Welcome once again to the Startacus Tech News Round-up - A quick catch-up on all the latest technology news for UK businesses courtesy of marketing and tech blogger Justin Firth.
Facebook Flying, Twitter Tiring.
Following encourage news on increasing mobile advertising revenue, Facebook have announced plans for a new mobile advertising platform that extends well beyond the Facebook page. The “Audience Network” service will allow independent apps to include targeted advertising powered by Facebook. This will push Facebook's advertising reach from its own mobile app, onto hundreds of others.
While it’s all good news from Facebook, Twitter have less to be chirpy about. Latest figures suggest that user numbers on Twitter could be stalling with a growth rate of just 5.8%. This puts Twitter with 255m active users - a quarter of Facebook's total, half of WhatsApp, and in danger of being caught by Instagram. While user numbers are a concern, profits aren’t and Twitter continues to introduce new innovations to push advertising revenue. A language targeting option now allows businesses to target users by their native language. Twitter have also joined with Amazon to experiment with 'hashtag purchasing' - allowing Amazon customers to instantly basket items mentioned in their Twitter feed.
Amazon Gets Some Major Competition . . . At Last
Amazon.co.uk is the UK’s ecommerce behemoth, but big new competition may be on the way. Alibaba is China's single largest internet company and often described as the 'Chinese Amazon'. The marketplace enables businesses and individuals to sell online and is responsible for over half of all parcels delivered in China. The company has just filed to go public in the US and with a UK Alibaba site already open may offer businesses a viable alternative to selling on Amazon and Ebay.
At the other end of the scale, independent bookshops are also trying to take a chunk out of Amazon with a new site called My Independent Bookshop. Backed by publisher Penguin Random House, the site rebels against Amazon's algorythm based recommendations with real reviews and recommendations from reading enthusiasts. Books can then be purchased via Hive, the online network of over 350 independent bookshops.
That said, just simply buying and reading a book could soon be passe. UK romantic fiction publishers Mills & Boon embraced digital publishing a long time ago and currently release more than 100 new ebooks a month. Their latest innovation is The Chatsfield - a multi-character story which develops in realtime and allows readers to follow the plot through the characters’ email inbox, video blogs and social media activity. As well as attracting younger readers, The Chatsfield has attracted innovative advertisers with brands lining up to feature in the characters’ twisting lives.
Smartphones aren’t just for ‘Showrooming’
Shop owners will be familiar with customers using their smartphones to compare in-store prices with online deals. However new research from Savvy Marketing suggests that the smartphone need not be the retailers’ electronic enemy. 64% of shoppers surveyed said they would welcome receiving discount vouchers on their smartphones whilst shopping in-store. Other popular ideas were being able to use a smartphone to find products in larger stores, and as a handy replacement for physical loyalty cards.
Smartphone innovations are already being trialled by major retailers with Sainsburies trying a scan and shop app and Tesco trailing Apple's iBeacons technology to keep in constant contact with customers as they walk the aisles.
The budget Smartphone battle begins
2014 is set to be the year of the budget smartphone. EE have already released the £99 4G enabled Kestral - the first in a range of EE own brand phones. Amazon are also tipped to release their own phone in September, and Tesco have just announced an own brand smartphone to be released before Christmas. Like Tesco’s budget tablet Hudl, the smartphone will come prepacked with access to Tesco’s digital services including video and music service Blinkbox and a new smartphone based Tesco banking service.
Technology gets chatty.
Is it possible to build a rapport with a machine? Technology manufacturers certainly think so. LG has just released its range of chatty appliances which interact with their owners via smartphone; giving updates on the washing cycle or sending you a photo of what is left inside the fridge. Even more advanced is GiraffPlus, an EU funded project to put care robots into the homes of elderly people. Using sensors all around the house, the robot can monitor wellbeing and put a relative or health worker on-screen to see how things are going. One 94 year old grandmother included in the initial trial calls her friendly robotic companion “Mr Robin”.
Yet new research suggests we are not all so enthusiastic about an automated future. According to a report in the Guardian one in three Britons feared that a rise in robotics could threaten the human race, with 46% stating that technology was advancing too quickly. When it came to jobs, 10 percent expected to see Robocop style policing within 10 years and 42% thought teachers would eventually be replaced in classrooms.
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