Waze’s big exit to Google proved one thing: if companies can harness the power of the crowd to deliver real-time, granular data, big tech corporations will be watching them closely as potential acquisition targets. There’s another category ripe for the picking, even if the problem being solved isn’t as apparent or immediately useful as traffic and navigation data: weather. A few apps are trying to harness the crowd to provide accurate, ground-level forecasts and conditions, and they’re catching on with consumers, too.
Montreal-based startup SkyMotion is one such firm, and it recently launched its 4.0 update, which not only harnesses crowdsourced weather reports, but also allows other businesses to plug into that data using a public API, to integrate real-time reporting data from SkyMotion’s users into their own products. That provides an up-to-the-minute forecast, one that probably won’t show you weather conditions completely dissimilar from the ones you’re actually feeling outside at any given moment, as can still be the case with apps that pull weather data only from specific weather monitoring stations.
SkyMotion has had considerable success harnessing the crowd to populate its real-time forecasts, with over 200,000 people currently submitting observations according to the company. Over 50 percent of those who download the app actually keep it and use it, and 65 percent of all users are active between 15 and 200 times per month. The company is now close to reaching 500,000 total downloads, and anticipates being well over 1 million by the end of the year should the pace remain near its current rate.
SkyMotion isn’t alone in crowdsourcing weather data. There’s also Weddar, the “people-powered” weather service and mobile app that encourages location-based reporting with a very human element, since it asks people how conditions generally feel on the ground, instead of seeking out specifics. The Weddar team, which is based in Portugal, launched its app back in April 2011, and where once you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone using it outside of its home market, now you’ll probably see results just about anywhere you open it up.
Crowsourced weather data could appeal to big tech companies for the same reason that crowdsourced data does; it greatly improves the quality of consumer-facing products. But it also offers a lot more besides, by providing services that can be combined with other local data including maps and traffic, as well as shopping and advertising information, to give a much more accurate, much more complete snapshot of any given location at any given time. Weather affects everything from the average user’s day planning, to marketing, to budgeting, and companies that are improving the quality of that data will no doubt be on the radar of anyone who makes those things its concern.
Sky Motion Research Inc. is a startup company based in Montreal, Canada, that develops highly accurate, hyperlocal and very-short-term weather forecasting technologies.
Weddar is the “people-powered” weather service and mobile app that encourages location-based reporting with a very human element. It asks people how conditions generally feel on the ground, instead of seeking out specifics, and reports responses to its users. The Weddar team, which is based in Portugal, launched its app back in April 2011.
See the article here: Weather Could Be Next On The Auction Block For Crowdsourced Data
Google sure isn’t giving up on its Chromebook initiative, even though it’s not clear that the company’s Chrome OS-based laptops are selling all that well. Today, Google announced that it’s expanding its brick-and-mortar retail efforts for Chromebooks through partnerships with Walmart and Staples.
Over 1,500 Staples will feature them starting this weekend and about 2,800 Walmart stores will carry Chromebooks later this summer. In total, Google says, this will triple the number of stores that carry its Chromebooks and bring the total number to 6,600 stores around the world.
Walmart, it seems, will only make the cheapest Chromebook — the $199 Acer Chromebook — available on its shelves, though. Staples will feature “a mix of Chromebooks from Acer, HP and Samsung” and will also make them available online. The more expensive Pixel, Google’s high-end Chromebook, won’t be available at any of these retailers, it seems.
The company also announced that select Office Depot, Office Max, Fry’s and Tiger Direct locations will begin selling Chromebooks in the “coming months.” Previously, only Amazon and Best Buy carried Google’s laptops.
Google is also expanding the availability of Chromebooks internationally. In the U.K., for example, 116 Tesco stores are now selling Chromebooks; in the Netherlands, Mediamarkt and Saturn will carry them and France’s FNAC stores will also get Chromebook displays. Google is also adding partners in Australia (JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman) and Sweden (Elgiganten).
September 7, 1998
Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of online tools and platforms including: Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and Google+, the company’s extension into the social space. Most of its Web-based products are free, funded by Google’s highly integrated online advertising platforms AdWords and AdSense. Google promotes the idea that advertising should be highly targeted and relevant to users thus providing…
Read the original here: Google Will Soon Start Selling Chromebooks At Walmart And Staples, Other Retailers Coming Soon
The eyesore of a PowerPoint deck that contractor Edward Snowden had leaked had globally recognized names: Microsoft. Google. Yahoo. Facebook. Apple. AOL. Skype. YouTube. The NSA had allegedly collaborated with all of these Internet giants to request and access data on foreign users.
But then there was also PalTalk. WTF?
Even Stephen Colbert ribbed them last week. “You heard right. They’re monitoring PalTalk. Folks. You know what that means. We are that close to learning what PalTalk is….”
PalTalk, a profitable group video chat site that’s been around for more than a decade and has about 5.5 million monthly uniques, officially says it had no idea what PRISM was until the slidedeck was published — just like every other tech company. And then added — like every other tech company — that it doesn’t let any government agency have direct access to its servers, but that it legally complies with court orders.
“First of all, it was flattering to be included in that list of the top eight tech companies in the world,” said PalTalk president Wilson Kriegel, who recently came over from Zynga and OMGPOP. “But we weren’t aware of Prism. We’re not giving backdoor access to the NSA and we comply with the law as the law states we should.”
Unlike Apple and Facebook, which have recently shared more data about the volume of requests they receive from law enforcement agencies, Kriegel said PalTalk wasn’t disclosing the number of types of requests it had received. The company’s CEO Jason Katz is a lawyer by training, however, and PalTalk works with New York-based law firm Fross Zelnick to evaluate in-bound requests.
“Zuckerberg and Sergey [Brin] have to make public statements because they have at least a billion users. Trust is a component that can erode quickly. But for us, I’m not sure if there’s anything to gain at the end of the day from sharing data like that,” said Kriegel, who added that none of PalTalk’s metrics, engagement figures and daily actives have seen any major impact from the Prism news.
Kriegel said that he hadn’t been at the company long enough to know whether PalTalk had ever disputed a government request based on its constitutionality or whether it overreached. Other companies like Twitter have been more antagonistic with federal requests for user data.
But Kriegel did share some insights into how or why the company might have held such interest for federal law enforcement. PalTalk is a video chat community that offers free group video calls and chats, with more than 20 million streams viewed per day.
Their base is split with about one-third in the Middle East, one-third in Asia and one-third in the U.S. While the majority of the company’s revenues — which come in the form of subscriptions, advertising and virtual currency purchases — flow in from the U.S. and English-speaking countries, the Middle East delivers “significantly great revenues,” Kriegel said. Apparently, they have strong numbers of paying users from countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“The majority of our paying user base is in the U.S. and the Middle East,” he said. “If you think about these countries, not many countries in the region have wide access to credit, so we do well in very rich, oil-based economies like Saudi Arabia.”
A UN counter-terrorism report back from 2009 mentioned PalTalk as a place where Al-Qaeda-focused debate groups were held.
“The majority of all our interactions are about music, karaoke, languages, sports, politics, religion and dating,” Kriegel said. But he did say that video chat lets people get around restrictive social norms in other cultures. “If you want to interact with people in ways that aren’t always socially acceptable like with swearing, video chat might work for that.”