Twenty20 Image Service Celebrates Funding Round by Leaving Beta

twenty20 comboCrowdsourced imagery service Twenty20 has launched out of beta testing with the announcement that it has secured $8m (£5.2m) in investment from a Series A funding round led by venture capital firm Canaan Partners.

Twenty20 aims to connect amateur and semi-professional photographers with creative professionals, creating a mobile-oriented crowdsourced collection of stock imagery that enables businesses to source from a supply of authentic and legal user-generated content.

The service has already seen massive growth while still in beta, with 45m photos from over 250,000 photographers across 154 countries. The company plans on using the funding secured to partner with artistic and creative influencers who can aid the firm in crafting realistic, fresh marketing, advertising and social campaigns for a variety of brands.

“We’re in a new era of constant curation and distribution that must feel authentic and connect with consumers,” said Maha Ibrahim, general partner at Canaan Partners. “Meanwhile, user-generated content is the most authentic creative in the world and has been proven to connect with consumers. Companies must keep up with this shift, or face becoming irrelevant.”

Images by mobile photographers using the Twenty20 platform have already been used in campaigns by brands including West Elm, Washio and The Audience. In addition to Canaan Partners, the Series A funding round also saw investment by First Round Capital, Bullpen Capital and VersionOne Ventures.

“Twenty20 is here to harness the power of a mobile photo and provide a bigger stage to showcase everyday talent,” said Matt Munson, founder and CEO of Twenty20. “Creative brands and agencies are looking for original image content from real people, creating a more impactful and sincere relationship with their customers.

“We are excited to use this funding round to grow Twenty20 and develop key partnerships to continue to provide the most authentic creative in the world.”

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Google pays out $25m for the Entire ‘.app’ Domain

Amazon Apps L7Google has paid out $25m (£16.2m) in order to secure rights to the ‘.app’ top-level web domain after it was placed up for auction by ICANN, the organisation that controls the world’s domain names.

In 2008, ICANN decided to expand on the overall number of generic TLDs available to websites, and has been gradually auctioning off the domains since June 2014. Google applied for multiple top-level domains (TLDs) in 2012, including .docs, .android, .free, .foo and .app.

The process of obtaining a TLD is expensive and competitive. Dot Tech LLC spent $6.7m lasy year to secure the .tech domain, while Amazon bought .buy for $5m and .spot for $2.2m in autumn last year.

Google’s $25m payout for the .app domain is the highest any company has paid for a single domain so far. It has also bought up .how, .soy and .meme, all of which people can already purchase through its own domain registry, with plan to add .dad, .here, .eat and .new soon.

While Google hasn’t announced any specific plans for the .app domain, it would certainly give the search giant a creative way to promote the apps available in its Play Store as search increasingly shifts to mobile.

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Depressed? There’s an App for That

Moodtraces realScientists from the University of Birmingham have developed an app that can measure the activity patterns of patients with depression and provide the necessary support.

MoodTraces is an Android app designed to monitor and evaluate a person’s mood and activities in real-time, allowing healthcare officers, doctors and charity workers to intervene when behaviours indicate a worsening depressive state.
The app is designed to allow academics and clinicians to investigate how mobile technology can be used to collect and analyse data to better understand how mental health problems affect the daily routine and behaviour of sufferers.

A series of multiple choice questions asks the user about the occurrence of depressive symptoms, while software tracks their current location, activity and app usage. If the data collected correlates with key indicators of a worsening mental state, health and charity workers are able to intervene through the mobile phone itself or more traditional methods such as a telephone call, or arranging to meet the patient in person.

The information gathered will help build a system to monitor the individual over time and understand any changes which would correlate with worsening depression and to develop a programme of care which can be given through mobile technology.

According to a recent study, one in 10 employees in the United Kingdom has taken time off work because of depressive symptoms. Dr Mirco Musolesi, a Reader in Networked Systems and Data Science at the University of Birmingham’s School of Computer Science, who developed the app said: “The goal is to build an application that is completely unobtrusive and privacy-preserving, which will be of real help for people affected by depression. The application will allow health officers, doctors, and charity workers to spot cases that need immediate consideration and prioritise them.”

The data collected through MoodTraces will help researchers design innovative apps which could pave the way for real-time healthcare provision. The researchers are currently looking for participants who are willing to download the MoodTraces app. They are looking for people who are affected by clinical depression, and also members of the general public, in order to build a large-scale database for understanding the correlation between mobility patterns, activities and the mood of the general population.

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Factual Places Location Segmenting Tools in Marketers’ Hands

factual tailored location segmentsLocation platform Factual has launched the latest enhancement to its Geopulse Audience tool, Tailored Location Segments, which allows marketers to create completely custom audience segments based on any variety of factors.

The company analyses users’ historical location data and then enables marketers to use it in a variety of ways, combining other elements like brand affinity, demographic and behavioural data for superior targeting.

With Tailored Location Segments, the company moves away from the traditional model of providing advertisers with pre-defined audiences in a picklist and instead enables marketers to craft their targeting to the best fit for their ideal campaign.

“In advertising, especially as we move towards programmatic, there’s a tension between giving people power and flexibility with data, and letting them do it in a self-serve manner,” said Vikas Gupta, director of operations at Factual. “We want to eliminate that split, and let advertisers build the audience that makes the most sense for them.”

Factual boasts high quality place data, with information on over 65m locations in 50 countries available, and the Tailored Location Segments tool will be available to use in both programmatic and direct sales environments through the firm’s media partners, which include InMobi and StrikeAd.

“The level of customisation available through Factual’s Tailored Location Segments is what really stands out from the other location based audience offering in the marketplace,” said Alex Rahaman, CEO of StrikeAd. “Marketers are now truly able to build the audience they want to reach, based on physical real world consumer behaviours.”

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Innovation Lab: The Biggest Ideas in Tech This Week

At Mobile Marketing we’re proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions; the Startup Showcase at our Mobile Marketing Summits gives a platform to those companies, and brings audiences one step closer to ideas and developments that are breaking new ground in the market.

In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes 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.

Who Needs A Nurse When You Have a Bear-faced Robot?robear rikenKids and adults alike have been enjoying Big Hero Six, the new Disney film featuring an inflatable robotic healthcare assistant called Baymax. And while it may not be inflatable (or moonlight as a superhero), it turns out the idea of a robotic nurse is closer than you may think.

As Japan faces a falling birth rate and rapidly aging population, the issue of healthcare and assistance for the elderly is an increasingly important one. Robear, developed by Riken, is the latest in a line of prototype robots aimed at helping older people with day to day tasks.

At 308 pounds, the Robear is strong and agile enough to lift patients out of bed and into a wheelchair, or assist them in getting from a sitting position to a standing one, using powerful actuators to “exert force in a gentle way”.

It is hoped it can take this strenuous task, which is carried out an average of 40 times a day in many care homes, away from human healthcare personnel, freeing them to help patients in other ways and removing a major cause of lower back pain in care-givers.

“We really hope that this robot will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on care-givers today,” said Toshiharu Mukai, leader of the Robot Sensor Systems Research Team at Riken. “We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle care to elderly people.”

Sesame Smartlock Lets Your Open Doors With a Secret Knock

Currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, the Sesame smartlock by Candy House aims to improve on many of its competitors with easier installation and the ability to recognise an individual’s knock to let them through a door.

The Sesame works with almost every deadbolt available in the US, Canada and Australia thanks to five patented self-adjusting mechanisms, and can be installed onto doors in a matter of seconds, with no tools required.

As well as enabling users to lock and unlock the door using an accompanying app, the Sesame keeps records of when it is activated, and can send notifications letting you know when someone enters your property.

Perhaps most impressive though, is the app’s voice control features, which enable users to unlock their door simply by knocking on their phone in their pocket, or even by having the lock recognise they are approaching, and listen out for a distinctive knock pattern.

davek alert bluetooth umbrellaSay Goodbye to Lost Umbrellas with Bluetooth Brolly

We’ve all been in the situation of taking an umbrella somewhere when its raining only to forget it there when the clouds clear, or even worse leaving your umbrella on a train only to emerge from a station to find it raining cats and dogs.

The Alert by umbrella manufacturer Davek aims to end those moments with built-in Bluetooth hardware that reminds your phone when you have left your umbrella behind, or even alerts you when the weather forecast predicts rain.

With a frame made from a combination of steel, aircraft-grade aluminium and fiberglass, the umbrella is solidly engineered and designed to last, which is good because it may well signal an end to lost umbrellas.

booty drumBooty Drum Wearable Turns Twerks into Tunes

Danish audio equipment manufacturers Aiaiai and Dutch design firm Owow have teamed up with Portuguese DJ Branko and Youtube star TwerkQueen Louise to create a wearable that translates a user’s booty shaking into music.

The Booty Drum uses accelerometers to measure the wearer’s movements, assigning different beats and samples to individual moves, enabling the dancer to collaborate with the music they are dancing to.

“As every single movement sends out a unique set of values, the dancer is able to play around with sounds,” said a spokesperson from Owow. The track created by the collaboration has been released on Soundcloud, so feel free to shake your own booty along to it.

Aerodrums Provide a Quiet, Portable Alternative for Percussionists

Keen drummers often find their practice limited by the fact it is very difficult to drum quietly, and a drumkit is not the most easily movable piece of musical equipment. Aerodrums solves these issues with a digital drumkit based off musicians’ movements.

Using a high-speed camera connected to a user’s computer, the system tracks light sensitive panels on the drumsticks and attached to users’ feet to accurately recreate the sounds being played.

The Aerodrums enable drummers to practice their technique on the go and in limited space, while also letting them control the volume or even plug in headphones to prevent any noise complaints. Drummers can even record their sessions straight into a digital audio workstation using MIDI outputs.

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Google Brings Search Ads to the Play Store

google play store adsWith its search advertising revenue growth slowing, many investors and analysts have been questioning whether Google will be able to maintain its dominance in the mobile age. Google seems to have addressed those concerns by announcing that it will be bringing app search ads to the Google Play Store, opening up a whole new stream of revenue.

The company is set to begin testing search ads from a select group of advertisers on a limited set of users in the next few weeks. Once the test has run for several months and Google is able to analyse the results and feedback it has received, it will decide whether to expand the plan to all users.

Search ads will mean that users who search the Google Play store for apps may find that the top result is a sponsored suggestion that a developer has paid for, similar to how Google’s search ads appear using its internet search engine.

The introduction of ads could mean big changes for a number of areas. As well as opening up a whole new area of revenue for Google, it could stratify the Play Store ecosystem, enabling developers with capital to invest in search ads to dominate those who can’t.

It will also impact the many businesses that currently offer app store optimisation for developers – after all, why pay to improve your search engine standing when you can just pay to be put to the top anyway?

“Google has provided best practices to enhance app discovery and engagement, as well as app promotion tools to get the most out of search and display advertising for developers,” said Michael Siliski, product management director for Google Play. “Search ads on Google Play will enable developers to drive more awareness of their apps and provide consumers new way to discover apps that they otherwise might have missed.”

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Infographic: Understanding Mobile Viewability

Viewability is an increasingly hot topic in the world of digital advertising, especially in mobile where ads are often requested, analysed, bid on, approved, served and interacted with in under half a second.

Mobile advertising startup The Mobile Majority aims to clear up some of the myths surrounding viewability in mobile ads, and explain how placement, delivery and advertiser requirements can all help ensure the ads you are paying for are actually seen by your audience.

You can find an overview on what viewability means, and how you can improve it in your ads, in the infographic below.


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EE Trials Europe’s Fastest Mobile Speeds at Wembley

EE-SpeedtestMobile network EE has kicked off trials of its 4G+ network at Wembley Stadium, demonstrating mobile speeds in excess of 400Mbps as part of its sponsorship of the iconic stadium.

4G+ is set to be switched on for fan use at Wembley Stadium in March, doubling the mobile data capacity and enabling stunning audio-visual experiences at gigs as part of EE’s technical program that aims to make Wembley the most connected stadium in the world.

The 4G+ launch comes from EE’s work with Qualcomm and Huawei, and makes use of more of the spectrum to provide better speed and increased capacity, which prove essential for delivering mobile connectivity to large crowds.

“We have established ourselves as the most advanced and innovative network in Europe, and we will continue to stay ahead of the curve, in terms of both speed and capacity,” said Fotis Karonis, CTO for EE. “Smarter devices with more data intensive video and audio demands are launching all the time, and it’s trials like these at Wembley Stadium that allow us to ensure EE customers continue to get the very best experiences from their mobile network now and in the future.

“This is a showcase of what a truly amazing 4G network can do, and is a big step in our ambition to make Wembley Stadium the most connected stadium in the world.”

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Researchers Achieve Record Speed with 5G Connection

4G Transmitter Antenna Broadcast TowerResearchers at the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) have managed to achieve record-breaking data connection speeds during tests of the next generation of mobile technology.

Tests at the Centre were able to achieve one terabit per second download speeds, around 65,000 times faster than the average 4G connection, and far in excess of the previous best achieved in tests.

Previously, Samsung were able to transmit data at 7.5 gigabits per second, less than 1 per cent of the speeds the Surrey team managed. At 1Tbps, users could download files 100 times larger than an average feature film in around three seconds.

5G is still a considerable way from public deployment: Ofcom has said it may be available by 2020, and the head of the 5GIC has said the technology should be ready to demonstrate to the public by 2018.

According to news site V3, the 1Tbps speed is unlikely to be achievable outside of laboratories, but public 5G could reach speeds of around 50Gbps. The main drivers for 5G are actually latency and reliability, as it will have to serve as the standard for at least 20 years.

“An important aspect of 5G is how it will support applications in the future,” said Professor Rahim Tafazolli, director of the 5GIC. “We don’t know what applications will be in use by 2020, or 2030 or 2040 for that matter, but we know they will be highly sensitive to latency.

“We need to bring end-to-end latency down to below one millisecond so that it can enable new technologies and applications that would just not be possible with 4G.”

When it does arrive, 5G is likely to spark another revolution in Internet of Things technology, enabling data to be transmitted wirelessly at speeds currently only possible using fibre-optic technology.

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More Bad News for BlackBerry as UK Users Drops Below 1m

blackberry classicDespite efforts to regain their crown as the favoured operating system of enterprise users, BlackBerry has seen its user base plummet below 1m as more and more consumers switch to Android and iOS.

According to eMarketer‘s latest forecast of mobile phone usage in the UK, the troubled smartphone maker now has as few as 700,000 users in the UK, with that number expected to drop to just 400,000 by 2017.

Meanwhile, Android continues to dominate the market, with 21.5m users, an increase of 9.6 per cent on last year, while the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has seen Apple’s iOS rise 14 per cent on 2014’s figure to 12.3m. Even Windows Phone, while considerably smaller than the two main operating systems, has seen decent growth, increasing by 15.9 per cent year-on-year to 3.3m.

Growth has been slowing for all operating systems, and will continue to do so as smartphone penetration increases. Currently, 38.3m Brits own a smartphone, representing 58.7 per cent of the population and 73.6 per cent of all mobile phone users.

This figure has increased 9 per cent on the previous year, but like the figures for individual operating systems, this is continue to slow, with growth of only 2.5 per cent expected by 2019, when 46.8m will own smartphones. By then, BlackBerry users are expected to have fallen below users of other operating systems.

“BlackBerry’s fall from grace has been spectacular, but these latest figures show that even its previously loyal core seems to be leaving in droves,” said Bill Fisher, UK analyst at eMarketer. “Its market share has been decimated by Android and iOS, and more recently by Windows Phone, which is slowly gaining a foothold in the UK market.

“As these operating systems continue to see growth in their market shares, it’s likely we’ll see BlackBerry drop off the map completely, leaving us with just three main players in the UK market.”

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