Monday, July 30, 2012

Tent of the Future

Sierra Designs has a tent from the future

by Edwin - on July 29th, 2012

Do you love camping? Well, if you have not given camping a go before in the past, you might want to consider taking your family out for a camping trip to the great outdoors while the summer season is still in vogue. Now, there are plenty of companies out there making tents, but here we are with Sierra Designs – a company that has just announced that they have released a spanking new tent for you and the rest of your pack to seek shelter from the elements while you enjoy nature’s bounty.

Sierra Designs’ latest addition will be part of the new line of ExoFusion fast-and-light tents, where it is called the new Mojo UFO. The name itself suggests that it is out of this world, and if you were to read on, I guess you can also come to the same epic conclusion that this tent is truly heads and shoulders above the rest. It is capable of housing two people for a good night’s rest inside, and even more amazingly, the entire shebang tips the scales at under 2 lbs. (0.9 kg), and can be pitched within minutes. I guess the drawback would be the price – as it is said to cost as much as a vacation for two, but think of it as a long term investment.

According to Sierra Designs, “For those who are truly obsessed with ultralight gear, space-age materials, and technical designs, we offer the Mojo UFO.” This particular tent can be said to be a pièce de résistance of modern tent technology and design. It will ditch standard nylon and polyester, but will instead rely on cuben fiber, an ultralight, highly durable fabric that often sees action in sailcloth, and it forms the tent’s body and integrated rain fly. Cuben fiber is getting more and more popular for the outdoors market, so you know that you are on the right track here.

The asking price? Like I mentioned earlier, this is not going to be cheap at $1,799 for the Mojo UFO. Any takers?

Mind-Blowing Future Cars

So, you've seen some of the weirdest limousinesDarth Vader's Ferrari F40, and what stormtroopers drive on Earth, now check out these five mind-blowing cars from the future. Starting off, we have a strange circular vehicle that "uses two large wheels that span the entire circumference of the slim and efficient circle-shaped automobile, neatly looking like one smooth integrated wheel." Continue reading to see more.

5. Peugeot RD 3

Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar's RD 3 is a beautiful three-wheeled concept car with an articulating joint allowing it to dynamically adapt to different road conditions and traffic densities. This intelligent design combines a curvilinear aesthetic with its shape-shifting functionality, each reinforcing the fluidity of the other.

4. MIT City Car

MIT Media Lab CityCar was initially a collaborative effort by faculty and students that is now poised to become a commercial reality. It features "a folding chassis to occupy a small footprint when parked, drive-by-wire control, front entry and egress, the ability to spin on its axis, and "Robot Wheels" with integrated electric drive motor, steering motor, suspension, and braking." Independently suspended and controlled, the all-direction wheels plus a self-compacting body make any parking spot possible.

3. Peugeot EX 1

The EX1 is a two-seater roadster that combines the "floating" front grille and flowing contours from the SR1 concept, with polished aluminum components adorn the door surrounds from the RCZ and BB1. A particular feature of this concept is the reverse-opening door that gives access to the two sports bucket seats. There is also an instrument panel screens for each occupant showing in particular the vehicle's instantaneous performance.

2. Rinspeed sQuba

Rinspeed's sQuba is a bit of James Bond come to life - a car that can successfully cruise underwater. The catch: it is not a self-contained submarine - you still have to wear scuba gear if you want to breath while speeding along in submerged mode. Electric motors to replace the conventional combustion engine were, of course, a must.

1. Hyundai Aebulle

The concept was designed to be powered by compact in-wheel electric motors coupled with lithium batteries stored in the floor of the vehicle. It�s front wheels are connected to separate independent swing arms that allow the Aebulle to glide around corners. The body is made up of an aluminum frame and the "windshield" is made up of aluminum oxynitride glass. The whole top of the three-wheeler lifts up, taking with it the center console and allowing the passenger to make his exit.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

First 3D Printed Gun

The world’s first 3D-printed gun is a terrifying thing

26th July 2012 by 

Technology is a lovely thing, but sometimes it scares the bejeezus out of us. This working 3D-printed gun is one such case.

Gun enthusiast “HaveBlue” has documented in a blog post (via the AR15 forums) the process of what appears to be the first test firing of a firearm made with a 3D printer.
Before you go about locking yourself in your closet, you should know that the only printed part of the gun was the lower receiver. But, according to the American Gun Control Act, the receiver is what counts as the firearm.

HaveBlue reportedly used a Stratasys 3D printer to craft the part, assembled it as a .22 pistol and fired more than 200 rounds with it.

The tester then attempted to assemble a rifle with the part and a .223 upper receiver but had “feed and extraction issues.” The problem may not in fact be with the 3D-printed part, though, as the issues remained when a standard aluminum lower was used.

3D printer gun designs have been floating around the Internet for some time now, but HaveBlue seems to be the first to take it to the next level.

About the Author

Josh Ong is the China Editor of The Next Web. He's a native Californian, turned transplanted Beijinger. Follow him on Twitter and Sina Weibo or email him at

Trend Hunters are Sales Leaders

The Best Sales Leaders Are Trend Hunters

by Pär Edin, Oskar Lingqvist, and Åsa Tamsons  |   6:00 AM July 26, 2012
Sales is all about hitting your numbers. The rapid fire, adrenalin-infused process of nailing monthly and annual sales targets comes with the territory. But who's aiming for targets two and three years out? It's not just a job for strategy; the best sales leaders are hunting for trends.
Future growth isn't about gut instinct or reading tea leaves to find the next big thing. Sales leaders we spoke to in writing the book Sales Growth systematically invested time, effort, and resources in figuring out where growth will come from next. Despite all the short-term pressures, the best are looking at least 10 quarters ahead. "In our international operations, we introduced a three-year sales planning process to get beyond the 90-day mentality of 'How will I make my number this quarter?'" says William Teuber, Vice-Chairman of EMC.
An automobile manufacturer got it right when it tried to crack the Indian market. The whole industry knew that there was an emerging middle class in India that would be buying cars. This company recognized that big city dealerships were already tied up with local manufacturers, but also saw that second-tier cities were untapped. Based on this competitive analysis, it decided to build relationships with a network of dealerships in these smaller markets. Within five years, the company was a top-five player in India and its return on sales far exceeded its initial investment.

Here's how the best trend hunters operate.

1. Choose the right trends. It might sound obvious, but companies often don't monitor the most relevant data. A basic materials company selling to the automotive sector, for example, drove its sales projections by the number of cars sold by region, which seems logical. However, its orders were actually tied to the number of new automotive projects (e.g. prototypes, factory modifications). The company simply got the correlation wrong. One way to figure it out is to "analyze your analysis." Trend analyses are often based on false or old assumptions that haven't kept pace with changes in the market place. Each data set you're examining should tie directly to your sales goals — selling more of a product, getting more share of wallet, etc. If you can't make that direct connection, you're looking in the wrong places. One trick is to look back 10 quarters to see whether the datasets you're monitoring now would have correctly predicted growth. If not, that's a sign that you're looking at the wrong trends. One critical way to identify the trends that matter to you is to ask yourself, how could this affect my customers? It's a basic question but one that's often overlooked when looking at long-term trends.

2. Keep it manageable. Even when you've narrowed down the trends to the ones that really matter to you, it's still easy to drown in complex models that become both time consuming to run and hard to make sense of. For example, one industrial company tried building a market growth model based on trends that sought to predict sales in all its segments. But this resulted in more than 15 market drivers to manage, impossible for a lean organization to do on a monthly basis as part of its performance management. Choosing three or four trends that drive 60–80% of the sales growth would have been a better option. You need information to help make decisions — investments, resource allocations, hiring — not awe-inducing spreadsheet models to impress particle physicists.

3. Tie insights to operations. Too many companies fail to take effective action or manage performance based on the insights they uncover. If you're still rewarding the frontline based on short-term results, then any long-term effort will fail. The best sales leaders routinely invest 2–4% of their selling costs in promising trends. Our India car example above put teams on the ground to sign up 110 dedicated dealers across India. The company also subsidized the dealers for two years to help them build parts inventory and facilities. Put in place the right metrics, and track them closely. This isn't a "bet it and forget it" approach; you need to stay on top of what's going on, and adjust. "We monitor how markets are going to develop and prioritize opportunities that will generate the best growth over the next four to eight quarters," advises EMC's Teuber.
Forward planning must be part of someone's job description — not just part of top-management's lengthy to-do list. Some companies establish formal operations — a hardware manufacturer has a team of analysts talking to venture capital firms about their up-and-coming investments, for example. Others embed forward-looking analysis into annual capacity planning.

While the challenge of spotting profitable trends even once may seem daunting, the best sales leaders do it again and again. That's because they've institutionalized the approach. Success requires a fundamental belief in finding growth in future trends and having the courage of your convictions.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Customers are Stupid at Math

11 Ways Consumers are Stupid at Math

You walk into a Starbucks and see two deals for a cup of coffee. The first deal offers 33% extra coffee. The second takes 33% off the regular price. What's the better deal?

"They're about equal!" you'd say, if you're like the students who participated in a new study published in the Journal of Marketing. And you'd be wrong. The deals appear to be equivalent, but in fact, a 33% discount is the same as a 50 percent increase in quantity

Math time: Let's say the standard coffee is $1 for 3 quarts ($0.33 per quart). The first deal gets you 4 quarts for $1 ($0.25 per quart) and the second gets you 3 quarts for 66 cents ($.22 per quart).

The upshot: Getting something extra "for free" feels better than getting the same for less. The applications of this simple fact are huge. Selling cereal? Don't talk up the discount. Talk how much bigger the box is! Selling a car? Skip the MPG conversion. Talk about all the extra miles.

There are two broad reasons why these kind of tricks work. First: Consumers don't know what the heck anything should cost, so we rely on parts of our brains that aren't strictly quantitative. Second: Although humans spend in numbered dollars, we make decisions based on clues and half-thinking that amount to innumeracy. 

Here are 10 more ways consumers are bad at math, with an assist from historian and author William Poundstone.

(2) We're heavily influenced by the first number. You walk into a high-end store, let's say it's Hermès, and you see a $7,000 bag. "Haha, that's so stupid!" you tell your friend. "Seven grand for a bag!" Then you spot an awesome watch for $367. Compared to a Timex, that's wildly over-expensive. But compared to the $7,000 price tag you just put to memory, it's a steal. In this way, stores can massage or "anchor" your expectations for spending.

(3) We're terrified of extremes. We don't like feeling cheap, and we don't like feeling duped. Since we're not sure what things are worth, we shy away from prices that appear too high or too low. Stores can employ our bias for moderation against us. Here's a great story

People were offered 2 kinds of beer: premium beer for $2.50 and bargain beer for $1.80. Around 80% chose the more expensive beer. Now a third beer was introduced, a super bargain beer for $1.60 in addition to the previous two. Now 80% bought the $1.80 beer and the rest $2.50 beer. Nobody bought the cheapest option.

Third time around, they removed the $1.60 beer and replaced with a super premium $3.40 beer. Most people chose the $2.50 beer, a small number $1.80 beer and around 10% opted for the most expensive $3.40 beer.
In short: We are all Goldilocks.

(4) We're in love with stories. In his book Priceless, William Poundstone explains what happened when Williams-Sonoma added a $429 breadmaker next to their $279 model: Sales of the cheaper model doubled even though practically nobody bought the $429 machine. Lesson: If you can't sell a product, try putting something nearly identical, but twice as expensive, next to it. It'll make the first product look like a gotta-have-it bargain. One explanation for why this tactic works is that people like stories or justifications. Since it's terribly hard to know the true value of things, we need narratives to explain our decisions to ourselves. Price differences give us a story and a motive: The $279 breadmaker was, like, 40 percent cheaper than the other model -- we got a great deal! Good story.

(5) We do what we're told. Behavioral economists love experimenting in schools, where they've found that shining a light on fruit and placing a salad bar in the way of the candy makes kids eat more fruit and salad. But adults are equally susceptible to these simple games. Savvy restaurants, for example, design their menus to draw our eyes to the most profitable items by things as simple as pictures and boxes. Good rule of thumb: If you see a course on the menu that's highlighted, boxed, illustrated, or paired with a really expensive item, it's probably a high-margin product that the restaurant hopes you'll see and consider. 

(6) We let our emotions get the best of us. In a brilliant experiment from Poundstone's book, volunteers are offered a certain number of dollars out of $10. Offers seen as "unfair" ($1, let's say) activated the insula cortex, "which is otherwise triggered by pain and foul odors." When we feel like we're being ripped off, we literally feel disgusted -- even when it's a good deal. Poundstone equates this to the minibar experience. It's late, you're hungry, there's a Snickers right there, but you're so turned off by the price, that you starve yourself to avoid the feeling of being ripped off. The flip-side is that bargains literally make us feel good about ourselves. Even the most useless junk in the world is appealing if the price feels like a steal.

(7) We're easily made dumber by alcohol, time, decisions. When you're young and drunk at a bar, you're more likely to do stupid things with strangers. "Am I fully assessing this complex romantic situation?" is a difficult question to answer on seven glasses of wine, so we're more likely to ask ourselves a simpler question: "Is s/he hot?" When we're drunk, stressed, tired, and otherwise inattentive, we're more likely to ask and answer simple questions about buying things. Cheap candy bars and gum are situated near the check-out at grocery stores because that's where exhausted shoppers are most likely to indulge cravings without paying attention to price. Boozy lunches are good for deal-making because alcohol narrows the range of complicating factors we can hold in our heads at once. If you want somebody to take an under-examined risk, get him boozed, tired, or ego-depleted.

(8) We're pained by transaction costs... In a personal finance column here, Megan McArdle implored her readers to give up recurring payments like gym memberships and subscriptions to papers and services they don't use. "Don't buy stuff you don't consume" seems like obvious enough advice, but Megan had a great point. We're drawn to subscriptions and memberships and bundles partially because we seek to avoid transaction costs. We'd rather overpay a little than suffer the psychological pain of pulling out a wallet and watching our money go to each gym season/movie/etc.

(9) ... but we're weird about rebates and warranties. Now that I've just told you that consumers try to avoid additional payments, I should add that there are two additional payments we love: rebates and warranties. The first buys the illusion of wealth ("I'm being paid money to spend money!"). The second buys peace of mind ("Now I can own this thing forever without worrying about it!"). Both are basically tricks. "Instead of buying something and getting a rebate," Poundstone writes, "why not just pay a lower price in the first place?' 

"[Warranties] make no rational sense," Harvard economist David Cutler told the Washington Post. "The implied probability that [a product] will break has to be substantially greater than the risk that you can't afford to fix it or replace it. If you're buying a $400 item, for the overwhelming number of consumers that level of spending is not a risk you need to insure under any circumstances."

(10) We're obsessed with the number 9. Up to 65 percent of all retail prices end in the number 9. Why? Everybody knows that $20 and $19.99 are the same thing. But the number 9 tells us something simple: This thing is discounted. This thing is cheap. This thing was priced by somebody who knows you like things discounted and cheap. In other words, 9 has transcended the status of charm price to become a cable of silent understanding between buyer and seller that a product is being priced competitively and fairly. 

Putting a 9 on a shell-fish platter at a high-end restaurant is ridiculous. Nobody spending $170 on lobster is looking for a discount. But the same person shopping for underwear is (research has shown, again and again) more likely to buy a product that ends in 9. Remember: Shopping is an attention game. Consumers aren't just hunting for products. They're hunting for clues that products are worth buying. In the number 9, the bargain-hunter/discount-gatherer corner of our brain spots a pluckable deal.

(11) We're compelled by a strong sense of fairness. I've already explained how our brains light up differently based on seeing a bargain vs. a rip-off. The shopper's brain is motivated by a sense of fairness. Again, it comes back to the idea that we don't know what things should cost, and so we use cues to tell us what we ought to pay for them. An experiment by the economist Dan Ariely tells the story beautifully. Ariely pretended he was giving a poetry recital. He told one group of students that the tickets cost money and another group that they would be paid to attend. Then he revealed to both groups that the recital was free. The first group was anxious to attend, believing they were getting something of value for free. The second group mostly declined, believing they were being forced to volunteer for the same event without compensation. 

What's a poetry recital by a behavioral economist worth? The students had no idea. That's the point. I don't know, either. That's also the point. What's a button-up shirt "worth"? What's a cup of coffee "worth"? What's a life insurance policy "worth"? Who knows! Most of us don't. As a result, the shopping brain uses only what is knowable: visual clues, triggered emotions, comparisons, ratios, and a sense of bargain vs. rip-off. 

We're not stupid. Just susceptible.

The Customer as God

Wall Street Journal Article

The Customer as God

Businesses today tend to herd customers as if they were cattle, but a revolution in personal empowerment is under way—and buying will never be the same again.

It's a Saturday morning in 2022, and you're trying to decide what to wear to the dinner party you're throwing that evening. All the clothes hanging in your closet are "smart"—that is, they can tell you when you last wore them, what else you wore them with, and where and when they were last cleaned. Some do this with microchips. Others have tiny printed tags that you can scan on your hand-held device.
As you prepare for your guests, you discover that your espresso machine isn't working and you need another one. So you pull the same hand-held device from your pocket, scan the little square code on the back of the machine, and tell your hand-held, by voice, that this one is broken and you need another one, to rent or buy. An "intentcast" goes out to the marketplace, revealing only what's required to attract offers. No personal information is revealed, except to vendors with whom you already have a trusted relationship.

Within a minute offers come in, displayed on your device. You compare the offers and pick an espresso machine to rent from a reputable vendor who also can fix your old one. When the replacement arrives, the delivery service scans and picks up the broken machine and transports it to the vendor, who has agreed to your service conditions by committing not to share any of your data with other parties and not to put you on a list for promotional messages. The agreement happened automatically when your intentcast went out and your terms matched up with the vendor's.
Your hand-held is descended from what they used to call smartphones, and it connects to the rest of the world by whatever ambient connection happens to be available. Providers of commercial Internet connections still make money but not by locking customers into "plans," which proved, years ago, to be more trouble than they were worth.
The hand-held itself is also uncomplicated. New technologies and devices are still designed by creative inventors, and there are still trade secrets. But prototyping products and refining them now usually involves actual users at every stage, especially in new versions. Manufacturers welcome good feedback and put it to use. New technology not only evolves rapidly, but appropriately. Ease of use is now the rule, not the exception.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
A South Korean woman uses her phone to buy products at a virtual retail shop in Seoul. As hand-held devices get smarter, so will shopping.
OK, now back to the present.
Everything that I just described can be made possible only by the full empowerment of individuals—that is, by making them both independent of controlling organizations and better able to engage with them. Work toward these goals is going on today, inside a new field called VRM, for vendor relationship management. VRM works on the demand side of the marketplace: for you, the customer, rather than for sellers and third parties on the supply side.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the only way a company could scale up in productivity and profit was by treating customers as populations rather than as individuals—and by treating employees as positions on an organization chart rather than as unique sources of talent and ideas. Anything that stood in the way of larger scale tended to be dismissed.
The Internet has challenged that system by giving individuals the same power. Any of us can now communicate with anybody else, anywhere in the world, at costs close to zero. We can set up our own websites. We can produce, publish, syndicate and do other influential things, with global reach. Each of us can be valuable as unique individuals and not only as members of groups.
But the Internet is young, and most development work has been done to improve the supply side of the marketplace. Individual customers have benefited, but improving their own native technical capacities has attracted relatively little interest from developers or investors.
As a result, big business continues to believe that a free market is one in which customers get to choose their captors. Choosing among AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for your new smartphone is like choosing where you'd like to live under house arrest. It's why marketers still talk about customers as "targets" they can "acquire," "control," "manage" and "lock in," as if they were cattle. And it's why big business thinks that the best way to get personal with customers on the Internet is with "big data," gathered by placing tracking files in people's browsers and smartphone apps without their knowledge—so they can be stalked wherever they go, with their "experiences" on commercial websites "personalized" for them.
It is not yet clear to the perpetrators of this practice that it is actually insane. Think about it. Nobody from a store on Main Street would follow you around with a hand in your pocket and tell you "I'm only doing this so I can give you a better shopping experience." But that is exactly what happens online (as The Wall Street Journal has shown at length in its investigative series "What They Know").
This nuttiness also has infected retailing in the offline world. Take, for example, the pile of "loyalty cards" and key tags that stores require you to carry around so that you get a supposed "discount" while they collect data for personalizing your promotional experience in the store. Loyalty cards are the Main Street version of requiring you to log in and provide a password for every website that needs to know you.
The only way to stop this insanity is for customers to start showing up as human beings and not just as cattle to be herded. That is what VRM is for. In the not-too-distant future, you will be able, for example, to change your contact information with many vendors at once, rather than many times, over and over, at many different websites. You will declare your own policies, preferences and terms of engagement—and do it in ways that can be automated both for you and the companies you engage. You will no longer have to "accept" agreements that aren't worth reading because, as we all know, they cover the other party's butt but expose yours.
In addition to your personal tool kit, you'll have software that can knit together your apps with the services offered by companies, saving work for you and creating business for them—all in real time. On a business trip, for example, you can have your phone's apps for travel, budgeting, mapping, reminders and fitness all working together to compare offerings, make reservations, issue reminders and even fill out your expense report along the way.
Today nearly all the apps on your phone, and all the public-facing services of companies, are isolated in what techies call "silos." Their reach is confined only to what they do. Even services like Travelocity and Priceline are silos, just ones that combine the silos of hotel, airline and car rental companies. With new VRM tools, you will be able to work not only across many silos at once but to improve them by making connections and providing useful data they wouldn't get on their own. In the process, you show your value as an independent customer to the whole marketplace.
Once economic signaling starts to crank up on the demand side of the marketplace, the supply side will have to start regarding customers as complex and fully empowered actors. Consider what's already happening with an early species of VRM tools: browser add-ons for blocking ads and tracking the trackers. Usage of these is on the rise.
In May of this year, ClarityRay reported that the overall rate of ad blocking by users was 9.26% in the U.S. and Europe. The rate ranged from 6.11% for business and finance sites to 15.58% for news sites and 17.79% for tech sites. For some sites, ad blocking reached 50%. Ad blocking is highest in Europe, where Austria is tops with a 22.5% ad blocking rate. The U.S. is slightly below average at 8.72%. With 1% or less are Iran, Guyana, Kuwait, Myanmar and Qatar.
Ad blockers are also the most popular software extensions for leading browsers such as Chrome and Firefox, which at 17.81% has the top ad blocking rate. Microsoft's Internet Explorer was lowest, at 3.86%
Coincidentally, also in May, Microsoft announced that the "Do Not Track" (DNT) feature will be turned on by default in the next version of Internet Explorer. (Many browsers already have it, but it's off by default.) In addition to being a browser setting, "Do Not Track" is an initiative proposed by the Obama administration, similar to "Do Not Call" for unsolicited phone calls. The purpose is to encourage businesses to respect the wishes of users not to be tracked. Microsoft's move angered the digital marketing industry, which would prefer to see DNT left as an opt-in for users rather than an opt-out. But Microsoft knows which way the wind is blowing, and it's blowing in favor of customers.
The move toward individual empowerment is a long, gradual revolution. It began with the first personal computers, which caught on in the early 1980s. With PCs, people got the power to do what big business called "data processing"—but in many more ways than any company could ever do. The next stage in the revolution was networking. There were "local area networks" and "online services" available before the Internet, but none that made individuals free to network on their own. The Internet did that.
The third stage was smartphones. With smartphones, the individual has both computing and networking in a device as portable as a wallet—but not as personal. Smartphones do provide a lot of freedom, but they are still controlled by phone companies, and in some cases (notably Apple's) also by the manufacturer. This wasn't true of the PC, and it isn't true of the Internet.
This revolution in personal liberation and empowerment won't be complete until we are free to use our computing and networking powers with any device we like, outside the exclusive confines of "providers." This won't be easy. Big companies and old industries are notoriously bad at changing their ways and giving up control, even when obvious opportunities argue for embracing openness and change. There is also big money behind "big data" and supporting the belief that marketing machinery can know people better than people know themselves.
In the marketplace, fashions come and go, and giants fall, but freedom remains the guiding light. The largest and most durable opportunities are those that use the freedom we have or give us the freedom we want and need. Progress in empowering customers won't be smooth or even, but it will happen. Today, the supply side still reigns, but by the time of that dinner party in 2022, everyone will understand that free customers are more valuable than captive ones.
—Mr. Searls is the author of "The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge" (Harvard Business Review Press). He also runs ProjectVRM at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Randa Needs Wallet 2.0

So long, wallet. Pay by voice...

Wallet photos are now replaced by Smartphone photos.

Cash and credit cards are migrating to Smartphones and other devices.

Digital ID including driver’s licenses and other government ID are going from atoms to bits shortly.

Time for Randa to re-invent the wallet.

News from this morning: The “Pay With Square” service makes transactions easier than ever. If a retailer has your name and photo in its system, you only have to announce yourself to pay your bill.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Great Type for Packaging

45 Great Examples of Typography for Packaging

Sensors for Randa Products

Sensors are about to disrupt everything...  Think belts that notify wearers of weight gain, or wear-out... ties that let you know if they work with your shirt... and more.  - DJK

Wireless sensors are starting to unleash a wave of disruptive innovation that will bring with it immense entrepreneurial opportunities.
There will be more wireless sensors in our world--by far--than there are smartphones, dumb phones, tablets, laptops and PCs combined. Billions upon billions today--and trillions tomorrow.
They will give us superhuman senses: to see "through" walls, to "hear" sounds many miles away, to "know" things we never could have known before.
No matter the size of your company, the ability to look at this new sensor-enabled world through the eyes of an entrepreneur is the price of admission. Already, thousands of startups around the world are laser-focused on implementing new business models that disrupt the status quo.
It would be naïve to expect that none of these bright, well-educated entrepreneurs are targeting your industry.
Do you really think your existing business model can remain unchanged as nearly every object on the planet acquires the ability to sense its surroundings, relentlessly gathering exabytes of data about everything?
Companies that think like a startup will discover huge opportunities; the ability to leverage these forces will dramatically expand the possibilities for start-ups and--more relevant for established companies--for entrepreneurial, start-up thinking.
These sensors will monitor what we say and do. They will track the moisture in our gardens, the proximity of our cars, the location of our kids (and dogs), and the actions of our co-workers.
Refrigerators will know what's inside them, and when it expires. Pots will know when the soup is warm enough and will notify you in a manner you define. Companies will know (precisely) where they made money and where they did not. They'll know which customers they delighted and which they upset--and where those customers were the moment these things occurred.
Sensors will change every industry, because they will create exciting new business opportunities and disrupt established product lines. Who wants to pay $78 for a “stupid” pot when smart ones sell for the same price?
To prove our point, we inserted the following--intentionally very long--sentence into our book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies:
"Today, digital sensors can: monitor your tire pressure and avoid dangerous blowouts; analyze the gait of elderly citizens and warn of falls before they occur; follow the gaze of shoppers and identify which products they examine - but don't buy - in a store; monitor which pages readers of a magazine read or skip; float in the air over a factory and independently monitor the plant's emissions; detect impacts in the helmet of an athlete and make it impossible for them to hide potential serious blows to their brains; reveal when a dishwasher, refrigerator, computer, bridge, or dam is about to fail; trigger a different promotion as a new customer walks by a message board; analyze the duration and quality of your sleep; warn drivers that they are about to fall asleep; prevent intoxicated drivers from operating a motor vehicle; warn a person before he or she has a heart attack; detect wasted energy in both homes and commercial buildings; warn a parent or boss when anger is creeping into their voice, to help prevent them from saying or doing things they will later regret; tell waiting customers how far away the pizza delivery guy is from their house; analyze the movements of employees through a factory to detect wasted time and efforts; trigger product demonstrations or interactive manuals when a customer picks up or examines a product; congratulate an athlete when she swings a tennis racquet properly or achieves an efficient stride while running. What can they do tomorrow?"
Sensors will make dumb objects smart, and smart objects behave very differently than dumb ones. (Dumb objects basically sit there like rocks, requiring you--as a company or customer--to “do something”. Smart objects--which can be as diverse as people, products, places or things--“do something” on their own, without the need for external interaction or influence).
You might argue with us and say that sensors won't spread as widely as we suggest. Or maybe you believe they will, but you can't see how they'll impact your industry, or disrupt your business.
Did you predict that Facebook would grow in eight years to over 900 million users? Early in 2007, did you anticipate that Apple would introduce the iPhone and that unit sales per quarterwould top 35 million by 2012? Did you predict that Android unit sales would be even higher? (By the way, each one of these smartphones already contains about 5 sensors, plus a GPS. Most modern laptops have 3 to 5.)
These sensors (along with the sensors in your cars, cameras, gaming consoles, HVAC systems, tea pots, refrigerators, gardens, offices, lamps, televisions, body, and more) will make possible all sorts of new services and business models.
Here's one example: We have been tracking the Kickstarter campaign of Sensordrone, a little tricorder-like device about the size of a flash drive that's jam-packed with sensors. It can talk to your smartphone via Bluetooth, enabling literally hundreds of previously impossible apps.
Flash forward a few years and imagine millions of people carrying around tiny but powerful sensing units like these. People will then be able to join networks of individuals who share and/or sell their sensing data. Already, sensors monitor things like air quality, and sudden (i.e. dangerous) changes in the weather. Soon, they'll be monitoring subway overcrowding, in-store customer traffic patterns, the effectiveness of outdoor advertising, or even the popularity of bars and parties.
Sensors will be able to automatically and remotely answer all sorts of questions for you. Is your coffee too hot? Is your refrigerator too warm? Is the humidity in your basement too high? Does your child have a temperature?
Now consider what happens when you combine trillions of sensors with another disruptive force, what we call pervasive memory. Every time we use a digital device, we create a record of our actions--a trail of digital breadcrumbs that create a complex and comprehensive tapestry of our life. They reveal where we go, with whom we interact, and what we're interested in, and in many ways, who we are.
These records, stored in databases around the world, document not only what is happening in your life, but also in the lives of most other people in the world. The more digital devices that exist, the more pervasive memory will become. In fact, most companies have the ability to remember everything about their customers--but they don't. (Which leaves a huge opportunity for smart, entrepreneurial competitors.)
Think about the possibilities. Digital sensors, everywhere, gathering information about everything. And companies that are actually capable of remembering information for customers, instead of just about them.
Sensors are one reason we say to executives of all companies, large or small, old or young: think like a startup, or else.
Adapted from Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Thrive, And How To Be One Of Them, co-authored by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, (Business Strategy Press, 2012).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

6 Digital Trends for the Fashion Industry

30th June 2012 by Amalia Agathou

Fashion was very slow to adapt to our new hyper-connected reality, but has in a very short time managed not only to catch up but also innovate in the ways tech can be used to give an time-tested but fast-paced industry a lift. In the words of Heidi Klum, in fashion, much like in tech, “One day you are in and the next you are out”, so lets take a look at some of the hottest trends right now:

1. The reinvention of runway shows
Fashion shows were always at the heart of fashion and part of why fashion was so reluctant to give in to social media, as the high level of competitiveness between designers and maybe a touch of diva attitude demanded top secrecy surrounding the shows.

Backstage: Now designers welcome the “intrusion” backstage and are the first to tweet out first looks. Oscar de la Renta crowdsourced runway coverage for his Spring 2012 collection live on his Tumblr and live-pinned his Bridal show on Pinterest. Burberry, a brand that has become the leading example when it comes to digital and fashion, hired photographer Mike Kus to present its Instagram followers with a real-time photo feed during its September London runway shows, while it tweeted animated GIFs of backstage scenes and first looks.

Front row: The front row has also transformed: among the editors and celebs, bloggers have secured their seats and now “common” influencers from the land of Social Media, like the winner of the Rebecca Minkoff Runway Design Challenge on Polyvore, start reserving their seats as well. We’ve seen influence on social media become the golden ticket into exclusive fashion events, and a FNO party in Florida by Bal Harbour Shops, where the doors opened only for people with a Klout score above 40.

The show: The direction of shows has also changed and adopted a more cinematic approach. In the latest season of Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model runway show, the two finalists took part in a fantasmagoric show for Forever 21 where the models interacted with projections. Always ahead of his time, back in 2006 Alexander McQueen used a hologram version of Kate Moss that modeled a dramatic organza gown, seemingly appearing out of the air inside an empty glass pyramid. Last year Burberry revisited this trend and used a mix of real models and holograms to present its collections on the occasion of its Beijing store opening. German designer Stefan Eckert has collaborated with motion graphics designer Tim Joeckel for his latest fashion show to present his clothes exclusively on a virtual model in the world’s first 3D hologram fashion show.

Almost all of the shows nowadays are broadcast live, often in 3D ( Burberry, Hugo Boss, Castelbajac) but how long before you have holograms modeling the latest collections right in your living room or in selected locations all over the globe? This way the runway show will become more open but also a more intimate experiences where consumers can revisit a look, watch it walk down the runway again, and examine it in detail with a 360-view.

Shop straight from the runway: Opening up the runway shows to the public has affected the system of buying, as well as the cycle of production.  Burberry allowed attendees of the London Fashion Week runway show special events streaming at global Burberry boutiques in spring/summer 2011 to order items right off the runway through an iPad application and get them much earlier before the same items are scheduled to arrive in the shops.

Pre-ordering from the catwalk, as well as analysing the looks that got the most positive buzz online, is an excellent way for both designers and buyers to get a sense of which might be the strongest looks from the show. In this way tech is helping fashion revitalize a very old trend – trunk shows and private views for VICs ( Very Important Customers) – on a much greater scale. Moda Operandi (which stocks many high-end designers like Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs) offers online trunk shows, as well as from-the-catwalk ordering.

Members-only e-commerce subscription site recently hosted a live shopping event on its Facebook page that enabled shoppers to purchase apparel at discounted prices, while also interacting with the brand. By adding social elements (styling tips customized to your shopping profile) and virtual shopping assistance, brands could take personalised couture to a new level.

2. Crowdsourcing and curation
There’s been a lot of talk – and action – around crowdsourcing and curation. Brands have used crowdsourcing to generate buzz on social media but also to spark an emotional connection with their customers and curation to leverage influencers’ networks and create shopping experiences that merge editorial content with retail.

Crowdsourcing: Threadless was one of the first e-tailers to let the crowd in on their creative process by letting them vote on their favourite t-shirt designs to go into production. Many fashion brands have tapped into the power of creative platforms, like Polyvore, which leverages its active community for crowdsourcing contests. Moxsie was of the first brands that put customers in the role of the buyer, with its regular scheduled Buyer Chats on Twitter and Modcloth did the same on Facebook, taking things a step further by producing a whole collection based on user-generated designs.

Producing crowdsourced products helps brands generate buzz online, build a deeper connection with their customers and gain valuable insights on consumers’ preferences. On the other hand, consumers may know what they want today but they don’t always know what they want tomorrow and for this reason brands use crowdsourcing in a smaller scale so that they can handle short cycle production.

Curated commerce: A growing number of fashion sites at the affordable end of the market work with influential bloggers, stylists and celebrities to sell products via e-shops with an editorial feel. London-based Stylistpick, offers consumers a “personalized showroom” full of products selected by well-known stylists. #MyMix for eBay in the UK and Germany is curated by The eBay Style Collective a group of fashion bloggers, stylists and eBay fanatics. Yoox often features a section with picks by celebs like the most recent Orlando Bloom: His choice for her. ASOS finder is curated by its own community.
Sites that used mechanism for personalized curation, like Google’s, haven’t caught on so far, partly because in order for a successful recommendation system to work effectively it needs significant volumes of user data, and shopping preferences in fashion change extremely quickly. Maybe a hybrid shopping site that uses recommendation engines along with shopping assistance by professional stylists is the next step.

3. Mixing online and offline
Consumers expect to have the same personal experience when they shop online as with brick and mortar stores and they expect the same convenience and speed in-store at the same levels as they enjoy online. According to research, customers value technology that makes shopping easier, with 63% of the respondents interested in using services like handheld scanners and 45% in-store kiosks.

Interactive dressing rooms and mirrors: Dressing rooms enhanced with augmented reality and social media features could transform the shopping experience altogether. Shoppers this way could easily try on different looks and get feedback from friends in real time.
Fitting Reality, which pitched only a few days ago at Bizspark Europe, builds virtual fitting rooms with Microsoft Kinect technology. Irish start-up Von Bismark, uses the Kinect camera and Intel’s AIM Suite facial recognition software to turn a digital display into an interactive mirror, where users can touch and move around physical goods. Major cosmetics brands, like L’Oreal, Maybelline and Shiseido have already started testing special kiosks (mostly in the Asian market) that enable shoppers to virtually try on makeup by simply taking a picture. The “mirror” takes into consideration skin tone, facial features and product colour to make recommendations and allows the consumer to share a virtual makeover image with friends online.

In-store use of iPads & Mobile: Mobile devices used by sales associates are also perfect for data collection in addition to providing instant access to product data. Of course, something like this would presuppose the constant education of sales people in these tools.

Tory Burch is using mobile in-store enabling sales associates to log onto the site with personalized log-ins on their iPads, so all activity can be linked to that employee and store.

In China, Burberry stores, with interactive touch screens the size of mirrors and sales staff armed with iPads, let customers mix, match and customize beyond the inventory available onsite. At Guess, iPads in-store enable shoppers and store associates to browse various styles via the LookBook functionality, select products for immediate purchase and order online. At selected Nordstrom locations, sales associates on hand with pre-loaded iPads can help customers order made-to-measure suits. Associates take and record measurements, and collaborate with customers on cut, fabric and design details.
Interactive store windows: Store windows could not only become impressive shows, but also go beyond gimmicks and become a personalized “front page” of the store. Immersive Labs, which has focused so far on advertising and Kinect, could easily apply its tech to store windows and apart from extending a personal invite to the customer to walk in a store, provide the brand with valuable insight on customer’s response to its window and the products showcased.

We’ve seen the tech applied to art installations like in the case of Nordstrom in downtown Seattle, where passers-by could draw with light on the back wall, and Repetto that with motion tracking enabled people to interact with its store window in Paris and zap through several ballet videos made by Marcel. Luxury diamond brand De Beers brought its window displays to life at its London Old Bond Street and New York Fifth Avenue flagship stores by projecting a specially created 3D film by Holition on customized Alioscopy screens that don’t require 3D glasses.

A more practical application is  Adidas Virtual Footwear Wall, which allows shoppers to explore shoe collections in 3D, examine details in close-up and see the designs from different angles. The wall also provides relevant content with each shoe in form of text or video.

Interacting with products: A customer can easily interact with products online, share them on social media to get feedback from friends, research for styling tips, save them on their wish list to buy later, etc. What happens in-store? I remember back in the days fashion bloggers would often get into arguments with sales persons for their “no photos in-store” policy, well safe to say this is water under the bridge today. By simply providing WiFi, QR codes or AR technology, brands can enable shoppers to interact with clothes as much as online, if not more.

In Brazil, retailer C&A has launched FashionLike, which works like this: whenever sometime ‘Likes’ a clothing item online at C&A Brasil‘s site, it is tallied on a screen embedded on clothes hangers in store. Macy’s Backstage Pass provides customers with celebrity tips via QR codes on tags.

4. Shop from anywhere

The Internet, well at least since the dial-up era, has made us all the more impatient, especially when it comes to immediate access to information. Customers see something they like and they want to get it right away. A few clicks later they may have already picked something else equally shiny and easy to access. I bet you’ve heard a lot fashionistas wishing for a ‘Shazam for fashion’, and although this is not a reality (…yet!) brands have made efforts to make their clothes easily ‘shoppable’ wherever you see them online. From fashion magazines online and offline, to ads, like Burberry’s latest interactive campaign for its autumn-winter collection, to social sites like Polyvore, Fancy, Pinterest, Pinshoppr , Lyst and Svvply

5. Tablets and mobile
Mobile seems to work best for shopping with intent, while tablets seem better suited for more relaxed shopping. According to a survey conducted by Nielsen in Q1 2012, the vast majority (79%) of US smartphone and tablet owners have used their mobile devices for shopping-related activities.  Smartphones are used more often than tablets for activities on-the-go: “Locating a store” (73% vs. 42% for tablets ), “using a shopping list while shopping” (42% vs. 16% for tablets) or “redeeming a mobile coupon” (36% vs. 11% for tablet owners).

However, tablet owners are much more likely to use their device for online shopping: 42 percent of tablet owners have “used their device to purchase an item,” compared to just 29 percent of smartphone owners. eBay reached a record $5 billion in mobile purchases (from smartphones and tablets) in 2011 and predicts this number will climb to $8 billion by the end of this year. For Guess, mobile makes up 15% of online revenue. At flash site Rue La La, m-commerce is 18% of business during the week and 30% on weekends.

Seeing high conversion rates from mobile, brands are happy to invest further, offering mobile-exclusive offers to consumers, merging mobile shopping with the in-store experience, broadening mobile and tablet capabilities beyond Apple products, shoppable mobile ads ( ex. Kate Spade, Victoria’s Secret ) and adding social elements to mobile shopping.

Who does it best? Sephora is at the top spot in L2’s first Prestige 100: Mobile IQ Index having a mobile site that is m-commerce compatible, an iPhone app that integrates with an in-store retail experience and a highly engaging iPad app that allows consumers to follow how-to videos that teach them how to apply various products. Nordstrom, Macy’s, Net-a-porter and Bloomingdale’s took the remaining four of the top five spots.

6. Video
In numbers recently released by comScore, Internet users watched nearly 37 billion online videos in the month of April, in the US alone and watched 9.5 billion video ads. Though the fashion industry has so far invested mostly in the production of expensive artistic films and cheaper “behind-the-scenes” footage, it hasn’t managed to cash in this trend yet. Fashion films being produced, although looking good visually, haven’t managed to connect with the viewers via storytelling. If you check out the YouTube channels of most top fashion brands you will see most films earn much less than 100,000 views.

Social Video Networks: Brands are starting their invasion of Instagram-like video apps like SocialCam and Viddy. DVF is using Viddy to show backstage clips from fashion events and share personal videos starring Diane herself and her everyday work life.

Shoppable Videos: Montreal-based designer ecommerce site Ssense collaborated with Australian female rapper Iggy Azalea to create a shoppable music video. Popdust, a music news site, created a video featuring Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan, the excessively chirpy pop duo known as Karmin, trying on a variety of clothes that can be shopped right from the site with Karmin getting a cut of the sales. This could inspire not only shoppable music videos but also how-to videos with styling tips offering instant shopping access.

Interactive TV: One in four (25%) people will regularly use interactive TV to shop by the end of 2014, according to new research by eBay UK. The study comes soon after WorldPay‘s Global Online Shopper Report, 21% of global shoppers already own a next generation interactive TV, and 24% of those who own connected TVs have already bought goods and services using them.

The huge success of Fashion Star on NBC showed the huge potential of shopping through TV. On the fashion reality show, contestants compete with each other to create the best clothes and have them purchased by a buyer from one of three stores: Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and H&M. The designs presented and bought by the stores would go on sale right after each show online and in stores. The show not only generated global buzz and is set to be broadcast in more than 75 countries, it has also set record sales for the stores involved, with the winning looks selling out in only a few hours.
The fashion industry has the money and creative talent to not only keep up with the tech industry but also push it and offer a vision for new ways to encompass tech in our day-to-day lives.
This post was inspired by my talk during the latest Bitspiration conference in Poland, you can find the slides on this topic below:

About the Author
Amalia is a geek with passion for pop culture who treats her mac and iPhone like family and enjoys spending time online exploring the vast potential of social media. She's researched, written and edited on a wide range of subjects for the greek editions of "Glamour" and "House & Garden" magazines. Follow her on Twitter