factor I like — but users apparently like wearing trackers on their wrist, so Withings has delivered. The company also shot a hilariously dry video about the product’s development and availability as a wristband below. As a side note to interested buyers, the Pulse O2 so far only works on Android and iOS devices, is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible and has a battery that Withings says will last two weeks. Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Connected world: the consumer technology revolutionThe top 10 cloud trends for 2014What we expect for wearables in the near-term future

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posted about 15 hours ago on gigaom
While the courts work out whether drones can or can’t be used commercially, regular people continue to have access to them for personal use. And interest is clearly rising. Blade’s 350 QX is one of the more popular, affordable hobbyist models available to the public. I recently had the chance to fly it in a few San Francisco parks and found it to be a solid option for a personal quadcopter, with a few setbacks. I expected that there would be some quirks. When I flew the DJI Phantom 2 Vision last year, it required a goofy dance where I spun the drone in circles to get it calibrated. But the 350 QX had some even bigger quirks that were compounded by shortcomings in Blade’s manual and online videos . It felt like a device better suited to an experienced hobbyist than a beginner just interested in capturing great aerial footage. San Francisco’s Great Meadow Park, as seen from a GoPro attached to a Blade 350 QX. Photo by Signe Brewster. Getting it flying The first time I flew the 350 QX, it took me 30 seconds to get it into the air. Then it stopped cooperating before the next flight. Sometimes it emitted a series of beeps. Other times it just refused to starts its propellers. The 350 QX comes with an instruction manual that at times is poorly organized and full of jargon. Blade also has a series of well-meaning, straightforward videos available on its site that are more clear on how to fly the 350 QX. But something was missing from what they were telling me about preparing the quadcopter for flight. A glimmer of help came when I called Blade directly. When you land the 350 QX, you pull down on one of four knobs, which are known as trims. The trims are also involved in readying the drone for flight, so before every takeoff you need to “center” them. After I flew once, I moved the trims out of their proper place and got no hint from the manual on how to fix them. An online video indicates that you need to “center” them, but when you are a beginner the instructions provided are not thorough enough. Centering the trims goes like this: Pull each one down and then up (or to the side) until it emits a loud beep. Then pull it the other direction until it does the same. If you can pull it one more notch again and elicit another beep, then you have it in the right place (but be sure to notch it back again to where it was before the final beep). If all four trims are in the right place, the drone will emit a “happy” tone. If it doesn’t, you need to start over and redo each of the trims. Simple, right? It’s not unusual to need to do some form of calibration before flying a drone. But the 350 QX’s system was incredibly time consuming and annoying. The manual doesn’t explain it, and neither did the videos online. I talked to Blade three times. Each time, my helper explained how to get the trims centered. But they never described the process clearly enough for me to grasp it on my own. The last time, they actually said they were stumped why the drone wouldn’t start. After I finally figured out the process on my own, the drone started every single time. My other gripe was about the battery. Charging it is not as simple as just plugging it in and waiting. I ruined the first battery just by leaving it plugged into the drone overnight. Then the spare wall charger Blade sent me (the standard 350 QX charger attaches to your car battery, but I don’t have a car) didn’t work. The second one did, but it involved knowing the type of battery and pressing a series of buttons on the charger to get it charging. It sounds like a silly problem, but I am guessing that like me, most people have never been exposed to this kind of battery. Up in the air Once the 350 QX is in the air though, it really is fun to fly. It has three modes to choose from–known as smart, stability and agility–depending on how advanced you want to be with your controls. Each mode is intuitive and easy to grasp. The drone responds quickly to commands, which is great for agility but sometimes an issue if you want to collect super smooth video. It has a disappointingly short battery life of 10-15 minutes though. Any time you are flying a drone, it is really important that you feel you can trust it. The 350 QX acted exactly as described when it came to safety features, which made me feel very comfortable. It has a switch that commands it to return to the spot from which it took off and even in strong winds it was capable of holding itself steady in the air. However, these features are reliant on a GPS signal, so when I flew it in denser parts of San Francisco (and in the Gigaom office) where a signal is not possible, it was much more difficult to maneuver. When a signal was available, the 350 QX never had a problem picking it up automatically. I used the 350 QX with a GoPro. The drone came with a plastic frame that attached to its bottom. The GoPro produced beautiful video, but the frame was one of the quadcopter’s most annoying features. Unlike the DJI Phantom Vision’s camera, which you can reposition from your phone, the frame is static. There is only one possible angle for taking video. It is also attached to the drone via two plastic plates held together by four rubbery pieces meant to stabilize the camera. But if the quadcopter crashed, they popped out nearly every time. There is no easy way to reattach them without unscrewing the plates altogether. The best solution is just to learn how to not have a crash landing every time, but that takes some practice. The 350 QX comes with a mount for a GoPro camera. Photo courtesy of Blade. If you do expect to have a lot of crash landings, consider that the 350 QX is plastic. It feels flimsy. I never broke anything during a flight, but I did manage to crack the plastic piece that sits over the battery enclosure the first time I went to remove the battery. It does keep the drone ultralight though at just 1.5 pounds. I trucked it around in a backpack without any problems. If you are ready to put some work into getting to know a quadctoper, the 350 QX is a very reasonable option. It is competitively priced at $420 or $470, depending on if you want to provide your own controller, and seemed easy to repair if one of its parts did break. I had a great time flying it and would consider it an option if I already owned a GoPro. But overall, I would choose the DJI Phantom over the 350 QX in a second.

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posted about 16 hours ago on gigaom
Dedicated cloud instances are something of an oxymoron. The traditional understanding of cloud computing is that it runs stuff from many users runs on shared infrastructure. Dedicated instances, by definition, aren’t shared and thus could appeal to a class of users who worry about the drag that neighboring workloads can have on their jobs — the so-called “noisy neighbor” problem. They also may suit those who see shared infrastructure as not compliant to various industry regulations. There are enough companies worried about such things that Amazon Web Services launched dedicated instances in March 2011 and significantly cut prices on them in July. Since that price cut — which amounted to nearly 80 percent in some cases — the use of AWS dedicated instances has risen significantly, according to Cloudyn, which monitors AWS and Google cloud usage for customers. In a blog post, Cloudyn VP of marketing Eron Ambramson wrote that before July 2013, dedicated instances were hardly used at all. But now, 9 months after price cuts, 0.5 percent of the instances it monitors are dedicated. (Cloudyn said it has eyes on 8 percent of total AWS workloads.) Percentage of workloads running on AWS dedicated instances by region. The price differential now between dedicated and regular instances is about 10 percent, although dedicated instances also incur additional run-time charge of $2 per hour per region — which for big companies is “outweighed by the advantages and peace of mind of having your own dedicated hardware,” Abramson wrote. Server Density CEO David Mytton said AWS needs to offer dedicated resources since rivals offer very fast bare-metal capabilities, which he argues can also be cheaper than shared cloud infrastructure in some use cases, a topic that Mytton and others will address at Structure in June. “Everyone knows the noisy neighbor problem and AWS doesn’t have a great historical reputation for performance on that front. It’s one reason why Softlayer has an advantage with their fast deployment of bare metal that works alongside their cloud, so you can easily move workloads around,” he said via email. SoftLayer, bought by IBM last year, is now the core of IBM’s cloud computing story. Dedicated instances? meh. Others don’t see dedicated instances as a real advantage. For one thing, performance drag comes more from virtualization itself rather than noisy neighbors, said Joe Emison, CTO of BuildFax, an avid cloud user. “And, noisy neighbors do more damage with respect to network traffic than anything else.” If that is the case, Amazon’s IOPS-optimized Elastic Block Store and scaling options in S3 storage and CloudFront content delivery network address those issues. “Buying dedicated for performance is a bit like buying premium gasoline to make your Honda Accord perform better — it probably does but shouldn’t you be doing something different if you want to see significant results?” Emison said. He also discounted the compliance argument. It’s true that some auditors don’t sign off on the use of multi-tenant environments, but those auditors will  also “not be OK with other things AWS does even with dedicated instances,” he said. Users cannot tour AWS data centers, for example, or even get a comprehensive list of all security details for those facilities. For auditors of security- and compliance conscious organizations, these hurdles will probably be deal-breakers anyway.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The Structure 50: The Top 50 Cloud InnovatorsA field guide to web APIsWhat you missed in cloud in the third quarter of 2013

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posted about 16 hours ago on gigaom
Truecaller, the Swedish reverse-lookup phone directory, has expanded its Live Caller ID feature to its iOS app, allowing users to quickly look up unknown numbers from the home screen, the company announced on Tuesday. While Truecaller’s Live Caller ID feature has been available on Android since 2010, it’s much more difficult to integrate on iOS because Apple’s platform does not let apps intercept calls. This means Truecaller had to find a workaround, but it’s a fairly innocuous one: When you receive a phone call from a number you don’t recognize, you simply take a screenshot of the call. Truecaller references that screenshot against its database of phone numbers, and then Siri reads out the name. The demo video is short and sweet: Speaking to TechCrunch, Truecaller CEO Alan Mamedi expressed a hope that Truecaller could gain access to Apple’s calling APIs in the future, to make the process a little less kludgy. While that seems unlikely, there’s no denying that the company has some momentum recently: it raised nearly $19 million from Sequoia Capital in February, and it wants you to know it’s a big deal in India.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Hyperlocal: opportunities for publishers and developersWhy iMessage won’t kill SMSWhy Apple Could — and Should — Bring Voice Recognition Technology to our Phones

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posted about 16 hours ago on gigaom
With dramatically higher throughput and lower latency, flash-based SSDs offer an obvious performance boost over traditional storage solutions. Still, flash storage commands a premium, and many businesses struggle to justify investments in new storage technology when existing solutions are performing adequately. Implemented properly, flash storage can not only enhance existing applications but also create entirely new ones. To take advantage of these improvements and build an implementation plan that offers the best return on their investment, businesses must understand the use cases best suited to flash technology and budget accordingly. In this webinar, our panel will discuss these topics: What are the functional advantages and operational efficiencies of flash-based SSDs? What are the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid approaches? Can lower latency and higher IOPS enable entirely new products and services? How can businesses determine what level of performance improvement is worth the cost and disruption of an upgrade? What are the staffing and operational concerns of managing flash-based and hybrid storage? How can businesses avoid vendor lock-in and take advantage of continually dropping flash prices? Speakers include: Barb Goldworm, president and chief analyst, FOCUS Mike Karp, VP and principal analyst, Ptak, Noel & Associates Marc Staimer, president and chief dragon slayer, Dragon Slayer Consulting Andrew Warfield, CTO and co-founder, Coho Data Register here to join Gigaom Research and our sponsor Coho Data for “Flash storage: when, why and how to get there,” a free analyst roundtable hosted Thursday, May 1, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. PT.

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posted about 17 hours ago on gigaom
Google has signed its largest clean power contract to date — for 407 MW of wind power — with Iowa power company MidAmerican Energy to supply clean energy for Google’s data center in Iowa. Google made the announcement on its blog on Tuesday, which is Earth Day. MidAmerican is largely owned by investor Warren Buffet’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway. Four hundred and seven megawatts of wind power is the equivalent power to a mid-sized coal plant or a large natural gas plant. Or, to put it another way, it could provide enough electricity for over 100,000 average American homes. Google says that amount of wind power in Iowa will not only cover the power of its current facilities there, but will also allow for expansion. The deal includes both direct energy generation from MidAmerican’s wind farms and MidAmerican’s renewable energy certificates that are part of other wind projects. A Google-backed wind farm in Iowa The deal is the latest to show how Google is evolving its business of contracting out and buying clean energy in various ways — including working with utilities, power companies, and clean power financiers. Google has been one of the most creative and aggressive internet companies when it comes to buying clean power to run its data centers. This week, also timed with Earth Day, Apple has been touting its clean power commitments to both its data centers and retail outlets. Apple has pledged to run all of its data centers off of 100 percent clean energy. While Apple and Google are leading the way, other Internet companies like Twitter and Amazon are lagging behind.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Warren Buffett and the true value of solarWhat first-quarter 2014 meant for the mobile spaceWhat today’s companies need to bridge the sales automation-to-CRM gap

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posted about 18 hours ago on gigaom
Cloud storage service Bitcasa is adding Chromecast support for its Android app, the company announced Tuesday. Bitcasa offers an “infinite drive” for an annual price of $999, as well as a free 20 GB plan. The most interesting uses for this new feature should be centered around casting personal content like photos and home videos onto a TV. While the Chromecast can natively cast image file types from a desktop browser, streaming from a cloud app streamlines the process. You can download Bitcasa from Google Play right here.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Why the TV industry matters for GoogleThe evolution of consumer-media cloud storageWhat first-quarter 2014 meant for the mobile space

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