On Women’s day, 8th of march, 1000 women from all fields in tech met for a full day of speakers and panels! The tickets ran out like ice cream on a sunny day. That should say some about the number of women in tech but also their need for more forums as this!

I’ll be honest, when I first saw the agenda, I had some trouble wrapping my head around the theme of the conference. It felt a bit outdated to have a conference showing off some digital savy services to and from a group of women. After a couple of hours, I realised that it really wasn’t about the tech but rather gathering a line of cool role models for an audience who is in dire need of them.

The more I listened to the speakers, the more it struck me, how important they were in their respective field. They just happened to be women, as well.

So, the question about role models, sponsors and mentorship? Do we as women have enough of them, visible and written about. And I’m not just talking about on and around Women’s day but in everyday media. As women in a field, it is natural that we’re not included in some typical male bonding contexts. So, we have to create contexts for ourselves.

Did I agree with everything that was said during the day – No. I don’t agree that one shouldn’t adress ideas that are simple to copy. Steal with pride, but do it better!

My conclusion is, I want more. More gatherings, more forums that actually focuses on the tech, more visible role models…just more.

Emmaboda Möbler′s web shop has been around for three years now and it has proven to be a very successful project. 2014 the turnover was 3.5 Million, an increase by 75% since 2013.

According to DIBS annual report ”E-handel i Sverige 2014”, e-commerce has increased by 7% from 2013 to 2014 (the same rate as the year before that). Home decoration (including furniture) constitutes 9% of all purchases.

When launching a completely new web shop it obviously helps if you already have a well-known brand. Emmaboda Möbler has been selling design furniture for over 100 years, but their strongest target group is rich seniors, a group not overrepresented on the web. Another concern was if people were ready to buy expensive products online. It is not uncommon that the best couches cost over 50 000 SEK.

Despite these concerns, Emmaboda Möbler decided to give it a shot. Now looking back, Emmaboda Möbler’s regular customers did not start to do their shopping on the web abandoning the physical shop, instead a new set of customers made their way to the web shop. This meant that the income from the web shop became a bonus of sorts to the normal sales made in the physical shop.

The web shop was set up on one of the first cloud platforms called Heroku. One of the advantages with Heroku is that you can scale the performance seamlessly. For example you might foresee the traffic increasing during a sale, then you just login, slide a control and at once the site is twice as fast. When the sale is over you switch back to normal mode, paying only what is necessary.

Technology is one thing, but even though a site can be terrific in many ways, it does not matter if no one finds it. A strategy involving price comparing sites proved to be very efficient from day one, attracting new users to the site. Still today 21% of all traffic comes from this setup. Yearly AdWords campaigns also boosted the traffic and have proved to grow the number of organic visitors in the long run.

Although the number of visitors is interesting you also need to keep track of the conversion rate. The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who actually makes a purchase. If you sell more costly products, as in Emmaboda Möbler’s case, the conversion rate is understandably lower than it would be for a shop that sell cheaper products.

2014
Turnover: 3.5 Million
Visitors: 78 000
Conversion: 1.5%

2013
Turnover: 2 Million
Visitors: 55 000
Conversion: 1.2%

From 2013 to 2014 the visitors increased by 42% and the turnover increased by 75%. If the conversion rate had stayed at 2013’s level: 1.2%, the turnover would have only been increased by 40% which translates into 2.8 Million instead of 3.5 Million.

So what created this crucial increase of conversion? It is hard to say for sure, but a big change during the end of 2013 was the release of a responsive version of the site. We saw that traffic from mobiles and tablets was close to 40% and increasing. This was a lot compared to other sites so ayond recommended Emmaboda Möbler to go responsive. Looking back, it does not feel very far-fetched that users that got tired of zooming and squinting now actually went through with their purchases because of the site being responsive and adapted to their device of choice.

E-commerce, Interaction Design, Marketing, Mobile,
With hypes like “Mobile First” and Responsive web you can get the idea that it is a matter of screen size. But a mobile phone is not a small computer, it is something far different – and if realizing this you might find that there is some great potential right in front of you, for you to build better services for your customers, and to build brand.

http://designshack.net/articles/css/mobilefirst/

http://thesiteslinger.com/blog/responsive-design-why-youre-doing-it-wrong/

A mobile phone is so much more different from a computer than only being smaller, with a smaller screen and smaller buttons. In difference to a computer a mobile phone stays with its user almost at all times, in social situations and when dining alone, in good times and in bad times, in all kinds of thrilling, interesting, exciting and dull environments. A mobile phone is a device that easily can be picked up in the middle of a conversation for a party to check something that might help the conversation to continue, to become more interesting, to deepen. A mobile phone is a device that easily can be shared, in order to together understand the details of a map view, or look at someone’s photos. A mobile phone can buzz silently in the pocket. It can be something you pick up in a situation when you want to pass the time or show that you want to be left alone, or to show that you are totally fine with being just that, alone with your phone before a busy conference.

But also a mobile phone holds other technologies than a computer that can be used and make sense and aid its user and even his/her friends in all these thrilling, interesting, exciting and dull environments and situations. Technologies that most companies today do not consider how they potentially can benefit, change and develop their business. There are today a range of innovative Apps that make use of the gyro, the vibration actuator and the camera to track things like movement and sleep patters, pulse, and even blood pressure and a whole range of other things. But a problem with these Apps is that they are not developed, designed and built together with practitioners, such as nurses and doctors. Therefore, these practitioners cannot trust the data collected and produced by these Apps if a user for example wants to show this data when visiting the doctor. Also practitioners like doctors do not today have a work schedule that fit with looking at App data, as it not yet has been a decision coming from their superior to make use of these kinds of technical possibilities and develop these kinds of Apps internally in the health care system.

Moreover, this is not just about a difference between computers and mobile phones. It is about there being a difference between all kinds of screens and devices being used in different settings and scenarios where technology can aid people differently from in another setting and set up.

A screen used in the car, such as the navigation system, is for example not only for the driver to use. Of course we should develop easy to grasp interfaces for the driver when he or she is the user, but it can also be that the screen in the car scenario is turned around and read by the front seat passenger who most likely is another capable driver (though not driving right now) that in this instance have better abilities to read more complicated and detailed information that could help them both in the situation they are in. Not always is it best to shape data in a form that it can be read while driving. Perhaps navigation systems should be possible to rotate and have two modes!? http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2441952

And iPad games or any game for that reason that is used in cars can be shaped to make use of all the exciting data that is in the car to be found, like how the car is driven, how it accelerates, where in the world it is, what other cars that are nearby and what other people that are travelling in those other cars and what they are doing and much much more. This kind of data is what we used when creating three car games aimed at making it more fun for some young children to sit still and as they should and then potentially more safe when in a driving car. One game make use of the forces anything in a driving car is exposed to and invert those forces in a game set up to have the children instead of leaning with the curves, out of their child seat, fight them to gain points by sitting more upright and still. Another game play with how the car gets emotional from how it is driven and has the children mimic these emotions by making use of their small but highly expressive face muscles. This game plays with how children playing this game come to realize how the system is more capable of tracking their expressions if they hold their head upright and still right in front of the camera in use. A third game play with sensations of suspense and has children look out for shadows the car is driving though in which there are ghosts to be found and potentially caught. http://www.mobilelifecentre.org/sites/default/files/Gaming%20to%20Sit%20Safe.pdf

In the world of IoT (http://ayond.se/blogs/internet-of-things-without-people-is-internet-of-nothing/) being asked by various companies where to start and in what direction to head, making better and more interesting use of all the technologies that already are here right in front of us is such ready to hand opportunity. Can we for instance make use of accelerometer data to allow for mobile rehabilitation programs formed by our physiotherapist!? Or can we be allowed to prepare ATM activities on our mobiles and later just execute them via the NFC technology!? Or can we use motor data in the car to judge how environmentally friendly or secure a person is driving and then let that shape his/her tax and insurance costs!?

We can see how for instance Volvo build brand by being first and unique in this new world of IoT (http://www.volvocars.com/intl/sales-services/sales/volvo-on-call/Pages/default.aspx). Not all companies have the budget for this. But if still wanting to be more unique and build better mobile services for your customers, and to build brand, my recommendation would definitely be to consider this range of opportunities your customers already carry with them. What could these technologies potentially bring, targeted to your business and customer needs!?

Business Modelling, Emerging technologies, Innovation, Interaction Design, Marketing, Mobile, Social Media, Trends,
An employee who does not have a clear job description does not work effectively. The same applies to brands. If the brand needs to appear everywhere, anytime and always be prepared to talk to people who it neither knows or has any background information on, the brand will eventually need a break to recover.

Podcasts, print, events, web, PR, apps, seminars, hr, office design, banners, campaigns, youtube, facebook, google+, advertisement, commercials, SEO etc. A list of today’s communication channels could be written beyond this article, but let me reflect on the concept of burnout for a while.

What does it mean for a company’s brand to be seen everywhere all the time? Personally, I believe that brands will soon suffer the same stress symptoms that affects over burdened people. If the brand needs/are able to appear everywhere, anytime and always be prepared to talk to people who it neither knows or has any background information on, the brand will eventually need a break to recover.

The new marketing opportunities can also lead to a paradox. Companies have now every chance to communicate with their customers because of cheaper technology and smarter viral campaigns. But the risk is that the eagerness to communicate frequently affects the content so that the recipient either gets tired of listening or that some of the communication will be recognized in very wrong way.

They says one thing there, another thing there, a third thing there and finally the core of the brand´s clarity become blunted. The earned and constructed meaning of the brand can decrease and be diffuse by telling to many stories. And brands without a clear job role aren´t effective. The same goes for individuals.

The new, more democratic way to communicate is of course very good in many ways. You just have to have a reasonably clear strategy for how you and your brand can handle the communication tools in the best possible way.

I hope to have the opportunity to talk to companies about the importance to stop and concentrate on getting to know themselves and who they want to be in the future. Discuss how they can socialize with both “family”, “close friends” and not so very close friends in a decent way. To create clarity about which venues they should be on, when and why.

Below you can see some examples of when social communication goes wrong. Mistakes like these harms trademarks deeper and more often now than before.

And as you can see in the following examples its difficult for the sender to know how all instant messages will be interpreted and exploited nowadays. This blog post will surely be interpreted in several different ways and some may not agree with me. I hope you still continue to like us on ayond if so;-)

McDonald’s tried to promote its brand and engage with customers through two promoted trends: #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories.

Unfortunately for McDonald’s, many Twitter users decided to post their horror stories at the fast food chain using the second of those hashtags. In essence, McDonald’s paid to promote a trend that showered the company in bad publicity. McDonald’s later admitted that “#mcdstories did not go as planned.”

mcdonalds

 

New York’s police force NYPD (New York Police Department) attempted to create great publicity for themselves by inviting users on Twitter to send pictures of police officers in New York with the hash tag # myNYPD.

They probably wanted the city’s citizens would tweet advantageous selfie pictures of police officers, but instead many of the citizens tweeted pictures where the police were involved in more or less violent context.

http://feber.se/webb/art/299123/new_yorkpolisens_selfiekampanj/

police_ny

 

Word to the wise: Think twice before you try to turn a natural disaster into a promotional opportunity. American Apparel offered 20% off for those in states affected by Hurricane Sandy, in case they were “bored” by the storm. Customers quickly took to Twitter and other social networks to criticize the ad.

americanappearal

Marketing, Social Media, Trends,
Different aspects of UX and challenges faced by UX Designers.

From Business to Buttons is an event organized by Inuse targeted to the User Experience (UX) community.

“Designing how we design” was the title of a keynote given by Kim Goodwin explaining how important it is to get to know a company culture to be able to argue for better design and UX improvements.

It takes a while to get to know the values in a certain company. Sometimes these values are not the same values as the UX designers would consider the most important. A few values that UX designers often praise would probably be usability, beauty of a design, accessibility, efficiency etc. whilst a company management perhaps would answer gaining more money on a certain product range, expanding to another market etc would be even more important. When this situation rise, it is important to know these goals to be able to pitch the UX values that supports them.

 

Chris Risdon from Adaptive Path presented a nice overview of Service Design in what he called “Orchestrating touch points”. To deliver a great user experience, he argues,  you have to take into account the whole process of buying or using a product or service. It does not really matter if you have a great website if the other parts of your service/product are not working well.

A customer journey map is a set of touch points – a set of interactions that the user must go through to use a service or buy a product. When shopping for clothes the touchpoints could be searching for a product, store checkout, printing a return label. Note that some of these touchpoints could be done either online or at a store, these are different channels, not different touchpoints.

A touch point should at least be one of these:

  • Appropriate – in their context and culture
  • Relevant – meeting needs and being functional
  • Meaningful – being important and having a purpose
  • Endearing – being subtle, playful, delight
  • Connected – available and seamless

Otherwise they are redundant for the customer journey.

Risdon had identified a set of archetypical touchpoints that are often recurrent shown in the image below.

slide-145-638

For example Repair/Recovery could be a password recovery on a website or a product return in a store. When you link these touchpoints together you can define a customer journey map.

ayond’s version of Customer Journey Mapping
When we are asked to evaluate an existing service or product, we use the technique customer journey mapping pretty much as explained above, but with a twist. We identify the touchpoints and map them out as usual, but when identifying problem areas and the best working touchpoints we filter out the feedback by target group.

By doing this we can visually show a client what touchpoints are problematic for a certain target group, and if you put all target groups together you get a combined view. This is powerful either if you want to improve your service for a certain high prioritized target group or if you want to improve touchpoints that most of the target groups are experiencing problems with.

 

Most interesting number mentioned during the event
Amazon releases new code to their platform in average every 11,6 second.

Most interesting tools talked about
Lookback – Record user testing sessions on mobile
Tweaky – Create user tests

 

E-commerce, Interaction Design, Trends,
There is right now an enormous buzz around the concept of Internet of Things, Internet of Everything, or M2M that some less human centric like to call it. No matter what it′s called, businesses of all kind should have a plan for how to keep up, or they will stay behind. This, as connected things already are all around.

The concept of IoT stems from the now aging dream of a ubiquitous society that we had already 10-15 years ago where all devices around would be connected and talking to one another. In this vision the car would drive itself to the petrol station when so needed, the umbrella would remind its owner to bring it if the forecast so indicated, the refrigerator would order new milk when so needed, and so forth. This is not where we are today, and many are those who therefore seem to think that we still are waiting for this concept of IoT to arrive. This, while it already here! It is already a reality we are living. It just doesn’t look like what we dreamt of when dreaming of a ubiquitous society. Instead it is here in the form of actuators, sensors, small and grand networks, Internet in some, and in some not, but Internet somewhere. And all this, in a mesh with people! People that do things, share things, brag about things, show off, lie, exaggerate, share their joy, and sometimes also build their own technology, connections and data streams.

But why did the dream of a ubiquitous society then not happen in the way that we predicted!? One obvious reason is the smart phone, a personal, connected device that most of us at all times these days carry with us. A device by which we can connect to things that also are connected. No longer do we need to struggle with Bluetooth, RFID and other short-range technologies in the way we thought when first planning for the ubicomp vision. Also the fridge and other things do no longer need to be equipped with a screen or an interface of its own, as we with the smart phone, in a way, carry this interface with us.

But also, and more importantly, the old dream of a ubiquitous society was not a dream we in the end wanted. And furthermore, we are as people not as rational as we were thought to be in the early ubicomp vision. We do not always want things in the same way as we previously have wanted them. And even if a system was to buy the milk for us the way we most days want it to be done, the day we want it differently we will be sickly annoyed with that system. Some of us might remember the paper clip in the office system. That clip was in fact most times perfectly correct in what it suggested for us, still we hated it! We hated it for the few times it got things wrong, and we thought it was stupid even if it was in fact pretty smart.

We have since the ubicomp vision started to live technology in whole new ways, not all of us, but many. Technology is also for some of us heading away from being just a tool we use to get to information. Some of us are these days building our own technology by the means of Arduino boards, raspberry pies, little hardware and software toolkits and more, for us technology is also a material for design, like many other more traditional materials we work with.

This all creates a messy landscape of technology, data, services and people. A landscape somewhat scary in how no one really seem to be on top of the overall picture and the life style this all might create for us:

“The combination of technology in the home, city, car, on your body, in your mobile, social media and everywhere, all thriving on various data streams allows for such an amazing plethora of interactions. But what happens when all of that is seamlessly integrated with a middle-class lifestyle? What kind of life will that be?”, Kristina Höök, Professor in Interaction Design at KTH.

But at the same time, it is a triggering landscape from the opportunities it allows for in terms of design, new technology and services. Services that might help us live more sustainable, healthy, easy, and not the least, fun and interesting lives.

It is right now, as always, the question of doing the right thing. But right now most important for businesses of all kind is to do anything at all. At ayond we see though that taking the right human centric decision in this evolving time can be the most competitive decision most businesses ever have taken. Simplicity, innovation, trust and transparency will for sure be competitive factors in the years to come.

Business Modelling, Emerging technologies, Innovation, Interaction Design, Mobile, Trends,
I’m cautious that existing measuring criteria for innovation limits rather than supports risk taking and innovative work.

During my work with DING (Digital Innovation & Growth) many interesting ideas and perspectives have been expressed in regards to innovation within the media and digital tech field in Sweden. However, issues in measuring success factors and effective output in innovative projects has been raised over and over again. Either the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are too narrow or too dated in regards to the field they’re measuring.

What I fear

I’m cautious that existing measuring criteria for innovation limits rather than supports risk taking and innovative work. If these KPIs are far less progressive and innovative than our business ideas – won’t that affect positive development, business outcome and innovative muscle dramatically? What we use to measure value on change – whether it be positive or negative, needs to be up to speed with the digital arena and the business that is built upon it.

The development and ambition for reinvention is extremely high within the media and digital tech field – we follow changing user behaviours, look to new fields for inspiration & new combinations and cross-pollination of technologies and resource. The field needs more incentive for this! What I’ve seen is that people and organisations almost loose sight of what they’re trying to accomplish when bending side-ways to present good numbers and values.

But I’m hopeful – a positive outlook for the future in Sweden

The work with the innovation agenda, DING, has spurred feelings, engagement and opinions from people and organisations around Sweden.

In interviews and workshops we’ve worked with people and ideas that could possibly be the next building blocks for strengthening Sweden’s position in the media & digital field. There is no lack of creative and innovative talent in this country! However, when we discuss implementation and realizing these ideas and activities, I’m frequently met by the word, ’BUT…’

Let us move on, from all the BUTs

What I don’t want to see is that we limit our creative output and ability to test new ideas and ways of doing things based on dated measuring sticks. We have metrics that measure WHAT, but don’t account for HOW by WHOM and in WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES.

The question that I’m struggling with is HOW we can expect people to aim for tomorrow when we still seem to measure ourselves by yesterday’s metrics? We put thousands and thousands of Kronor in research, innovating and thinking a head – but the development is slow and at time congested. Dated KPIes may be, although not only, the reason for that – if you ask me.

Innovation,
For a couple of years there has been much talk about the term “big data”, but few have managed to find the great business value in it. The term will be discussed much even in 2014, we believe. We also believe that Gavagai, a client of us will manage to achieve great success with creating useful business centric solutions in the field.

Gavagai develops automated and scalable methods for retrieving actionable intelligence from dynamic data. They monitors dynamic text streams, detects useful signals, learns new concepts as they evolve, and captures actionable intelligence. Gavagai´s methods is currently used to track market mood with respect to tradable assets; to assess level of security threat to targets at risk; and to monitor consumer sentiment with respect to brands. They became famous when in 2012 could predict how the votes among the three best entries in the Eurovision Song Contest would be distributed.

Stop getting lost in the supermarket

2014 is the year when we finally will see indoor positioning solutions appearing in commercial use. This is driven both by technology but also by a clear market opportunity,

One obvious driver is Apples recent launch, iBeacon. With iBeacon there is a possibility to build iPhone apps navigating inside a large mall or hospital, push out a store offer while passing a certain store department, finally making a usable mobile payment in a store, play information in your headphones about an artist’s paintings in a gallery. This year Wifi technology for indoor positioning will also boom but the technology battle is in no way over, for example Cisco has very good looking and attractive solutions.

The new black – Enterprise apps

We have seen an increasing number of tools and services targeted to enterprises to facilitate everything from time reporting, salesforce automation to UX platforms. Apps are becoming more and more niched. This is good but there is also a risk of having too many apps to keep track of, all with different graphical language or usability pattern.

At ayond, we use some 20 apps and tools often created by niched and talented startups – all very good and functional but also with different look and feel. During 2014 we will see targeted app-shops for enterprise apps that are similar in style and usage and with high quality. We believe that network operators will be one player that offer their customers specialized enterprises app stores with a selection of apps.

No wires – NFC and Wifi

Finally, 2014 will be the year when NFC starts being a relevant mobile technology for consumers. Maybe for mobile NFC payments or tickets or as Bengt Nordström suggested for mobile loyalty cards. We will also see NFC being used for connecting the physical world to the digital in different innovations and start-ups.

M2M solutions will increasingly use Wifi rather than mobile networks. The mobile solutions are complex and expensive. Wifi is easy, cheap and everywhere. And the devices will be everywhere.

The Innovation Games Summit was about inspiring keynotes, hands-on workshops and networking during a couple of days in Amsterdam. The keynote topics ranged from Market Strategy to Design thinking, Gamification and Storytelling. I was giving a speech about how I use Innovation Games in my work as an Interaction Designer and Project Manager at ayond.

The Innovation Games is a series of serious games used for engaging, understanding and aligning your stakeholders and customers using collaborative play instead of boring traditional workshops. Since the games are mainly used as methods for market research, I wanted to talk about a mostly untapped potential of using Innovation Games in user research. Some interesting discussions took off after the presentation about whether the prestudy phase / design thinking phase can be executed in the form of Scrum with sprints just like the development part of a project. Design, some argued, cannot be timeboxed in the same way like the development phase can because of the nature of the design process. But when using games or methods for each step in the UX and design process you have clear milestones for preparing, executing and analyzing games or methods making it easier to map it into sprints.

Since I often have both the role as Project Manager and UX designer I also presented my version of an innovation game called Buy a Feature used for prioritizing backlogs. In the original game version and in all other methods that I know of, the opinions of the users are not taken into count in the actual prioritization process. My twist to the game is to first let users form the most important target groups play the game, the result that comes out of the game is a prioritized list of what features they like best. Then this information is brought along to the following session where I let the client play the game. By doing this you make it possible for them to also take into consideration the most wanted features selected by the target group.

baf

Read more about the game Buy a Feature at the Innovation Games Company’s website.

Gamification, Innovation, Interaction Design,
Ideometrics, which is an ayond innovation, was used by the athletics event Diamond League Stockholm (DN Galan) in connection with their seminar on health and well-being.

Above: The wordcloud generated by the responses to “Training” is being presented at the seminar.

Before the DN Galan Seminar we set up three Ideometrics surveys, one for each speaker, that tied in to their respective topic at the event:

  • Motivation
  • Eating
  • Training

 

The respondents could win tickets to the athletics event later that evening if they finished the survey.

The results point at Motivation and Training triggered an equal number of replies, but Eating triggered 20% less replies. A lesson in this case is that the concept that is being polled should trigger something that gets the respondent thinking, in this case Eating proved to be more generic than the other two. We usually recommend that the concepts in our Ideometrics should trigger both positive and negative ideas but interestingly enough Motivation generated almost no negative replies but still around the same total number of replies as Training.

One other important lesson to raise the number of replies is to have some kind on incentive for the respondents in order for them to complete the survey, in this case giving tickets to random respondents for the event was a good choice that generated more replies than just asking respondents to give their opinions for fun.

Ideometrics is a survey tool in which respondents associate to a defined word/image/video clip in a structured way, the result is then presented as a word cloud.

Business Modelling, Innovation,
Imagine making a 3D model using only a depth camera and your browser, a process so quick that in moments your fully-textured 3D printable model loads on your web browser.

3D printers give you the promise to print amazing objects and unlock your creative potential. But to make 3D prints you have to first make a 3D model – and creating 3D prints from complex 3D models can quickly turn into a tricky process of complicated computer programs, tedious iterations and lots of melted plastic in the trash.

With technology from our partner Volumental a 3D model can be created using only a depth camera and your browser, a process so quick that in moments your fully-textured 3D printable model loads on your web browser. The water-tight, closed model is then downloaded to your computer or sent off to an online printing service, ready to print. The dream of a replicator is therefore realized.

Volumental’s 3D Scan-to-Print web app will finally make this to a reality as they creating the world’s first browser-based 3D printable model creator. “If you have the skills to watch a movie on Netflix, you have the skills to create amazing 3D models to print”, they say.
Their technology is the world’s first that allows users to create usable, shareable 3D models of your living room sofa, grandfather, or a kitchen appliance all without leaving your browser window. We wish Volumental all luck and actually we are already preworking with the technology for some of our client.
See how it actually work below.

Emerging technologies, Gamification, Innovation, Interaction Design, Trends,
Some may think this is crazy, but we think it′s a fun step to combine social media with physical stores.

When visitors to the company’s Facebook page click on the like button for a particular item of clothing, it will be displayed in real time on the garment hanger in the store. In this way, the store employees quickly find out which designs are popular. Doubtful customers get confirmation if it is a “yes” or “no purchase” buy for others who looked at the garment. Likewise, in future, you may be able to post comments about a particular article of clothing.

See also the film that describes the fashion retailer C & A in Brazil working with Fashion Likes

 

E-commerce, Emerging technologies, Innovation, Interaction Design, Marketing, Mobile, Social Media, Trends,
During April ayond will host an internship for four interns from Eastern Europe:

Tamar and Levan from the State University in Tblisi, Georgia and Galnya and Oleksiy from the National University in L’viv, Ukraine.

The focus of the internship will be entrepreneurship and innovation, so what other place could be better for this than ayond? We will take our interns on excursions to innovative companies like our partner Savantic and entreprenurial events like Start-up Day on April 20. In addition to this the gang of four will work together with the teams on some of our own innovations like Ideometrics.

We have set up a dedicated blog for the interns to share their experiences on experience.ayond.se so make sure to follow their adventures there!

Ask why

Bill DeRouchey, principal designer for GE, gave a presentation about how to get people to open up and talk about their products and problems in UX interviews and workshops. His tactics was to ask why, a lot. Why do you press that button and not that? Why did you react like you did etc. But you have to show real compassion and genuine curiosity to make people open up and tell you what they really think.

When you have done this you know enough to, instead of asking why, be able to say this is why. You have gained enough understanding to see the big picture and then come up with improvements and solutions. This is why, according to DeRouchey, we see a trend of UX designers becoming Product Managers, you become an agent of change.

The Internet of things had been touched on every now and then throughout the conference but not with that exact term. Bill also predicted that soon the world will be run on software and that everything will be equipped with sensors. And we are the ones that know how to design those systems. He urged UX designers to learn as much as possible from people you meet throughout your career and apply your skills on fixing the really big problems in the world, scarcity of water, food, the poorly functioning banking systems, energy problems etc. Don’t just do another startup that focuses on a simple feature, be bolder.

Gamification

More down to earth again, Carolyn Chandler in her presentation The Business of Play said something that is very true when it comes to the phenomenon of Gamification. Points and badges without actual fun and value is like putting lipstick on a pig. A successful example, however, is the game Zombies, Run!, which has the objective to get people to exercise more. When you open the app while running you hear audio that tells you that you are picking up items on the way which you can use to build your city. Every now and then you will hear a zombie approaching and the app urges you to run faster. The fact that we are growing up with games makes the use of those mechanisms in other fields than acual games really interesting. Read more about gamification in the book Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen P. Anderson or The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell.

Finally

I can really recommend Web Visions to developers, UX people, AD’s but also entrepreneurs or anyone who is interested in what is happening with the web. I talked to the organizer and he said that since you can find out pretty much anything on the web, there is no point of having presentations that feels like a tutorial on some program. He wanted to invite people with a message and visions which I really think he and the Web Visions team succeeded with.

 

Gamification, Innovation, Interaction Design, Trends,
The second day of Web Visions NYC contained a whole range of great keynote speakers so I will just mention some of the things I found interesting.

The second day of Web Visions NYC contained a whole range of great keynote speakers so I will just mention some of the things I found interesting.

Communication and building community

Jason Kunesh who was lead UX at Obama’s campaign 2012 gave some interesting thoughts about working with interaction design in the middle of an election. Since there was so many different roles and opinions involved he claimed that his work was not as much getting deliverables done but instead to create a community where everyone are on the same page. Slow things down first, get consensus, only then can you operate smooth enough to work fast. And if you are stuck on something, bend the rules and adapt to the present conditions. Which was pretty similar to the advice that Content Strategist Sara Wachter-Boettcher was giving: “find the people your work affects, and incorporate them from the start”. I think this is very important both inside an organization and in the client-web agency relation to make sure everyone have the same expectations and goals.

New web standards

Kevin Hoyt from Adobe gave a demo on how to use PhoneGap which they acquired 2011. The idea with PhoneGap is to import one set of web code and the system will render a native app version for iOS, Android and several more. What was interesting is that Adobe is working actively for improving web standards to make them able to control all the native functionality on smartphones such as the built in accelerometer and recording devices. With that said they are in fact working towards a web where PhoneGap will not be necessary since you can directly reach all the native functionality through normal web coding. This does seem like a likely scenario and if it becomes reality the native app will be having some serious competition with web apps.

Finally there was an amazing keynote by Douglas Rushkoff about his notion presentism and I am really looking forward to read his book  Present Shock. He argued that there is a shift of how we deal with time. Before we had to wait for things but now we can choose to get all information at once, for example we can now jump to the end at once on streamed TV programs on the web. He envisioned for example the Facebook timeline to become outdated and instead replaced by a more web like visualization where connections of people, objects and trips etc. are all tied together.

Gamification, Interaction Design, Trends,
Web Visions is a three day conference in New York that has been held yearly since 2001.

UX people, designers and developers gather to hear about how the future of the web could be like. As their website states “WebVisions explores the future of design, content creation, user experience and business strategy in an event that inspires learning, collaboration and entrepreneurism”.

I will write some posts the coming days about what is happening on the conference. The first day was mostly about responsive design. Jason Cranford Teague gave his best tips on how to plan and execute a good responsive website.

First of all why design for different screens?

Mobile internet users are increasing drastically and with that a multi-screen solution is no longer a luxury but necessity. 15-20% are surfing with mobiles today and the trend is upward while desktop is declining. Some countries including India are primarily surfing on mobile not desktop. At ayond we are seeing some clients that have 50% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. Look how your site looks on different devices at the Responsinator.

Important takeaways for us and our clients

A retrofit (rebuilding a not responsive site) takes longer than if you build the responsive from the beginning. This could be problematic if using agile methodology. If responsive design is a low priority demand, you should still consider whether it should be in the final scope or not since you save time if the developers can prepare for it from the beginning.

Communication between interaction designers, designers and coders are essential since it is no longer about pixel perfect design since elements are floating depending on screen size. This require a knowledge for the designer/interaction designer of what is possible and not possible to do with the code. And possibly a new set of design tools that are more prototype oriented, for example Proty, Adobe Reflow, UX Pin.

If you do this right:

  • Sites are faster to develop – Minimal extra development to support several platforms
  • Code is cheaper to maintain and modify.
  • Pages generally load and work faster.
  • Designs are more versatile with Responsive Design. (Which makes them as future compatible as possible).
  • SEO strategy is easier to maintain since all traffic is coming to the same site.

After having been listening to Jason I still believe that 90% of all sites are best of with responsive design instead of using a separate mobile app (web or native). However, you should never forget to consider where and how the user will be working – the context. If you do, choosing the right mobile strategy is not so hard after all.

Gamification, Innovation, Interaction Design, Mobile, Trends,
Coming back from a very interesting seminar here in Hong Kong with the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) I once again appreciate how fun it is to be part of so much change on so many levels at the same time. I’ll try to explain.

ACCA is an organization promoting more and better cloud services for everyone (at least in Asia). Cloud computing is growing at an unprecedented speed and with such growth, new challenges comes along. Today, an elementary school student might have all his schoolwork stored on services like Google Docs, Dropbox etc, a CIO is likely to face management and employees demanding systems and devices at work which are equally advanced and user-friendly as the ones they have at home and a government who wants to facilitate growth will have to invest and handle environmental issues in connection with the infrastructure needed for cloud computing.

In addition, both users and providers will be affected by new kinds of legal issues. Apart from finding out which legislation is applicable in different countries it can be equally difficult to determine where the data is actually stored – since it is unfortunately not in an actual cloud, but rather connected to one or several jurisdictions.

As usual, China is the big player on the scene doing its own show. I got the chance to speak to ACCAs Executive Director Per Dahlberg after his speech and according to him the Chinese government invests heavily in infrastructure. It has, however, so far not given any clear answers with respect to on what level it will control the information that will be stored and transferred. So far, Chinese users have been directed to use controlled (thereby allowed) Chinese versions of international services, like Weibo instead of Twitter, and this will probably continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

To measure progress, and hopefully spark a bit of competition between governments, ACCA has for the second year put together its Cloud Readiness Index, in which factors ranging from information privacy to green policies are assessed in 14 countries. Top nation both 2011 and 2012 is Japan which gets the highest ranking on four out of ten criteria. The Index can be used to determine which countries that are best suited for the specific customer’s needs. Singapore, for instance, ranks fourth in total but with a very low score on data privacy, only slightly ahead of China.

Appropriately the event finished off with discussions on the future. Will we one day have thin clients with processing power in the cloud, or will we hook up our smartphones to different services and the screen at home and work? How can a CIO know when to move what data into the cloud and who will be trusted with even core parts of a company’s computing needs? Those questions and many more left me with a feeling that there will be a strong need for me and my colleagues at ayond for a while ahead.

Business Modelling, Emerging technologies,
This spring ayond sponsored a high school student Erik Levin to go on a one week visit to China as part of his final year project. This is Erik’s report:

“After an eight hour flight we landed in a surprisingly cold Beijing. Cold and tired we decided to have a look at the classic tourist attractions as our schedule for coming days was tightly packed. With some quick peeks at people’s mobile phones in town I soon came to see that Apple hadn’t been able to get a grip on the market here in the same way they have done in Western Europe and the US.

We then visited Sony’s factory and talked with them about their view on the future of applications. They saw the application’s future as something very positive, the possibilities with applications are endless and the only thing stopping us is where our imagination stops. Not only can we see this in the wide selection on the market but also in with functions integrated like Google’s voice command and Apple’s AI Siri. As they see it the development of applications is growing align with the usage of them, especially applications for social media and instant messaging.

 

china2

The next day we all went to visit Yew Chung International School of Beijing were I got the chance to speak with the students about common applications they used in their everyday life. Just as they said at Sony the students were using more and more application for social media, instant messaging and even for making calls. These applications were important for them as they made it much easier for them to stay in contact with friends at different schools in other countries.

The fact that they used mostly other brands on their mobile phones in China was something I found rather puzzling. As one might understand smartphones are common in China just like the rest of the world, but unlike other countries they have their own brands such as Huawei. The question I then asked myself is way hasn’t terminals such as Huawei spread more internationally, is it because China has closed of the market for them or is it just a time question.

I found the usage of applications very similar in China compared to how it is in Sweden. This is rather logical as students are often looking for the same uses be it computers or a mobile phone.

The application market is something I find very fascinating, and I know I’m not alone in this. With the help of applications we will star synchronising all our digital media and not too far in the future we will all be have our storage in the clouds.”

 

 

Marketing, Mobile,
Geo-location services and navigational aid have been a major success among consumers and device manufacturers alike.

There is just one catch: GPS does not work indoors. And even if we want to convince ourselves that we never/rarely need any navigational assistance when under a roof, in the following situations it would surely be of value:

  • Trying to find that x-ray ward in the huge hospital building.
  • Catching breath while trying to find the way to platform 12 to catch that Berlin-bound train leaving in 3 minutes.
  • In the supermarket, department store or shopping mall, trying to find the shelf with my favorite brand of product. (Or minimizing the time I have to spend in the shopping mall by analyzing my shopping list and then give me the shortest distance route in order to pick up all my goods)
  • Guided audio tours in (art) museums, automatically offering info about the exhibit in front of me
  • Finding the right entrance and exits in the subway (being able to combine outdoor and underground route guidance)
  • Reporting a faulty printer in a obscure room in the major office building could not be easier: bring out your indoor enabled smart phone, take a picture and send it to the attendance: the location of the printer is automatically embedded in the error report.
  • Airport navigation
  • Finding the right exhibitor in large exhibition/fair halls
  • Finding your seat in that huge football/hockey arena
  • Navigational support for indoor environment with the help of speaking smart-phones would also surely be welcomed by the visually impaired.

In conclusion: the value for end consumers is there and thus also the commercial potential. Offering indoor navigation for the visitors of a building, however, has been an expensive adventure: radio hardware has to be installed (and maintained), in addition to providing visitors with handsets. Recently, however, a number of platforms have emerged exploiting existing infrastructure of GSM/3G and wifi-routers that can pinpoint smart phones in an indoor environment (e.g. Qubulus, Ericsson, Google maps Indoor, and Skyhook wireless). Since smart-phones are now/soon in the hands of the common man, and are equipped with compass, large-screens and sound playing capabilities, property owners now have the opportunity to offer indoor positioning services with a reasonable price tag.

As application developers line up for work, it will be interesting to see how the gap between the raw position data and the specific user experience on the application level will be filled. As these services become more popular, will they adopt the navigation interface style and methods used by map-based navigational tools for outdoors environments? Or will indoor pedestrians in shopping malls, hospitals, airports, travel centers and fair halls, have different needs, requiring a new style of interface design?

Also, as the examples of indoor positioning applications IRL still are counted by the fingers of the hand, it will be interesting to see if the technology offers granularity and robustness required. How serious errors can consumers endure before they abandon the service (1m, 3m, 10m) ? And what happens to the position accuracy of an indoor environment when wifi-routers are moved, shut down of replaced by new hardware?

Surely these are exiting times in the new era of indoor positioning! To be in the know, make sure to check back with us soon, as we will keep reporting on those pilot projects in Sweden and elsewhere.

Further reading:

Innovation, Interaction Design, Mobile, Trends,
We will see much more of different embedded services e.g. in different types of widgets. These will perform specific functions - not just “banner like” links - but more advanced services, that can be included in web, mobile or social context.

Widget mania
With this technology you can out-source part of your web/mobile/social pages to other companies.
Case example: Kundo is a digital community for companies and their customers. Their platform helps customers utilize the commitment and knowledge of the customer’s customers for streamlining customer service and to gather important opinions and suggestions from users.

Wisdom of the crowd
If you haven’t started yet, now is the time to use and embrace customers’ and users’ view on you services. Open up your systems and do not fear criticism. Start using combinations of social media and IRL and use “gamifications” techniques to attract users to participate in sharing and commenting.
Case example: the Silicon Valley pizza restaurant where customer’s twitter comments on the food and the restaurant is shown on a big screen in the restaurant.

The new intranet
One question that needs to be answered during 2012 is; “What things does staff want on their mobile devices?” The “Intranet in your pocket” trend will be enhanced by an increasing number Windows mobile smart phones enabling the access to corporate/enterprise systems that today are Microsoft-based. New types of functions in Intranets will appear that will be based on knowledge management and sharing through chat and interactive use like Facebook “liking” and commenting.
Case example: companies that used a secret Facebook group as intranet to share both cooperate information/documents and enable chat/gossip between employees.

Cloud gets real, sack the IT-department
Technology choices get more and more uninteresting, cloud based services put focus on service deliverance rather than technology. Why keep an internal IT-department – perhaps you should instead employ a data scientist?
The over-sized, centralized IT department of 2001 is a relic that will never come back. IT departments need to prepare for the decentralized IT reality of the future in which companies are going to have smaller IT departments and focus their IT resources on software, the cloud and mobile devices.
Case example: Brian Hardee, CIO at Oxford Industries, reduced his already small IT department from 35 to 14 persons to be able to direct IT development in new directions.

Social Commerce
The e-commerce will move into social media. Recommendations from friends are considered to more than twice as reliable as anonymous recommendations. E-commerce is both about marketing and helping customers in finding and liking your products as well as about actual web-shops in Facebook.
The venture capitalists’ interest in companies within the eco-system for e-commerce and social commerce clearly shows that the money guys see big opportunities here.
Case: Lacoste’s very successful Christmas shop on Facebook

E-commerce, Emerging technologies, Innovation, Mobile, Social Media, Trends,
Together with our partner Savantic, ayond is entering the interesting field of Augmented Reality (AR) combined with image/video analysis in mobile apps.

Together with our partner Savantic, ayond is entering the interesting field of Augmented Reality (AR) combined with image/video analysis in mobile apps. Augmented Reality is a technology to enhance perception of reality by adding virtual information or objects. An example could be looking through your iPhone screen on a soccer game seeing the actual game at the same time as an application analyzes the number on the players shirts and connects various data about the player to be represented digitally on the screen.

Unlike Virtual Reality (VR) where everything is simulated, Augmented Reality only simulates parts. To cite AR researcher Alex Olwal from KTH “We already live in a high resolution version of the real world, why not use it”.

With image/video analysis we can identify elements in an image and connect them to a certain function. For example face recognition, where the different elements of the face, nose, ears, cheeks etc. is identified to further use this mapping to perhaps experiment how you would look like with a mustache or different color of your eyes.

What makes ayond different from most companies in the business is that we combine the highly technical skills needed to create high quality AR and image analysis algorithms with the expertise within app development and usability.

Some interesting examples using AR and/or image analysis:

Sekai camera
Sekai lets you upload information in many ways and tag it to a location making it visible to users of the Sekai app, as can be sen in the video snippet below.

Layar
AR layers on top of the reality through your mobile screen. Read more on http://www.layar.com/


Layar screenshot
Pop-up store
Airwalk used an augmented reality app to launch invisible pop-up stores which sold a limited edition of the Jim shoe in New York and L.A. To access the invisible store, customers had to use the app to locate virtual Jim shoes at dedicated locations and take a photo of the shoe to gain a pass code to the Airwark e-commerce site. Since the release of the app, Airwalk reported, the e-commerce site witnessed a traffic boost unprecedented in the entire history of the company.

Try on clothes
H&M created an app enabling shoppers in New York to virtually try on the clothes featured in its store windows. In this way , consumers gained a discount code and the possibility to share their looks with Facebook friends.

Streetmuseum
The Museum of London created a mobile app overlaying specific locations around London with historical photographs. The app guides the user to these locations with the use of map or GPS.

iButterly
Catch augmented butterflies.

 

 

Feel free to add your favorite AR/image analysis examples in a comment.

Augmented Reality, Innovation, Mobile,
In an earlier blog post I briefly mentioned the concept of Design Thinking, which is a methodology used to develop better products and services.

In an earlier blog post I briefly mentioned the concept of Design Thinking which is a methodology used to develop better products and services. A common device is fail faster to succeed sooner to avoid costly changes when the product is nearly finished. This can be done by involving users throughout the whole development process and by iteration. By doing this you catch mistakes in an early stage because, as we all know, it is easier to change the position of a button on paper than doing it on a physical product.

I was curious about the Design Thinking concept when I got to San Francisco since the term seemed to be more popular than User-Centered Design, Service Design or Interaction Design. I attended a class in Design Thinking given by John Nash from the Stanford d.school and it turned out that Design Thinking was sort of a relabeling of the User-Centered approach and I recognized the methods from my studies in Interaction Design.

The main steps to follow are:

Empathize – Understand the people for whom you are designing.
Define – Prioritize and choose your scope.
Ideate – Explore solutions.
Prototype – Put your solutions on paper and iterate.
Test – Test your prototypes in the relevant context.

Read more about the methods in the nicely packaged d.school Bootlegs.

At a later occasion I also met Charlotte Burgess-Auburn, Director of Community at d.school. She explained that the d.school do not offer any complete degrees, just classes for graduate students at Stanford. The goal is to encourage students from different disciplines to collaborate from this common ground. The d.school also encourages and supports their graduate students if they have difficulties in implementing Design Thinking in a professional contexts. Charlotte says that if you are less than three people believing in the methodology it is hard to sell in the methods to the rest of your colleagues or clients. The genius here is that the d.school educates students from all sorts of disciplines to understand the value in Design Thinking which might show to be more powerful when spreading the message than just offering a niched master program for a much lower number of students.

What I have learned from the d.school and what I try to implement in my projects is this: make your clients realize the potential in and business value of investing in Design Thinking or Usability or User-Centric Design or whatever you want to call it. You might have to teach them about the methods to win them over. It does not have to require more than a couple of hours of workshopping to learn the basics and to understand why it works.

 

Innovation, Interaction Design,
If you have been following the ayond news flow, you might have seen that I was granted a stipend to the International Innovation Practicum (IIP) at the Bay Area in San Francisco in August.

If you have been following the ayond news flow, you might have seen that I was granted a stipend to the International Innovation Practicum (IIP) at the Bay Area in San Francisco in August. During the one month stay I interned as an Interaction Designer and Graphic Designer at Innovation Games®, a company in the heart of the Silicon Valley that does serious games for market research and user research, of which the latter of course interested me the most. During my time at Innovation Games® I developed a board game version of the iPad game Knowsy. It was a fun project since I was involved in everything from the beginning to the end, from finding out board game standards to having a dialogue with manufacturers and testing paper prototypes to the finished graphic design.

The game had some new features which is going to be integrated in the new version of the iPad game. I also did some early sketches of an iPhone version of the game.

game2

©2011 The Innovation Games Company

Fortunately I had the opportunity to participate in the Innovation Games Facilitator Training days that made me a Trained Facilitator, which means that I am certified to teach and use the methods professionally. The work at Innovation Games was great, but it is only half the story. Just as important was going to events and meeting Bay Area entrepreneurs. Because it really is a special atmosphere, the energy and inspiration is flowing. Just about everyone you talk to have had a couple of start-ups and an interesting career. And most of the time the start-ups have been unsuccessful, but that’s not less meriting, because this is how you get invaluable experience.

The Valley style of starting a company is doing things fast and iterating, if you get an idea you start developing it without much preparation, the refinement is in the iteration, when it fails you start on version number two. This is sort of the Design Thinking concept, which is a relabelling of the Human-Centered Design approach with iterations and user testing that has become very popular in the area. Although some Interaction Designers I have talked to critique that the iteration happens too late, sometimes to a nearly finished product, which of course is not cost effective. Nevertheless, the Bay Area is a great place for an Interaction Designer because the discipline is widely accepted, everyone knows that all the successful companies have invested a lot in usability and design. To cite Charlotte Burgess-Auburn, Director of Community at the d.school in Stanford: “this stuff is really the engine of what Silicon Valley runs”.

Networking is key in Silicon Valley and it struck me how powerful it is. The first week I was a bit lost and did not know which events to attend and who to talk to, but then one thing led to another and my last week was packed with events, dinners and meetings with all sorts of interesting contacts. And people are very open to both asking for favours and helping one another professionally, because you never know what a contact can do for you in the future, and therefore everyone do their best to help you out with their knowledge and network. Another observation I did was how open people are with their ideas, it does not take many minutes in a conversation with an entrepreneur before he or she tells you every detail in the business they are about to start up. To cite Mike Beebe, one of the coaches in the IIP programme: “Ideas are worth nothing, everything is in the execution”. This is also because if you do not spread you ideas no one knows how to help you. Of course it is different when you are talking about bigger companies where the non-disclosure agreements are overflowing as well as the law suits.


Gamification, Innovation,
If you happen to live in Europe you have probably seen them in newspapers and marketing campaigns: small squares of black and white noise.

You might have been in the dark about what QR-codes are but a study from Comscore indicates that a growing number of people are in the know.

” The study found that in June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the U.S., representing 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR code on their mobile device. The study found that a mobile user that scanned a QR code during the month was more likely to be male (60.5 percent of code scanning audience), skew toward ages 18-34 (53.4 percent) and have a household income of $100k or above (36.1 percent). The study also analyzed the source and location of QR code scanning, finding that users are most likely to scan codes found in newspapers/magazines and on product packaging and do so while at home or in a store.”

The most common usage of QR codes you will find in printed advertising, aiming to add something more to the poster or news-paper ad, for example a Youtube video or sound clip. Although the copywriters of marketing agencies find innovative effects through QR-ads, with Victoria’s Secret’s recent “Sexier than skin” campaign as a spectacular example, the technological and innovative potential of QR codes is somewhat untapped (see for instance mobio.net and 708media.com).

The effect of these QR-ads, however, lies in the adoption and the increased awareness of QR codes among consumers as well as smartphone manufacturers. Previously, since consumers were not aware of QR and how to use them, phone manufacturers were reluctant to add bar code readers into the phones (neither as a stand-alone app nor integrated in the native camera). And the small initial hazzle of downloading apps before scanning the first code  deterred marketing people from using them in the public.

This vicious circle is now broken. It’s out there. And people know how to use it. Now is the time to innovate and generate business models that will generate value for end users as well as start-up stakeholders. Are you up to the challenge?

(Scan the QR code above to read this blog post on your smartphone. Go here to see a list of free QR reader apps for your phone )

Innovation,
For some time now mashups has been at the forefront of new business opportunities on the Web - for Swedish examples see twittoppen.se

For some time now mashups has been at the forefront of new business opportunities on the Web – for Swedish examples see twittoppen.se. Providing data from governments, organizations and corporations in an open and programatically accessible format for anyone to reuse is presently a powerful force. This trend is driven by not only commercial interest but also by democratic convictions (see okfn.org and opengovernmentdata.org). If you’re in the mood of exploring the possibilities for creating your own mashups, programmableweb.com, opendata.se and mashup.se offer valuable starting points.

Not all data-owners, however, offers the data in an usable format. Enters web scraping. Given that the legal issues of reusing the scraped information has been cleared, web scraping is the process of automatically collecting Web information from websites, without having to resort to APIs or database queries.

There are a number of web scraping softwares around, but recently launched Dapper offers an intuitive and free-of charge way of obtaining structured data from websites and search engines. For instance, I could create “Dapp” that fetches the latest 3-room properties in Stockholm from a real estate agent website, select what format I would like the Dapp to produce its results and then easily publish that data to my own website. Whenever a new object appears on the real estate agent’s website it will be reflected on my site.

dapper

I am not in a position to judge the technical robustness of a Dapp, but this kind of three-minutes web scraping fo non-techies offers a nice tool to build quick-and-dirty prototypes of mashups, to be used in business modeling, found raising or consumer validation of early ideas. I will certainly use it in my line of work.

Do take a look at Dapper’s short introduction video.

Business Modelling,
02 Aug

Cleantech 2.0

I met the Director of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) Accelerator, Lafe Vittitoe. He is specialized in Cleantech which is one of the three major branches of the Accelerator investments since 4 years back next to Life sciences and IT.

I met the Director of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) Accelerator, Lafe Vittitoe. He is specialized in Cleantech which is one of the three major branches of the Accelerator investments since 4 years back next to Life sciences and IT. It was very interesting to hear about the bank and Lafe’s current position looking out for new interesting start-ups to invest in. A bit of short-term history about the Cleantech business: from ’04 until ’08 pretty much everything was interesting to the investors concerning cleantech, but looking back Lafe sees two flawed assumptions.

  1. Under-appreciations of the capital intensity when building these businesses
  2. Under-appreciations of the time and complexity in these businesses

When comparing to IT it is understandable why some of the interests from the VCs have disappeared. Take for example Dropbox or Groupon, huge revenue increases with very small start-up costs – the ultimate VC model. Whereas squeezing the efficiency of the solar panels up a couple of percent with huge investments will not make any huge profits.

The bright spot is that you can mix IT and Cleantech which gives you a mighty interesting combination. To mention two examples:

In addition, more execution type of businesses pop up, for example installation and services of solar panels. The rent-a-solar panel model I have seen in San Jose falls under this category. The more complex ideas and visions are more likely to end up in some kind of a collaboration model with existing big companies that take a start-up under their wings to increase innovation in their own company.

Innovation,