All posts in “Mobile”

People.io data rewards app gets Telefónica co-branding push


London based People.io has taken its first steps outside the UK, expanding its data sharing rewards platform into Germany — where it’s launched a co-branded version of the app with carrier o2 (called o2 Get), targeting the latter’s ~24 million customers.

The People.io app is also available to download via the App Store and Google Play, and o2 parent company Telefónica Germany will also be pushing the apps across its full market footprint of 44M customers. The telco link follows People.ioIn going through the telco’s Wayra Germany accelerator last year. They say they’re the first Wayra-backed startup to launch a co-branded product with Telefónica.

“By co-branding with o2 we benefit from a respected and well known consumer brand which… gives us a fast track to scale; meaning we can focus on creating a great product experience that delivers on our vision to give people ownership of their data,” says co-founder Nicholas Oliver.

“Our decision to launch in Germany was driven by their strong, consumer-centric data privacy laws. This meant we were focussed on building a product that could meet even the most stringent data privacy laws with a view to further market expansion.”

Oliver says the team is expecting to get around 250,000 downloads in the next 6 months in Germany; increasing to just under 1 million by the end of the first year.

The startup is apparently working with around a dozen telcos across 35 markets at this point — although it remains to be seen how many of those conversations will turn into fully fledged co-branded app efforts.

In o2 Germany’s case, People.io’s philosophy around user data ownership clearly meshes with a Telefónica strategic push to give data back to users aimed at fostering customer loyalty.

We first covered People.io back in January 2016, when it had just launched a beta version in Shoreditch, giving locals the chance to share personal data in exchange for building up credits to redeem against digital services like streaming music. It’s since scaled out to be UK wide.

The core idea is to flip the notion that Internet users have to ‘pay’ to use ‘free’ products by having their personal data covertly and persistently harvested by these services. Instead, the platform aims to give people an incentive to share data willingly with it, for targeted ad purposes, rewarding them for sharing data with credits to redeem against different services (and by not sharing their data directly with others).

The People.io app is broadly aimed at 18 to 25 year olds for now, offering a familiar Tinder-style swipe interface for them to respond to questions about their likes and dislikes to start inputting personal data into the platform. They can also choose to connect other data sources, such as their email account, in order to share more info — with increased rewards for sharing more.

Advertisers are able to target marketing messages at People.io users via the platform, but the startup says users’ data is never shared directly with third parties. And the further pledge is that users can delete their account at any point — which immediately and permanently erases all their data.

Oliver describes the platform as “a firewall for people”, and reckons Europe’s incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will have a serious impact on how the ad tech industry operates  regionally, because it gives consumers greater control over how their data is used. The GDPR is due to come into force in May 2018, and includes tough penalties for compliance failures, changing the risks associated with collecting and processing EU citizens’ personal data.

While People.io’s initial product pays data sharers for viewing targeted ads — typically redeemed against gift cards for Amazon, Starbucks and iTunes, according to Oliver, with an option to donate credits earned as cash to charity currently also in testing — its wider vision is around expanding into paid services of its own; utilizing users’ data to offer them the ability to pay to enhance other digital services they use, without having to lose control of their information.

“This might apply to health and fitness, connected home or even productivity apps and experiences,” he explains. “Our advertising feature(s) are really just phase one of a far bigger product vision. It provides us with a familiar consumer experience that allows us to develop the initial relationship with the user. From here, we can then educate them on the value associated to their data and demonstrate why taking ownership of it can benefit them; both financially and through enhanced digital experiences.

“A brief example could be with a Spotify playlist. Having a playlist that dynamically changes your upcoming tracks based on your current context (at work, at home, going running, trying to relax) or mood (stressed, energetic, feel like partying). With People.io — we’d just tell Spotify ‘Nic’s at work’ or ‘Nic is about to go running’ — without sharing any of the data behind that insight. So that means Spotify can do what it does best, without ever needing access to your digital life.”

“When you consider the future of Conversational interfaces, like Amazon Echo, or chat bots; this type of functionality will become increasingly relevant,” he adds.

At this still early stage, People.io has around 35,000 accounts activated since exiting beta in the UK, with around two-thirds of those characterized as ‘monthly actives’.

On average, Oliver says users engage with the app between two to three times a week. While the platform gets around half a million user interactions per month at this point.

He says the startup is currently raising investment to support “continued momentum and growth into other key markets”. Investors to date include Nick Robertson, founder of ASOS; Thomas Höegh, founder of Lovefilm; and Founders’ Factory, the accelerator founded by Brent Hoberman and backed by Guardian Media Group.

European markets are a priority, thanks to the pro-privacy regulatory environment, but Oliver says the team is hoping to expand into the first non-EU market by the end of the year. “The US is certainly a market that we’re keeping an eye on,” he adds.

This Pokémon Go-style app lets you find virtual statues of historic women

Why it matters to you

Less than one in ten public sculptures depicts a woman, but this app is aiming to empower women with virtual statues (and donations for the real thing).

Out of the 5,193 historic statues decorating street corners in the United States, only about 7.5 percent depict women, and excluding fictional characters, New York’s Central Park has zero ladies in bronze, or in any other physical material for that matter. But, one company is working to change that — in a virtual world anyway. On Monday, May 1, communications firm Y&R New York announced The Whole Story Project, an augmented reality app aiming to bridge the gender gap with virtual statues in select cities. Think Pokémon Go, but instead of catching Pikachu, you’re viewing Amelia Earhart and Elizabeth Cady Stanton statues guided by a map.

The app allows users to find statues of real women using the smartphone’s camera, augmented reality, and GPS in Central Park, Dante Park in New York City, Washington D.C. and Mount Rushmore, as well as outside the U.S. in London, Prague, Milan, and Rome. Mixing the real scene with computer-generated statues using the smartphone’s camera view, the app allows users to visualize a more diverse set of historical figures in public art, including sharing the images on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Y&R started developing the app in support of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal a year ago. The first virtual statue was placed last month in Dante Park before the Women of the World Summit, while Y&R and Girl Scout Troop 3484 added several in Central Park, including Amelia Earhart, Nina Simone, Edith Wharton, Shirley Chisholm, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The Whole Story Project is also aiming to make those virtual statues a physical reality by supporting efforts from organizations such as the Monumental Women campaign to place statues of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in New York City. The group is also working with the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites to add statues of key players in the suffragist movement, set to be part of the 100th-anniversary celebration of the 19th amendment in 2020.

“It is no surprise that everywhere you turn, in almost every city, most of the statues in public spaces are men, and the few women are usually drawn from fiction,” said Leslie Sims, Chief Creative Officer of Y&R North America. “Many groups, including the UN and Girls Scouts, are working hard to redress this gender imbalance but, realistically it’s going to take millions of dollars and many years before we see even a handful of women taking their place in the public landscape. The Whole Story Project offers a way to create immediate awareness and access to the amazing history women have made around the world. We hope that in telling the whole story right now, far and wide, the app will not only be enlightening but also empowering.”

The Whole Story Project is inviting developers to add their own virtual statues using their own software, with hackathons scheduled to support that goal.

According to a Washington Post article in 2011, the latest data widely available, just 394 historic U.S. monuments depict real women — excluding fictional characters such as the Statue of Liberty.

WhatsApp’s “Status” Snapchat clone hits 175M daily users in 10 weeks


WhatsApp’s version of Snapchat Stories is already pulling in around 15% of the messaging app’s 1.2 billion users. Mark Zuckerberg today announced on Facebook’s Q1 earnings call that WhatsApp Status now has 175 million daily users after only launching in mid-February. That’s made more impressive because Status lives in a separate tab of WhatsApp, instead of showing up at the top of the home screen like Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, and Messenger Day.

This means WhatsApp’s Snapchat Stories clone is now bigger than Snapchat itself, joining Instagram Stories, which reached that distinction last month when it announced 200 million users.

WhatsApp Status lets users post photos and videos in a slideshow that their contacts can see, but that disappears in 24 hours. It replaced the old text-only “Status” product that functioned more like away messages, though WhatsApp eventually added the old feature back in the About section.

The news comes at an awkward time for WhatsApp, as today it suffered a service outage of over an our. “WhatsApp is aware of the issue and working to fix it as soon as possible” a spokesperson told TechCrunch, and it expects service to be restored soon.

Critics questioned why Facebook needed to put a Stories product in each of its core apps including its chat products Messenger and WhatsApp rather than just Facebook and Instagram. But WhatsApp’s deep traction in international markets where Snapchat hasn’t caught on yet gave it an opportunity to be the first popular app to offer Stories in many countries. Not only has this given WhatsApp Status rapid growth, but it could box out Snapchat’s ability to grow in developing markets.

Houzz home decor app adds AR functionality for in-home previews

Why it matters to you

Augmented reality is becoming an increasingly popular way of getting people to shop online.

Houzz, an online platform dedicated to interior design and home decor, added some new augmented reality functionality to its iPad and iPhone app. View in My Room 3D allows users to preview up to 300,000 different pieces of furniture and other decor products in their home before they make a purchase.

A 2D version of this functionality was introduced in 2016 and was used by 50 percent of people who shopped via the Houzz app. The new iteration transplants 3D models into the user’s home, accurately representing materials and textures to offer a realistic visualization of how the physical item will look.

View in My Room 3D can be accessed via individual product pages for compatible items within the Houzz app. This launches the camera, with the desired object overlaid — users can rotate and re-position the item to their specifications to get a good idea of how it might be placed in practice.

More than one object can be added to the same view, for shoppers who are keen to completely refurnish a particular room. They can then capture what is on screen as a Sketch, which is added to their Houzz ideabook, and later shared with others. Alternatively, they can purchase the item immediately, directly from the app.

“At Houzz, we’re focused on building technologies that can be used today, by the broadest number of people, to make the home improvement and home design experience more fun and productive,” said Alon Cohen, the company’s co-founder and president. View in My Room 3D was created by an internal team known as Houzz Labs.

The Houzz app is available now for iPad and iPhone via the App Store — users who have already installed the app on their device may have to update to the latest version to access View in My Room 3D functionality.

Tesla’s Q1 revenue more than doubles year-over-year as Model 3 plan remains on track


Tesla today re-affirmed that the production of its next car, the Model 3, would begin in July — and that the company had $4 billion in cash-on-hand heading into the second quarter this year.

Both of those are going to be critical as Tesla, which reported its first-quarter earnings today, heads into the back half of the year. The company has gone to market multiple times to raise additional capital, and said year-to-date capital expenditures would be slightly over $2 billion by the time it started Model 3 production. With a lower price point, the Model 3 opens Tesla up to a wider market that could help it justify its ballooning valuation.

Tesla reported a loss of $1.33 per share on revenue of $2.7 billion, while Wall Street expected a loss of 83 cents per share on $2.61 billion in revenue. While it was a wider-than-expected loss, it looks like a pretty ho-hum result for the company as all eyes look toward the later part of the year when the Model 3 production is in full swing — and whether Tesla will be able to get enough cars rolling out.

In April, Tesla’s continued rising stock price valued the company more than Ford. That came on the heels of the company saying its vehicle production and deliveries rose in the first quarter at a rate faster than what Wall Street expected. Shares of Tesla were largely unchanged today, with the company worth more than $50 billion (still well above Ford).

In April, Musk gave a sort of teaser to a new semi-truck from Tesla. The company is also expected to reveal the final production version of the Model 3 in July. But the Model 3 is likely still going to be on the top of everyone’s minds, with a $35,000 price tag that’s targeting a market looking for a less expensive electric car. (Calling $35,000 less expensive is still, of course, a matter of perspective.)

Tesla said it still expects to have between 47,000 to 50,000 deliveries in the first half of the year. Though, as the Model 3 begins production, it may face a bit of an optics problem — where it stacks up against the Model S. Tesla also acknowledged the problem in its earnings report.

“Moving past Q2, particularly as Model 3 becomes available, one of our challenges will be to eliminate any misperception about the differences between Model S and Model 3,” the company said in a statement. “We have seen a belief among some that Model 3 is the newest and more advanced generation of Model S. This is not correct. Model S will always have more range, more acceleration, more power, more passenger cargo room, more displays (two), and more customization choices, and Model S, X and 3 will all have equivalent Autopilot functionality. We will continue to clearly communicate these distinctions to avoid any misperceptions.”

Featured Image: Kristen Hall-Geisler