Mapping to the centimetre

Updating the map of Britain

If you think about maps, you probably think about Google Maps and Street View or sat nav hardware and software from TomTom, Garmin and many others.

Maps like these – all digital and available on almost any mobile device you choose – are light years on from paper maps and how map makers envisioned the role of maps and how people would use them. It’s hard to imagine trying to go anywhere these days using only a printed paper map.

The Ordnance Survey – founded in 1791, a government-owned company whose very existence began with military mapping – isn’t a name that springs to the front of my mind when I think about digital maps and modern map publishers. The OS is all about printed maps, isn’t it?

Far from it as even a cursory glance online will show.

A report in the FT yesterday day sets the modern Ordnance Survey in better context, saying that the global market for digital mapping is expected to grow from £99 billion in 2014 to £170 billion in 2020 as location-based services on smartphones and tablets transform everything from urban planning to emergency rescue services, transport and welfare.

And the FT includes this eye opener:

[…] the epicentre of the agency’s business remains the Mastermap: a record of every building, pavement, garden, statue, and fence in the nation tracked to 40cm accuracy. This provides raw data for Google and Microsoft maps, A-to-Z city maps, routes for rubbish trucks and the emergency services, bus companies, the AA breakdown service, and most in-car GPS systems – not to mention systems used by Domino’s Pizza to deliver hot food within 30 minutes.

Using two aircraft and 300 surveyors, the data are updated 10,000 times a day as buildings are knocked down and street lights and park benches added. The data are used by government agencies and local authorities and sold to private sector businesses, accounting for the bulk of OS’s income. Information such as ownership, sale values, power supply, schools or crime reports can be added.

The market for such information is developing – drones for delivery companies may need it; driverless cars may depend on it. Mobile phone company Nokia recently sold its mapping software to carmakers BMW, Audi and Daimler for £2bn.

I’ll think about the OS now in a wholly contemporary light, with Big Data at its heart as part of the foundational infrastructure that makes up the Internet of Things.

(Picture at top via OS on Flickr, used under CC license.)

Is Crowd Mics the answer to making events truly engaging?

Question

Such a familiar situation when you go to a conference:

Ever been part of an audience and wanted to participate in a live event?

Your options were limited: either raise your hand and project as far as your voice allows; or patiently await a wireless microphone to relay its way through the crowd.

Yep, that’s the picture I recall from every conference I’ve spoken at or attended in recent years.

So a BBC news item today got my attention with its report on a pretty neat-looking method of enabling real participation that I think would galvanize conferences and speaker engagement with those attending, aka the audience.

Imagine if there were a simple method of enabling anyone to ask a question or join in a conversation with an event speaker, a panel, etc, using their smartphone as a microphone. No special microphones, just an app on your own familiar phone that lets you speak.

Not only that, but also enable text messaging between participants and speaker. Easy instant polls as well.

A US-based company called Crowd Mics has done just that.

It’s simple to use:

  • Download Crowd Mics on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch
  • Plug that device into the sound system with the headphone port
  • Attendees download the free app for iOS or Android
  • Everyone connects to the same WiFi network
  • Watch audience interaction get real!

Take a look:

Conferences  just got more engaging. I’ve yet to see an event in the UK so enabled, but it’s just a matter of time, I bet.

(Photo at top by Cvent via Flickr CC-NC-ND-SA.)

Windows 10 shows the scale of Microsoft’s ambition

Windows 10 login

On July 29 – in just over two weeks’ time – Microsoft will begin the formal roll-out of Windows 10, the new edition of the Windows operating system for PCs and tablets (and Windows phones). It’s been the subject of a comprehensive beta-testing programme by around five million people since the programme was launched at the end of September 2014.

I’ve been part of this programme as a Windows Insider since last October, running the incremental builds of ‘Windows 10 Insider Preview’ as they become available on a couple of different computers, and providing feedback. It’s been a stimulating and most interesting experience so far; a few comments on that in a minute.

So starting on July 29, if your PC currently runs Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 you will be able to get Windows 10 at no cost by taking advantage of Microsoft’s free upgrade offer. If you’ve recently purchased a new PC running Windows 8.1, the Windows 10 upgrade should also be available to you at no cost and many retail stores may upgrade your new device for you.

Windows 10 is a huge deployment – Microsoft is rolling it out in 190 countries and in 111 languages. According to Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s man in charge of Windows 10, the launch will happen in waves starting with the Windows Insiders:

Starting on July 29, we will start rolling out Windows 10 to our Windows Insiders. From there, we will start notifying reserved systems in waves, slowly scaling up after July 29th. Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users. Soon, we will give a build of Windows 10 to our OEM partners so they can start imaging new devices with Windows 10. Soon after, we will distribute a build of Windows 10 to retailers all over the world, so they can assist their customers with upgrades of newly purchased devices that were originally imaged with Windows 8.1.

Now, here’s where things differ from every release of Windows that’s happened before.

In a presentation at the 2015 Microsoft Build developers conference in April, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke a bit about Windows 10, including these comments that provide some clear indicators on this version of Windows, its development, its release and its support that are quite different to what has gone before:

Windows 10 is not just another release of Windows, it’s a new generation of Windows. It is a very different Windows in terms of how we deliver it. It’s a service.

WaaS – Windows as a service. Not an attractive-sounding moniker but maybe something to get used to when you look at the global roll-out starting in a few weeks.

At the same event, Myserson said:

Our goal is that within two to three years of Windows 10’s release there will be 1 billion devices running Windows 10.

Those devices are not only the usual suspects (PCs, tablets, Windows phones) but also Xbox One, Surface Hub, HoloLens, bank ATMs, medical devices, and more.

With ambition at such scale, there’s no way you could sustain the physical manufacturing and distribution models of the past century. And something else to think about – how to persuade everyone on Windows 7 to move up to Windows 10.

Windows 7 domination

Free will help. But it will need a lot more than just that. I think word of mouth will help. Think of five million Windows Insiders and their opinions.

Looking at how previous versions of Windows have been produced and distributed, at end-user pricing that produced significant revenue over the years, Microsoft has been a discrete manufacturer where the product (mass-produced DVDs containing software, plus the packaging, etc) is manufactured and distributed through a supply chain to points of consumer sale – physical retailers, online shops, etc.

Now it’s about giving the software away at zero financial cost to consumers, wholly digital distribution, online support, online updating… these are the foundations for a new Windows ecosystem that will also offer developers an environment that’s eminently attractive, plus outlets in the shape of Windows Stores that will offer software created by those developers that work on any device Windows 10 runs on, making it easy for consumers to find (and pay) for the Windows 10 apps they want.

A familiar set-up if you think of how Apple and Google operate in their respective iOS and Android spaces.

In fact, that’s the landscape now – always-on devices, always connected online, able to automatically receive updates and new software on demand from online stores via a network connection typically wifi or cellular no matter where you are in the world.

Circling back to Windows 10 and my experiences with pre-release builds as a Windows Insider, my overall impression with the latest build I’m running (10166) is of a product that is exceedingly polished for a beta as I’d expect in a close-to-release version. I have it installed on a separate drive in a long-in-the-tooth Dell XPS desktop machine running Windows 7 SP1  with a 28-inch non-touch monitor; and as an upgrade to Windows 8.1 in a Fujitsu Stylistic Q704, one of the latest examples of an ultrabook with not only a touch screen but also the transformational aspect of separating the screen from a dock or keyboard to become a tablet.

In both cases, Windows 10 works out of the digital box, as it were – while early builds were understandably flaky at times (occasional system crashes, some native Windows 10 programs not working properly or at all), the last four builds in recent months have been almost flawless.

The Fujitsu machine in particular works exceptionally well, as if Windows 10 were designed precisely for a device like this (er…). It beats Windows 8.1 hands down in usability, intuitiveness, confidence and reliability. (I see Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 as you’d see Windows Vista to Windows 7.) And the venerable Dell works equally well running Windows 10.

None of my software that works on Windows 7 and upwards – and I have a lot of software – crashed or didn’t run on either device running Windows 10. Updating the operating system is transparent, behind the scenes and works.

In my book, all that makes Windows 10 an easy decision.

Barclays expands contactless wearables

Barclays bPay key fob

Barclaycard is to roll out a range of wearable payment devices that can be used to make ‘touch and go’ contactless payments across the UK, following the  launch of its bPay wristband last year.

The card issuer’s announcement yesterday notes that each device – an updated wristband, key fob and sticker – will use contactless payment technology and be powered by a secure digital wallet.

Barclaycard – part of Barclays Retail and Business Banking – is a global payment business. The devices can be used by anyone with a UK-registered Visa or MasterCard debit or credit card and be bought online or in high street stores from July.

On the Consuming Issues show on Share Radio UK yesterday, I discussed Barclays’ move with Sue Dougan in a five-minute phone chat that you can listen to in the audio embed below.

We discussed Barclays’ offering, how the technology works, the Apple Pay effect, the drivers that will make devices like these appealing to consumers, security and confidence in using such devices, and more.

Interesting times with mobile as trends clearly suggest a continuing move away from cash payments to cashless payments via methods like contactless payment, with further evolutionary (and probably disruptive) effects when Apple Pay launches in the UK in July.

Read more in a report in the Guardian, below, which I referenced in my discussion with Sue.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Barclays expands contactless wearables” was written by Sarah Butler, for theguardian.com on Monday 29th June 2015 00.01 Europe/London

British shoppers could soon be paying for cups of coffee or trips on public transport by waving a keyfob or sticker, as contactless payment moves into newer wearable devices.

Barclays, which launched payment wristbands last year, is launching key fobs, an updated wristband and stickers that can be attached to any flat surface, including a mobile phone. The bPay devices can be used by anyone with a UK-registered Visa or MasterCard debit or credit card and bought online or in high street stores, including Snow + Rock, CycleSurgery and Runners Need, from next month.

The venture comes as mobile phone companies begin to muscle in on the payment market. Both Apple and Samsung are working on systems to make contactless payments in shops.

Apple launches its mobile payment system in the UK next month, which allows users pay for goods by tapping their phones on contactless card readers in stores. Unlike contactless cards, Apple Pay includes an extra security measure – tokenisation – which ensures that the card details stored on a phone are never passed to the retailer.

Barclays’ bPay band launched in the UK in July last year, but Barclays would not confirm exactly how many people had taken up the original band.

Mike Saunders, managing director of digital consumer payments at Barclaycard, saidcash-dominated transactions were being replaced by contactless technology.

The UK Payments Council recently revealed that cashless payments have now overtaken the use of notes and coins for the first time in the UK.

The bPay wristband, fob and sticker act like a contactless bank card, but must be pre-loaded with cash. Funds can be added online, via a mobile app or by automatic top-up. It is possible to own several devices and manage them separately so that, for example, a child’s pocket money can be loaded onto a sticker or fob.

Purchases of less than £20 can be made waving the band across the merchant’s sales terminal. Transactions of £20 or more require the customer to enter their pin to validate the transaction.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Shell’s big QR code experiment

Shell QR code

When I called in to a Shell station in Reading on Saturday to fill up my car with fuel, I noticed this banner attached to the side of the pump I was using.

“Fill up and go here with our speedy payment service,” it says. “Powered by PayPal.” And there’s a big QR code in the middle of the sign.

It’s called Fill Up And Go and the usage idea is simple:

You’ll be able to use it through the Shell Motorist App. Select a pump on the forecourt, enter the maximum amount you wish to spend, then scan the QR code or punch in the ID number at your pump, all from inside your car. The App then releases the pump for use and you can then fill up and go. When you’ve finished, a receipt will be automatically sent to your phone.

As it says, you use it with the Shell Motorist app for iOS or Android plus a PayPal account, the only payment method you can use. Shell says you can also use PayPal’s mobile app to pay for your fuel purchase. There is a transaction range: £20 minimum, up to £150 maximum (with the price of fuel these days, that maximum doesn’t seem too low).

Station LocatorShell announced this new service earlier this year, saying it was being tested and would roll out later in the year. Shell says it’s the first fuel retailer to offer such a service across the UK. The Shell station in Reading where I saw the banner is one I use pretty regularly, with my last visit about ten days ago. So the sign has appeared within the past week.

I’ve been using the Shell Motorist app for some time – to track loyalty points and see offers, etc – but hadn’t noticed reference to this new service until I looked for it.

And the app does mention it, with the Shell station locator map for my immediate area showing a station not far from my house that is participating in it. So that’s my destination when I need to fill up again, probably within a week or so.

I want to try it out, to see if it is a convenient and easy way to pay for fuel as Shell expects it to be. When it comes down to it, that’s what it has to be – convenient and easy – for it to gain consumer acceptance, especially when it comes to a technology like QR codes that you can’t say has had a warm reception, never mind gained universal consumer acceptance.

Much of the criticism is about how QR codes are presented by those who implement them, often in ways that are simply lame or even mind boggling. But there are great examples of imagination alongside the mistakes (some of the latter potentially brand-damaging such as what happened to Heinz recently).

In the case of Shell’s QR code experiment, I think it’s imaginative and likely to appeal to people who want greater convenience and ease of use when performing a task as mundane as filling up your car with fuel. No more walking over to a cashier and offering a card for payment, or fiddling with a pay-at-the-pump card system (although I can’t recall seeing one of those at a Shell station) – with the new Shell service, you just complete the transaction with your smartphone whilst sitting comfortably in your car.

Use of mobile devices is prohibited on most petrol station forecourts in the UK. But using this new Shell service should be dead easy from the driver’s seat. Then you get out of the car to fill your tank, get back in the car and drive away when done, with the payment receipt automatically sent to your phone.

I wonder how it could evolve in future. Maybe petrol stations could revert to the service ethic of yore when you had someone who came out to fill your tank while you stayed in your car. You’d add perhaps 10 percent to the cost as a service charge. A small price to pay for the convenience and comfort. Could be quite a service differentiator.

Perhaps something along the lines of what Shell reportedly started offering a few years ago.

shell-forecourt-service

But first things first. I’m looking forward to trying it and adding it to my list of imaginative uses of QR codes, not to the lame list.

Sprinklr raises $46m to build out an omnichannel offering: Experience Cloud

Empowered Customers

“Omnichannel” is a word to get used to as I expect we’ll hear this buzzword more and more as the technical marketing term to describe something relatively simple: the seamless customer experience. More on that in a minute.

It’s a word used in much of the media reporting on two announcements from enterprise social media firm Sprinklr yesterday, the first being that it had raised $46 million in new investment funding to value the company at $1.17 billion.

As Fortune magazine notes in its report, it’s a significant valuation increase in a short amount of time as Sprinklr’s last round of investor funding in 2014 valued the company at $520 million.

It’s Sprinklr’s second announcement yesterday that caught my attention most – the launch of the Experience Cloud, what Sprinklr describes as “a complete, integrated, and collaborative technology infrastructure that connects all of a brand’s social touch points.” It’s what they raised the $46 million for – to launch the Experience Cloud.

You’ll probably need a bit more than that to fully understand what Sprinklr is introducing, so here’s a 73-second video from Sprinklr explaining the Experience Cloud.

Let’s go back to the word “omnichannel.”

If we are in a world that’s about experiences, as many say we are – and as many of our own experiences as customers illustrate we are – then understanding the landscape and the behaviours of those in or on it become ever more important, whether you’re a marketer or a customer.

As good a definition of omnichannel as any I’ve seen comes from Omer Minkara, Research Director leading Aberdeen Group’s Contact Center and Customer Experience Management research:

Omni-channel: While companies using this approach also use multiple channels to engage their customers they distinguish themselves through two additional factors: consistency and focus on devices involved within client interactions. These businesses are diligent to ensure that their customers receive the same experience and message through different channels and devices involved within their interactions with the firm. For example, a company that provides customers with the ability to engage it through a mobile app, social media portal and website would be focused to ensure that the look and feel as well as the messages they receive across each touch-point are seamless.

It’s a bit wordy, but I’d say it describes what Sprinklr’s new offering is about. The above-all keyword is “seamless” as one differentiator from “multi-channel.”

Add to that this piece from Stan Phelps in Forbes magazine:

The Experience Cloud promises a unified view of the customer. It allows brand to manage a multitude of touchpoints. The key question is speed. The problem for most organizations is that response times differ whether its social, phone, chat, e-mail, or snail mail. Sprinklr’s offering allows all of these channels to managed from one central hub. It allows brands to take a channel agnostic view with the ability to deploy resources and a workflow for each interaction. The biggest benefit is that response time can be greatly improved.

And in a marketing email coinciding with yesterday’s announcements, Sprinklr Founder and CEO Ragy Thomas says:

We believe every business must focus on delivering relevant experiences at every social touchpoint.

If you agree, then Experience Cloud may be for you.

Worth a look.

Check out Sprinklr’s infographic:

Disconnected Experiences and Connected Customers [Infographic]