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Talent Spotlight: Mathieu Boulet

Talent Spotlight: Mathieu Boulet

The Next Generation Of Remote Controls Is Already In Your Hand

How many remote controls do you have in your living room right now? If we may fathom a guess, you probably have at least 3, and each of them have about 50 buttons of which you only use five most frequently. Right?

This week, we're doing a special feature in our Talent Spotlight, which shines on Mathieu Boulet - an interactive designer associated with Make Me Pulse. In his personal capacity, he is working on RemoteThink, which is a concept app designed to revolutionize the way we view content on our televisions and other devices. It's all about making the remote interface more intuitive.

"Do not let the remote control you."

TV viewing is a passive activity where users are provided a remote to drive their experience, but between 1956 and 2014, there has hardly been a serious attempt to reduce the frustration most users face today. Sure, there have been numerous attempts to make the TV more interactive in the recent past, but they have all failed to significantly reduce our cognitive fatigue. 

Boulet's idea to use our smartphones as TV remotes is not unique, since 81% people already use both at the same time. Already, there are apps in the market that allow us to use our phone as a remote - Logitech Harmony Smart Control, TiVo app, Freebox Télécommande, Peel Smart Remote, and Samsung TV Remote - just to name a few.

The difference, however, lies in his ergonomic approach so that users don't even have to look down as they flip through channels, or adjust the volume. They can even do more complex tasks, like finding programs per channel, hour(s) or keyword(s). The design allows your TV to automatically switch to your favorite show or channel as soon you switch it on and it makes your live feed much more interactive.

If we were to test Boulet's proposed design (RemoteThink) against Peter Morville's criteria for a successful user-interface, we find that it is (or can be) useful, usable, desirable, nested, accessible, credible and right - that's a check on every criterion! 

Biz Model Showcase: Kimono Labs

Biz Model Showcase: Kimono Labs

Breeding a new generation of data analysts

Every day, there are more than two exabytes of raw data being added to the World Wide Web. That's 1,073,741,824 GBs of data, multiplied by 2! As digital natives realize their own power over this new media, they will seek to acquire higher skills to build their personal knowledge libraries and information bases to create software and apps at whim, if they like.

But they all don't need to become programmers or complete a Computer Science degree to be able to achieve this. Maybe they need to understand a few basic things about data structure on the web — that most of this content is not yet standardized, that you need APIs to give content structure, and that you need a smart tool to do that.

What's an API, you ask? Before we get to that, let us introduce you to this week's Business Model Showcase — Kimono Labs. Despite still being in beta state, it has acquired some 15,000 users [Wired] and allows people to do for themselves what Google does on a regular basis.

Simply put, an API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of technical protocols that allow third-party software programs to interact with an application. So an API is a program that can be automated to do repetitive and mundane task as specified via code.

This is where Kimono Labs comes in — to help us 'scrape' the web without understanding APIs or writing a single line of code. And it only takes minutes, if not seconds. It allows us to focus our energies on how to make use of the data we wish to collect - instead of worrying if our data source has an API available or collecting and tracking data on spreadsheets maintained manually.

Now, it's no secret that Kimono Labs is focusing its efforts on engaging the developer user base for now, perhaps to improve their service, but they will shift their focus to make their service friendlier for non-technical users, ultimately. They know the main driver of the digital economy will be ability to build APIs, and to even out the playing field in terms of app development, including non-technical users is a high priority. Already there has been a surge in the app market with revenues for app stores shooting for the moon every quarter, which is a good indication of where all the digital natives are heading.

So you can use Kimono to build mobile web apps, to set up email alerts, and to embed feeds directly into your website, but you can also create nifty data visualizations that can come in handy when making design decisions for a website, or for data analysis.

Gone are the days when most of the hard-work started with collecting data manually, which was a painful process — extracting it according to a schedule, cleaning it up before being able to use it, and then updating it periodically. It was a time-consuming process that shifted the focus from the real task at hand, and might have been the reason why many startups failed right at the beginning. And then there was the issue of websites that required authentication.

When it comes to collecting data from email, social media or subscription news, the extra layer of encryption still proves to be a major pain for web scrapers. Earlier this month, Kimono Labs came through with 'Auth APIs' that now allow users to get data from websites that require authentication. As if all its other features weren't enough, this latest innovation makes Kimono Labs the best web scraper available to us today.

In The New World Order of Marketing, we talked about Zapier at great length, which allows users to upload their own APIs to create 'zaps'. While there may be some similarities between the offerings of Kimono Labs and Zapier, it is easy to visualize how Zapier's magic could work really well if you have your data sets available to you via APIs made by Kimono's smart tools.

The #BuiltWithKimono site features a collection of projects that use APIs created with Kimono Labs, mostly featuring World Cup related apps and visualizations, to showcase some of the incredible things that can be done using their service. There are a few more examples here as well. If you have a knack for creating apps for smart wearable devices, you can use this simple guide to build an app for the Pebble smart watch in under 10 minutes.

Kimono Labs is still offering its services for free with unlimited public APIs and a limit of 20,000,000 pages fetched. But they will be introducing paid plans soon that will also allow users to create unlimited private APIs for $400 a month.

In this era of information overload, Kimono Labs is making it possible for us to tame exabytes of data.

Smartphones on wheels

Smartphones on wheels

© 2014 Geneva International Motor Show

© 2014 Geneva International Motor Show

What's happening in the intersection of smartphones and cars

First they battled for space in your pocket, and now we're seeing an upcoming battle for your car dashboard and your home.

Mobile World Congress

This year's edition of MWC in Barcelona saw the preview of the new Samsung Galaxy S5 (heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner included). Nokia showcased their new X line running Android, but we're still unsure what that means for the future of the company and their integration with Microsoft. Mozilla entered the conversation with plans for an incredibly low priced $25 smartphone running Firefox OS, and Ubuntu was seen with their first prototypes out. Sony launched a few new flagship products, but didn't sustain any major attention in the conference.

Geneva International Motor Show

Meanwhile in Geneva, things were getting electric, entertaining and integrated. We've seen the recent announcement of Apple's CarPlay integration with a range of car brands, which will battle with Volkswagen Group-backed MirrorLink for car dashboard supremacy. BMW is constantly putting in more meat into their i electric line, and we should see their i3 model hitting the US markets this year already. Their venture investment in the integration of Life360 seems to be a good indication of continuous car integration. Elon Musk's Tesla is already featuring a $100-dollar-per-year plan to connect their S models to the web, with users set to see a range of innovations there (an app for pre-heating car seats is already out there, and we see a not-very-distant future where cars are unlocked with finger sensor-enabled smartphones). 

Our take on all of this

The era of the car connectivity is already upon us, but there's still room far beyond the smartphone, mobile carrier and car manufacturer trio. Brands and outlier startups can still enter this arena. Marketers and service providers that have covered the desktop and mobile arenas now have one more space to take care of if they want to keep relevant in all of their user's daily experiences. This is also true to the upcoming wearable devices arena.

There are still some technical issues to be covered before car connectivity becomes ubiquitous, but now is the time for brands to start designing and prototyping experiences for it. Regulatory issues will play a role here too, so it's still unsure what will be allowed or not in the futures. Voice recognition and voice commands will play a larger role too, so expect to design with that in mind.

Once car connectivity and mobile integration is covered, there's also an opportunity for car brands to once again attract new demographies and retain some of their customers by offering an outstanding mobile integration and in-car experience, in addition to just the regular fight for price, design and car specs. A different look at mobility concepts and collaborative consumption will also be enabled, like the co-ownership of cars, ride sharing, etc.

Interesting times ahead.

Business Model Showcase: Tred.com

Business Model Showcase: Tred.com

Tred.com brings the car to you

Reimagining the car-buying experience

Buying a new car is one activity fraught with a lot of stress where high-pressure sales tactics, slogs between dealers, and haggling over prices do nothing but add more disgruntlement to the experience. Our business showcase for the week, Tred.com, guarantees you “the best car-buying experience you’ve ever had, and the lowest car prices,” and they claim it will take no more than 60-90 minutes of your time, all done from the comfort of your home.

Backed by Rick Wagoner, the ex-GM CEO, Tred.com offers fee-based test drives to give car shoppers a behind-the-wheel experience for up to two cars at a time, delivered by Tred Experts. These car experts are purposefully incentivized to ensure customers have a great experience – not to sell cars, since Tred does not collect a percentage of car sales, but to help customers make informed decisions based on their unbiased opinions.

Car dealers are also incentivized to partner with Tred, so they are able to offer customers the lowest possible no-haggle price – a service Tred is so sure of that they will mail customers a check for $500 if they find a lower price elsewhere.

One of the more nifty features of Tred’s service is the “deal screen”, which is an innovative way to connect prospective car-buyers with car dealerships anonymously through Tred Talk – their online portal, to discuss options such as financing, trade-ins or a lease. This part of the service eliminates the need for car shoppers to visit dealerships, giving them the freedom to shop for cars from the convenience of their homes or offices.

As we write this, Tred is only operational in Seattle, and charges customers $19 for each test drive delivered. The service is free for electric and hybrid cars, though, if you wish to Tred Lightly.

Tred is also delving into the business of picking and dropping cars for anyone who would like to save a trip to the workshop and provides a loaner car of their choice that they can use in the meantime, all for a small fee, also delivered by Tred.

Meet Facebook Paper

Meet Facebook Paper

mecenato_facebook_paper_blog.jpg

Facebook's ongoing pursuit of mobile supremacy

No doubt Facebook is betting high on mobile as their growing source of revenue and shareholder value creation. Today they announced Facebook Paper, a new mobile application – to be launched on February 3rd – that promises to add some beauty to storytelling via Facebook. Paper seems to be heading into an arena currently occupied by Flipboard, and one that we think Medium will join in the near future (as of publishing, Medium doesn't have a dedicated mobile application yet).

Paper's interface design looks solid yet fluid, and it will benefit from all the in-built Facebook actions you can currently take, including tagging, sharing and liking. On top of that, there might be more powerful opportunities for brands to create channels/pages that fully leverage custom Open Graph stories inside a fully mobile environment. Let's wait and see.

On technology and the end of institutions

On technology and the end of institutions

A clear peek into the future

We spotted this Harvard Business School podcast interview earlier this week, and thought it was a great listen for marketers and brand specialists that want to have a better understanding of the effect of technology in institutions and large corporations in the near future. Nico Melle, a Fortune 1000 consultant and entrepreneur, really hits the nerve on quite a few issues.