The Smart World only works, if everyone is a part.

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Nest, famed home automation company, recently acquired by Google are aiming not just to automate the home, but also transport. Speaking at the Dublin Web Summit Tony Fadell, Founder of Nest discussed the importance of home automation, not just being in the innovation of any particular product, but being firmly grounded in universal accessibility.

Speaking on the main stage of the summit, Fadell discussed the need for companies to constantly keep in mind, what the customer wants, and ultimately – what is best for them, rather than falling into the trap of many other companies; producing products which innovate, but which do not allow universal understanding and use.

Speaking based on years worth of learnings, gathered while working in Apple under Steve Jobs tenureship from 2001, working on the original iPod. He talked about the need for products which are accessible and usable by the average consumer, not just a niche category of technology fans and enthusiasts.

The thinking behind Nest, not too dissimilar to the iPod, is to enhance and innovate on an established idea. In this case; taking the thermostat and tackling the problem of a system which does not operate in a smart way, costing the average Irish household, up to €1,000 a year. Focusing on ensuring that customers are aware that the product is a simple, innovative and useful device, which puts them in greater control over the functionality of their own home.

Nest has managed to disrupt the home,opening the door for a greater internet of things, ensuring that data aware devices can better regulate a home, while being totally secure, building consumer trust and ultimately, allowing the householder greater control over their bills and the elements of their home which can often be easily forgotten.

With the smart home now being tackled, and smart devices now ubiquitous among the developed world, Fadell firmly believes that the next step is transport. While Google Self-driving car is the first step, the potential for smart transport doesn’t end there. Commuting and transportation form a huge part of daily life, the opportunity for greater interaction can once again free the consumer, putting more control in our hands to ensure that transportation isn’t simply a matter of getting on the bus, or train – but being able to consciously regulate what mode of transport, and how we utilise it for ourselves.
To help move the Smarter world a little further along, Nest Thermostats are now being given free to all new Electric Ireland customers, successfully planting the device in 1.5million homes.

Marketers miss the true power of the Second Screen

Second Screen TV Tablet

 

Increasingly, we’re being told about the ‘power of the second screen’ and how 60% of men, in particular, have their tablet, or smartphone in front of them while consuming TV content. This has given rise to a sea of TV/Network related apps which aim and espouse to give the TV viewer more immersion into what they’re watching. The days of non-interactive television are coming to an end. But what about when the programme isn’t on, does the second screen still play a role when you’ve gone to the kettle after your programme?

 

The answer, according to this post from Google, is an emphatic, yes – especially using their search and YouTube tools, obviously.

 

The report, outlines both YouTube and Google trends around and following TV output, broadly speaking, it shows a year-on-year increase of viewers interacting on YouTube with other fans, and the shows, while on Google, carrying out research into shows, cast, episode information, etc.

 

The data from Google shows, that in the immediate two week period before a show premiere, interest peaks on both channels, with viewers and audiences hungry for information on a show, while current and long running shows generate search and YouTube activity year round (possibly due to syndication when not airing), new shows have peak interest around the premiere, which tails off to a degree following this, until the season end.

 

What the data also shows, is that while people may still be using second screen apps, which are run, usually directly by the network or show – they still go back to Google and YouTube for the more social awareness aspect, and research into shows – basically to see what other people thought of it, what other people expect from a show and whether there will be more episodes.

 

While there’s a lot of information to digest, and not all of it particularly new, what it does do is allow brands who either sponsor a show, or have their products placed in it, to use the suite of Google advertising tools at the right time, for the right audience in an incredibly targeted manner.

 

An example of this might be, Jameson’s Whiskey – Don Draper’s whiskey of choice on AMC’s Mad Men. This show is slightly unusual, in that it displays both characteristics of a new show, and a recurring show on Google – the season hiatus which dragged the show break on while the show was on Netflix gives a good idea of both kinds of above search interaction.

 

Jameson can, with data like this, take the second screen away from the television, where people are already bombarded with ads, and are not giving the tablet their full attention, to the kitchen, where the viewer might go afterwards. Using specific key terms for ads, and SEO they can monopolise in the run up and duration of the show, timing ads to run during the show run, or catch up and repeat times – the growth of DVR and catchup services, unfortunately makes viewing times much more fluid in our On Demand world. Pre-roll ads on YouTube can also take advantage of the status of the drink within Mad Men.

 

Ultimately, as second screen grows alongside on demand viewing and contextual advertising, it’s important to consider that the second screen isn’t just on the sofa, it follows a viewer around their house, while apps are useful for during the show, people will watch YouTube or search Google around the show when they can give it their attention, this is where brands can monopolise on interest, it isn’t always about the flashy app, sometimes digital marketing is about the age old principles of timing, placement and emotional connections – you don’t need to be always on, but you need to make sure people see when you are.

HTC One M8 – REVIEW

HTC One m8

The HTC One M8 is the latest attempt by the flailing smartphone manufacturer to shore up some of its recent losses in the face of growing competition from the likes of LG, Apple and particularly, Samsung – who have managed to vacuum up almost all of the former giant’s lead. Last year’s HTC One (M7) was considered a somewhat iconic design, and was the company’s best selling handset, ever. However, it didn’t buck the downwards trend that the company faces. The One M8 it is hoped will change all of that.

 

Released in Ireland, and the world earlier this week, the M8 is available on all major networks. The Dot View Case has not been released yet, however some sites now offer this on pre-order in five different colours.

 

But just what is the M8 like?

 

The Box

An unboxing video is to follow, however – the box itself is pretty neat – larger than it really needs to be, but clearly taking a more Apple oriented direction – very slim, and very simple. With the phone, comes a basic rubber case, headphones, charger cable and standard plug.

 

The Hardware

When you first pick up, what looks like the rather sizeable phone, what strikes immediately is just how well built the device really is. The back is gently curved, not enough to offer much rocking, but it fits comfortably into the hand. The single aluminum slab feels great, the machine-drilled speakers blend in well. The device front looks a little more cluttered when you come from a Nexus device, which is blank on the front. It’s a little heavy, but not in an uncomfortable way, it feels weighty in a very solid sense.

 

The only irk I would have when it comes to build quality, would be the volume rocker – it’s a little flimsy by comparison and could be a bit more solid, same goes for the power button – but thanks to gesture controls, it rarely gets used.

 

The camera blends in nicely – it looks a little odd to have two lenses at the back, but it’s integrated well overall. Speaking of the camera, a lot of people (including myself) have been worried about the 4 ‘Ultrapixel’ argument – thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised, the camera is, in my opinion, better than the Nexus 4.

 

The screen to show off these pictures is gorgeous, it blends in with the overall device, you’d never even realize it was there – when switched on, it’s very sharp, text is crisp and pictures look just stunning – the extra real estate really helps.

 

Topping and Tailing the screen, is a pair of fairly gorgeous speakers. They’re loud, really loud and clear. Some music came across as a bit tinny, but overall the speakers were clear, sharp and a song being played in the living room, I could clearly hear in the next room.

 

Coming from the Nexus, a range which has been plagued by poor batter life, the M8 is simply amazing in terms of battery. It lasts well over a day on moderate – heavy usage, with the screen brightness up and the 3G/WiFi on. It charges nice and quickly, certainly tasks that would drop the Nexus 4 by 10%, only really use up 5% or less from the M8.

 

The Software

Turning on the phone, I was very worried. Previously using Sense had been somewhat of a disappointment especially when coming from stock. However I have to say, Sense 6 is slick. The gestures, such as lifting the phone to your ear to answer a call, are genuinely useful, rather than Samsung’s bloatware which gets ignored. Sense is definitely a nice overlay to the Android OS, It’s a lot more background and simple, making sure that it doesn’t intrude too much on how you interact with the phone.

 

Some things I really like coming from stock, is the greater flexibility of the notifications centre, there’s a lot more functionality when double swiping, the ability to easily drop widgets into any section or homescreen is quite nice. Blinkfeed is really quite nice also. Flipboard like functionality and easily accessible, it’s a nice feature to read while you’re waiting on something, aggregating items from several of your news sources.

 

The Camera

I wasn’t convinced by the ‘Ultrapixel’ argument at first, it seemed like quite an easy cop-out to have an amazing phone, with one major Achilles heel. However, having used it and taken quite a few snaps, the quality is actually pretty good. The screen doesn’t hide much, but images are sharp and crisp, certainly more than enough for social sharing and Instagram.

Filtered shot from the camera

The camera also features some pretty handy things, Zoe is a little bit of a gimmick, but it’s a nice touch to allow the creation of your own Vine like GIF, the ability to refocus an image after shooting is very nice, and it’s something I have been using a lot in pictures, especially if the object I want to capture isn’t the centre.

 

While the features are nice, I liked that Nexus allows you to browse your auto-backup images within the gallery by default.

 

Images though are really, lovely – the gesture of holding your locked phone in landscape and hitting the volume button is really a nice touch to snap a quick shot on the go.

 

Wrap up

Overall, I’m hugely impressed with the M8. The handset itself I would say almost surpasses the iPhone in design, it slips into the hand neatly, rather than a block working against it. The gestures and overall intuition are top notch, the camera is more than decent and the speakers are pretty powerful. While I do think I still prefer stock, just about – the HTC One M8 pretty much trumps it.

 

After having it for about four days, I wouldn’t even hesitate in giving this phone a 10/10.

RECIPE: Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake)

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If I were to pin my hopes on the next big thing, it would be BBQ food, in Dublin. But there’s a little hidden trend kicking off and it’s a little known Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake. It’s very simple, quick and easy to make – but hasn’t quite hit here yet. There’s a place in London where you can get a good version, I’ve also given it a go on my travels and it’s such a satisfying dish.

 

Literally, Okonomiyaki means ‘What you like’ so the combinations are endless, and every region in Japan has it’s own version – filled with everything from seafood, to vegetables or pork. This is a simple, year round kind of recipe which can really wow, but doesn’t break the bank, or wreck your kitchen!

 

Perfect on its own as you can make them quite big, and they’re deceptively filling, if you really want, a simple bowl of fried noodles and some veggies is a great side, gyoza would be more traditional.

 

What you’ll need (Serves two generously);

½ a large cabbage (White looks best)

1 Onion (white or red work)

150g button mushrooms

100 – 150g prawns (I used frozen, pre-cooked but you can use raw – just add some time for them to pink)

6 large eggs

150g of plain flour, you can also use self-raising

olive oil

tomato ketchup

Soy Sauce

Mayonaise

 

1 Large Mixing bowl

1 frying/large pancake pan

 

First off, peel and slice the onion, mushrooms and cabbage (a small blender to roughly chop will make quick work of the cabbage). If using frozen prawns, leave them out to defrost in a bowl of water, if using raw  give them a quick fry to just cook them (we prefer to err on the side of caution).

 

In the mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and flour together until you get a nice, smooth batter. Then fold in the vegetables and prawns until well combined. You really can use any vegetable though, just make sure you choose something not too big and won’t be too crunchy, you can also use any meat you want, we also threw in some bacon.

 

Put a good glug of oil into the pan on a good medium heat. Once nice and hot, pour half the mixture into the pan, cooking about 5 minutes on either side, until browned and steady enough to flip. Just make sure that it’s cooked through.

When cooked and browned on either side, slide out onto a plate and drizzle with ketchup (or brown sauce) and mayo. If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll have to sprinkle with fish flakes, but that’s a bit too fancy.

 

To add some spice to the dish, which is solidly flavourful – but sometimes needs an oomph, get a tsp of Harissa Paste and mix well with a small bowl of yoghurt, adding more/less of each to taste.


Serve with some nice fried noodles.

Why Facebook is walking a paid v. organic tightrope

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What many social and digital marketers will know, is that Facebook have been making some serious algorithm changes which will quite seriously affect how users interact with brands and exactly how that relationship works. One of the specific changes in recent weeks, is the auto-playing video ads on mobile newsfeeds. Ultimately, Facebook wants more tailored and more relevant content for its users, helping it to challenge its great rival, Google. Mostly, in the interim, however, it wants companies to pay more to be seen.

 

This is a particular problem which leaves Facebook between a rock and a hard place. Users need more relevant content to engage with a site, content is more than, and should be more than the number of likes a post can receive. To prioritise content like this, means that the same posts from the same pages will constantly show to the user, this adds little or no value to the page, or the like – making engagement meaningless. Brands however are spread across a wide range of activities, many rely on memes and ‘light’ content to survive and to engage with their fans. While Edgerank tries to remedy this, it still means more money needs to be pumped into a page.

 

So while on one hand you have users show the beginnings of Facebook fatigue, for want of stronger, more relevant content, on the other hand you now have brands who suddenly need to pay more to be seen. While this does force brands to become more relevant and enforces some kind of content optimisation, the problem is that Facebook offers no ‘organic’ alternative, in the same way to Google. There’s no guarantee that good and optimised content will go to the top, and even if it does, it’s finite. Google organic search means that a page can remain at the top for quite some time, based on the relevancy of its content.

 

While as a marketer, it makes my job more difficult, requiring me to dig down much more into my analytics to make sure that content is constantly relevant, and reduces the ability and latitude to post in a more ad hoc manner for engagement, as a user, it ultimately benefits. The harsh reality is, that while many brands are funny and do rely on engagement on short posts or ‘memes’ there’s a badly needed exercise within Facebook to clean up the newsfeed. Google might be the big competition in Facebook’s mind, but increasingly younger users are going to other platforms, like Twitter and Kik to find answers and network. These are not spaces where relevant content is more rewarded, but places where it doesn’t always matter so much.


While brands and agencies might not like it (the idea of asking for more money is never nice), Facebook is changing its algorithm to stay as relevant as possible in a market increasingly moving towards a more contextual and content oriented search method. Users when loading Siri or Google Now, expect content to be relevant, they expect that the first page or the answers these apps come up with to be exactly what they wanted and have content that relates to this. In order for Facebook to stay competitive in this space, it has to make brands think about what they say and better understand who their users are.

The Nokia X; What to Expect

Nokia Android

There’s only a few days to go until the Mobile World Congress 2014 and among a slew of devices aiming to take the trophy as the gadget of 2014 will be an unlikely Android contender; Nokia.

It is now looking more than likely that in the coming days, Nokia will launch the X, or known internally as Normandy, to the market. This budget phone will be aimed at taking on the low-cost phone market currently dominated by the likes of Samsung, and is traditionally a market that the Finnish giant has been more than capable of taking on with products like its Asha range and lower cost Symbian powered phones which are still running in the wild.

But what exactly does Nokia’s first and (probably) only Android phone mean, and just what will it be like? There’s been plenty of speculation, but we know that at the very least, it’s not going to compare to the Lumia line, largely considered to be some of the best designed smartphones on the market, just lacking the critical app ecosystem.

We know for sure that that it will be running a forked version of Android, not unlike Amazon’s Fire tablets, giving it quite a lot of access to the Play Store and being able to support accessories and native services that many Android users have come to rely on from day-to-day. This goes some way to what many former Nokia enthusiasts had long sought, a decent smartphone from Finland which ran Android, helping to right a wrong from two years ago.

We also know that it’s going to be nicely multi-coloured, thanks to Nokia’s quite cute marketing and heavy use of green throughout most of its promotional activities, especially the recent duck vine. Something like this would be fairly brilliant, many have tried pushing phones in multiple colours, but so far only Nokia have really hit the nail on the head from a design point of view.

We also know that it’s going to be fairly low spec, not the worst phone on the market, but it should fall somewhere between Asha and Lumia – sporting a 5MP camera, MicroSD card slot, 4-Inch screen and potentially running Android 4.4 KitKat – if true it would already place it well ahead of quite a few Android phones on the market, some of which are still running Ice Cream Sandwich.

It’s been considered very odd that Nokia should choose this moment to launch their Android handset, something fans have been long hoping for, ever since Nokia decided to partner with Microsoft. The phone answers a question Nokia faced when it faced its great OS decision, before making, what many (including myself) consider to be the wrong one. In many ways this looks to be Nokia’s farewell to the world of smartphones – ultimately becomes just another division of Microsoft.

Facebook buying WhatsApp, the ‘Sink or Swim’ strategy

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Heads are still swivelling from the monumental sum of money which has been put against WhatsApp in the last 24-hours by Facebook ahead of their purchase of the company.

To put it in perspective, as I touched on in a previous post; WhatsApp has been valued at $19billion, with 50 employees is now worth more than both Sony, United Airlines and Gap all of whom have significantly more resources. Not only that, but it’s 450 million users now send more messages per day than the global population send SMS. It’s also comfortably now bigger and more valuable than Twitter.

But there’s some key things to take out of this purchase, Facebook is facing a tough future, one in which smaller more niche social networks are starting to steal its thunder and most importantly, revenue base. The giant now, more than ever is facing a battle to remain relevant in this new social landscape. Part of the strategy to remain relevant is nothing new, Google, Apple and Yahoo! have been doing it for a long time; go on a spending spree.

Mark Zuckerberg made an intelligent move when he bought Instagram, it was an investment which is still to bear fruit – but one which ensures that Facebook has a future separate to its own platform, continuously able to target the young consumers that are spending online and communicating there natively. The purchase of WhatsApp is the next step in marketing to an audience which just never took to Facebook Messenger, or the Facebook phone.

Ultimately, Facebook aren’t just trying to reach users, they’re trying to reach people like me, those who spend money advertising to the users, to make their $19billion investment back and turn a tidy profit. There’s an argument that such huge investments can be harmful to small networks, but WhatsApp has the benefit of already turning a profit. The prospect of this marketing opportunity isn’t exactly unappealing.

Facebook already allows a hugely granular method of advertising and promotion, largely there’s still a problem of reporting and results – simply put, investment from large brands in social advertising is still in its infancy and the idea of paying for your content to be seen by fans doesn’t always appeal, especially compared to a more robust AdWords by Google, who allow for much more detailed tracking and reporting, as well as revenue where that’s important.

WhatsApp from the point of view of brands who want to advertise is pretty cool, there’s a lot Facebook could do with the service, beyond integrating it with pages, perhaps even allowing for a Snapchat like broadcast from pages – it would have to be carefully managed, but I suspect that the WhatsApp user base won’t be as ardently opposed to this as the Instagram community is, simply because its a younger market and to a large degree are less affected by advertising on an app. Facebook is following Google into the idea of contextual search and advertising, WhatsApp could fit in quite neatly with that.

Ultimately, we won’t see for quite some time what will be done with the messaging service. It could be expected that it will remain fairly separate for the time being, like Instagram – Facebook doesn’t want to rock the boat, but they will eventually look to unify their services when the buy-in exists; a customer base who are used to the idea of these services being interlinked – rather than the current mature users who are more comfortable with the idea of separate apps for separate networks.