Alphabet’s Smart Home Firm Nest is Underperforming

Nest-Connected-Thermostat-M2M-Internet-of-Things.jpg
Alphabet-owned Internet of Things firm Nest is performing below the company’s expectations, despite bringing in around $340m in sales last year through sales of its connected thermostats, security cameras and smoke alarms.

According to Re/code, who cited three people with knowledge of the matter, executives within Google’s holding company Alphabet expected more from the startup when it purchased the company in 2014 for $3.2bn (£2.2bn), and following the restructuring that created Alphabet, Nest is under more pressure and scrutiny than ever.

2016 could prove a crucial year for the IoT firm, as part of the deal it negotiated with Google in 2013 secured an fixed operating budget up until the end of 2015 for the startup, in return for ensuring that key executives and engineers remained following the sale to Google.

With that period coming to an end, Nest could face having its budget slashed by higher-ups in Alphabet if they feel it is not worth the continuing investment. According to several sources, the initial annual budget was $500m, which is significantly more than the firm brought it last year.

In addition, Nest has failed to hit internal sales targets by itself, only meeting them after revenues from acquired firm Dropcam were added in. The Dropcam acquisition, which Nest made for $555m in mid-2014, has not gone smoothly either, with two founders leaving and tensions between former CEO Greg Duffy and Nest’s chief executive Tony Fadell.

All in all, faced with potentially shrinking budgets and fleeing staffers, 2016 could be a make-or-break year for Nest.

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Mobile Banking On The Rise in US

us banking apps43 per cent of US adults with mobile phones and bank accounts now make use of mobile banking, according to new figures from the US Federal Reserve released today.

That figure, based on data from November 2015, is a four per cent increase year-on-year, and is driven by increasing smartphone adoption and the convenience of mobile financial services, according to the report authors.

The most common mobile banking interaction was checking account balances or recent transactions, followed by transferring money between accounts. Over half of mobile banking users have received alerts from their financial institutions through SMS, email or push notifications.

Not only is mobile banking growing in adoption, it is being embraced by the public as a central component of their financial lifestyle. Among mobile banking users with smartphones, 54 per cent cited mobile as one of the three most important ways they interact with their bank, above those who cited interacting with a staff member at a branch.

Use of mobile payments continues to be less common than mobile banking, with 28 per cent of smartphone users having made a mobile payment in the previous 12 months. Paying bills through mobile was the most common form of mobile payment, followed by online orders and in-store purchases.

Convenience or simply getting a new smartphone were cited as the two main reasons for adopting mobile banking and mobile payments, while concerns over security or a stated preference for other methods are the two main hurdles.

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Ad Blocking Update

AdBlockWith so much going on in the ad blocking space, we thought it would make sense to update you on the latest developments every couple of weeks or so, not all of which merit a story in their own right, but which help you see the bigger picture.

In mid-March, Enders Analysis released a report saying that up to 79 per cent of data downloaded on mobiles relates to ads. The study found that between 6 and 68 per cent of data downloaded to mobiles came from JavaScript, which is used for both editorial and advertising, and concluded that ads could account for around half of the data used by people reading articles on their smartphones. With figures like those, it’s perhaps no surprise that ad blocker usage is on the increase.

Meanwhile in France last week, a group of group of publishers launched a week-long trial aimed at curbing the use of ad blockers, spurred on by trade body Geste, which represents online businesses. RTE, Le Monde, Le Parisien, Le Figaro and Deezer were among those involved, but publishers were left to their own volition in terms of how heavy they wanted to get with the ad blockers.

Sports daily L’Equipe and tabloid daily Le Parisien were among those taking a hard-line approach. L’Equipe displayed a message informing readers that they must disable their ad blocker in order to access its content, while Le Parisien offered readers the choice of whitelisting the site (to enable ads), or signing up to a €1-per-month ad-free version of the site for three months.

Staying in Europe, ad blocking firm Adblock Plus’ was celebrating in Germany yesterday after winning its latest lawsuit against German paper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. A court in Munich ruled that it is legal for users to block ads and that Adblock Plus’s Acceptable Ads initiative is not a detriment for publishers but rather a potential benefit to them.

The court said that there is no “contract” between publishers under which users have somehow “agreed” to view all the ads a publisher serves. And since no such contract exists. the court said, users have the right to block those or any ads. Additionally, the judge ruled that by offering publishers a way to serve ads that ad blocking users will accept, the Acceptable Ad initiative provides them an avenue to monetize their content, and therefore is favourable, not disadvantageous, to them. This was the ad blocking firm’s fifth straight lawsuit victory in Germany, following previous triumphs over Axel Springer, RTL Interactive, ProSieben/Sat1 and Zeit/Handelsblatt.

Finally, on the first day of its Build developer conference yesterday, Microsoft announced that its replacement for the Internet Explorer desktop browser, Edge browser will have ad blocking capabilities built in.

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Microsoft Puts Focus on Cortana and Skype Bots at Build Conference

Microsoft Build
Microsoft is currently holding its 2016 Build developer conference, and the big theme of the first day – in the form of the Cortana Intelligence Suite and Skype Bot Platform – is artificial intelligence.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he expects AI to have “as profound an impact as previous shifts we’ve had,” referring to developments like web browsers and mobile touchscreens.

Formerly known as the Cortana Analytics Suite, the Cortana Intelligence Suite enables developers to create apps that make use of machine learning and bots that can interact with real people in ‘personalised, intelligent ways’.

The platform is gaining Microsoft Cognitive Services, a collection of intelligence APIs that allows systems to see, hear, speak using natural methods of communication, and the Microsoft Bot Framework, which can be used on a wide variety of platforms, including SMS, Office, Slack and the web.

To illustrate the power of these tools, Microsoft demonstrated Seeing AI, a research project that’s being developed to help people who are blind or visually impaired understand what’s around them.

The Skype Bot Platform includes an SDK, API and workflows for building chatbots that can communicate via text, voice and even video, using interactive 3D animated characters. Microsoft is also launching a new Skype mobile and desktop client for users so that experience these bots.

“As an industry, we are on the cusp of a new frontier that pairs the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence,” said Nadella. “At Microsoft, we call this ‘conversations as a platform’, and it builds on and extends the power of the Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Windows platforms to empower developers everywhere.”

It’s not the most fortuitous bit of timing for on Microsoft’s part, though, given the reception to ‘Tay’, the Twitter chatbot the company launched last week but quickly had to take down after it started tweeting racist and sexual content, before making made an inadvertent brief return during which it made comments about taking drugs.

Also at Build, Microsoft announced the Anniversary Update for Windows 10, the highlights of which are Microsoft Ink, a drawing and writing service, and improvements to Cortana – naturally – including the ability to trigger while a device is locked, without requiring the user to log in.

Finally, the developer edition of Microsoft’s HoloLens VR/AR platform, which was first announced last year, began shipping its first units to devs, and Microsoft showed off use cases at NASA and Case Western Reserve University.

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Google Accelerates Car Buying from Search with Automotive Ads

Google Auto Ads

Google has launched ‘Model Automotive ads’, a mobile search ad format for auto manufacturers in the US.

The ads will be served up to anyone who searches for the name of the model being advertised. The format aims to provide users with a showroom-like experience with a carousel of high-quality images of a car’s exterior and interior, along with information on features, all within the search results.

From there, they can be directed to the advertiser’s site to customise and order the car via a ‘Build’ button, or get Google Maps directions to the nearest dealership via ‘Dealers’.

Google says the format is based on its own research, which shows that viewing images is the single most common mobile action when shopping for a vehicle. The search engine has seen a 37 per cent year-on-year increase in searches for “pictures of [name of automotive brand]”, 80 per cent of which come from mobile.

 

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Tidal Lands 3m Members in First Year

Tidal Kanye West PabloA year on from its star-studded launch, music streaming service Tidal has ‘amassed 3m members across 46 countries worldwide’.

That’s the word direct from the company, but it’s unclear whether all 3m are currently active users or have just been a member at some point in the past 12 months – nor how many of them are paying rather than using a free trial.

Billboard reports that 45 per cent of those users are signed up to the more expensive ‘HiFi’ subscription, though as this tier also offers a 30-day free trial, that doesn’t answer either question.

Tidal also announced that The Life of Pablo – Kanye West’s latest album, which is exclusively available through the service – was streamed 250m times in its first 10 days of release. As HitsDailyDouble points out, though, that would require ‘every single one of Tidal’s paid subscribers have played Pablo in its entirety eight times a day every day’ for the duration of that period, suggesting the numbers may not be entirely accurate.

It’s also worth noting that the album was also heavily pirated, with an estimated 500,000 people illegally downloading a copy on BitTorrent in the first day alone, according to TorrentFreak.

The album does certainly seem to have been a hit for Tidal, though, with TMZ  last month reporting rumours that The Life of Pablo‘s launch had triggered a 1.5m leap in users, putting the service at 2.5m in February. That would mean, though, that Tidal had picked up another 500,000 users in the intervening month.

Similarly, West’s ‘Yeezy Season 3’ fashion show was the most viewed livestream during Tidal’s first year, with over 23m viewers – beating out performances by Coldplay and Usher, and the Pope’s visit to the US.

 

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McCann Japan Hires Artificial Intelligence as Creative Director

McCann AI CDWe don’t often dedicate entire stories to single appointments on Mobile Marketing, but there’s something very different about McCann Erickson Japan’s latest hire: the agency’s new creative director is apparently an artificial intelligence.

Named AI-CD β, the bot reportedly has a database of TV commercials – analysed and tagged by the Millennials taskforce which came up with the idea for the AI – which it can mine to give ‘logic-based creative direction’ for TV commercials.

It’s not 100 per cent clear exactly what that entails, though AI-CD will apparently be working on creative briefs for real clients going forward, and is designed to learn based on the results after ads have aired in order to ‘improve precision for future projects’.

“Our team didn’t have a creative director, so we thought, why not create one ourselves with artificial intelligence?” said Shun Matsuzaka, creative planner at McCann Japan and founder of the McCann Millennials program. “Our hope is for our AI creative director to work on many projects, gain experience, and to grow into a world-class creative director that will leave a mark in the advertising industry.”

AI-CD β will be joining the company on 1 April – a rather inauspicious date, given how unlikely the announcement sounds – alongside 11 college graduates.

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KLM Customer Service Lands in Facebook Messenger

KLM Facebook MessengerDutch airline KLM has integrated with Facebook Messenger to bring its post-booking process into the messaging app.

Passengers can receive confirmation of booking and check-in, access their boarding pass and flight status updates, and contact social media service agents all within the app.

The feature is beginning its rollout immediately, with global availability expected ‘in the coming days and weeks’, and will be available to any customers who access their booking via KLM.com through a browser that has been used to log into Messenger in the previous 90 days.

“Our customers feel comfortable sharing info with us via a more personal platform like Messenger,” said KLM president & CEO Pieter Elbers. “Last year, we activated the Messenger button on our Facebook Page, allowing customers to contact KLM even more directly via private messaging. Cases increased by 40%, which shows customers appreciate this form of communication.”

The launch is an extension of the Messenger for Business program launched by Facebook last August as part of its strategy to begin monetising the messaging service.

Reports suggest that, in future, Messenger will serve up ads but only to users who have previously initiated a chat with the business being advertised. With that in mind, it’s important for Facebook to get brands on board and giving users a reason to engage with potential advertisers.

 

 

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Gett Acquires Radio Taxis

Gett - Radio Taxis black cabsTaxi booking app Gett has acquired Radio Taxis.

The terms of the acquisition are undisclosed, but Gett confirmed to Mobile Marketing it was a ‘multi-million pound deal’.

The deal, which is still subject to shareholder approval, will also see Gett acquiring Xeta and One Transport from Radio Taxis’ parent company, Mountview House Group.

This adds 1,500 London black cabs to Gett’s portfolio, bringing its total to 11,500, which it claims makes it the UK’s biggest black cab app.

“Radio Taxis has a long, proud history and we are delighted to bring such a great business into the Gett family” said Remo Gerber, Managing Director of Gett in Western Europe. “Alongside our cutting-edge technology, it is going to help to make Gett an even more powerful, global force for both our corporate customers and members of the public.”

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Adblock Plus Wins Legal Battle with Süddeutsche Zeitung

AdBlockAdblock Plus (ABP) has won a court case against German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The case targeted the ad blocking company’s controversial ‘Acceptable Ads’ program, which whitelists select publishers, based on whether their ads meet a set of criteria – and in the case of larger companies, whether they’re willing to pay for it.

The court ruled that users are not contractually obliged to view the ads served by a publisher and, according to ABP’s blog post on the ruling, “that by offering publishers a way to serve ads that ad-blocking users will accept, the Acceptable Ad initiative provides them an avenue to monetise their content, and therefore is favorable, not disadvantageous” for publishers.

In the post – titled, with ABP’s usual tact, “Five and oh … look, another lawsuit upholds users’ rights online” – ABP’s Ben Williams points out that this is the fifth such lawsuit the company has faced and won in Germany, following legal battles with Axel Springer, RTL Interactive, ProSieben/Sat1 and Zeit/Handelsblatt.

“This is really just the next sequel in the series ‘Giant German Media vs Adblock Plus’, isn’t it?” Williams wrote. “And you kinda know the ending by now, am I right? Well, true, but it’s important that you’re informed of the lengths to which some of the powers that be will go to restrict, curtail or outright ban your right to your screen. At least that’s how we see it.

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