UberEATS – A tax on Hipsters

Posted on : 28-09-2017 | By : richard.gale | In : App, Consumer behaviour, General News, Hipster, Innovation, Uber, UberEATS

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It was Friday night, we’d all had a long week and so family decision to order a fish and chip supper seemed the right thing to do. I called in the order with the local chippie and popped down the road to pick it up.

 

All was well, the place was warm, buzzing with people and the sight and smells of frying fish. Then I noticed one of the guys packaging up food, printing off labels and placing it to the side of the counter. Then it got really strange, men with enormous beards, checked shirts wandered into the shop looking intently at their phones, walked to the counter, picked up a package, placed it in their shoulder bags and walked straight out again without a word to anyone. The shop guys didn’t even look up.  Had we been invaded by a gang of hungry, kleptomaniac lumberjacks I wondered…

 

I had to ask the guys. No. They said. The fish bar has signed up with UberEATS and they now have a whole new set of customers. They used the UberEATS app to order and then used their phone to find and pick up. Now I thought UberEATS was all about delivery but the guys said a lot of people picked up too on the way back from the station.

 

All seemed pretty logical and I was thinking about yet another use of tech to make our lives easier until one of the guys told me they have a different price list for Uber. It’s about 30% more expensive to cover Uber’s take and, because there is no mechanism to NOT do this, they have to charge for small items like ketchup etc (otherwise no one could order them…).

 

This really got me thinking, I get the convenience angle but is it REALLY worth an extra third on your meal just so you don’t have to pick up the phone? Are there other areas where this is the case and what’s the reasoning behind it?

 

I believe it’s the disconnect between the purchasing and the paying which enables this model to succeed. Once this is broken then the cost of buying becomes less important. It first really began with credit and credit cards where you could buy things you couldn’t afford but now I think the distance has become even greater.

 

I don’t like to use Uber myself but each month money comes out of my card for Uber journeys by various other members of the family. They effectively have a free, on demand, always available transport system whilst I have various amounts of random expenses. I get the convenience factor – out in town on a rainy evening and it’s great to know a clean car with a friendly driver is close by – but for most other journeys then a quick call to our local minicab firm ensures the same service, often at a better price and we’re supporting a local business too.

 

Once I started to think about time value vs. cost aspects of this then the new model started to break down. But pretty quickly, the scale, the tech and service plus the obscuring of costs outweigh any pricing concerns.  As these disruptive concepts grow into the mainstream, Uber and other disrupters still need to learn how to operate within the existing rules. Maybe….

Bitcoin – New Cash or New Crash?

Posted on : 28-09-2017 | By : Tom Loxley | In : Bitcoin, Blockchain, Finance, FinTech

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Much hype has plagued the media surrounding Bitcoin once again last week, this time concerning JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon. He made his comments whilst speaking at the banking conference in New York and his interview afterwards when he was asked his opinion on Bitcoin.

Having seen the actual interview during which his comments were made, it is my opinion that whilst there are some worthy and serious underlying issues which I believe he was justifiably correct in highlighting, the media has certainly sensationalised the content of what was said.

He has been famously quoted for making the analogy between Bitcoin and tulips. Referring to the mania that surrounded the perceived value of tulip bulbs in Holland in the 17 Century which caused the price rocket up well beyond their actual value. A Tulip was reported to be worth upwards of five times the cost of an average house, with obvious negative results. He capped off his ideas on the subject my making another reference to the famous Hans Christian Andersen short story The Emperor’s new clothes. Here (spoiler alert) mass hysteria surrounds the beauty of Emperors “new clothes” despite him being naked because no one has the courage or self-assuredness to argue against mass opinion for fear of being wrong or ridiculed.

It’s a clever and apt use of the metaphors. Even for someone who sees value in the disruptive effect of the cryptocurrency movement on the evolution of FinTech and the philosophy underlining (Bitcoins founder) Satoshi Nakamoto’s (Bitcoin’s founder) white paper, I can see the concern and won’t argue with the analogies.

However, if I was a sceptical man I wouldn’t be able to ignore that fact that, whilst Jamie Dimon’s credentials are fantastic and his opinion is highly regarded, the advent of Bitcoin (at its extreme) has the potential to shake his entire financial industry it to its knees. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising (even if well founded), when he stated, “If we have a trader that trades Bitcoin, I would fire them in a second, for two reasons: It is against our rules and they are stupid, and both are dangerous,”. Make of that what you will.

He may well be right, the general ignorance that still surrounds cryptocurrencies and blockchain (i.e. many people still see Bitcoin and blockchain technology as one and the same thing), coupled with a “jump on the bandwagon” mentality (and in some cases, a hint of greed) is seeking to over-inflate and undermine the intrinsic and true value of Bitcoin. Since its inception it has already undergone large dips in value, though it’s resilience to come back stronger is impressive.

Although it is not mentioned in many of the articles which cover the Jamie Dimon interview, he clearly states he does see a reason for Bitcoin, saying that “if you’re in Venezuela, Ecuador or North Korea you probably better off using bitcoin”.

He also states that he is not giving investment advice and that it may go much higher in value yet. His warning is that it will eventually burst because governments in first world countries like to regulate fiat currency and know who has it in their possession.

He stated that currently, governments consider Bitcoin a novelty, but eventually as it grows in popularity they will shut it down (however, how or whether that is even possible is a subject for another day).

Of course, it is worth noting a few points here which I believe are relevant. Initially, in his interview, Jamie Dimon uses the term Bitcoin as the subject of his conversation but then corrects himself and uses the more general term cryptocurrency. I bring this up because, as stated before, there is a still much confusion surrounding cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology (I will include a small glossary at the end of this article for those who want to know the differences and definitions). Many people still don’t (or can’t) yet differentiate between Bitcoin and the hundreds of other cryptocurrencies. It seems to me that what Jamie Dimon he really talking about at the conference is not Bitcoin per say, but cryptocurrencies in general, something which the general media has not seemed to pick up on.

Bitcoin has got a lot of bad press simply because it is the most recognised cryptocurrency (don’t feel too bad for it though because it has also rocketed in value for the same reason).

It’s also worth noting that what he is talking about is unregulated cryptocurrencies. Jamie Dimon’s concerns here are well founded. The sad fact is, that whilst the cryptocurrency remains outside any regulation and the outside control of any government-backed organisation it is likely to be exploited by criminals and those with nefarious intentions no matter how many legitimate users it has.

The technology could (and in my opinion probably will) be used by first world governments to create their own version of cryptocurrencies that are regulated and therefore have many of the benefits of cryptocurrencies, without the worry of destabilising the economy or causing massive inflation, which has been highlighted by the Bank of England (BoE) as a concern.

It may not be too long before you find yourself using the BoE’s “Crypto-Pound” or US Treasuries “Crypto-Dollar” to buy your weekly shop at the supermarket. Doubtless, many will argue that this would go against the whole philosophy of “Be Your Own Bank” that underlies (what some consider to be) the greatest asset of the current cryptocurrencies. However, it would solve the regulation problem whilst at least keeping some of the technical assets intrinsic to the technology (speed, transparency, efficiency, accessibility etc…).

The value of Bitcoin dropped substantially after the comments by Jamie Dimon. However, it bounced right back proving that although it may burst one day it still has a lot of confidence among investors and the growing number who are determined to make it a mainstream currency and it seems to be working.

Last week a London based property developer, The Collective announced that prospective tenants can pay deposits in Bitcoin. By the end of this year, it will also accept rent payments in Bitcoin too. A spokesperson stated that the decision was made after increasing requests from foreign customers. Also last week Last week, Lady Mone (British entrepreneur, global speaker, designer, innovator and parliamentarian) launched a major property development in Dubai, priced in bitcoins. She stated that the digital currency was a growing market that could not be ignored.

The world of cryptocurrencies is still embryonic and remains unclear as to how it will unfold, but it is certainly interesting to watch as a spectator, if not a speculator.

Glossary

Below is an informal glossary of some of the more popular terms in the Blockchain and cryptocurrency world, because of the relative newness of the terms here there are differing and often conflicting definitions available, however, I find these give an accurate (if very basic) overview. (The content of the definitions has been largely although not entirely, adapted from the information available at www.coindesk.com):

Bitcoin: Bitcoin is the first decentralised, open source cryptocurrency that runs on a global peer to peer network, without the need for middlemen and a centralised issuer. It has the following characteristics:

  • Decentralised
  • Transparent
  • Largely anonymous (Users hold bitcoin addresses, but they aren’t linked to names, addresses, or other personally identifying information)
  • Transaction fees are relatively small (although they are increasing gradually)
  • Transaction speeds are relatively quick (although large traditional financial institutions are now begging to harness blockchain technology to reduce their own transaction times)
  • Secured through cryptography

Cryptocurrency or digital currency: Also known as tokens, cryptocurrencies are representations of digital assets. Cryptocurrencies are categories of digital currencies. They consist of a type of electronic token with a perceived value, that is managed through limited entries in a database that no one can change without fulfilling specific conditions. Digital currency can be transferred between entities or users with the help of technology like computers, smartphones and the internet.

Blockchain: A blockchain is a shared or distributed ledger where transactions/data are permanently recorded by appending blocks. The blockchain serves as a historical record of all transactions that ever occurred, from the genesis block to the latest block, hence the name blockchain. The “chain” which connects block is often highly encrypted which makes the data stored in the blockchain highly secure and permanent.

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT): Distributed ledgers are ledgers in which data is stored across a network of decentralized nodes. A distributed ledger does not have to have its own currency and may be public or permissioned and private.

Digital out of Home – a growth and innovation market

Posted on : 28-09-2017 | By : jo.rose | In : Cloud, Innovation, IoT

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The acceleration of growth in the digital out of home market (DOOH) is impressive. As providers switch from traditional mediums to digital based technologies and with creative technological advances, such as programmatic and Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), it is an exciting time for the sector. Indeed, in 2016 the market was valued at USD 12.52 billion and is forecast to grow to over USD 26 billion by 2023.

According to William Eccleshare, chairman and chief executive of DOOH media provider Clear Channel International;

Globally, press has collapsed, TV is static and radio has declined. Outdoor though has been growing steadily

This growth naturally brings opportunities for the large incumbents (such as Clear Channel) as well as new startups, but at the same time there are challenges to switch existing inventory to the new distribution mediums, transform legacy systems and business process, as well as the requirements to design scalable and secure digital networks.

As with all industries, the DOOH ecosystem is shifting to cloud based platforms to allow for businesses to both flex with demand and also deploy campaigns to audiences on a global basis. These platforms are capable of processing increasingly large and complex data used in the delivery of more targeted audience driven products, which are more cost effective and allows for better integration with external systems. Indeed, as the internet of things (IoT) gathers pace, this data requirement and inter-connectivity will continue to grow at pace.

Let’s look at some of the trends in a bit more detail

Programmatic: Firstly, there’s a lot of talk about programmatic advertising and it’s major influence in the overall DOOH market. The programmatic advertising platform is an online auction where media buyers specify their targeting requirements, such as audience demographics, time of day and location, as well as their budgetary constraints. In itself this isn’t particularly innovative, with other markets such as retail auctions and financial services offering for many years. What it will do though is put pressure on the players (and margins) current value chain, from advertising creative to distribution. It will also provide further pressures on the incumbents who carry more legacy technical debt.

Data is everything: whilst (within reason) signs themselves remain static, the data regarding audiences and how they interact with their environment does not. It constantly changes based on numerous factors, from the time of day, to the weather and external new events etc. With over 75% of UK consumers owning a smartphone, and checking that c.80 times a day, harnessing and correlating this data as consumers go about their daily lives creates value. This plays naturally into the hands of the tech companies and mobile providers who have access to resource, networks and expertise to exploit this value. Here the providers of the digital infrastructure have a real challenge to maintain a foothold and become an integral part of the chain rather than a consumer of more and more costly data.

User Experience enrichment: DOOH is providing more opportunities than ever to touch, interact and engage with valuable consumers; helping to bring brands to life in creative and digitally disruptive ways. In todays “Experience Economy”, it is estimated that 65% of 18-34 year olds are more fulfilled by live experience than possessions. Digital advertising is already interactive in a lot of senses, through simple NFC, QR codes, facial recognition, context awareness etc. and we expect further innovations in a connected context to develop at pace.

Augmented Reality: the first big AR sensation was Pokemon Go. Within a week of its launch last year more than 28 million people a day walking around town and staring at their screens to catch a Pokemon (much to the bewilderment of many onlookers). Now technology partner and advertisers are rightly excited about the potential. Tim Cook recently said of AR that it presented;

broad mainstream applicability across education, entertainment interactive gaming, enterprise, and categories we probably haven’t even thought of

Beacon connectivity: to facilitate the consumer personalisation journey and communication, beacons are becoming more prevalent through the DOOH infrastructure with presence in taxis, retailers, buses, billboards, kiosks etc. We see this further with Google’s Eddystone beacons to create proximity-based experiences for consumers as an open beacon format for both Android and iOS. These developments have shifted the trend towards a creation of a new channel of personalisation based on precision of time, location and so context based digital advertising.

It’s an exciting time to be involved in DOOH innovation with great potential for media tech disruption, but with some significant risks for traditional players, some of which will struggle to shift their operating model and compete.