Internet Of Things- how to use IoT to make sales

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Friday, May 6, 2016

How brands will use the Internet of Things (IoT) to develop their customer relationships.

How brands will use the Internet of Things (IoT) to develop their customer relationshipsThe Internet of Things  will soon become a significant channel through which brands will be able to create and deepen relationships with their customers, a new Forrester report suggests.

Tens of billions of IoT sensors will appear, embedded in connected objects such as an Miele oven, connected using Microsoft technoloy, in the next five to 10 years, predicts the report, The Internet of Things redefines brand engagement.

As a result, it says, marketers will need to develop experiences rather than managing products – a process to which mobile smart phones will be key.

“Reports of IoT killing mobile are greatly exaggerated, if not completely inaccurate,” said report author and Forrester analyst Thomas Husson. “Instead, brands need to define engagement scenarios where smartphones are the primary interface and remote control of connected experiences.”

Forrester predicts that this year, a third of US online adults will use some form of IoT whether at home, through wearables or in their car. But adoption of connected devices in smart homes or cars is still low, especially in Europe.

The findings show that as yet only 4% of UK online adults use their mobile or tablet to control or monitor home utilities or appliances.

As yet, IoT based marketing to consumers is still limited, but Husson suggests in the report that this industry will enable marketers to listen to consumers and analyse their real behaviours, interact with consumers more frequently and in a more intimate way, as well as differentiating their customer experiences.

They will also be able to build new offerings and business models.

The key to doing that, argues Husson, is by delivering utility through the IoT – and marketers must improve their skills before they can do that. That includes the challenges of using data to put customer behaviour in context and keep control of the customer relationship.

Privacy and security must be a differentiator, while design thinking will help marketers to move from products to experiences.

Given that many IoT designers and system builders are more concerned about interconnections, customer security will become a key concern.

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Music streaming increases sales of vinyl records

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Music streaming sites are helping to drive sales of vinyl records, new research suggests.

Music streaming sites are helping to drive sales of vinyl records, new research suggests.Half of consumers say they listened to an album online before buying a vinyl copy, according to an ICM poll, shared with the BBC.

The behaviour is more common for people who use ad funded services such as SoundCloud or YouTube, suggesting free music can drive real world sales.

Maybe surprisingly, 48% of people who bought vinyl last month admit they have yet to play it. Seven per cent of those surveyed say they do not even own a turntable.

Younger fans increasingly discover on digital but collect on vinyl.  Others say they buy records to support their favourite artists, while 50% of consumers identify themselves as “collectors”.

The resurgence in vinyl during a period of declining sales has been one of the music industry’s more surprising success stories.

In 2014, 2.1 million LPs were purchased by music fans as demand increased for an eighth successive year – climbing 64% to a 21-year high.

Official Charts Company figures suggest the rise has continued in 2016, with 637,056 records sold in the first three months of the year, accounting for almost 3% of the UK music market.

Adele’s 25 was the biggest selling album on vinyl last year, followed by Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black

The vinyl revival has been spurred by Record Store Day – which started nine years ago as a means of supporting independent music retailers.

This year’s event took place on Saturday 16 April and sees record shops around the UK stocking thousands of one-off records.

There were vinyl releases from artists including Justin Bieber, Abba, David Bowie, Alan Partridge, Foals, Chase & Status and the Dead Kennedys.

But the ICM Unlimited research shows that the majority of music (73%) is now bought online, with Amazon emerging as the top retailer, accounting for 27% of all sales.

Apple’s iTunes store is next, with an 18% market share, followed by supermarkets (10%) and high street record stores (7%).

Men are more likely to visit a bricks and mortar record shop than women, the figures suggest, but there has been an increase in the number of women buying vinyl.

“About 8% of men have bought vinyl in the last month, and that’s been fairly constant over the last three of four years,” says Andrew Wiseman, head of ICM Unlimited.

“Back in 2013, only 3% of women bought vinyl and that’s risen to 5% in the last year – so we’re starting to see that gap close.

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EU watchdogs demand revisions to Safe Harbour replacement

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, April 18, 2016

EU privacy watchdogs have demanded changes to a pact meant to govern cross Atlantic data transfers.

EU privacy watchdogs have demanded changes to a pact meant to govern cross Atlantic data transfers.The group urged the US and European Commission to revise and clarify several points in the proposed Privacy Shield agreement in order to safeguard EU citizens’ personal information.

The Privacy Shield is meant to replace an earlier data transfer pact called Safe Harbour. Safe Harbour was invalidated by a court decision last year.

The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said it was still concerned about the possibility of “massive and indiscriminate” bulk collection of EU citizens’ data by the US authorities.

It added that it wanted further guarantees about the powers a US official would have to handle complaints from EU citizens.

“We believe that we don’t have enough security [or] guarantees in the status of the ombudsperson and in their effective powers to be sure that this is really an independent authority,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, the chairwoman of the group.

The group’s recommendations are not binding on the EU or US, but should prove influential as the watchdogs can suspend data transfers they are concerned about.

“I am grateful to the experts for their thorough analysis,” responded Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice. “They provided a number of useful recommendations and the Commission will work to swiftly include them in its final decision.”

The European Court of Justice effectively brought an end to Safe Habour in October when it ruled that the pact did not eliminate the need for local watchdogs to check that US firms were protecting Europeans’ data.

The agreement had been used for 15 years to allow American firms to self-certify that they were carrying out the necessary steps.

But a privacy campaigner challenged the process after whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed details about US authorities spying on foreign citizens’ data held in the country.

The EU privacy regulators are concerned that a similar challenge could be brought against the proposed Privacy Shield unless its language is toughened up.

Earlier in the week, Microsoft had endorsed Privacy Shield on the basis that the US could take “additional steps” to protect data at a later point.

But Max Schrems – the campaigner who challenged Safe Harbour – welcomed the latest development.

“I personally doubt that the European Commission will change its plans much,” he said. “There will be some political wording, but I think they will still push it through.”

“Given the negative opinion, a challenge to the Privacy Shield at the courts is even more promising. Privacy Shield is a total failure that is kept alive because of extensive pressure by the US government and some sectors of the industry.”

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Martha Lane Fox joins Twitter’s board

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fellow Millenium Product award winner Martha Lane Fox has tweeted that she will be joining the board of Twitter.

Fellow Millenium Product award winner Martha Lane Fox has tweeted that she will be joining the board of TwitterBaroness Lane-Fox tweeted that it would be her “best job ever”.

Twitter has suffered some poor financial results lately, with a quarterly net loss of £64 million reported in February.

The news was – appropriately – announced via a tweet. It was also announced that Pepsi vice chairman and chief financial officer Hugh Johnston would join Twitter’s board.

Baroness Lane-Fox is widely regarded as one of Britain’s most successful web pioneers. She began her digital career with the launch of along with co-founder Brent Hoberman in 1998. By the time they sold it in 2005, the deal valued the company at £577m. was one of only 3 websites which were awarded Millenium Product status by the Design Council- along with our master site-

She was the UK’s Digital Champion until 2013, the same year she joined the House of Lords. Recently, she founded Dot Everyone, a body that champions digital innovation.

“I’m absolutely over the moon to be part of the journey of an iconic company that I love using,” Baroness Lane-Fox told the BBC.

Twitter executive chairman Omid Kordestani tweeted that he was “thrilled” by the news.

Twitter faces an uphill struggle when it came to turning the company’s fortunes around. Twitter has huge problems and it will need some pretty major changes in order to make it relevant and, in particular, profitable. Whilst it has a lot of users, traffic and brand recognition it has always to monetise itslef and make money.

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The first website went online 25 years ago today

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Friday, March 18, 2016

Invented by Sir Tim Berners Lee, the first website went live at CERN.

Invented by Sir Tim Berners Lee, the first website went live at CERNToday the world’s first website turns 25 years old. Created by 60 year old British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1990, while he was a researcher at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).

The website still exists today and it’s address is .

It still provides information about the world wide web – the platform that sits on top of the Internet, where documents and pages on the Internet can be accessed by URLs, and connected to each other via hyperlinks, like this.

“When we link information in the web, we enable ourselves to discover facts, create ideas, buy and sell things, and forge new relationships at a speed and scale that was unimaginable in the analogue era,” Sir Berners-Lee has written.

When Berners-Lee created the first website, the “internet” was a group of static documents, used almost exclusively by defence organisations and academic institutions.

His proposal was supposed to allow electronic documents on the internet to be easily searched and shared.

“I found it frustrating that in those days, there was different information on different computers, but you had to log on to different computers to get at it.”

“Also, sometimes you had to learn a different program on each computer. So finding out how things worked was really difficult. Often it was just easier to go and ask people when they were having coffee.”

“Because people at CERN came from universities all over the world, they brought with them all types of computers. Not just Unix, Mac and PC: there were all kinds of big mainframe computer and medium sized computers running all sorts of software.”

“I actually wrote some programs to take information from one system and convert it so it could be inserted into another system. More than once. And when you are a programmer, and you solve one problem and then you solve one that’s very similar, you often think, ‘Isn’t there a better way? Can’t we just fix this problem for good?'”

“That became ‘Can’t we convert every information system so that it looks like part of some imaginary information system which everyone can read?’ And that became the World Wide Web.”

Today, he is a passionate advocate of the open web and net neutrality – the principle that all information on the Internet should be equally accessible to users, regardless of their source.

In particular, he has publicly campaigned against censorship of the web by governments.

He has also called for a new model of privacy on the web, where people legally own all their data on the web, so it cannot be used without their permission.

If you visit CERN today, you can see the orginal NeXT computer on which Sir Berners-Lee built the very first website, with the label hand-written in red ink: “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER DOWN!!”

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How @ became used for emails

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Friday, March 11, 2016

The death this week of Ray Tomlinson- the man widely regarded as the inventor of the email, raises the question of how the @ sign became used.

The death this week of Ray Tomlinson- the man widely regarded as the inventor of the email, raises the question of how the @ sign became used

The @ character is the symbol of the internet age- which is crucial for emails and social networking.

The “at sign” or was once an obscure symbol known only to bookkeepers. That changed thanks to Ray Tomlinson, the man widely regarded as the inventor of the email.

He used it from his keyboard in 1971 to go between the user name and destination address when sending a message between two computers in his office. Tomlinson chose @ because it was then rarely used in computing, so wouldn’t confuse early programs or operating systems.

In a happy coincidence, the English name of the symbol was already “at”.

“The @ symbol appeared on typewriters before the end of the 19th Century,” says Keith Houston, author of Shady Characters: Secret Life of Punctuation. “It seemed to be a general symbol that meant to readers ‘this is this many items at this price’. It didn’t have a use beyond this.”

As typewriters had it, so did the first proper keyboards for computers.

“The @ symbol was on to keyboards because it was a business tool and had a business use,” says Houston.

Those business users understood it as a symbol to indicate unit price eg 12 batteries @ £1 each.

In 2000, the Italian academic Giorgio Stabile observed that many nations use different words for the @ symbol that describe how it looks. In Turkish it means “rose”, while in Norwegian it means “pig’s tail”. In Greek it is “duckling”, while in Hungarian it is “worm”.

But Stabile noticed in French, Spanish and Portuguese, it referred to arobase or arroba – a unit of weight and volume. In Italian the name for the symbol was “amphora”, referring to long-necked pottery storage jars that had been used since ancient times.

Stabile discovered a letter sent from Seville to Rome in 1536, which discussed the arrival in Spain of three ships sailing from the New World. It stated that an amphora of wine was sold and “amphora” was replaced with the @ symbol as an abbreviation. Stabile concluded the @ symbol was a common medieval shorthand for units of measure in southern Europe, even if the precise units differed.

But the earliest yet discovered reference to the @ symbol is a religious one. It features in a 1345 Bulgarian translation of a Greek chronicle. Held today in the Vatican Apostolic Library, it features the @ symbol in place of the A in the word Amen. Why it was used in this context is a mystery.

It seems fitting then that the first email to be sent with the @ symbol has also been lost to time. When Tomlinson sent the first message to tomlinson@bbn.tenexa, he didn’t realise what a gamechanger it would be and so didn’t bother writing it down.

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OFCOM rules on broadband future

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Friday, February 26, 2016

UK regulator Ofcom has published its review of the telecoms industry ensuring homes and businesses get the best possible phone and broadband services.

UK regulator Ofcom has published its review of the telecoms industry ensuring homes and businesses get the best possible phone and broadband servicesIt comes at a crucial time, when consumers and governments alike recognise that broadband is nearly as vital as the water and electricity supplies.

But, complaints about net services are at an all-time high.  And for many, broadband is still slow or non-existent.

Every 10 years, Ofcom publishes its views on the UK’s digital economy. This review has focused on a number of questions, including:

Although Ofcom was keen to look at these questions, the focus has been on whether or not it would call for BT to be split up. The firm is one of the UK’s largest service providers and also owns Openreach, the business responsible for telecoms and broadband infrastructure.

Perhaps one of the most interesting conclusions was a perceived conflict of interest between having the company responsible for the UK’s broadband network part of the same company that is a leading internet service provider.

The threat of separation is still on the table, but Ofcom has stopped short of calling for an immediate split between the two.

Instead, it has called for an overhaul of Openreach’s governance and further “independence” from BT, but it did give details about how it would achieve this.

Ofcom said that it would develop a set of proposals with the European Commission to ensure that the UK’s network access was open to all.

Openreach is the infrastructure division of BT, which manages the network that runs between BT’s exchanges and peoples’ homes.

This is known as “the last mile” and involves maintaining the UK’s copper and fibre network.

The division is currently involved in a £2.5 billion upgrade of the green street cabinets that are a familiar site on the UK’s pavements.

It is using a combination of technologies, deploying:

The majority of Openreach’s connections are fibre to the cabinet, a decision which has been criticised by some.

According to the UK’s Ombudsman Services, communications complaints are increasing year on year, with the sector responsible for the second highest number of consumer grumbles – second only to retail.

Last year it received more than 24,500 complaints and had 83,000 initial contacts from consumers experiencing problems with their service provider.

One of the biggest bugbears is the fact that, while Openreach is often responsible for fixing faults, it has little or no contact with consumers who must instead deal with their service providers.

The review promises automatic compensation for faults.

Ofcom has called for BT to make it easier for rivals to access its network by opening up its ducts and poles.

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Legal ruling that computer hacking by GCHQ is not illegal

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Sunday, February 21, 2016

GCHQ is within UK law when it hacks into computers and smart phones, a security tribunal has ruled.

GCHQ is operating within UK law when it hacks into computers and smart phones, a security tribunal has ruled.
Campaigners Privacy International have lost a legal challenge claiming the spying post’s hacking operations are too intrusive and break European law.

The case was launched after revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden about the extent of US and UK spying.

GCHQ admitted its agents hack devices, in the UK and abroad, for the first time during the hearings.

Its previous policy had been to “neither confirm nor deny” the existence of such operations.

Hackers can remotely activate cameras and microphones on devices, without the owner’s knowledge, log keystrokes, install malware, copy documents and track locations among other things, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) was told.

The Home Office has now published a code of practice for hacking, or “equipment interference” as it is also known, and aims to put it on a firmer legal footing in its Investigatory Powers Bill, which is due to become law later this year.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a panel of senior judges, said in its ruling that the code struck the right balance between the “urgent need of the Intelligence Agencies to safeguard the public and the protection of an individual’s privacy and/or freedom of expression”.

But the judges were “satisfied” the agency was already operating in a lawful and proportionate way, whatever the outcome of Parliament’s scrutiny of the Investigatory Powers

Privacy International, which launched the legal challenge with seven internet service providers, said it was “disappointed” by the ruling and would continue to challenge “state-sponsored hacking,” which it said was “incompatible with democratic principles and human rights standards”.

Scarlet Kim, Privacy International’s legal officer, said: “Hacking is one of the most intrusive surveillance capabilities available to intelligence agencies.

“This case exposed not only these secret practices but also the undemocratic manner in which the government sought to backdate powers to do this under the radar.

“Just because the government magically produces guidelines for hacking should not legitimise this practice.”

She added that hacking “fundamentally weakens the security of computers and the internet” by exploiting the “weaknesses in software and hardware used by millions of people”.

“It is akin to unlocking a person’s window without their knowledge and leaving it open for any attacker – whether GCHQ, another country’s intelligence agency or a cyber criminal – to access.”

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Women write better code

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Sunday, February 14, 2016

Computer code written by women has a higher approval rating than that written by men – but only if their gender is not identifiable.

Computer code written by women has a higher approval rating than that written by men - but only if their gender is not identifiableThe US researchers analysed nearly 1.4 million users of the open source program sharing service Github.

They found that pull requests – or suggested code changes – made on the service by women were more likely to be accepted than those by men.

The researchers, from the computer science departments at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and North Carolina State University, looked at around four million people who logged on to Github on a single day – 1 April 2015.

Github is an enormous developer community which does not request gender information from its 12 million users.

However the team was able to identify whether roughly 1.4 million were male or female – either because it was clear from the users’ profiles or because their email addresses could be matched with the Google + social network.

The researchers accepted that this was a privacy risk but said they did not intend to publish the raw data.

The team found that 78.6% of pull requests made by women were accepted compared with 74.6% of those by men.

The researchers considered various factors, such as whether women were more likely to be responding to known issues, whether their contributions were shorter in length and so easier to appraise, and which programming language they were using, but they could not find a correlation.

However among users who were not well known within the community, those whose profiles made clear that they were women had a much lower acceptance rate than those whose gender was not obvious.

“For outsiders, we see evidence for gender bias: women’s acceptance rates are 71.8% when they use gender neutral profiles, but drop to 62.5% when their gender is identifiable .

There is a similar drop for men, but the effect is not as strong,” the paper noted.

“Women have a higher acceptance rate of pull requests overall, but when they’re outsiders and their gender is identifiable, they have a lower acceptance rate than men.

“Our results suggest that although women on Github may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless,” the researchers concluded.

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Ashley Madison password protection was flawed

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hackers stole gigabytes of data from Ashley Madison including login names, passwords and website code.

Hackers stole gigabytes of data from Ashley Madison including login names, passwords and website codeMore than 11 million passwords stolen from the Ashley Madison infidelity dating website have been decoded, says a password cracking group.

When stolen data from the site was first dumped, the encrypted passwords were said to be almost uncrackable because of the way they were scrambled.

But programming changes by the site’s developers meant more than a third of the passwords were poorly protected.

The cracking group said it would not be sharing the decoded passwords.

However, it had detailed the method it used to get at the passwords which would make it straightforward for criminal hackers to replicate the work. This may mean those who reused their Ashley Madison password could see other accounts breached.

The Ashley Madison website was breached by a group of hackers called The Impact Team which stole gigabytes of data including login names and passwords of more than 30 million users.

Initial analysis of the data dump showed that the passwords were stored on a database after they had been protected using a process known as hashing that employs the bcrypt algorithm.

The way this scrambles passwords makes it hard to carry out so-called “brute force” attacks that try lots of different word and letter combinations because hashing with bcrypt takes a lot of computer power. As a result, a brute force attack on the passwords would take years.

However, an amateur password cracking group called Cynosure Prime looking through code also stolen from Ashley Madison realised that at some point the site changed the way passwords were stored. This stripped away the protection bcrypt salting on the passwords.

In a blogpost, the group said it had found two insecure functions in the site code that meant it was “able to gain enormous speed boosts in cracking the bcrypt hashed passwords”.

Instead of taking years, the 11 million passwords were cracked in about 11 days.

The insecure functions involved the use of easier to attack hashing systems and changes the site made to passwords when they were entered by users.

By focussing on these vulnerable steps the group has already managed to decipher 11.2 million passwords and is hopeful it can crack a total of more than 15 million which were scrambled with the insecure functions.

The remaining passwords from the site are not susceptible to this attack because they were hashed by code lacking the insecure functions.

The group said it would not be releasing the passwords it had recovered to “protect end users”.

Cynosure Prime said it was not sure exactly why Ashley Madison’s developers had changed the way that it dealt with passwords that introduced the insecure functions.

It speculated to news site Ars Technica that the insecure hashing system was introduced to ensure that users could log in to the site quickly.

Earlier in the year, the dating service for love-cheats had planned to cash in by floating on the London Stock Exchange.

The hack caused the firm’s founder to resign, but also had ramifications that reached far beyond the Canadian firm’s offices.

News that police believed the leak had resulted in at least two suicides highlighted the devastation the security breach had had on people’s lives.

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