Apr 152015

I’m in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, for the next few days for the Open Source, Open Society conference.

During one of the welcome events Lillian Grace of Wiki New Zealand mentioned how today we’re at the same stage with data literacy that we were two hundred years ago with written literacy.

If anything that’s optimistic. According to a wonderful post on Our World In Data, in 1815 the British literacy rate was 54%.


That low rate makes sense as most occupations didn’t need literate workers while a hundred years later industrial economies needed employees who could read and write.

Another notable point is the Netherlands has led the world in literacy rates for nearly four hundred years. This is consistent with the needs of a mercantile economy.

Which leads us to today’s economy. In four hundred years time will our descendants  be commenting on the lack of data literacy at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century?


Apr 112015

One of the great strengths of the social and cloud business model was the idea of the open API, recent moves by Twitter and LinkedIn show that era might be coming to an end.

This week Nick Halstead, the founder and CEO of business intelligence service Datasift, bemoaned his company’s failure to negotiate an API access agreement with Twitter that restricts their ability to deliver insights to customers.

Earlier this year LinkedIn announced they would be restricting API access to all but “partnership integrations that we believe provide the most value to our members, developers and business.”

Monetizing APIs

Increasingly social media and web services companies are seeing access to APIs as being a revenue opportunity – something many of them are struggling to find – or as a way of building ‘strategic partnerships’ that will create their own walled gardens on the internet.

For developers this is irritating and for users it restricts the services and applications available but it may turn out to backfire on companies like LinkedIn and Twitter as closing down APIs opens opportunities for new platforms.

A few years ago industry pundits, like this blog, proclaimed open APIs will be a competitive advantage for online services. Now we’re about to find out how true that is.

One thing is for sure; many of the companies proclaiming their support for the ‘open internet’ are less free when it comes to allowing access to their own data.

Apr 042015
The law applies online to social media and other web services

Automakers Say You Don’t Really Own Your Car states the Electronic Frontiers Foundation.

In their campaign to amend the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act to give vehicle owners the right to access and modify their automobiles’ software the EFF raises an important point.

Should the software licensing model be applied to these devices then purchasers don’t really own them but rather have a license to use them until the vendor deems overwise.

Cars, of course, are not the only devices where this problem arises. The core of the entire Internet of Things lies in the software running intelligent equipment, not the hardware. If that software is proprietary and closed then no purchaser of a smart device truly owns it.

Locking down the smarthome

This raises problems in smarthomes, offices and businesses where the devices people come to depend upon are ‘black boxes’ that they aren’t allowed to peer into. It’s not hard to see how in industrial or agricultural applications that arrangement will often be at best unworkable.

Four years ago tech industry leader Marc Andreessen pointed out how software is eating the world; that most of the value in an information rich economy lies in the computer programs that processes the data, not the hardware which collects and distributes it.

That shift was flagged decades ago when the initial fights over software patents occurred in the 1980s and 90s and today we’re facing the consequences of poorly thought out laws, court decisions and patent approvals that now challenge the concepts of ownership as we know it.

Is ownership outdated?

However it may well be that ‘ownership’ itself is an outdated concept. We could be entering a period where most of our possessions are leased rather than owned.

If we are in a period where ownership is an antiquated concept then does it matter that our cars, fitness bands, kettles, smoke alarms and phones are in effect owned by a corporation incorporated in Delaware that pays most of its tax in the Dutch Antilles?

Who owns the smartcar’s data?

The next question of course is if the software in our smart devices is secret and untouchable then who owns the data they generate?

Ownership of a smartcar’s data could well be the biggest issue of all in the internet of things and the collection of Big Data. That promises to be a substantial battle.

In the meantime, it may not be a good idea to tinker too much with your car’s software or the data it generates.

Apr 012015
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Paul Wallbank joins Tony Delroy on ABC Nightlife nationally from 10pm Australian Eastern time on Thursday, April2 to discuss how technology affects your business and life.

For the April 2015 program Tony and Paul look at Tesla founder Elon Musk’s prediction that driverless cars could be on US roads by the middle of the year.

Another industry that’s currently being disrupted by technology is sports. On the field, in the stadium and at home how games are played and watched is being changed.

Join us

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Australian Eastern Summer time or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to @paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.

Mar 312015
Salesforce Analytics Cloud

Today social media analytics startup Vintank announced their acquisition by the W2O Group, a network of data driven marketing and communications firms.

W2O’s acquisition shows how data analytics and visualisation is increasingly an important tool for management in a world where businesses are drowning in information.

Last year Vintank co-founder Paul Mabray spoke to Decoding the New Economy about the company and how social media data is a valuable tool for the wine industry.

“The wine industry is last industry to have been changed by internet,” Mabray says. One reason for this in his view is how that the sector hasn’t had a disruptive startup like Yelp or Open Table to drive change and upset incumbents.

Despite the wine industry’s reluctance to adopt digital technologies, social media and the disruption of established media channels is having a profound effect on the sector’s marketing and sales.

“In the old days there was a playbook originating with Robert Mondavi in the 1970s which is create amazing wine, you get amazing reviews and you go find wholesalers who bring this wine to the market,” Mabray told Decoding the New Economy during a visit to Australia in 2014.

Dealing with global proliferation

Mabray also flags the massive growth in the wine industry as being one of Vintank’s driving forces, “the global proliferation of brands the increase of awareness and consumption patterns where people like wine more, those playbooks didn’t work in 2009 when the crisis started.”

A proliferation of new competitors coupled with disrupted communications channels isn’t unique to the wine industry, the attraction Vintank has to the w2O Group’s president Bob Pearson; “VinTank provides us with a way to create agile audience engines for a brand, where we can learn what an audience is doing online, understand what content they like.”

For many businesses social media is a both an opportunity and a mystery; while customers are telling the world what they’re buying through services like Facebook and Twitter capturing, managing and using that information remains a challenge.

Panning for digital gold

As Robyn Lewis of Visit Vineyards whose database holds details on over 30,000 Australian wineries and associated tourism business says, “the gold is in the data.”

Panning for that gold is Emma LoRusso of Sydney social analytics startup Digivizer who told Decoding The New Economy two years ago “the truth is in data”. Services like Vintank, Salesforce’s Radian6, Klout and startups like Digivizer attempt to add context to that data.

Another aspect of Vintank’s technology is the ‘geofencing’ of information, creating a virtual geographic perimeter so only data relevant in that region is flagged. As well as reducing noise, this increases the value to local wineries and tourist operations.

In some respects the geofencing is possibly the most powerful part of services like Vintank as it allows regional operators to focus on visitors and customers to their districts rather than worrying about national or global activity.

W2O’s acquisition gives Vintank access to a broader market outside the wine industry as well as deeper data analytics capabilities. For W20 the purchase adds to the social media tools the company can offer.

Data driven business

The Vintank deal with W2O shows how the marketing and advertising industries are increasingly becoming data driven. For other business functions this is true as well.

For businesses of all types, understanding the data pouring into their companies is going to be the difference between success and failure in an increasingly digital world. Providing those tools to do so is one of the great opportunities in today’s economy.

Mar 262015
Big data takes our online, shopping and social media use it is the business challenge for our time

This morning I’m speaking on ABC Radio’s Overnights about the risks of the Australian government’s law to force telecommunications companies to retain users’ metadata for two years.

While the act, currently before the Senate having passed the House of Representatives last week after the poorly named ‘opposition’ Labor Party supported it, mandates that telcos and ISPs will have to retain the details of users’ connection times, places and type of device for two years and that government agencies will be able to access this data without a warrant.

The program was broadcast on 26 March 2015 at 4.15am Eastern Time with Trevor Chappell and is can be listened to on the ABC radio website.

Some resources on the data retention bill follow;

Mar 202015

“When you’re playing, it’s all about the winning but when you retire you realise there’s a lot more to the game,” says former cricketer Adam Gilchrist.

Gilchrist was speaking at an event organised by software giant SAP ahead of a Cricket World Cup quarter final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground yesterday.

SAP were using their sponsorship of the event to demonstrate their big data analytics capabilities and how they are applied to sports and the internet of things.

Like most industries, the sports world is being radically affected by digitalisation as new technologies change everything from coaching and player welfare through to stadium management and fans’ experience.

Enhancing the fan experience

Two days earlier rival Melbourne stadium Etihad in the city’s Docklands district showed off their new connected ground where spectators will get hi-definition video and internet services through a partnership between Telstra and Cisco.

While Etihad’s demonstration was specifically about ‘fan experience’, the use of the internet of things and pervasive wireless access in a stadium can range from paperless ticketing to managing the food and drink franchises.

In the United States, the leader in rolling out connected stadiums, venues are increasingly rolling out beacon technologies allowing spectators to order deliveries to their seats and push special offers during the game.

While neither of the two major Melbourne stadiums offer beacon services at present, the Cisco devices around the Etihad have the facility to add Bluetooth capabilities when the ground managements decide to roll them out.

Looking after players

Probably the greatest impact of technology in sport is with player welfare; while coaches and clubs have been enthusiastic adopters of video and tracking technologies for two decades, the rate of change is accelerating as wearable devices are changing game day tactics and how injuries are managed.

One of the companies leading this has been Melbourne business Catapult Sports which has been placing tracking devices on Australian Rules football players and other codes for a decade.

For coaches this data has been a boon as it’s allowed staff to monitor on field performance and tightly manage players’ health and fitness.

Professional sports in general have been early adopters of new technologies as a small increase in performance can have immediate and lucrative benefits on the field. Over the last thirty years clubs have adopted the latest in video and data technology to help coaches and players.

As the technology develops this adoption is accelerating, administrators are looking at placing tracking devices within the balls, goals and boundary lines to give even more information about what’s happening on the field.

Managing the data flow

The challenge for sports organisations, as with every other industry, is in managing all the data being generated.

In sports managing that data has a number of unique imperatives; gamblers getting access to sensitive data, broadcast rights holders wanting access to game statistics and stadium managers gathering their own data all raise challenges for administrators.

There’s also the question of who owns the data; the players themselves have a claim to their own personal performance data and there could potentially be conflicts when a competitor transfers between clubs.

As the sports industry explores the limits of what they can do with data, the world is changing for players, coaches, administrators and supporters.

Gilchrist’s observation that there’s a lot more to professional sports than just what happens on the field is going to become even more true as data science assumes an even greater role in the management of teams, clubs and stadiums.

Paul travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Cisco and SAP.