Wednesday, July 27, 2016

(The Big Disrupt) IoT: Watch Massimo Banzi talk about IoT's "Struggle for Meaning”

Check this great talk held by chip company Arduino by company founder Massimo Banzi about IoT notable struggle for meaning.

(The Big Disrupt) Augmented Reality: Pokemon Go and IBM Watson IoT collaboration at work

Check out this short but insightful piece the collaboration between IBM Watson and Pokemon Go at work and what can be using the IBM Watson's platform.

(The Big Disrupt) Mass Surveillance: Why the golden age of surveillance is set to continue no matter who wins in November

If there has ever been an election that has vindicated the concerns and criticisms of every thinker from Plato onwards about democracy, it would be this one fought by Hillary and Donald Trump. 

Both candidates are highly divisive figures in the public eye and even more so in their own parties as Clinton is seen as a figurehead of the democratic party establishment by its liberal base and Trump draws the ire of his own party's establishment as the billionaire revels in his outsider status. 

Trump eerily mirrors a character Plato describes that could turn a democracy into a tyrannical state and seems to provide a terrifyingly accurate characterization of much of his support who are largely voting for the man rather than his policies which, so far, have not been articulated at any length beyond the phrases "build a wall", "were gonna win again and win big", and last but not least "make America great again". 

While Clinton is a far cry from Plato's conception of who should rule, she is by far the most accomplished of the two as a former senator and secretary of state, a quality Plato would approve. The thought of Plato can provide insights today but his great mind unfortunately doesn't provide into a slightly more complex issue over who should lead, privacy. 

We would have look to more contemporary thinkers with minds no less gifted than Plato's but, on the whole, the thoughts of great minds so matter little in an age where our relationship to privacy is ephemeral at best, easy to deny, and ceded almost reflexively. In an age like this, is it a surprise that possibly the most hawkish proponents of mass surveillance our vying for the highest office? 

Our relationship to privacy however has been hampered severely by a spike in terrorist attacks kicked off by the harrowing 9/11 attacks which swung the balance between security and liberty firmly in the favour of the former. To this day, leaders still make fear based arguments when arguing about impinging our right privacy and with the recent spate of attacks across the globe, these arguments have intensified and have largely helped to set the poisonous tone and mood surrounding this election cycle.       

Both Clinton and Trump have been strident to say the least about their intentions to  continue mass surveillance programs should they become president especially in response to terrorist attacks. 

In response to the Brussels attacks, Clinton expressed in an CNN interview that to avoid similar attacks happening in the U.S., there would be the need to increase surveillance capabilities as well as a greater police presence  on the ground. While these may seem like common sense proposal in the face of an attack, Clinton's prescription seems glaze over the fact that mass surveillance is at an all time high and yet attacks are happening at a greater level of frequency. 

Trump, on the other hand, has taken his desire to surveill U.S citizens to a level that has drawn criticism. Back in November, Trump voiced his desire at a rally to track Muslims and surveillance on mosques  and also to build a database on members of the faith which has drawn unfavorable comparisons by opponents to what Nazis did to Jews.   

Trump also publicly stated that he lands firmly on the side of security in the classic liberty v security debate and while Clinton hasn't made statements as strong as Trump's regarding where she stands on the debate, it's quite clear where they stand. Why they favor security over privacy could be simply because the security argument is more convincing. A more complex reflection might be to consider the rather fleeting relationship both Trump and Clinton have with privacy. Both Clinton and Trump have been in the public eye for decades and have had everything from their personality, dress hairstyles, pitch, parenting skills and business and political failures scrutinized and laid bare for all to see.  

With this mind, it would seem common sense to presume that both candidates would value highly what much of their adult lives have lacked and would seek to preserve as much as they could for their fellow citizens. However, it seemed their experience has taught them that privacy is the most abstract constitutional right of them all, so abstract it may not exist at all. 

It would be hard to blame two very public figures to subscribe to the "privacy is dead argument" which  gained currency in  post 9/11 and has become a mainstream point of view since the Snowden leaks. Their complicated relationship to privacy can also explain why Donald Trump wished he could have voted for the controversial patriot act and Hiliary Clinton voted for it twice. 

In any case, Clinton's and Trump's relationship with privacy may not matter as it would prove rather difficult for any president to roll back the unprecedented level of surveillance since whether they're favour the fourth amendment or not. Any president willing to take on powerful agencies such as NSA, CIA and FBI would have to display a level of political courage that's scarce  in today's political class, never mind Clinton or Trump. 

In sum, whatever happens in November, you can expect from at least then to the next presidential election cycle that you're privacy is no less private than it was before as two very polarizing figures with a complicated relationship with privacy are look set complicate our relationship to privacy as much as decades in the public eye has theirs. 


Monday, July 4, 2016

(The Big Disrupt) Music Streaming: Why the war between Apple and Spotify is already over

Spotify, the ten year old Swedish based music streaming service currently holds a very strong market position with the company recently hitting 100 million users with 30 million paid subscribers and also is planning expansion into other markets such as video and live music. Looking at the company's dominant position in the marketplace, You would think that Spotify would have nothing to fear from a year old music streaming offering given all of its advantages in subscriber base and users but Spotify could end up losing it's strong position in the music streaming market within two years.  

Spotify's founder and CEO Daniel Ek rightly predicted that Apple entering the music streaming market would boost his company growth as well the market as a whole and went as far to publicly thank the Cupertino based company for doing so. Spotify's vice president Jonathan Forster also praised Apple for entering the market while also throwing shade at the competition as he said ""It's great that Apple is in the game. They are definitely raising the profile of streaming. It is hard to build an industry on your own""1. However, what Ek and Forster didn't account for was Apple's music's stunning growth with the service pulling in a reported 15 million paid subscribers within a year. 

While there are commentators that point out that despite Apple Music's fantastic growth, they still trail Spotify in users and paid subscribers, those commentators are also aware that only recently has Spotify mirrored the level of growth Apple Music has achieved in its maiden year. It took Spotify nearly 8 years to reach Apple Music's current paid subscriber user base and another 3 three years to double it and yet may end up trailing the service in paid subscribers should Apple Music make a  few acquisitions and match it's level of growth so far. 

Apple music's growth is quite incredible given the questions from the outset about the quality of the service forcing Apple to launch a redesign of interface just a few months ago. Spotify, an established player in the market, has never had any public complaints about its service and is loved by just about every who uses it (except artists, which we'll talk about later).  

Though he won't publicly admit it, what really must concern Ek is Apple Music's impressive trial to subscriber conversion rate which dwarfs Spotify's comparatively measly 25% free to paid subscriber conversion rate. What this means is that Apple Music is extracting more value from its users than Spotify at a faster rate which is a problem for Spotify and everybody else in the music streaming market. 

Spotify has resisted pressure from labels and artists for years to ditch its ad supported subscriber base and with Apple Music's growth, Spotify maybe forced to charge its free user base which means that Spotify may have to face the tradeoff of losing many of its free users but increase its paid subscriber base.  

However, the main reason why Apple may end up leaving Spotify and its other competitors in the dirt is that it may have the best relationship (maybe save Tidal) with the music streaming market real crown jewels: artists. Spotify has long been positioned as the big bad among artists who have publicly complained in the press and elsewhere about Spotify's paltry royally payouts. Ek in response to calls for Spotify to increase it's royalty payouts by prominent artists has rightly pointed out that their labels were the ones extracting the majority the value through the ownership of their music but his moot point hasn't stopped Spotify from being attacked by major artists. 

Spotify's inability to get artists onside despite their many efforts to do so from opening up its analytics platform to artists to revealing just how badly they're getting screwed by their labels may lead to Apple Music claiming the music streaming market outright. If recent reports of Apple considering taking rival music streaming service Tidal off legendary hip hop artist and mogul Jay Z's hands prove to be trueApple would instantly have a monopoly on album exclusives from popular artists such as Kanye West, Beyonce and Drake which would be terrible news for Spotify. 

Album exclusives have proven to be gold dust for music streaming services as far as boosting subscribers is concerned as a large chunk of Tidal's subscriber base has been generated solely from album exclusives, most notably demonstrated by Beyonce's most recent album release "lemonade" which brought in an incredible 1.2 million subscribers in a week.    

Apple's purchase of Tidal will instantly give Apple a lot of power in the marketplace as they can debut music from popular artists before anyone else and, more importantly, have a big say where it debuts next. While Spotify can easily offer their own exclusives with prominent artists, Apple already have deals with big hitters such as Drake and Taylor Swift (who left Spotify over royalties) and with a Tidal acquisition, would pretty much gobble up the exclusives left worth having. 

We've already written articles on  The Carnage Report outlining why Apple will eventually win the music streaming market through it's marketing machine and ability to hand out big royalty payouts but none of us were expecting Apple Music to gain on Spotify in paid subscribers as fast as it has. However, we do expect Spotify to put up a real fight to the end as Ek has signaled he's not going to sell and revealed his burning ambition to for Spotify to be one of the few European startups to face up with a Valley giant and live to tell the story. 

In sum, Spotify will do everything in their power to stop Apple Music taking over the music streaming market but with the rate Apple Music is acquiring paid subscribers and a Tidal acquisition being considered that would take Spotify out of the lucrative album exclusives market, Spotify have the look of an acquisition target waiting to happen, soon.     

(1) Quotes by  M. Shanley and J. Weber, 2016, Spotify says growth has quickened since Apple Music's launch,


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