Posts Tagged ‘Tech industry’

The end is near…of industrial production

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

“The future of sharing is near, and physical” reads on the front page of The Pirate Bay today.

The link points at a 3D printer called RepRap that can replicate itself. Yes, it’s a printer that can print out its own design.

“[RepRap] has been called the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment…”
– The front page of The Guardian, November 25, 2006.

The technology has been around for a while, but what makes the device interesting is that it costs 500 dollars to build yourself.

In the future you will go to The Pirate Bay, download a 3D model of Louis Vuitton’s latest bag and print it right out to give to your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. The chinese factories for pirate goods will go out of business. In short term, they will switch to supplying the market with 3D scans of high-demand goods from all around the world, thus catalyzing the big switch. Stuff will flow into sweat factories, not out.

If you think The Pirate Bay is in the center of a generational shift and cultural transformation, check back again once the 3D models start flooding in. People who will be upset next will be designers, craftsmen, architects, manufacturers and those who supply the market with competitive traditional distribution channels.

Even more interesting will be the creativity of individuals who now with abundant access to virtual models of original physical designs, will create mashups unleashing iterations of cultural artefacts and cultural advancement never seen before by mankind.

In fact, the good itself is not going to be interesting anymore. A new page will turn that depicts the emergence of new behavioral patterns around objects. The mobile phone turns into a device for controlling a web of objects. The objects that we care share a history with us that has been digitally recorded, broadcasted, stored and linked with our surroundings. We will index our environment like maniac librarians.

The bottom line is that our current lifestyle of using material goods is not sustainable. We have to go for it, despite the Luddites who reject the new technology because of it’s potential short term negative consequences. The trade-off is far too great for this opportunity to be missed.

The manufacturers in the world of 3D-printers will be in the same situation where record labels are with digital filesharing or where mainframe manufacturers were with the advent of personal computers. New business models will emerge from this friction, rebuilding new avenues that will propel us right out of the galaxy – or inside our own minds and bodies as we start experimenting with bio technology.

The Pirate Bay for bionics will appear.

I would be leeching and mashing up artificial life and cyborg body extensions. If that doesn’t anger someone, then I don’t know what could. At that very moment I would be ready to upload myself to the digital planetary consciousness just to escape the political nightmare.

Go and read Bruce Sterling‘s Shaping Things for more.

Horizon Report (+finnish presentation)

Monday, May 11th, 2009

New Media Consortium (NMC) supports around 300 learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and emerging technologies. Operating mainly in North America but also internationally, NMC releases every year their flagship analysis of the future of technology in education called the Horizon Report. Last round (2009 edition) I was part of the expert board consisting of around 45 people from all around the world who have something to say about the role of technology in education in the next few years.

I did a presentation about the Horizon Report findings at the International Technology in Education (ITK) conference in Hämeenlinna, Finland. NMC Director Larry Johnson was kind enough to participate virtually on stage with me. In the presentation I go through six main trends and give my own take on these:

  • Within a year: Mobiles and Cloud Computing
  • 2-3 years: Personal Web and Geo-Everything
  • 4-5 years: Semantic-aware Appliations and Smart Objects

The slides and the video recording are available below. For english speaking readers some of the slides are in english.

View more presentations from Teemu Arina.

Monetizing privacy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

“I’ve never looked through a keyhole without finding someone was looking back.” — Judy Garland

Today is a moment for a dose of privacy concerns. Many who know me know that I’m not as scared about privacy issues in social media as some others, but I’d like to rise some issues to your awareness that you might or might not know.

My brother sent me a link to a video (Does what happens in the FaceBook stay in the FaceBook) about privacy concerns regarding Facebook. According to the story, FaceBook knows a lot about its users, including but not limited to media consumption interests (movies, books, music), personal media productions (photos, videos, blogs), contact information (address, home town, phone number, email, IMs), organization memberships (work history, clubs, educational history, political affiliations), personal details (name, birthday, sexual orientation, interests, daily schedules, personal relationships) and so forth.

Third party application support fuels this onwards with new and innovative ways to extract information about Facebook users.

Even if you don’t proactively share this information, your friends will do it for you. They are constantly harassing you to reveal as much about yourself as possible with continuous streams of relationship confirmations and invitations to join certain activities where information about you is made public. Turning down such invitations from your friends is not a very nice thing to do either, so once you are a member, ignorance is often hard to maintain.

According to the terms of service, Facebook has the right to use this information world-wide without any restriction or your prior knowledge, even sell it. This is what you agree on when you sign up.

Of course this is nothing new. Google employs the same strategies to monetize your privacy. Google knows a lot about their users and uses that information to better target advertisements and information for personal interests.

They know your search history, what links you follow, what sites you view (where Google AdSense or Analytics is present), every email you send (Gmail), every instant messaging conversation (GTalk), every calendar appointment (Google Calendar), what you read (Google Reader), what you have on your hard-disk (Google Desktop), where and how you took your photos (Picasa), where you are going (Google Maps), what videos you watch (over 60% of online videos are watched on Youtube) and many other things. Soon they might have access to your radio and television consumption habits.

Recently they have bought a company that records your gaming style (e.g. aggressive) to better target advertisements inside or outside games. They create psychological profiles of their users. Recent Jaiku acquisition is interesting. Jaiku allows them to use your phone to retrieve information on where you are, who you are with, your status (e.g. busy) and what you are doing. The service you are using today might be part of Google tomorrow. If Google buys Amazon, Yahoo and eBay tomorrow, they will dominate the online world. They might even implant you with a chip that reads all your sensory input and brain activity.

There are a few great videos on the privacy issues related to Google: Master Plan – About the Power of Google and EPIC 2015. What is behind the screen?

Both Facebook and Google are very open about their pursuits to privatize your privacy and don’t even try to hide the facts. Both companies are trusted and loved by their users. We just love Google’s ability to figure out what we want.

Sounds like a lot of trouble. George Orwell’s 1984, surveillance during the cold war, WW2 and recent war against terrorism all come to mind. The difference this time around is that it’s not the state only, but private companies and every one of us. Recently I’ve often cited Marshall McLuhan, and I do so once again. In his conversation about the drawbacks of the Global Village:

Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library, the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence.

I heard Pär Lannerö talk about Google in a conference recently. He noted that this time around the little brother of the big brother is you, the celebrated person of the year according to Time Magazine.

Congratulate yourself not just for your creativity, but also your contribution to the negative connotations of the global village.

None of this is going to be a problem if we can trust both Facebook and Google, just like Google’s motto goes, “do no evil”. But can we? What if governments force them to hand over information? What if they are already cooperating with authorities without your knowledge? What if someone steals information from their databases?

In February 2003 Total Information Awareness (TIA) project was started by the Department of Defence as a result of 9/11 to better be able to predict such terrorist attacks. Information Awareness Office’s mission was the following:

Imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness.

This mass-surveillance system was supposed to gather biometric data (face, finger prints, gait, iris), transactional data (banks, credit cards, money transmitters, casinos, brokerage firms), travel data (airlines, railroads, car rentals), medical histories, event participation histories, housing, communications (cell, landline, internet), ID information (passports, visas, work permits, driver’s licenses), gun purchases, internet activity, chemical purchases, criminal records and so forth.

This information was supposed to be linked together in ways that could detect suspicious activity. Due to privacy concerns the funding of this project was terminated in 2004, but the core of the system did survive.

Facebook investors can be traced back to TIA, CIA and other agencies. There are even rumors that Google is already cooperating with the authorities but take that with a grain of salt.

What if such systems are used to make a very convincing case against you by linking unrelated events together, where you have no way to prove otherwise? At Crete I discussed some of these issues with Erik Duval and he noted that this is fine as long as you have the ability to do the same for them. If the same data that Google, Facebook and other agencies utilize is open for everyone including you, then in a true democratic way both opinions can be heard and perspectives integrated. I stand on the same conclusion, we have to make sure that the data behind your online activities remains accessible by you.

Giving away privacy through social media has two implications that are the opposites sides of the same coin, the difference between an empowering light and total blinding darkness. Social media has the potential to become a place that fuels totalitarianism and disintegration of privacy. On the other hand, it has the keys to create a global mind sphere capable of learning and problem-solving on a massive scale never before seen in human history.

13 year old CEOs rock

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

Anshul Samar is a 13-year old founder and CEO of Elementeo, a company operating on the field of education. Watch him deliver a very well articulated speech that should make any CEOs older than him ashamed.

Here is the idea of his company:

Samar argues that textbooks are boring and kids would rather spend their time battling enemies, blowing things up with bombs, and yes, even giving their opponents lead poisoning. So he created a fantasy role playing game that combines the rapturous teenage joys of competition and carnage with the exciting properties of the periodic table of chemical elements.

Isn’t that exiting. One more young CEO who thinks the educational system is not doing an adequate job and decides to fix things himself. Reminds of myself when I was 16 but Anshul beats me by 3 years.

I wish there would be more of such rebels. If you know any young entrepreneurs who have a company on the field of education, let me know.

Invoicing 2.0

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

logo Invoicing 2.0

This post is about invoicing in Finland and how small businesses can save money by utilizing something I call Invoicing 2.0. There are not many Web 2.0 companies in Finland, so the new service I’m going to talk about is a warm welcome on the market.

The standard for e-invoices in Finland is Finvoice. According to list prices of Nordea (2007), sending e-invoices costs 0,60 cent / e-invoice and 5€ per month for the service alone. If you send 100 invoices per month, that’s 780€ a year. Of course they provide volume discounts to get the price down to 420€ a year, but you have to ask for the service separately. These calculations don’t include the setup fee 25€ and moving to volume discounts for 50€.

On the receiver’s side you pay 0,60 cent to receive the e-invoice.

Both parties have to pay for the transaction, too. Sender has to pay 15-20 cent and receiver 12,6 cent for the payment.

Converting to e-invoicing is often justified by the time and money saved in handling paper invoices. Most small business however, still handle invoices in paper-form for bookkeeping purposes, thus the paper cost is effectively transferred to the receiver side from the sender. If we forget the time issue here, the sender saves directly in letters and stamps, but looses in using the e-invoice service.

There is another option, which is cooking your own e-invoicing service. Many organizations send invoices in PDF form through email. Unlike e-invoices provided by banks, you don’t need any agreements or existing capabilities to send and receive e-invoices. Almost everyone has an email address and a computer capable of opening a PDF document. The drawback is in the ability to follow-up how the payment is progressing, i.e. seeing if the customer has…

  • seen the invoice
  • agreed that the invoice is ok
  • agreed that the invoice is ok before due date, if not, sending a reminder
  • paid the invoice

A lot of this often requires manual labour. Many small businesses who don’t have the resources or interest to pay for an electronic sales ledger have to invest the time in creating their invoices in some home-grown Excel sheets and then generating them as PDF files, opening up the email program and sending the bills away. This of course is labour small entrepreneurs should not be doing at all.

Invoicing 2.0 is about making this process much more easier by…

  • automating all the steps required for generating an invoice, sending an invoice as PDF, tracking the progress of the customer and archiving the invoice
  • making an easy to use interface to manage and generate invoices and customers
  • making it accessible through the web in a responsive user interface (AJAX etc., of course)
  • saving money by avoiding the bank costs on e-invoices

My friend Kim Forsman from Idoneus Solutions stepped up to the plate to fix this. As a small business owner like me, he was tired how hard it’s to use traditional invoicing software, how time-consuming it’s to use e-invoice services provided by banks and how expensive the e-invoicing service is. He created a service called Invoiced to provide a solution to small businesses to handle their electronic invoicing much more fluidly.

I started to use the service and it already saves me time and money. Not just productivity improvement, but it’s also incredibly good looking and fun to use.

So how much does it cost? 0€ for 5 invoices per month.

It’s basically free for an occasional private entrepreneur. If you want to send more invoices per month, you can buy invoice credits. You get discounts depending of how much credits you buy at once. Current price for 100 credits is 50€. If 5 invoices are free each month, that’s 47,50€ each month for 100 invoices. It’s also much faster to send invoices with the service because of the faster interface and the ability to send the same invoice to multiple customers at once. You get more for the money too, by having a web-based invoicing system for anyone in your company to use and the ability to remind your customers on unconfirmed invoices automatically.

If the invoice is due and you have to move it to some external collection service (perintä), you can do it directly through Invoiced by letting Lindorff Oy handle the collection. The availability of their collection service is free for Invoiced users, you only have to pay for the collection incidents. This is a service that small businesses don’t always have as easily available.

I interviewed Kim and he told me that APIs are coming, which means you could easily implement electronic invoicing capabilities to any online service you might be running. Localizations to other countries might be coming and the birds are whispering that Finvoice support might be right behind the corner.

Invoiced is a promising service. If you live in Finland and run a small business, go check it out.