Algorithms and Sensors – web 3.0 services abound

Its been a while since my last post – I’ve been consumed at my work ( which I have been really enjoying) . However, I felt compelled today to write a bit about algorithms and sensors, which are creating some GREAT services now and even better in the near future. We are watching web 3.0 ‘blossom’ right now. Here is what I mean.

Ever since I’ve gotten my hands on Apple’s new iPhone 4Gs and Siri, my mind has never been the same. Not that Siri is the end all and be all. It has its drawbacks and in fairness, Apple has always and still does call it a ‘beta’.

But the mere presence and interaction I’ve had with Siri signaled something new to me on the internet was really happening – and in a very subtle but meaningful way.

Siri is learning – yes, she really does learn. “Artificial Intelligence” – no one seems to think that the machines are actually intelligent, but they can certainly do a lot of things that used to be hard for computers. Clearly Siri is an ‘AI’ that is programmed to adapt in certain ways and modify its behavior according to how I or what I would request of Siri. Fascinating really.

The real thing to keep your eye on here is that sensors plus big data algorithms are leading us from today’s world where content considered king to one where content is simply one component of a service. Content is becoming secondary and the service and platform primary. There never used to be 13 different ways to rent’ the same movie before. Content is becoming commoditized.   When Siri was first introduced, its creators called it a “do engine.” that is, rather than retrieving a web page (media) that you consume to make a decision, it just does things for you. “Find me a restaurant near here.” “Make me a reservation.” Media will become part of a database back end rather than a media front end.

Some examples of sensory algorithms that in effect build a network-mediated global mind are (this is really us, just augmented):

–          Mobile cell devices -we are augmented with cellphone cameras (electronic sensors again), the ability of events to become a shared experience is has become vastly increased and more so now with social media connects.

–          Smart Parking Meters – In the city of San Francisco, you’re seeing something similar, where all the parking meters are equipped with sensors, and pricing varies by time of day, and ultimately by demand. In effect an “algorithmic regulation” – they regulate in the same way our body regulates itself, autonomically and unconsciously.

–          Predictive AdWords -Google’s Adwords were always more effective than competitors because Google was better at learning from human input – instead of selling ads to the highest bidder as competitors such as Yahoo did, they used machine learning algorithms to predict which ads were more likely to be clicked on. They might choose an advertiser who only wanted to pay half as much if their ad was 3 times as likely to be clicked. Google was the first to harness the collective intelligence of their users to improve ad results. Just like the social media platforms we use to disseminate events and other digerati it’s important to understand just how much this is man-machine symbiosis.

–          Large connected networks – it could be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or G+, but any one of them connects to most of us somewhere at some point. The massive sharing of data and thoughts, the crowd-sourcing of opinion and the collective conclusions we draw are all kept and logged, improved upon and progressively mature and evolve. Here and on these massive giants, nothing stays the same for very long. The mere platforms themselves have spawned other interconnected platforms like Zynga.

The Internet as a whole is a mirror image of us  – a thriving interconnected network. It improves with knowledge and data and learns 24/7. It’s the community that creates content. Its about how you engage people and who you engage, not the number of followers.  It’s about the collective impact we make together. The Internet is an architecture of participation, interconnected, open source and open protocols. It really is our global brain. Look at the ‘picture’ of the network. It is no coincidence that it looks the way it does.

the internet

Google also thinks about this. Their key business model depends on the success of others – driving traffic to their sites, and producing ad results. Google only does well if their partners do well.

Contrast this with how the dwindling and toxic financial firms, who once positioned themselves as the enabler of the economy, creating liquidity and trading on behalf of clients, began to trade against them, and increasingly created products – from the mortgage backed loans that brought down the global economy to even more reprehensible trading practices that have driven up the cost of food for starving millions and was directly responsible for not only our economic collapse, but the ripple effects that are being felt worldwide. This is capitalism gone wrong. Occupy Wall Street’s fundamentals are not incorrect.

In the end, a company is most successful when it makes all of its stakeholders successful, not just its shareholders – a good example of this is Apple.

Which brings me back to algorithms and sensors. Soon, Apple will release an API for Siri. Many businesses’ that can use it will use it and the revolution will progress in earnest. As Siri learns what I do the most on my mobile device, she will also begin to learn my doctor’s and dentist’s name, the nearest hospital to me and map, my grocery list and cost and what I’ve run out of in my house, the type of movies I watch and music I listen to and where to find the content. In short, Siri will make my life a little more convenient and predictive. It will combine my habits with my surfing activities on the Internet and will suggest based on location where to buy items that interest me conveniently and cost-effectively based on my location.

'Things to Come' 1936

Just think of the services that will come…H.G. Wells would have had a blast.

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DPI is coming to a mobile phone near you!

                                 

Consumers will be confronted eventually here in the U.S. with DPI or Deep Packet Inspection. DPI simply put is a new technology that gives mobile carriers a way to tell exactly which applications you run and when on your mobile phone. Are you a  FaceTime user or Skype user? Do you check Facebook on your iPhone using an iPhone app 5 or more times during the day? Check into G+ a lot?  Tweet? Blog remotely to your Tumblr log? Do you text with a friend on the train or bus home? Is that during rush hour or business hours or between 6pm and midnight or in the morning?

                                       

Instead of allowing consumers to consume and buy an ‘unlimited’ data plan on their mobile phones (and by unlimited I mean unlimited for the most part and then ‘throttled’ ), carriers are seeking new ways to charge us for mobile usage. And they will have to figure this out because the number of mobile phones and data usage is increasing exponentially. Having a plan now as to how to avoid network congestion (as opposed to later when it really becomes a issue) makes total sense.  Its all about balancing out a consumers usage with network peak and lull times usage.  If I only was checking and using Facebook on my iPhone, I’d rather purchase a $5.00 a month all-access plan to Facebook than spend $25.00 a month for 2GB of data for everything.  Having a ‘Happy Hour’ on data usage from 7pm-midnight would get me to remember to download my music or movies on my iPad or iPhone during those times. Training the mobile public to use certain applications at certain times makes the use of the network better for all users during a 24hr. period. And carriers would not have to sell ‘unlimited’ data plans to us, which really aren’t unlimited after all.

This is not a new concept and is being tested and used in Europe right now. Orange is testing personalized pricing plans with consumers – working with them to determine which applications and activities they really use and crafting a pricing plan that fits them best.

Orange has a Panther plan for heavy users that costs £25 ($39.40 USD) for 10GB of mobile data and voice a month and a Dolphin plan for £15 a month that offers an hour of unlimited surfing at a time of the users choosing. Under the plan, customers can pick a so-called ‘Happy Hour’ from the following; 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. (the morning commute), 12:00-1:00 p.m. (lunch break), 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (late afternoon) or 10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. (late night).

The more transparent the carriers become, the friendlier consumers will become to switching plans and buying services that fit their habits. The days of just a few data choices for us are limited indeed.

And you thought Twitter was just for ‘I’m eating lunch’.

I’ve been a user of twitter since its inception and I’ll admit I didn’t get it at first. I mean, why do I want to waste my time telling anyone where I am or what I’m eating for breakfast? Or reading what they eat for lunch?   I’ve watched Twitter grow up now for sometime and it has seen some massive growth. So, it cant be from everyone telling everyone else such mundane and useless information. There has to be something here that means so much more. And there is.

Back in the days when I first jumped aboard the web, prior to the first dot.com meltdown, you had Netscape (R.I.P). I used NS as a place or ‘portal’ as they called it to find out the weather, news, events, movies and other things that was scattered throughout the internet. Actually before NS, I used BBS boards. Useful, but a bit boring and graphically plain and in 1 or two colors, its was sloooow to use and a terrible user experience. But then again, that’s all there was until NS appeared.  (Can you say 28k and 56k baud squelching modems)?  And then AOL and Yahoo came along which was a step up from NS. It started collecting ‘links’ for us.

Our browser (netscape) allowed us to bookmark our favorite places so we didn’t forget them. I used to have way too many. And then really simple syndication showed up (RSS) and that was pretty awesome. Sites created an RSS ‘feed’ which was a link of sorts. We then had RSS ‘readers’ and presto, web sites and readers could ‘feed’ us what they updated without us going back to the site to load it up every hour or two. A syndication of information of sorts, quite useful and all of a sudden EVERYONE has an RSS feed.   Then we had ‘shared’ bookmarks. The concept of shared online bookmarks dates back to April 1996 with the launch of itList. Within the next three years, online bookmark services became competitive, with venture-backed companies such as Backflip, Blink, Clip2, ClickMarks, HotLinks, and others entering the market. Then Delicious in 2006 along with reddit, newsvine and dig showed up. All of these allowed us to share what we thought was cool and interesting that we found on the web.  Collaborative tagging so-to-speak.

And then came Twitter. I found that the best way to use Twitter is to consume and drink from twitter and not to necessarily feel so inclined to ‘tweet’ incessantly. With my RSS reader, I have to launch it and peel through (and find) the feeds ‘I’ have chosen to read. With twitter, if I follow people who are smarter than I am, they find things that they ‘tweet’ about and ‘tweet’ them out. Even the ‘re-tweeting’ of things becomes a beacon and new river of new information for me to see and learn from. Think about it –  using smarter people and friends to find cool things to discover and read about on the net in just a short 140 character ‘tweet’. No long story to read, a quick blurb and a link. If I think it may be interesting, I’ll read it. Sometimes I don’t even need to read the article – its encapsulated enough in a tweet. And, yes I get to see what is most obvious about twitter delivered to my mobile or ipad, which is the current trends and events that happen somewhere on the planet which CNN and ABC never get to first anymore. Its usually someone with a mobile phone who ‘tweets’ it. (Think the jet in the Hudson river in NYC).

Yes Twitter can be used as a marketing tool and is all the time – sometime too much so. Twitter’s usefulness as a ‘free’ loudspeaker or podium for their services /software/business can work against people more often than not as its abused so much so that way. But as a way to consume snippets of information from around the planet for even short periods of time from people who are experts at one thing or another that you are NOT an expert at, is pure serendipity. There’s no other tool like it today.

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