Monthly Archives: May 2016

Over Data is Getting Way More Personal

Nobody feels particularly threatened when they are served a well-targeted ad online. It makes sense that if you Google vacation destinations in Puerto Rico that somehow an algorithm on the Internet will allow Kayak to flood your screen with hotel promotions. That is not sinister; it is just odd.

But the things that are done with people’s personal data (and the things we search for on Google should be personal, right?) are increasingly crossing the line into a darker area that no one really wants to talk about. Thankfully, public awareness on the issue is rising thanks to high profile phone hacks, legislation that has been passed and stories about how much money data is actually worth.

A problem of this magnitude is also an opportunity of equal magnitude for an entrepreneur with the right idea. Though, in this case, there is room for a crowd of entrepreneurs, several government initiatives and probably some lawsuits.

These are four ways data is (and must) get way more personal and how entrepreneurs can play a part:

1. The social revolution.

Facebook is still the premier social network, even if it is increasingly surrounded by younger networks with sleeker features. As such, it plays a leadership role in the business of setting precedent for user data harvesting. According to Julian Ranger, personal data expert and founder of digi.me, the value of the data Facebook collects is worthbillions of dollars.

Related: The New EU General Data Protection Regulation: Big Data Protection Gets Personal

“It is said you cannot know the value of something until you measure it and Facebook has lead the industry in its acquisition, organization and exploitation of data,” says Ranger. “But how is it Facebook’s right to have a file on personal users? And shouldn’t the user have the right to allow or not allow that data to be sold to other companies?”

There are those in the private sector who think so and they are starting to fight back. Tech company Spy Aware offers an app that will tell you what data your phone is sending via the apps that are installed on it. If you are not outraged about invasive data practices yet, you will be soon after installing Spy Aware.

2. The regulatory revolution.

Laws are and will be an important step returning the power of data back to the people. But to-date there have been few successes to point to. The European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) which does signal a shift from the wild west of data collection to a world with a few laws and borders. But functionally the law does little to return full ownership of people’s personal data and companies are already preparing with elaborate compliance mechanisms that will help them to carry on with business as usual.

Related: Data Protection for Small Business

“The GDPR is a step in the right direction, but it falls far short of turning the tables on who owns the data,” notes Ranger. “And that makes sense, much of the economy is run on the free flow of information. The challenge is to reshape the system so that individuals can selectively sell their own information for a value proposition that works for them.”

3. The technology revolution.

The Internet, for all of its benefits, is controlled by powerful companies. Accordingly, for users to be safe on the Internet, they need to level the playing field, which will require some powerful technological solutions.

Users need to have the ability to locally store their data and control who has access to it. Ranger’s digi.me offers a platform that allows users to do that with all of their social media data and has plans to expand into other areas.

The opportunities and needs are almost endless in this area. Users need tools that alert them about data leaks, allow them to control their data, and provide the means for them to selectively share it. The technology world has its work cut out for it, to be sure. But demand is such that the project is already underway.

Self Driving Hardware

Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Wednesday all new Tesla Motors Inc. models will come with hardware to enable them to be fully self-driving, as the Silicon Valley electric car company bids to be the first among many rivals to get autonomous vehicles on the road.

The company said that its Model S and Model X electric cars are already being produced with the new hardware, which includes eight cameras, 12 updated sensors and radar with faster processing.

The new hardware package will cost $8,000, Musk told reporters on a conference call. The software to enable fully autonomous operation is still being tested, he said.

Musk said he expects that by the end of 2017 a Tesla would be able to drive in full autonomous mode from Los Angeles to New York “without the need for a single touch” on the wheel.

He has set ambitious deadlines for Tesla many times, only to see timetables slip. Rival automakers have said they expect to be able to field autonomous driving capability by 2019 or 2021.

Meanwhile, older Tesla vehicles without the additional cameras, sensors and upgraded processors will not be able to drive autonomously, although their Autopilot software would continue to be improved, Musk said.

For a time, cars with the new hardware will have less capability to assist drivers with steering or braking than older cars running Tesla’s Autopilot, Musk said. By December, he said, he expects the newer models to reach parity with the older vehicles.

Musk said the software system is being built in-house and will run on an Nvidia Corp. Titan chip.

Vanity purchase?

It is unclear how Tesla’s future autonomous driving system will be greeted by regulators. Musk said it will be twice as safe as a human driver. However, federal and state regulators in the United States are proposing new, more rigorous standards to control the development and deployment of such systems.

Edmunds Inc. analyst Jessica Caldwell questioned the value of purchasing a self-driving car before regulations catch up, calling it a “vanity purchase” that cannot be used in the real world.

In the meantime, rival carmakers could introduce better solutions, Caldwell said, potentially making Tesla’s hardware “obsolete almost as soon as it’s activated for prime time.”

Most notably, Tesla has chosen not to include Lidar laser-based sensors, a tool most other car makers believe is necessary for full autonomy.

Tesla’s self-driving announcement is the latest in a series of efforts over the last few months by Musk to maintain investor interest in Tesla as its stock price has fallen. The company is expected to raise more cash from capital markets within the next 12 months.

Shares of the company, which closed on Wednesday at $203.56, have fallen 23 percent since an April high, as the company has suffered a difficult few months.

The death in May of a Tesla driver using the company’s Autopilot system, which prompted an investigation by safety regulators, and the decision to acquire money-losing rooftop solar developer SolarCity Corp., have increased scrutiny on Tesla’s financial and regulatory challenges.

Steering the On Demand Economy

Uber is the company everyone wants to be. It’s the poster child for leveraging an internet-connected device to solve a unique problem. Uber couldn’t have existed before smartphones became a widespread phenomen, of course. But today we can all hail a car with a swipe and a tap, thanks to dual internet connectivity and mobile GPS.

Smartphones were the first internet-connected devices, but they are far from the last. As the Internet of Things (IoT) evolves, these next-generation improvements will push on-demand businesses to explore hundreds of new possibilities.

Related: 4 Reasons to Be Excited by the ‘Internet of Things’

The game-changer here? Data. Connected devices and their data make every on-demand business possible.

Sensory evolution

With smartphone features such as fingerprint scanning, barometers, accelerometers, light sensors and more, entrepreneurs have access to data they’ve never seen before. And as smartphones add more bells and whistles, companies have even more data points to build around.

Beyond sensory data from hardware, though, on-demand businesses can leverage a large quantity of stored data. Storing data around criteria like behavior, preferences and reliability allows companies to act more efficiently and optimize the user experience. For example, Uber wants to make sure users never have to type an address again.

Along with data, the IoT is improving internet connectivity and voice recognition to provide even better user experience. These devices are getting smarter on their own, as well as collectively.

A stand-alone voice recognition device is great by itself, but an Amazon Echo is even better. This device can access all the power of Amazon for tasks such as ordering groceries, playing music and restocking supplies — using just the power of your voice. Other devices such as Cortana, Alexa and the new Google Home will make on-demand services available through the sound of a person’s voice rather than at the touch of a button.

Innovation on demand

For today’s entrepreneurs, all of these advances and countless data sources mean many more opportunities to innovate and win big. So, if you’re an entrepreneur, here are a few ways to capitalize as the on-demand economy and IoT evolve:

1. Take advantage of predictive analytics.

Uber uses data to provide rides, but it also uses heat maps to analyze patterns and help drivers be in the right place at the right time. Predictive analytics allows fresh-food delivery services — likeMunchery and Sprig — to monitor supplies and spot and respond to trends. None of these on-demand platforms would have been possible without the data we have today.

If you want to jump into the on-demand game, discern what problems you can solve using data. The most successful on-demand players connect these data points to provide a better, faster, more seamless user experience.

Related: 8 Ways the ‘Internet of Things’ Will Impact Your Everyday Life

2. Spot a profitable niche.

Another great thing about data is that it no longer has to solve the huge issues. Entrepreneurs can now form companies to solve hyperspecific problems, with data to back it up. For example, Petnet helps manage the feeding of your four-legged friends. Its internet-connected food container dispenses portions at appropriate times and quantities for your pet.

One word of caution: Make sure the problem you are looking to solve is big enough to be applied across use cases, but never be afraid to go small in your niche.

3. Grab that low-hanging fruit.

Because the automation revolution is happening across the board, entrepreneurs with industry expertise can solve problems for specific verticals. Smart-lock maker August, for one, saw potential in another on-demand stalwart, Airbnb. Hosts can use internet-connected locks to coordinate keyless guest entry, remotely and without hassle. This solution was not possible a few years ago — but the need wasn’t there, either.

Related: How to Succeed in the On-Demand Economy

Keep streamlining and efficiency top of mind as you scout out your next target for automation. Whatever industry you work in, data and internet connectivity can probably improve a piece of it.

With connected devices and their data, Uber and other first-generation on-demand companies paved the way for the Internet of Things to revolutionize our lives. Now, it’s up to today’s entrepreneurs to innovate the innovators.

Whats Gadgets to Upgrade Your Business

Thanks to our friends at TechBargains, we’ve rounded up some can’t-miss deals. Check it out:

Dell Inspiron 3650 Intel Core i7 Quad-Core Desktop with 16GB RAM for $579 (Orig. 949)
Use Code: code: DELLBIZ579. When your small business needs a powerful workhorse desktop for multimedia, encoding or other intensive processes, this desktop will be your PC of choice. It’s an incredible price at less than $600 for one of Intel’s higher-end powerful processors, a full 16GB of RAM for all your applications and a large 2TB hard drive for storage. It even includes Windows Pro for extra security and backup features. This is great for your small business and your home as well as it’s be designed to take up much less space and be sleeker than conventional desktops. This is one of Dell’s most popular and best selling deals at this price.

AmazonBasics 12-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper Shredder $99.99
Protect your financials, sensitive business information and more with this shredder. While you cannot shred a 300-sheet document, you can destroy up to 12 sheets of paper at a time with a security level of P-4 security. This shreds paper down to 4mm by 12mm, which is very difficult to put back together or to decipher much information from without spending a ton of time. For a small business or even a very enthusiastic home shredder, this is a great machine as micro shredders cost a premium over their strip shredding counterparts.

60″ Samsung 4K HDTV with HDR + $250 Dell Gift Card for $899.99
If you need a huge TV for a lobby or a conference room then this 60″ is a fantastic choice. It is huge and has the resolution you need for your presentations and is excellent at displaying sharp graphics and images. Better yet, if you can connect it to an HDR-capable machine then the colors will pop. The bonus $250 Dell gift card can be used on anything from PS4 and Xboxes, monitors and computers for your business and more. You are effectively spending only $650 for a huge 2016 Samsung TV with the latest tech.

Dell Latitude 14 7000 Intel Core i5-5200U 14″ 1080p Touch Laptop (8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 3yr Warranty) $799
Use code: SAVE$150. This highly rated business-class laptop is PCMag’s Editors choice. It features a full HD Gorilla Glass touchscreen display and weighs a mere 3.5lbs. Your back will thank you when you carry it when you travel or from meeting to meeting. It has an excellent 3-year warranty, is military spec-rated for durability and ruggedness, and has a snappy 256GB solid state drive so you don’t have to sit around waiting for reboots or applications to launch. At this price you cannot get a better business class laptop.

Anker RoboVac 10 Self-Docking Robotic Vacuum Cleaner for $199.99
If you need to keep your small office clean and presentable we recommend this very inexpensive robot cleaner from Anker. It is about $100 to $150 less than competing brands and has all the same functionality. In fact some reviews even say it navigates better than a Roomba.

For more great deals, check out TechBargains’ Amazon Deals.

Disclosure: This is brought to you by the Entrepreneur Partner Studio. Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.