While we mourn the loss of Neil Armstrong, the pioneering nature of humans remains undeterred. We forge onward in the world, discovering and engineering to fit our needs. Yet, our favorite thing to do with these amazing feats is to categorize them: thus, if you’ve yet to hear, we have the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Technology Pioneers.
To be considered a Technology Pioneer, the company must be “pushing new frontiers” and “committed to improving the state of the world” via new, pivotal technologies in business and society. With this award, the Forum recognizes the role of technology in the aforementioned fields. Chief among the Forum’s interests though, is the conceptof “hyperconnected reality”, the idea that the world is becoming ever more interdependent. Even as we remain physically thousands of miles away from each other, technology drives our communication to be quicker and more complex. It’s the pangea of communication that redefines how “individuals, enterprises and governments communicate with, and relate to, one another”.
From over 700 nominees, a committee has narrowed it down to the twenty-three in three categories (technology, health and energy) that have best fulfilled the criteria of “innovation, potential impact, growth and sustainability, proof of concept and leadership” as determined by a group of really smart people (legitimately holding expertise in the areas of import).These companies help to Illustrate the importance of mobile-based solutions to new products and services.
Every one of the nominees was beyond rad (as I would say if this were the 80’s and that were the done thing) and was put through a rigorous decision process by the committee. My decision process is by far the antithesis of “rigorous”, but I’ve gone ahead and chosen just a few from the list to show off.
From Information Technologies, Telecommunications and New Media: Moshi Monsters
Mind Candy’s website Moshi Monsters allows kids ages 5-12 to adopt a monster avatar (undoubtedly they’re still too cute for the adult concept of a monster) and take care of it, of course by buying things using the monster currency “rox”. That’s not really new. Neopets and other various tag-a-long sites allowed for the same thing. It’s the new world Gigapet. The difference is that this site is subtly preparing kids for more mature social networking sites, like Facebook. We all know what goes on there and understand that social networking can be harsh, combining high-speed communication with all of the semi-anonymous feelings that allow people to feel unaccountable for their cyber actions. Give it up, your kid doesn’t want to go outside. You might as well give them the benefit of learning to navigate the system early. This is probably the lightest idea out of the whole bunch.
And because tech is totally our thing, PrimeSense is tops too:
What’s cooler than 3D Television? Well, a lot of things. Television that can see and understand (to some extent) its surroundings is definitely one of them. PrimeSense is the 3D sensing technology inside Microsoft’s Kinect and is making devices respond to your physical gestures. It is very nearly a technological slave, but sans the Skynet technicalities. PrimeSense’s combination of technology and algorithms projects a series of red dots (that is the technical term, yes) across a room, cycling every 60 seconds to form a 3D model of the room and detecting any motion within the range. While, the major part of this living room revolution may be its application in video games, the absolute best part is that it will end your ongoing search for the television remote. That’s good enough for me.
LanzaTech deals with a topic especially near and dear to my heart, the topic of microorganisms- the cutest thing you can’t see. A more solid reason to appreciate LanzaTech’s genetically modified bacteria is that it converts carbon monoxide into ethanol (useful) while yielding other valuable chemicals (neat). The synthetic organism feeds off of fumes from industrial production. Carbon monoxide is added to the system so the microbes react to create a chemical broth with the necessary components for rubber and nylon production. Mid-paragraph summary: the process captures the greenhouse gas before it can become harmful and provides an inexpensive fuel from an abundant and problematic waste product. LanzaTech has already demonstrated the effectiveness of the process at a Chinese steel plant, licensed the technology to a company in India and is in talks to provide jet fuel for Virgin Atlantic (with a US grant to boot).
MC10 are wearable electronic circuits that conform to the body. MC10 takes a different approach to making the same technology small; they make it functional in its miniaturized state as well. For them, making it functional means making it flexible. They break away from the standard, protective hard shell in which most circuits are encased. MC10 strips away the ultra-thin layer of silicon containing the circuit and connects it to a mesh of stretchable, bendable nano-ribbons. The resulting Band-Aid like patch is five microns thick and, of course, can adhere to skin. The biopatch seems to be the ultimate monitoring solution. It can keep track of blood sugar levels in a diabetes patient, the temperature of a newborn baby, vital organ statuses and can even be placed within the skull to alert epileptics of an impending attack. Outside of the hospital, the patch can be used by athletes to monitor the body’s reaction at different performance levels. “We are material agnostic” says Chief Executive Officer David Icke. They aim to make the technology conform to the human body instead of forcing the body to adapt as it had to do with rigid precursors. MC10 perpetuates a theme present among many of the WEF’s Technology Pioneers: innovations to fit human needs, not to create them.
The impacts of these companies’ goals are innumerable and I have only made mention of four of the twenty-three. I urge you to visit the World Economic Forum’s site and see what other fantastical innovations could be integrated into your life before you know it.
I want to root against Google+ so badly I can almost taste it. A failure here would make my life so much easier! This isn’t like Google Wave where I saw something that could potentially be useful, helpful and game-changing for how I could communicate with people. This is just more of the same stuff we already have.
Google+ is just sharing things with a mixture of friends, acquaintances and strangers. That’s it. Just sharing and following. The content isn’t any different than I can get from these people anywhere else; it’s the same kitty video I see on Facebook, now with a whiter background design.
So, I want to root against this new, redundant time suck. I don’t need it and I certainly don’t need more social networks to keep tabs on.
That said, I am now on Google+.
It’s research only, I swear! Strangely addicting research…but anyway, the point is that I am on Google+ despite my desire to watch it fail. I still hope it amounts to nothing, but in the mean time, I might as well check out what these circles are all about, and spruce up my profile, and well…I have to come clean. I’m hooked.
Maybe we are now hardwired to enjoy novelty in any form, but every time I sign on to Google+ it feels like getting into a new car. All I want to do is take it for a spin and see what kind of power it has. I am enjoying every bit of minutiae, every second of exploration. I mean, not that I still don’t want it to fail and all, but it is kind of fun.
I went to one of the first colleges to get Facebook, and in the early years, it had a similar feel. Simple acts of navigation were novel and everything had a weird lawless and vaguely stalkerish feel about it.
It’s this fun with form (a new system to navigate!) and function (new people to stalk!) that Google+ has going for it. I don’t think we need Google+ at all, and I still wish it would go away, but I’m pretty sure I like it, against my better judgement. As Facebook would say, “it’s complicated.”
We are lucky enough to be able to peek into two tech worlds. One, is a well established, revenue producing, tactile-based yet well understood world of telecommunications, i.e. how you watch TV (set top boxes, TVs, electronic program guides, Video on Demand, PVR, etc.). The other one is the topsy-turvy exciting world of web 2.0 technology that you can’t really get a grip on but you know its there and your friend Trixie uses it, so it must be ok. These are the people that bring you Facebook, the cloud, Twitter, social networks and the like.
The telco world lives pretty much in a fact-based (although somewhat altered) world of actual subscribers, content rights and a general understanding of how to move their industry forward. Now I said “general”. They don’t succumb to hype and when they get a feature that they think will make the vertical trade press wake up and listen, they go for it with gusto – currently the red hot chili in this world is “3D”, multi-screen delivery and social TV (also the cloud). Suffice it to say, they never really cave into hype.
However, in the other world – they live in a bubble that thrives off of hype and works on the premise of “if a few are doing it, we all must be doing it”. This brings me to location based social networks.
Recently there was a great article via CNN about why location apps haven’t gone mainstream yet. When CNN writes the story, it takes on a different perspective because by the time the “hype” of the start-up technology or craze (location based social networks) comes their way, they actually decide to look into it and see what in reality is going on. The article goes on to say that only 7% of all Americans actually are AWARE of location based social networks. This would have to be 7% of all Americans (around 21 million people) But if you tune into any start up technology news source, it would read as if the whole planet is using it and its growing by leaps and bounds. So many issues affect normal users that don’t affect early adopters. Most early adopters (those with smart phones like iPhones, etc. rather than feature phones) tend to care less about privacy than those outside of that market.
VCs still are funding location based start ups and they are putting more pressure on them to monetize and gain traction with users, but how many location based social networks can NON-early adopters handle? And how many of those care more about privacy than the early adopters. If early adopters don’t care about privacy nor the fact that their sign up and usage is just paving the way for targeted advertising, what happens when it hits mainstream and they do care? How will the model be adjusted then? It could be just an issue of usage = complacency, which is normally how technology gets assimilated into our lives, we just get used to it and then we can’t part with it. Or rather, its like a drug, we crave it even though we are forfeiting some of our privacy rights. After all, no one is making you sign up for these services.
Here is our take: Location as it relates to your life where you are in the moment will be relevant to the mainstream user (not early adopter). For example, I am shopping on this street, let’s see what else is around me. Not WHO is around me, but WHAT is around me. If I see that there is something near to me, I want to get there easily, and if there is a money saving voucher or coupon, I am more incented to go there.
According to UK-based Juniper Research, mobile coupons are redeemed at a 5% to 20% rate, compared with about 1% for print coupons. They recently forecast that 1 out of every 10 mobile subscribers in developed regions around the world will use mobile coupons by 2014, generating nearly $6 billion in redemption value. The fact of the matter is that consumers like coupons/vouchers. In the fourth quarter of 2008, coupon redemption was up 7.5% in the US alone. And, according to Hitwise, internet searches for discount vouchers in the UK grew by 47.5% in 2009.
We aren’t the experts, but this sort of feels a bit like maybe how the Gold Rush felt — lots of people rushing in to get their claim, but most of the claims just pinch out. Where LB social networks go from here is up to the user, and they are a fickle lot. – JLH
So we met Laurent, the CEO of Silentale nearly a year ago at Plugg in Brussels where he presented on stage in the start up rally. We instantly liked him and his sweater but didn’t quite get his presentation. This didn’t stop us from stalking him at the cocktail party to give him a few tips on improving. Each successive time we ran into him, LeWeb, NextWeb he was better and better and now he’s got users banging down his door and a whole lot of mojo going on with the application. We were recently both coaches at the KIS Partnering Forum in Rome and I had the chance over many bottles of wine to finally get him on a Tattletech Hot seat. Here is what we discovered.
Tattletech: So, you created something that let’s back up and store all of our online conversations, what gave you the idea for Silentale? Why did you think this was something we needed?
Laurent Féral-Pierssens: It came from a personal need to automatically consolidate and organize all my messages, a few going back as far as 1988 on Arpanet. And the need only grew stronger as individuals started to have multiple profiles while using multiple addresses and devices! After drafting a few algorithms for automatically matching identities I realized it was feasible, while initial assessment of the market showed a strong need and productivity gain from organizing contacts and messages.
TT: I was talking to a VC in London a couple of weeks ago and he told me he could not figure out how Silentale works, so tell us, how does it work? It has that elusive cloud ingredient that we all like to talk about but probably don’t really get. LFP: Well, it’s quite simple in fact. Silentale polls your different messaging services, indexes their content and attachments while making a long term backup of the original messages in the cloud. While doing so, Silentale organizes the messages and figures out who are the recipients of the messages and matches them automatically to the people you know (on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Contacts, Twitter….)
This allows Silentale to do something unique, displaying your conversations with the people you know in context. Inside your inbox or email client, social/professional networks, CRM and collaboration tools. We’re a productivity tool to your real-time communications.
TT: You are a bit of a hybrid – French-Canadian from the New World now living in Paris from the Old World, what do you think are the main differences in the start up community?
LFP: Entrepreneurship is not seen in the same way and comparisons can take years to debate. This being said what strikes me is that Europe is a real network of hubs; of startups, talent and markets. You really need to think outside of your country/culture to see what’s happening and to be successful, and it’s extremely enriching. Gives entrepreneurs of the Old World methodology and practice that you can’t experience or learn anywhere else.
TT: You said recently in a blog post that it was lonely being the only one at the dance, do you still feel that way?
LFP: Hell no! The dance floor is getting more crowded and I’m happier everyday to see great companies, both in the US and in Europe, taking a stab at the underlying problem. Gist, Xobni, Backupify or even projects like Mozilla Raindrop have great product or services that aim at solving one or more aspects of the conversation social graph.
TT: Before Silentale, you started and sold three successful Canadian start ups – so you clearly have a track record of how to grow and sell a business, what mistakes have you learned from in the past that you won’t do with Silentale?
LFP: So many mistakes were made along the way, it’s impossible to know if I’ll make them again in the future. But there’s definitely something about acquiring the right talent at the right time and keeping yourself open minded enough. When you’re starting and later growing a business, it’s all about the equilibrium: looking far enough ahead while executing day-to-day. And it’s really hard to keep identifying subtle nuances and forseeing the changes happening under your nose, and still apply a steady direction without being rigid.
TT: In a fight to the death, which superhero would win? Batman or Superman?
LFP: Gotta be Batman: he already defeated Superman, at least in the “The Dark Knight Returns” series. Anyway, any geek would support Batman!
Today on the Emerging Web Memo out of Boston from the E 2.0 Conference, ink Communications Director of Social Media, Alexandra Crabb talked about how she is using social media to engage employees of companies internally. Alexandra is using it to extend the enterprise outward through her marketing campaigns. The article goes on to talk about thinking about Enterprise 2.0 in three new ways: 1. Consider ROI Through Imagining Absence 2. Rethink the “I” for Which You’re Trying to Achieve “R” 3. The Nature of Social Media Implies Return. It’s an all around great article on whats happening with Enterprise 2.0 right now.
This week in a ReadWriteWeb article on the changes of MySpace, the writer Marshall Kirkpatrick said “Facebook can’t rule the world for ever. No one can.” We could not agree more – we believe social networking should represent a free exchange of personal data, contacts, photos, videos and any content the user want to share. Instead of a walled garden, we see a community garden that allows users interact, share, exchange, collaborate, and discuss whatever they want to. This raises a question around social networking in general – is it “platform agnostic” or not? Absent any substantial differences in quality, does it really matter whether you park your online persona at Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr or any of the dozens (hundreds?) of other sites?
Obviously, we don’t know exactly what the future looks like – if any of our readers do, please e-mail us! But we do think that the future of social networking is not going to be about the providers/platforms per se, but about the larger community and how providers facilitate user interaction. Open standards or open social may be at the bedrock of this future networking, going hand in hand with the augmented reality demonstrated by LBS. Just a quick glance in the direction of Egypt in the past year or two, and more recently Iran, shows exactly what we are talking about: its back to the old saying that its the message (real time interaction) that counts, not the media (Facebook, Twitter, et al). – JLH
We just stumbled on JuiceCaster while doing some research on a story on location based geo tagging (we think this is the space to watch) and now are distracted. Why? Well first the name is just plain cool. Second, their value proposition is simple and does what we should be doing with content from our mobile, geo tagging without having to think to add a geo tag. It’s automatic.
Fierce Wireless reports that JuiceCaster provides one-touch, real-time sharing of pictures and videos directly from a camera phone to many social-networking and blogging sites. JuiceCaster is about keeping people constantly connected to their online communities/social networks. The beautiful thing is that because all pictures and videos are geotagged, users can look for content based on specific location criteria. Isn’t this is what having a mobile is all about – we are on the go, we take a photo and it should be tagged from the spot where were took the photo. It should easily flow to our social networks and better yet, it should pop up on map that not only shows me where my friends are but where that content was taken or where other geo content resides. I want one big snapshot of my content and my social networks. Better yet, give me a real life screenshot of my social network and content. Seeing this already with the visual social network platform IRLConnect where you can now see geo tagged live mobile video broadcasts (via Bambuser), mobile video and photos (via MobyPicture) and all your social networks on a map. Yup, that’s what I want, a screenshot of my life. - JLH
Nimbuzz, the super fly mobile social messenger, just brought in a new CMO, Neal Fullman. Neal has chops. He is the former International Communications director at fring and is in charge of brand development, marketing and communications strategy for the ever expanding Nimbuzz.
It’s like someone added MiracleGrow to Nimbuzz and they are seeing unprecendeted growth with more than 25,000 new users joining every day. Plus, some very strategic global distribution deals which are not yet announced. (more on that later). – JLH
IRL Connect, our favorite visual social network, is counting down to its public beta launch and they are keeping quiet about the virtual launch party – but we know it must be something big! We have been using the platform for a while and love it – putting all our friends from Facebook and Twitter on the map, interacting with them and just plain feeling the love. If you wanna get on, use the invite key: senseit. They also have a Twitter feed: @IRLConnect or you can follow their leader on IRLConnect @frankschuil or Twitter @frankschuil. He talks to just about everyone. – JLH
Tattletech was at Plugg last week in Brussels (that Robin Wauters puts on a good show) and it was one of the best events we have been to in a while. The agenda was superb, the speakers were excellent and the food was outstanding. The start up rally was fun with our audience participation paddles, but the majority of the start ups were not that compelling, with the exception of three that stood out WAY above the others. We are planning on having all three of them do a Tattletech Hot Seat in the coming weeks.
Here are the three companies we think you should keep your eyes on. (Plus one extra)
Jinni – Everything is changing so why not how we search for TV shows and movies. Long time IPTV industry veteran and former Oracle guy, Yosi Glick thinks its about time we re think how we search for movies. So enter Jinni. Tattltech saw a super secret demo of Jinni last fall at IBC and now the train is on the track as Jinni has brought its new search technology to the forefront. Blending both a social networking element with a more logical way to search for what you want to watch (a social search and recommendation engine), Jinni will change the way you think about searching for content. They will. Sign up for the beta online. Watch them, get on board now, this would be like missing the Skype train. Yes, I said that. A fantastic management team makes all the difference and Jinni has that.
Myngle - Learn a language online. Okay, so at first glance that may not sound innovative, but it is. It is because it connects you to the global marketplace where you are talking with folks that know that native language. Its interacting with them in a way you would normally if you knew a language, not the “phrases” that you normally go through in an old school language class. It’s e learning mixed with educational social networking and we think that this is one of the best ideas for applying elements of social networking today. Imagine the possibilities this could have on developing nations.
Global classroom, cultural exchange takes on a whole new meaning. Founder by Marina Togenetti and based in the Netherlands, this woman gives entrepreneur a whole new name. Winner of the Plugg Audience Choice awards and more than 20,000 users in seven months.
Softatutor – It is unfortunate that their site is only in German, but trust me when I say to you this CEO has his eye on the big picture. And like Myngle, Sofatutor is focusing on applying the elements of social networking to education. Sofatutor blends video with social interaction to create an online “tutor”. And the CEO, Stephan Bayer at Plugg 09 says that he wants tutors to get paid for their work – educational advocate. Nice. Not to mention the fact that if we did a Top 10 list of sexy tech guys at Plugg, he would be on it.
Now, also on our list is Nimbuzz who has won all sorts of awards and plans to become the gobal communications platform for IP-based communication between mobile devices and social media platforms. Watch for their upcoming Tattletech Hot Seat interview with Tobias Kemper. And rounding out the trip was the excellent conversation spent with two fantastic “personalities” we had the great pleasure of spending our breaks with – Nicolas Mertens (picture a young David Spade with the same sense of humor), The Next Web and Jeroen Mirck.