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March 27th, 2009

Why pay for calls?

Why pay for calls?

I’m starting to feel like the traditional telephone system will be finished over the next several years. Already, we’ve seen the diminishing use of landlines. From 2004 to 2007, the ratio of households that had a cell phone but not a landline increased from 1:17 to 1:6, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics. With the mobility, text messaging and all of the add-ons that the modern phone has, it’s no surprise that people are choosing to leave behind their old phones that have been made redundant.

But the mobile phone itself will change quite a lot in the near future and the way that companies charge will be completely disrupted. My reasoning: Skype is now the largest provider of international calls, and most are on its own network, never going over traditional phone lines. Skype’s cheap rates and forward-looking outlook are keeping revenue growth in international calling flat, even as it increases by 10% a year.

The traditional model of a person paying for a call and text messages – the most expensive form of communication and a gigantic rip-off. It is unsustainable to keep charging people enormous fees and raising them ever higher when broadband is becoming more widespread, cheaper and faster. I can see a future where people will pay a flat fee for all of their data and there won’t be a distinction between mobile and non-mobile communication. Broadband wireless will be ubiquitous, and there may still be fees associated with data transmission, but there will be more providers and with them, more competitive pricing than the current cartel that currently controls mobile communication.

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March 27th, 2009

smartFOCUS appoints Prompt Communications as US PR agency

smartFOCUS appoints Prompt Communications as US PR agency

US arm of transatlantic agency to manage media and analyst relations for digital marketing and customer management technology provider

Boston, MA – 23 March 2009 – Prompt Communications, a specialist in PR, marketing and social media communications, has been awarded the US public relations account for smartFOCUS Group plc, a leading international multi-channel marketing software and solutions company, headquartered in the UK.

Prompt will support all smartFOCUS operations in the US, smartFOCUS Inc., which serves the North American marketing software community and ASTECH InterMedia, the leading marketing solutions company to the newsmedia marketplace.

Prompt is working with smartFOCUS to increase awareness and drive demand for its solutions across North America. It will be securing coverage and keeping journalists up-to-date on client stories, news, setting up briefings with influential industry analysts, writing case studies and bylined articles to showcase smartFOCUS’ thought leadership and industry expertise.

In May 2008 ASTECH InterMedia was acquired by smartFOCUS and Prompt will be supporting the re branding of ASTECH InterMedia to smartFOCUS ASTECH in 2009 internationally. ASTECH specializes in multi-channel marketing automation and analytics software targeted towards newsmedia. More than 80 newspapers worldwide rely on its market-leading Intelligent Marketing solution MAAX to improve marketing results and drive new revenue initiatives.

Prompt already represents smartFOCUS in the European market, primarily handling UK media relations and copywriting for its core operation, smartFOCUS, and its specialist digital marketing division smartFOCUS DIGITAL.

smartFOCUS provides marketing software that empowers marketers with a single view of customers across all interactions. Marketers can easily tailor, analyse and report on marketing campaigns to ensure effective results, creating more relevant, personalised communications. It automates timely execution across multiple channels and feeds back results, closing the marketing loop. The company’s clients are across all industries and include global brands such as Hilton International, EMI and Manchester United.

“Prompt’s proven technology experience and capabilities across Europe and the United States makes them the perfect agency for us,” said Chris Underhill, CEO, smartFOCUS. “The blend of British, French and American consultants work closely together at Prompt to ensure we have the synergy and effectiveness of a single team representing us in two very different territories.”

“smartFOCUS provides a targeted marketing solution, which is the ideal antidote to the current economic climate,” said Hazel Butters, managing director of Prompt Communications. “As customer management becomes increasingly central to organizations’ business strategies. It is an exciting time to be collaborating with smartFOCUS that have a long history of providing marketing solutions that improve campaign results and increase return on marketing investment.”

About Prompt Communications

Founded in January 2002, Prompt Communications is a communications agency with European offices in Chiswick, London and US offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California.

Prompt Communications offers expertise across all marketing disciplines, teaming its consultants’ extensive knowledge of start-ups, technology market with experience of pan-European and American media, analyst and marketing campaigns. Using highly targeted marketing, PR, analyst relations, social media and corporate copywriting initiatives, Prompt helps its clients gain the visibility they need to achieve their business objectives, from increasing sales to enhancing reputation with stakeholders. The company has five business divisions: PR, Analyst Relations, Copywriting & Creative; Marketing Services and Social Media.

Prompt’s clients include Barros Technologies, Colosa, Corizon, GenSight Group, Hippo, Openbravo, Oracle Corporation, MIT Mobile Experience Lab, Foviance, Steganos GmbH and Webtide.

For more information, visit www.prompt-communications.com

About smartFOCUS Group plc

smartFOCUS (LSE:STF) is a leading international marketing software company that empowers marketers with the intelligence to drive high performance multi-channel campaigns and more valuable customer relationships. Its Intelligent Marketing solutions integrate offline and online data, analysis, campaign and performance management to deliver better targeted, more timely and relevant communications that increase campaign conversion rates and improve customer insight.

smartFOCUS has over 700 customers and partners worldwide using its marketing software including AAA, ABN AMRO, ASOS, Center Parcs, EMI, Fig Leaves, Harrods, Hilton International, NSPCC, Société Générale and QVC.

smartFOCUS is headquartered in the UK, with operations in the US, continental Europe and Asia Pacific. www.smartfocus.com

About ASTECH InterMedia

ASTECH InterMedia is the leading marketing systems company dedicated to serving the evolving needs of the newsmedia. The company, founded in 1992, supports the strategic datadriven marketing initiatives of more than 200 newspapers worldwide. Its innovative marketing solutions include a variety of consulting and education services, application-specific software and data products.

For more information or interviews please contact:

Press contacts:
UK: Ellie Turner
Prompt Communications, London
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8996 1650

US: Laurie SantaLucia
Prompt Communications, Cambridge, MA
Tel: +1 617 576 5763 / +1 617 291 9899

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March 20th, 2009

Street View Rage

Street View Rage

Google’s Street View tool has got into hot water on the very first day of going live, here in the UK. Clearly not being a privacy expert myself, I was still slightly surprised to see on some images you could clearly see people’s faces and number plates on cars. I don’t blame people for feeling a bit uneasy about it but then should we not be celebrating Google for applying such a feature to its already popular Maps tool?

One chap has complained and asked for his image to be taken down, after it clearly showed him leaving a sex shop, another image showed a man vomiting in the street! Hmmm, some greater care should have been in place by the eggheads at Google when they were piecing the Street View jigsaw puzzle together.

While I can sympathise with the people out there that are not sure about the benefits and need for Street View, I am drawn to the conclusion; ‘why not?’ I don’t believe that it will aid thieves and burglars and if we went about with such a negative response to new technology then we wouldn’t get very far in utilising and shaping the internet. Although I can’t see any real, life changing, ground breaking uses for it, just that it will make navigation to a new area slightly easier.

Google did get permission from The Information Commissioner’s Office, who ruled that the images that people can see on Street View complies with the privacy laws already in place in the UK. Maybe it can be quite a shock being able to access a picture of your house from any computer in the world, if anything I’m sure it will ignite rivalry in neighbours up and down the country. On that note, I’m off to trim the rose bush at the front my house.

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March 20th, 2009

The future of fiction?

The future of fiction?

I was interested to see that this week small British company, Six to Start was named Best in Show at the South by Southwest Web Awards, in Austin, Texas. The winning website We Tell Stories provides new interactive versions of literary classics and offers a fresh modern spin to online story-telling. Surprisingly, the website beat off competition from sites like Hulu, Flickr and BrightKite.

In true Dickensian fashion Alexander McCall Smith is currently serialising his latest work of fiction, Corduroy Mansions on the Telegraph blog site. The episodic style ideally suits the web medium, plus it opens up a host of new possibilities for authors and audiences alike. In this high budget national newspaper serial, surfers who log on also have the opportunity to listen to the story read by Andrew Sachs.

It seems unlikely that these changes will herald any decline in the sale of regular print books. However, they could realistically, open up a new audience of readers. This easily digestible, almost ‘televised’ form of writing will naturally appeal to those who are daunted by the prospect of picking up a full sized book. It will give bored office workers something to dip into on their coffee break. But most exciting of all, this shift allows fiction writers to push the boundaries of the genre and find new innovative methods of telling their stories.

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March 17th, 2009

Technology to pinp(o)int Irish green

Technology to pinp(o)int Irish green

I couldn’t let St. Patrick’s Day pass without a post (even though I did let St David’s Day slip by, sorry mum/Wales). After all, I’m in Boston which lays claim to the first ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade (get in line Beantown) and tonight I kick up my Celtic heels to the home-grown band that is the Dropkick Murphys.

Music and traditions aside, this is a blog centered on technology, so it is only fair that I point some of our readers (in this case anyone in America) to an application or service that helps you if (a) you are thirsty and (b) want to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day in true green style. With green beer, of course.

Waterfall Mobile has come up with a solution. To find a drinking hole that has beer in a nice lurid shade to which your instincts/parents/stomach would scream “stay away”, simply text ‘greenbeer’ to 67463.

You’ll get a text back asking you to identify which city you are in (assuming you haven’t already been drinking heavily and know whether you are in Boston, LA, NYC or San Francisco) and then another asking for specific area. I got a selection of Fenway, Back Bay, Fanueil Hall or Brookline.

So tonight I’m heading to Boston Beer Works : which by coincidence already cropped up in an IM conversation with a collegue who brews his own beer (his local pub has brewed an O’bama stout)….

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, however you celebrate.

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March 4th, 2009

A very bionic eye

A very bionic eye

The story of 73 year old Ron, who has been fitted with a bionic eye, tugged our geeky heart strings this week. It’s a great story which highlights all the good that technology can do for people. Plus it’s about a real bionic eye!

Ron lost his sight 30 years ago, but after volunteering for experimental surgery at London’s Moorfield eye hospital, he can now sort out his socks, see flashes of lights – and even follow white lines on the road.

The bionic eye, Argus II, uses a camera and video processor mounted on sunglasses to send captured images wirelessly to a tiny receiver on the outside of the eye. The receiver then passes on the data to electrodes which sit on the retina (the layer of specialised cells that normally respond to light).

So, when the electrodes are stimulated they send a message to the brain, which should pick up patterns of light and dark spots relating to which electrodes have been stimulated. In time, patients using the bionic eye will hopefully learn how to interpret the visual patterns into images.

Argus II was created by US company Second Sight and only 18 patients in the world have been fitted with the device. It was developed to help people who have been made blind by retinitis pigmentosa, inherited eye diseases that cause degeneration of the retina and affect between 20,000 and 25,000 people in the UK.

Ron told the BBC, ‘For 30 years I’ve seen absolutely nothing at all, it’s all been black, but now light is coming through. Suddenly to be able to see light again is truly wonderful.’

His wife Tracey was keen to point out how life changing the bionic eye had really been. ‘He can do a lot more now than he could before, doing the washing, being able to tell white from a coloured item. I’ve taught him how to use the washing machine and away he goes. It’s just the ironing next.’

And with two more years of the trial left to run the staff at Second Sight are hoping for some even more amazing results to come. We’ll keep you posted.

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