Daily Archives: September 2, 2014

App that enhances smartphone battery life


New York: Are you frustrated by the limited battery life of your smartphone? No need to fret any longer as a US professor has created a free app called Estar that reveals how certain apps drain a smartphone battery faster.

Estar offers two energy efficient alternatives — and the first is to search for energy-efficient apps in Google Play.

It displays a colour-coded, five-star energy rating for each app that shows how fast an app will drain the phone battery relative to other apps in the same category.

“Users can then use this information to make decisions on which apps they choose to download,” Y. Charlie Hu from Purdue University’s school of electrical and computer engineering was quoted as saying.

The second option is to report on the energy drain of apps already downloaded and running on the user’s phone.

“It identifies and warns the user which apps are draining an excessive amount of battery. The user can then take action such as stopping or removing the app to extend battery life,” Hu told the website Jconline.com.

Estar is available for free in Google Play.


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How Beacons Are Changing the Shopping Experience

Beacons are taking the world of mobile by storm. They are low-powered radio transmitters that can send signals to smartphones that enter their immediate vicinity, via Bluetooth Low Energy technology. In the months and years to come, we’ll see beaconing applied in all kinds of valuable ways.

For marketers in particular, beacons are important because they allow more precise targeting of customers in a locale. A customer approaching a jewelry counter in a department store, for example, can receive a message from a battery-powered beacon installed there, offering information or a promotion that relates specifically to merchandise displayed there. In a different department of the same store, another beacon transmits a different message. Before beacons, marketers could use geofencing technology, so that a message, advertisement, or coupon could be sent to consumers when they were within a certain range of a geofenced area, such as within a one-block radius of a store. However, that technology typically relies on GPS tracking, which only works well outside the store. With beaconing, marketers can lead and direct customers to specific areas and products within a store or mall.

As a point of technical accuracy, the beacon itself does not really contain messaging; rather it sends a unique code that can be read only by certain mobile apps. Thus, the carrier of the smartphone has to have installed an app – and if he or she has not done so, no message will arrive. The choice to opt-out exists at any time. But the key to beaconing’s effectiveness is that the app does not actually have to be running to be awakened by the beacon signal.

Think about it, and you realize that beaconing has been the missing piece in the whole mobile-shopping puzzle. The technology is essentially invisible and can work without the mobile consumer’s having to do anything – usually a major hurdle for any mobile shopping technology. The shopper only has to agree in advance to receive such messages as they shop.

So imagine walking by or into a store and receiving a text message triggered by a beacon at the store entrance. It alerts you that mobile shoppers are eligible for certain deals, which you can receive if you want. Assuming you accept, you begin receiving highly relevant messaging in the form of well-crafted, full-screen images based on what department or aisle you are strolling through at the moment. Here’s an example:

Implementing beaconing is less about installing the actual beacons and much more about rethinking the overall shopping experience they can help shape. Since the best way to imagine the possibilities is through actual, small-scale deployments, this has been how many retailers have spent the past several months, quietly experimenting and learning. Now, many are ready to scale up their initiatives, and beacons are bursting onto the scene in a big way. For various purposes, they are being used by retailers such as Timberland, Kenneth Cole, and Alex and Ani, hoteliers such as Marriott, and a variety of sports stadiums. Here are some details from a handful of companies – each by the way running on a different beacon platform:

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). The owner of Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, and Saks recently became the first major retailer to launch a North American beacon deployment, in its U.S. and Canadian stores. A shopper with the SnipSnap coupon app on an iPhone can receive messages and offers from seven separate in-store, beacon-triggered advertising campaigns. Like some others, the retailer is not relying on its own app for the beacon recognition, but rather is using outside, third-party apps that more people are likely to already have on their phones. (This also allows Lord & Taylor to use the beacon program for new customer acquisition.) The Hudson’s Bay beacon program runs on the advertising platform of Boston-based Swirl. Hillshire Brands. In what appears to be the first U.S.-wide beacon deployment by a brand, the maker of Ball Park Franks, Jimmy Dean sausage, Sara Lee, and the Hillshire Farm portfolio of products, beaconed grocery shoppers to launch its new American Craft sausage links in the top 10 markets for grocers nationally. Based on an analysis by Hillshire’s agency BPN (part of the IPG Mediabrands global network), there were 6,000 in-store engagements in the first 48 hours of the two-month trial, and purchase intent increased 20 times. Shoppers needed an app such as Epicurious, Zip List, Key Ring, or CheckPoints; this beacon platform is run by InMarket. Universal Display. This global mannequin company based in London and New York is putting beacons inside mannequins in store windows. Why? To allow passersby to instantly see the details of the outfit the mannequin is wearing -and purchase any of its components right from their phones. The beaconed-mannequins are in the U.K. in the House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis, Bentalls, and Jaeger, and will soon come to stores in the U.S. Here, the beacon app used is Iconeme, which is also the platform. Simon Malls. The giant of retail real estate is putting location-based technology into more than 200 of its shopping malls, targeting the complexes’ common areas. For beacon recognition, the mall owner is using its own Simon Malls app, which already contains mall information ranging from maps to dining options. That beacon platform is run by Mobiquity. Regent Street. London’s mile-long, high-end shopping street has some 140 store entrances, and now has beacons at the entrances of many of them. The beacon app used is the Regent Street app, slated to be promoted on the sides of double-decker buses that run along Regent Street. The app allows shoppers to pre-select the categories that interest them and the ones that don’t, making the messages they receive more relevant to them. That platform is run by Autograph.

That’s a lot of activity to report, but the truth is that it only constitutes a vanguard. Most shoppers have yet to be beaconed; many will encounter the technology before the end of this year. How long will it be until it’s hard to find someone who is not familiar with beaconing? How long till it’s hard to remember a time when the marketing messages you encountered had nothing to do with where you were? I would guess, not long at all.

Harvard Business Review

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Soon, will water also be sold like oil and minerals?

Shrinking water resources across the world will mean that its supply may resemble the market for oil and minerals, according to water experts at the University of Leicester.

The world’s water reserves will increasingly fail to meet the population’s needs over the coming decades, leaving a third of the global population without adequate drinking water by 2025, according to experts Georgios Patsiaouras, Michael Saren and James Fitchett.

Patsiaouras argues in a new research paper that increased competition for water from both the public and from industry will make it likely that a privatised, market-based water system will develop, controlled by private companies.

He predicts that nations will begin to sell water sources — such as lakes, rivers and groundwater reserves — to companies.

This will mean the supply of water around the world will soon resemble the market for oil and minerals, a university release said.

Patsiaouras continued, “Increased competition for access to clean water will create a global marketplace… There will be an increase in phenomena such as water transfer, water banking and mega-engineering desalination plants emerging as alternative and competing means of managing water supply.”

This new water economy will only work in the favour of countries and communities that can afford to bid the highest amounts for water —while poorer and drought-stricken countries might see water supplies becoming even more scarce, Patsiaouras warns.

To avoid this, he argues that control over water should be localised, with communities taking control over lakes and water sources in their area, giving priority to public health over profit.

“Although majority of governments around the world have chosen hybrid water delivery models — where water supplies are controlled by both the state and private companies — the role and importance of culture and community in sustainable market development has been under-examined,” Patsiaouras added.


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9 Habits That Lead to Terrible Decisions

Several years ago we came up with a great idea for a new leadership-development offering we thought would be valuable to everyone. We had research demonstrating that when people embarked on a self-development program, their success increased dramatically when they received follow-up encouragement. We developed a software application to offer that sort of encouragement. People could enter their development goals, and the software would send them reminders every week or month asking how they were doing, to motivate them to keep on going. We invested a lot of time and money in this product.

But it turned out that people did not like receiving the e-mails and found them more annoying than motivating. Some of our users came up with a name for this type of software. They called it “nagware.” Needless to say, this product never reached the potential we had envisioned. Thinking about the decisions we had made to create this disappointing result led us to ask the question, “What causes well-meaning people to make poor decisions?”

Some possibilities came immediately to mind – people make poor decisions when under severe time pressure or when they don’t have access to all the important information (unless they’re are explaining the decision to their boss, and then it is often someone else’s fault).

But we wanted a more objective answer. In an effort to understand the root cause of poor decision making, we looked at 360-feedback data from more than 50,000 leaders and compared the behavior of those who were perceived to be making poor decisions with that of the people perceived to be making very good decisions. We did a factor analysis of the behaviors that made the most statistical difference between the best and worst decision makers. Nine factors emerged as the most common paths to poor decision making. Here they are in order from most to least significant.

1. Laziness. This showed up as a failure to check facts, to take the initiative, to confirm assumptions, or to gather additional input. Basically, such people were perceived to be sloppy in their work and unwilling to put themselves out. They relied on past experience and expected results simply to be an extrapolation of the past.

2. Not anticipating unexpected events. It is discouraging to consistently consider the possibility of negative events in our lives, and so most people assume the worst will not happen. Unfortunately, bad things happen fairly often. People die, get divorced, and have accidents. Markets crash, house prices go down, and friends are unreliable. There is excellent research demonstrating that if people just take the time to consider what might go wrong, they are actually very good at anticipating problems. But many people just get so excited about a decision they are making that they never take the time to do that simple due-diligence.

3. Indecisiveness. At the other end of the scale, when faced with a complex decision that will be based on constantly changing data, it’s easy to continue to study the data, ask for one more report, or perform yet one more analysis before a decision gets made. When the reports and the analysis take much longer than expected, poor decision makers delay, and the opportunity is missed. It takes courage to look at the data, consider the consequences responsibly, and then move forward. Oftentimes indecision is worse than making the wrong decision. Those most paralyzed by fear are the ones who believe that one mistake will ruin their careers and so avoid any risk at all.

4. Remaining locked in the past. Some people make poor decisions because they’re using the same old data or processes they always have. Such people get used to approaches that worked in the past and tend not to look for approaches that will work better. Better the devil they know. But, too often, when a decision is destined to go wrong, it’s because the old process is based on assumptions that are no longer true. Poor decision makers fail to keep those base assumptions in mind when applying the tried and true.

5. Having no strategic alignment. Bad decisions sometimes stem from a failure to connect the problem to the overall strategy. In the absence of a clear strategy that provides context, many solutions appear to make sense. When tightly linked to a clear strategy, the better solutions quickly begin to rise to the top.

6. Over-dependence. Some decisions are never made because one person is waiting for another, who in turn is waiting for someone else’s decision or input. Effective decision makers find a way to act independently when necessary.

7. Isolation. Some of those leaders are waiting for input because they’ve not taken steps to get it in a timely manner or have not established the relationships that would enable them to draw on other people’s expertise when they need to. All our research (and many others’) on effective decision making recognizes that involving others with the relevant knowledge, experience, and expertise improves the quality of the decision. This is not news. So the question is why. Sometimes people lack the necessary networking skills to access the right information. Other times, we’ve found, people do not involve others because they want the credit for a decision. Unfortunately they get to take the blame for the bad decisions, as well.

8. Lack of technical depth. Organizations today are very complex, and even the best leaders do not have enough technical depth to fully understand multifaceted issues. But when decision makers rely on others’ knowledge and expertise without any perspective of their own, they have a difficult time integrating that information to make effective decisions. And when they lack even basic knowledge and expertise, they have no way to tell if a decision is brilliant or terrible. We continue to find that the best executives have deep expertise. And when they still don’t have the technical depth to understand the implications of the decisions they face, they make it their business to find the talent they need to help them.

9. Failure to communicate the what, where, when, and how associated with their decisions. Some good decisions become bad decisions because people don’t understand -or even know about – them. Communicating a decision, its rational and implications, is critical to the successful implementation of a decision.

Waiting too long for others’ input. Failing to get the right input at the right time. Failing to understand that input through insufficient skills. Failing to understand when something that worked in the past will not work now. Failing to know when to make a decision without all the right information and when to wait for more advice. It’s no wonder good people make bad decisions. The path to good decision making is narrow, and it’s far from straight. But keeping in mind the pitfalls can make any leader a more effective decision maker.

Harvard Business Review

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