posted about 21 hours ago on gigaom
On-demand ride-sharing service Uber announced on its blog Wednesday that, since the launch of a limo service now in Beijing, users can hail an Uber from 100 cities worldwide. It’s a big number that shows Uber’s dominance in its expansion — nearest competitor Lyft serves just 30 cities. But Uber’s widespread advantage doesn’t mean it has a lock over the competition, as the company continues to spend time and money to fight regulations in cities like Seattle. It’s putting lots of work into expanding to cities that have never had something like Uber before — but once its there, competition will have no problem strolling in.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Flash analysis: lessons from Solyndra’s fallA look back at the first quarter of 2014Applying lean startup theory in large enterprises

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posted about 21 hours ago on gigaom
Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab 4 line of tablets on Wednesday, just one month after photos of the 7-inch model leaked online. A 10-inch, an 8-inch and a 7-inch version will be available in the United States on May 1st. The Galaxy Tab line is Samsung’s low-end tablet offering. All three tablets have identical specifications aside from screen and battery size: each is equipped with a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor with 1.5GB of RAM. The Galaxy Tab 4 runs Android 4.4 with 16GB of built-in storage and an option to add more via a microSD card. The 7-inch version will cost $200, the 8-inch version will run you $270, and the 10-inch model starts at $350. Like the Galaxy Tab 3 Lite, the weakest included component is the screen itself: Samsung has opted for 1280 x 800 panels in all three tablets, bringing the 10-inch version’s pixel density to a paltry 151 pixels per square inch — a far cry from the pixel-dense screens on other Android tablets such as the Nexus 10, which was also built by Samsung. The Galaxy Tab will eventually come in an LTE-enabled version sold by carriers, with AT&T offering all three models, Sprint carrying the 7-inch model, T-Mobile opting for the 8-inch tablet, and Verizon carrying both the 8 and 10-inch versions. While pricing is not yet known for the LTE-equipped models, presumably the tablets will be discounted when signing up for an LTE data plan with contract. Judging from the suggested retail price, these tablets do not represent a good deal, unless you value Samsung’s software and services or need LTE connectivity. While Google’s year-old Nexus 7 has a superior screen and similar performance, the least expensive model only costs $30 more than the entry-level Galaxy Tab.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What happened in mobile in the fourth-quarter 2013Mobile Q1: All Eyes on Tablets, T-Mobile and AT&TWhat first-quarter 2014 meant for the mobile space

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posted about 21 hours ago on gigaom
A confluence of major changes in computer hardware is disrupting a three-decade equilibrium in the design of SQL database management systems (DBMSs).  Memory is no longer precious compared to disk, and CPUs can now scale out much further without requiring a cluster of servers. By optimizing a database to run in memory and exploit all 64 virtual processor cores on a commodity server without locking up, the industry has reached a tipping point. It’s now possible to accelerate many OLTP applications by ten to 100 times without having to partition data across a cluster or migrate applications to specialty databases. In this webinar, our panel will address these topics: The trade-offs among the approaches taken by software vendors to deliver this technology Example applications that showcase the sweet spot of each approach The likely medium-term evolution of in-memory OLTP technology within the broader data management marketplace Speakers include: Andrew J. Brust, founder and CEO, Blue Badge Insights George Gilbert, partner, TechAlpha William McKnight, founder and president, McKnight Consulting Group Eron Kelly, general manager, SQL Server Marketing, Microsoft Register here to join Gigaom Research and our sponsor Microsoft for “Taking in-memory OLTP mainstream,” a free analyst webinar on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, at 10 a.m. PT.

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posted about 21 hours ago on gigaom
It isn’t free, but it’s pretty darn close. iDrive is now offering iPhone and iPad users 100GB of storage for 99 cents per year. Apple iCloud users get 5GB for free, but Apple charges $100 for 50GB a year. The small print is that this deal is good for in-app purchase only. The company already offered a free tier of storage, up to 5GB, for its regular (not-necessarily-mobile) users. The next tier after that is $34.75 per year for up to 300 GB of storage. This is just the latest in what seems to be a race to the bottom in cloud storage and file-share pricing. Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive trade price cuts. Most of the major players, including market leader Dropbox, continue to offer some level of free storage — although Dropbox’s free tier includes just 2GB of data. Here’s the thing, though: IPO-bound Dropbox has a ton of VC money to pour into customer acquisition. The idea is to get people in for free and convert them to paying customers. And Google and Microsoft obviously have huge cash troves from their other businesses to carry freeloaders. But for other, smaller companies, there has been retrenchment. Earlier this month, for example, Canonical killed its Ubuntu One service and and SugarSync and Droplr recently ended their free tiers of service as well. You have to wonder how many other, smaller companies will have to review the freebies or near-freebies going forward. Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.A look back at the third quarter of 2013Cloud and data first-quarter 2013: analysis and outlookHow the mobile-first world will transform the data center

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posted about 22 hours ago on gigaom
U.S. mobile industry group CTIA has named former FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker its new CEO and President. She will replace retiring CTIA chief Steve Largent on June 2, and brings a pretty long CV working on both the government and lobbying side of telecom policy. She served in the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission from 2009 to 2011 before controversially resigning to become to become SVP for government affairs for Comcast-NBCUniversal. Before that, she worked as Deputy Secretary of Commerce under George W. Bush and acting head of the National Telecommunications of Information Administration, which manages federal airwaves.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.How public policy affected the consumer tech space in first-quarter 2014What happened in mobile in the fourth-quarter 2013How consumer media consumption shifted in the second quarter

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posted about 22 hours ago on gigaom
Declara, a Palo Alto, Calif., startup that  aims to help individuals in large professional networks learn new information, has raised a $16 million series A round of venture capital. GSV Capital led the round, with participation from Data Collective, Founders Fund and Catamount Ventures. Declara’s product is like a social network platform, often connecting large national organizations, and like any good social network it uses a variety of machine learning techniques to cater recommendations to individual users. However, because it’s focused on education, Declara connects members to other members, outside experts and content related to the areas they’re trying to learn. Rather than relying solely on users’ stated interests, the platform studies their online behaviors and makes suggestions accordingly. Here’s how Declara Founder and CEO Ramona Pierson (pictured above) — who has a triumphant personal story, too — described the company on the Structure Show podcast in March: “We really try to personalize around preferences and validate those preferences. So, if someone says I’d rather learn through video or rich media, but yet we actually start to validate the system going, ‘Oh, they actually do best when they’re trying to help others. When they’re an expert in helping others, they’re actually learning faster.’ So we’ll take in the preferences and things that people declare about themselves — thus [calling the company] Declara — but then we also validate with our programs.” You can listen to the whole interview below. Pierson also spoke at our Structure Data conference, where she discussed her experience recovering from a horrific accident and how that inspired her future work in trying to help adults learn — a career arc in which Declara is just the latest endeavor. Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Why we must apply big data analytics to human-generated dataSponsored Research: How story-driven video is poised to take offThe internet of things: a market landscape

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posted about 22 hours ago on gigaom
It’s not exactly a household name, but Quibb — a content-sharing social network aimed at professionals — has built up thousands of dedicated fans since founder Sandi MacPherson launched it in San Francisco a year and a half ago. Now those fans can help support the growth of the service in the most direct way possible: by buying an equity stake in the company, thanks to a plugin from Alphaworks and the micro-financing features of the recently passed JOBS Act. In a nutshell, the JOBS Act enables small companies like Quibb to ask their users or members for venture funding directly, instead of having to go through the expensive process of lining up traditional VCs or doing a traditional equity issue. Alphaworks — a unit of New York-based incubator betaworks, which has given birth to companies like Chartbeat and Bitly — is designed to help companies like Quibb automate the process of getting tiny amounts of venture funding from their users or fans. All they have to do is embed a “card” or widget on their site where users can express an interest, and Alphaworks takes care of the rest. MacPherson said that she already tapped some of her users for support in a more informal way late last year, by writing a blog post asking for outright donations, and she has also lined up a seed-funding round with some traditional institutional investors and angels. But she says she wanted to set aside some of her funding round for the experiment with Alphaworks, because it fit with the way she thinks about her service and the members who use it. “In theory I could have done this all the regular way, but I feel really strongly that Quibb only exists because of the content that people share and the support and feedback they’ve given me, so I wanted to work with them on a more formal level. It just really fit with how I’ve run the company from day one.” MacPherson, a Canadian ex-patriate whose background is actually in geochemistry, designed Quibb to be a tool for professionals from various sectors to share content that was relevant to their work. Unlike most social networks, it has virtually no bells and whistles and is rather plain-looking design-wise (which some fans see as a benefit). Its main interface is a daily email filled with useful links, which MacPherson says has a greater than 50 percent open rate. The other thing that makes Quibb unusual is that MacPherson herself personally vets and approves every new member of the invitation-only network — and is proud of the fact that only about 40 percent of those who apply are accepted. The Quibb founder says the problem with many mass-oriented social networks like LinkedIn — which would seem like a natural competitor for Quibb — is that their social graph almost inevitably becomes too broad, and therefore the content recommendations aren’t useful enough. Quibb takes the opposite approach, and tries to make a user’s social graph as tight and professionally connected as possible. Those kinds of connections are what made it easy to find angels and VCs to fund the company, says MacPherson — but they are also what convinced her that she should give the service’s users a share in the equity at Quibb, since without them the company literally wouldn’t exist. Post and thumbnail photo courtesy of Thinkstock / Marc DebnamRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Applying lean startup theory in large enterprisesThe importance of putting the U and I in visualizationDid We Really Learn Anything From the Dotcom Crash?

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posted about 22 hours ago on gigaom
The popular messaging and VoIP calling service Viber is overhauling its messaging app for iOS 7, bringing the operating system’s characteristic clean, flat look to its user interface as well as several new features. Viber also created a version of its app for BlackBerry’s newest operating system BlackBerry 10. The iPhone enhancements include the ability to send multiple photos and videos at the same time, send lengthier videos and to create block lists of unwanted numbers or contacts. Viber’s new multi-photo feature on the iPhone (source: Viber) The BlackBerry 10 app will support all of the core Viber features from its older BlackBerry versions, but it also adds some new services. Notably BlackBerry 10 users will be able to tap Viber Out, which lets users call outside of the app network, and Viber’s Sticker Market, which sells visual customization features that have become all the rage in Asia. Japan’s Rakuten bought Cyprus-based Viber for $900 million in February kicking off what could become a big wave of acquisitions among the over-the-top messaging apps. Most notably Facebook is shelling out $16 billion for the global messaging leader WhatsApp. Viber for BlackBerry 10 (Source: Viber)Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The state of the converged-mobile-messaging marketForecast: the converged mobile messaging marketTakeaways from mobile’s second quarter

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posted about 22 hours ago on gigaom
It has become pretty standard to hear about patent licensing deals between Microsoft and Android device makers. Motorola Solutions is the latest to sign one but it’s not just about Android; the deal also covers Chrome OS devices. Interestingly, Motorola doesn’t make any Chrome OS devices so this could lay the groundwork for the company to change that. Taking things one step further: Motorola tried to create a new market for phones that power laptops. Remember the unsuccessful LapDock that used an Android phone to run Linux on a shell computer? Instead of just having a Linux partition and custom user environment on such a phone, perhaps Motorola adopts Chrome OS for a second take on its LapDock concept. We discuss that in detail and hit more of the latest Chrome OS news on this week’s podcast, so tune in and join us! Download This Episode The Chrome Show RSS Feed Subscribe in iTunes SHOW NOTES: Today’s Chrome Show episode is sponsored by New Relic. Hosts: Janko Roettgers and Kevin C. Tofel First look(s) at the Samsung Chromebook 2 You can now Chromecast Google Play Music to an Apple TV via a doubleTwist hack “Five Years after Their Inception, the Browser-Based Laptops Inch Toward Replacing PCs and Macs” says the WSJ Chrome OS Dev channel gets new graphs to see CPU frequency state changes Google Play Music app gets a small but useful tweak: option to be “Always on top” It’s a hit: Chromecast gets MLB.tv Chrome Remote Desktop for Android goes public Is Motorola planning to make Chromebooks? It signed a patent licensing deal with Microsoft for Android and Chrome OS devices. App / Extension of the week: WikiTubeRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The No. 1 Way Chrome OS Will Woo Consumers to the CloudGoogle Chrome OS: What to ExpectWhat defines the key players of the IaaS industry

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posted about 23 hours ago on gigaom
The world is still sucking down bandwidth like it’s an elixir of the gods, with global bandwidth demand reaching 138 Tbps in 2013, a 4.5 fold increase from the 30 Tbps of capacity from five years before. But it’s the mix of that growth that’s worth noting, according to a report out Wednesday from Telegeography. Traffic on private networks owned by Facebook, Amazon, Google and other web giants is driving the majority of that growth — about 55 percent of it averaged over that five-year period between 2009 and 2013. The remainder comes from public network traffic operated by carriers like AT&T, Comcast, Level 3 and others. Those public carriers still make up most of the traffic, however. From the report: Internet backbones remain the primary users of international bandwidth, accounting for 75 percent of demand in 2013. However, the drivers of international bandwidth demand are changing. As private network operators, including large content providers like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, expand their internal networks, their bandwidth requirements increasingly exceed those of the largest carriers. Last year a quarter of international bandwidth was used on private networks, as companies try to figure out how to expand their reach and lower the costs they pay for networking. This has led to a shift in how the internet operates, from connecting users to users to the newer model of linking users to data centers, and data centers to each other, according to Alan Mauldin, a research director at Telegeography. This trend is driving decisions such as Facebook’s leasing of fiber in Europe and in the U.S. as well as Google’s decision to invest in submarine cables. It’s also leading to economic shifts, as ISPs who play in the transit market like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast attempt to use their singular access to last-mile subscribers as a way to drive big companies to pay for network interconnections or transit. We’ll discuss this topic in greater depth at our Structure conference in San Francisco June 18 and 19th when Craig Labovitz of Deepfield Networks shares some of his data on how the structure of the internet is changing.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What you missed in cloud in the third quarter of 2013What 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 23 hours ago on gigaom
OnePlus announced its first flagship smartphone on Wednesday morning. Confusingly named the One [MENTION WHY - HTC ONE], the handset is the first mass-market Android phone to ship with CyanogenMod preinstalled and will retail for $299 when it goes on sale in May. OnePlus is the hardware company founded by former Oppo executive Pete Lau. Shortly before Lau resigned, Oppo released a limited edition handset with CyanogenMod preinstalled. It’s not surprising his new company has decided to continue with CyanogenMod as its primary version of Android. CyanogenMod is a open-source operating system based on Android that started as a community-driven project but is now a fully-fledged startup with $9 million in funding. The OnePlus One packs in a lot of great components: Snapdragon 801 quad-core CPU, 3 GB of RAM and a 5.5-inch 1080p display. The camera is made by Sony, clocks in at 13MP and should be able to record 4k video. The specs are very competitive with other high-end handsets, especially for the sub-$300 price. There are no deals with carriers at the moment, but all signals from the Chinese company indicate that is by design: this handset is meant to be sold unlocked. Like all CyanogenMod handsets, the OnePlus One does not come with Google Apps installed, although it’s not too difficult to install them separately. That means no Google Play out of the box, which could limit the phone’s widespread appeal. The OnePlus One will launch in May in sixteen countries, including the United States. If you’d like one the day it launches, you’ll need an invite.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Noteworthy mobile developments from the third quarter 2013What to expect for the mobile OS market in 2013How companies can grow by moving into newer, bigger markets

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posted about 23 hours ago on gigaom
While dozens of startups pour time and money into developing mobile health devices for the young, hale and hearty, they might be better off going grayer. The opportunity to sell technology to senior citizens is huge now and will only get bigger as more of us age into that segment. Which vendors will be best positioned to capitalize on this opportunity – a handful of early movers that are already in the market, or vendors like Fitbit (see disclosure) or Jawbone that focus on younguns? “Developers making technologies for the 20- and 30-somethings are missing a huge opportunity to supply the 100-million-plus people aged 50 and over in this country,” Laurie Orlov, an analyst with Age In Place Technology, said in an interview. She estimates that this market is worth $2 billion now and will hit $20 billion by 2020. Semico Research puts the number higher, forecasting that the market for gear like remote health monitors, oximeters, glucose monitors, medication reminders, heart rate monitors, safety alert bracelets, etc. will hit $30 billion by 2017. How big is big? You want more evidence? Research released in October conducted by Oxford Economics for the AARP said that Americans over 50 spend $4.6 trillion annually, with the ripple effect of that spending hitting $7.1 trillion per year. These are very big numbers. If you have an elderly relative, sooner or later you’ll find out how important technology can be in keeping that person involved and connected with the outside world — perhaps even enabling her to “age in place” as opposed to moving into an assisted-care facility or senior home. One early mover in this field is Lively, which provides a home monitoring service pairing sensors with a wireless hub. It discretely notes when Grandma leaves the bedroom, opens the fridge or her pill bottle, etc., and alerts family or health professionals if, say, she doesn’t leave the bedroom for 10 hours or fails to take her pill (or at least open the bottle). A keyfob sensor can track when and if the house or car keys are used. Competitors include BeClose and GrandCare. There is a tradeoff here. Nobody wants to feel surveilled, but if the choice comes down to this — with appropriate privacy measures in place — or having to leave the home, most seniors will opt to stay and be monitored. Tech for senior citizens: Keep it simple The key to success will be ease of installation and use, which is why Ovum Research analyst Mike Sapien said he hopes the drop-dead simple Fitbit/Jawbone model can be adapted for new purposes. A pill bottle with an alarm on it may seem cool, but if a user is old enough, she might be on five or six different medications and have vision and hearing problems which could make an array of beeping bottles more a puzzle than a solution. “This stuff has to be incredibly simple,” Sapien  said. Devices like Fitbit may not be able to fulfill all these functions but can certainly do more than count steps and log mileage. They are great because users put them on and forget about them. “They tell you via your computer when the battery is low. You don’t have to worry about starting an app when you go out, then hitting a button if something goes wrong,” he said. Chad Jones, the LogMeIn VP in charge of the company’s Xively Internet of things business, agreed. the whole quantified-self category needs to be expanded from athletes and healthy young people to the geriatric population, he said. “There isno reason such devices can’t watch a person’s heart rate as they co through they day to see if there’s a spike that might indicate they’re off their meds,” he noted. Lively CEO Iggy Fanlo sees wearable devices as an adjunct to his company’s home monitoring service. Within the next few months, Lively will add an accelerometer-equipped pendant that will report the wearer’s movement, including falls, back to the caregiver or family. “The problem with pendants now is that people often don’t push the button even if they should because they’re disoriented, unconscious or just embarrassed,” he said.  The accelerometer will detect that fall, but to avoid false positives, it will wait a “non-critical amount of time” to see if movement resumes before alerting help. That product will compete with existing personal emergency response systems (PERS) like Lifeline and MedicAlert, which are adding capabilities — GPS-assisted map locations, for example — atop their standard emergency-call-buttons. Great Call, which makes easy-to-use Jitterbug phones, is also a contender in this race, according to Orlov. The phones are designed with big displays and big buttons for the sight impaired and also come with additional services, like the opportunity to talk with a nurse or a doctor as part of the package. As more device-savvy adults join the ranks of senior citizens, they will bring their skills with them, but there are still huge hurdles among what the MetLife Maturity Institute (now sadly defunct) used to call the “old-old.”  These are the oldest of the senior citizens — people in their 80s, 90s, early 100s, most of whom are not computer-literate. Many don’t even type. For that demographic, the notion of logging into something and remembering passwords, is beyond foreign. So vendors have a lot of work to do to make technology useable for these people. While there is wiggle room in all these market-size estimates, there’s no doubt that there’s huge demand for technology that helps seniors stay in their homes as long as possible. Added bonus: there are two sets of prospective buyers. First, there are the seniors themselves, who may, as discussed, submit to monitoring if it means staying home. Second are their guilt-riddled (and also aging) adult children, who may live far away and who want to keep their parents happy. Not a bad market at all. For more on Lively, check out Fanlow’s appearance on Gigaom’s Internet of things podcast: 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. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.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 2014Analyzing the wearable computing market

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posted about 24 hours ago on gigaom
Amazon now has streaming rights to a number of HBO series and will make them available through Prime Instant Video starting May 21, the company said Wednesday. In addition, Amazon said that it will add HBO Go to its recently launched streaming video box, Fire TV — “targeting a launch by year-end,” though it sounds as if it could happen later. This is the first time that HBO has included its shows in an outside subscription streaming service — HBO content has never been available for streaming on Netflix. Prime Instant Video’s selection won’t be comparable to the content available through HBO Go, though, and new episodes aren’t included. Here’s what Prime members will get beginning May 21, per the release: All seasons of revered classics such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome and Six Feet Under, and of recent favorites such as Eastbound & Down, Enlightened and Flight of the Conchords Epic miniseries, including Angels in America, Band of Brothers, John Adams, The Pacific and Parade’s End Select seasons of current series such as Boardwalk Empire, Treme and True Blood Hit original movies like Game Change, Too Big To Fail and You Don’t Know Jack Pedigreed documentaries including the Autopsy and Iceman series, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and When the Levees Broke Hilarious original comedy specials from Lewis Black, Ellen DeGeneres, Louis CK and Bill Maher Some of HBO’s newer shows will also be available, with a substantial delay: “Previous seasons of other HBO shows, such as Girls, The Newsroom and Veep will become available over the course of the multi-year agreement, approximately three years after airing on HBO.” Note that there’s no mention of Game of Thrones, or Sex and the City for that matter. “Amazon has built a wonderful service—we are excited to have our programming made available to their vast customer base and believe the exposure will create new HBO subscribers,” Charles Schreger, HBO president of programming sales, said in a statement. Prime Instant Video is available to Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 per year for unlimited two-day shipping, streaming video and access to some ebooks. The company recently raised the price of Prime from $79, citing increased transportation and fuel costs, and said it would continue to build up its library of streaming TV and movies. Amazon will report its Q1 2014 earnings on Thursday.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGOver-the-top video in 2012: trends and technologies to watchThe living room reinvented: trends, technologies and companies to watch

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posted 1 day ago on gigaom
OpenStack, the open-source cloud computing software project, turns four years old this year. OpenStack has come a long way since its launch, with contributions from Rackspace, NASA, Intel and other groups. As of 2013 OpenStack had over 1,000 contributors and 1.28 million lines of code, and the figures this year should well exceed those numbers. Moreover, the number of companies that support OpenStack has moved from 50 on the initial launch to 231, with huge players and advocates such as IBM, HP and Cisco, which recently announced that its cloud strategy will include OpenStack. While there are some big enterprise names that OpenStack can boast, including Bloomberg, Comcast, Fidelity and PayPal, the growth of OpenStack within traditional IT shops has been lackluster when compared to the growth of Amazon Web Services, Google or Microsoft. While the world of technology has accepted OpenStack, most enterprises that look at cloud computing still have questions around the long-term viability and the maturity of the standard. So should you move to an OpenStack-enabled cloud or not? Join us at Structure 2014 and get the skinny directly from those in charge. They include Bill Veghte, the EVP and GM of HP’s Enterprise Group; Brian Stevens of Red Hat; and Taylor Rhodes, the president of Rackspace. All have some explaining to do, including why OpenStack could be the right cloud strategy for your enterprise. Weigh in at Structure 2014. Register for Structure by May 16 and save $100. –David Linthicum  

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posted 1 day ago on gigaom
How many times have you dashed out of the house and realized your cell phone battery was about to die? Who hasn’t frantically searched for a cell phone USB charger at work or even a party? Yep, we’re all guilty. The humble lithium ion cell phone battery is pretty much the bane of existence for the modern mobile world, and it hasn’t gotten all that much better despite the best efforts of many companies and people. There are a growing amount of startups and big companies out there that are focused on using science, chemistry, and nanotechnology to create new types of batteries that can be used in laptops and cell phones, as well as electric cars. But the reality is that science-based battery innovation tends to take a really long time to commercialize, and can be really expensive to develop. Electric car maker Tesla knew this early on, which is why it uses thousands of small-form lithium ion batteries in its cars purchased from Japanese giant Panasonic. But in the face of the looming roadblocks for the progress of the everyday lithium ion battery, smart software has emerged as a novel option. And we’re not talking about the basic power management software on your cell phone. To meet this battery performance challenge, a promising startup called Qnovo has just emerged from stealth after four years in development with its own brand of software and silicon that taps into battery chemistry and makes batteries, well, better. I had the opportunity to speak to the founders and visit their labs for the first time this week. Qnovo founders, L to R, CEO Nadim Maluf, VP Product Engineering Fred Berkowitz, showing off a battery charging test Smarter, faster charging batteries On Monday afternoon I pulled my City CarShare Prius into the parking lot of a bland office park that looks like it could be anywhere in the tech startup-filled south or southeast sections of the Bay Area of California. This one is just off the 880 freeway in Newark, about 5 miles (a ten minute drive) from Tesla’s Fremont factory. As I parked the car, the dashboard showed off the very rudimentary Prius animation of how much energy had been going into and out of the car’s battery (not all that much). At the same time the cell phone in my pocket started running dangerously low of battery power, considering I was about to use it to record an interview and also take photos. Inside, in the back of the building shared with a couple other startups, sat the 20-person Qnovo team among rows and rows of battery testing and analytics equipment. Over the past four years, the custom-built equipment and the team have tested close to 200,000 battery cycles (one cycle is a charge and discharge of a battery), which has created about 7 terabytes of battery data. That makes them one of the world’s experts, outside of Tesla and a handful of others, in the new world of battery performance data and management. A custom-made battery testing bank in the labs of Qnovo. Onovo was founded in 2010 by a three-person team of entrepreneurs led by CEO Nadim Maluf, who was formerly an entrepreneur-in-residence at US Venture Partners. He spent over a decade as a consulting electrical engineering professor at Stanford, and is also a long-time Valley business executive. Fred Berkowitz is VP of product engineering, and he joined Maluf early on after being the lead systems engineer on the Macbook for Apple. VP of Technology Dania Ghantous, another founding member, has been working on battery technology for the past two decades. Maluf called the original idea to extract more performance out of a standard lithium ion battery with software and silicon “a little wacky” — particularly back in 2009, while he was at USVP. At the time, venture capitalists were starting to realize that energy manufacturing and materials startups were really hard (and difficult to make money), and they were just starting to move away from funding energy companies. Maluf wanted to do something in batteries, but using computing, not materials or manufacturing, and with a much smaller amount of money raised than some of the very capital-intensive battery companies at the time like A123 Systems. By 2010, Maluf said, the three founders were able to establish that by using just software and silicon they could boost the performance of a cell phone battery considerably — or enough, they think, to create valuable products for cell phone makers, carriers, and even some day maybe directly for regular consumers. Maluf attributed the early critical thinking needed to crack the code to the electrical engineering talent and the battery chemistry talent of his co-founders coming together in an unusual way. Testing batteries at Qnovo “Battery chemists and engineers working together is quite novel,” said Maluf, explaining that it might seem like large Asian battery giants would have these divisions working in tandem, but within conglomerates they’re very separately run. As proof of just how rare this pairing is, while we were walking around the battery testing site Berkowitz started explaining to me how they had to invent the equivalent of an entirely new battery analytics language that’s a bit like Java. How does it work? Qnovo has created two products: one part software, the other part silicon. Over the years the startup has evolved to become more of a software and systems developer, and has figured out that it can work with chip companies to modify their chips to work with Qnovo software. Qnovo’s silicon controller sits between the battery and the main applications processor on the phone, and it measures the battery’s parameters, including current, voltage, and temperature. The smart software applies its own models and algorithms to that data, and uses it to make decisions about charging the battery on the fly. The data and software essentially illuminates to the controller the state of the battery and its chemistry in real time, and the controller optimizes how the battery charges, and can also charge it as fast as possible but while keeping the battery healthy. To really get how this works, you have to picture how lithium-ion batteries charge and know a little something about the chemistry. Lithium-ion batteries have a positive electrode, which is made up of a lithium-metal oxide (like lithium cobalt oxide) and a negative electrode, which is generally made up of graphite. When the battery charges, the lithium ions move from the positive side to the negative side and back again, usually through a thin, porous separator and a substance called an electrolyte, which tends to be made of organic solvents and lithium-based salts. Adaptive charging a cell phone battery in real time with Qnovo Still with me? As the battery charges and discharges repeatedly (lithium ions continuously being pushed back and forth between the two sides through the separator and the electrolyte) there are a bunch of unwanted little chemical reactions that can occur that lead to the battery degrading, corroding, and eventually breaking down over time. Eventually — often times after about two years — lithium-ion batteries no longer will hold the charge because of this degradation. If you’ve ever had a laptop battery swiftly stop working for you, that is why. The regular lithium-ion batteries used in many cell phones are supposed to last at least two years — at least that’s what many phone makers and wireless carriers promise to their customers. But the dirty secret of the battery industry is that some of the batteries in cell phones only last a year before they go kaput — both Qnovo and the carriers are quietly discovering this after rigorously independently testing batteries. “When we started out we didn’t realize the battery vendors were hiding a lot of dirt,” Maluf said. Qnovo’s silicon and software combination can “adaptively” charge the battery by using algorithms to tell how well the battery is operating (down into the chemistry itself) and using the controller to ramp the charge up or down (speed it up or slow it down) appropriately in real time. The system basically optimizes the battery, delivering both a longer life (more cycles, more months of use), as well as a faster rate of charging, particularly when a low battery is first plugged in. The fast-charging feature is what Qnovo considers the killer app. A Qnovo-enabled phone (with both silicon and software) can charge a battery from almost dead to 80 percent in 30 minutes. Without Qnovo, a cell phone could take two or even three hours to recharge that much, Maluf said. Smaller amounts of charge time could be even more important: 15 minutes of charge time with Qnovo could deliver 6 hours of use time. Qnovo also is creating a software-only product, which gets about half of that charging performance. You might be thinking, well, you can also just speed up the charge time by ramping up the amount of amps into the phone. Yes, you could do that but if you ramp up the charging amps into the phone too much, for too long, it will quickly kill the battery life. Getting phone companies to adopt components is infamously difficult. Maluf told me that it costs “somewhere under a $1″ per phone for the added silicon, which needs to be embedded in the phone. Cost-conscious handset makers will have to make the decision if the fast charging, or other features, adds enough value to justify the cost. The software-only option, of course, is less expensive to install, but also offers less value. Maluf would love to find some way to make the product an app — “maybe some day, that’s the dream” — but that it’s been tricky figuring out how to make a consumer-focused product. The first thing is to convince its first manufacturing customers to agree to work together in getting the silicon and software in the phones. Qnovo is “in advanced talks” with all of the major handset makers, Maluf said, though he declined to name names. Next-gen cleantech Qnovo raised a seed round early on from US Venture Partners, followed by funds from Rockport Capital Partners. In total Qnovo has raised just shy of $15 million, Maluf said. That’s a fraction of the amount that some of the big venture-backed materials and manufacturing battery players have raised. And that was the idea, really. The underlying notion is to use software intelligence to move the burden of progress off of battery manufacturing and materials to make the humble lithium ion battery better, Maluf said. Beyond the immediate business model of fast charging, that type of intelligence could do other things, too, like add performance and quality to low quality, cheap Chinese batteries. Qnovo is an example of how cleantech startup and VC-investing could be done: capital-light, small teams, bringing together well-known but siloed disciplines, and using advancements in algorithms and computing to make products. That would seem like a better for both the Valley’s VCs and entrepreneurs. Qnovo is just getting started, so we’ll see how well the company commercializes — “soon,” Maluf said — but it seems to have made some smart early moves. If it can convince the world that everyone needs fast charging, then it could be well on its way.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What happened in mobile in the fourth-quarter 2013Connected consumer first-quarter 2013: Analysis and outlookOpportunities in next-generation battery technologies

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Akamai released data Wednesday detailing a plethora of attacks against its clients as well as the increase in broadband speeds seen around the world. Its quarterly State of the Internet report for the fourth quarter of 2013 is chock-full of data about broadband speeds, IPv6 deployment and new types of website attacks. According to the report, the fourth quarter of 2013 saw a rise in the number of denial of service attacks. Akamai also drew attention to an attack seen in early January. It gave a detailed explanation of a type of attack where hackers used vulnerability scanners that are normally used by site owners to scan for problems in their sites, to probe for weaknesses in websites ahead of a suspected attack. Akamai described it like this: Akamai observed these scanners attacking financial sites looking for Remote File Inclusion (RFI) vulnerabilities with the specific string http://www.google.com/humans.txt within the requested URL. An RFI vulnerability is created when a site accepts a URL from another domain and loads its contents within the site. This can happen when a site owner wants content from one site to be displayed on its own site, but fails to validate which URL is allowed to load. If a malicious URL can be loaded into a site, an attacker can trick a user into believing they are using a valid and trusted site. The site visitor may then inadvertently give sensitive and personal information to the attacker. For the most part these attacks came from inside the U.S., hit one website and if they didn’t find a weakness, moved on. IPv6 and the need for speed The report also gave an update on IPv6 adoption (it’s getting better, but is still not the majority of traffic on any network except Google’s Fiber network). But as usual I paid close attention to the broadband speed data. Overall the global average connection speed reached 3.8 Mbps in the fourth quarter with 5.5 percent quarterly growth and 27 percent growth for the year. This is good news. The U.S. ranked tenth globally this time around with average connection speeds hitting 10 Mbps, a 25 percent improvement from the year before. Most notably, the U.S. also saw its fastest broadband get faster, with the average peak broadband speeds hitting 43.7 Mbps. Mobile demand is still growing Finally, on the mobile side speeds are improving and we’re seeing a lot more traffic. Based on traffic data collected by Ericsson, the volume of mobile data traffic increased by 70 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013, and grew approximately 15 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2013. The U.S. was home to a wireless carrier that recorded the second highest average mobile broadband speeds globally at 8.5 Mbps, but it was the speed data from other parts of the world that were most notable. A wireless provider in Hong Kong and one in Australia both reported average peak connection speeds greater than 100 Mbps. Akamai notes that these speeds indicate that providers are starting to roll out “LTE Advanced” technology, which can enable peak data rates of up to 300 Mbps, and later confirmed that these carriers were “heading down the path” to those networks. Overall, Akamai is seeing more people on the internet with faster speeds. And in the U.S. its data is showing that broadband is getting better, even in the areas where it’s relatively slow today.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the future holds for mobile broadbandHow the truly smart home could finally become a realityHow new devices, networks, and consumer habits will change the web experience

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Flash storage maker Pure Storage  just netted a gaudy $225 million in new funding, bringing its total cash trove to a whopping $470 million and a claimed $3 billion valuation. It also comes just 9 months after it raised $150 million in Series E funding. The money will fuel the company’s undeniably expensive enterprise push and maintain what it calls a 2-year head start in technology.  It may have gotten the jump on older, established rivals, but they’re all in this game now and that means the cost of customer acquisition will rise. Last fall, storage market leader EMC launched its own flash storage push, using technology acquired with XtremIO. While Pure Storage, Nimbus Data and other rivals tout the use of fast Flash for nearly every need, there is not 100 percent agreement that this is really necessary. There’s an array of startups and legacy companies including EMC that also push hybrid arrays which pair traditional spinning disk with flash as needed. Spinning disks are not as fast as flash, but they’re also still considerably cheaper.  For more context on this, check out last year’s Structure talk with Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen (pictured above) and Data Gravity CEO Paula Long for more on this point. Pure Storage’s new cash, which comes in part from new investor Wellington Management Company as well as previous backers T.Rowe Price Associates and Tiger Global, may also come in handy to fund a multi-front legal spat with EMC which sued some former employees who joined Pure. And, given this huge cash infusion, Pure will have to get more specific about its long-stated IPO plans.  Given all this investment, you’ve got to wonder how much a stake the founders still have in the company.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Flash memory: the continuing disruption of enterprise storageThe top 10 cloud trends for 2014Why enterprises should consider software-defined data center technologies

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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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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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  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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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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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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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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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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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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