Chalk this up as one to watch closely in the world of consumer fintech. Numbrs, a mobile-first banking app founded out of Swiss company builder Centralway, has raised 7.5 million Swiss francs (~$7.7 million) from its parent, capital it will use to build on its pending German launch, with the UK and Swiss markets up next, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong.
The startup, which also hails from Switzerland (a country known for its “innovative” banking) bills itself as a mobile banking app to rule them all, offering a financial dashboard similar to something like Intuit-owned Mint.com, which enables a user to intelligently track and predict their spending, but with the added functionality of being able to actually make transactions and pay bills from within the app, too. That’s something that most, if not all, of its competitors lack.
Longer term, however, Numbrs’ ambition is to get this working across all countries and all banks, which would be some feat. Tackling Germany first makes sense, where I understand there exists a single and independent protocol over which Numbrs connects to banks locally.
In contrast, the UK — where Numbrs is gunning for a Summer/Fall launch — lacks a common B2C standard. Instead, the startup is working with a “leading” but unnamed API vendor (though I understand it’s not Yodlee, the U.S. company that powers a number of competing dashboards) which has already already done the heavy lifting of creating connectors to all the major UK banks. This will enable Numbrs to authenticate the user with their bank accounts, import and conduct transactions, and present all data in the same aggregated view already present within the German version of the app. It also makes it harder for the banks to pull the plug on Numbrs, since its the same system they use for their own consumer apps.
Another key feature of the Numbrs app, and something that is central to its planned advertising-based revenue model, is what the startup calls the Future Timeline, a technology that predicts what a user’s finances will be like in the future by analysing historical patterns of incoming and outgoing payments, thus enabling financial targets to be met. It’s also the sort of data that I’m guessing advertisers would, indirectly, kill for.
Finally, as part of Numbrs’ UK launch, TechCrunch has learned that Centralway is opening a London office, scheduled to open in September, where the Numbrs UK country manager and other marketing personnel will also be based.Read More →
Headcast, A Mobile Broadcast Platform For Celebrities’ & Brands’ Avatars To Talk To Fans, Launches On iOS, Backed By Stephen Fry
There’s no shortage of channels for brands and celebrities to stay in touch with their customers, followers and fans in these socially connected times — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, you name it. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for something more. Today’s addition to the mix is the launch of a broadcasting and animation platform for smartphones called Headcast which lets brands and celebrities record and push out short voice messages to their audience — accompanied by an animated, virtual avatar which lipsyncs with the voice recording and can also mimic hand gestures and facial expressions.
The company behind the tech, HeadcastLab, describes these broadcasts as “visual tweets” since they are limited in duration to 60 seconds, so have the same bite-sized character as a tweet, but are also designed to be watched, thanks to the avatar component. There’s no getting away from the uncanny valley phenomenon here, but presumably in an effort to make that effect comic rather than sinister, the avatars have a cartoonish air, rather than going after exact photo-realism.
The cartoonish air can also be explained by HeadcastLab’s CEO’s background as a designer and builder of puppets and characters. Chris Chapman also ran the animatronics team at Spitting Image Projects and went on to join the creative team. HeadcastLab was founded in 2011, after Chapman had also co-founded smart interface business ElekSen.
British actor and tech lover Stephen Fry is the first to launch a Headcast-powered app, called Fry, on iOS. Fry is also a small investor in Headcast, holding a sub-one per cent stake in the company. Other investors are David Gilbert, former chief operating officer of Dixons, and Charles McGregor, founder of Fibernet, along with CEO Chris Chapman. Headcast’s total funding to date is £340,000, through two separate funding rounds.
Here’s how the technology works from the presenter side:
Headcast performers, such as Stephen Fry, simply speak into their tablet device in ‘self-animator’ mode to record the audio, their character auto-lipsyncs and the in-built technology then animates the character, faster than sending a Tweet. Extra animations, such as trademark gestures, shrugs and topical images within the background, add extra life to the Headcast and can be included at the touch of a button. The followers receive the Headcast within a minute and can interact through the use of polls to gauge fan opinion, tapping the character, and adding sequences into the Headcasts.
Following its iOS launch, with Fry as the first celebrity on board, Headcast’s platform is due to launch on Android in July.
Headcast CEO Chapman said Fry is “just the first of many” brands and celebrities that will be launching on the Headcast platform. “We are looking forward to shortly revealing many other global stars, in particular from the sport and music industries,” he said in a statement.Read More →
Editor’s note: Richard Bennett is a Senior Fellow with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and co-author of ITIF’s 2013 report, “The Whole Picture: Where America’s Broadband Networks Really Stand.” Follow him on Twitter @iPolicy.
We’ve all heard the story: America’s broadband networks are second-rate. We pay exorbitant prices for shoddy service because broadband providers print money and hold innovation in a death grip. While America languishes, our competitors in Europe and Asia are racing ahead to a user-generated content utopia. The only way forward is a government takeover, or, failing that, a massive dose of regulation.
So go a number of recent treatises such as Susan Crawford’s “Captive Audience”; works by like-minded Internet aficionados Tim Wu, Lawrence Lessig, and Yochai Benkler; reports by public interest advocacy groups Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the Open Technology Institute; as well as numerous tech bloggers.
The only problem with this story is that it’s almost completely untrue.
Granted, as recently as the late aughts, the story was plausible: In those dark days, our rankings in terms of both broadband subscription growth and speeds were falling. Increased demand for data capacity and a technology lull combined to push our average Internet connection speed down to 22nd in the world at the end of 2009, according to Akamai’s measurement of “Average Connection Speed.” Since then, the speeds of such shared connections have nearly doubled from 3.9Mbps to 7.2 Mbps, raising the U.S. to eighth place.
Akamai’s Average Connection Speed measures individual TCP streams over IP addresses that are often shared — and doesn’t sum simultaneous streams — so it’s more a measure of usage than of network capacity, however. To see the capacity of the underlying broadband network, it’s best to look at Akamai’s “Average Peak Connection Speed” metric.
The distinction between these two metrics flummoxed Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar, who maintains that the shared-connection measurement is the more meaningful indication of “user experience.” Farivar is clearly wrong about that, and Akamai’s “Average Peak Connection Speed” is the better indicator of network improvement.
The Average Peak measurement shows performance in the U.S. tripling over the past five years, up to 31.5Mbps in Q4 2012. We don’t know where the U.S. ranked on this scale before mid-2010, but it’s currently 13th. The tripling of network capacity combined with a doubling of “shared speed” says that networks are getting faster, as the U.S. is simultaneously using them more heavily
America’s broadband speeds are improving for two reasons: first, broadband providers have installed newer technologies, such as Verizon FiOS, DOCSIS 3 cable modems, and AT&T U-verse that are four or more times faster than the technologies they replaced; and second, users have begun to demonstrate a preference for higher-speed broadband by opting into higher-speed upgrades. Some upgrades are costly and others are not; Comcast recently doubled the speeds of most of their Bay Area broadband plans for free.
While our networks are improving, we’re retaining low prices for entry-level broadband plans first noticed by the Berkman Center’s “Next Generation Connectivity” report: the U.S. is currently second in the price of broadband for entry-level users. The nation is also third in network-based competition, second in the fiber-optic installation rate, first in the adoption of next-generation LTE, ahead of Europe in broadband adoption, and doing quite well in Internet-based services.
While U.S. cable TV companies still lead telcos in new broadband subscriptions, fiber-based telco broadband is gaining subscribers at a faster rate than cable. U.S. broadband providers are profitable, but much less so than Europe’s or Korea’s, where applications like YouTube must pay ISPs for access to residential customers. Significantly, we’ve gained ground on competitors despite an enormous disadvantage stemming from America’s very low urban population densities, which make U.S. broadband networks much more expensive to build and maintain than those in most nations.
Amazingly, the European Commission’s top telecom regulator, Vice President Neelie Kroes, tells a story much like the tales of woe we hear from American broadband critics, but with the roles reversed: Kroes laments Europe’s declining standing relative to the U. S., where “high-speed networks now pass more than 80 percent of homes; a figure that quadrupled in three years.” To facilitate private investment in networks, Europe has developed a “Ten Step Plan” for a single, cross-border market for broadband that mimics our interstate, facilities-based broadband market.
But these facts are glossed over by the critics of U.S. broadband policy in large part because they directly contradict their neo-populist narrative of rapacious, profit-hungry broadband monopolists gouging consumers. The long tradition of American populism distrusts private provision of “essential” services and refuses to believe that competition can ever be brought to bear on infrastructure markets. Crawford in particular relies too heavily on a strained analogy with electricity, a genuine natural monopoly that is as different from the competing information networks we have in the broadband space as any network can possibly be: Can you get electric service over the air?
Critics also come up short on research, generally refusing to consult updated primary sources in favor of blog posts and news articles from inside the echo chamber that simply reinforce the traditional narrative. “Confirmation bias” is rampant in broadband criticism.
Broadband advocates would do better to focus their efforts on real problems, such as our dismally low level of interest in the Internet, the primary reason non-subscribers give for refusing to go online. Ideally, these efforts would be combined with initiatives to increase computer ownership among the poor — the second reason so few Americans use the Internet. The world’s high-subscription nations, such as Korea and Singapore, aren’t the price leaders for entry-level Internet services as we are, but they’ve led successful outreach efforts to spread computer ownership, digital literacy, and Internet awareness across their entire populations.
Getting all of America online is a goal that all Americans can support regardless of party creed or ideological doctrine. If we can make as much progress with online participation as we’ve made with speed, Europe will have a second Internet crisis on its hands.Read More →
Today, thanks to the maturation of the web, digital tech, and smartphones now in seemingly every pocket, startups are finding it easier than ever before to build scalable solutions to finally address the many inefficiencies in our food manufacturing, production and distribution systems.
As interest in food tech balloons, one area in particular appears to already be at the tipping point: Online and mobile food delivery. Over the last few days, we’ve hearing about a merger between two of the largest companies in the space. Rumor has it that “arch rivals” GrubHub and Seamless are in talks which could see them join forces as part of a merger. While our sources tell us that the talks are serious, the terms of the merger are not yet clear and, of course, any potential deal could fall through.
Furthermore, it’s not yet clear what kind of synergies would take place, how management of the new entity would be structured or even what the new business will be called. The two companies would not confirm on the record on any of the above. But as far as the name goes, we’re hoping for Grubless. Or Hubless GrubSeam. But they have a nice ring to them, don’t they?
If these rumors are true, the merger comes at a good time for the arch rivals, who have been seeing mounting competition of late from a laundry list of new startups entering the space, including increasingly popular alternatives like Delivery.com, ChowNow, Munchery (meals from local chefs), Campus Special, eat24 or the bigs of Europe, like Food Hero and Just-Eat.
If the online food-ordering and delivery market is roughly where daily deals were three-plus years ago, then the deal essentially creates the Groupon of food delivery. Like the daily deals market, food ordering has traditionally had a fairly low barrier to entry, which helps explain why we seem to see a new startup pop up every week.
Plus, the business model isn’t particularly complicated, making it replicable. That being said, innovation and tech adoption have been slow to come to the food industry, and, at scale, this model (taking a slice of transactions) has the potential to be able to generate a lot of cash.
This is just one part of why the “food tech” business has been so hot lately. Just ask venture capitalists who collectively poured $350 million into food startups over the last year. (Compare that to 2008, when it was less than $50 million.) Plus, when you get right down to it: People need to eat. And, as it turns out, people are pretty busy. Uh, and lazy.
Of course, for those who remember the spectacular failure of online food companies like Webvan, Kozmo and HomeRuns, this whole “tech in your kitchen” and online ordering jibber-jabber probably sounds familiar — and not in a good way. But this time it’s different. Research from Cornell University recently found, for example, that over 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have ordered food online, and 10 percent of restaurant orders now originate online — and these numbers continue to head north. GrubHub and Seamless have built successful businesses on this very idea.
Both GrubHub and Seamless have been around for some time: The New York City-based Seamless was founded in 1999, while the Chicago-based GrubHub got its start in 2004. And for the most part, the two companies have catered to two different markets geographically. While both now have fairly expansive coverage, GrubHub has naturally developed a firm foothold in the Midwest, while Seamless focused its early attention on NYC, before moving into cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. From that perspective, a merger would make sense, allowing the new, consolidated entity to gain penetration into markets where they lacked a major presence.
Writ large, the companies, while having some fundamental differences, do seem to have a lot of synergies on paper — at least “nominally,” depending on who you ask — likely why they’ve increasingly become rivals over the years. Bboth are of fairly comparable size, as GrubHub has more than 18,000 restaurant partners across more than 500 cities, while Seamless has over 12,000 restaurants and serves nearly 5,000 businesses and more than 2 million users. As of February, Reuters reported that Seamless was on track to generate more than $100 million in revenue this year as it expands into new cities and focuses more aggressively on mobile.
The company reportedly generated $85 million in revenue last year, growing its consumer business by 60 percent year-over-year and “will soon be processing $1 billion worth of food orders a year,” Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky told Reuters at the time. For the majority of its history, the company focused primarily on New York, but launched a major expansion effort last year, bringing its service to 10 new cities. According to the report, Seamless saw its transaction volume quadruple in Los Angeles during 2012, with transactions tripling in San Francisco.
Another interesting point to note: GrubHub was reported to be considering an IPO last fall. The company denied the rumors at the time, and if this merger is true, then they’ve been given the proper perspective. Certainly, it would seem that this wouldn’t take a potential IPO off the table, instead, likely making an opening price that much higher.
The IPO rumors for GrubHub came at a time when the company was reportedly doing about $60 million in revenue (this was in 2012) — a little less than half that of Seamless. Furthermore, Crain’s reported in December that GrubHub’s revenue has been doubling every year and, as the company reported $30 million in revenue in 2011, that revenue estimate would make sense and put the company on the path to crossing $100 million well before the end of this year.
That is all to say that, although the terms of the potential deal are unclear, these are two sizable businesses that are growing relatively fast, so any potential valuation has got to be fairly high. After all: The two companies were fairly comparably capitalized and staffed, with GrubHub growing to over 250 employees and Seamless over 300, while GrubHub raised about $84 million from a mix of venture and growth equity firms (including Benchmark) and Seamless raised $51 million, $50 million of which came from private equity firm Spectrum Equity.
While both companies have made a couple of acquisitions, this would be the second big M&A deal for Seamless, as the company was acquired by food services giant, ARAMARK, in 2006. Five years later, Spectrum bought a minority stake in Seamless from ARAMARK, and about a year later, the food services company spun-off its remaining interest in Seamless to its shareholders. Free from its corporate ownership, Seamless proceeded to go out and buy MenuPages for $15 million, showing up GrubHub, which MenuPages had initially targeted as its acquirer. When GrubHub and MenuPages couldn’t agree to a deal, and it seems that GrubHub was instead in the process of buying Dotmenu/Allmenus, Seamless swooped in — according to BetaBeat.
So, as you can see, the companies have a long history of jostling. While GrubHub had been out acquiring restaurant partners fast and furiously, Seamless stagnated a bit under ARAMARK, but since becoming an independent company (again) and with a new board/investors, the company seems to have been compounding its growth. Together, that growth could be exponentially higher.
Finally, if this deal is in fact a go, it’s worth looking at this quote from GrubHub co-founder and CEO Matt Maloney from back in 2011. In it, he shares his opinion on GrubHub’s top competitor, a little company called Seamless. He told BetaBeat:
I typically don’t talk this much about Seamless because we don’t view them as incredibly strong competition for what we’re doing … Seamless fundamentally is a corporate catering business. They were founded years and years and years ago to do just that. And they’re still best in the business for corporate. They recently got into the consumer and residential pick-up and delivery. And they do it well in New York, but they really have zero business anywhere else. We don’t even consider them competition anywhere other than Manhattan specifically.
So, there you go. A match potentially made in heaven, and one that’s sure to shake up online and mobile food ordering if it happens.Read More →
Editor’s Note: The following comes to us from Sarah Timms, founder and CEO of the new crowdfunding platform LoveAnimals.org. Timms discusses crowdfunding in non-tech sectors, and how to make the new way of fundraising appealing to those who are not technologically savvy. For the latest news on LoveAnimals.org, make sure to follow the platform on Twitter @LoveAnimalsOrg.
Crowdfunding is the buzzword of 2013 – asking many people to give small donations or loans to collectively fund entire projects is a fast growing and successful way of raising money.
Crowdfunding platforms, mine included, are pitched as tech startups or companies. We use technology to harness the power of the crowd to create change. Tech industries and sectors that are comfortable using cutting edge technology (entrepreneurial start-ups, the gaming industry, the film industry) are able to work within the parameters of the new crowdfunding age. But how does one ensure that industries not traditionally used to embracing technology don’t get left behind?
Multiple sectors, particularly in the nonprofit world, are facing this issue. For me, the spotlight falls on the animal welfare and wildlife conservation sector. Animal nonprofits (and environmental nonprofits combined), receive only 2 percent (1) of all giving in the U.S. Yet it is estimated that some 72.9 million (2) U.S. households own pets. We are a nation of animal lovers, and yet we choose to direct our giving elsewhere.
Crowdfunding presents animal nonprofits with the unique opportunity to advertise their cause to a broader audience and make giving easier than ever to tilt the needle toward a bigger portion of annual giving. The animal nonprofit sector operates in a vicious cycle – receiving so few donations ensures that groups continually struggle to operate, let alone focus on adopting new technologies. In the past, this sector has simply not had the resources or opportunities to embrace the technologies that could help them fulfill their missions.
For any organization struggling to raise money, it seems impossible to have the time to do anything other than focus on their immediate goals or missions. For these groups, the age-old belief that “if you build it they will come”, is no longer enough. How do you encourage the animal nonprofit sector (or any other struggling sector) to embrace the technology they don’t have the time to learn, but that can liberate them and open up a whole new world of donors to support their mission?
The answer, it turns out, is simple. You build a platform exclusively for that sector, which reflects the nuances of that specific community or “crowd”. Every part of the platform must be designed with the knowledge that the groups who will use it often don’t have the time or resources to immediately learn it. You not only have to build it, you have to make it affordable, understandable, and easy. You have to take the time to educate the groups about the concept itself and show them concrete results that will encourage them to embrace the new technology. By offering a platform created exclusively for a specific community, we can give that community the unique support it needs.
And the great news? The nonprofits are excited. They are embracing it. Even better? The animal-loving public is excited too.
Crowdfunding has already begun to disrupt the current philanthropic landscape. By making crowdfunding accessible to the animal nonprofit sector, we’ll ensure that these groups will be able to compete for and claim a larger share of total giving. Crowdfunding offers a way for every animal lover across the globe to easily give a few bucks to make a big difference. Because of this, I predict that this sector, which has traditionally operated with only 2 percent of all giving, will see an explosion in charitable giving.
Crowdfunding opens up a whole new world of donors that can enable any drastically underfunded sector not commonly associated with technology to move out from the shadows. Crowdfunding represents the future of philanthropy and our mission at LoveAnimals.org is to help animal organizations access that future.
(1) Giving USA Foundation 2010 Giving Report(2) 2011/2012 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey
Sarah Timms is Founder and CEO of LoveAnimals.org, a new nonprofit crowdfunding platform for animal welfare and wildlife conservation charities working to improve the lives of animals around the globe.Read More →
While the world goes gaga for Google Glass, a small startup has come up with an intriguing new take on a device which can display information before your eyes. Instabeat is head-up display unit which attaches to swimming goggles and monitors your heart rate, calories, laps and turns during your swim. It’s been live on crowd funding platform Indiegogo for a few days and is already poised to reach its modest funding target, meaning the product will actually ship.
While runners have Runkeeper and many other similar apps to track their goals, swimmers have until now been left out of the tracking game. Instabeat scratches that itch with a streamlined device which reads your heart rate via a (patent-pending) optical sensor that can accurately read the heart rate from the temporal artery on the side of your head, without the need for the annoying chest belt. The device has gone through several prototypes and the finished product can be backed for $139, and slated for shipping (to people who backed) it in October.
The sensor automatically turns on when the device is placed on your head and projects a color onto your lenses in real-time to know how close you are from your target zone. Each color has three levels to indicate whether you are in the beginning, middle or upper limit of the zone. It also measures your calories, number of laps and flip turns and syncs with a personal online dashboard to track progress over time. Right now that’s via USB port, but later models are planned which will sync wirelessly.
Competing products include Aqua Pulse from FINIS, which reads your heart rate out loud to you – but this does not store data and has no other features. Then there is PoolmateHR from Swimovate, a watch that reads the heart rate with a chest belt and counts laps – but again you have to wear the chest belt which many swimmers don’t enjoy doing.
Ironically Instabeat has been developed out of the Middle East – a region not normally known for its watersports. The sports technology startup is based in Lebanon, and was founded in 2011 by Hind Hobeika out of her personal need for a heart rate monitoring device for her swimming practice.
And as far as we can tell, this is the first crowd-funding campaign out of the Arab world for a physical product.Read More →
Nokia Confirms The Flagship Lumia 925 For T-Mobile U.S: 4.5″ AMOLED Screen, Metal Edges, Extra Lens & New Camera Software
Fresh from last week’s Verizon Lumia device launch, Nokia has taken the wraps off a new smartphone in its Windows Phone-based Lumia range at an event in London today. The Lumia 925 is its first flagship for T-Mobile in the U.S. This means that following the Lumia 928 launch on Verizon, and factoring in Nokia’s initial launch of the Lumia 920 on AT&T last year, Nokia now has a flagship Windows Phone ranged on all three major U.S. carriers. Globally the Lumia 925 will be ranged with Vodafone in Europe, coming to markets including Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. (priced at €469), and in China with China Mobile and China Unicom. The device will ship in June in Europe, with a U.S. launch slated for soon after.
The Windows Phone 8-based 4G Lumia 925 continues Nokia’s strategy of emphasising the camera smarts of its flagships Windows Phones, including PureView branding, Carl Zeiss optics and an 8.7MP lens with image stabilisation tech inside. But the camera hardware in the 925 is a little different to the 928 and 920, with one extra lens. This sixth lens improves photo performance in bright sunlight, according to Nokia, as well as sharing the low light performance abilities of its fellow flagships. In addition to that new camera hardware, the phone includes new software, called Smart Camera, that’s aimed at extending the photography experience by giving users new ways to capture and share photographs.
The camera software on the device includes a burst mode which allows up to 10 shots to be captured at a time. The software also has three new capture modes that take advantage of this burst feature, namely: Best Shot, for composing a composite shot from the best elements of several images; Action Shot for snapping a series of stills of action shots, such as sports, that can then be edited and shared as a sequence; and Motion Focus, a Lytro-style mode that allows the snapper to pick different elements to be in or out of focus after the shot has been taken. Nokia confirmed to TechCrunch that the latter featured is the first bit of software to make use of technology Nokia acquired when it bought imaging company Scalado last July.
“Whatever you do you can go back and edit again and again,” said Jo Harlow, head of Nokia’s smart devices unit — pictured above left, with SVP of product design chief Stefan Pannenbecker at the London launch. “The Nokia smart camera is our latest uniqie experience for our Nokia Lumia portfolio.”
The Smart Camera software is exclusive to the Lumia 925 initially but will be pushed out as an over-the-air update called Amber to Windows Phone 8-based Lumias in Q3, the company said. Nokia looks to be trying to bolster its efforts against Samsung here, which included a raft of new camera features on its flagship Galaxy S4 device, such as Dual-Shot and Drama Shot. The lack of Instagram for Windows Phone continues to hamper Nokia’s photo-focused efforts however, but also today it announced a partnership with Oggl, Hipstamatic’s new photo community app — noting that since Oggl has a relationship with Instagram, users will be able to access the latter service via that app.
Design wise, the Lumia 925 is the first Lumia device to include metallic trim. A silver aluminium band runs around its four edges, and doubles as the phone’s antenna — taking its cues from the iPhone’s design (but with “rigorous testing” to ensure no repeat of antennagate, according to Nokia). The mobile maker’s trademark polycarbonate clads the back of the device, so there’s a two-tone look and feel.
Nokia says the plastic back is designed to make it feel nicer and grippier in the hand. It may also be about keeping the weight down (to 139g), since heavy handsets is something Nokia has been criticised for. It certainly felt lightweight and slender during a brief hands on. Handset colour options are muted rather than the usual bold Lumia offerings, with black, white and grey options for the plastic back. Wireless charging shells, sold separately, can reintroduce the usual Lumia splashes of yellow, cyan and red.
Under the hood there’s a 1.5GHz Dual-Core Snapdragon chip, and 1GB of RAM. On board memory is 16GB (Vodafone will also get a 32GB variant) plus 7MB free cloud storage on Microsoft’s SkyDrive. The 4.5 inch AMOLED display has a resolution of 1280 x 768. Dimensions are 129 x 70.6 x 8.5mm. The 2000mAh battery is good for up to 12.8 hours of talk time on 3G, or up to 6.6 hours video playback, according to Nokia.
A ‘true PureView’ Windows Phone device — codenamed EOS — has been rumoured for several months, and the Lumia 925 looks to be that device. However it certainly does not include the 41MP sensor and pixel oversampling techniques featured in the Symbian-based 808 PureView. It seems unlikely that bona fide PureView technology will ever make it to Windows Phone, not least because it’s something of a camera pro curiosity, rather than a consumer-friendly mainstream feature. Rather Nokia is extending the PureView branding — to associate it with a range of camera-centric features, not just that original huge sensor.
Harlow closed the presentation by hinting at further new device launches from Nokia “later this summer”. “I can’t wait to see you later this summer when we will continue to bring new innovation and new experiences to our Lumia portfolio,” she said.Read More →
The idea of using Augmented Reality to bring dead-tree media to life is arguably very 2010, and back then it often hugged the line of gimmickry. But with the hype being generated by Google Glass, AR technology seems destined to be brought back into focus. Meanwhile, companies like Layer and Metaio have built platforms to help brands create experiences that bring real-world objects to life, not least print campaigns, by overlaying digital content via the view finder of a smartphone.
Today UK startup VirtualMob is officially launching its own Augmented Reality self-service — Point-at-Me (PAM) — which mixes drag ‘n’ drop content creation, e-commerce, and analytics in a bid to make it even easier for companies to get in on the AR action.
Running in private Beta over the last month, PAM aims to lower the barriers for brands who want to build Augmented Reality-enabled mobile apps and campaigns. It combines a CMS platform to let them create AR experiences without the need to code, which can then be accessed by consumers through the accompanying PAM smartphone app or by being integrated into the brand’s own app. In that sense, one way to think of VirtualMob’s proposition might be a WordPress for AR — and certainly this is about democratising access to the technology for content creators through ease-of-use and reduced cost.
The PAM platform itself — which while in Beta has already been used by over 100 customers including The Trump Ocean Club Panama, Cartier, Victoria’s Secret, Time Inc., The Waldorf Astoria, Cartier, Hyundai, and Unilever — is designed to be self-service, requiring little to no technical knowledge by employing a drag ‘n’ drop UI. It’s particularly suited to bringing a print campaign (or other real-world static content) to life by augmenting it with digital content, such as images, video, links and, crucially, e-commerce functionality.
So, for example, you might see an advert for a watch in a dead-tree magazine prompting you to fire up the PAM app (or the brand’s own app with PAM integrated) and point your phone at the image. From here you’d see see additional information like where to buy, features, cost etc., along with any relevant call to actions.
But what makes this especially useful for brands employing the technology is that all of these interactions are measurable, and indeed PAM comes with analytics. This includes things like click through rate, location/time, and source media, thus bringing a degree of accountability to print campaigns that isn’t normally possible, helping brands prioritise their marketing budgets.
“Brands love the analytics part, as they spend millions on printed media, but have difficulties turning that into something they can measure or convert into hits via print,” says VirtualMob co-founder Chaya Jadhav.
Founded in 2011, the company is self-funded to the tune of $500,000 and is in the process of raising an external round of funding. To that end, I’m also told that the PAM platform will be compatible with Google Glass.
Well, there’s a surprise.Read More →
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo Resigns As Director Of Twitter U.K. After TweetDeck Dissolves As Standalone Business
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has quit his position as a U.K. director of the company, days after Twitter subsidiary TweetDeck was dissolved as a separate U.K. business by business registrar Companies House, according to Sky News. We’ve reached out to Twitter for confirmation and comment and will update this story with any response.
Costolo stepping back from the U.K. directorship role appears related to the dissolution of TweetDeck: a U.K. startup which Twitter acquired in May 2011 for a price-tag that we reported as $40 million. Late last year TweetDeck failed to file U.K. accounts with Companies House, and continued failure to file ultimately led to the dissolution of the company as a separate entity earlier this month, on May 7.
TweetDeck’s failure to file accounts was part of a process to wind up its status as a separate corporate entity to its parent company. Earlier this month a Twitter spokesperson told the Guardian: “TweetDeck the product continues to thrive as part of Twitter, but the old company has been dormant for some time, with no outstanding liabilities; hence our agreement with the move to dissolve it.”
Once TweetDeck became a part of Twitter, with product development and other business processes moving in-house, there was no longer a need for it to exist as a standalone business in the U.K. It’s likely, therefore, that that shift also explains Costolo stepping back from his U.K. director role. His resignation took place on May 9, according to Sky News.
The news organisation reports that Costolo’s position has been replaced by a Dublin-based chartered accountant, Laurence O’Brien. That looks like a clear sign that Twitter’s main order of business in the U.K. is now minimising its tax liability, with the development that was associated with TweetDeck now rolled into its main business. The other two Twitter U.K. directors, Alex Macgillivray, Twitter’s general counsel and head of trust and policy, and chief operating officer, Ali Rowghani, remain in post.
Despite TweetDeck’s corporate dissolution and Costolo stepping back from his U.K. directorship there’s little doubt that Twitter remains committed to the product. Although it has recently shut down AIR-based versions of the Twitter client and shuttered mobile apps, it is focusing on developing TweetDeck’s web-based apps. Back in March, Twitter noted that the TweetDeck team has doubled in size over the past six months.
Sky News notes that Twitter controls its U.K. firm through an Irish subsidiary known as Twitter International Company Ltd. And while Twitter has been expanding its staff headcount in its London and Dublin offices this headcount push is to build a multinational sales team for Europe, rather than being product development related.Read More →