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Spotlight on… Film Technology

Spotlight on… Film Technology

The 2018 awards season is well underway. Commentators are announcing their last-minute predictions ahead of today’s Oscar nominations and #TimesUp is making this one of the most memorable and poignant seasons of all time. It’s no surprise that the media has a sharper focus on the film industry than ever before.

The filmmaking business has undergone some real change in the past couple of years, and technology has been monumental in driving progress and empowering independent filmmakers and content creators. But which Film Technology companies should we be keeping an eye on in the next year?

The edit: Frame.io

Frame.io is the tool that helps creatives keep the creative process moving. Editing content is often slowed down drastically by file transfer and lengthy review processes. Frame.io replaces Dropbox, for file sharing, Vimeo for video review, and email for feedback. Integrated with all of filmmakers’ favourite tools including Premiere Pro, After Effects, Final Cut, Slack, and Vimeo, this is a collaboration platform with some serious streamlining powers.

The training: Masterclass

Masterclass has firmly made its mark on the online learning space in the last year with its all-access pass to online classes taught by some of the biggest names in the creative industries. With screenwriting programmes from Aaron Sorkin, film scoring lessons from Hans Zimmer, directing classes from Ron Howard, and writing masterclasses from Shonda Rhimes, the platform offers unparalleled access to flexible learning course from world-class industry professionals.

The grade: DaVinci Resolve

A favourite of editors and colourists around the globe, the latest iteration of DaVinci Resolve is an industry leading set of tools for editing, colour correction and professional audio post production. The software – which is completely free – was originally designed for the industry’s elite colourists, but is now available to all. With Resolve 14, creatives can switch between editing, colour correcting and audio mastering almost seamlessly, making it one of the easiest tools to use.

The soundtrack: Filmstro

Finding or scoring music for pre-shot footage can be an incredibly frustrating process for creatives, but new platforms such as Filmstro aim to make this time-consuming process far easier. Filmstro is a music library for content creators and filmmakers that sits behind ‘intuitive software’ and allows them to create musical scores to accompany their footage. Now integrated with both Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro, the platform uses a roster of talented composers from across the globe to allow users to control the momentum, depth and power of their music.

The gadget: DJI Osmo

DJI have been leading the way when it comes to drones in recent years, but one of their newest tools is a game-changer for creatives looking to create professional looking video on the go. The newest version of the Osmo Mobile is a compact handheld gimbal for smartphones. With a lightweight design, cinematic movement, and active tracking, this is the perfect tool for professionals on the move.

The subscription: Flix Premiere

The appetite for independent films is growing year on year, and Flix Premiere is looking to feed this growing demand for originally storytelling with its video-on-demand platform. With new, exclusive, releases each week, it’s an online cinema that helps overlooked independent films find their audiences. The platform offers exclusive access to curated theatrical releases, and award winning independent productions making it perfect for movie goers tired of studio blockbusters.

Spotlight on…. London Blockchain Week 2018

The technology that defined 2017, even if we didn’t necessarily realise it, was blockchain. Providing the foundations for the volatile and fascinating world of cryptocurrencies which stole the headlines. For a whole week, starting tomorrow, the world’s leading blockchain experts and enthusiasts will meet in London for Blockchain Week 2018.

Kicking off with a Hackathon, the weeklong event sees the original Blockchain Conference return for its fourth year. Featuring an expo of some of the most exciting blockchain companies from around the world, the following two-day conference will explore blockchain/ DLT across all sectors, led by those innovating at the very forefront of the field.

Here we’ve picked out some of the hottest companies exhibiting and speaking during the event to watch in the coming months.

Qadre

Qadre is on a mission to redefine how businesses onboard, quantify and manage trust in enterprise through harnessing blockchain technology. Ultimately, they aim to solve the problems with trust in the digital world. With a whole suite of products and solutions, Qadre is providing the much-needed tools to businesses; minimizing inefficiencies and chances for fraud. With big plans for 2018, this is definitely a start-up to keep on your watch-list.

Green Energy Wallet

There are two significant emerging technologies that will determine our future – renewable energies and electric vehicles. However, to ensure we fully move away from fossil fuels and protect our planet’s future, an efficient facility to store renewable energy is needed. Green Energy Wallet has utilised blockchain technology to create a battery leasing system, that harnesses the combined storage capacity of electric vehicles and home batteries – maximising the production of renewable energy and resupplying the grid as needed.

Effect.ai

The Artificial Intelligence ecosystem has grown at an explosive and exponential rate but has largely been driven and dominated by the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon. Effect.ai aims to create an open, decentralised network that provides all services in the AI market to ensure AI is available to all – known as The Effect Network. Based on the NEO blockchain, and fuelled by a network NEP-5 token called AIX, the team behind the network is on a mission to define the future relation between AI and humanity.

Lendingblock

Realising that only when we can spend and lend digital assets as easily as fiat money will they supplant traditional currencies, Lendingblock has created the first open decentralised exchange for borrowing and lending such cryptocurrencies. The company aims to create a financial system that provides equality of access to everyone, regardless of financial status or location. An exciting company who is working hard to make this goal a reality.

Atonomi

There are billions of IoT devices spread across the globe and ensuring they all are trustable in terms of interoperability for both data and commerce is essential. Rooting the identity and reputation of these devices on a distributed blockchain-based immutable ledger, Atonomi provides a new security and infrastructure to do exactly this.

Tallysticks

Trading has become a complicated, time-consuming practice, with little trust amongst parties. Tallysticks is aiming to make trading simple again – helping independent businesses to grow around the world. Using software automation and existing banking products, Tallysticks is helping to build trust between trading partners through its single online tool for documentation, communications and payments.

Five women in tech to watch at GeekGirl Meetup Conference

This Saturday one of our favourite networks by and for women, GeekGirl Meetup, is hosting its 5th annual conference.

The confluence of technology and ethics is this year’s hot topic, and we’re excited to head along and hear the insights of some of the most inspiring women in the industry. Here’s a little introduction to five of the speakers: our women in tech to watch.

Ellie Hale, Digital Fellowship Lead at CAST

Photo: CAST

 

A girl after our own hearts, Ellie Hale started her career in communications. Hale now heads up the Digital Fellowship at CAST, the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology. CAST is driving the growth of tech for good by working with investors, non-profits, social enterprises and government.

CAST’s Digital Fellowship is a programme which helps non-profit leaders learn the fundamentals of tech and digital innovation, helping charities embrace digital and put it at the heart of their work.

Jillian Kowalchuk, Founder and CEO of Safe & The City

Photo: Jillian Kowalchuck

 

Jillian Kowalchuk runs the upcoming app, Safe & the City – a tool to help women navigate safer walking routes. With an aim to help eliminate sexual harassment in London, we’re interested to see what’s on the horizon for Jillian when the app launches soon.

Camilla Hayselden-Ashby, Product Lead at fieldmargin

Photo: filedmargin

 

Camilla Hayselden-Ashby is the Product Lead at fieldmargin, a platform elevating the future of farming and making farming more efficient. The app is a mapping tool providing a visual record of a farm, upon which farmers can draw maps, make notes and leave messages for their team – even without internet connection.

Devika Wood, Co-founder of Vida

Photo: Vida

 

Vida, a company harnessing technology and investing in high quality, in-home carers for the elderly and disabled, was born from Devika Wood’s very personal experience growing up. Having lived from the age of 10 with her grandmother, who lived with dementia and epilepsy, Wood witnessed the impacts of a “lack of continuity in carers”. Vida aims to solve this issue in the sector, leveraging tech to provide personalised, expert care through their carer matching and care plans.

Devika has an impressive background in both technology and healthcare, having left school at 18 to work for Google, subsequently working as a breast cancer research scientist at Imperial College London, followed by stints at Babylon and Healthcare Australia.

Scarlett Montanaro, Co-founder of CRACK + CIDER

Photo: CRACK + CIDER

 

A rough sleeper once said to Scarlett Montanaro and co-founder Charley Cramer: “People don’t give me money because they think I’ll spend it on crack and cider.” Fed up with campaigns encouraging the public not to give rough sleepers money, but not offering another solution, the pair created CRACK + CIDER, an online shop where people can buy useful items for the homeless.

Italy’s Hottest Tech Start-ups

When you think of Italy you may well think of great food, fascinating history or world class central defenders. What you may not think of is a tech hub with many exciting companies looking to disrupt a multitude of fields. Below you’ll find a 5 of the hottest tech start-ups coming out of Italy.

Scuter

Scuter is a Rome-based start-up which aims to change the game in urban mobility with its disruptive technology. Founded in 2015, the smart e-scooter sharing service plans to make city mobility, simple, enjoyable and sustainable. Scuter has developed a vertically integrated service to overcome and satisfy the widespread need for fast and clean urban commuting and travel.

The company aims to do this using a fast, light scooter as a type of car is affected in an urban environment by traffic congestion and additional charges. Key to the Scuter is its level of comfort, both in terms of ride and usability.

It has been designed to be very user friendly for even the most novice of riders to be able to use added to this it is one of the safest and the cleanest scooters on the market. A phone app allows you to see where available Scuters are and once on board can be turned into a Sat Nav.

Scuter was able to secure a seed funding of €100K, a grant of €145K and is currently doing a crowdfunding campaign which will end in March.

ZesTrip

‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’ has never been easier with the Milan-based start-up, Zestrip. Zestrip has created a marketplace in which the best local experts independently sell tours, dinners and things to do. Thanks to the booking and messaging features of ZesTrip, travellers can choose a professional and book the perfect, tailor-made experience.

Zestrip offers tourists a chance to visit not just the main tourist attractions but also the hidden gems as well as having the chance to experience some real home cooking by visiting the homes of the tour guides. Travellers can also look for more conventional professional tours.

Offering the intrepid adventurer hiking trips through the foothills of the alps to wine and Vermouth Tours Zestrip offers you the chance to experience the less well-known side of a city allowing you to really get under the skin of an area and culture.

ZesTrip was founded in 2015 and has secured more than €100K in seed funding.

BeMyEye

Founded in 2011 by Italian entrepreneur and innovator, Gian Luca Petrelli, BeMyEye is Europe’s largest mobile crowdsourcing DaaS (Data as a Service) solution for retail intelligence. With a crowd of 400,000 Eyes, BeMyEye is able to offer companies fast, reliable and actionable insights from across Europe to help inform your business making decisions.

By completing missions, the user is paid a small amount that can be paid into a bank account or a Paypal account. Missions come in the form of small questionnaires that are published on the map. Some missions may ask you to go into a store and check for certain products, or perform a mystery shop. You may be asked to take pictures of certain products and answer questions on their presentation or whether they are part of a promotion for that particular store.

Other types of missions might include going on a treasure hunt to find specific advertising or promotional material. These missions may also be home-based missions. These will come in the form of questionnaires or surveys that do not require you to go to a specific location.

Moneyfarm

Founded in 2011 by experienced entrepreneurs Paolo Galvani and Giovanni Daprà, Moneyfarm is a digital wealth manager that helps people protect and increase their wealth through time.

Thinking that the world of wealth management was failing the needs of many people and Giovanni and Paolo wanted to make a difference. With the aim that families should be able to invest their money simply and effectively, they created a service that gives people access to investment advice and high-quality products at a family-friendly cost.

Six years on, Moneyfarm operates in both Italy and the UK, offering simplified advice and discretionary investments to thousands of customers. We’ve won awards for our products and are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. A highly innovative company they strive to ensure that they offer their customers the best products possible to help increase their wealth.

Dropping nicely into the growing number of robo-advisors the company is helping families to make their money go further using professional advice at a cost that more people can afford.

Waynaut

For the perpetual traveller, Waynaut is an app that helps you plan European travels. Launched in 2011, it includes logistics for all forms of transportation from planes to trains to automobiles and helps travellers choose the best route in terms of costs and time. (Having been interrailing and sharing cabins on sleeper trains with total strangers, I know first-hand just how handy this app can be)

Waynaut is the first pan-European platform offering multiple types of transport with both traditional and less traditional vehicles which will take you from door to door.

With a growing number of partners including DB Bahn, Trenitalia and BlaBlaCar, Waynaut is revolutionising the way we travel across Europe and giving innovative solutions to help tourists discover those hidden gems whilst also making travelling easier, less stressful and more convenient than ever.

Tech & Innovation’s Smarter Working Initiative Shortlisted for PR Campaign of the Year

The PHA Group’s Technology & Innovation team is delighted to have its work recognised in this year’s B2B Marketing Awards – shortlisted for ‘PR Campaign of the Year’.

The Smarter Working Initiative (SWI), which the T&I team first developed in 2016 with long-standing client Powwownow, has been listed alongside eight other PR campaigns, with the winner due to be announced at a gala dinner on 23rd November.

The T&I team worked closely with Powowwnow to develop the inaugural campaign designed to have significant longevity. The brief was to challenge existing perceptions of flexible working and promote the benefits of embracing a working culture that aligns with employees’ personal lives.

As a business with a core ethos of efficiency, productivity, and collaboration, Powwownow’s objective in 2016 was to increase awareness of the benefits of smarter working among UK business leaders and employers. Aware that only 6% of UK businesses proactively offered flexible working to their employees, the team set out to fundamentally change how employers think about smarter working practices.

The SWI was foremost an awareness day: Monday 25th July 2016 – the first day of the school summer holidays. A supporting integrated PR strategy, combining cut-through thought leadership content, data stories, news agenda hijacking and relevant and insightful broadcast interviews for members of the senior management team, helped position Powwownow as a leading authority on smarter working across a range of business sectors.

In the build-up to and following Monday 25th July, the team achieved over 30 pieces of media coverage, reaching a significant business audience across the UK and Europe. MD Jason Downes and FD Andrew Johnson appeared on BBC News ‘Business Live’, Sky News, London Live, talkRadio and Share Radio discussing topics including business efficiency and the rise of technology to facilitate flexible working.

Powwownow FD Andrew Johnson on Sky News

 

The team’s efforts saw Powwownow more than double their initial target of business sign-ups by securing over 120 businesses, including leading UK employers such as Purplebricks.com, RED Driving School and Orebar Brown. Over 100,000 UK employees worked flexibly on the day thanks to the initiative.

The SWI received prominent coverage across online and traditional media. Online, we reached business leaders through thought leadership pieces for MD Jason Downes, CTO Chris Martin and FD Andrew Johnson in a variety of publications including Virgin.com and Real Business. Targeting employees, the team also secured press on consumer-led websites such as Metro and Marie Claire, using unique data stories supported by thought leadership. The initiative was also covered nationally in The Telegraph and The Sun, with a prominent photo story in the latter reporting the social media campaign which ran over the course of a week.

Not only did the SWI reach a far wider audience than originally anticipated, it established positive brand awareness and positively changed assumptions about flexible working. After the initiative, 78 percent of business owners who did not previously offer flexible working to their employees said they would do so in 2017 and beyond – a tangible change in attitudes towards smarter working.

Most importantly, Powwownow were delighted with the campaign and last month the Tech & Innovation team oversaw the SWI 2017, which saw over 200,000 employees from over 200 businesses work flexibly on Monday 24th July, resulting in MD Jason Downes appearing on BBC News.

Powwownow MD Jason Downes on BBC News

Top 10 Computer Hardware & Software Companies to Watch at CES 2017

Technology has been developing and changing at a full-tilt over the years, yet with our lives now so intertwined with tech we can sometimes forget it fundamentally boils down to the hardware and software components which form its raw make-up.

This year at CES, with another stellar line-up of technology companies, we’ve picked out the top ten who we expect to make leaps and bounds in 2017.

  • Altia Systems Inc. Altia Systems® is a venture-backed company based in Cupertino, California and creator of PanaCast® 2 – the world’s first Panoramic-4K Plug-and-Play USB video camera. The PanaCast solution is the first video and desktop collaboration system that enables anyone with a desktop or mobile device to communicate interactively, in real-time, through a 200-degree video which replicates the natural human panoramic perspective, creating a natural “being there” experience.
  • Civil Maps: Using 3D data and artificial intelligence, Civil Maps want to enhance mobility and improve safety in the physical world. It’s developed a technology which provides self-learning cognitive perception systems that replicate human context, therefore it enables fully autonomous vehicles to perceive, orient and respond to the physical world.

Civil Maps has collaborated with the leading geospatial, governmental, and academic institutions including U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Research Scientific Computing Centre, University of California Berkeley and Stanford University. This enables it to convert companies’ unorganized 3D data into intelligent maps. Companies that rely on geospatial data spend billions to manually click through 3D survey data and add relevant mission-critical intelligence.

ces-blog-image-1

  • Display Port: DisplayPort delivers more high-performance features than any other digital interface. Designed to replace older standards like DVI and VGA, DisplayPort opens up new possibilities in computing, digital displays and consumer electronics. It’s the future standard and it’s available today.
  • Fibaro: Fibar Group was founded in 2010 because of a successful research and development project, which lead to construction of an innovative home automation system named FIBARO. Using the Z-wave wireless standard, it allows users to integrate all Z-wave compatible products and devices that previously could not be connected to a customized home network.

The Fibaro smart home system allows for the conversion of any home or apartment into a smart home, which not only increases occupants’ comfort, but also allows users to monitor or control their household safety and efficiently. Available in 100 countries, FIBARO, opened its U.S. offices in September 2014.

  • Kiwi: Kiwi is the world leader in motion recognition technology. It’s simple and efficient motion recognition platform enables your connected products to track motions in literally a matter of minutes. The platform works like the human brain, where it learns and adapts to the unique motions of the users. By categorizing and analysing motions, you can do anything from a simple repetition count in the gym, to analysing safety metrics in a factory. The options are endless.
  • Kubo Robot: Kubo is an award-winning robot that offers a whole new way for children to learn and explore 21st-century skills like; communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Kubo is based on the concept of a jigsaw puzzle, which makes it so intuitive kids learn to code from the age of four.

The technology empowers kids to explore robotics, programming, problem-solving and creative thinking through tangible play. We do this in a play and plug manner without any need of prior knowledge of programming and no requirements of a tablet or computer.

ces-kubo

  • Orbbec: Orbbec is dedicated to creating intelligent technologies for every person, everywhere. Achieving this requires superb 3D cameras that are affordably priced and universally available. For computers to be intelligent, they need more than the ability to make sense of the world around them—they need to see the world in 3D. And for intelligent computing to flourish, excellent 3D cameras that are affordably priced and universally available will be a necessity.
  • Razer: This company has aimed to reinvent the computer gaming industry through its collaboration with gamers to bring the best gaming experience to the industry. Its products have earned critical praise and won multiple awards for its precision, sensitivity, usability, and distinctions in product design. Engineered to near perfection, Razer’s reputation of being the leader in gaming peripheral technology is embodied in every single Razer product.
  • Tribe: Tribe makes high-quality tech gadgets, from USB flash drives to audio and travel accessories, which bring the best of pop culture to your personal tech collection. Tribe turns the average into the extraordinary. Don’t be too serious, shake things up and add some colour to life.
  • Qwertyfree: Qwertyfree has developed SHIFT™ an amazing touchscreen keyboard for the blind and visually impaired that will revolutionize the industry and open a world of possibilities for those with special needs.

Enjoyed this post? Read more of our series on the latest and greatest from CES 2017

Bring on the showstoppers – the crème de la crème at this year’s IFA

Another year, another IFA, with startups and household names piling into Berlin gearing up to steal the hearts of the masses with their awe-inspiring gadgets and gizmos.

In less than 48 hours, we’ve already had Lenovo launch a tablet that copies handwriting off paper notepads, a curved-screen laptop from Acer and a new voice assistant from Sony, but beyond the big headlines are halls lined with young hopefuls and established businesses alike looking for a piece of the action.

So who’s going to be gracing our homes and phones over the coming months? Well, we’ve done some digging (a lot of digging…) and have given our verdict on the top 10 companies to keep your eyes on:

  • SENSORWAKE (FR) – Kicking us off, what better way to start the day then to the smell of coffee, a croissant and the sea? Sensorwake markets itself as the world’s first olfactory alarm clock, so instead of blaring loud beeps in your ear, it gradually awakens you from slumber through the power of scent. There are currently seven perfumes to choose from and if you pre-order now, it could be at your bedside from November.
  • DIRROR (DE) – Taking a leaf out of The Minority Report, Dirror represents the world’s first digital mirror. It has similar functionality to that of a smartphone or tablet, from being able to access the internet and your social media channels, to acting as your weather forecaster and personal assistant. It also works as a digital photo frame, clock, and of course mirror should you so desire.

Dirror

 

  • KEEZEL (NL) – Cyber security incidents cost UK firms more than £34bn in the past year according to a study by business internet service provider Beaming. Almost half of UK businesses lack advanced cyber defences, let alone homes – so here enters Keezel, a small portable device that promises to protect all your technology using VPNs. For the first time, users will be able to connect to a combined network of over 1,250 servers in more than 160 countries, blocking third parties from accessing their gadgets at home, in the office or when browsing in places like coffees shops, hotels and airports.
  • PLUME LABS (FR) – Any cyclist in London will know that air pollution is a serious issue. Plume Labs wants to change that by helping people understand what’s in the air they breathe and what they can do to protect themselves through an intuitive app. You may remember Plume Labs from a clever campaign earlier this year where a flock of pigeons wearing pollution-detecting sensors were sent to patrol London’s skies. They’re now looking to launch a similar wearable for humans to get localised air quality data – watch this space.
  • BLUEAIR (SE) – From the great outdoors to the stuffy indoors… did you know indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outside? To tackle this, Blueair have been building the world’s most advanced air purifiers for 20 years. Their filtration process can silently capture 99.97% of airborne particles down to 0.1 microns in size and deliver clean air to a room in a matter of minutes.
  • XYZPRINTING (TW) – No IFA list would be complete without a shout out to our very own client, XYZprinting, the world’s leading manufacturer of 3D printers. They consistently push the industry forward with their extensive range of affordable, consumer-grade printers, with the latest addition to their family – the da Vinci Mini – coming to market at a jaw-dropping RRP £199.

Image courtesy of XYZprinting

 

  • SMARTER APPLICATIONS (UK) – They often say the kitchen is at the heart of a home. With Smarter, you can stay connected to it from anywhere in the world. Their first products – the iKettle and Smarter Coffee machine – combined with the Smarter app enable users to make their favourite brews remotely while controlling strength, water levels, temperature and the number of cups to be served.
  • CEREVO (JP) – With arguably the most diverse product portfolio on this list, Cerevo is an umbrella brand for a number of connected solutions. Cerevo is best-known for its impressive LiveShell video streaming range, which enables users to broadcast live in HD anywhere with an internet connection. That said, they’ve recently branched out into sports, starting with a number of gadgets for snowboarders to help them analyse their performance, and a connected 3D printed bike with in-built sensors that can detect and record location, environment and bike orientation.
  • CEL-FI (UK) – Ever had your phone line break up during an important call? I know I have, but believe it or not, signal boosters are illegal in the UK. Or at least were until Cel-Fi came onto the stage. Having cleverly found a way to operate their technology within the licenses of mobile service providers, Cel-Fi’s Nextivity box is the only legal solution on the market for boosting indoor network coverage for people on Three, O2 or EE (which also encompass T Mobile and Orange).
  • IRIS (BE) – Could this be the new way to take notes and quotes? The IRISPen is a beautiful object that works like a highlighter – simply slide the pen over printed text or numbers from newspapers, magazines, invoices, letters etc. and the text will automatically be retyped in your computer. It’s compatible with Word, Excel, Outlook or any other text-editing application and also features an integrated translation function for over 40 languages!

Honourable mentions:

  • PLAYBRUSH (AT) – I wonder how many children are keen tooth brushers? Probably not that many – so could Playbrush be the solution? Developed with dentists and more than 300 children, Playbrush works in combination with an app to create mobile games that children can play by brushing correctly! The Playbrush has in-built motion sensors to record how children are brushing their teeth, and tweaks the game to ensure that children brush everywhere for long enough.

Pico Brew

  • PICO BREW (US) – To round off our list, anyone fancy a nice, cold beer? How about being able to brew your own, personal craft choice? Pico makes brewing beer at home as easy as coffee with ready-to-brew ingredient kits that you pop into a microwave-sized device – in two hours, you’ll have five litres of sweet ale. There’s an aspirational brewer in us all, surely?

Instagram vs Snapchat: The Stories Debate

Another day, another social media update! On Tuesday, Instagram rolled out a new feature called Instagram Stories.

This feature allows users to upload photos and videos that will disappear automatically after 24 hours. ‘Stories’ sits at the top of your newsfeed, and you can bring your content to life with text and drawing tools. Sound familiar? Yes! That’s because it’s just like Snapchat.

Essentially, Instagram have copied the whole concept of Snapchat Stories. Once a place where you could only see the ‘highlights’, Instagram are ready to take on their fellow tech giant; swallowing their pride with this huge ephemeral curveball. In an interview with TechCrunch, Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom even said that Snapchat “deserve all the credit”.

But what does this mean for the future of Instagram and Snapchat? Reaction has been mixed online.

In favour of Instagram ?

“Good artists copy; great artists steal”, say Next Web who have revived the words of Picasso. Some say that Instagram has taken a concept built by Snapchat but “out-innovated” them with their own spin on the familiar feature. When you think about it, this feature is actually a perfect fit for Instagram. Ultimately, Instagram has made the feature more accessible and easier to use for a wider group of people and higher numbers of users; people who sometimes struggle with the current Snapchat model. In their official blog, Instagram said that now their users “don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed”. The new feature will be rolled out globally to both Android and iOS users over the next few weeks.

Instagram Stories offers something more – i.e. beautiful imagery and highlights; along with a raw, unedited look into daily lives. This is a move that could really bring Instagram to the forefront, to make sure it stays on top. The best of both worlds! Watch out, Snapchat.

Instagram Stories

In favour of Snapchat ?

We spoke recently about how Snapchat really is the app for innovation, and it still is. Snapchat pioneered the ‘Stories’ feature which has taken over the social media world, not to mention Snapchat ‘Memories’, ‘Geofilters’ and ‘Lenses’. Snapchat have been original with their product, a product which has contributed to the decline in “original sharing” via Facebook. Copying Snapchat is an extreme move by Instagram, one which is telling of the problems the app is facing. People have always liked Snapchat because of the freedom associated with it, it is a place where you don’t have to feel judged for posting like you might do on Instagram or Facebook. The new ephemeral feature on Instagram has basically confirmed that this type of sharing is the way forward. Snapchat have innovated before, and there is no doubt that they will do it again.

With a dedicated and loyal fan base, it is hard to see how Snapchat will suffer as a result of this move. Not to mention the fact that Instagram have annoyed many people with their recent algorithm change – ‘Stories’ has just added salt to the wound. With sentiment erring slightly on the negative side, could Instagram become the Bebo of our time?

As always in the world of tech and social media, we can never tell what’s around the corner. Who will reign supreme? Time will tell. In the meantime, the digital team at The PHA Group are looking forward to the next update from Snapchat…

 

 

The Amazon effect – the hoax that inspired a revolution

Fifteen months on from their initial ‘launch’ announcement, Amazon is rumoured to be investigating starting trials of its drone delivery service right here in the British Isles after being hampered in its native US by stringent regulations. And once again, the online platform tops the news agenda, splitting expert opinion as to whether or not commercial drones could one day become reality.

Having strategically revealed their plans the night before ‘Cyber Monday’ 2013 however (the biggest e-commerce shopping day of the year), the sceptic in me wonders why this clearly headline-grabbing hoax – one that has been done many times before I might add – hasn’t withered away into white noise already. When you start taking potential risks and limitations into account, it becomes clear that any company honestly looking to take up the challenge of commercial drone usage will be up against a mountain of regulatory hurdles before anyone even utters the words ‘lift off’.

Drones have gone from concept to reality in the past two years.

Drones have gone from concept to reality in the past two years.

But of course, the weight of the Amazon name alone is a force to be reckoned with and where others would have moved on to other news, Amazon has achieved immortality by sparking a veritable technological revolution and a very real demand for something we never knew we wanted.

Think about it – before Amazon Prime Air, how many drone companies had you ever heard of? How many times had you heard of drone technology being used for anything but warfare? Now, less than two years on, there are 359 organisations with permits to use drones in the skies over Britain, along with what experts believe are thousands of home users tinkering away. We have ‘selfie’ drones raising millions on Kickstarter, waiter drones serving diners at swanky restaurants and several, newly established aerial photography businesses jumping on the bandwagon too. We’re even seeing our first trade shows emerging for commercial UAVs. The sector is in its infancy, and yet is already thought to be worth more than £100bn globally and predicted to employ 150,000 people in the EU alone by 2050.

That’s not to say drones are without controversy – crashing into journalists and coming into close contact with passenger planes certainly hasn’t done the sector any favours, and the confusion around what you can and can’t do with the machines has led to a number of innocent hobby pilots inadvertently breaking the law (for example, by flying over highly-populated areas and buildings without permission, or restricted airspace), some of whom now face fines and prosecution. But they now constantly feature in the press – and the more momentum the sector builds, the more reason for Amazon to keep the story going.

So, having placed its stake in the ground, whether, through meticulous planning or fortunate accident, Amazon is now going the distance and clearing the path for its flock to follow in its footsteps, determined to ensure drone technology finds its place in everyday life.

I can’t help but wonder if the PR who threw ‘drone delivery’ out in a brainstorm is laughing or crying right now, but either way, I’m intrigued to see how officials going forward will balance public safety with the pressures of innovation because what’s clear is that the can is well and truly open, so there’s no going back now.

Ten Japanese tech start-ups that could take the UK by storm

With Silicon Valley in the US and Silicon Roundabout in our own capital, we know the West is good at taking the plunge and being entrepreneurial. But what of the East?

In Japan, business culture is still ‘dominated by the concept of lifetime employment’ where, in exchange for unwavering obedience and loyalty, the employee can expect stability, security and several company perks. However, as the next generation of 20 year olds reject the restrictions and limitations of the corporate world, Japan’s entrepreneurial spirit is slowly reviving.

As a keen Japanophile, and having lived in the country among a number of budding business minds, I like to keep a close eye on the ideas emerging from the Land of the Rising Sun, in the hope that one day they’ll expand into the UK. So below is a list of some of my top 10 favourite contenders.

A number of Japanese start-ups are set to make a big impact this year.

A number of Japanese start-ups are set to make a big impact this year.

1: Combinator (EN) – So you have a fantastic idea for a business – but what happens when you don’t have the skills to develop your service or product yourself? Helping to turn ideas into reality, Combinator is a platform where budding entrepreneurs can pledge their time to fledgling start-ups in the making. You can be as committed as you want, whether that’s working the odd weekend, helping out after you finish your day job, or fully committing yourself to the project.

2: Air Closet (JP) – Ever looked at your wardrobe brimming with clothes and thought you still have nothing to wear? Fear not, for Air Closet is effectively a library of clothes that you can borrow, with membership costing approximately £40 a month – you receive a package containing three items of clothing, selected for you by a professional stylist, and are allowed to keep the items for as long as you like.  It looks like you can only borrow three items at a time though, so once you’re ready to get your next batch, you simply send the clothes back (free return delivery and no need to wash) and review. The more feedback you share, the more accurate the stylists can be.

Online translation has proven an issue for some businesses.

Online translation has proven an issue for some businesses.

3: Conyac (EN) – Machine translators are getting good, but if anyone has seen this Let It Go Google Translate parody, we know that language is sometimes simply best left to the people who know how to use it! Conyac is an online platform that connects individuals and businesses alike with 40,000 affordable translators around the world, catering up to 75 languages. But perhaps what makes this service special as opposed to your ordinary translation agency is that they have three levels of service: light requests, standard requests and business. For a light request – say a quick email reply in the sender’s language – you can get a translation from a human in as quick as ten minutes.

4: Living Room (JP) – Your children have left their toys all over the floor, refuse to brush their teeth and simply don’t want to help with the household chores. Is there any hope? Yes says Living Room, a Japanese platform that helps to gamify the cleaning, washing, tidying, hygiene – you name it – experience for children. Set for release in February, children are assigned tasks through characters in a ‘game’ app (John the Adventurer in “Chores Quest” for the boys and Princess Marie in “The Magic of Chores” for the girls). The children’s apps are connected to a parent app, where Mums and Dads can confirm when a job has been completed – and once they give the green light, the children receive an in-game reward. The platform also includes a ‘Mama & Papa café’, where parents can discuss ideas and suggestions.

5: Listnr (EN) – We’re getting to a stage in technological development where interacting with your environment by sound is very much becoming a reality – and Listnr fits beautifully into the puzzle as an interactive baby monitor. Working in conjunction with an app, the user receives notifications when the device registers certain sounds – be that laughter or crying. As it develops, Listnr is also set to register the tone of voices in a room and change colour accordingly. The product is still very much in its infancy, but with backing from Panasonic and a successful CES 2015 under its belt, it’s sure to be a strong contender in the smart home arena.

6: Popinfo (JP) – Timing and visibility are of the essence in any marketing and promotional campaign, but can often be difficult to get right – after all, emails and display ads can be easy to ignore. Popinfo aims to increase click-through rates by combining geographical and behavioural insights for perfectly timed push notifications directly to consumers. It appears to be an opt-in service, with users subscribing to shops and cafés of their choice, so it’s a great way to keep your customers updated on activities and events, and drawing in the crowds.

7: AnyPerk (EN) – It’s not unusual nowadays for people to move job every few years, but if you’ve got some great talent in your midst, you won’t want to just let them go. Companies who subscribe to the AnyPerk platform give their employees access to over 700 pre-negotiated products and services, ranging from gym memberships to childcare services. The perks never expire, have no limits on redemption frequency and are redeemable immediately – companies can also customise what’s available to include their own perks, as well as remove those that don’t fit their company culture. Those that sign-up further receive regular updates on redemption statistics, enabling them to identify the most popular perks and benchmark themselves against competitors.

8: Giftee (JP) – How many times has a friend come through for you last minute – whether paying for your taxi home after losing your wallet on a night out, or coming over at a moment’s notice and offering a shoulder to cry on? Giftee specialises in small token gifts, allowing users to show their appreciation through digital vouchers for little treats, such as a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, a beer, a bowl of ice cream or even a copy of their favourite magazine. It’s the perfect way to spread the love.

9: AmazingLife (EN) – Like all things in life, everything and everyone eventually passes – but it can be difficult, and indeed complicated, to prepare for a death. AmazingLife has therefore developed a number of smartphone apps to help simplify the process and payment of services – from cremation and funeral preparations, to wills and inheritances – so that people can take the time to decide what is right for them at their own pace.

10: Type (JP) – As a fellow glasses wearer, it’s not often that a company comes around trying to make specs more ‘cool’. Oh My Glasses, however, attempts to do just that with their new line of eyewear products – Type – inspired by the similarities between the function and design of fonts and frames. The currently have four styles, named after the typefaces they were born from – Din, Futura, Garamond and Helvetica – and I can honestly say I was drawn immediately to my default font…

There are, of course, many, many more fantastic business ideas emerging in Japan – and I’ll be keeping a beady eye out for them. But in the meantime, I hope you’ll agree that there are some worthy contenders in the East that could really take the West by storm – and we should be encouraging them to try.