Posts Tagged ‘Android’

Time to relocate ….

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by Roberto Saracco


This is my last post on the Future Centre Blog. My collaboration with Telecom Italia ends today and I wish to thanks all the people I had the privilege to interact with throughout all these years.

But I am not done…. So the post will continue on the EIT ICT LABS blogspace. Hope that you will continue to follow the posts on this Future Centre blog and on the one of the EIT ICT LABS.

It all started in 2008. Do you remember, that was the time when….

  • the memristor was “discovered”, and in 2013 we have seen its industrial appearance in chips and first applications at the fading boundaries between computing and brain ….
  • the Android Operating System made its appearance in a relatively crowded space. By 2013 it has become the co-dominant OS, together with iOS with MS mobile trailing. The others basically disappeared…
  • the Apple Store was launched and provided a marketplace for apps developer. Could that work out? Well, by middle 2013 over 30 billion apps have been downloaded  from the Apple Storeand the avalanche seems to have no limit and has surely generated others, most notably the Android Store. It has also generated many copycats that failed …
  • the Nikon 90 hit the market, the first DSRL camera that could double up as a video camera. By 2013 there is no DSRL that would not do video…
  • USB 3.0 was announced after 8 years of USB 2.0 providing a 10 times increased speed.And by 2013 USB 3.0 is everywhere but its 4.8 Gbps speed starts to seem a little slow…

It was also the time when …

  • the first flexible screens were announced with the promise that in a few years we would be using them. It did not happen, although today we have seen, at CES 2014, the first “curved” screens, but they are not flexible nor based on plastic technology.
  • bio-degradable, edible, electronics promised an entrance in pills so that you could swallow an electronic circuit that would dissolve in a few days – or weeks. It is still on labs benches, although we have got used to swallow electronic “pills” that would be “ejected” after passing through the digestive track.
  • Nokia and BlackBerry were dominating the market and seemed unstoppable … but on July 11th, 2008, Apple released the iPhone 3G and hit the world…
  • we did not know what an iPad was…

Moreover, in 2008, we talked very little about:

  • brain circuitry, connectomics, Brain Computer Interface. These are now the talk of town…
  • smart cities and self aware environment, and now they are attracting huge investment …
  • graphene, although it was already “invented”. In 2013 it has become a flagship project in the EU attracting 1 B€ investment and becoming a word making headlines in mass market magazines
  • image recognition and emotion detection, that in a short five years have become mainstream…

And this is just the beginning… Happy Future!

3D scanning on the move

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 by Roberto Saracco

Scanning a text or an image has become seamless, you can do it with your cell phone and many other hand held devices. On the contrary, scanning a 3D object, or an ambient, is still quite complex requiring bulky and costly apparatus.

Well, it don’t need to be so anymore!

Structure sensor (credit: Occipital)

Structure sensor (credit: Occipital)

Occipital, a US company, will be releasing at the end of the year an add on device that can be applied to any  tablet that along with a dedicated software can scan an ambient and single objects.

As you can see in the photo, they are providing a band with a sensor that can be positioned on the back of a tablet, an iPad in this case. The sensor is based on an infrared beam generated by two infrared LED that provides spatial information to the app. The device is powered by a battery that provides power for 4 hours of scanning, 1,000h idle.

Occipital is providing much more than the device: they want to provide a 3D platform for other people to create apps and to extend it to other OSs. They went through a Kickstarter bidding and managed to get 100,000$ in just three hours, a sign that people feel this to be a great device.

They expect a price around 350$, that is not peanuts but it is very low if one compares to the cost of existing 3D scanners.

The device can scan a space from 30cm up to 3.5m although it works best between 50cm and 1.5m. You can scan your couch and use the scanning to order a perfectly fitting fabric to “wrap” it, you can scan the head of your friend and use it as an avatar for his incoming calls…

Occipital expects new ambient games to take advantage of the 3D scanning to let people interact with their ambient through the game.

I would also see a great potential provided by the parallel mass market availability of 3D printers: you got a need for a replacement part, you scan it and input the scan to the 3D printer for an immediate production.

What if apps stores disappear?

Friday, May 20th, 2011 by Roberto Saracco

There is so much wealth is apps stores (the Apple iTunes has just passed the 400,000 apps mark with over 10 billions downloaded) that thinking about their disappearance seems impossible. Like thinking that the mighty Roman Empire in the first century could ever disappear. It did. But it took 4 more centuries. We are not interested in what may happen in 2400 of course but the clock is ticking so much faster today than 400 years, 2000 years ago, may compare to less than 10 years today. And 2020 is within our range.

Angry birds as a web app

Angry birds as a web app

Take a look at the interesting ideas put forward by Brian Kennish.

Basically he is claiming that there are 2 billion web users vs 50 (I would say 100) million IOS users. The volume is clearly favoring web apps rather than apps stores. And this goes for any store, Androids, Windows, RIM. and of course Telecom Operators’ ones.

Then there is the biz model. Apps store are there to sell apps, and they charge 30% or so to distribute the app. Google, on the other hand, is mostly in the biz of ads and for distributing an app through the web takes something like 5%. Add to this that an app for the web can run on any device and you have a strong incentive for developers to do that.

The vision is compelling but I am not in synch. Personally, at least today, apps developed for a specific device are usually much better, in terms of user experience, than the ones developed for a browser. Add to this the fact that in this market the pricing is usually below the thresholds of perception (does it really bother you paying 1.99$?) and you see that there is a strong motivation to meet this market.

On the other hand, one has to acknowledge that web apps and apps are more and more stand alone, i.e. they can run when the device is not connected to the network. This applies to news as well. Your device can download the latest news once it has a connection handy and keep them in its storage for you to use at a later time. This, on our network, translate into bulk download and commoditized connectivity.

Personally, I see a future that, from a user point of view, will have information and apps (is there any difference, by the way?) local. The network disappears most of the time. If I do not have an information it i most likely that my device can find it on another devices in the vicinity and pick it up from that one. From time to time connection with data buoys (real or virtual) will update my device local storage and I will be in synch with the world.

Do You Know How Many Stars Your Business Has? Less than 4? Oh oh….

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by Juliana Maria Magalhães Christino

If your business has scored a low evaluation  from social networks, less than 4 stars, your company might not be taken into account during the selection process by your potential clients using a mobile search engine.

Google has introduced several new features to its mobile search for iPhone and Android, including the ability to filter results by star rating, distance and businesses that are open.

For example, a user might only look for restaurants that are open right now, within a two-mile radius of his/her current location, that have a rating of four or more stars.

Searching for nearby restaurants or other points of interests on a mobile phone can be a slow and boring experience, and this feature could speed it up considerably.

Other new features include review images in search results and small design changes such as bigger buttons for viewing a map and the ability to call a business.

To try out Google’s mobile Places search, open on your mobile browser and click on the Places link at the top of the page. The new features also work when you do a search for businesses on Google Maps on an Android device.

And one last thing: keep monitoring what is being said about your company on the internet! Social networks are getting more and more powerful every day more, so it is better to learn definitely how to deliver value to your customers in order to have a “real” good reputation in the “virtual” world. Are there, still, two worlds???


It is important to notice how Social Networks are creating on the one hand Virtual Ambients and on the other hand they are aggregator for business ecosystems. In this decade we are going to see a growing use of Social Networks as market places and they are likely to become embedded in the distribution chain of many industries. This is quite a change and enterprises have better to prepare themselves.

Want to share your tips on the good food you are having….?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011 by Roberto Saracco

Christmas time, at least in Italy, is an occasion for celebrating with traditional food, both at home (mostly) and in restaurant. This is why, having had so many nice dishes, I recalled of an apps that appeared in August last year on the AppleStore, Foodspotting. Actually I was reminded of it because it is appearing in these days on the Android store as well. I went on YouTube, and, of course, there it was its description, take a look:

Saw it? Well, I had two kind of reactions seeing it, both of amazement!

1. Amazing to see a kid, not much older than ten I suppose, providing a review of this app. The quality of the video is not particularly good but it is very spontaneous, you can tell it is him doing this and for the pleasure of doing it. I do not know how he got hold of Steve Wozniak to get the introduction but he is surely proud of it (and of course he should). Could you imagine just 15 years ago that a kid could reach a worldwide audience from his bedroom?

2. Amazing to see how Social Networks can be leveraged in any field, including food. I checked just now Foodspotting on my iPad. After having asked for permission to get my position it started to show me a number of places within a mile of my home with photos of food being recommended by various people. It is just another example of how much people like to become actors, provide the with the right tool and they will provide their two cents just to be social. There is a tremendous wealth that can be created and exploited and indeed a number of start ups are doing just that. Of course, by having someone telling you that he is in a certain spot and has liked a certain food you get a worthy information to send him more suggestions (read ads) about food in that area. And, I guess, you can release this growing data base to let others invent new services. It is an infinite, ever growing stack where every layer reaches a certain spot in the long tail and creates a tiny bit of additional value.

Managing a Million Apps…

Sunday, November 28th, 2010 by Roberto Saracco

How many Apps are out there? Difficult to say and their number grows any day more. If at the beginning of 2010 the Apple Apps store had some 120,000 apps and the Android market 20,000 in November the Apple store has exceeded 300,000 and the Android market 175,000. And, of course, they are not the only ones. Facebooks is credited with close to 500,000 apps and then you have the Nokia, Microsoft, RIM and many others.

Growth of apps and downloads from the Apple Apps store

Growth of apps and downloads from the Apple Apps store

Once you are confronted with all theses apps it gets difficult, no, impossible, to keep track of what is going on and be able to take advantage of what is becoming available.

We are going to need a search engine to get the apps but, and here it gets interesting, differently from information where syntax and semantics basically coincide with apps a semantic search is really what is required and what we are missing.

The article “Top trends of 2010: App Stores” published by ReadWriteWeb, makes for an interesting reading. It reports of a poll on App stores customers on their liking/disliking of App Stores in terms of usability. Take a look.

What is also interesting is that the difficulty in keeping abreast with new apps being released and finding the one that might serve your whim (or need) is generating a number of recommendation sites, like Appoke, AppStoreHQ, Appolicious, Chomp, AppsFire, AppBrain, Appboy, AppAware, SmoingApps,, 16apps, Apptism, Freshapps, ScatterTree, Frenzapp, Sidebar, Chorus, Appsaurus…and may be it is better if I stop here. You can search for more using Google.

Most of this recommendation sites are leveraging n crowd sourcing to review (and discover) new apps and to provide the guidance that can be transformed in semantics.

I feel that we have just started. This is Web 2.0 come to life and we have to learn to use it. Many enterprises are now creating their own app as a way to access their products so we can expect a further increase in numbers and consequently a bigger problem in finding the right app. The solution to this problem is not easy and will bring us into the Web3.0 where semantics will dominate the landscape. But that won’t happen in the next 2 to 3 years. My bet is on the second part of this decade.

Is this strategy sound?

Sunday, September 19th, 2010 by Roberto Saracco

Last week an article on Le Figaro

anticipated  a joint initiative by Vodafone, Orange, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom to be announced on October 8th. There is not enough information to really get a grasp on what they are after but based on the speculations put forward by the journalist, an alliance to create a new “systeme d’exploitation” I started to think and want to share now with you some of these thoughts, ready to change my mind as more information will become available.

These companies have a market size of about a billion customers and according to their statement this is a gigantic market place giving them the strength to be leader and shape the innovation. Difficult not to agree to that. Or is it not?

How could it be that such strength has not already resulted in the evolution of the mobile marketplace being led by the Operators? Remember that there are (since many years) several association bodies that could have dictated how the evolution should be like.

The fact is that the time where single centralised “muscle” can shape the evolution is gone. Now it is a time where innovation is pervasive in its creation and in its effect. Those succeeding are not necessarily the one making the “spot” innovation, rather those that can leverage on some asset to steer others’ innovation.

Apple and Google are case in point. Besides, their success can be measured in terms of number of apps downloaded or people “googling” by the money stick to measure success in gauged in number of physical pieces sold (iPods and the like for Apple) and number of ads clicked (Google).

Now, let’s assume that the new association manages to get a market share with its “systeme d’exploitation” (is it an operating system like Androids or Symbian, a platform to release apps like iTunes….?). It is not going to be easy to get a significant (and worth) market share but let’s assume it will succeed and get a 10/15% of the market. Where will new revenues come from?
Remember that revenues to Apple and Google, the evils they are fighting, are not from the download of apps. Hence we can easily forecast that also the successful “systeme d’exploitation” will not derive any significant money from that. What is the asset of the Association? Connectivity of course, but they are already selling as much connectivity as the marketplace is willing to pay and it is very unlikely that the offer of apps or whatever will increase the willingness to pay for connectivity per se.

Yes, if I am given more appealing service I would like to use them and hence will require more connectivity but the market pressure will end up in providing me that extra connectivity at a lower price than today!

Let’s wait for October 8th to understand a bit more what their strategy is…

Following you aisle by aisle, an app that tracks what you buy

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Apurav Agrawal

It’s like the most persistent sales clerk you’ve ever encountered.

Major retailers are working with a new smartphone application that tracks and offers promotions to shoppers as they move from outside the store, to counters, to cash registers — even inside the dressing room (now that’s persistence).

The app, called Shopkick, is now available on iPhone and will be available by fall for Android phones. And with five major companies supporting it — Macy’s, Best Buy, Sports Authority and American Eagle Outfitters, along with the Simon Property Group, the prominent mall operator — it is getting a big introduction.

Customers with the Shopkick app will get points (called kickbucks) for entering a store. Pick up a putter at Sports Authority, and points drop into the app. Stop in the dressing room at American Eagle, and more points arrive.

The points are redeemable for gift cards at the retailers, along with music downloads or credits toward Facebook games. It takes a lot of points, however, to earn even a $5 gift card, although the stores say they may adjust the point system to make points more valuable.

Whether shoppers will get a kick, so to speak, out of being followed — and pinged from one floor of a store to the next — remains debatable. What retailers see as sophisticated marketing, privacy advocates see as intrusive. Shopkick knows “where you are, what you buy, your spending habits, passions, excesses,” Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said via e-mail.

Unlike apps like Foursquare, Shopkick tells retailers when users are inside, not just near, a store.

Shopkick goes further.

On Monday before the launch of application, Mr. Roeding stood on a slim strip of sidewalk on 46th Street in Manhattan, trying to avoid Times Square tourists as he demonstrated the app. As he stood a few yards from the entrance to an American Eagle Outfitters store, the app showed him all the nearby stores where he could check in — including American Eagle or the tiny candy store nearby. For each check-in — which did not require him to actually go inside — he could receive 0 to 2 points.

As per Mr. Roeding “Foot traffic is so important, Why does no one ever reward anyone for visiting a store?” By actually going inside the American Eagle store, the app told him, he could earn 35 kickbucks. The app knows someone is in a store by listening for an audio transmitter placed in each participating store; the phone’s microphone picks up the signal, which people cannot hear.

Once inside, Mr. Roeding swiped through offers: a 15 percent discount, a sale on jeans. Enter a dressing room, once a shopper tries on clothes, sales rise, retailers know and posters on the walls offer points for scanning the bar code.

“It’s the first reward programs for desired behaviors,” Mr. Roeding said.

Shopkick earns a small fee for each kickbuck a customer earns. If a customer buys something after using the app, Shopkick gets a percentage of the price.

Right now, it takes a lot of kickbucks to earn anything — a $5 gift card at American Eagle requires 1,250 kickbucks. And retailers limit the number of eligible visits each day, so someone cannot sprint in and out of Best Buy all afternoon.

Soon, the retailers would become more sophisticated, giving points or promoting items based on sex or age, where people live, how frequently they shop or their buying history.

The companies can even weave in rewards-card numbers, as Best Buy is already doing. With that, “we have the ability to target down to even an individual level,” said Mike Dupuis, the vice president for marketing and operations at American Eagle Outfitters Direct, the Web and mobile division of American Eagle.

With advent of applications like Shopkick, its only a matter of time before many such applications shall hit the market and further fine tune their settings to meet customer requirements, based on the valuable learnings from this particular experiment.

For more info. visit

The added dimension in your TV-“Google TV”

Thursday, May 27th, 2010 by Apurav Agrawal



TV meets web. Web meets TV.

I am sure you must have all heard the buzz lately about Google experimenting to conglomerate the platform of Television & Web; well it’s a reality with Google announcing the availability of built in Sony & Logitech Televisions, Blue Ray & companion boxes by fall this year.

As per Google, since the Google TV is built on open source platforms such as Android and Google Chrome, the potential of this platform remains enormous with various synergies between TV and web developers emerging in the near future to vitalize this ecosystem.

Though the future seems promising with Google TV, but it still seems wary of the past experiments, as Apple launched “Apple TV” couple of years back in an effort to combine the web and TV platform, but miserably failed to do so compared to the expectations.

Another important trend to look out for is the strategy adopted by gaming consoles such as Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Sony PlayStation 3; whether they would standalone to compete against Google TV or rather synergize their devices/applications to comply with the Google TV platform.

Links for further info:

Got a cold? Get your cell phone….

Friday, December 18th, 2009 by Roberto Saracco
Evincil, an American company has just released on the AppleStore its application, Pickka Med,   . The application is also available for BlackBerry and Androids cells.

Basically, today in the USA, but in Europe as well, you may feel swamped by the variety of over the counter meds and wonder what is the right choice for you. This is where Pickka Med comes to help. You provide it with your age, specific symptoms, drug allergies and it will make a suggestion.

Screenshot of the iPhone app helping you in over the counter drug selection

This is just the latest of several applications that are becoming available as personal assistant. The more personal information you are willing to share with them and the more useful they can be.

Clearly, there is a thin line that these companies are threading: they want to be useful but they cannot afford to become accountable. This is why they are providing guidelines for over the counter drugs only and are carefull to state that you should be consulting with your doctor before taking any decision.

I can see in the future, nevertheless, that we will become more and more used to this kind of support and it is likely that healthcare may become the area where we will first be willing to trade our personal information to get better service.

Digital Shadow, here we come!