BranchInfo 2010 BranchInfo 2010 BA

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mapping The Vast Indoors - Google Maps 6

A few years ago, my old friend Brad McCallum (who is now at APOS integrating BI and GIS) and I were doing a trade show for ESRI when Brad had a thought.  All of this trade show should be in a GIS, not just in a paper map.  And you should be able to use it to find what you want and navigate the show.

To which I said, all space can be mapped, including indoor spaces - and not just malls and airports and bus and train terminals, but casinos and libraries and you name it.  Including the space between your ears.  This is where GIS and CAD show their common parentage. 

Another good friend and colleague and GIS developer extraordinaire Kurt Gunther did just this - with hospital beds, in his great eBeds software that manages hospital beds, and the folks in them and serving them, just like they were GIS features.

Today, Google made it real for the average person.  "Google Maps 6.0 for Android brings the freestanding map directory to the palm of your hands," announced today on the Google blogs. These detailed floor plans automatically appear when you’re viewing a map and zoom in on a building where indoor map data is available.

For now, the data is limited - Ikea, a few Macy's, the Mall of America, a few major airports.  But we all know where we're going.  Where Brad said we would, more than ten years ago.  And the possibilities, for those of us in GIS land in general, and in ESRI and APOS land in particular, are infinite.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Flash Mobile Dies Quietly - Or Does It? - As Adobe Kisses Apple's Ass

Copyright, Joseph Lackow 2011
An Adobe blog post today by Danny Winokur, VP & GM of Interactive development, included this little tidbit.

"Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores.  We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook."

Why?  And for what, do they break the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill your technology without having a full replacement on tap?"

Universally supported HTML5, that's why.  But most developers will find that the current functionality of HTML5 is not on par with what you can do with Actionscript.  And it could hurt Flash, and its developers and their refined skillsets in general.

For future generations of premium video and gaming, that's for what.  Read: kissing Apple and iOS ass.  In the short term.

HOWEVER.  This represents real movement towards a standard based web.  Towards that end, how will this affect Microsoft plans for Silverlight?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

GeoLoco Conference Convenes Tomorrow In SF

GeoLoco convenes tomorrow at the Mission Bay Conference Center at UCSF in San Francisco!

Geo-Loco is a location based services and advertising (LBS and LBA) conference where executives from Starbucks, Google, Waze, Facebook and many others will address the convergence of social media and LBS in what promises to be a highly interactive setting, with lots of potential investors lurking.

The keynotes will be from Bernardo Hernandez,  Head of Global Emerging Platforms for Google; Adam Brotman,  VP & GM for Digital Ventures at Starbucks; and Paul Adams, the Global Brand Experience Manager of Facebook

Here's the full agenda - this promises to be a power-packed day of learning and networking opportunities, and we'll report the highlights.  And if you can make it tonight, you can catch The Locals Awards, celebrating the best offerings in LBS and LBA. 

Conference sessions will include:

- The Future(s) of Location Based Services
- The Brands are Coming, the Brands are Coming!
- Tap, Tap: Is the NFC Tipping Point Finally Here?
- The Future of Geo-Loco Investment      
- Daily Deals Suck! Why and What to Do about It
- The Future of Mobile-Loco Commerce
- The Great Indoors: the Future of Indoor LBS & LBA
- API overload: Making $$$$ and Sense with Data, Context, and Infrastructure

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Cellphone Study Finds No Cancer Threat - Or Does It?

In our continuing coverage of this topic, the results of another large Danish study on cellphone use as a carcinogen were published yesterday in the British Medical Journal. The study finds that "there were no increased risks of tumours of the central nervous system".

However, the study focuses on the duration of cellphone subscription, rather than the duration of daily cellphone use, or how many cellphones subjects use (e.g. personal vs. business use).

And as such, the question remains - does regular, heavy use of cellphones cause cancer?

We still don't know.  Which is enough reason to remain concerned until we have a better picture of morbidity and mortality.  And that means, further research is indicated and this is not the be all and end all despite the breadth of this longitudinal, ongoing study.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vaya Con Buddha, Steve Jobs

Every product development person alive feels sick and sad right now at the passing of Steve Jobs, the greatest new product guy since Da Vinci.  Because, most of the whole world is saddened by this news, and no one in that world was not touched by this man and what he did.  But most, most of all, what a terrible loss for Laurene and the kids, my very best thoughts are with you tonight.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Apple Magic - Poof?

I thought the new iPhone 4s looked pretty cool at the unveiling today.  It's got the iPad 2 dual core processor under the hood now, better battery, much better wi-fi connectivity, worldwide compatibility, up to 64GB storage, and a MUCH better camera.

Courtesy of InfoWorld
And, it's the first version with Siri, the voice-driven intelligent assistant that Apple acquired the technology for last year.

But it's not the awaited iPhone 5, which a lot of people were expecting today.  No 4G.  No bigger screen, no improved case.  Etc.  So, while I see a much better phone, available everywhere now except on T-Mobile and MetroPCS, with the prior iPhone 4 just 99 bucks, it seems that disappointment abounds.

And it begs the question, is the Apple magic waning, in this, the start of the post-Jobs era?

Not really.

Copyright Joseph Lackow, 2011
Despite the fact that early investments in Apple (like Xerox in a prior day) have made a lot of us wealthy, the fact is that Apple has never been able to sustain steady, long term equity growth.  Growth has been spectacular when it comes, but there have always been huge proportional declines.  Take a look at the chart and ask yourself, how is Apple to sustain the current growth trend?  Is there another iPad and iPhone to be pulled out of the hat?

Hint: it would be nice if a phone you buy today has 4G, which will be important over the total life of the phone.  Unless you like having to keep upgrading.  It would also be nice if someone really addressed - and emphasized - real cell phone security.  An unencrypted password for the phone and a 4 digit PIN number for my e-Wallet does not make me feel very secure.  Especially on an OS shot through of potential breaches.  And that is why every IT person you are likely to talk to will tell you that, given their preferences, there wouldn't be ANY mobile devices to manage securely in the enterprise, but the iPhone and iPad are clearly their preference if it has to be.

Back in the day, the lack of security nearly killed Windows in the enterprise.  Google would do well to take that lesson to heart with Android, and do it yesterday.  It is going to be an absolute given for Wallet, their mobile payment system, and everywhere security is a concern.

Which, unfortunately, and unhappily, is one long term trend that still appears to have plenty of upside in an overwhelming, international, climate of fear.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Much Ado About Windows 8

Photo: Joseph Lackow
We're back from a cool Southern California summer break, just in time to cap it off with the Microsoft Windows 8 BUILD conference, convening in Anaheim today and running all week.

This is Microsoft's answer to tablet computing, supports low power ARM CPUs as well as Intel Atom et al, and borrows heavily from the Metro approach used for the Windows Phone - which you will not be seeing in Anaheim this week.

The big news this morning is that the Windows 8 Developer Preview will be available for download tonight at 7PM PST.

The question is, will this finally get Microsoft anywhere and everywhere?  Well, if you have ever used a Windows computer, when you see this OS boot up in 8 seconds, I guarantee you will be intrigued.

We'll learn more in the Big Picture sessions this afternoon.  If you are interested in detail on the Session tracks, here it is.
Photo: Joseph Lackow
If you'd like to see the Keynote Stream via Silverlight, well here this is (let us know if you have trouble getting in).

But the entire tenor of the conference is geared at reassuring the Microsoft developer community that their well-honed skills will be heavily leveraged and meshed with, not replaced by, an HTML5 centric development model, i.e. web-centric development - hence, the "Use What You Know" theme.

So, while BUILD (which replaces the Microsft Professional Developer's Conference or PDC) might look a lot on the surface like an Apple conference - and there's a Windows Store - the similarities end there.

This is Microsoft write once plays anywhere - and not, rewrite for iPad and iPhone, because it's worth it.

And because there is more on heaven and earth than is thought of in your philosophy, Mr. Jobs.

Photo: Joseph Lackow
BTW the Samsung Tablet designed for Windows 8 is pretty cool, too.  And hardware may be what Windows 8 is really all about.

But, not tablet hardware.  It is touchscreens coming to notebooks -and desktops.  We've been using our 42 inch Samsung touchscreen on the desktop for some time now.  Stand-up computing on a touchscreen may end up being the most important thing Donald Rumsfeld ever did.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Android Share Hits 40%

June data from Comscore reveals that   78.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the second quarter of 2011, and 40.1% were Android.

Apple strengthened its #2 position with 26.6 percent of the smartphone market, up 1.1 percentage points from the prior reporting period. RIM ranked third with 23.4 percent share, followed by Microsoft (5.8 percent) and Symbian (2.0 percent).  The 78.5 million smartphones is an 8% increase over the first quarter of the year, and 234 million Americans ages 13 and older used mobile devices.

Among device manufacturers, Samsung is the top OEM with 25.3 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers (up 0.8 percentage points), followed by LG with 21.3 percent share (up 0.4 percentage points) and Motorola with 14.5 percent share. Apple strengthened its position at #4 with 8.9 percent share of mobile subscribers (up 1.0 percentage points), while RIM - which invented the category with the Blackberry - now commands just 7.9 percent share.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mobile Access To Internet Doubles as XP Usage Falls Below 50%

NetMarketShare is best known for measuring browser usage, collecting data on user visits to more than 40,000 websites.

But they also detect what operating system is running - and access to the Internet from a mobile operating system nearly doubled in total share from a year ago, to 5.5%.

And, in July 2011, users running XP fell to just below 50% for the first time in a very long time.  Windows 7 was responsible for 28% of the visits, and Vista only 9%.  This reflects a drop in Windows usage to below 90% from a year ago, down to about 87% from 91% one year ago, as Mac usage edged up towards 6%.

Meanwhile, in the browser wars, Google Chrome now represents 13.5% of user visits, with Internet Explorer at just under 53% and Firefox, about 21.5%.  Safari was used by 8%, and with Opera at under 2%, one must consider that even Safari is ahead of Opera among Windows users.  Most folks must still have not tried Opera, or even heard of it, because we continue to find it the fastest browser, though the least compatible from an add-on perspective.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

GIS Enthusiasm at ESRI Business Summit

Photos & Video: Joseph Lackow
Last week's ESRI Business Summit was, for the very first time, visualized and presented as a business conference rather than a GIS conference.  This reminds me of how conferences are about business not econometrics.  What is critical to my business here?

Clearly, the answer to that question, at the Business Summit, and the broader ESRI User Conference, is the power of place.

Jack Dangermond was particularly compelling and inspirational this year, opening the conference with an explosion of applications from all over the globe and all over the chart, one positive "game changer" after another after another.  

Jacqueline McGlade of the European Environmental Agency talked about the private citizen's role in climate change, and was very moving and inspirational as well.  Just One Degree = catastrophic climate change (and one great big melting polar bear ice sculpture), but just one person can act.  Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots, same deal.

Timothy and Michele Schilling astounded everyone on Monday afternoon with their tale of improving the income of Rwandan families tenfold in a decade by using GIS to process and market Rwandan coffee (broadly available under the Community Coffee brand in the U.S.)  All of these presentations underscored doing good and doing well, the role of private for-profit companies in creating social as well as economic wealth.

At the Business Summit, Warner De Gooijer of Cisco (video) gave a great, clear explanation of how Cisco uses GIS as the backbone of their supply chain through which customer parts can be delivered anywhere in the world, from the closest warehouse to the needy customer, in within as little as two hours.  In the same set of discussions, Nigel Davis of Willis Re (the insurance companies insurance company) talked about using crowd sourcing information from social networks like Twitter to help evaluate and manage risk and losses in a disaster.  And Michelle Ellington of the University of Kentucky showed the history of facilities management at the university from paper maps to digital GIS, all the while using the process as a tool to bring stakeholders together.  When I asked the panel for a model of how GIS developed in their organizations, they all agreed that find a senior manager champion, build strong GIS staff with interpersonal skills, and architect solutions as close to the heart of IT as possible were the keystones.

Earlier, Matt Mikula of Edward Jones provided a glimpse of the history of GIS usage at Edward Jones that was somewhat like Michelle's, but with the usual reticence towards fundamental systems changes at many financial institutions - where it's usually best to be second and allow someone else to be bleeding on the edge, and where IT is often tasked with wiring together different generations of technology that ends up looking like something out of the movie "Brazil".  Another Matt, Matt Felton of MacKenzie Commercial RE, was as enthusiastic as anyone in recounting how he makes GIS relevant to a large number of very different people and functions in his organization.  Genial Pat O'Hagan of Starbucks, who has become a fixture at this conference, was as helpful as always in explaining how Starbucks puts GIS - and business intelligence - to work.

RPM Map Gallery Entry, "Geography at Work"
RPM did its part by participating in the Map Gallery - which everybody should do, and also bring guests and family to the Reception on Monday night.  And, Elio stood fondly by as our longtime friend and RPM client Scott McClymonds of ARVEST Bank won a SAG Award for Special Achievement in GIS.  We began extending and enhancing the customer database using GIS with Scott in 1993.

In short, this was the best conference since the economic downturn and pone of the best ever.  With 15,000 attendees, it was also the largest..

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ESRI 2011 User Conference Features Arvest Bank, Edward Jones

The ESRI 2011 User Conference in San Diego is nearly upon us, so get out those travelin' shoes.  Scott McClymonds of Arvest Bank will be receiving a Special Achievement in GIS Award, recognizing nearly two decades of GIS excellence at the Bank, on Wednesday.  Way to go, Scott!

The ESRI Business Summit will kick things off on Sunday morning July 10, where upwards of 200 business geography pros will gather to hear the latest and greatest from industry leaders - and each other.

Matt Mikula, IS Services at Edward Jones.

Added to the ESRI Business Summit speaker lineup is Matt Mikula, who is a key IS adminstrator for Edward Jones.  Matt is responsible for IS Financial Advisor and Branch Services, and supports many of the systems used by the firm's financial advisors and branch office administrators.  Edward Jones has been a pioneer shop for GIS, with a long track record (like Arvest) dating back two decades to Atlas GIS, the pioneering business geography platform which was purchased by ESRI in 1996.

Joining Matt will be a group of exceptional speakers from Cisco, Starbucks and others.  So, come on down, and hear about best practices, tips and tricks, new software features - and enjoy the usual raucous good time had by all.  Here's where to go for more information about the Summit, and about the User Conference, which runs all next week through July 15.

Friday, June 17, 2011

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Buy 'Em

CapOne bought ING yesterday, for $9 billion in cash and stock.  This moves CapOne up to #5 in deposits in the U.S. from #8.  The ING brand will persist for a year or more.

The deal makes a lot of sense from many perspectives, especially if CapOne adds assets (like the HSBC card portfolio, which includes many affinity cards).  There is access to a broad base of low cost funds.  There is a big gain in online know-how.  Most of all, as system conversions go, this one looks relatively painless as the two share quite a bit of technology.

Just one problem.  The kind of customer that ING has is typically a value-hungry, simplicity-minded, big bank rejector.  And among the big banks that ING customers reject, CapOne is high on the list.  In fact, in many ways, CapOne is the anti-ING - perceived by many to be a high fee, hard to do business with, even deceptive traditional bank.  One look at the ING customer response to the news, as suggested by online comments in response to news announcements, suggests that the difficulty here in conversion will be cultural rather than systemic.

This is going to create huge opportunities FOR YOU, super-regional, regional, and community banks and credit unions.  The latter have already made a lot of hay in the wake of the "death of free checking".

It's June 2011, do you know which of your customer households is doing business with ING, or fits the ING customer profile (online-savvy savers and fee-averse transactors)?  Yes indeed, another reason to lean heavily on a customer-relationship, lifestyle-oriented GIS system.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Merchants Rejoice as Senate Upholds New Debit Card Rules

Courtesy of National Public Radio, 2011
Banks will really need to find other ways of earning fee income now.  The Senate voted Wednesday to let the rule stand by which the Fed will slice away $12 billion in annual income represented by debit interchange, the fees that merchants pay banks each time a customer swipes a debit card.  Senators supporting the financial institutions' efforts to head off the Fed proposal fell six voters short of the 60 needed to prevail, 54-45.

Those charges now average 44 cents per transaction.  Let's get real.  That is well, well above the cost of a debit transaction carrying none of the risk of a credit based one.  BUT - the Fed ruling will hold those fees to a maximum of just 12 cents per swipe, and the law takes effect in about a month on July 21. While this might change, it probably won't now.

Smart banks will realize, and already have, that they need to enter retail financial businesses that earn fees. But most will simply look to place fees on what has been given away for years, and play right into the hands of online, non-traditional players, and non-banks. 

What a good time to dig into your GIS, and determine which of your trade areas have the kind of customers and overall community composition that spells success for financial, college, tax and retirement planning.  

When one needs fee income, one emphasizes products and services for which consumers have always paid fees, and gladly.  And studies continue to show that consumers still trust their banker more than, say, their stockbroker.  Simply ratcheting up NSF and late and other fees and creating new triggers for them simply won't get 'er done.  Making new kinds of relationships and stepping up to compete in the new environment, will.

Monday, June 6, 2011

U.N. Classifies Internet Access a Fundamental Human Right

On Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council released a special report that underscores more than ever how important the Internet has become.  In doing so, they make a clear statement that limiting internet access in the 21st century is a serious restriction of human rights.

Specifically, that

(a) Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference; and

(b) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

The report further outlines the seminal role and nature of the Internet.

"The right to freedom of opinion and expression is as much a fundamental right on its own accord as it is an “enabler” of other rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to education and the right to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, as well as civil and political rights, such as the rights to freedom of association and assembly. Thus, by acting as a catalyst for individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Internet also facilitates the realization of a range of other human rights."

The problem?  We have a long long way to go to insure the kind of universal access to the internet that will foster human freedom and communications between people(s).  The report notes that "in contrast to 71.6 Internet users per 100 inhabitants in developed States, there are only 21.1 Internet users per 100 inhabitants in developing States (and) is starker in the African region, with only 9.6 users per 100 inhabitants." 

Further, the report notes that "without Internet access, which facilitates economic development and the enjoyment of a range of human rights, marginalized groups and developing States remain trapped in a disadvantaged situation, thereby perpetuating inequality both within and between States."

Clearly, many of us agree.  A BBC study last year found that for 79% of those interviewed in 26 countries,  Internet access is a fundamental human right.

This has  never more important than it is right now, in the "Arab Spring".  As the report also notes, "the recent wave of demonstrations in countries across the Middle East and North African region has shown the key role that the Internet can play in mobilizing the population to call for justice, equality, accountability and better respect for human rights."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cellphone Safety: Another Perspective

The Announcement

On May 31, the International Agency for Research on Cancer  (an agency within the World Health Organization) announced results as a year-long analysis reviewing studies assessing the risks of cell phone use.  I'm a bit skeptical and critical of the World Health Organization press-briefing regarding cancer risks associated with cell phone use for a couple of reasons.

First of all (and possibly, most importantly) WHO has not released the manuscript yet, so there is really no way to assess the methodology of their meta-analysis. 

Secondly, the announcement was released as a press-briefing rather than a journal article, so it is not subject to the scrutiny of the peer-review process, as would any other study.  To-date,  the most valid in vivo studies done have failed to find conclusive evidence of a physiologic mechanism.  A meta analysis of such studies by Verschaeve, et al, (2010) concluded that "Many of the positive studies may well be due to thermal exposures, but a few studies suggest that biological effects can be seen at low levels of exposure. Overall, however, the evidence for low-level genotoxic effects is very weak."

Epidemiological Approaches

In the absence of conclusive in vivo studies it becomes a question of who can produce a valid epidemiological study.  One of the most often-cited studies, to-date attempted to correlate the incidence rates of gliomas and meningioma (brain cancers) with rates of cell phone use in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden from 1974–2003 (Deltour, 2009) based on over 58,000 cases of brain cancer.  The authors concluded that "The lack of a detectable trend change in incidence rates up to 2003 in this study suggests that the induction period for brain tumors associated with mobile phone use exceeds 5–10 years, that the increased risk of brain tumors associated with mobile phone use in this population is too small to be observed, that the risk is restricted to subgroups of brain tumors or mobile phone users, or there is no increased risk associated with mobile phone use. "

Responsible Health Communications

My concern is that by the very nature of their being made, comments by WHO regarding the need for more research intentionally or unintentionally communicates to the public that not enough research is being done.  In reality, much research  *is* currently underway, such as the 'Cosmos' study, which is a large-scale prospective cohort study of mobile telephone users (250,000 men and women aged 18+ years in five European countries - Denmark, Finland, Sweden, The Netherlands, UK), followed over 25 years (Schüz J, et al, 2010).

Media coverage

Although I am reserving judgment until WHO releases their monograph, organizations such as the World Health Organization have a particular obligation to follow evidence-based guidelines and to recognize the effects that their communications have on public perceptions and health behaviors . Although one might argue that the WHO working group is simply calling for more research, a strong argument can be made that such research is and has already been underway, making their call seem more like an unnecessary and alarmist call to action.  Given that media outlets are in the business as maximizing readership with compelling stories, it was no surprise to see the numerous dramatic headlines in today's (June 1) news, such as:
  • WHO: Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk CNN. com
  • Cellphones, cancer: Study links cellphones to possible cancer risk
  • Cellphones may cause cancer, international agency says -
  • Cellphones Possibly Cause Cancer, WHO Warns
Pronouncements such  as this one remind me as a quote I often share with public health students by Harvard epidemiologist, Dr. Walter Willet during an interview with Science Watch:

Interviewer: The science of risk-factor epidemiology is controversial these days because of what people call the "carcinogen" or "anxiety-of-the-week syndrome." It seems that every week the newspapers carry a new and usually contradictory study telling us what we should or should not eat. Is this our imagination, or is there really a problem? 

Willett: It's true; there is a problem. Part of it is this very direct link between ongoing work and what comes out in The New York Times. The natural course of science is that people do studies and report finding something, but nobody believes it too much-and, hopefully, neither do the investigators-until it's reproduced by other researchers. But in the meantime, it's on the front page of the newspaper. So there is this tendency for the least substantiated findings to be the ones coming out in the popular press, when in fact this is simply part of the scientific process, and a lot of suspected associations are not ready for the public to take action or even worry about.


L. Verschaeve a,*,1, J. Juutilainen b,1, I. Lagroye c,1, J. Miyakoshi d,1, R. Saunders e,1, R. de Seze f,1,T. Tenforde g,1, E. van Rongen h,1, B. Veyret c,1, Z. Xui,1. (2010).  In vitro and in vivo genotoxicity of radiofrequency fields. Mutation Research 705 (2010) 252–268

Schüz J, Elliott P, Auvinen A, Kromhout H, Poulsen AH, Johansen C, Olsen JH, Hillert L, Feychting M, Fremling K, Toledano M, Heinävaara S, Slottje P, Vermeulen R, Ahlbom A. (2010).  Cancer Epidemiol. 2011 Feb;35(1):37-43. An international prospective cohort study of mobile phone users and health (Cosmos): design considerations and enrolment. Cancer Epidemiol. 2011 Feb;35(1):37-43.

 Deltour, (2009). Isabelle Deltour, Christoffer Johansen, Anssi Auvinen, Maria Feychting, Lars Klaeboe and Joachim Schüz . Time Trends in Brain Tumor Incidence Rates in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, 1974–2003. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2009) 101 (24): 1721-1724. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djp415

Twitter Adoption Strongest Among African-Americans

Who uses Twitter?  Research released today by Pew Internet shows that usage skews towards the young and better-educated.  No news there.  What may be news to many people, however, is that usage skews towards non-White users.

Fully 25% of Blacks online have used Twitter.  This compares to 19% of Latinos online, and only 9% of Whites.

Heavy usage skews even more Black - while 11% of use Twitter daily, only 5% of Latinos and 3% of Whites do.

Pew also reports growth in usage among 30-49 year olds, where usage has doubled in less than 6 months, now 14%.  Usage still falls off considerably after age 49, to just 8% of 50-64s and 6% of 65+.
Household income is not much of a predictor, but at least some college education is, and so is urban and suburban residence.

That is quite, quite a different profile than that of the predominantly White, male, and dorky Twitter Twit.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are Cellphones Safe, Part 2

Today, the World Health Organization via the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer associated with wireless phone use.

Dr Jonathan Samet of USC, the overall Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that "the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support... the conclusion that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk."

"Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings," added IARC Director Christopher Wild, "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting. "

Considering that the number of cellphone users is approaching 5 billion people, any such empirical finding is plenty scary.  Many of us have been reporting this for a long time now.  Are you all getting concerned yet?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Banks Have PayPal In Their Sites, As Google Goes NFC

Looks like the big three banks, where one-in-three Americans have their checking account, want in to PayPal's gold mine.  No kidding.

Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase announced clearXchange on Wednesday, their new joint venture to let customers move money around with just a mobile number or email address.

We won't see it until next year.  Too bad, because this will put fee pressure on PayPal - they'll probably be giving away clearXchange to obtain trial, then charge after it proves its value.  Like debit, consumer protections remain far better with a credit card.  Tests will be in Arizona, which has always been where they test electronic banking.

Thursday, Google announced their NFC play with partner CitiCorp that will let consumers "tap, pay and save".  NFC or Near Field Communications is the short-range wireless technology that lets you wave your NFC enabled phone near a payment terminal in a store or gas station and pay for something.  "Google Wallet" will also feature LBS a la Foursquare, so you'll get coupons from partner merchants pushed at you based on location.

BUT.  It will start out being available only on Nexus S 4G by Google, available on Sprint, and will work only with MasterCard PayPass terminals, a fraction of the NFCs deployed.  Google will begin initial testing of Google Wallet in New York and San Francisco.

All of this is a good thing.  It will reduce friction in payment systems by reducing costs and fees - especially for person to person payments, where the high cost of wire transfers today is what has made PayPal such a success.  And it is interesting that Citi seems more interested in owning traditional bank turf - merchant payment terminals - while the clearXchange banks stake their place in the new firmament, online and mobile payments.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Characteristics of Closed Bank Branches - Trade Area Lifestyles

Last week, we began our analysis of closed bank branches, suggesting that the next steps are profiling the trade areas involved, in terms of demography and lifestyle, business mix, primary site characteristics and several other key metrics.

Demography and lifestyle turns out to be quite telling.  Using ESRI Tapestry, we find that the top 5 of the 65 Tapestry segments account for over 42% of these trade areas. 

Laptops & Lattes are nearly 16 times as likely to be in one of these trade areas than in the U.S. as a whole; Metro Renters, nearly 12 times as likely.  Further, 4 of the 5 segments are in the Solo Acts lifemode or uber-category.  We also note that of 11 Urbanization areas, 45% are in just one, Principal Urban Centers I.

And, the plot thickens.

Average household size is quite small, at just 2.19 - reflecting all those Solo Acts.  And income is upscale, at a median AHI of nearly $60,000.  Though 58% of occupied units are renters, those who do own homes have home values well above the U.S. average.  The trade areas are also about 2/3 White.

Not exactly what one might have expected.  That is, until you consider that the people we are talking about - young upscale singles and couples and some very young families - don't rely on branches to do their banking.  So, while they are dynamite prospects for financial services - just the kind of people that American Express targets and courts early and often - branches may not necessarily be the way to make them customers.

That is, branches as we now know them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Netflix & BitTorrent Eat Half The Internet

Sandvine reported today that Netflix traffic has increased nearly 50% over the past year, and now accounts for what is approaching one-third of peak-time North American traffic (30%) and one-quarter of daily traffic (22%).

Add the 22% of daily traffic that is BitTorrent, and the trend towards broad proliferation of smart mobile devices, and you realize that video and streaming content will very soon dominate.

Sandvine reports that "Real-Time Entertainment traffic is continuing its journey to network dominance, particularly in North America, where it represents 49.2% of peak period fixed access traffic. If this rate of growth is sustained, Real-Time Entertainment will make up 55-60% of traffic by the end of the year."

In Europe, about 33% of peak access is Real-Time Entertainment, while in laptop-dominated Latin America, P2P uploads are now nearly half the traffic.

And everywhere, people watched William and Kate Get Married.  In another Sandvine report, we find that Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) traffic doubled, and global video traffic in general surged to 26% above normal levels, peaking during the wedding ceremony itself.  Traffic on the social media sites Twitter and Facebook peaked 30% and 10%, respectively, above normal levels and local peaks corresponded with highlights of the wedding coverage.

Cable/fiber television operators, be afraid.  Be very afraid.  Ditto, corporate nets.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Analyzing Characteristics of Closed Branches

Along with the decision of when and where to open a new branch office, one of the key decisions made by banking administrators is when and where to *close* a branch office. We decided to take a look at recently closed branches in order to identify what common characteristics we might be able to identify.

BranchInfo by RPM Consulting

To conduct our analysis, we used the most current version of BranchInfo. RPM's BranchInfo competitive bank branch database  tracks not only branches that are currently open, but also branches that have been closed since the last data update. The current version of BranchInfo, released in February 2011, contains bank branch locations and ownership as of February 15, 2011, as well as branches which were closed between July 1, 2010 and February 15, 2011. Also, new to BranchInfo beginning with the last update, are a series  of key market potential and competitive metrics calculated for a one-mile radius surrounding each branch.  In order to better understand the  characteristics associated with branches that institutions have chosen to close and/or consolidated into other locations, we decided to conduct an analysis of the closed locations, comparing them to locations which have remained open. 


To conduct our analysis, we began with the 422 branches reported as having been closed between July 1, 2001 and February 15, 2011. We then identified the complete branch networks for all institutions that had reported a closed branch during that time period so that we could compare closed branches to open branches for the same institutions that had closed one or more branches.  This approach allowed us to compare the 422 closed branches to 43,439 open branches for the same institutions.

Once our database was assembled, we compared the following characteristics for the open and closed branches:

  • Age of the branch
  • MarketBank deposit potential
  • MarketBank loan potential
  • MarketBank investment potential
  • Number of competing branches
  • Average MarketBank deposit potential per branch (within a one-mile radius)
  • Branch deposit market share
  • Size of branch in deposits dollars
  • Type of institution regulator
  • Branch office versus main office
  • Service type (full service brick & mortar, etc.)
  • Each branch's share of total bank deposits
  • Bank Asset Size

Each variable was tested for statistical significance using either chi square analysis or one-way analysis of variance, with .05 being set as the alpha value (for you quantitative types).


For our study, we broke down the variables we analyzed into several categories, focusing on the physical/administrative characteristics, competitive environment, and market potential.


First looking at the physical and administrative characteristics of closed branches, we found that the age of a branch was a statistically significant when comparing open and closed branches.  Closed branches are, on average, much younger than branches that remain open.  While the average age (calculated using the "Date Established" field) of an open branch is about 36 years, the average of a closed branch is just 26 years.

Another significant difference concerns the service type of the facility.  Overall, we found that "Limited Service" facilities (such as drive-through branches, and seasonal/mobile offices) were much more likely to have been closed compared to full-service offices.

In terms of the type of institution most likely to close a branch, state savings assocations and state savings banks closed 7.9% and 5.2% of their branches, respectively, compared  to state and federal commercial banks, which closed less than 1% of their branches.

Closed branches also have a tendency to represent somewhat larger contributions to banks' overall deposit levels.  Our analysis found that although the average open branch represented approximately .5% of its institution's deposits, the average closed branch represented a considerably larger 3.2% of its institution's deposits (consistent with a smaller institution). In terms of deposits, closed branches were somewhat smaller than open branches, holding  an average of $34.6 million in deposits, compared to $60 million for open branches (excluding outliers).

Finally, the size of the institutions also seems to be significantly different when comparing open and closed branches.  Although the average institution held approximately $125 million in assets, those with closed branches were considerably smaller, holding an average of just under $40 million in assets.

Geographic Distribution

Based on the percentage of total branches closed during the second half of 2010, states with the highest percentage of closures (2% or more of the institutions' branches being closed) included Idaho, North Dakota, and Montana to the north, stretching south to Arkansas and Mississippi.

Competitive Environment

In our analysis, we studied the nature of each branch's competition by assessing the number and size (based on deposit balances) of competitor branches located within a one-mile radius.   Interestingly, the number of competitors does not prove to be significantly different between open and closed branches, however an analysis of market share does surface an interesting difference.  Although the average share of deposits for open branches was approximately 27.1%, the market share of closed branches was somewhat higher, at 30.7%, suggesting that a closed branch does not necessarily equate to an under-performing branch. 

Market Potential

One measure that we often use to determine whether an market is potentially over-banked, is the average estimated MarketBank potential deposit balances divided by the number of bank branches present.  In areas in which tend to be saturated with bank branches, we generally find that the average deposit potential per branch is typically lower than areas with unmet potential.  An assessment of the average deposit potential per branch found that closed branches tend to be in somewhat lower potential markets than open branches. The average potential per bank branch in open-branch market areas was about $18 million, which was higher than the $15 million for closed branch market areas.

We also used our MarketBank retail market potential database to quantify the consumer deposit, retail  loan, and retail investment potential indices for a one-mile radius surrounding each branch (an index value of 100 equates to the national average for balance potential per resident household).  Not surprisingly, retail deposit, loan and retail investment potential was substantially higher among still-open branches compared to closed branches.  Open branches had average deposit, loan and investment potential indices of 104.5, 101.1, and 105.9, respectively. All are significantly higher than  the deposit index of 100.5, loan index of 92.8, and investment index of 99.3 for closed branches.


 Based on these observations, we can conclude  that institutions that close branches tend to be somewhat smaller thrifts, rather than commercial banks, and the closed branches tend to be rather younger, and more likely limited service facilities, with almost half the deposits of branches that remain open.  The average market share of closed branches tends to be close to or above the average for other branches in their local markets, and the average deposit potential per competing branch tends to be somewhat below average, suggesting that the areas in which branches are closed tend to be rather smaller, as well as competitive and/or saturated markets.  Additionally, the closed-branch markets tend to be hold lower than average potential for lending and investment products, although relatively average potential for deposits.

Although closed branches tend to be smaller branches in lower potential markets, the decision to close a branch is not one that is made consistently from branch to branch or from institution to institution, suggesting that very often, the decision may not be based on market conditions as much as it may be based on logistical or contractual issues.  For example, given that limited service facilities are more often closed, it is possible that branches that have been opened as temporary facilities to serve a particular need are often closed when the need no longer exists and the branche's usefulness comes to an end.

Although this analysis gives us a start in understanding some of the underlying characteristics, a better understanding of the nature of closed bank branches should also include additional local market and locational information, such as daytime population, business mix, employment, and demographics of those residing within the markets.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Great Debate - Interop Weathermen Tell Which Way The Cloud Blows

The session on "The Great Debate - Are Clouds More Secure?" revealed two things.  This is a rather simplistic question, and the answers were completely self-serving.  Cloud providers advocated cloud security as at least as good as traditional net security; security providers, consultants and traditional IT had key reservations.  And in this Oxford style debate, the latter successfully scared the crap out of an unsure audience - 8 audience members who went in trusting the cloud were swayed to serious doubt.

A bit more quantitative was a survey of 94 IT execs at Interop, conducted by Network Instruments.  This survey revealed that:
  • 61% have cloud services running on their nets, a big jump from a year ago.
  • 50% have deployed a private cloud.
  • 21% of apps run in the cloud, and this is forecast to be 38% next year.
  • 61% say availability improved over last year; 50% said scalability has.
But perhaps the key finding is that 60% said their ability to troubleshoot worsened. It became much more difficult in the past year to show that the leak is on the cloud provider’s boat.  The ability to audit cloud performance and hold the provider accountable is critical.

The real answer to the overall question is, it depends.  The more voluminous, static and relatively insensitive the data involved is, the more the cloud makes sense.  And the more dynamic the application is, and the more important it is to deploy it quickly, the more the cloud makes sense.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

IDC Reveals Cloud Adoption Keys At Interop 2011

If you made it to the 7:30am IDC breakfast today, you learned the two most important things in life.

Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.

Actually, it's the fact that among 500 survey respondents, Pay As You Grow (48%) and Easy, Fast Deployment (40%) are the key drivers behind cloud adoption.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vint Cerf Blasts Off Into Space

Vint Cerf stressed extending the Internet into space, and into us, in today's discussions at Interop.

Among other things, Cerf noted that "Cars, buildings, clothing will all be instrumented... "We will be instrumented." 

As for the cloud, Cerf suggested that interoperability across cloud providers was not only key, but essential, and that  "We won't get true interoperability until customers say... I won't buy it if it isn't open.'"

He also drew attention to a big Google future in analytics.

Cisco Embraces Video at Interop 2011

Want to know how to manage video on a corporate net?

Cisco's keynote presentation on Borderless Networking at Interop this morning was really all about media and fat content management, and not so much about connectivity and community.  But you can learn about it all - with video.  Today's keynote will be available on demand beginning Thursday May 12, and you can register here to access all of the Cisco Virtual content from Interop.

Can your network handle it?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Interop Forecast - Cloudy With A Strong Chance of Reign

Interop Vegas 2011 gets going for real tomorrow, with several keynotes that just might prove memorable and a conference session on just how secure the cloud really is at 2:15.

Dave Donatelli in the Enterprise Servers group at HP will kick things off at 8am with a talk about implications of cloud access for corporate nets.

Mark Templeton of Cisco follows, discussing how user expectations are driving the new paradigm, as apps transform from enterprise driven bloats to easy, cheap micro-apps.

Then, it's Old Home Week with Vint Cerf and Dan Lynch talking about how we got here and what the future Internet will look like as a network.

Later, Cisco will talk more about network convergence and the cloud.

And that's just the morning stuff.  At 1, Azure Guy Zane Adam will talk about the possibilities of a cheap, accessible public cloud.  Alex Gray of Juniper will talk about virtualization and what is bound to be the next buzzword, Fabric.  And Scott Hopkins of IBM will discuss business transformational aspects of the cloud.

But the hottest session tomorrow, in the wake of the Amazon outage - a Don't Miss - is bound to be the conference pres on whether the cloud is secure or not, following the afternoon keynotes at 2:15.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Apple iOS Update Offers Location Cache Fix

Apple released a 4.3.3 update to iOS today to deal with privacy concerns about the location database cache.

Now, you can actually stop it from backing up to iTunes.  And those who could not care less about Location Services can turn off the feature and dump the while thing.

The web page announcement was about as cryptic as they come, making no reference at all to the underlying issues and concerns.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden Compound Mapped

After a mad scramble of geo & web developers, editors and average citizens, Google has the Osama bin Laden compound mapped and geo-referenced.

DOD adds this schema,

and some aerials, too.

If we had coordinated and scrambled this intensely before the fact, we'd have had the maps sooner.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Amazon Elastic Cloud Compote

If you use Foursquare, HootSuite, Reddit and Quora- or read blogs like this - you know that Amazon had a great big fail whale last week.

Their Elastic Cloud Compute turned into Elastic Cloud Compote when they accidentally flooded the secondary server during a common network change procedure.

Trouble is, those social networks don't have a cool fail whale like Twitter.  

Foursquare, for example, has this little weepy princess.  This is not exactly how either the users or the providers felt about the outage.  At least I know I didn't.

Closer to the mark for me is probably something like this.