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October 15, 2014

Mobile Marketing Mushroom in Ireland

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Mobile marketing campaign managers in Ireland are flush with success right now. The country is undergoing a mobile device boom, as consumers increasingly turn their attentions away from desktop and towards smartphones and tablets.

A study compiled by marketing company ZinMobi looked at some of the country’s leading retail, restaurant and fast food brands and found mobile marketing tactics were the most effective way of delivering the biggest ROI. ZinMobi’s boss, Brian Stephenson, said the results were indicative of a growing awareness of mobile marketing tactics, and a concurrent drop off in use of conventional methods. Says Stephenson:

“What excites me about these results is the way that brands have recognised mobile as the instant marketing channel with campaigns quicker to deploy, and delivering instant results.

“We believe that every business knows enough about its customers... to deliver highly-targeted and trackable campaigns,” he added.

The study also found that mobile marketing tactics were regarded as the quickest to set-up, and 61% of respondents said they delivered the fastest results. The research found only 10% of companies did not plan to be using some form of mobile marketing campaign by this time next year; right now, 26% of Irish companies do not use some kind of mobile marketing strategy. These figures clearly show a growing awareness of mobile marketing among firms who are late to the party.

Companies with a well-established mobile marketing strategy are expanding their current campaigns in order to better engage with consumers. Mobile coupons and special offers are proving highly effective methods of retaining and nurturing existing customers.

These trends reflect an overall swing towards mobile in Ireland. Mobile web access is up 59% on last year according to a report from StatCounter. The more consumers move towards mobile devices, the more we’re likely to see marketers follow suit and creating mobile-specific campaigns. Ireland, like the rest of the world, knows which way the wind is blowing.

 

October 02, 2014

How Smartphones Are Helping the Fight Against Drug Addiction

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Can smartphones help users overcome drug addiction? 

Research says Yes! Back in 2011, an 80-person study by the National Institutes of Health found smartphones highly beneficial to those overcoming drug addiction. The study was based out of East Baltimore, Maryland and featured smartphones programmed to let addicts track when they craved and used drugs. Phones were set up to beep randomly three times each day, and ask questions such as “Where are you?”, “What are you doing?”, and “How are you feeling?”.

"We want to know the events surrounding that," lead researcher Dr. Kenzie Preston said at the time. "We're really interested what's triggering drug use, relapse."

Phones were partially disabled to lower their street value; however, associate scientist David Epstein noted no issues with phones becoming lost or getting stolen.

"We tell them, if you lose or break one of these, we'll replace it and that's fine," he said. "But if you lose or break a second one, we're going to detox you from the methadone and you can't be in the study anymore. And we hardly ever have to do that. People know that they'd rather stay with us."

The study was meant to pinpoint the precise moments addicts decided to use, as Epstein remarked on the difficulty addicts have recalling the specifics of their relapses. This isn’t to say addicts lie about their relapses; rather it’s more about how the brain functions.

"People, whether it's someone who's addicted to drugs or anyone else in the world, make up stories that sort of explain their behavior," he said during the study. "But if you could've been monitoring them in real time, you would see that things didn't happen quite the way they remembered."

Smartphones allowed researchers to obtain data in real time. The study also included addicts carrying pager-sized GPS monitors to track their movements, which made it easy to log where addicts go. For example, an addict could be sober for weeks, then visit a certain block or neighborhood and have a relapse. Knowing where addicts were hanging out helped researchers understand what type of environments encouraged drug use.

Epstein said the study could lead to new smartphone-based treatments.

"A sort of clinician in your pocket," he said. "You can give them on the spot feedback... and that does seem helpful."

 

 

September 30, 2014

SMS: Crime Fighter

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Text messaging as a mobile marketing tool is standard practice across most industries, but the public sector is also harnessing the power of SMS. Healthcare, emergency services, schools - all are benefitting from the possibilities opened up by the speed, affordability and convenience of mass texting.

One of the most significant applications of text messaging is in the fight against crime. Earlier this year, the four major wireless carriers began offering free text-to-911 services. Police departments across the country are realizing what mobile marketing campaign managers have long understood: there’s no greater guarantee of effective communication than SMS. Victims of crime can surreptitiously send text messages in dangerous situations where making a phone call may be impossible, and law enforcers can use SMS to streamline their processes and thus become more effective. Let’s take a look at some of the most innovative uses of SMS messaging in the fight against crime.

Tip Offs

A number of local police departments have set up shortcodes allowing members of the public to anonymously tip the police about a crime they have witnessed. In Bakersfield, CA, citizens have been providing law enforcers with valuable tips for some years; Kern County runs a similar program. In both cases, police stress that these channels are not intended for emergency situations requiring immediate attention, but for anonymous tip offs from people who may not otherwise feel comfortable reporting crime.

Campus Crime

In Tennessee, local authorities are encouraging students to report crimes anonymously. When the scheme was rolled out in 2009, Sgt. Charles Warner from the Franklin Police Department said that young people “don’t want to be labeled as ‘snitches’... they don’t want to be retaliated against and they’re fearful of that.” But many young people are happy to report, say, a student who brings a gun to school, or is dealing drugs on campus. The first police department in the state to launch a text message tip program, other precincts soon followed suit, and similar programs are now widespread all over the United States.

Human Trafficking

Based in Washington, D.C., the Polaris Project runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which accepts calls and texts 24/7. A Washington Post story recounted the plight of one 18-year-old sex-trade worker who alerted the authorities via text message from her pimp’s phone. Police arrested the man shortly after. An app called Redlight Traffic goes further still, with an educational component designed to teach citizens how to identify tell-tale signs of human trafficking and give them a way to combat it.

Law enforcers believe such programs can improve public understanding of potentially criminal situations, even when no actual crime has been witnessed. Citizens can report suspicious behaviour to the app, upload photos and GPS locations, and provide information on vehicle registrations and personal descriptions. Officers can review individual reports and map suspicious activities to improve their chances of being there when a crime is committed. It’s an ideal solution for members of the public who are unsure whether to call 911, but believe they have witnessed potential wrongdoing.

Misdemeanors

It’s not just serious offences like trafficking and gun crime that are being tackled by SMS messaging. Minor misdeeds which clog up law enforcement processes can be prevented by improved communication between the police and the public. In Moscow, drivers can sign up to receive a text alert 20 minutes before their car is about to be towed. When the program launched in June, officials predicted monthly savings of up to $2.6 million.

September 22, 2014

Gauging Morality via Text Message

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Psychologists have long argued that moral behaviour is a zero sum game. Commit an act of kindness today and you’re more likely to be rude tomorrow, goes the theory. In other words, do-gooders and do-badders are the same people – it’s simply a matter of timing. 

Researchers have now attempted to test that theory in the real world by tracking moral judgments via text message. The study – published in Science earlier this month – measured the frequency of moral and immoral behaviours during a typical day. Thus far peer reviews advise caution but broadly accept the findings of the research.

A team of scientists from the University of Cologne recruited 1,252 people to respond to text messages asking about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ incidents that happened to them or were witnessed by them. An SMS message was send to each participant five times a day for three days. The text asked recipients to gauge the morality of an event that just occurred in their lives. The results were striking.

On average, participants reported one moral incident a day, with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ judgments being attributed in roughly equal measure. Categories included: 

  • Care/harm. Eg, opening a door for somebody versus letting it slam in their face.
  • Fairness/unfairness. Eg, tipping generously or not.
  • Loyalty/disloyalty. Eg, having dinner with your wife versus your mistress.

According to one researcher, the responses provided ‘a sense of the moral baseline of a typical day… and the slice of the moral pie occupied by each of these categories. 

The findings apparently corroborate the long-held moral credit theory, where no good deed goes unpunished. It also supports other historical lab experiments that suggest good deeds are contagious. But while those on the receiving end of an act of kindness were around 10% more likely than the average person to do something nice later in the day, the person granting that kindness was around 3% more likely than average to be rude or dismissive later that today.

It appears that committing an act of kindness really does imbue us with a sense of moral license to behave less well in future. This modest SMS experiment is the first tentative step towards a greater understanding of our moral makeup, and though we may not like what we see, it’s undeniably fascinating.

September 12, 2014

Facebook is Converting 100m Africans Per Month

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The African continent is signing up to Facebook in droves, with 100 million users joining the social network every month. Most exciting for mobile marketing campaign managers is the fact that 80% of those users are joining via smartphones. This is indicative of a rapidly expanding mobile marketplace in emerging economies, as smartphone adoption in many African nations outstrips desktop adoption.

In part, this explosion has been driven by a deal inked between Facebook and cellular networks which ‘zero rates’ the service. This means data used by accessing Facebook does not count towards bills or data limits. Despite drawing some criticism from net neutrality advocates, the move has undoubtedly helped emerging economies in countries like Nigeria and Kenya compete; companies across Africa are reaching new, global audiences that were hitherto tough to crack.

This is just the beginning of what looks set to be a connectivity revolution in a continent historically beset with infrastructural problems. Some researchers are predicting mobile web use will increase 20-fold over the next five years. That’s double the predicted rate of growth in the rest of the world.

The relative affordability of, say, an iPhone compared to an Apple desktop computer is allowing citizens of developing countries to engage with the online world, and businesses to grow more quickly as their local audience builds. The declining cost of data, alongside faster transmission speeds, is improving communication in some of the remotest parts of the world, with sub-Saharan Africa undergoing a mobile digital revolution. 

It’s not just the low cost of recent generations of smartphone that suits these markets. Smartphones don’t need to be physically connected - either to network or electricity cables – to the same degree as desktop computers. This convenience and portability is allowing a whole new kind of mobile consumer to take advantage of internet access. 

Recent research from mobile tech firm Ericsson predicts voice call traffic in the region will double over the next five years. By the end of this year, there are expected to be more than 635 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also says that 70% of users in the countries studies browse the web on mobile devices, compared with just 6% who use desktop computers.

Analysts say the Ericsson research confirms mobile’s dominance. In a recent TED talk on technology in Africa, the editor of South Africa’s Stuff magazine said:

"Africa is a mobile-only continent. There never was a landline infrastructure to begin with, apart from urban areas. Mobile has allowed anyone to have a phone in places that were previously impassable and uncontactable. It has also been enabled, from a business perspective, by prepaid payments that handily remove the equally widespread legacy problem in that very few people have banks accounts. It really is that technology leapfrog the industry likes to talk about."

 

August 22, 2014

Germany Harnessing 'Silent Texts' to Locate Cell Phones

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In Germany, police and intelligence agencies have been using ‘silent’ SMS messages to locate cell phones without their owners’ knowledge. Details of the covert practice emerged after a parliamentarian expressed alarm at the escalation of secret text dispatches; the government responded with an admission that 125,000 such messages were sent during the first six months of 2013 alone. That number has increased this year, with 150,000 silent SMS messages sent between January and June. 

The text messages are not displayed on cell phones, but when sent en masse to a single device, can be used to precisely locate the user and observe their movements within a network. Parliamentary approval is required before each individual can be tracked.

But Andrej Hunko of the Left party raised alarm at what he termed ‘spy-SMS’ messages, prompting the government to reveal the number of German residents who had been targeted by the dispatches. According to the figures, domestic intelligence agency VfS had sent nearly 53,000 secret texts during the first half of 2014. Federal police had sent almost 69,000, and the Federal Criminal Office – Germany’s investigative police – had sent more than 34,000. The figures did not include silent text messages sent by foreign intelligence agents, customs officials or the army’s intelligence service.

However, the government did disclose details about surveillance, admitting that the Federal Criminal Office – or BKA – had eavesdropped on 704 separate calls, emails or text messages during 2014 so far.

The international community has expressed some surprise about the revelations, especially in light of the recent scandal regarding U.S. surveillance of world leaders. Surveillance is understandably a very sensitive issue in Germany, and many feel government has acted hypocritically with the use of clandestine SMS tracking technology. We await the full figures for 2014 with interest…

July 31, 2014

Beyond Marketing: 4 Unexpected Uses for SMS

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SMS messaging has become a key component of any mobile marketing strategy. It’s use as an advertising tool has been well documented – not least on this very organ – but there are all sorts of weird, wonderful ways to leverage the power of text. Schools, community groups, churches and even emergency services have begun incorporating SMS into their processes. We’ve cherry picked our favorite unusual uses of SMS messaging outside of the mobile marketing realm…

Finding Lost Pets

Companies like MobiPet are helping pet owners locate lost furry friends. When notified of a lost animal, they send photo alerts by text message to registered vets, animal shelters and pet owners within a 30 mile radius. Animal lovers have rallied round the idea which, unlike microchip implants, is non-invasive and requires no equipment apart from a camera-enabled mobile phone with text message capability.

Donating to Good Causes

Text-to-donate has proven highly effective at engaging people who don’t donate to charity by other methods. In 2007, a Super Bowl commercial raised $10,000 within seconds for the victims of the recent tsunami in Asia. The Haiti earthquake relief effort also benefitted from a text campaign, with the Red Cross eventually pulling in $32 million for victims. The success of text-to-donate is owed to the simplicity of the process. People too busy to go through the hassle of visiting a website and uploading credit card information can simply reply to a text message and have their donation applied to their phone bill.

Emergency Alerts

Closer to home, Hurricane Sandy – the second costliest hurricane in the US since records began – had a devastating impact on local businesses, but SMS proved to be a true survivor in the face of infrastructural collapse. Businesses and emergency services used SMS to keep residents up to date on the weather and how the damage it caused would affect them. 

Talking to Home Appliances

‘Smart appliances’ allow their owners to control them remotely via text message. Appliances are programmed to respond to a series of commands, so if you have an unexpected guest coming to your house, and you don’t have time to go home and clean, you can send a text to your robotic vacuum cleaner or mop. Intelligent SMS systems are also being used in fridges to tell owners what they need to pick up from the store, and even suggest recipe ideas!

July 30, 2014

Microsoft Finally Takes It's Head From the Sand... and Into the Cloud

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After years of threatening to become a computing anachronism, Microsoft is transmogrifying into a cloud services provider with a strong focus on mobile marketing. 

Earlier this year, the tech giant put the finishing touches to its Windows Phone 8.1 OS, and promised delivery to consumers by ‘Summer 2014’. They’ve already begun integrating Nokia’s smartphone business, and shares have gone up by 25% since the appointment of new CEO Satya Nadella five months ago.

On the face of it, Microsoft is finally joining the cloud/mobile party that’s been in full swing since the turn of the decade. It’s been a long time coming, and competing with the likes of Google and Apple will be a tough road aho.

Critics have lambasted Microsoft for its reticence regarding the obvious consumer appeal of cloud computing, but their strategy has become more focused on Nadella’s watch, with the professed ‘cloud first, mobile first’ philosophy at last gaining credibility.

In particular, the firm has begun to recognize the need to give partners more control over the cloud services they resell. They recently announced the implementation of the Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider program, which grants affiliates who resell products like Office 365 and Windows Intune greater control of billing and customer service tools. Says Phil Sorgen, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Partnerships:

“It fundamentally enables our partners to own the customer relationship.”

The program will expand gradually until it covers all MS cloud services. It certainly appears that Microsoft is offering the right incentives to partners. They are waiving the first year fee for new registrants wanting to sell Azure and Office 365, and increasing the number of internal use rights licenses by anything from 25 to 200 percent. Even their traditional on-premise software products are getting a 10 percent price slash for partner programs.

The jury is still out on whether this cloud and mobile marketing strategy will pay off for Microsoft. With hundreds of thousands of partners out their, the challenge is to meet the needs of a vast, heterogeneous group with extremely diverse priorities. Not all of them are thrilled at the way the wind is blowing.

Many long-time resellers and integrators will find themselves struggling to adjust their models to cloud-based services after years spent building business around on-premises Microsoft software. For one thing, on-premises deals are usually made with a one-time payment, whilst cloud services are sold by subscription. The latter generates recurring revenue streams – but the size of the deal tends to be smaller.

But Microsoft have realized that focusing on the future is the only way to ensure long term prosperity. Their attentions are pointed at the ‘born in the cloud’ generation of entrepreneurs who have never used on-premises software. For them, Microsoft’s evolution can’t happen quickly enough.

July 28, 2014

Court Rules in Favor of Carriers in Text Price Fixing Case

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Recently a federal judge out of Illinois ruled in favor of wireless carriers in a controversial text messaging price-fixing case. Though the evidence appeared to weigh heavily against the wireless carriers in the form of suspect emails, opportunities for collusion, price increases in tandem, and expert testimony, it was not enough to convince the judge of actual collusion between the companies. The summary judgment of the court cited that the plaintiffs’ myriad arguments were insufficient to prove conspiracy – a tactic employed in the past by lawyers in antitrust cases – so the court’s rejection of the case is worth mentioning.

As you may have noticed, the price of a text message doubled between 2005 and 2008. The plaintiffs claimed that these increases were the result of collusion between wireless carriers. In one example, they mentioned an email from one company’s officer to another. This email appeared to have collusive and opportunistic overtones. There were instances of circumstantial evidence as well: well-timed trade group meetings between the companies in addition to the price increases at these companies occurring at the same time were cited as possibilities, with expert witnesses backing up their evidence.

The court official wouldn’t budge, even after the plaintiff’s supposedly significant evidence. The email was disregarded: though the official was an informed employee, there was no direct evidence of collusion present in his correspondence. In addition, there was no evidence that the trade group meetings contained any dialogue about collusion whatsoever. Furthermore, the price increases enacted by the wireless companies were spread out over the course of at least a year, showing that the increases didn’t actually happen at precisely the same time. The plaintiffs merely presented evidence that hinted at the conclusion of conspiracy, but this was not enough to prove that these companies colluded with one another.

There are consequences for the Illinois judge’s summary statement. Since the plaintiffs couldn’t prove their case in the end, this judgment creates a precedent for any other antitrust conspiracy cases. Several instances of circumstantial evidence coupled with expert witnesses proved to be insufficient to prove the defendants’ guilt in the matter – on the contrary, the arguments read as trite inculpation to the judge. In the future, these types of evidence will likely be thrown out of court or ignored by judges, requiring plaintiffs to have hard evidence to prove the existence of collusion in these cases.

July 24, 2014

Apple’s ‘Reuse and Recycle’ Prices Falling

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Earlier this month, Apple quietly made a few key changes to its ‘Reuse and Recycle’ program. The lack of ceremony surrounding the changes are easily explained: it’s not particularly good news for customers.

Customers in Canada and the United States will now get less money for trading in their iPhone. The new top value is $225, versus the former rate of $270. Go back two years and Apple were offering up to $345 for a pristine iPhone 4S (then the latest model). The new pricing plan is the lowest since the program was launched.

Even with the higher prices on offer, Apple’s recycling scheme was one of the least-trumpeted aspects of their business. Many iPhone users remain completely ignorant of its existence. It works like this:

  • An Apple customer goes to the Apple Store and asks to trade in their older phone for a new, on-contract model.
  • The Apple Store rep keys in the customer’s existing iPhone details using their EasyPay device (those neat mobile touch screen gizmos you see reps clutching).
  • Based on the information entered, a value for the old iPhone is given to the customer. Metrics include display quality, button quality, overall hardware damage, liquid damage and functionality.
  • The Apple Store rep lets the customer know they cannot get their original phone back, and they should back up any info they need.
  • The customer gets a new iPhone and a gift card with the agreed-upon value pre-loaded to go towards the new device.
  • The old phone is placed in a plastic bag, and the old SIM card is given to the customer while the employee sets up the new iPhone.

According to Apple, recycled iPhones are only re-sold in the United States, although they’ve not ruled out expanding the program to international markets. Despite launching the scheme to little fanfare, the tech giant did assert its commitment at the time, stating: