For the first time in history a scent has been transmitted transatlantically by a group of Harvard scientists. The scientists sent a passion fruit macaroon-scented message from Paris to New York via proprietary technology. Evidently, the technology, called an “oPhone”, works by tagging scents on one end and using small pipes within the device to transmit it out of the receiving device. The technology has three thousand scents stored and can blend them to create the scent the sender desires to share. The Harvard group plans to turn the technology into a business, and has an Indiegogo page trying to raise $150,000. At first the technology will need hotspots, or installed central devices which house the full range of smells, but the company hopes that in the next few years all devices will be able to hold the full capacity of scents.
FINSUM: This is a crazy idea, but obviously it works. Very interesting to see what the future applications of such a technology could be.
Despite a handful of globally recognised brands being the major players across the world mobile market, in India the rapid expansion of the mobile space has seen the growth of low cost domestic manufacturers. Such makers, like Micromax, Karbonn, and Lava, have taken significant market share from companies like Apple and Samsung by focusing on the third tier and fourth tier markets. The phones gained a foothold by offering phones with similar functionality to top brands, but at 30% or more discounts. India has the world’s fastest growing mobile markets, with total unit sales up 20% last year, and domestic companies now hold a significant market share at 30% combined. The companies have also found success in offering Indian language-first phones as only 10% of Indians speak English and many are uncomfortable using the language to type on handsets.
FINSUM: Looks like successful local competitors are starting to challenge global players in India. This trend may not be limited to the mobile sector and watching such developments could yield good investments in the long run.
Twelve million Americans live without bank accounts and often to resort to payday lenders, who can charge upwards of 400% interest, in order to finance their lives. Now, using big data, a group of Silicon Valley tech companies is beginning to enter the space. Employing proprietary algorithms which analyse thousands of data points on people’s behaviour in order to create a more informed credit picture, such companies, like Zest Finance, sell their analysis to lenders. Others, like Wonga, LendUp, and Think Finance, actually lend themselves based on the use of their big data technology. The companies believe their data provides a better and more accurate risk profile for borrowers than do traditional credit ratings because of their analysis of personality traits, e-commerce history, and social data. However, others are more skeptical, saying that one will always find some correlation within thousands of data points, but that these are not necessarily fruitful, nor are they testable, because of their proprietary nature.
FINSUM: Beyond the debate over the validity of the data and analysis, these kind of companies will not help the “1%” image that Silicon Valley has fostered over the past couple of years. Expect public opinion to turn more divisive.
Despite the obvious risks in doing so, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has announced that his company will open its patent portfolio and will not object to competitors using Tesla’s proprietary technology in their cars. Musk, a billionaire, has always said that the wide-scale adoption of electric cars was more important to him than the commercial success of Tesla, and this move seems to support that notion. Tesla hopes that by offering its patent portfolio to more companies, production will amp up and costs will come down, making electric cars much more affordable. Tesla has faired very well in markets, with the company’s share price more than doubling over the last year to a market cap of $25 bn. The company also seems to be hoping to benefit from greater industry-wide production numbers as it is building a high capacity battery plant from which it apparently will supply other electric carmakers.
FINSUM: This is a surprising and encouraging move by Elon Musk and Tesla. This is the kind of proactive technology sharing that could really give the electric car market a shot in the arm.
A new brand of entrepreneurship, called social entrepreneurship, is taking form across the globe and defying the idea that for-profit and social good can coexist. A new company, Edyn, founded by entrepreneur Jason Aramburu, encapsulates this movement perfectly. Edyn makes a radical new technology, a soil sensor which communicates via wifi and informs hydrating equipment as to how much water a plant needs. Aramburu believes that doing social good and making profit are not mutually exclusive, so despite his desire to distribute his sensor across the poorest parts of the third world, he has listed Edyn as a for-profit company. Armaburu, among others, cites the difficulty in funding a non-profit as a prime example of why the structure slows development and often makes initiatives impossible. Aramburu describes his philosophy succinctly, “I believe in the notion of doing good and doing well at the same time.”
FINSUM: This is an interesting story for understanding a strongly growing social and entrepreneurial trend and it is also a fantastic example of how the “internet of things” can be put to good use.
Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft are all taking unprecedented steps to shore up their servers following the NSA scandal which revealed that global spy agencies were easily and routinely stealing data from them. In what is being called a new tech ”arms race”, tech giants are pouring resources into their data protection in order to make accessing their servers as difficult and expensive as possible for international spy agencies. The new push is a clear reversal of trend after years of cooperation with Washington over data inquiries. However, the companies’ new mission is to hinder any and all data probes from Washington, Beijing, or Moscow, and simultaneously reassure worried customers in Brazil and Germany, who have reacted most harshly to the NSA spying revelations. For instance, Google is laying its own fiberoptic cable under the ocean in order to isolate itself from having to use shared data pipelines. Vodafone has also gone on the record saying it is often coerced into giving up data by governments, who threaten to take away the company’s license to operate in their country if they cannot have direct and immediate access to data. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has lamented the loss of acquiescence from America’s tech giants in giving information to the government.
FINSUM: This is a remarkable development in the NSA data saga. The fallout from the controversy has led to a complete turnaround in public sector-private sector relations.