Tag Archives: crowdsource

Cryptocurrencies’ crowd source incentives prevent collapse into one crowd

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

The disruption in cryptocurrency markets this week, when Bitcoin sorta split into two, was the result of disagreements between different interests about the technology and crowd-sourced methods used to run it. It was also inevitable and purposeful – cryptocurrencies are intended to rise and fall according to the cumulative decisions of millions – eventually, billions – of sovereign, individual users, who won’t always agree with each other.

Bitcoin’s underlying software can’t keep up with the growing number and speed of transactions between its users. The limits of the software has been a known problem for years, but the urgency of solving it has increased in the past few months as the strain on the system began to slow down transactions.

The solution is simple: upgrade the software. But sometimes simple things are supremely difficult, and so it is with Bitcoin.

It’s nothing like updating a commercial application like Excel or iTunes that’s owned by a single company – Microsoft or Apple just do it. It’s not even much like Linux or other widely used open source software that can comfortably exist with many different versions – distros – floating around. Linux might be open source, but any given installation is a closed system – so long as you’re satisfied with the way your preferred version runs on your hardware, all is well. Operationally, it doesn’t matter if the person sitting next to you uses a different distro.

But if you’re exchanging information with other people – which is what Bitcoin is all about – then everyone has to format and process the data in the same way. Email works because everyone has more or less settled on a set of open standards that are periodically updated by industry groups that include big companies, like Google and Microsoft. If enough of the major players agree then pretty much everyone else has to follow along, or risk being shut out.

The same principle applies to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but because schisms like we saw this week produce competing versions that, so far, have added value to the overall market and can be freely exchanged within their respective universes, there’s also an incentive to not standardise. By preventing consolidation into a single, monopoly platform, that balance has kept an ecosystem of independent cryptocurrencies alive.

WiFi has huge role in mobile capacity management

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

There’s a reason Cisco bought Meraki.

Four times as much traffic goes via WiFi as on mobile data connections, when users’ Android smart phones and tablets have the capability to do both. A recent mobile data study by Cisco showed that, worldwide, the average Android owner sent 55.4 MB of data on WiFi connections and only 13.9 MB via mobile data networks on the average day in December 2012.

Cisco’s conclusion is that tablet and smart phone customers are using WiFi as a way of “staying within the limits of their cellular data plans”. Another research thread showed that the global move by carriers to tiered pricing is having an impact on mobile data traffic patterns.

Only Android devices were considered in the research because it’s being crowdsourced. Cisco has convinced 12,000 users across six global regions to install an app on their Android devices that tracks data usage and reports back. It’s an ongoing project, with results tabulated on a monthly basis. If you want to participate, you can download the app here.

Overall, though, the same pattern is appearing. Mobile users are offloading traffic onto WiFi networks and femtocells, slowing the annual growth rate of worldwide traffic from an estimated 74% to 66% over the next five years.

It’s a good trend for consumers and mobile carriers alike. The more traffic that can be sent via lower cost networks – purpose-built WiFi offload access points, hotspots and WiFi hops to residential and commercial wireline connections – the lower everyone’s cost of doing business becomes. Carriers will still invest in new infrastructure and spectrum because mobile data traffic is booming regardless. But anything that helps relieve the capacity crunch will push monthly subscription prices down, meaning more people will be able to afford and use mobile devices, leading to more revenue for carriers in the long run.

Gizmo updates from MobileCon

Escort’s macho Smokey and the Bandit-style crowd sourcing platform is finding its feminine side. Their flagship 9500 model is sporting a pearl white finish with pink trim, all in support of the Susan G. Koman Foundation. Carrie would approve.

A company spokesman wouldn’t divulge subscriber numbers except to say growth is “huge”, with some interesting channel partners in the pipeline.

DeviceAnywhere, which offers developers online test-bed access to a long list of mobile devices and operating systems, was acquired a year ago by Keynote. I took a look at their business model back in 2009, and liked it.

Hottest dev frontier: testing HTML5 across the entire mobile ecosystem. They say it’s working well enough as everyone climbs the learning curve. Their Borg Mother Ship for mobile phones is looking slicker too.

Immersion is building a market for its smart phone haptic technology, “reaching out to developers” with their new Reverb product which automatically turns audio into a tactile experience.

It builds on their original release, which accesses the vibration functions in an Android phone and exposes an API to developers which allows them to make it buzz and shake in response to other actions. Their classic demo is a guitar app – you strum a tune on the screen, and the strings tickle your fingers like the real thing.

With Reverb, developers can avoid the heavy lifting by just feeding application audio into the API and, along with a little tweaking, let the software come up with some cool shakes to match the sound. Shooter games are an obvious market, but the marquee demo app is a roller coaster ride that uses haptic feed back to enhance that sinking-pit-in-your-stomach feeling.

HeartMath turns the heart rate monitor concept on its head. HRMs are mostly used by athletes as a personal tachometer to maintain a proper level of workout intensity.

Instead, HeartMath measures what it calls heart rate variability, in other words how much and how often your heart rate is jumping around. It’s a device that ties into an iOS app. The purpose of the information is to reduce stress – it comes bundled with stress management exercises to help you find your happy place.


Mobile communications and government: be careful what you ask for, because you might get it

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , , ,

Some gems sparkled this afternoon in what otherwise was an unfocused chat. The topic was supposed to be mobile technology adoption by government agencies but instead skidded toward canned talking points from lobbyists.

Some panelists got it right, though. Eric Engleman, senior policy advisor for energy and innovation in the San Diego mayor’s office, zeroed in on two key policy areas that will determine the path government agencies will take regarding mobile applications and devices: open data policies and the development and integration of open source, interoperable software.

Open (or otherwise) data policies determine what, if any, restrictions are placed on data generated and collected by government agencies. In theory, open data policies assume that if information is held by a government agency then it’s in the public domain and should be easily accessible by anyone who might be curious. And easily accessible means online, searchable and organized in a way that quickly presents complete answers, even if the component parts of those answers lie in different departments or agencies.

Local governments are developing open source applications to solve specific problems, such as business permit processing, pot hole patching and data base management. Sometimes, as in Santa Cruz, it’s in cooperation with a foundation like Code for America that was specifically designed to address these opportunities.

One approach San Diego is taking is holding a App Challenge. Organized by the mayor’s office and sponsored by AT&T, the contest offered a prize purse of $50,000 and attracted 78 mobile application entries, ranging from a dog park locator to an end to end earthquake preparedness app to a public transit platform.

AT&T’s Stacey Black, a market development and external affairs executive, talked about the same issue, but saw it as an opportunity for companies that can develop vertical solutions for specific problems. Like Engleman, he thinks the future means fewer fat, proprietary applications that any organization might use (think: Microsoft Word) and thinner, focused apps that solve specific problems.

His example was a wireless bar code scanner that AT&T implemented for Amtrak, adapting it to the railroad’s peculiar operating practices. The result, he said, was that Amtrak was finally able to replace the venerable ticket punches that had been in use for a century and a half or more.

The rest of the panel was less on point, albeit no less entertaining in some regards. A Sprint lobbyist wants government subsidies for devices students can take home because, he says, most learning happens after 7 p.m. I’d like to see the research behind that statement – the logical conclusion would be that we should give every child an iPad and a mobile data account and close down the schools. Let me know that works out for you.

The T-Mobile lobbyist reminded everyone that they need more cell tower sites. Another T-Mobile lobbyist in the audience helpfully repeated the point.

A gentleman from USC, who was appearing on behalf of the U.S. State Department, had some fascinating things to say about the use of social media in revolutionary times and the efforts – successful, largely – of government like Iran that aggressively censor mobile, Internet and other communication media. It wasn’t what the MobileCon moderators had in mind, I’d bet, when they organized the panel. But it was a graphic illustration of, as the panel title promised, successfully “leveraging mobile communications to help agencies meet their missions.”

Smokey and the Crowdsource Bandit

Burt Reynolds made a couple of good movies and several bad ones featuring fast cars, CB radios and a determined, but dim-witted, police pursuit. A 21st Century remake of Smokey and the Bandit or Cannonball Run would feature Escort Inc’s SmartCord-enabled radar detectors, which can pull in real time radar/lidar trap information from every similarly equipped car on the road and display it on a smartphone screen.

They call it “social networking for the road”. Sheriff Buford T. Justice might call it a nationwide scofflaw conspiracy.

The SmartCord connects one of four Escort radar detector models (plus one from a second manufacturer) to an iPhone or compatible Android device by way of an automobile power adaptor. Escort’s phone app takes radar and laser readings from the detector, adds GPS tags and transmits it via the Internet to Escort’s central server.

The raw data from the road is then assessed, false alarms are scrubbed out and it’s merged into a real time, color coded tactical map, which is then displayed on the phone’s screen. The icons and color codes tell every driver in the network what kind of speed traps have been spotted, and indicates whether or not it’s a fresh sighting.

Of course, it’s all meant to promote excessive speed safe driving. The app can be configured to warn a driver when he edges over the speed limit. Why else would NASCAR wannabes law-abiding drivers buy such a thing?

Escort says that there are 2 to 3 million drivers with SmartCord-capable detectors on the road already. All they need to join the conspiracy network is a SmartCord, iPhone or Droid and $40 a year. The cowboy hat and Sally Field are what it’s all about optional.