Kayak Expands App with Tools for Travellers

image001Online travel tech company Kayak has added two new tools to its app, ‘Hotel for Tonight’ and ‘Explore’, in response for increasing consumer demand for last minute hotel bookings.

Research by the firm has shown that 50 per cent of hotel bookings made on its app are booked within 48 hours of the hotel stay, compared to just 15 per cent of bookings made on tablet devices globally.

This change in consumer activity has led to Kayak expanding their app with a new functionality called ‘Hotel for Tonight’ which shows hotels in immediate proximity of the user, filtering them by star rating and reviews by other travellers so only quality accommodation is shown. The booking page is simplified, with pictures, prices, amenities and location all on a single page.

The Explore feature, also being added to the app, shows an overview of the cheapest flights on a map of the world, with a filter than can limit or extend results based on the user’s budget. Both functions have already been added to the Android version of the app, and will be rolling out to the iOS app in March.

“In today’s fast-paced world, we are increasingly seeing Brits are no longer pre-planning trips and are leaving hotel booking to the last minute,” said Loella Pehrsson, regional managing director for the UK, Ireland and the Nordics at Kayak. “While more and more of us are booking flights, car rentals and hotels on our smartphones, we are also wanting much more from an app than a place to book a holiday: we want a travel companion.

“As a result, our app now supports the user in every facet of their journey: from price comparisons and flight, hotel and rental car bookings, to mobile travel plans, real-time information about the flight status, airport maps and taxi assistants.”

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Google Posts Increased Profits but Disappoints Analysts

Google getrichquickGoogle has announced Q4 profits of $4.8bn (£3.2bn), a 41 per cent year-on-year increase, off the back of revenues of $18.1bn (up 15.3 per cent year-on-year), but still managed to disappoint analysts, who had been hoping for a figure of $18.46bn. Google put some of the shortfall down to the strength of the dollar, which it said had hit Q4 revenues to the tune of $616m.

Full-year profits came in at $14.4bn (only a few billion less than Apple made in the last quarter alone, but 11.8 per cent more than last year), off the back of revenues of $66bn, an 18.9 per cent year-on-year increase. Advertising accounted for 89.2 per cent of Q4 revenues, and 89.5 per cent of the whole-year total.
In an earnings call, Google also admitted that its recent decision to transfer work on Google Glass to its Nest division (read by most commentators as a shelving of the project), stemmed from a failure to meet internal targets.

According to eMarketer, Google accounted for 31.1 per cent of all digital ad spending worldwide in 2014. Its closest competitor, Facebook accounted for 7.8 per cent of all global digital ad revenues. The global digital ad market grew 20.5 per cent to $146.4bn in 2014, up from $121.5bn in 2013.

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1.2bn Smartphones Shipped in 2014

iphone-6Global smartphone shipments passed the 1bn mark for the first time in 2014, according to figures from Juniper Research.

Over 1.2bn smartphones were shipped during 2014, the analyst says, 375m in the final quarter. Samsung shipped an estimated 315m smartphones in 2014, accounting for 25 per cent of the total. However, the company suffered a 3 per cent quarter-on-quarter decline in Q4, when it shipped 76m handsets. Apple, on the other hand, boosted by the launch of the iPhone 6 and Plus, shipped 74.5m iPhones during the quarter, 90 per cent up on the previous quarter.

Lenovo-Motorola combined is estimated to have shipped over 90m smartphones in 2014, improving its market share to just over 7 per cent, while Microsoft shipped 10.5m Lumia handsets in Q4, driven by low-cost models. Huawei improved its market share year-on-year, shipping over 70m smartphones in 2014, with the Honor line of devices accounting for almost 28 per cent of the total.

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PubMatic Integrates with Kantar’s SRDS Media-planning Platform

kantar srdsSupply Side Platform (SSP) PubMatic has partnered with advertising and marketing information firm Kantar Media to make guaranteed advertising inventory from its portfolio of premium publishers and mobile app developers available in Kantar’s SRDS.com media planning platform, creating an automated guaranteed solution for media buyers. The partnership launches with 20 leading publishers selling through PubMatic on SRDS.com that have made their seasonal and topical inventory packages available to buyers.

The tie-up will enable media planners to use SRDS.com to discover, evaluate and connect with publishers offering digital advertising inventory programmatically, both through automated guaranteed platforms and private marketplaces.

SRDS.com is Kantar Media’s subscription-only media planning platform. It provides essential data on more than 125,000 media brands, including digital, B2B publications, consumer magazines, direct marketing, newspapers, out-of-home media, radio, TV/cable and more.

“PubMatic is leading the way in the automated guaranteed market by providing a solution that offers inventory from many premium publishers,” said Dina Srinivasan, SRDS managing director of emerging media at Kantar Media. “With PubMatic publisher inventory available on our platform, buyers can access packages for comparison and purchase. It also gives publishers the ability to expose their inventory packages to 15,000 media and marketing decision makers from hundreds of agencies, including the top four agency holding companies. Through this functionality, we are enhancing the ways in which the buyers and sellers of digital media connect.”

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Infographic: Video Overtakes Games as Most Popular Tablet Activity

Tablets are taking increasing place at the centre of our living rooms, with 57 per cent of tablet owners ranking watching video on them as their favourite activity, according to a new study by Futuresource Consulting.

The study also found that as online streaming services which can be watched on any device become increasingly popular, more and more people are dropping optional packages from pay-TV subscriptions, with 17 per cent of US subscribers having dropped movies in the last 12 months.

You can find these facts and more on the infographic below.

digital entertainment infographic

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Innovation Lab: The Biggest Ideas in Tech This Week

If you’ve been to one of Dot Media’s events, you’ll know that our Innovation Lab hosts companies presenting cutting-edge technology that’s poised to transform the market with groundbreaking ideas and solutions.

In that spirit, we’ve taken a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world’s most innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

Lexus’ Smart Billboards Know What You’re DrivingLexus_NX_Smart_Outdoor.medAs part of its ‘This is the New Lexus’ campaign for the NX Crossover model, the car manufacturer has worked with creative agency M&C Saatchi to deploy smart billboards at key high traffic sites across Australia that can identify the brand, model and colour of passing vehicles to target them with personalised messages.

The campaign aims for a playful tone, with the digital display delivering messages like “Hey white Audi driver, it’s time to Crossover. This is the New Lexus NX.” The format also tailors messages based on factors like time of day, weather and traffic conditions.

“It’s quite epic to have a 42 square metre billboard having a chat to you as you drive past,” said Ben Welsh, executive creative director at M&C Saatchi. “It was an ambitious idea that Lexus really went for, brilliantly brought to life by APN Outdoor and TMS.”

irish passport app and cardIreland Introducing Selfies on Passports

The Irish government is set to introduce an app that will enable citizens to take a selfie for an official passport-style ID card that will enable travel throughout Europe without the need for a full passport.

The app will enable users to enter personal details and take the photo for the ID card, and if it meets the necessary requirements (meaning no duck face or crazy accessories), the user will receive the official identification, which will be valid for five years.

The app will be launched in July of this year, and purchasing a card will cost 35 (£26). Like the driver’s licence app planned for use in Iowa, it represents governments becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of integrating mobile into official documents.

Forcite Alpine Smart Helmet Integrates Action Camera and Much More

As action cameras like the GoPro and Contour become increasingly popular, the question of the best way to mount them when taking part in extreme sports becomes more and more important. Australian startup Forcite have avoided this conundrum by placing the camera directly into its Alpine Smart Helmet.

As well as the 1080p camera which shoots at 120fps, the helmet will include GPS tracking, motion and impact sensors, wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, microphone and integrated speakers, and a lithium polymer battery to give the whole set up a six to eight hour life.

An accompanying app will enable wearers to review their footage, check their GPS tags and more. The helmet is set for release in winter 2015, just in time for all the snowboarders, skiers and snowmobiliers looking to record their thrills and spills.

armill wearableChristophe & Co Build Luxury Self-Charging Smart Bracelet

If you’ve got £100,000 burning a hole in your pocket and hate the idea of having to charge your wearable devices, the Armill smart bracelet by Christophe & Co is the perfect piece of tech for you.

Produced in collaboration with Italian design firm Pininfarina, best known for customising Ferraris, the Armill has a lightweight carbon fibre core accented with 18k gold, precious gems and custom engraving that every client can personalise to their own taste.

The device uses a similar mechanism to self-winding analogue watches, taking advantage of the movements of the wearing to power the battery. According to Christophe & Co, the Armill will keep running with a power reserve of at least a year.

Part of that is due to the lack of touchscreen, GPS, vibration or most other features associated with wearables. The Armill is intended to pair with a smartphone and act as a tool for wireless contactless payments and electronic ID, but those of you wavering on whether or not to splash out will be happy to know it also features a button which you can use to send alerts to your personal assistant’s phone, letting them know you require their presence.

Novalia Create Printed Decks for DJ QBert’s Album Cover

Printed tech experts Novalia have collaborated with DJ QBert to create the world’s first interactive DJ decks in an album cover, utilising Bluetooth MIDI decks and controls that connect to an iOS app to enable users to play, mix and more.

The cover includes two decks, a cross fader and a selection of sound effects buttons, incorporated into artwork by Morning Breath and printed onto a paper-thin electronic interface.

“We believe the future will look more like the past than the present, where beautiful old school things we love and are nostalgic about will not die as many have said,” said Dr Kate Stone, creative scientist at Novalia. “We hope to breathe life into things like books and album covers, keeping the creativity in physical products alive.”

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Detail-focused Shoppers Prefer Mobile Web to Apps

Woman clothes shopping fashion showroomingRetail mobile websites are seeing a resurgence as shoppers seeking a wealth of information prefer them over apps, which often offer a streamlined experience, a new report claims.

The report by Siteworx shows that 63 per cent of consumers are more likely to shop using a mobile web site rather than an app, a 7 per cent increase on last year’s figures, which the report claims is down to apps feeling too limited for many consumers who are using their smartphones to browse and explore ahead of purchasing.

Looking at what drives consumers to download retail apps, speed and special offers were key, with streamlined checkout processes and loyalty benefits ranking a little lower.

‘Showrooming’ continues to be a trend, but has decreased since last year, with the number of consumers using their phone to find a product at a lower price dropping from 39 per cent to 19 per cent. 37 per cent of shoppers checked reviews for products using the phones while shopping, the most popular use of a phone while in a store.

“This year’s data reveals a complex buyer journey whereby people are using multiple devices and multiple paths to purchase,” said Patricia Mejia, CMO of Siteworx. “Marketers have an opportunity to engage with customers and improve their mobile experiences by simplifying common tasks within apps and evaluating mobile in the context of their entire digital ecosystem.”

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Jay-Z Makes £37m Bid for Music Streaming Firm Aspiro

jay-zFirst it was Dr Dre’s Beats Music service, which was purchased by Apple for £3bn (£1.9bn). Now, Jay-Z is making a move into the streaming music business with a kr464m (£37m) bid for Swedish firm Aspiro, which operates the WiMP Music and Tidal services and apps.

Project Panther, a company owned by the rapper’s S. Carter Enterprises, has bid to buy the company outright, and while the deal is subject to the shareholders agreeing, Aspiro’s board of directors is unanimously recommending the sale.

Aspiro’s WiMP is available in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Poland and Germany, while its Tidal service, available in the UK and US since October last year, offers ‘higher fidelity’ streaming with superior sound quality to services like Spotify and Deezer. Aspiro also owns an enterprise-focused video content platform for publishers called RADR Music News.

As well as being one of the most recognisable stars of the music world, Jay-Z is an accomplished businessman with an estimated net worth of $520m, and interests in fashion, beauty, hospitality, sports and video games. If the deal for Aspiro goes through, no doubt many will be intrigued to see what his plans for the services are.

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Research Warns of the ‘Emotional Baggage’ Of Owning a Smartphone

Man on phone high streetPeople are growing increasingly emotionally attached to their smartphones, claims a study by researchers from Loughborough University and the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.

The team behind the paper surveyed 205 smartphone users between the ages of 16 and 64, from a range of countries including the UK, China, Canada, Peru and the USA. They found that people become emotionally dependent on their smartphone, or at least on the connectivity and functions that it facilitates.

The team suggest that the ease with which smartphones can be used, the need to keep them close, the networks they connect to and the time spent interacting with apps can all bring emotional baggage to ownership.

“Today it is considered the norm for people to repeatedly and distractedly check their phones, not for missed calls, but for the countless notifications that social sites, apps and other software spit out at them via that touchscreen,” said Dr Tom Page, one of the authors of the paper.

“In some circles – teenagers, journalists, business users and other professionals – it is even considered something of a social faux pas, a sign of being inept not to have a constant connection with the outside world via one’s smart phone regardless of the circumstances one finds oneself at any given time.”

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Facebook Tests Beacon Integration with ‘Place Tips’

placetips for facebookFacebook is testing a new service called ‘Place Tips’ which will deliver information on shops and landmarks to nearby users by integrating Bluetooth beacons, GPS signals, wi-fi and cellphone signals.

The service will initially be tested in New York, with beacons placed in eight stores including the Strand Book Store, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, as well as landmarks including the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and the Statue of Liberty.

Place Tips will use information from the locations’ existing Facebook pages and place it above the News Feed on users’ smartphones. Initially the service will be free to businesses, but Facebook has said it could one day sell ads tied to the information, making advertising even more personalised and relevant.

According to Facebook, interacting with Place Tips will not post on Facebook or reveal where users are to their friends or the public, but will include pictures or posts friends have shared while at the same location.

The new functionality places Facebook into competition with location-based services like Foursquare and Yelp, which have similar features based around other users’ reviews or comments on locations.

Whether Facebook plans to install beacons in cities across the world, which would no doubt be an expensive initiative, will likely depend on how successful the trial of Place Tips proves to be, and if the company feels it can monetise it successfully.

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