Google’s Waze says not at fault for Israel troops losing way

Google-owned traffic app Waze hit back on Tuesday at suggestions its directions led Israeli soldiers into a Palestinian refugee camp where they were attacked, sparking bloody clashes.

Two Israeli soldiers were said to be using the app when they mistakenly drove into the Qalandiya refugee camp overnight, sparking clashes as security forces deployed to rescue them that killed one Palestinian and wounded 15 people.

Waze, the Israeli-developed navigation app acquired by Google for more than $1 billion in 2013, said the soldiers themselves were at fault.

“(Waze) includes a specific default setting that prevents routes through areas which are marked as dangerous or prohibited for Israelis to drive through,” the company said in a statement to AFP.

“In this case, the setting was disabled. In addition, the driver deviated from the suggested route and as a result, entered the prohibited area.

“There are also red signs on the road in question that prohibit access to Palestinian-controlled territories (for Israelis). It is the responsibility of every driver to adhere to road and traffic signs and obey local laws.”

The entry of the soldiers led to fierce clashes, with the two fleeing their jeep and Israeli forces staging a rescue. The two soldiers were later recovered unharmed.

According to an Israeli police spokeswoman, Palestinians threw homemade explosives and shot at the rescue team, which also opened fire.

The Palestinian health ministry said one Palestinian was killed and 10 wounded. The dead man was identified as Eyad Omar Sajdia, a 22-year-old student.
Five Israeli border police were also wounded, one of them seriously, police said.
“Waze has and is continuing to work directly with the relevant authorities to decrease such mishaps from occurring, but unfortunately there is no ability to prevent them altogether as ultimately some prudence is in the driver’s hands,” it said in its statement.

What makes insurers wary of Google

Google beat other household names Amazon and Walmart as the biggest new entrant threat, based on interviews with more than 150 insurance executives.More than 40% of insurers see Google as a potential threat because of its strong brand and ability to use customer data, a report released on Tuesday said.

And young, mobile phone-friendly consumers may bypass traditional insurers for “new, more nimble” competitors, consultancy Capgemini’s annual world insurance report said.

Google beat other household names Amazon and Walmart as the biggest new entrant threat, based on interviews with more than 150 insurance executives.

Insurers are looking to use technology to gain more information about their customers and potentially offer them lower-cost insurance.

This has already happened in car insurance with telematics — the use of a black box in cars to see how safely customers are driving.

One of the next areas for insurers is the connected home — with technology that enables you to turn off your oven from a distance if it has been left on, for example, potentially avoiding a fire.

Google owns connected home products maker Nest, which could act as a springboard to providing insurance.

“To withstand the coming competition, insurers must build up their brands, learn to take advantage of real-time customer data, and develop agile operating models,” Capgemini said.

However, some insurance industry specialists doubt that technology companies will enter the heavily-regulated insurance sector directly, seeing them as more likely to form partnerships with insurers, potentially giving those firms an advantage.

In the United States, Liberty Mutual has already joined up with Nest to offer insurance discounts for Nest users.

“Google will not become an insurance underwriter,” said Nigel Walsh, head of UK insurance at Capgemini.
But with products such as Nest, “they are a massive part of the insurance value chain, because of what they know about consumers,” he added.
The insurance industry also needs to improve its service if it is going to win business among younger customers.
Only 34% of customers below the age of 35 reported positive experiences with their insurers, compared with 55% over 35, a Capgemini survey of more than 15,000 customers in 30 countries found.

India Trades Free Basics for Internet Freedom

India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority on Monday ruled in favor of Net neutrality, effectively banning Facebook’s Free Basics Internet access app.

India Trades Free Basics for Internet Freedom

“This is a very important decision for the future of the Internet in India,” said Barbara van Schewick, director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, whose paper the TRA cited in its ruling.

The TRA decided “ISPs should not pick winners and losers online,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “The Internet is a level playing field where users, not ISPs, decide what they want to do online.”

“Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, nonexclusive and free platform,” said Facebook spokesperson Derick Mains.

His comments echoed CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction.

“While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings,” Mains told the E-Commerce Times.

The TRA’s Ruling

Differential tariffs may make overall Internet access more affordable, expanding and accelerating Internet access, but they also classify subscribers based on the content they want to access, according to the TRA.

Such classification “may potentially go against the principle of non-discriminatory tariff” and disadvantage small content providers, the ruling states. Further, telecom service providers, or TSPs, may promote their own websites, apps or services platforms by offering lower rates to access them.

Unlike traditional markets where producers and consumers are distinct, Internet users are also content producers, the TRA said.

Also, every service provider is dependent on other networks, and no one TSP controls the entire Internet infrastructure, so allowing a provider that “is at one edge of the Internet to charge differentially for data that it does not alone process, could compromise the entire architecture of the Internet itself” and could alter the openness of the Internet, the ruling says.

“In India, given that a majority of the population are yet to be connected to the Internet, allowing service providers to define the nature of access would be (the) equivalent of letting TSPs shape the users’ Internet experience,” it continues, and this “can prove to be risky.”

Letting TSPs charge differential rates on a case-by-case basis — an option van Schewick’s paper addresses — “creates substantial social costs,” notes the ruling.

Therefore, offering or charging discriminatory tariffs for data services based on content — directly or indirectly, through refunds or other means — is prohibited, the TRA ruled. However, it’s OK to provide limited free data that lets users access the entire Internet.

“If ISPs really want to get more people online, they can, for example, offer 500 MB of bandwidth to everyone at 2G speeds, but what people do with that bandwidth is their choice,” van Schewick said.

Arguments for Free Basics

More than 80 percent of Indians polled supported Free Basics, according to a Facebook-commissioned survey conducted last year.

However, only about 3,100 adults across the country, all of whom reportedly were Internet users, responded to the survey.

Only about 19 percent of Indians — more than 243 million people — have access to the Internet, according to Internet Live Stats.

“Statistical validity can only be assumed for truly random surveys,” said Mike Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan. “It starts from a constrained population that’s defined by Internet use.”

Still, “you should only regulate something once you have it,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Regulating preemptively only ensures that the thing being regulated never happens. People vote with their feet when they have to pay.”

On the other hand, zero rating is “a dangerous approach,” noted Jeremy Malcolm, senior global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It often “reduces competition, diverts users toward already-dominant Internet services, and creates the potential for censorship, and privacy and security problems,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “We hope it will encourage Facebook and its partners to examine other ways to bring the Internet to India’s poor.”

More Americans Looking for Love Online

pew-research-center-online-dating-survey

Online dating numbers are up in the United States, the Pew Research Center said Thursday, based on the results of a recent survey.

Today, it’s possible for singles from all walks of life to find a date who’s compatible with them — at least virtually — the findings suggest. As the online dating world expands, adding ever more nuanced sites — like The League, which targets affluent, ambitious go-getters who are looking for the same — more people are signing up.

In its national survey of 2,001 adults, conducted between June 10 and July 12, 2015, Pew found that 12 percent had used an online dating site, up slightly from 9 percent in early 2013. Nine percent of the survey participants had used a dating app on their cellphone — three times more than in early 2013, when just 3 percent reported using mobile apps.

Easy and Full Of Options

Why the increase? The answer is clear, said dating coach Patti Feinstein. It’s easy, fast and appeals to people who are used to choosing from a lot of options.

“First of all, everybody’s on social media, so it’s easy. But at the end of the day, it’s a numbers game — and it’s always gonna be a numbers game,” she told TechNewsWorld. “People want to expand their reach. I see people getting [dates] from online dating, from friends, from speed dating. Everything is fair game.”

One issue that has plagued online dating is the stigma that it’s for desperate people, but that’s an old-fashioned notion, Feinstein said. “You’ve got Tinder, the hook-up site, which helped to make online dating cool. On top of that, everybody’s a techie now, so no one bats an eye at online dating. It’s part of the process.”

Another interesting finding in Pew’s survey is the uptick in younger users, specifically 18- to 24-year-olds. That group almost has tripled in just a couple of years, jumping from 10 percent in early 2013 to 27 percent in July of 2015.

Typically, people remain connected socially for at least several years after high school, so why are young adults turning to online dating to meet people?

It’s the same reason as for older adults, Feinstein said. They value the ease of access to people who are appealing and compatible.

“If it’s winter time or in the middle of the night, it’s window shopping in your pajamas. You can look around to see what’s available. There’s no pressure; it’s like talking to someone on the phone,” Feinstein said.

Full of Risks

While online dating sites may have their virtues, there also are legitimate concerns about the trend toward digital dating.

Dating website users should be cautious about whom they’re interacting with from the start, said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

“You need to start with the premise that the person you’re communicating with online may not be the individual that he or she represents him or herself to be,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“You need to assume that the individual may be a predator, a criminal, someone out to steal your identity — or that they may have an ulterior motive,” Stephens continued, “because there’s no way for you to verify that the picture is theirs, and even what they say about them is true.”

Despite accounts of online dating experiences gone wrong, interest isn’t waning, Pew’s survey results suggest. How can people enjoy the benefits while protecting themselves from potential predators?

The key is to keep your information private until you really know a person, according to Stephens, and to pay attention to your intuition.

“Obviously, choose public, crowded locations to meet your date until you’re really comfortable with him or her,” he advised.

However, “once you’ve established that the face matches up with the online profile, you’re still not in the clear,’ Stephens warned. ‘The first impression you get may not be an accurate one, so until you take the time to get to know them, don’t reveal personal information, like your home address or workplace.”

Greenwave Brings Unity to IoT Networks

greenwave-axon-machine-to-machine

Greenwave Systems on Monday announced the expansion of its AXON Platform to unite mobile machine-to-machine and residential IoT networks into one fully manageable network service.

Mobile carriers, telecommunications operators and service providers can use AXON for Mobile IoT to integrate a variety of communications protocols into the same standard IP-based language.

The unified service allows telecom operators to handle billions of devices via Greenwave’s implementation of Docker, the company said. They can create new revenue streams by introducing services on a managed network.

“Historically, an M2M service would run on two separate platforms — the mobile platform taking care of the data subscription, and an application platform running the specific applications, such as tracking, surveillance or residential home automation. With AXON for Mobile IoT, these platforms are now combined into an all-in-one solution,” said Martin Manniche, CEO of Greenwave Systems.

“The AXON Platform abstracts the complexity and confusion of competing IoT standards away from service and application developers, which allows rapid innovation and development cycles,”.

Eliminates Legacy Upgrade

AXON for Mobile IoT integrates into a telecom operator’s existing system, letting them offer mobile IoT services without any further development on their legacy platforms, Greenwave said.

The platform is built to work with major IoT standards and enables new services to run on both the mobile network and a residential network. The advantage is the ability to quickly switch services between the two to suit the specific needs of subscribers, the company said.

The AXON Platform has been used to monitor home networks, IoT devices and the media activities of end users. New capabilities include location GPS, extended battery life, device tracking and telemetry.

Additional features will include tracking and other sensor data for people, animals and cars; surveillance for security and monitoring; healthcare data monitoring; and smart cities applications for pollution control, parking and traffic monitoring.

Pushes Mobile Boundaries

The platform expansion is an example of how critical mobile is to communications, for people and devices. Mobile is no longer an add-on or a separate platform. Rather, it’s the core platform on which to build communications solutions and apps, noted Doug Brackbill, CEO of Line2.

“Platforms offering this level of integrated mobile-first provisioning, services and apps are now the proper building blocks. They accelerate the development and availability of magical experiences that truly delight end users,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The AXON Platform, along with AXON for Mobile IoT, gives mobile carriers and telecommunication operators the ability to offer a broad range of IoT services, both residential and industrial, Greenwave’s Hounshell said.

Other solutions in the market address subsets of IoT, he added, “but with the addition of AXON for Mobile IoT, Greenwave’s AXON Platform is unique in its ability to address the IoT superset, which includes industrial IoT, consumer IoT and machine-to-machine IoT across local, broadband and mobile networks in one platform.”

Google Killed the Laptop Star

google-chrome-android-laptops-tablets-advertising

Anyone who went to business school recognizes the basic tenet that you use marketing to build demand in order to sell products. Through the 1990s, there was impressive marketing surrounding laptops — Intel’s iconic Bunny People come to mind. Apple aggressively marketed this class, as did Microsoft, and it seemed every other brand on TV was trying to convince us we needed a new PC.

PC marketing dropped off a cliff in the last decade, and when the iPad launched with a powerful Apple campaign it nearly took out the PC at the knees. That was not because it was better than a PC, but because folks got more excited about buying a tablet. What happened in the 1990s that killed PC marketing?

I think it was Google that drove the margins out of both PCs and tablets, effectively removing the marketing budgets and destroying the demand generation for the segment. Ironically Google pretty much owns Internet marketing, and it gives Android to many of the PC OEMs that don’t realize they are consuming the poison that is killing them.

I’ll explain and then close with my product of the week: a new video conferencing system from Logitech.

Marketing 101

One of the big problems that emerged in the last decade was the elimination of strong marketing talent from most technology companies. It seemed most pronounced in firms like Google and Facebook. Ironically, they made the majority of their income from marketing, but seemed to act like it was some kind of embarrassing illicit substance.

Google, in particular, seemed to distance itself from marketing, and it argued that engineers should do every job in the firm, regardless of the skills required. That likely speaks to why most of its efforts, following its buildup of core revenues from ad sales, haven’t been very successful financially.

Google simply doesn’t understand either the process or need to generate demand, but since it gives away most of its offerings for free, that doesn’t seem to have a huge adverse impact.

Tech Marketing Decline

When Google enters a segment, it tends to enter at very aggressive price points — often free — and that means even if it understood marketing, it would have no product budget to pay for it.

However, while Google’s aggressive downward pressure on PC prices (Chromebooks), tablets and smartphones (Android) has given it beachheads in all of those markets, it also has resulted in very aggressive pricing by other PC and OEM companies. Even Apple is feeling the financial pain, and clearly has cut back on its own spending.

As a result, there isn’t any money left over to build demand for products, and — surprise — that demand appears to be in decline, along with related revenues. Google took what effectively was a very profitable segment and almost singlehandedly made it far less profitable.

When revenues and profits fall, firms cut marketing. When marketing is cut, demand falls, cutting revenues and profits. In short, the result often becomes a death spiral.

As you watch TV tonight, just count the number of car ads, consumable product ads (beer, for instance), cosmetic ads, food ads, service ads and toy ads you see. Well, you can save a lot of effort if you count only PC and tablet ads. It should be pretty easy, because chances are good that the total number will be zero.

People have a fixed amount of money they can spend on things that are discretionary, and if they are being convinced to buy new cars, motorcycles, appliances, TVs and jewelry — plus refresh their smartphones regularly — they won’t have a ton of money for things that they aren’t being convinced they should buy or replace.

The Absolute Irony

Here is the absolute irony: Google doesn’t make money from selling tablets, smartphones or Chromebooks. It makes money selling ads, and using its products to kill profits and marketing dollars results in fewer ads being purchased.

That means Google’s impressive efforts to kill off anything that doesn’t run Android or Chrome are having an adverse near-term impact on the company’s overall ad revenue and its own bottom line.

If people stopped using laptops and tablets tomorrow, Google would take a massive ad revenue hit, because phone conversion rates generally are far lower than PC or tablet conversion rates, and the ads on these legacy products thus should be more valuable to Google.

Yes, Google is causing a lot of revenue and profit drag for both Apple and Microsoft, but it also is hurting its own interests, which makes this look like a less-than-intelligent strategy.

Wrapping Up

The reason behind the slowdown in tablets and PCs is a massive reduction in marketing for these two classes of products, a direct result of the price war Google started.

However, as Google cripples these other tech companies, that means they have less money to use for marketing — and Google’s revenue and profit comes from marketing. Therefore, while Google clearly is doing a lot of damage to the competition, it also is paying for that damage in lost ad revenue, and effectively shooting itself in the foot.

In the end, the decline in PC and tablet sales may be related to a decline in demand generation for those segments, which is tied directly to a massive reduction in pricing that came with Google’s entry into those markets.

Given that Google makes its money from ads, this may be one of the stupidest things it has ever done historically. Worse, supporting Google might turn out to be the dumbest thing the industry collectively has done.

Ironically — or prophetically, depending on how you look at this — only Steve Jobs seemed to get this early on, and he is no longer with us.

Something to noodle on this week.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

I’ve been following video conferencing ever since the late 1980s, when my organization within IBM participated with Apple in a joint study on the latest technology. The study concluded that folks wouldn’t use it.

Since then, I’ve watched company after company try to launch breakout products, with the most spectacular failures coming from Intel and HP. Over time, products in this category have gotten a ton cheaper.

I have one of Logitech’s older integrated systems in my home, mostly for doing remote video interviews (it works surprisingly well).

Logitech’s latest offering, the Group, emulates higher-end systems. It comes with HD capability, and is priced between US$999.99 and $1,250 depending on configuration.

What makes Logitech’s solutions stand out, other than value, is that they use common communications platforms like Skype, so they are really easy to use, and they are designed to be easy to set up and move.

Logitech Group Video Conferencing System

Logitech’s Group Video Conferencing System

This latest system consists of a conference control station with speakerphone, optional remote microphones, a remote control, a pan and zoom high-quality HD camera, and a central hub. Setup should take less than 15 minutes.

It is certified for Skype for Business, Lync, Cisco Jabber and WebEx. You do need to connect it to a PC, which will run the conferencing products native, and you’ll likely want to connect the PC to a big screen HD TV, so you can see the folks you are talking to.

In the end, if you want a low cost, high-performance system that rivals those costing thousands more, it is worth checking out Logitech’s Group — my product of the week.

Amazon Sizes Up UK Restaurant Delivery Market

Amazon Sizes Up UK Restaurant Delivery Market

Amazon Inc has begun surveying UK customers about their use of restaurant delivery services, in what analysts said was likely the first step in an international expansion of a business it rolled out in the United States last September.

In recent days, the online retailer sent its customers surveys, seen by Reuters, asking about the frequency and cost of customers’ food orders and also whether they used companies such as Just Eat, Hungry House and Deliveroo, which deliver prepared food such as pizza, sushi and kebabs.

The surveys asked customers what they most liked about providers such as Just Eat and Hungry House, and “what can be improved most about these service providers?”

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

Neil Campling , Senior Analyst at Aviate Global, said canvassing customers about the restaurant delivery market would be a “logical step” toward expanding its own business.

“These stealth tactics have been used carefully in the United States to do similar and launch successfully and the UK is often used as the first international market,” he said.

A spokesman for Just Eat declined immediate comment. Hungry House, part of Germany’s Delivery Hero Holdings, which is backed by Rocket Internet SE, and Deliveroo were not available for comment.