The UpStream

Are Too Many Gadgets Draining Our Batteries?

posted Sunday Dec 18, 2011 by Jon Wurm

Are Too Many Gadgets Draining Our Batteries?

Probably most people have asked themselves at certain times, when is enough, enough? We live in a world that is cannibalized by digital devices which brings along with them a world of connectivity to a torrent of streaming, real-time information. It could be like draining your battery from both poles. Consumers are bombarded by technology, that is essential for life in the civilized world, at an ever increasing pace. Also, consumers have to determine if they should invest their resources in upgrading technology on a continual basis. Does version x.xx of y device actually provide value that justifies upgrading from an existing device or does it merely offer a few more optimizations that produce marginal returns? Underwriters Laboratories conducted a study in search of an answer that culminated in a 42 page report so we'll just cover the results.

The study revealed some findings that someone could infer from common sense as well as some that are less obvious and maybe a little surprising. Health and location of parts manufacturing were surprisingly notable. Over half, 55% of the 1200 consumers from 4 countries that participated in the study noted that where products are assembled isn't as concerning as where the parts are manufactured. This could have to do with both health and economic reasoning but consumers also seemed to be weary of an ever greater exposure to radio waves with the proliferation of WiFi devices.

The analogy of draining our battery from both poles might be surprisingly true with regards to gadget fatigue, as the study concluded that the major problem is a combination of too much innovation and a lack of innovation all at once. "Speed to market" is something that is valued more here by consumers than in other countries and that doesn't change the fact that innovations in design, testing and manufacturing have significantly decreased product cycles. Also companies feel more pressure to compete, which can result in the annual churning out of products with a few tweaks or features that are represented as an entirely new innovative product, like what Apple does. This refers back to the value proposition in the beginning: there has to be a balance between perceived value to the consumer and just being innovative with crap. As a tech savvy consumer yourself, do you ever feel drained keeping up with all your current and future potential devices?

Paypal Says They Can Do Groupon Better

posted Sunday Dec 18, 2011 by Jon Wurm

Paypal Says They Can Do Groupon Better

Paypal has decided to infiltrate the confined space of daily deals along with the likes of Groupon, Amazon, Living Social and thousands of other companies that barely register on the pie chart since an estimated 73% of the market is owned by Groupon and Living Social, according to Yipit. Living Social has managed to stay under the radar unlike Groupon who has been plastered with negative media about their business model, internal practices and lawsuits, not to mention a rather disappointing IPO. Chances are that sometimes Groupon even questions the viability of daily deals but Paypal feels they can make a name in that space for two reasons: they already have 103 million users and they are more familiar with what their users like.

More specifically, what Paypal wants to target are daily deals for the mobile space, not simply targeting deal placement on the geographical location of a city or zip code like Amazon. This is something that Groupon made a big deal about in their IPO roadshow: a targeted method to deliver deals based on current location. Users would be notified of a deal for a retailer when simply walking by their location. Groupon also made a big deal about being able to target deals based on consumers' personality and preferences. The live example they gave during their IPO presentation was notifying an adrenaline junkie of a deal for half-off a couple laps around a NASCAR track. Still, Paypal feels they know their customers better. According to President Scott Thompson,

The experience is going to be completely different than anyone else's, through and through. We'll only give you something that we think fits the category of unique and relevant. Everyone else is going to bombard you.

There are some other reasons why Paypal may want to enter this arena besides their "we know our customers better" reasoning. Find out more after the break.

Cox Becomes Latest Cable Company to Join Verizon Wireless

posted Saturday Dec 17, 2011 by Scott Ertz

Cox Becomes Latest Cable Company to Join Verizon Wireless

A few weeks ago, Verizon made some agreements with cable providers to enhance their wireless network. Bright House, Comcast and Time Warner all had spectrum won in the post-analog television auctions, yet none of the companies had planned to build their own wireless networks. Together they licensed their spectrum to Verizon in exchange for reseller and branding agreements.

This week, Cox Communications, not wanting to be left out, has joined the group in giving control of their owned spectrum to Verizon. The deal with Cox will allow Verizon to sell Cox service in their retail stores, and vice versa. This is an important move for Verizon, because they have decided to stop building out their own FiOS service.

What does this partnership mean for Verizon and Cox customers? Hit the break to find out.

Google Wallet's Major Security Flaw

posted Saturday Dec 17, 2011 by Scott Ertz

Google Wallet's Major Security Flaw

Google has recently launched their new Google Wallet platform - a way for people to pay for at retail stores simply by waving their phone at a device in the store. You can pay using a MasterCard, Google PrePaid card or store gift card, as well as using rewards cards. Obviously this technology requires special devices at stores as well as a phone with Near Field Communication (NFC) included.

Security research firm ViaForensics released their review of the new Google Wallet platform for Android this week and the news, while not unexpected, is disturbing. It turns out that the software stores several pieces of user data in plain text on the phone. While credit card numbers and actual transactions are encrypted, data such as cardholder name and transaction history are not, allowing for the possibility of social engineering attacks.

Social engineering, for those who do not know, is defined by Wikipedia as,

Social engineering is commonly understood to mean the art of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. While it is similar to a confidence trick or simple fraud, the term typically applies to trickery or deception for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or computer system access; in most cases the attacker never comes face-to-face with the victims.

In other words, by having the right information, a person could gain access to your credit card account, and all of that information is stored on your phone. Hit the break to find out what information is stored on the device and why it is such a big deal.

Next Generation Vending Machines Are One Step Closer to Feeling Pain When You Kick Them

posted Saturday Dec 17, 2011 by Jon Wurm

Next Generation Vending Machines Are One Step Closer to Feeling Pain When You Kick Them

Vending machines are a technology that Japanese people have adopted like no other. We've seen vending machines that sell panties, crazy anime and novelty items as well as the traditional convenience store quality food and beverages that everyone in the U.S. has become accustomed to. We've also seen people from Japan dressed up as vending machines so it comes as no surprise that the next generation vending machine concept could be exporting from none other than Japan.

The trifecta of companies working to usher in a new era of the unparalleled vending machine experiences is Intel, Okaya Electronics and Sanden who is a big vending machine manufacturer in Japan. All things considered there is a lot of technology built into the next generation vending machine concept. For example, I haven't run into a vending machine here in the U.S. that has a 65" transparent, 1080p, touch-screen display... in fact I haven't ever run into a TV or monitor that matches that criteria. The screen allows the customer to see products behind the user interface they will need to interact with. It will also be able to help identify your preferences based on anonymous recognition of your gender but it won't know anything about the individual. If there is no customer present, the machine can sense this and displays advertisements or a digital clock until approached. A representative for the concept vending machine put it this way,

This vending machine uses the Intel SandyBridge Core. It features Audience Impression Metric, or AIM, and can do anonymous face recognition. So this machine can recognize whether customers are male or female, or old or young.

The real question is will this concept change the way we experience vending machines? Find out more after the break.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - Fastest Selling CoD Game

posted Friday Dec 16, 2011 by Scott Ertz

<i>Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3</i> - Fastest Selling CoD Game

Here's some interesting news out of Activision this week. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sold $1 billion in its first 16 days. That is one day LESS than it took Avatar to accomplish the same goal. In comparison to other games in the franchise, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops each took 2 full months to reach this milestone.

Obviously, Activision is pretty freaking excited about this. It proves to them that CoD has not yet become Guitar Hero. Activision released a statement saying,

Call of Duty is now amongst that rarified group of sustained franchises like 'Star Wars,' 'Harry Potter,' 'Lord of the Rings' and the National Football League that attract or engage tens of millions of people every year or every new release.

Those are some pretty lofty claims and, as much as we all kind of expected a down-slide on the Modern Warfare series after the Infinity Ward disaster, well deserved for its sales. Any game that is able to outsell Avatar in dollars certainly does deserve to be considered a sustained franchise. Now, if Activision can keep the franchise from becoming Guitar Hero they will be in good shape.

This isn't the only thing Activision is proud of right now. Hit the break to find out what else is going on and to read the full press release.

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