Current Affairs

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September 04, 2015

MiTu Goes Mobile Following Acquisition of Video Company

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On April 30, HIP Entertainment Group launched MiTu—a bilingual network that’s part of a digital multi-platform initiative aimed at capturing contemporary Latin/Hispanic millennials—on Youtube. Network executives like Beatriz Acevedo, as well as Doug Greiff, partner and chief creative officer, are looking to capitalize on a growing Latino audience as well as an increasingly mobile one. 

This month, MiTu announced the launch of it’s own technology platform that will work in unison with MiTu’s recently acquired mobile video company, Lightt. Lightt’s video platform allows users to generate unique video content, edit and share videos with other users.

According to MiTu’s website, “We reach millions every day through video and social content on more than 1,500 YouTube channels, nearly 5,000 social channels, and leading destinations for today's Latino millennials and content creators.”

 

What MiTu Offers 

The new technology platform will allow users to discover, upload, and manage creators and social commentary from multiple sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

The platform will also help MiTu better understand growing analytical data on the 100 million global users. With this data, MiTu will be better equipped to manage advertising and monetize content across various platforms. 

According to Roy Burstin, MiTú's CEO, “…Our expanded technology ecosystem... gives us the ability to offer a data-driven approach to both our influencers and our brand and media partners.” 

The partnerships he’s referring to include Discovery, Spanish-language network Televisa, AOL, and Univision as well as brands like Microsoft, Pepsi, Bud Light, and Ford.

It’s an empowering sentiment that MiTu sees a value in proliferating Latino/Hispanic content to this underrepresented group in popular media. Developing the technology platform and increasing the visibility of these content creators and social influences will hopefully allow their voices to be more equally represented in the democratic space of online content. 

Alex Mostoufi, MiTu’s chief technology officer and founder of Lightt, said the users are highly creative and engaged in media creation. 

“We are building a platform that is truly state-of-the-art in digital media," he added.

On the other hand, the smarter these analytical tools get while spreading user-generated content, the more accessible this market will become to advertisers and other marketing schemes across emerging mobile platforms.

So while it’s terrific to empower the underrepresented, it’s likely not in the best interest of those it seeks to represent—Mitu likely serves a different master in the market economy.

September 03, 2015

Infographic: Tackling the Flu with Text Messaging

The flu virus costs our economy billions each year. By promoting vaccinations for workers and children, it's possible to reduce the number of sick days and alleviate the annual burden placed on the healthcare system. We've put together an infographic that highlights the scale of the problem and demonstrates the role text messaging can play in increasing vaccination rates...

Tackling_Flu

August 28, 2015

Election Campaigners Are Using SMS to Consolidate Support

 

It comes as no surprise that presidential candidates are looking at mobile technology to sound the political battle cry. After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the pervasive nature of smartphones with the essence of the democratic process—a vote from every registered voter with a cell phone would equal the greatest voter turnout in history! However unlikely that outcome is, the principles driving the candidates to communicate with voters via mobile are redefining the campaign trail, from dusty road to digital highway.  

 

In particular, campaigners are relying on SMS or text messaging to ignite passionate volunteers to action, as well as for updating supporters on rally meetings, local campaign groups, and other related information. Texting is an immediate form of communication that hits about as close to home as one can get—without actually going door-to-door. 

 

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, hasn’t spent a dime on advertising political rallies. Instead, his staff has focused on adding data specialists to the team, refining methods of gathering data on rally attendees, and working to convert those people into campaign volunteers/supporters. 

 

In July, Sanders hosted a simulcast from a Washington, D.C., apartment to 3,500 event locations across the country. Instead of soliciting for email addresses, Sanders called upon more than 100,000 viewers to text “work” to the organizing number. 

 

According to the New York Times, nearly 50,000 people became volunteers for the grassroots-style movement that evening.

 

Sanders isn’t the only candidate connecting with voters via text. Senator Ted Cruz, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Rand Paul have all incorporated aspects of SMS messaging into their campaign initiatives. What’s more, this isn’t the first time texting has been used in the political process. In 2008 President Obama managed to curate a list of more than 1 million people, although according to his staff, the campaign was unable to do much with it at the time. 

 

The 78-year-old Sanders, however, is taking the technology and running with it.

According to Billy Howard, a Sanders supporter from Reno, Nevada, the effects of the mobile rallying efforts have increased volunteer leadership in the area—surpassing what Howard saw in Reno during Obama’s 2008 presidential bid. 

“That means Sen. Sanders isn’t going to have to spend as much money as Obama did,” Howard said.

 

August 26, 2015

Leak Reveals Snapchat Revenues of Just $3.1M in 2014

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Snapchat is a photo messaging service prized by more than 100 million daily active users that provides a sense of inconspicuousness on the web. Snapchat doesn’t save images but instead provides quick “snaps” of content for seconds before they’re zapped from existence permanently. It was a profoundly unique idea when it hit the scene, particularly among young users who now characterize the app and its advertising market. 

In the beginning, evaluations were set high, and the chances of acquisition became both possible and likely. In 2013, Snapchat walked away from Facebook’s $3 billion offer. The startup’s current evaluation floats around $20 billion. 

So, maybe Facebook was a little off the mark? At least, it would have seemed that way prior to the financial records leaked by Gawker earlier this month. The balance sheets revealed Snapchat’s financial records from 2014.

According to the leaked documents, Snapchat lost $128 million last year. Revenue was just over $3 million, which isn’t something to scoff at; however, it’s a far cry from what Facebook had offered the year before.  

To be fair, the report doesn’t take into account the advertising schemes put into place last October or the ad revenue from the “Discover” feature, which made a huge impression due to notoriously high usage rates. While not accounted for on the balance sheets, these revenue sources would still not close the gap on Snapchat’s unusually high expenses.  

“Outside Services” for example, was one of the largest expenses, approaching $14 million in 2014. What that means exactly remains unknown, although it’s likely paying for a mix of contractors, accountants, and similar advisory positions.  

Surprisingly, Snapchat spends very little ($600,000) on advertising—something unusual for an app with more than 100 million users. 

If you’re a Snapchat fan don’t worry. The company has 300 million in the bank which, according to Mike Dempsey of venture capital analytics firm CB Insights, will keep the business afloat long enough to make up lost ground.  

“If Snapchat is at a similar point right now in its business lifecycle as 2012-2013 Twitter, the new funding probably gives them a multi-year runway,” he said.

There’s still plenty of time for Snapchat to recover from a seemingly bad financial year as well as this PR debacle. As the company moves forward with aggressive advertising plans, it’s likely the balance sheets won’t look this grim in the future—that is, if they ever get leaked again.

August 24, 2015

Little Red Corvette: You Need Security That's Going to Last

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During the 20th Century, the greatest selection pressure on the automotive industry was the imperative to produce safer cars. Mechanical functions became computerized wherever possible, bringing the wonders of interactive dashboards, sensors, mapping technology and cameras - even to new cars in the most affordable price range.  

Now, if you own a car manufactured in the last ten years, chances are it has some type of computer network running the show. The consensus is that all these technical advancements have improved safety - perhaps cutting traffic fatalities by as much as a third in the last three years. 

The fly in the ointment? All this fancy-dan technology has exposed new vulnerabilities, even as they’ve swept away old ones.  

Researchers from the University of California have developed a method of hacking cars using insurance black boxes - and SMS. Testing their methods on a 2013 Chevrolet Corvette (because you may as well do science in style), the team worked out how to control the windscreen wipers and - eek! - the brakes using text messages. They say the method can be adapted to access other control systems like transmission, locks and steering. This shouldn’t be possible right?

The researchers are expected to deliver their findings at the USENIX security conference in Washington this November. The report - “Fast and Vulnerable: A Story of Telematic Failures” - states that on-board network devices can be ‘discovered, targeted and compromised by a remote attacker,’ essentially allowing nefarious hackers to turn your vehicle into a remote controlled car.

The black-box system which acted as the portal for the team to hack into the controls is usually used to store data for insurance purposes. Because it needs to log data on braking, speed and location, it must be embedded into the vehicle’s CAN (or internal network) - making it vulnerable to hackers. Once the researchers had gained access they were able to wireless control the car using SMS messages. 

This particular hack has now been patched by the manufacturers, but it’s indicative of just how easy it is to expose and exploit systems designed to make automotive travel safer. 

Another car hack was recently performed on the Jeep Cherokee. Demonstrations of how easily the vehicle’s uConnect software could be compromised using an IP address caused widespread concern. Other car manufacturers, including General Motors, have also been shown to have vulnerabilities to hackers. 

The irony is that insurance companies are incentivizing the installation of data loggers, and have been for years. And the kinds of technology used in the hacks aren’t regulated because, like SMS messaging, they are so widely available. It’s safe to assume that the hacks performed so far by researchers represent the tip of the iceberg. With millions of cars using data logging technology, we could see more cases of dangerous security breaches emerging in due course.

August 17, 2015

Apple Dodges 'Lost Messages' Lawsuit

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Earlier this month, Apple escaped what could have become a major headache: a lawsuit that threatened to open the floodgates to many more. Had it moved forward, Apple stood to lose millions of dollars in damages.

The class action related to the widely-publicized iMessage glitch that saw millions of messages go undelivered. The gremlin affected a specific subset of mobile users who had switched from iOS devices to Androids within their existing contracts. 

According to the plaintiffs, Apple willfully kept SMS messages sent from iMessage to non-Apple devices, failing to notify either the sender or receiver that they had not been delivered. Furthermore, the company was accused of taking insufficient action to remedy the problem, leaving Android users to find solutions of their own. 

What nobody disputes is that Apple knew about the bug. When it first emerged last year, they unceremoniously introduced a microsite where users could deregister their iMessage accounts. Although this went some way towards alleviating the problem, the solution was poorly advertised, leaving many Android ‘defectors’ in the dark. Apple also faced criticism for offering a solution that required users to fix the problem themselves. 

Savvy Android users with their ears to the digital-ground did find their own solutions, such as requesting their iPhone contacts to sever the iMessage connection between phone numbers.  

Despite the widespread inconvenience caused by Apple’s inaction, US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the class action lawsuit couldn’t move forward. Judge Koh said that the plaintiffs could not prove they were inconvenienced by any ‘contractual breach or interference’ owing to the iMessage glitch. She went on to say, however, that individual claims could still be filed against Apple, offering some hope to other parties affected by the issue. 

Judge Koh stated:

“[The] Plaintiff does not have to allege an absolute right to receive every text message in order to allege that Apple’s intentional acts have caused an ‘actual breach or disruption’ of the contractual relationship.”

Though the ruling offers a legal opportunity for further lawsuits, the reality of mounting a case against one of the biggest corporations in the world is likely to prove prohibitively expensive. Whether they acted, or failed to act, out of malice - as some cynics have suggested - or whether it was an honest oversight with an inadequate response, it looks like Apple has had a lucky escape from a potentially disastrous slew of lawsuits.

August 03, 2015

Can Supportive Text Messages Act as Pain Relievers?

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An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? But can a text message do the same thing? Can the use of mobile technology actually reduce perceptions of pain and suffering? That’s exactly what Jamie Guillory, a scientist at the research institute RTI International, set out to discover. 

Guillory and her team designed a study to determine if the use of text messaging throughout the day could impact patient’s chronic pain levels. During a four-week period, participants from various pain clinics were divided into two groups. One group received its regular pain treatment in addition to encouraging messages sent throughout the day for a total of three weeks. The other group received regular pain treatment but did not receive uplifting text messages. The first week was the study’s control—during this time, neither group received text messages.

In addition to receiving texts, the first group was asked to download an app that allowed members to record their pain management, and relate their feelings to images. 

 

What the Study Said 

The results were fascinating. The group that received regular encouraging text messages recorded a clear reduction in pain during the three-week period following the control week compared to participants who did not receive text messages.  

This study offers valuable insight into the effects of mobile devices on patients’ mindsets. In addition to the positive impact this may have on those who suffer from chronic pain, it’s a useful tool for doctors to learn more about their patients’ behaviors and feelings throughout the process of treatment.  

While this is amazing news for people with chronic pain, the study also considers other factors that may have contributed to a reduction of pain during the three-week period. For example, patients who were married or in a relationship saw more significant pain reduction than patients who were single. The tangible support system maintained by married patients was notably more developed than that of single participants. It was suggested by Guillory that the encouraging text messages only worked well in collaboration with a tangible support system already in place. 

Text messages can only contribute to reducing chronic pain so much. Few things can replace or imitate the genuine love and compassion we feel for those in our family or close circle of friends. People who experience chronic pain are more susceptible to perceiving this pain when their immediate support system is weak, something no amount of mobile interaction can change—yet. 

But the study does highlight hope for a future in which mobile texting and app recording can have a positive role in patient pain management. 

 

July 30, 2015

Indiana's Text 911 Program Puts the Rest of the US to Shame

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If you’re choking or otherwise incapable of speaking into a phone, the ability to send a text to a 911 service is a great thing. Indiana was the first US state to institute a 911 texting program, which is now available in 88 of its 92 counties. It’s highly doubtful it will be the only state to do so on such a massive scale.  

“When it comes to 911, we’ve been able to lead the country for several years with 911 services,” said Barry Ritter, executive director of the Indiana Statewide 911 Board. Fort Wayne-based INdigital telecom is the company behind the designing, building, and operating of the IN911 network for the board. Ritter also said the state features the largest deployment of the service in the country.  

Most US states offer 911 text services in a few of their counties. Illinois, for example, offers the texting service in about five areas within three counties. Verizon Wireless was the first carrier to allow customers to send text messages to 911 emergency responders in counties all over Indiana, with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint following suit. The Indiana Statewide 911 Board notified carriers in May of 2013 that it was ready to accept inbound texts. 

 

Texting Versus Calling

Calling 911 is still considered the best and most efficient way to reach a dispatcher, and texting should be used only when calling is not a possibility. This is because calling offers an instant response compared to texting. The time required to enter a text, send it over a network and then wait for the dispatcher to write and send a response means emergency services might take longer to reach the afflicted party. Providing location information as well as the type of emergency in the first text is therefore essential. It’s also important not to use abbreviations or slang to keep the emergency message as straightforward and clear as possible.  

Statistics obtained since May of 2014 show that eight 911 dispatchers in Indiana have received more than 50 emergency text messages, while 30 dispatch centers received fewer than 50 emergency texts. These numbers indicate that residents are using the service but are not flooding dispatch centers with text messages. It also shows that people are using the service when appropriate. 

If you reside in Indiana or another state where using 911 text messaging is an option, it’s important to keep a few basic guidelines in mind. Texting should be used only when calling is not possible, i.e. if the victim is deaf, speech-impaired, choking or in a situation when speaking is unsafe, such as during a home invasion or abduction. For example, earlier this month an Indianapolis woman texted that she was being abducted, which resulted in her rescue by police on Interstate 70 in Vigo County. The abduction helped raise awareness about 911 texting as a viable solution in emergency situations.  

Additionally, in order to send a successful emergency text, the victim must have a text messaging program on his or her phone and send the message to a 911 call center or Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that accepts emergency text messages. 

 

July 24, 2015

The Great Fake Traffic Swindle

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$7.5 billion. That’s the size of the black hole into which hundreds of companies have inadvertently thrown their digital advertising budgets in the past few years, according to a Moz.com article. Most of these companies never realized their marketing dollars weren’t being spent wisely.

 

What Happened?

How did companies manage to lose $7.5 billion on Internet marketing traffic that never existed?  Investigators point to three key facts:

 

  • At least half of the paid online display advertisements companies have purchased over the past few years have never been seen by a real human.
     
  • Nevertheless, ad networks and agencies were often driven to sell these ads by the presence of “volume discount” kickbacks, which made them profitable for the sellers in the short term – even if the ads did not operate as promised.

  • Instead of real people viewing the ads, bot traffic was used to artificially inflate the number of “people” who were supposedly viewing the ads.  These bot-traffic numbers both impressed the companies who purchased the ads and, in a cost-per-click agreement, cost them money.

 

The Rise of Non-Human Traffic

Bot traffic is also known as “non-human traffic,” because it results in increased impressions without the intervention of real people.  Instead, traffic comes from bot programs that mimic human behavior online.  Often, these bot programs are installed on hacked devices that are operated by real people.  As potential customers browse the Web, an army of bots works quietly behind the scenes to artificially inflate ad traffic, without the human at the keyboard ever knowing – or seeing any of the ads the bots are pretending to view.

Not all bots are bad.  Google and other search engines use bot programs to find web pages to include in search engine results.  But bot traffic that’s used to drive up search engine results offers zero return on investment for companies.  

 

From Bots to Buyers: How to Place Your Content in Front of Real People 

No company wants to spend money with no hope of ROI.  Fortunately, companies can take steps to place their digital marketing materials in front of real human audiences that are genuinely interested in what they have to offer.  Here’s how:

 

  • Ask questions.  Before signing off on digital marketing, ask how the company defines “human traffic” and whether traffic results will be verified by a third party.  Doing this demonstrates that you’re aware of potential fraud and that you won’t settle for bots.

  • Go mobile.  According to a recent Mobile Marketing Magazine article, the rate of bot traffic fraud is much lower on mobile platforms than on desktop platforms.  In-app ads may also provide an added layer of protection.

  • Leverage the power of SMS.  SMS and MMS advertising send your content directly to customer and client cell phones and tablets, ensuring there’s a real person on the other end of the line to get your message.

July 15, 2015

Swedish Blood Donors Receive Thank You Text Messages for Successful Transfusions

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Around the world, blood donation rates are at an all-time low. Britain has 40% fewer donors today than 10 years ago (according to the NHS). In the United States, only three out of every one-hundred people donate blood. The latest statistics from Executive Healthcare (EHM) shows that about 60% of the American populace is eligible to give blood, but only 5% of the people elect to give. This is a difficult problem because, despite the necessity to maintain a healthy blood supply, the Red Cross needs to find clever ways to convince donors to give.

In recent news, the Stockholm blood service may have come upon an excellent way to increase donations. If you donate blood in Sweden, you are sent an SMS text message each time your donated blood is used to save a life. The SMS texts go on to report on the impact of their donations, which can help to motivate donors as well. These “thank you” texts have created not only a way to make donors feel good about their altruism, it also is a subtle way to remind donors to come back for another donation at a later date. 

The program has been lauded as a success. Swedish citizens who participate have reported that they feel more appreciated once receiving the SMS text messages. Furthermore, donors often share the news with their peers via social media.

The outreach of the Stockholm blood service doesn’t stop there, though. Other text messages are sent to people who’ve donated before to remind them when they are eligible to donate again. In addition, the blood service has been using Facebook and email reminders to reach their potential donors as well. And it doesn’t hurt when they add light-hearted messages like “We won’t give up until you bleed.” Donors have shared that they appreciate these texts as well, since people often forget to donate amid their busy schedules.

Finally, on Stockholm blood service’s website, they have a chart giving a running total of how much blood of each type is left in stock. The idea is that if people know that the blood service is in need, then the people will be more likely to give.

There’s scientific proof that these techniques work. In a study by Johns Hopkins, researchers examined a Facebook initiative that allowed friends to share their organ donations in their status updates – the study observed a 21-fold increase of organ donor registrations in a single day! 

While this program currently only exists in Stockholm, it is likely that similar programs will be rolled-out throughout Sweden. Other countries, like Britain and the United States, are searching for similar techniques to get people to donate. The NHS Blood and Transplant service in the UK is looking to create some viral advertisements to increase donor turnout. Only time will tell how much these programs actually do to increase donor turnout but, in the meantime, we can all agree that SMS text messages and social media have proven to be excellent means to motivate the general public.