What Makes a Good API? A Call to Arms…

One of the sessions I attended at last year’s CETIS get together was the UKOLN organised Technological Innovation in a World of Web APIs session (see also My CETIS 2008 Presentations and What Makes A Good API? Doing The Research Using Twitter).

This session formed part of a project being co-ordinated by UKOLN’s homeworking Marieke GuyJISC “Good APIs” project (project blog) – which is well worth getting involved with because it might just help shape the future of JISC’s requirements when they go about funding projects…

(So if you like SOAP and think REST is for wimps, keep quiet and let projects that do go for APIs continue to get away with proposing overblown, unfriendly, overengineered ones…;-)

So how can you get involved? By taking this survey, for one thing:

The ‘Good APIs’ project aims to provide JISC and the sector with information and advice on best practice which should be adopted when developing and consuming APIs.

In order to collate information the project team have written a very brief research survey asking you about your use of APIs (both providing and consuming).

TAKE THE What makes a good API? SURVEY.

I don’t know if the project will have a presence at the JISC “Developer Happiness” Days (the schedule is still being put together) but it’d be good if Marieke or Brian were there on one of the days (at least) to pitch in some of the requirements of a good API that they’ve identified to date;-)

PS here’s another fun looking event – Newcastle Maker Faire.

Wake Up and Smell the Cordite – Why Broadband Access is Not Just for PCs

A few days ago, I posted a few observations about internet appliances, leaving the post dangling with a comment about how nice it would be to have an internet TV applicance that was as easy to use as the Pure Evoke Flow wifi radio.

Well, it seems that CES will flush a few first generation candidates out of the woodwork – like the LG/Netflix streaming broadband TV, for example.

Sony also do wifi TVs, such as the Bravia ZX1 for example, but I’m not sure if this can stream video content from the web directly? Using the BRAVIA Internet Video Link Module, however, it is possible to stream content from the web to Bravia TVs, as this landing page for the Amazon Video On Demand on BRAVIA Beta suggests.

(Apple also do an internet TV box, of course – the Apple TV. And in the UK, services like BT Vision and Fetch TV offer hybrid set-top PVR boxes that blend Freeview terrestrial digital broadcast reception with video-on-demand services via a broadband connection (see also IP Vision delivers over the top set-top box to Fetch TV).)

Netflix already have a streaming delivery deal with Microsoft’s XBox 360, too – though rights issues being as they are, neither the 360 play, nor presumably the LG TVs, are available outside the US. (C’mon, BBC, c’mon…;-)

In fact, although not appreciated by many people, all the latest generation consoles – Wii, XBox 360 and PS3 – come with support for internet connectivity; and many of the latest release games include options for network play. (The BBC iPlayer also works on at least PS3 and the Wii too – but you knew that already, right?)

So here’s where my one “prediction” for the year ahead comes in to play: we’ll start seeing adverts for broadband connections that both raise and play upon people’s awareness that broadband is not just for computers (because not everyone feels the need to have a networked computer), but it’s also a desirable for an increasing range of home/consumer electronics appliances.

Like these ads, for example:

Hmm – does that mean my prediction has already come true? Or does it mean that the rest of the world (but not me) knows this is how the world already works just anyway?

PS if I was writing this post as a “serious” piece, I’d probably include some commentary about broadband and wifi router penetration in the UK, numbers of online gamers in the UK, the Ofcom communications Report 2008, the Caio Review of Barriers to investment in Next Generation Broadband etc etc. I’d also idly wonder what on earth our esteemed Prime Minister thinks he means about using a programme of public works to roll out ubiquitous high speed broadband access in the UK? But I’m not going to, ‘cos I’m a blogger not a journo;-)

All Set for a Year of Internet Appliances?

Towards the end of last year, my better half rediscovered the joys of radio… Around the same time, James Cridland wrote a post extolling the virtues of the Pure Evoke Flow wifi radio (Pure Evoke Flow – what it means for radio, or see this video walkthrough), so that was that Christmas present sorted…

As JC pointed out in his post, gadgets like the Evoke Flow could indeed be a game changer. On Christmas Day, we were wifi-less, which meant that the first experience of the radio was as a DAB radio. A quick self-tune on start-up, and a good selection of DAB channels were available. Getting back home meant we could get the wifi channels too – configuring the radio with a wifi key went smoothly enough, and getting an account with the online Lounge service provided a key to register the radio with lots of online goodness.

Wifi radio channels can be favourited online, along with podcast subscriptions, and stored in separate folders; the favourites are then also available on the radio itself. Radio stations can also be browsed and favourited on the radio itself – favouriting them also adds them to a particular folder in your online account.

So here are a few of my immediate impressions:

  • being able to just switch the radio on and tune into a wifi radio or podcast station is really attractive; no need for the radio to receive content via an intermediary PC – it gets its network connection directly from your wifi router;
  • within a few minutes of being connected for the first time, the appliance found a software update and offered to install it – a process which was achieved quickly and efficiently; in an age where automatic software updates are increasingly possible, what does this mean for built-in/planned obsolence?
  • the integration between the appliance itself and the online account means that the radio has a full web browser interface and management tools, if required. (I’d quite like an iPhone interface too;-) I’ve written about “dual view” working before (Dual View Media Channels) – here’s an example of it in action with an interface for one device being provided through another.
  • the appliance makes good use of soft/programmable buttons – a bit like a mobile phone, the functionality of the “buttons” is context dependent; the “undo” (or “go back” a step) button is incredibly useful, too.

I haven’t tried streaming music to the appliance from another computer, but that facility is also available.

From even just a couple of days playing with the Pure Evoke Flow, I’m sold on it – and the idea of streaming, dedicated internet appliances in general. So the idea of the BBC/ITV set-top box – Project Canvas – really appeals… (e.g. Canvas and the connected home and Partners to bring broadband to the TV; looking forward, this is also relevant: IMDA – Internet Media Device Alliance, a trade alliance for agreeing on protocols and formats for streaming digital media).

While on the topic of internet TV (sort of!), I noticed an advert last night on ITV for the ITV player… which is something I’d missed… Assuming that this revamp would be of yet another Windows only player, I was pleasantly surprised:

So if, as with me, the announcement passed you by, here’s a catch-up: in early December, 2008, ITV rebranded its online catchup TV service as ITV Player.

(Sky also launched a (subscription based) online TV play, called – can you guess? – Sky Player (e.g. as reported here: Sky and ITV launch new Silverlight online video players). Channel 4’s watch again service is still tethered to Windows, although some Channel 4 content – such as Shameless – is available via the Flash powered Joost.)

Unlike the Adobe Flash’n’Air approach taken for the BBC iPlayer, ITV and Sky have both opted for Microsoft’s Silverlight (as described in ITV’s case here: Silverlight on the ITV Player).

PS I’m not sure what this means, if anything, but both Apple and Intel have been buying into Imagination technologies, the parent company of Pure (Intel ups stake in Imagination following Apple’s buy-in). Imagination own the IP to the semiconductor cores used in a wide range of digital appliances, so tracking their news releases and OEM relationships over the next year or two could prove interesting…

PPS the consequences of this imagined phrase kept me awake a couple nights ago: “Pure Camvine Flow“. If Project Canvas resulted in an Imagination core capable of streaming BBC and ITV content, what would it mean if those cores were integrated within Camvine “digital signage” screens, so you could just plug your screen in, connect it to your home network, and start streaming watch again and catch-up content? (Ideally, of course, there’d be an iPlayer desktop like facility too…:-)

PPPS Here’s an interesting interview with Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix (via GigaOM: Here Come Broadband TVs). The topic of internet TVs is discussed from about 1m15s in…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Situated Video Advertising With Tesco Screens

In 2004, Tesco launched an in-store video service under the name Tesco TV as part of its Digital Retail Network service. The original service is described in TESCO taps into the power of satellite broadband to create a state-of-the-art “Digital Retail Network” and is well worth a read. A satellite delivery service provided “news and entertainment, as well as promotional information on both TESCO’s own products and suppliers’ branded products” that was displayed on video screens around the store.
In order to make content as relevant as possible (i.e. to maximise the chances of it influencing a purchase decision;-), the content was zoned:

Up to eight different channels are available on TESCO TV, each channel specifically intended for a particular zone of the store. The screens in the Counters area, for instance, display different content from the screens in the Wines and Spirits area. The latest music videos are shown in the Home Entertainment department and Health & Beauty has its own channel, too. In the Cafe, customers can relax watching the latest news, sports clips, and other entertainment programs.

I’d have loved to have seen the control room:

Remote control from a central location of which content is played on each screen, at each store, in each zone, is an absolute necessity. One reason is that advertisers are only obligated to pay for their advertisements if they are shown in the contracted zones and at the contracted times.

In parallel to the large multimedia files, smaller files with the scripts and programming information are sent to all branches simultaneously or separately, depending on what is required. These scripts are available per channel and define which content is played on which screen at which time. Of course, it is possible to make real-time changes to the schedule enabling TESCO to react within minutes, if required.

In 2006, dunnhumby, the company that runs the Tesco Clubcard service and that probably knows more about your shopping habits at Tesco than you do, won the ad sales contract for Tesco TV’s “5,000 LCD and plasma screens across 100 Tesco Superstores and Extra outlets”. Since then, it has “redeveloped the network to make it more targeted, so that it complements in-store marketing and ties in with above-the-line campaigns”, renaming Tesco TV as Tesco Screens in 2007 as part of that effort (Dunnhumby expands Tesco TV content, dunnhumby relaunches Tesco in-store TV screens). Apparently, “[a]ll campaigns on Tesco Screens are analysed with a bespoke control group using EPOS and Clubcard data.” (If you’ve read any of my previous posts on the topic (e.g. The Tesco Data Business (Notes on “Scoring Points”) or ) you’ll know that dunnhumby excels at customer profiling and targeting.)

Now I don’t know about you, but dunnhumby’s apparent reach and ability to influence millions of shoppers at points of weakness is starting to scare me…(as well as hugely impressing me;-)

On a related note, it’s not just Tesco that use video screen advertising, of course. In Video, Video, Everywhere…, for example, I described how video advertising has now started appearing throughout the London Underground network.

So with the growth of video advertising, it’s maybe not so surprising that Joel Hopwood, one of the management team behind Tesco Screens Retail Media Group should strike out with a start-up: Capture Marketing.

[Capture Marketing] may well be the first agency in the UK to specialise in planning, buying and optimising Retail Media across all retailers – independent of any retailer or media owner!!

They aim to buy from the likes of dunnhumby, JCDecaux, Sainsbury, Asda Media Centre etc in order to give clients a single, independent and authoritative buying and planning point for the whole sector. [DailyDOOH: What On Earth Is Shopper Marketing?]

So what’s the PR strapline for Capture Marketing? “Turning insight into influence”.

If you step back and look at our marketing mix across most of the major brands, it’s clearly shifting, and it’s shifting to in-store, to the internet and to trial activity.
So what’s the answer? Marketing to shoppers. We’ll help you get your message to the consumer when they’re in that crucial zone, after they’ve become a shopper, but before they’ve made a choice. We’ll help you take your campaign not just outside the home, but into the store. Using a wide range of media vehicles, from digital screens to web favourite interrupts to targeted coupons, retail media is immediate, proximate, effective and measurable.

I have no idea where any of this is going… Do you? Could it shift towards making use of VRM (“vendor relationship management”) content, in which customers are able to call up content they desire to help they make a purchase decision (such as price, quality, or nutrition information comparisons?). After all, scanner apps are already starting to appear on Android phones (e.g. ShopSavvy) and the iPhone (Snappr), not to mention the ability to recognise books from their cover or music from the sound of it (The Future of Search is Already Here).

PS Just by the by, here’s some thoughts about how Tesco might make use of SMS:

PPS for a quick A-Z of all you need to know to start bluffing about video based advertising, see Billboards and Beyond: The A-Z of Digital Screens.

More Remarks on the Tesco Data Play

A little while ago, I posted some notes I’d made whilst reading “Scoring Points”, which looked at the way Tesco developed it’s ClubCard business and started using consumer data to improve a whole range of operational and marketing functions within the tesco operation (The Tesco Data Business (Notes on “Scoring Points”)). For anyone who’s interested, here are a few more things I managed to dig up Tesco’s data play, and their relationship with Dunnhumby, who operate the service.

[UPDATE – most of the images were removed from this post because I got a take down notice from Dunnhumby’s lawyers in the US…]

Firstly, here’s a couple of snippets from a presentation by Giles Pavey, Head of Analysis at dunnhumby, presented earlier this year. The first thing to grab me was this slide summarisign how to turn data into insight, and then $$$s (the desired result of changing customer behaviour from less, to more profitable!):

In the previous post, I mentioned how Tesco segment shoppers according to their “lifestyle profile”. This is generated by looking at the data generated by a shopper, in terms of what they buy, when they buy it, what stories you can tell about them as a result.

So how well does Tesco know you, for example?

(I assume Tesco knows Miss Jones drives to Tesco on a Saturday because she uses her Clubcard when topping up on fuel at the Tesco petrol station…).

Clustering shopped for items in an appropriate way lets Tesco identify the “Lifestyle DNA” of each shopper:

(If you self-categorise according to those meaningful sounding lifestyle categories, I wonder how well it would match the profile Tesco has allocated to you?!)

It’s quite interesting to see what other players in the area think is important, too. One way of doing this is to have a look around at who else is speaking at the trade events Giles Pavey turns up at. For example, earlier this year was a day of impressive looking talks at The Business Applications of Marketing Analytics.

Not sure what “Marketing Analytics” are? Maybe you need to become a Master of Marketing Analysis to find out?! Here’s what appears to be involved:

The course website also features an interview with three members of dunnhumby: Orlando Machado (Head of Insight Analysis), Martin Hayward (Director of Strategy) and Giles Pavey (head of Customer Insight) [view it here].

You can see/hear a couple more takes on dunnhumby here:
Martin Hayward, Director of Consumer Strategy and Futures at dunnhumby on the growth of dunnhumby;
Life as an “intern” at dunnhumby.

And here’s another event that dunnhumby presented at: The Future of Geodemographics – 21st Century datasets and dynamic segmentation: New methods of classifying areas and individuals. Although the dunnhumby presentation isn’t available for download, several others are. I may try to pull out some gems from them in a later post, but in the meantime, here are some titles to try to tease you into clicking through and maybe pulling out the nuggets, and adding them as comments to this post, yourself:
Understanding People on the Move in London (I/m guessing this means “Oyster card tracking”?!);
Geodemographics and Privacy (something we should all be taking an interest in?);
Real Time Geodemographics – New Services and Business Opportunities from Analysing People in Time and Space: real-time? Maybe this ties in with things like behavioural analytics and localised mobile phone tracking in shopping centres?

So what are “geodemographics: (or “geodems”, as they’re known in the trade;-)? No idea – but I’m guessing it’s the demographics of a particular locales?

Here’s one of the reasons why Tesco are interested, anyway:

An finally (for now at least…) it seems that Tesco and dunnhumby may be looking for additional ways of using Clubcard data, in particular for targeted advertising:

Tesco is working with Dunnhumby, the marketing group behind Tesco Clubcard, to integrate highly targeted third-party advertising across Tesco.com when the company’s new-look site launches next year.
Jean-Pierre Van Lin, head of markets at Dunnhumby, explained to NMA that, once a Clubcard holder had logged in to the website, data from their previous spending could be used to select advertising of specific relevance to that user.
[Ref: Tesco.com to use Clubcard data to target third-party advertising (thanks, Ben:-)]

Now I’m guessing that this will represent a change in the way the data has been used to date – so I wonder, have Tesco ClubCard Terms and Conditions changed recently?

Looking at the global reach of dunnhumby, I wonder whether they’re building capacity for a global targeted ad service, via the back door?

Does it matter, anyway, if profiling data from our offline shopping habits are reconciled with our online presence?

In “Diving for Data”, (Supermarket News, 00395803, 9/26/2005, Vol. 53, Issue 39), Lucia Moses reports that the Tesco Clucbcard in the UK “boasts 10 million households and captures 85% of weekly store sales”, along with 30% of UK food sales. The story in the US could soon be similar, where dunnhumby works with Kroger to analyse “6.5 million top shopper households”, (identified as the “slice of the total 42 million households that visit Kroger stores that drive more than 50% of sales”). With “Kroger claim[ing] that 40% of U.S. households hold one of its cards”, does dunnhumby’s “goal … to understand the customer better than anyone” rival Google in its potential for evil?!

Video, Video, Everywhere…

Now I know I live in the provinces, but I have to admit I had a huge dose of futureshock when I went up to London earlier this week: videos on the underground…

You know those big adverts on the wall opposite you on the tube, at the other side of the track – now they move, powered by magic lanterns in boxes suspended from the ceiling… (It’s called XTP, apparently: Cross-track projection.)

And that’s not all – how about the DEPs – Digital Escalator Panels?

There are also large LCD panels displaying video ads at other strategic locations, such as T-junctions, on various parts of the tube hall network…

The future – as portrayed in Blade Runner and Minority Report – is becoming a part of everyday life. The following movie, produced by CBS Outdoor, is called “Future of the Underground“. But what it describes appears to be the present…

Also on the video front, Google just got a little bit more aggressive in terms of grabbing video search traffic. Not content with already competing for second place behind Google web search itself in terms of search volume, embedded Youtube players now include a Youtube search box (you may have noticed…;-):

Youtube embedded player now with search box

If you paste the full Youtube embed code into your pages, then you can disable the display of the search box with the showsearch=0 embedded player parameter. (You can also disable the display of both related videos and the search bar by setting rel=0.)

However, if you are using WordPress, and embed movies using the construction, as I am, you’ll have to settle for whatever defaults WordPress chooses to embed…

I’m actually finding this so annoying that if the hosted WordPress folks don’t change the default embedded code to disable the search box, or they don’t provide me with the option to disable it, for example by using the construction [youtube=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=IrjsR6fdGxo&rel=0], I may well have to move blog again…

So What Do You Think You’re Doing, Sonny?

A tweet from @benjamindyer alerted me to a trial being run in Portsmouth where “behavioural analytics” are being deployed on the city’s CCTV footage in order to “alert a CCTV operator to a potential crime in the making” (Portsmouth gets crime-predicting CCTV).

I have to say this reminded me a little, in equal measures, of Phillip Kerr’s A Philosophical Investigation, and the film Minority Report, both of which explore, in different ways, the idea of “precrime”, or at least, the likelihood of a crime occurring, although I suspect the behavioural video analysis still has some way to go before it is reliable…!

When I chased the “crime predicting CCTV” story a little, it took me to Smart CCTV, the company behind the system being used in Portsmouth.

And seeing those screenshots, I wondered – wouldn’t this make for a brilliant bit of digital storytelling, in which the story is a machine interpretation of life going on, presented via a series of automatically generated, behavioural analysis subtitles, as we follow an unlikely suspect via the CCTV network?

See also: CCTV hacked by video artists, Red Road, Video Number Plate Recognition (VNPR) systems, etc. etc.

PS if you live in Portsmouth, you might as well give up on the idea of privacy. For example, add in a bit of Path Intelligence, “the only automated measurement technology that can continuously monitor the path that your shoppers or passengers take” which is (or at least, was) running in Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quays shopping area (Shops track customers via mobile phone), and, err, erm… who knows?!

PPS it’s just so easy to feed paranoia, isn’t it? Gullible Twitter users hand over their usernames and passwords – did you get your Twitterank yet?! ;-)