February 28, 2014

Weekly Roundup: Messaging app wars, next-gen cybersecurity and ‘white hat’ hackers

Posted by: in North America

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-A Pew Research Internet Project report takes stock of the Web at 25 (unsurprising overall verdict: It’s been good for society and very good for individual consumers).

-BBC examines the wearable technology worn by attendees of the Mobile World Congress.

-The New York Times argues that Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp is just the start of the messaging app wars.

-In Ad Age, our own Marian Berelowitz takes a look at how messenger apps are bringing brands fresh access to consumers.

-The FT examines trends around women and the workplace in a special report.

-MediaPost explains how women have come to dominate the mobile gaming space.

-The FT looks at ways in which U.S. retailers are “smartening up” the shopping experiences with tracker beacons that communicate with customers’ phones.

-Fast Company reports on a group of venture capitalists and engineers, with some big-name backers, who are betting that they can run an insurance company like an Internet startup, a potential sign of things to come post-Obamacare.

-The Wall Street Journal reports on how chewing gum makers are in a turf battle for Chinese chewers—whose numbers grew by double digits last year.

-Quartz looks at why Americans have been falling out of love with orange juice.

-The New York Times reports that a federal survey has found that the obesity rate for young children plummeted 43 percent over the past 10 years.

-The FT releases a special report on the ways in which telecom companies are shaping up for an “always-on” world.

-The Wall Street Journal reports on the ways Silicon Valley is jumping into next-generation cybersecurity.

-The FT reports on Boeing’s new “self-destruct” mobile phone that will delete all its call and message data if an unauthorized attempt is made to crack it open.

-The Economist explores the trend of law-abiding “white hat” hackers, who help companies find and repair their vulnerabilities to cyber-criminals.

-WNYC explains why “the future of texting is all about dancing wombats” thanks to stickers, emojis and a visually oriented culture.

-An opinion piece in Wired asks whether today’s apps are outsourcing humanity and turning us into sociopaths.

-Digiday looks at the rise of Upworthy clones looking to replicate the viral publisher’s success.

-The Guardian looks at the rise of “sad-food” photography on social media, such as the Dimly Lit Meals Tumblr feed.

-The New York Times ponders the rise of the ugly selfie.

-Nielsen reports on how smartphones are changing consumers’ daily routines around the world.

-The Economist takes a graphic look at U.S. housing prices and suggests the country may be in the midst of another housing bubble.

-A survey conducted by America Saves finds that only one in three Americans is living within their means and saving enough for their long-term financial future.

-According to The New York Times, the U.S. is at a “pivotal point” as more states consider legalizing medical or recreational marijuana.

-The Guardian reports on the growing number of computer-generated fake papers—“gobbledegook”—that are being submitted and even accepted at academic conferences.

-The New York Times Magazine delves into the work of scientists who are working to bring back extinct animals—and the possible dangers of that work.

-The Economist reports that a new way to double the efficiency of solar cells is about to go mainstream.

-The Wall Street Journal predicts that pricey hydrogen cars will soon challenge electric, with companies planning to lease hydrogen-cell-powered in California and several European countries by the end of next year.

-The New York Times profiles the founder of a startup that creates computer games designed to teach players social-emotional learning.

-The Wall Street Journal examines the ways in which brands are encouraging mother-daughter shopping with coupons and social platforms.

-Autoweek highlights a new service in development from Volvo that allows delivery companies to place items directly into consumers’ cars.

-TechCrunch reports that Disney has launched a new iOS app called Disney Movies Anywhere that will let users stream Disney, Pixar and Marvel movies; unusually for the industry, the app is integrated into, not competing with, iTunes.

-The Wall Street Journal takes at look at the South Korean app Kakao, which has 133 million users and is pushing the boundaries of what an app can do, including messaging, gaming and celebrity friending.

-The Wire reports on Amtrak’s plan to give free long-trip tickets to writers in residence (and pick up some good PR along the way).

-Bloomberg Businessweek looks at the growing clout of gay gamers, or “gaymers.”

-Our own Ann Mack spoke to Elle Canada about the most exciting innovations in beauty.

-The FT explains that with chat apps cutting into their revenues, many mobile operators are turning to machine-to-machine communication for new growth.

-Quartz asserts that nostalgia is “the emotion of the Internet.”

-The Daily Mail reports on new research into the ways children interact with toys and, increasingly, tablets.

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New Trend Report: The Future of Payments & Currency

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Things to Watch

  • Snapcash
    November 19, 2014 | 4:54 pm


    Disruption in the payments sphere is opening the way for social media brands to act as intermediaries between consumers and their money, as we note in our report on payments and currency. Facebook is said to be planning a P2P payments feature for Messenger, South Korea’s KakaoTalk announced a PayPal-like service in September, and Line is creating a mobile service that will let users make on- and offline purchases. Now, Snapchat is partnering with Square to enable payments between users, as explained in this video’s energetic retro musical number.

    After users (U.S. only and 18-plus only) enter debit card info, they simply send a cash amount within a text. While Snapchat’s recent data breaches may give some users pause, the P2P payments space is a smart place to be as young consumers get accustomed to services like Venmo that make it easy and even fun to pay friends. —Marian Berelowitz

  • Payment in a heartbeat
    November 11, 2014 | 5:26 pm

    Nymi-paywith

    Our recent report on the future of payments and currency spotlights the rise of biometric payments—using a unique physical characteristic to authenticate transactions—which promise to greatly improve security and help remove friction. So far we’ve seen systems that rely on fingerprints (e.g., Apple Pay) and the palm’s unique vein payment (see Quixter). Now, the startup Bionym is exploring ways to harness its Nymi wristband, which uses the wearer’s unique cardiac rhythm as authentication, for payments.

    Bionym is linking with MasterCard and the Royal Bank of Canada for a test in which an NFC chip in the wristband enables contactless payments. The company, which is looking to license its technology into other wearables, recently raised $14 million in a Series A funding round and has racked up 10,000 preorders for the Nymi. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nymi

  • Vegetable co-stars
    November 4, 2014 | 6:31 pm

    veggies_4

    “Vegetable co-stars” is one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2014—the idea that veggies are gaining a higher profile on restaurant menus—and more star chefs are indeed embracing this trend. José Andrés and his ThinkFood restaurant group plan to open Beefsteak (as in tomatoes), a vegetable-focused fast casual eatery in Washington, D.C., next year. The Washington Post also points to chef Roy Choi’s new greenhouse-like Commissary in L.A., which says it serves “good food and drink based around plants as the foundation.”

    “Chefs around the country, and the globe, are pushing meat from the center of the plate—and sometimes off it altogether,” notes The Wall Street Journal, citing examples like Alain Ducasse revamping his menu at the posh Plaza Athénée in Paris. Catering to a growing group of diners looking to eat less meat, vegetable-heavy dishes also offer new opportunities for creativity. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Plaza Athénée

  • Xiaomi zooms ahead
    October 30, 2014 | 4:44 pm

    Xiaomi, which we included on our 100 Things to Watch in 2014 list, is now the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. The young company has seen triple-digit year-over-year growth in smartphone shipments, per IDC, surging ahead of both LG and Lenovo. Often described as the “Apple of China,” Xiaomi released its first phone just three years ago; its latest, Mi4, is an iPhone clone that runs on a modified version of Android.

    The company is expanding beyond China into India and Singapore, and planning to enter a slew of other growth markets, including Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. For more on whether Chinese brands can succeed on the world stage, see our report Remaking “Made in China.”Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Xiaomi

     

  • Money & messaging apps
    October 23, 2014 | 11:13 am

    LINE_icon02

    Given the primary function of mobile messaging apps and their technical capabilities, money transfer and payments are an alluring proposition, as outlined in our new report on payments and currency. Snapchat filed two trademarks in July that indicate a potential move into peer-to-peer payments. The recently announced Line Pay will let Line users make purchases through their Line accounts, send funds to each other, and split costs using a “Dutch Pay” feature. Line Pay will launch in Japan and, as Tech in Asia reports, serve as “an entrance to new industries” thanks to integration with the new Line Taxi service and Line Wow, for food delivery. In South Korea, KakaoTalk launched the PayPal-like Kakao Pay in September, and a remittance service, Bank Wallet Kakao, is in the works. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Line

  • The #TimsDark Experiment
    October 14, 2014 | 3:46 pm

    To entice customers into tasting its new dark roast, Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons, with the help of JWT Canada, created a surprise immersive experience. A store in Quebec was wrapped in material that blocked all light from the outdoors. Patrons entered warily and, once inside, heard a staff member (who was wearing night vision goggles) guiding them through the dark. At the counter, customers were handed a cup of the dark roast—the brand’s first new blend in 50 years—with the darkness heightening their sense of taste. When the lights came on, the patrons saw they were on camera.

    The #TimsDark Experiment has garnered YouTube views and some press attention, and shows how creatively imagined immersive experiences—one of our 10 Trends for 2014—can encourage consumers to engage with a brand.

  • Bitcoin bank Circle
    October 7, 2014 | 4:40 pm

    Circle

    In late September, the startup Circle launched a web app that effectively functions as a bitcoin bank. Using a debit card or bank account, users transfer funds to Circle, which converts the money to bitcoin at no fee. Circle also insures this money at no cost. The company aims to make bitcoin more accessible via consumer-friendly design and is aiming to take on traditional banks and companies like PayPal, as The Guardian reports. Next up: Android and iOS Circle apps.

    Circle co-founder Jeremy Allaire gave a keynote at the Inside Bitcoins conference in April, citing the need for a “killer app” to bring bitcoin into the mainstream. Now Circle seems to be taking the lead, and others are sure to follow. —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: Circle

  • High-tech tasting
    October 2, 2014 | 6:00 pm

    Nanosensor

    Thailand got a lot of buzz this week with an innovative idea: a taste-tester robot, or electronic tongue, that’s programmed to distinguish authentic Thai dishes from wanna-be’s. Artificial tongues aren’t new but have been evolving. Most recently, Danish researchers developed a nanosensor that mimics “what happens in your mouth when you drink wine,” enabling winemakers to control astringency very early on. In Spain, researchers created a beer-tasting robot that can distinguish between varieties of brew.

    Meanwhile, advanced technology can also create recipes: IBM has touted how Watson, its “cognitive computing system,” can analyze the components of ingredients to come up with novel ideas for dishes; find a few of them here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Aarhus Universitet

  • Marriage gets marginalized
    September 25, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    One of our 10 Trends for 2012 was Marriage Optional: More people around the world are living together or remaining solo instead of marrying. Pew reports this week that 1 in 5 Americans age 25 and up have never married, a fundamental shift since 1960, when only about 1 in 10 could say the same. Millennials are especially ambivalent: Two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Pew agree that “society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children” vs. 53 percent of the next generation up (age 30 to 49).

    Europe is seeing a similar move away from marriage, driven by “austerity, generational crisis and apathy towards the institution,” notes The Guardian. It says weddings are at historical lows in some nations; last year Italy recorded the fewest since World War I. For a look at how changing marriage patterns are affecting families, see our report Meet the New Family. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: JD Hancock

     

  • Room-sharing service Breather
    September 16, 2014 | 3:30 pm

    Breather

    Described as the “Zipcar for rooms,” Breather is an app that enables access to “beautiful, practical spaces” that can be rented anywhere from 30 minutes to a whole day. While sharing-economy players like LiquidSpace and PivotDesk offer work and meeting spaces, Breather positions its rooms as homey spots that can serve a range of purposes (though not, the founder assures, seedy ones). Rooms include the basics—a desk, a couch, Wi-Fi—as well as some fun touches like a candy jar. Lockitron technology lets users unlock doors with their mobile phones. Breather is available in New York, Montreal and San Francisco, and recently raised $6.5 million in venture capital, citing plans to “own every major market in America.” —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: Breather

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